NBA Power Rankings: Week 1

October 30, 2009

Now that the 2009-2010 NBA season has officially tipped-off, presents our latest NBA Power Rankings for the new season:

#30. LA Clippers

Is it any wonder that almost nobody has wanted to come and play for King Cheapskate Donald Sterling and his semi-pro team for the better part of the last 25 years? And even when they do come, disaster strikes. Look no further than the homecoming of Angeleno Baron Davis, who signed with the Clips and endured arguably his worst season as a pro last year playing for the unsuccessful, yet perpetually-employed head coach Mike Dunleavy.

Now the Clipper Curse also seems to have bitten prize rook Blake Griffin, as he is expected to miss up to 6 weeks with a fracture in his kneecap.

Despite having an extremely talented roster on paper with studs such as Davis, Griffin, Eric Gordon, and Al Thornton, would anybody really be surprised if the Clips are again competing for the worst record in the league once spring rolls around?

#29. Sacramento Kings

After superb scorer Kevin Martin, postman Spencer Hawes, and highly-regarded rookie Tyreke Evans, bright spots are few and far between on an otherwise sub-par Sacramento team.

#28. New Jersey Nets

Coach Lawrence Frank could find himself in an awkward position this year. The Nets could be just one season away from relocating to Brooklyn and acquiring LeBron James, or they could just remain another run-of-the-mill team good enough to compete for a playoff spot, but far from being a serious title contender.

Still, the Nets actually have a roster full of young, talented players, including Devin Harris, Brook Lopez, Yi Jianlian, Terrence Williams, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Courtney Lee, and Sean Williams. The Nets will probably spend most of the season somewhere around the middle of the pack in the Atlantic Division.

#27. Indiana Pacers

The Pacers success will begin and end with Danny Granger, who is now on the cusp of truly being considered one of the game's elite players. TJ Ford returns at the point, and will have Granger on the wing and the largely unheralded Troy Murphy to look for down low. Picking up defensive pest Dahntay Jones was a shrewd move by Larry Bird and the Pacers brass.

#26. Milwaukee Bucks

Scott Skiles and the Bucks probably won't do much this year, although they have a decent complement of servicable bigs including Andrew Bogut, Hakim Warrick, Francisco Elson, Dan Gadzuric, and Kurt Thomas. This team will go as far as its backcourt will take it, as shooter Michael Redd and promising young point guard Brandon Jennings must lead the way.

#25. Detroit Pistons

The recently overhauled Pistons will sport a new lineup this year, as malcontent Allen Iverson, mainstay Rasheed Wallace, and youngsters Arron Afflalo and Amir Johnson are no longer with the team.

GM Joe Dumars instead decided to go in a more youthful direction, bringing in versatile big Charlie Villanueva and high-scoring guard Ben Gordon to join reliable long-time Motowners Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince. The Pistons frontline could once again prove to be a force, as Villanueva and the emerging Jason Maxiell will be supported by the ultra-athletic Chris Wilcox and a fading Ben Wallace, who returns after stints with Chicago and Cleveland.

#24. New York Knicks

Regrettably for Knicks fans, Year Two of the Mike D'Antoni Era doesn't figure to be much better than the first. As has been the case with the Knicks recently, they actually have a decent team on paper based on individual talent alone. Unfortunately, individual talent -- and young talent, for that matter -- does not a successful team make.

Starting with "Mr. Double-Double" David Lee, Al Harrington, do-everything Wilson Chandler, scrappy Nate Robinson, and the surprisingly effective Chris Duhon, the Knicks could be a contender in an Atlantic Division that remains pretty weak, save for the Celtics. D'Antoni has been telling all who will listen that he has a player in Italian import Danilo Gallinari, but it remains to be seen whether Gallinari is ready yet for the bright lights of the World's Most Famous Arena.

#23. Minnesota Timberwolves

First-year T'Wolves coach and longtime Laker Kurt Rambis is likely to experience some growing pains in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but at least the cupboard is not completely bare, as the Wolves have two of the league's best "under the radar" big men in Al Jefferson and Kevin Love.

In addition, Minnesota has a decent nucleus of talented, but unproven youngsters on the perimeter in dynamic rookie lead guard Johnny Flynn of Syracuse and athletic Corey Brewer. Flynn had a particularly strong showing this offseason in Summer League. Forward Ryan Gomes also should continue to contribute solid points and rebounds off the bench.

The biggest drawback for Minnesota fans is that they will not get to see draft pick Ricky Rubio of Spain, as Rubio elected to play another season in Europe before testing the NBA waters.

#22. Washington Wizards

The return of Gilbert Arenas to NBA-mandated press conferences alone is enough to make the pathetic Wizards semi-watchable again. Even with Agent Zero back, the Wizards will be forced to play catch-up from the start with injured forward Antawn Jamison out for the first 4-6 weeks of the season.

#21. Oklahoma City Thunder

Head Coach Scotty Brooks' Thunder return for their second full season in Oklahoma, with arguably the best 6'9" 21 year-old on the planet in Kevin Durant. In his brief career, Durant has shown few if any weaknesses in his still-evolving offensive arsenal.

If the pre-season is an accurate indication, then fans should get accustomed to seeing Durant on the receiving end of beautiful passes from former UCLA point guard Russell Westbrook. Brooks also has to be comforted by the fact that he also has a couple of talented and polished wing players in Jeff Green and silky smooove southpaw James Harden.

#20. Memphis Grizzlies

At the very least, the addition of Allen Iverson should make for an interesting season, with more tickets being sold for the still-struggling Grizzlies franchise. Likely to be paired with OJ Mayo in the backcourt, Iverson at a minimum will provide scoring, even though with Mayo, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, and the emerging Marc Gasol, the Grizz don't figure to be lacking in that category.

#19. Miami Heat

Once again, it all begins and ends with Dwyane Wade. The only pertinent question is: will he dash, or decide to re-up and return to South Beach?

Miami also is hoping to squeeze some production out of Jermaine O'Neal, who is playing in a contract year.

#18. Toronto Raptors

The Raps poaching of free agent forward Hedo Turkoglu from the Blazers certainly bolsters a frontcourt that already featured Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani. Similarly, the signing of guard Jarrett Jack also should have a positive effect on their bench. However, Toronto could use an upgrade at point guard, where Jose Calderon often gets scorched by the league's top tier playmakers.

#17. Golden State Warriors

Now that Stephen Jackson has conceded his captaincy, the only question remaining is will he be the first malcontent to be shipped out of town? The smart money says it will come down to a decision between Jackson and the consistently petulant Corey Magette. Don Nelson would be wise to focus on rebuilding the team around young gunner Stephen Curry and versatile Anthony Randolph.

#16. Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers' season will hinge on two key issues affecting the squad:

A) Can scorer Louis Williams develop into more of a pass-first playmaker at the point now that Andre Miller has left?
B) Will Elton Brand ever return to the same pre-injury form he displayed with the Clippers?

One player with no question marks is Andre Iguodala, as this athletic swingman continues to improve and propel Philly forward.

#15. Phoenix Suns

Now that the Shaq experiment is officially over, the question remains: do the Suns still have enough of the right kind of players to get back to their "seven seconds or less" offense?

The answer seems to be yes -- with quarterback Steve Nash being the key component. Although the Suns still have big concerns as to the health of Nash, Grant Hill, and Amare Stoudamire, they certainly have enough talent to make some noise in the West. But title contenders? Not by any stretch of the imagination.

#14. Houston Rockets

The Rockets, preparing to embark on what is already considered a "lost season" by some due to injuries to stars Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, could surprise and earn a playoff spot out West. If the Rockets do qualify for post-season play it will be because of the continually evolving play of diminutive point Aaron Brooks.

Brooks could pair with Kyle Lowry to form one of the smaller, yet most physically gifted H-Town backcourts in quite a while. Combined with newcomer Trevor Ariza and "glue guys" Shane Battier and Chuck Hayes, the Rockets cannot be counted out just yet.

#13. Charlotte Bobcats

GM Michael Jordan's Charlotte squad boasts a solid nucleus of young athletes and experienced veterans. As such, the Bobcats could be a darkhorse pick to qualify for postseason play this year. Of course, the biggest question will be whether their young performers will continue to learn and grow, as they have yet to prove that they can effectively gel together.

Charlotte will begin the season with a likely starting five of either DJ Augustin or Raymond Felton at the point, Raja Bell at the 2, Gerald Wallace at the 3, Boris Diaw at the 4, and Tyson Chandler at the pivot. They will also count on contributions from veteran guard Flip Murray, youngster Gerald Henderson, and enigmatic sharpshooting forward Vladimir Radmanovic off the bench.

#12. Atlanta Hawks

Tha Hawks again will be one of the most slept-on teams in the Association (including by their own hometown fanbase, shamefully). This year they added another proven scorer in Jamal Crawford to an already potent lineup featuring Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Al Horford, and Josh Smith. In order to make any real noise come playoff time, Atlanta must prove that they are committed to doing the little things -- namely playing defense and crashing the boards.

#11. Chicago Bulls

With the exception of Ben Gordon, Coach Vinny Del Negro returns nearly everyone from a team that gave the Celtics all they could handle in a 7-game first round series for the ages. Reigning ROY Derrick Rose, steady Kirk Hinrich, do-it-all Johnny Salmons, and a rejuvenated and healthy Luol Deng all will make the Bulls solid on the perimeter and in the backcourt.

The thin Bulls frontcourt could prove to be another matter however, as both Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah will have to show increased consistency, productivity, and maturity to help out the steady, if unspectacular Brad Miller.

#10. Dallas Mavericks

The Mavs return with a solid and experienced core of veterans, led by Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki. As usual, sixth man extraordinaire Jason Terry will spark their second unit off the bench while relieving Kidd, Josh Howard, or Quintin Ross in the backcourt.

Athletic Shawn Marion is a quality addition who should bring the Mavs some much-needed scoring, rebounding, and defense. Picking up veteran journeymen Drew Gooden and Tim Thomas provides depth upfront, and could really benefit Dallas later in the year.

#9. New Orleans Hornets

Is Head Coach Byron Scott still a dead man walking? Despite having the preeminent point guard in the league today, the Hornets had a disappointing 2008-09 campaign. To rectify the situation, the Hornets inexplicably dealt big man Tyson Chandler -- who seemed to share an almost telepathic connection with Paul -- to the Bobcats for the solid, yet underwhelming Emeka Okafor. Most likely, the Hornets could regress this season.

#8. Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets had a better-than-most-would-have-expected season last year. Quarterbacked by Denver native Chauncey Billups, the Nuggets advanced to the Western Conference Finals before being eliminated in 6 games by the eventual NBA champs from Los Angeles.

In Carmelo Anthony, Denver has one of the top 3 pure scorers in the game. Rex Chapman and company have also done a commendable job surrounding 'Melo with the right mix of players in point-a-minute sniper J.R. Smith, hard-nosed banger Kenyon Martin, athletic bigs Nene Hilario and Cris Andersen, and energy guys Renaldo Balkman and Arron Afflalo. Denver even has an heir-apparent-in-training at the quarterback position, as they wisely drafted North Carolina's Ty Lawson, an athletic and aggressive floor general.

#7. Portland TrailBlazers

Coach Nate McMillan will get to really prove his mettle this year, as he has one of the best young units in the league. Led by two-time All Star Brandon Roy, the Blazers will look to improve upon last season's showing which saw them lose in the first round to the Rockets.

If the pre-season is any indication, big man Greg Oden may finally begin to live up to his promise, as he has looked much improved thus far. His frontcourt mate LaMarcus Aldridge, only 24, is coming off of a breakthrough year himself, and was wisely locked up by management with a five-year contract extension. Throw in burgeoning superstar Roy, and talented youngsters Nic Batum, Rudy Fernandez, Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, and Jerryd Bayless, and its clear that the Blazers will be a playoff force this year.

#6. Cleveland Cavaliers

The Shaq-Nash experiment in the Desert failed to produce the desired results, so now its time for The Diesel to see if he can successfully mesh with LeBron. It will be interesting to see how clueless coach Mike Brown divides the front court minutes between Shaq, former starter Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Anderson Varejao, and newcomer Leon Powe.

Also of concern are the off-court issues of guard Delonte West, who has battled legal and mental health problems and has yet to suit up for the team.

#5. San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs will be led into battle by their Ol' Faithful duo of post player Tim Duncan and drill sergeant Gregg Popovich. As has been the case for the last 8 years, the Hall of Fame player and coach combo will be joined by lead guard Tony Parker and wing Manu Ginobili.

If Ginobili can remain healthy once the playoffs roll around then the Spurs could upset some teams' title plans. This is because the Spurs already solid and cerebral lineup was bolstered by the offseason addition of swingman Richard Jefferson. Roger Mason Jr. should continue to provide clutch shooting from the perimeter as well.

#4. Utah Jazz

As always, the Jerry Sloan-led Jazz will play a hard-nosed, unselfish brand of basketball, with a decided emphasis on hustle, tight defense, and the seamless execution of their predictable offense. Utah undoubtedly has one of the top 3 or 4 point guards in the game today in Deron Williams, who can do any and everything on the floor with skill and precision.

They also return a full complement of solid, if unspectacular role players that fit perfectly into Sloan's system, including Paul Millsap, Andrei Kirilenko, and Ronnie Brewer. The one issue that could potentially derail the Jazz's title aspirations could be the questionable level of commitment displayed by oft-injured star forward Carlos Boozer. Boozer clearly had hoped to leave Salt Lake City this offseason, but was unable to find a suitor willing to pay his asking price.

The whispers around league circles are that Millsap has long been deemed a more valuable player than Boozer. This could make things difficult if playing time between the two forwards becomes an issue, but if the past 20 years are any indication, Sloan will handle any discontent in his customary manner -- with unflinching honesty and an eye toward what will best benefit the team in the long run.

#3. Orlando Magic

After last year's surprising run to the NBA Finals, expectations are at an all-time high in the Magic Kingdom. So, in an attempt to capture their first title, the Magic made a blockbuster deal for All-Star swingman Vince Carter to provide manchild Dwight Howard some consistent help on the perimeter. Unfortunately, that move prompted the departure of key clutch performer Hedo Turkoglu via free agency.

Nevertheless, Head Coach and Ron Jeremy look-alike Stan Van Gundy must be pleased with his roster featuring Howard, Brandon Bass, and Marcin Gortat up front, as well as Carter and sharpshooter Rashard Lewis on the perimeter. Add in athletic do-it-all types Mickael Pietrus and Matt Barnes, and a healthy Jameer Nelson at the point, and the Magic should be competing for Eastern Conference bragging rights once again.

#2 Boston Celtics

The C's biggest concern will be the durability issues surrounding Kevin Garnett this year. So to help out KG inside, the C's wisely added experience, smarts, unselfishness, and guile in the form of one Rasheed Wallace. Unfortunately, Boston then unwisely allowed physical Leon Powe to walk in favor of signing Glenn "Big Baby" Davis and Shelden "Mr. Candace Parker" Williams.

Another worry is the aging legs of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Offseason acquisition Marquis Daniels should help the situation by providing some quality minutes in relief at both the 2 and the 3. Although this is an older roster, as the saying goes, "with age, comes experience." Barring any serious injuries to their four veteran Hall of Famers, expect Boston to once again be one of the last teams standing.

#1 Los Angeles Lakers

The defending champs are blessed with talent and depth, and should be primed for another run at the title. In the short term, the team's biggest concern will be Pau Gasol's slowly-healing hamstring injury. In the long term, Laker worries will center on Phil Jackson's ongoing challenge to consistently harness Ron Artest's combustible fury. But the real wild card for LA will be Andrew Bynum, as his continued growth and development can erase many ills.

By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for

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