Heat lead the way as season nears

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Welcome to SI.com's first NBA Power Rankings of the 2010-11 season.

I don't want to discourage debate about my ordering of teams -- intelligent arguments are a joyful pursuit for fans and pundits alike -- but first let me explain my admittedly subjective criteria so you know what to criticize. To make the rankings as dynamic and time-sensitive as possible each week, I'll order teams based on their current circumstance, not on how I feel they'd perform weeks from now or what they did weeks ago.

For example, the two-time defending champion Lakers sit only third on this list and the reigning Eastern Conference champion Celtics are only fourth in part because of concerns about how they'll fare without Andrew Bynum and Kendrick Perkins, respectively. Last year's two finalists start off behind top-ranked Miami, which offers a rare blend of stardom and teamwork (the Heat's new Big Three showed the latter on the 2008 Olympic team), and could have Dwyane Wade back for the season opener; and healthy Orlando, which has demolished its seven preseason opponents and is hungry after deep runs in the last two postseasons failed to result in a championship.

In any case, while it's human nature to just look at the number beside the team, I hope these rankings become of interest as much for my observations as for where your favorite team lands on the list.

Check back Tuesday, Nov. 2 for the first regular-season edition of the Power Rankings.

(Note: All preseason statistics are through Oct. 20.)

NBA Preseason Power Rankings