How 30 teams stack up right now

Tuesday August 25th, 2009

The offseason has been anything but a period of downtime for the NBA's top teams. Several contenders have made bold moves in an attempt to unseat the Lakers, who themselves have rolled the dice by signing Ron Artest. Let's take a look at how the league stacks up with about five weeks left until the start of training camp.

NBA Power Rankings
1 San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs
After failing to get out of the first round for the first time since 2000, the Spurs have spent big to reposition themselves as title contenders. In exceeding the luxury-tax threshold, the Spurs reloaded with small forward Richard Jefferson and power forward Antonio McDyess. They also drafted rebounder DeJuan Blair in the second round. Tim Duncan (who struggled with knee problems down the stretch) and Manu Ginobili (who sat out the playoffs with an ankle injury) need healthy seasons, but if that happens, watch out.
2 Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland Cavaliers
Shaquille O'Neal was the headline acquisition, but don't overlook the additions of Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon. Parker is exactly the kind of stretch-the-floor shooter Cleveland needed, and the versatile Moon is a capable backup at both small forward and shooting guard. The Cavs could use a perimeter big man (Leon Powe isn't it), but their firepower makes them one scary offensive team.
3 Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Lakers
You can't argue that the Trevor Ariza-for-Ron Artest swap doesn't look good on paper. But as I've said before, I have my reservations about Artest -- which explains why the defending champions are No. 3 on this list. Will the 29-year-old forward accept a complementary role? Will he play within the offense and control his shot selection?
4 Boston Celtics
Boston Celtics
The Celtics understand they have a two-year window to win and are loading up accordingly. Rasheed Wallace is the perfect fit as the first big man off the bench. After spending the '09 postseason scrambling for power players amid myriad injuries, Boston is now forest-thick in that department with Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, Wallace, Glen Davis and Shelden Williams. The Celtics still could use a backup point guard, but they can grab a capable one off the free-agent scrap heap anytime.
5 Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic
Are they printing money at Amway Arena? First the Magic traded for Vince Carter and the two years and $33.6 million remaining on his contract. Then they stunned everyone by matching Dallas' five-year, $34 million offer sheet for backup center Marcin Gortat, and added more depth by giving forward Brandon Bass $18 million over four years. Getting out of the East will likely be tougher than it was last year, but the Magic are acting like they are up for the task.
6 Portland Trail Blazers
Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers are young, deep and talented, and last season they took their obligatory first-timer lumps in the playoffs. In other words, they would be contenders this season even without Andre Miller. Still, having a savvy point guard like Miller to orchestrate the offense should help a team that finished 19th in assists last season. In addition, small forward Martell Webster (10.7 points in '07-08) is set to return after missing all but one game last season.
7 Denver Nuggets
Denver Nuggets
The top five scorers will be back, as will valuable reserve big man Chris Andersen. But the Nuggets were dealt a blow to their defense when Dahntay Jones signed with Indiana and their outside shooting took a hit when Linas Kleiza signed with Greek team Olympiakos. Newcomer Arron Afflalo could help replace Jones, while free agent Wally Szczerbiak remains a possibility as a shooter off the bench.
8 Washington Wizards
Washington Wizards
Assuming Gilbert Arenas is healthy -- a big if for a player who has had three knee surgeries and appeared in only 15 games over the last two seasons -- the Wizards should rocket near the top of the East. New coach Flip Saunders will maximize the Wizards' offensive potential, which is bigger thanks to the additions of Mike Miller and Randy Foye. When Washington is clicking, few teams will be able to keep pace.
9 Dallas Mavericks
Dallas Mavericks
A busy offseason has left a number of questions. Forward Shawn Marion is a nice addition, but where does he fit in the lineup? At 36, what does Jason Kidd have left in the tank? Can the Mavs match up at the power positions with the West's elite? Dallas appears headed for another 50-win season and an early exit in the playoffs.
10 New Orleans Hornets
New Orleans Hornets
Emeka Okafor may lack Tyson Chandler's athleticism, but the former Bobcat will give the Hornets a bit more offense in the post. A big key for the Hornets will be whether they can get more from the 32-year-old Peja Stojakovic, who averaged 13.3 points (his lowest since '99-00) and shot only 39.9 percent in an injury-plagued season.
11 Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta Hawks
Coming off their best season in 11 years, the Hawks retained their key free agents -- Mike Bibby, Marvin Williams and Zaza Pachulia (with Josh Childress remaining in Greece) -- and added more backcourt options in Jamal Crawford and rookie Jeff Teague. The problem is that the three teams that finished ahead of them in the East -- Cleveland, Boston and Orlando -- haven't come back to the pack.
12 Utah Jazz
Utah Jazz
Utah essentially has the same core as last season (after re-signing Paul Millsap and extending Mehmet Okur's contract), but that might not last long. The Jazz will continue to field offers for Carlos Boozer, who will become a free agent after the season. If Utah can deal Boozer for some help at the wing positions (a trade would free up the power forward position for Millsap), it could contend for the No. 5 seed.
13 Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia 76ers
Can new coach Eddie Jordan harness a healthy Elton Brand's talent? The answer to that question will probably determine how far Philadelphia goes. The Sixers will get a boost from the return of skilled backup power forward Jason Smith, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. Now if they can only figure out who will play point guard.
14 Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns
They may have enough to sneak into the playoffs, but that will depend on All-Star forward Amar'e Stoudemire and his comeback from eye surgery. If Stoudemire can return to form (he averaged 21.4 points and 8.1 rebounds in 53 games last season), the up-tempo Suns have their inside complement to the perimeter scoring of Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Leandro Barbosa and Grant Hill.
15 Detroit Pistons
Detroit Pistons
Meet the new offensive-minded Pistons. With Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva joining Rip Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince, and with offensive guru John Kuester drawing up the plays as the new head coach, Detroit will put up points in bunches. But can they stop the other team from scoring them?
16 Miami Heat
Miami Heat
Miami this summer preserved its cap space for 2010 but didn't do much to help Dwyane Wade this season. That means the Heat will be counting on a big season from Jermaine O'Neal. They will need to be patient with Michael Beasley, who reportedly checked into a rehab facility for treatment recently.
17 Chicago Bulls
Chicago Bulls
A healthy Luol Deng should help cushion the loss of Ben Gordon, whose fourth-quarter scoring will be missed. Quiet in the offseason, the Bulls will rely on the development of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas as they try to build on last season's dramatic first-round playoff series against the Celtics.
18 Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors
The Hedo Turkoglu-Chris Bosh-Andrea Bargnani front line isn't exactly Bird-McHale-Parish, but it should be a formidable one in the East. Jarrett Jack will ease point guard Jose Calderon's load, and rookie shooting guard DeMar DeRozan is an impressive prospect. GM Bryan Colangelo won't be shy in trying to further upgrade the roster as he knows this is his last chance to make an impression on free-agent-to-be Bosh.
19 Golden State Warriors
Golden State Warriors
Defense will be an issue, of course, but with their offensive capabilities, a playoff run isn't out of the question. Keep an eye on Anthony Randolph, who dominated at summer league. Is the second-year forward ready to make a big impact playing against better competition?
20 Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City Thunder
On paper, OKC looks to be a year or two away from contending for the playoffs. But don't rule it out: Kevin Durant has two years of experience as a No. 1 option, Russell Westbrook looked phenomenal at the USA Basketball camp and smooth rookie James Harden should contribute immediately at shooting guard, a team weakness last season. Whether the Thunder can hold their own on the interior remains to be seen.
21 New York Knicks
New York Knicks
Do the Knicks wish they could fast-forward to the summer of 2010? Yes. Could they make some noise this season? Possibly. The dried-up market likely means restricted free agents David Lee and Nate Robinson will be back, and Darko Milicic will help more than Quentin Richardson did. If restricted free agent Ramon Sessions signs to give Chris Duhon some help at point guard, the Knicks could surprise some people.
22 Houston Rockets
Houston Rockets
David Andersen will fit in nicely in Rick Adelman's offense and Aaron Brooks shows promise at point guard, but there are simply too many holes in Houston's lineup. With Ron Artest gone and Yao Ming (foot) and Tracy McGrady (knee) sidelined, the Rockets' leading returning scorer is Luis Scola (12.7 points).
23 Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Clippers
This being the Clippers, something figures to go wrong by December. But this is a potentially interesting team because of the mix of young talent (Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, Al Thornton) and veterans (Baron Davis, Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby). Davis' health, as always, will be key.
24 Indiana Pacers
Indiana Pacers
If Roy Hibbert becomes an impact center in his second year, if Mike Dunleavy can play a full season in his return from a knee injury and if lottery pick Tyler Hansbrough can be a factor as a rookie, Indiana could be all right. But the chances of all that happening are pretty slim for the Pacers, who have added several role players (including Hansbrough, Dahntay Jones, Earl Watson and Solomon Jones) while losing guards Jarrett Jack (13.1 points) and Marquis Daniels (13.6 points).
25 Charlotte Bobcats
Charlotte Bobcats
Tyson Chandler should help defensively if he can find a way to stay on the court after undergoing ankle and toe surgeries in the offseason. But the Bobcats are still a woefully inept scoring team and Chandler won't do anything to help that. Allen Iverson reportedly wants to sign with Larry Brown and Charlotte, which finished last in scoring in 2008-09.
26 Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota Timberwolves
New GM David Kahn overhauled the backcourt in his first offseason on the job, dealing Randy Foye, Mike Miller and Sebastian Telfair and replacing them with rookies Jonny Flynn, Wayne Ellington and the still-unsigned Ricky Rubio. The frontcourt is more stable with Al Jefferson returning from a torn ACL and Kevin Love ready to become a full-time starter in his second season.
27 Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis Grizzlies
So let me get this straight: O.J. Mayo, Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay are going to play together? That's three guys who ranked in the top 30 in shot attempts per game last season. And Memphis also flirted with signing Allen Iverson? The Grizzlies might break the record for fewest assists in a season.
28 Milwaukee Bucks
Milwaukee Bucks
Milwaukee lost its second- and third-leading scorers (Richard Jefferson and Charlie Villanueva), while its No. 1 scorer (Michael Redd) and top rebounder (Andrew Bogut) are returning from major injuries. And it's possible that part-time starting point guard Ramon Sessions could walk as a free agent. Coach Scott Skiles will keep the defense playing at a high level, but points will be hard to come by.
29 New Jersey Nets
New Jersey Nets
All-Rookie center Brook Lopez should be even better in his second year -- the Nets plan to feature him more in the offense -- and Courtney Lee joins All-Star point guard Devin Harris to form an athletic and tough defensive backcourt. But the Nets will struggle to score without Vince Carter, who averaged 23.6 points in four-plus seasons in New Jersey.
30 Sacramento Kings
Sacramento Kings
Tyreke Evans looked like the real deal in summer league, but the raw 19-year-old point guard will need at least a full season to figure out the NBA game. New coach Paul Westphal will have his hands full getting this team to rebound and defend. Looks like another long season in Sacto.
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