With the NBA season just a few days away, Forum Sports Editor Kyle Kercheval and writers Nathan Loibl and Caleb Friginal worked together to compile their 2013-2014 NBA preseason power rankings. The Forum was also able to receive head boys basketball coach Kevin Boley’s personal rankings (see below ours)! Who do you agree with? Want to submit your rankings? Be sure to contact us and tell us what you think!
1. Miami Heat
Headed into the 2013-2014 season, the Big Three and the Heat will look for the sixth “three-peat” in NBA history. This will be a crucial year for the organization, as four-time MVP LeBron James will have the ability to opt. out of the fifth year of a six year, $110,100,000 contract at season’s end. Alongside eight-time NBA All-Star Chris Bosh, former number one draft pick, Greg Oden, will attempt to revive his injury-ridden career with the defending world champs.
2. Golden State Warriors
After a breakout season last year, Mark Jackson’s young and determined squad have high expectations after losing in six games to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals. Stephen Curry will look to build off of what many believe was a breakout season last year, as along with averaging 6.9 assists per game, the point-guard broke the regular season record for most three pointers made in a single season.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder remain one of the NBA’s top teams after a disappointing season where they were ousted in the second round of the playoffs. However, superstar point-guard, Russell Westbrook is coming off two different knee surgeries that will force him to miss the first 4-6 weeks of the season. This will put a huge offensive burden on arguably the Western Conference’s best player, all-world forward, Kevin Durant. Look for guards such as Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb to help fill the void Westbrook leaves in the rotation.
4. San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs are year in and year out have been consistently one of the best teams in the NBA, even when many experts have looked to count them out over the past few seasons. Although he was 36 a season ago, future hall-of-fame big man Tim Duncan will be riding the momentum of a terrific postseason where he averaged a double-double per night. Along with one of the best point-guards in the league in Tony Parker, Gregg Popovich and the Spurs should once again be fighting for a top spot in the Western Conference standings.
5. Indiana Pacers
Many experts consider the Indiana Pacers the Heat’s biggest obstacle in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers have advanced one round deeper each of the past two seasons in the playoffs and will try to do the same this year. The Pacers starting five will all return this season including all-stars Paul George, Danny Granger, and Roy Hibbert. The Pacers will look to get a spark off the bench from off season acquisition Chris Copeland. They also expect Paul George to come into his own as they signed him to a six year extension.
6. Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets were very busy in the offseason as they first signed all-star center, Dwight Howard, followed by the signing of Ronnie Brewer and Marcus Camby to sure up their bench. But the most important player on this Rockets team is still star guard James Harden who’s coming off of a season where he averaged 25.9 points and 5.8 assists per game. He and Dwight Howard will try to create an unstoppable duo in 2013-2014.
7. Chicago Bulls
Chicago Bulls fans should be hoping for a finals run this year with the return of former MVP Derrick Rose, after the all-star missed all of last season with a torn ACL which he sustained in the playoffs of the 2011-2012 season. The Bulls made a run into the Eastern Conference Semi-finals last year without the star point guard, but it will be nice to have Rose back, who averaged 21.8 points and 7.9 assists in the 2011-2012 season. Rose’s return will also help the play of forwards Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah as they should become more productive offensively.
8. Los Angeles Clippers
After years of purple and yellow domination, the Clippers are now the hot team in Los Angeles. They beat the struggling Lakers all four times they met last season. In the past, the Clippers were the laughing stock of L.A. and the NBA, but ever since the arrival of All-Star point guard Chris Paul in 2011, the Clippers are now a big team to watch for the finals race. Along with a new head coach in the form of Doc Rivers, the “Big Three from L.A.,” Chris Paul, dunk master Blake Griffin, and “posterizer’” DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers will look to take the franchise to their first NBA championship.
9. Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies have recently been a team to beat in the Western Conference. Rising stars Marc Gasol, who won Defensive Player of the Year for the 2012-2013 season, and Michael Conley lead the team deep into the playoffs last season, only to lose in the Western Conference Finals to the San Antonio Spurs. Since the trade of superstar Rudy Gay in mid season last year, many believed that the Grizzlies would go into rebuilding, but it has only proved immediate success for the organization.
10. Brooklyn Nets
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, former Celtics & NBA Champions, have taken their veteran knowledge to the Bronx. Alongside 3-time All-Star point guard, Deron Williams and sharp shooter Joe Johnson, the Nets look to dominate the Eastern Conference. Williams, known for his ability to facilitate the court, averaging 7.7 assists per game last year, should complement the play of Pierce, Garnett, and Johnson well. Making his return to the Nets franchise is another NBA facilitator in Jason Kidd, however it won’t be in a uniform. Just last year Kidd was playing his nineteenth season of basketball for the New York Knicks, but this year he’ll take over as the Nets head coach.
11. New York Knicks
Being ousted in the Eastern Conference semi-finals by a determined Pacers team was hard to New York, especially when they have the NBA scoring champion. Carmelo Anthony, now entering his eleventh season, averaged 28.7 points per game last season, which lead the league. Anthony is searching for his first NBA Championship, which has motivated him to take over the team, especially with big men and former Olympic Medalists Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler have been hit hard with the ‘age’ bug as of recently. If all else fails, Spike Lee will always cheer them on.
12. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks have been year in and year out a middle of the pack team in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks cut ties with head coach Larry Drew after Drew wasn’t able to push the franchise past the first round of the playoffs. During the offseason, Atlanta’s management went out and hired San Antonio Spurs assistant, Mike Budenholzer. Budenholzer will try to take his experience from San Antonio and Gregg Popovich to Atlanta. With the loss of Josh Smith, Atlanta will lean heavily on forwards Al Horford and Paul Millsap along with recently acquired guard, Jeff Teague.
13. Dallas Mavericks
For whatever reason, the Dallas Mavericks always seem to fly under the radar; however, that doesn’t stop them from winning their fair share of games or picking up their fair share of stars. Although Dirk Nowitzki and the crew were watching the playoffs from their living room last year, the Mavs front office made a few big moves over the offseason including the acquisitions of three starting caliber guards: Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, and Devin Harris. With the superstars on this team nearing the end of their careers, we’ll see if Dallas has enough left in the tank to make a return to the NBA Finals.
14. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets seem to be looking towards the future of the franchise. Firing last season’s Coach of the Year, George Karl and losing NBA Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri, and hiring rookie head coach Brian Shaw, the Nuggets are hoping to go deeper into the playoffs than the first round, which has plagued them for seven of the eight years in Karl’s tenure. With the addition of former NBA slam-dunk champion and aggressive scorer, Nate Robinson, the Nuggets look to have an equally electric season, with the hopes of taking that next step.
15. Portland Trailblazers
Much like the Minnesota Timberwolves, injuries have plagued the Blazers for the past 3 seasons, holding them either at the bottom of the playoff picture, or out of postseason play completely. Although Portland’s playoff hopes tanked at the later part of the season, including a 13 game losing streak to finish the 2012-2013 campaign, rookie point guard Damian Lillard proved to be the real deal, averaging 19 points and 6.5 assists per game as well as earning Rookie of the Year honors. On the other hand, the Trailblazers lost a key big man in J.J. Hickson, so the play of centers LaMarcus Aldridge and Myers Leonard will be critical to Portland’s success.
16. Cleveland Cavaliers
This year marks a big year for the former number one draft pick Kyrie Irving and the Cav’s. Cleveland acquired Anthony Bennett from UNLV, with the number one pick in the draft as well as injury prone Andrew Bynum, who sat out all of last season after undergoing Orthokine treatments in both knees to heal his arthritis, off the free agent market. Although the young and developing Cavaliers still have a ways to go, look for Cleveland to put the Quicken Loans Arena back on the map.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves
Injuries, injuries, injuries. That has been the story for Rick Adelman’s Timberwolves over the past few years. Predicting that Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic will log more than the 13 minutes of court time they shared as a trio last season, is tough to do. But with Rick Adelman back and Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer added to the roster, the T-Wolves have playoff potential, if of course, they can keep their big name players on the floor and out of the training room.
18. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers don’t have very high expectations coming into this 2013-2014 NBA season. The Lakers lost Dwight Howard to free agency and have an aging Kobe Bryant coming off of a torn achilles. The Lakers have an older roster and didn’t look very good last year to say the least. The Lakers did add a talented Nick Young to the roster but that doesn’t look like enough to revive this struggling team. Look for the Lakers front office to make some moves for younger talent, or big name free agents in the future.
19. Detroit Pistons
According to a poll taken by all 30 NBA general managers, the Detroit have been named the league’s most improved team. Although they posted a record of 29-53 just a year ago, the expectations of this team have certainly exceeded, well, the initial expectations. For a team where every player but one (Chauncey Billups who returns for his sixteenth season, his eighth with Detroit) has played under 10 seasons in the NBA, this relatively young team should look to make some noise. With the additions of star forward Josh Smith and former Bucks guard Brandon Jennings, the Pistons may well be on their way to something special.
20. Toronto Raptors
After trading for all-star Rudy Gay last season, the Raptors became one of the youngest teams in the NBA, but also one of the fastest and most athletic. Terrence Ross, who’s now entering his second season in the league, showed of Torontos athleticism at the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest during the all-star week last year, where he won the contest as a rookie. With guys like Demar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry in the prime of their careers, look for the Raptors begin building a solid team north of the border.
21. Washington Wizards
The past few seasons have been tough for the young and inexperienced Wizards, but while they have several up and coming potential stars including offensive spark plug Bradley Beal and defensive specialist Chris Singleton, the Wizards front office also picked up veterans Nene, Emeka Okafor and Al Harrington over the past 6 months. This should be a defining year for Washington as we’ll see if John Wall and the Wizards front office can find a solid group of players who can help the 3-year point guard bring some wins to D.C.
22. Boston Celtics
The Celtics have always been a dominant team in the East. But as of late, the normally consistent squad has fallen. New Head Coach Brad Stevens, who excelled at Butler University, will try to lead the newly formed and young Celtics team back to an elite level. With the big three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen all gone to pursue a title in Brooklyn and Miami, Rajon Rondo is the only All-Star left on the roster. The start of Rondo’s season could be slowed due to an ACL tear he sustained towards the end of last season. Players like Jeff Green and Avery Bradley need to step up if the Celtics have any chance in the Eastern Conference.
23. New Orleans Pelicans
By changing their name from the Hornets, to the Pelicans, their colors from classic teal to the bold red and gold, the organization is definitely trying to change the culture in New Orleans. Former number one Anthony Davis needs to stay healthy and contribute more to the team as a leader if they are going to succeed this season. But with the acquisitions of Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday, the Pelicans seem to be in more contention this year than in years past.
24. Milwaukee Bucks
After losing star guard Monta Ellis, the Bucks seem to be heading in a new direction. With a mix of veterans and young talent, the Bucks will look to build around a rising name in point guard Brandon Knight. Milwaukee also added seasoned veterans O.J. Mayo and Caron Butler, which should aid the Bucks in their playoff aspirations.
25. Sacramento Kings
Although they have some of the most dedicated basketball fans in the NBA, the Sacramento Kings still have yet to put out a playoff contending team. Big man DeMarcus Cousins and point guard Isaiah Thomas are certainly two of the few notable names on the roster and will play a huge part in determining the future of this young team. The Kings first round pick, guard Ben McLemore, will be a fun player to keep an eye on, but his individual effort obviously won’t push the Kings into the playoffs.
26. Utah Jazz
Based on last seasons performance, the Jazz remain towards the bottom of the Western Conference even though they have more potential than people think. After losing two of their most impactful players in Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, two year Turkish center Enes Kanter and French rookie Rudy Gobert will need to step it up if the Jazz plan on stopping anyone down low. Offensively, the Jazz’s roster is stacked with outside threats including Gordon Hayward, Brandon Rush, and Alec Burks, look for Tyrone Corbin’s game plan to include plenty of three-point shooting.
27. Orlando Magic
It’s been a downward spiral for Orlando since they lost their franchise big man and off court jokester Dwight Howard in 2012. The Magic finished a laughable 20-62 last season, the worst record in the NBA. With the poor season, the organization hopes to rebuild around the second pick in the 2013 NBA Draft- Victor Oladipo, who won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. As they move on from the Dwight Howard era, they look to work back into the top of the Eastern Conference with a younger and motivated team.
28. Charlotte Bobcats
They’ll only be the Bobcats for one more season, which is probably a good thing for a franchise that has done nothing but struggle, as they have totaled 28 wins over the past two seasons. With Al Jefferson coming to Charlotte, the Bobcats will definitely be improved down low, but they still have a long ways to go. Kemba Walker will need to consistently play at a high level if the Bobcats want to have any kind of offensive attack.
29. Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns front office has been a disaster the past few seasons, which happens to go hand-in-hand with the loss of Steve Nash and any playoff potential. Expect major turnover in the Suns roster come the trade deadline. In the long term, guards Eric Bledsoe and Kendall Marshall could possibly be names to build around, but as of this year, the Suns will most likely be looking to find their identity under rookie head coach Jeff Hornacek.
30. Philadelphia 76ers
After trading away a rising guard in Jrue Holiday, naming a new head coach in Brett Brown, and naming Sam Hinkie as president of basketball operations and general manager, it’s safe to say that the once very respectable 76ers will look to rebuild within their franchise. The additions of rookies Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse, and Nerlens Noel, Kentucky, will hopefully play out successfully for Philadelphia in the long term. But by no means are the 76ers constructed to win more than 30 games this season.
Titan’s Head Basketball Coach Kevin Boley’s NBA Preseason Power Rankings:
3. Los Angeles Clippers
4. San Antonio
6. Oklahoma City
10. Golden State
11. New York
20. New Orleans
21. Los Angeles Lakers