NBA Top 10 Power Rankings for 2012-2013 Season

August 18, 2012

Who are the top teams in the NBA going into the 2012-2013 season? Which top NBA team has improved the most in the offseason thus far?  While an argument can be made that some teams have made moves that will pay off in the long run, this list is about who is, or got better, today.

10.          Brooklyn Nets
KEY GAINS: Joe Johnson (18.8 ppg), Jerry Stackhouse, Reggie Evans
KEY LOSSES: Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro, Deshawn Stevenson
KEY RE-SIGNINGS: Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Gerald Wallace
Even without the promised arrival of Dwight Howard, the Nets improved substantially with the acquisition of Joe Johnson.  Deron Williams and Johnson make up a fearsome backcourt that will do damage in the weaker Eastern Conference.
The other two components of the “Core Four” are Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace.  The signing of Lopez was an absolute must in the absence of a Howard deal and if Lopez can get back to his 2010-2011 form, the Nets will be substantially better than they were last year for that reason alone.  Wallace, who was traded to the Nets last year, was solid in 16 games with the team last year (15.2 ppg) and still possesses the athleticism to produce at the forward position.
9.            Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers
KEY GAINS: Andrew Bynum (18.7 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 55.8% fg); Nick Young (14.2 ppg); Jason Richardson (11.6 ppg); Kwame Brown
KEY LOSSES: Andre Iguodala (12.4 ppg); Elton Brand (11.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg); Jodie Meeks (8.4 ppg)
How can a team be happy about the offseason when they traded away their two best veteran players on a young team that reached the 2nd Round of the playoffs?  Yet Philly has a number of reasons to be positive despite sending Andre Iguodala to the Denver Nuggets via trade and allowing Elton Brand to sign with the Dallas Mavericks. 
The Sixers picked up a potential star in the NBA’s 2nd best center, Andrew Bynum. The move signaled that Philly was not going to be satisfied with “playoff contender” status, and although there are definite questions regarding how the enigmatic former Laker will handle the sports fans and media in the inaptly labeled “City of Love,” the potential is undoubtedly there.
The Sixers also traded for a proven backcourt veteran in Jason Richardson and signed athletic 6-7 G/F Nick Young.  Just as importantly, they still have talented young guards Evan Turner (9.4 ppg) and Jrue Holiday (13.5 ppg, 4.5 apg). Overpaying for Kwame Brown may have been wasteful, but he is another banger inside to help with young center Thaddeus Young.

8.            Dallas Mavericks
KEY GAINS: Elton Brand, Darren Collison (10.4 ppg, 4.8 apg), Chris Kaman (13.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg), O.J. Mayo (12.6 ppg)
KEY LOSSES: Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, Lamar Odom, Brendan Haywood
The Mavericks added talent to their backcourt with the acquisition of Collision and Mayo but lost veterans Jason Terry and Jason Kidd.  The bigger loss was not the Hall of Fame bound Kidd, who is nearly finished at this stage of his career, but Terry, who has been the only proven big shot maker next to Dirk Nowitzki in this past decade.  As of now, it is unclear who will step up on Dirk’s off nights.
Both Brand and Kaman provide solid veteran front court support for Nowitzki that outweighs the loss of Haywood.  It should be noted that the loss of Lamar Odom has almost no impact on the Mavs as Odom was never really mentally with the Mavs in the first place. 
However, without a “Dirk Nowitzki 2011 Playoffs” performance, a second round exit is still to be expected.
 7.           Chicago Bulls
KEY GAINS: Mario Bellini, Nazr Muhammad, Vladmir Radmanovic, Nate Robinson (11.2 ppg)
KEY LOSSES: C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver
KEY RE-SIGNING: Kirk Heinrich
Although it was surprising that the NBA-best (tied with San Antonio) 50-16 Bulls were eliminated by the Sixers in the 1st round of the playoffs last year, they could hardly have been considered a serious title contender after the injury to Derrick Rose (again).  When Rose went down in Game 1 of the playoffs, so too did any Bulls hopes at taking the next step.  
Tom Thibodeau has gotten as much as he can out of a team that has been plagued with injuries. He will have to continue to do it again throughout the upcoming season until Derrick Rose returns.  In truth, we have yet to see what this more mature Bulls team can do in the playoffs when at full strength. 

However, none of the moves made in the off season will solve the two main roadblocks to an Eastern Conference Title: (1) Derrick Rose’s health issues; and (2) The Miami Heat.
6.            Boston Celtics
KEY GAINS: Jason Terry (15.1 ppg), Courtney Lee (11.4 ppg)
KEY LOSSES: Ray Allen (14.2 ppg)
KEY RE-SIGNINGS: Keyon Dooling, Kevin Garnett, Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox
The Celtics may have lost one of their original “Big 3” in Ray Allen to free agency, but they actually got better anyway.  That’s because Jason Terry is every bit the player Ray Allen, at this age, is and more.  The addition of Courtney Lee also helps provide some depth in the backcourt.
Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett prove every year that they still have the toughness and tenacity to challenge for a title.  The Celtics were just one win away from delaying the current sickening LeBron James media lovefest for one more year.  With a healthy Green and Wilcox this year, they should cause the Heat trouble again.
5.            San Antonio Spurs          
KEY RE-SIGNINGS: Boris Diaw, Tim Duncan, Danny Green
Greg Popovich is fairly considered by most to be the best coach in the NBA.  Watching how the Spurs utterly dismantled the LA Clippers in last year’s playoffs was revealing.  The Spurs were not necessarily more talented and certainly not more athletic than the younger Clippers – they were just coldly efficient when it mattered.  Ball movement and perimeter shooting will be the key again this year as the Spurs are stocked with 3-point shooters.
Every year the demise of the San Antonio Spurs is predicted…and every year they defy expectations.  Can they do it again in 2012-2013?  Yes…and no.  The Spurs will compete again with the top teams in the West throughout the regular season.  But if they make it to the Western Conference Finals again we should all be shocked.
Tony Parker was an MVP candidate last year and will need to be again if the Spurs are to match last year’s regular season success.  Ginobili is still an elite player and if Duncan’s minutes are limited during the season, then he might turn back the clock in the playoffs.
4.            Los Angeles Clippers
KEY GAINS: Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill, Ronny Turiaf
KEY LOSSES: Reggie Evans, Mo Williams, Nick Young, Randy Foye, Kenyon Martin
KEY RESIGNINGS: Blake Griffin, Chauncey Billups
Although the Clippers offseason moves were not as impressive as the ones made by their co-tenants at Staples Center, this young team took another step forward this summer to becoming a serious threat for the NBA Title.
The Clips lost 5 players from their deep roster in the offseason, but actually got better anyway. They currently possess not only a solid starting unit (Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan) , but an impressive bench as well (Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill, Lamar Odom, and Ronny Turiaf)
But is title contention a realistic possibility for this team?  Not unless Blake Griffin is ready to take a quantum leap in his game – and that coming off another injury.  As unfair as it may seem, Griffin’s all-star sophomore season was something of a disappointment as he appeared to stagnate or even regress (perimeter shooting, free throws, rebounding) in nearly every area of his game.  The regression was even worse for DeAndre Jordan who simply disappeared from many games last year.
However, the biggest questions this season may have less to do with the evolution of the younger Clipper players, and more to do with the play of the older veterans.  Chauncey Billups, who is coming back from season-ending knee surgery, was a catalyst before going down last year and if he can play at a similar level this year, the Clippers will be a definite threat.  Furthermore, can Lamar Odom rekindle the same kind of magic that won him the 6th Man of the Year in 2011? How much does Grant Hill have left?
If they answer those questions, with Paul leading the way, very few teams will be able to hang with the 2012-2013 Clippers.
3.            Oklahoma City Thunder
Many pundits concluded that when OKC got through the Lakers and Spurs on their way to the NBA Finals that the torch had finally passed for good in the Western Conference.  However, in losing to the Heat in the NBA Finals, the Thunder revealed that they might still have a ways to go.
Kevin Durant is currently the 2nd best player in the NBA, and while James is fairly viewed as the clear #1 after winning the title, Durant is equally entitled to the second spot all by himself.  His performance in the 2012 Olympics only cemented his superiority over everyone else in the NBA.
Russell Westbrook appears to still have an even brighter upside – which is a scary thought.  However, the Thunder did not make any substantial improvements to the roster in the offseason, apparently believing that the evolution of their young talent -  Durant, Westbrook, James Harden, and Ibaka – would be sufficient to ensure at least another appearance in the NBA Finals.  But things change fast in the NBA.  In other words, they were wrong.
2.            Miami Heat
KEY GAINS:  Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis (7.8 ppg)
KEY LOSSES: Ronny Turiaf
The Miami Heat are looking to defend their title and, until some brilliant offseason moves by the #1 team on this list, deserved to be prohibitive favorites to do just that. When you are already on top you don’t have to make any major overhauls on your roster.  The Heat didn’t.  But the additions of shooting specialists Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis were huge and both appear to be perfect fits for this team.
Despite injuries to Dwayne Wade and Chis Bosh, both are expected to recover just fine. Furthermore, the Heat in 2012-2013 should play a lot like the 2012 Olympic Team played – lots of dribble penetration and kick-outs for open perimeter shots.  Expect new acquisitions Allen and Lewis to have some huge nights merely camping out in the corner and shooting 3’s.
All of this will be orchestrated by LeBron James.  Anyone who doubted whether James has elevated his game above everyone else in the league had those doubt answered after watching the Olympics in London.  LeBron’s still rising star makes it hard to bet against the Heat (as we are reminded constantly on ESPN).  Of course no one can argue this point - LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen on one team? Pretty scary.
But there is one team who deserves the #1 spot even more….
1.            Los Angeles Lakers         
KEY GAINS: Dwight Howard (20.6 ppg, 14.5 rpg, 57% fg); Steve Nash (12.5 ppg, 10.7 apg, 53.2% fg); Antawn Jamison (17.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Jodie Meeks
KEY LOSSES: Andrew Bynum; Ramon Sessions, Josh McRoberts
There are many reasons non-Laker fans hate the Lakers, but envy is undoubtedly at the top of the list.  The roster moves pulled off by the NBA’s premiere franchise – a franchise that was supposed to be fully in decline and on the downside of the Kobe Bryant era – must leave fans of every other team frustrated and wondering: “Why doesn’t my team ever come up with these kinds of moves?”
The loss of Bynum and Sessions, a great and solid player respectively, are almost irrelevant for the Lakers considering they upgraded both positions with the acquisitions of the Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.
Nash, even at 38 years old, provides the Lakers with their best point guard since Magic Johnson over 20 years.  A true floor general, Nash is the ideal pick-and-roll point guard who will utilize the talents of Howard and Pau Gasol to their fullest.
Howard is the best defensive player in the NBA.  His ability to block shots and help others on defense will instantly change the team.  His rebounding is also superior and he is the best pick-and-roll center in the game.  If there was ever a team on which Howard’s offensive limitations (free throw shooting, post moves) could be disguised, this offensive juggernaut should be it.
On top of that, the Lakers added versatile, veteran forward Antawn Jamison , who can provide offense off the bench and balance minutes with the defensive-minded Ron Artest, and guard Jodie  Meeks, who can provide valuable minutes and allow the admittedly aging Laker guards some rest when needed.
Bryant and Howard are the premiere players at the 2-Guard and Center positions in the NBA.  Steve Nash is still a top -point guard and Pau Gasol is a top-5 power forward.  In fact, if used properly by coach Mike Brown, Gasol can still be one of the best players in basketball.  In case you doubt it, please review the Spaniard’s dominant 24 point, 8 rebound, and 7 assist performance in a losing effort against “NBA Defensive Player of the Year” Tyson Chandler and the US Olympic Basketball Team.
While most NBA “experts” are cautiously predicting the Lakers, even after the Howard trade, to merely “contend” with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference for 2nd place in the NBA  hierarchy behind the champion Miami Heat, you will find no such caution here.  Let it be said boldly and plainly: The Los Angeles Lakers are the substantial favorites to win the NBA Championship.  They are now simply better than both the Thunder and Heat and anything less than a title from Kobe Bryant and Co. in the upcoming season should be viewed as an utter failure.

by Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for


  1. Hard for this Boston fan to admit, but if Howard is healthy, LA is far more talented than Miami. Too big inside and now they have a decent point guard. If Boston can make it out of the East, the Celtics would match up better with LA's size than the Heat. Ray Ray is too old

  2. The Orlando kid GM got nothing out of the Howard deal other than lower payroll. Dumb dumb move not trying to get Bynum. Dude didn't have the confidence he could convince him to re-sign with the Magic. That is the difference between Kupchak and a gm training on the job. Kupchak believes he can resign Howard long term. Punk Orlando GM just grateful for his job and glad he can pay off his college loans

  3. wow no way on earth this is right...noway the lakers are number one..terrible coach
    spurs are old old old
    clippers sighn three old farts that can barely crawl up the floor
    and are we forgeting what team got who...big improved teams..toronto..young fast and least makes the top ten..bulls are gunna be a handfull this year even with rose out they have the best coach in the league and a very deep bench loaded with talent...dallas will have a tough time with 4 new guys on the team that are older and not as good as they used to be but are still a threat

  4. stephen,

    Toronto??? Young teams don't win in the NBA! They go to the lottery. Read up on some NBA history before you talk that crap

  5. haven't read so much crap a long time ago..
    Where are the nuggets, the grizzlies and the knicks, they are all way better than the mavs, the sixers or even the lakers!


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