NBA Power Rankings: Week 1


Welcome to the pre-season edition of Raptors Rapture’s weekly Power Rankings. We’ll crank out a new version every Monday, reflecting the prior week’s upsets, blowouts, & injuries. Week 1’s PR is based upon the won-lost records I’ve postulated for each team. I suspect you’re looking forward to this season. I know I am, & it’s my hope to legitimately push the Raps up the Rankings.

Comments are welcome.  Feel free to call me crazy, but don’t stop there – tell me why.

This week’s RankLast week’s RankTEAM CITYRECORD Last weekTREND COMMENTS
 1.  Miami HEAT0-0 While I have the Lakers with more wins on the season, the HEAT are the champions, and deserve this spot. Besides, where are their weaknesses?  The Big 3 need no hype, under-the-radar guys like Mario Chalmers can certainly play on my team, and they’ve got a bunch more, like Ray Allen. Their Centres aren’t great, but there’s still more than enough skill, experience & toughness to see these guys in the Finals.
 2.  Los Angeles Lakers0-0 Assuming Dwight Howard gets healthy, and stays that way, this squad could dethrone the ’95 Bulls (72-10) for the best regular season mark ever.  However, if age catches up to Nash or Kobe, the bench is skinnier than a runway model.   Still, their starting five (Howard, WP, Pau, Kobe & Nash) could beat an All-Star team.
 3.  Oklahoma City Thunder0-0 A young team, but one whose best players are veterans. Kevin Durant will push LeBron for MVP, Westbrook is speedy & brilliant, & Ibaka is Death To Flying Things. Can they perform Mission Impossible & make Hasheem Thabeet a player? Don’t bet against them.  One of the best front offices in the game, as proven by the dumping of James Harden for both present & future capability (but who approved that dreadful logo?)
 4.  Denver Nuggets 0-0 Balanced & well-coached. I love Ty Lawson & Kenneth Faried, Andre Miller is a terrific backup PG, Iguodola’s got game, & their role players are excellent. If JaVale McGee plays to his capability, the Nuggs are a dark-horse championship finalist.
 5.  Indiana Pacers 0-0 As deep a squad as there is. Roy Hibbert is nearly an All-Star, & great things are expected from Paul George & George Hill. I’m not a huge Danny Granger fan (does he ever stop shooting?) but the ball goes in enough. I’d like to see D.J. Augustin re-ignite his career.
 6.  Los Angeles Clippers0-0 Can Blake Griffin stay healthy? If so, he & Chris Paul are deadly. This roster isn’t young (Grant Hill & Chauncey Billups – together at last!) , so they need to win now. I think they will, but not enough.
 7.  San Antonio Spurs 0-0 The longest-running, most successful batch of veterans since the Celtics of the ’60s. But have they stayed too long? Their accomplished coach Popovich will need to be at the top of his game as he transitions to a younger squad, featuring Kawhi Leonard & DeJuan Blair. These guys play the game right, and I think they’ll be tough again. Stephen Jackson & Boris Diaw on the same team? You’re a better man than I, Pop.
 8.  Boston Celtics 0-0 Proud, nasty & well-coached. These guys could show their age (Garnett & Pierce have together played 31 seasons) or they could find the Fountain of Youth once again. Rajan Rondo is a wizard distributor & defender. I’m not sold on their depth, but they’re winners, and someone has to knock them off.
 9.  Atlanta Hawks 0-0 These guys, like the Raps, are going to have to find themselves quickly. There are a lot of new faces, as GM Danny Ferry is trying to retool on the fly. Perhaps the hardest team to predict in the league, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.
 10.  Memphis Grizzlies 0-0 Young enough to remain healthy, yet a team with playoff experience.  Rudy Gay is quick & skilful, and their rotation 1-9 is strong. Marc Gasol is poised for stardom. Don’t sleep on these guys; they’re overdue for a big season, & a long playoff run.
 11.  New York Knicks 0-0 Can they create team chemistry? Their personnel individually is very strong. Carmelo can go for 35 any day, & Amar’e is excellent every other game. Steve Novak can drain 3s all day if uncovered. Their guards (Kidd, J.R. Smith) will need to step up. Has Marcus Camby got another season of defensive magic in him? They’re creaky with age, so they best pray for good health – they’ll need it.
 12.  Chicago Bulls 0-0 Hurry back, Derrick Rose. Fans everywhere miss you, as do your mates. The Bulls are less a team than a collection of piece parts, but if anyone can make the machine hum, it’s Coach Thibodeau. These guys play hard. What is Kirk Hinrich doing on an NBA roster, or Marco Bellinelli, or Nate Robinson?
 13.  Brooklyn Nets 0-0 This team surpassing the Knicks wouldn’t be in the least surprising. Deron Williams is superb, Joe Johnson can shoot, and the bigs aren’t pretty but will wear you down. Is Brook Lopez set for a big year? I’ll be cheering for the Nets, as they have 3 of my favourite players in Humphries, CrashWallace, and Reggie Evans.  I love the lunchbucket types.
 14.  Philadelphia 76ers 0-0 A team on the upswing.  Andrew Bynum if he’s healthy may be the best centre not named Dwight Howard in the NBA, & the supporting cast isn’t shabby either. I like Jrue Holiday & Nick Young – young, smart guys who play within themselves. This team will be in every game it plays.
 15.  Utah Jazz 0-0 Their front line, with Millsap, Hayward & Favours, is young and deep. Enes Kanter & Alec Burks may be ready to break out, & Marvin Williams may enjoy this change of scenery from perennial disappointment Atlanta. No stars, but I like these guys for a playoff spot.
 16.  Minnesota Timberwolves 0-0 They look like they’re trying to steal the Raps’ playbook, with all their Euros.  Has any NBA team ever had more Russian players?  So much of their success will depend on Rubio’s successful return from injury.  Can they hold their ground until then? Kevin Love should be an MVP candidate, but his silly-ass injury may render that honour an impossibility.
 17.  Golden State Warriors 0-0 A team with talent, but too many players held together with chewing gum & Scotch tape.  Bogut & Curry could be finished tomorrow, and no one would be surprised. Klay Thompson is the best player you never heard of, but they will need a ton of luck to make the playoffs.  Can Andris Biedrins rediscover the magic? David Lee can’t play by himself.
 18.  Toronto Raptors 0-0 Detailed pre-season forecast to be released soon.
 19.  Dallas Mavericks 0-0 Dirk & the Warm Bodies.  The MVP isn’t LeBron, it’s the big German, at least in terms of what he means to his team. The Matrix & Vince are supposed to provide veteran skills & leadership, & Jae Crowder is getting a lot of buzz. With Dirk being hurt, I predict disappointment in Big D. I don’t believe any of their guys will step up.
 20.  Portland Trail Blazers 0-0 This isn’t their year.  Further proof, not that any was needed, that the effects of a disastrous pick like Greg Oden are felt for years after.  Remind anyone of Rafael Arujao?  Aldridge is more than solid, Batum is OK, but they will need Damon Lillard to mature in a hurry.  It’s all too much to expect.  Sasha Pavlovic…Will Claver…Jared Jeffries?  The very definition of a weak second unit.
 21.  Milwaukee Bucks 0-0 Too small, & too dependent on outside shooting.  Monta Ellis & Brandon Jennings in the same backcourt?  How can that work?  Scott Skiles is the worst kind of coach for a chuck-it-up-from-everywhere team, & will be gone by mid-season. Their forwards are weak, except for Illyasova, & their centres are over the hill. I foresee much turmoil in Beer City.
 22.  Sacramento Kings 0-0 Up & comers.  Tyreke Evans will need to learn how to play a team game, finally, & DeMarcus Cousins might be an All-Star, or the second coming of Andray Blatche.  Jimmer could rediscover his touch from distance, or be out of the league.  A team of nothing but question marks but they could surprise.  I think they are at least a year away.
 23.  Washington Wizards 0-0 Far from hopeless, but not ready to contend, either.  They flushed out the knuckleheads, which had to be done.  John Wall is capable of stepping up, Nene & Okafor are competent in the frontcourt, and Brad Beal may be in the RoY conversation.  Again, it’s all too much to ask for everything to work in 1 season, but this team is headed in the right direction.
 24.  New Orleans Hornets 0-0 Young & hungry, but that won’t be enough.  When your best player is a rookie, even one as highly touted as Unibrow Davis, you’re going to struggle.  Eric Gordon should be able to return to form, & Ryan Anderson came over from Orlando to shoot 3s, but the roster also boasts(?) Roger Mason & Hakim Warrick, both of whom have played for years without anyone noticing.
 25.  Detroit Pistons 0-0 How do these guys plan to score?  Charlie V was run out of Toronto, and has done nothing in Motor City.  Tayshaun Prince & Corey Maggette were nice players, but are playing out the string.  Austin Daye strikes fear in no one’s heart, & Rodney Stuckey is strictly a second-unit guy.  Their MVP is Greg Monroe, & he’s terrific. Andre Drummond may be a diamond in the rough. They’re nowhere near being competitive.
 26.  Phoenix Suns 0-0 Dry your tears, folks.  Nash isn’t coming back.  Dragic & Gortat are sound, but the roster looks cobbled together.  From the All-Disappointment Team, we’ve got Michael Beasley, Ike Diogu, Channing Frye, & Sebastian Telfair.  From the I-can’t-believe-I-found-a-team Team, here’s Jermaine O’Neal, P. J. Tucker, & Jared Dudley.  If Coach Gentry can coax 30 wins out of this bunch, he’s a genius.
 27.  Cleveland Cavaliers 0-0 I could be very wrong, but to my eyes, this team is at least a year away from a .500 record. Kyrie Irving is wonderful, but you can’t play 1 on 5. Tristan Thompson is on his way, Varejoa hustles, & Dion Waiters may justify his high draft selection. But who’s going to emerge as a useful player from a list of guys like Harangody, Casspi, Samardo Samuels & Luke Walker?  Avoid like the plague.
 28.  Houston Rockets 0-0 The first year of a teardown.  Right now, they’re a hole in the ground, with a tenuous youthful foundation of unproven rookies like Royce White (if he actually shows up to work).  Jeremy Lin’s weaknesses, which are numerous, will be badly exposed.  Their big offseason acquisition, Omer Asik, has never shown any offensive prowess. James Harden will struggle against the double-teams he’s going to see. They will score the fewest points in the league.
 29.  Orlando Magic 0-0 Another “Oh dear” team.  Writing big-money cheques to Hedu Turkoglu must be infuriating.  And why is Jameer Nelson back?  You’re going to get hammered anyway; you might as well play your kids and see what you’ve got.  You already know what guys like Redick & Harrington can provide, which is a quick trip to the bottom of the standings.  Play Andrew Nicholson; at least he & Harkless have significant upside.
 30.  Charlotte Bobcats 0-0 “Been down so long, it looks like up to me”  Rebuilding following last year’s 7-win debacle won’t be easy, but this bunch is not devoid of young talent.  Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, & Bismack Biyombo may need to show ID before buying beer, but they are gifted athletes who could become solid (or better) pros in a few years.  A dreadful season is again in the cards, but I’ll bet their second 41 games are significantly better than their first.