Anyone who follows college football knows how worthless pre-season rankings. They mean even less for NBA seasons that last 60 games longer. Everything below is based on perception and a little influence from how the teams finished last year. Expect major shake-ups early on as teams jostle for position and the records reflect it. Over the long, things will sort themselves out.
- Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder were one of the last two teams playing last year and don’t be surprised if it winds up the same this year. Oklahoma one of the deeper teams in the league. Kevin Durant is a threat to score from anywhere on the court and Russell Westbrook can go off at any moment. The recent loss of James Harden was unfortunate, but the Thunder were thinking long-term with the trade. Their stranglehold on the northwest is weakened, but they remain on top.
@ San Antonio Spurs, Vs Portland Trailblazers, Vs Atlanta Hawks
- Denver Nuggets
Denver lacks a superstar but makes up for it in depth. The Andre Iguodala acquisition will be looked back on as the move that gets Denver over the hump in the West. Denver is a legitimate championship contender but most people won’t realize it until they have racked up wins and make noise in the playoffs. Don’t be surprised to see a northwest matchup in the conference finals.
@ Orlando Magic, @ Miami Heat, Vs. Detroit Pistons
- Utah Jazz
Utah has the best front court in the league. Their second unit big-men would start on most teams. Unfortunately, the Jazz lack a distributor to get them the ball. This team is loaded with potential and made measurable progress by qualifying for the playoffs. The team will continue to improve but with a stacked western conference it may not show in the final standings. If the core stays together, Utah will be a force to reckon with.
@ New Orleans Hornets, @ San Antonio Spurs
- Minnesota Timberwolves
If Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio were healthy, they would be in front of the Jazz. Without them, the Timberwolves are a lottery team with a couple NBA castaways. To contend for a playoff spot, the Timberwolves will have to avoid an abysmal start. If all goes according to plan, the Timberwolves could give the Northwest a 4th team in the playoffs. Avoiding a slow start will be Minnesota’s primary objective to begin the season.
Vs. Minnesota Kings, @ Toronto Raptors, @ Brooklyn Nets
- Portland Trailblazers
If these rankings were based on potential, Portland would contend with Denver and OKC as the top team. The team is young. The elder statesmen of the roster, Lamarcus Aldridge, is only 28. Portland drafted a pair of rookies who will be thrust into the starting line-up and have to learn by fire. The Trailblazers won’t make the playoffs, but the pieces are in place.
Vs Los Angeles Lakers, @ Oklahoma City Thunder, @ Houston Rockets
- Seattle Super-Sonics--A man can dream, can’t he?