Sheridan’s September Power Rankings

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They say summer is over once Labor Day is behind us.

A few of us know better, but let’s play to the crowd anyway. And if summer is over, it is time to start looking at the upcoming season and ranking the 30 NBA teams – as we will do twice a week, every week, during the regular season.

For a look back my final power rankings from last season, click here. And for a view of how senior columnist Mark Heisler’s final rankings turned out back in late April, click here.

And now, without further ado, here’s how the teams stack up four weeks before players start heading to training camps.

RANK TEAM THE RUNDOWN LAST
1 LAKERS
(41-25)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 30 vs. Dallas. 
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-1 to OKC in 2nd round.
They are the perfectly constructed team from positions 1 through 5, with MAJOR upgrades at the point guard and center positions. Kobe Bryant no longer needs to dominate the ball, meaning he will be twice the pit bull on the defensive end as he already was. Will Steve Nash have more alley-oop assists than CP3 in El Lay? Will Antawn Jamison get into the Sixth Man Award race? (Yep, they added him, too). Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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2 HEAT
(46-20)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 30 vs. Boston 
LAST SEASON: Won NBA championship, 4-1 over OKC.
No disrespect intended toward the defending champs. We just like the Lakers’ offseason moves so much more, adding two future Hall of Famers. Yes, we have all learned that a center is not needed to win the title. You need shooters if you are the Heat, and Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis are great additions – on paper. Let’s wait and see if they make shots in the playoffs. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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3 THUNDER
(47-19)
SEASON OPENER: Nov. 1 at San Antonio 
LAST SEASON: LOST 4-1 to Miami in NBA Finals
There wasn’t a whole heck of a lot for them to do in the offseason except learn from their mistakes in the Finals. Lesson No. 1: It is NOT just another seven-game series. It is for all the marbles, and unless you approach it with the same “I Want It!” mentality that Miami did, you go home in tears. We’ll save the Hasheem Thabeet jokes for the time being. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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4 SPURS
(50-16)
SEASON OPENER: Nov. 1 vs Oklahoma City 
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-2 to OKC in West finals
If they learned one thing against OKC in the conference finals, it was that they need someone to protect the rim. Did they get that type of player? No. They got Nando De Colo, Tony Parker’s backcourt mate for the French national team, and did little else but re-sign their own free agents. Key question heading into season: Will they use DeJuan Blair, or trade him for a taller guy? Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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5 CLIPPERS
(40-26)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 vs. Memphis
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-0 to Spurs in 2nd round
They got an A+ from me for their offseason moves (as did their rivals down the hallway), and it is hard to find a team that goes 10-deep like they do. If we assume Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are fully healed from offseason surgeries by Opening Night (is that a safe assumption?), this should be a 60-win team. I’ll even say they can beat the Lakers … once. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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6 CELTICS
(39-27)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 30 vs. Miami
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-3 to Miami in East finals
They will not miss Ray Allen, whose no-shows in the playoffs the last several years were a sore point with Celtics fans. Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and a healthy Avery Bradley can more than adequately replace Allen. As for the center position, this will be a problem against the likes of Philly and Indiana, not so much against the rest of the East – especially Miami. Who will be the new Stiemsma? Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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7 PACERS
(42-24)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 at Toronto.
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-2 to Miami in 2nd round
Leandro Barbosa remains unsigned, Louis Amundson has been replaced by Ian Mahinmi, Darren Collison has been replaced by D.J. Augustin, and Donnie Walsh has replaced Larry Bird (who won Executive of the Year). But you know which addition might yield the most dividends? Keep an eye on Gerald Green, who brings depth to the two-guard spot behind Paul George, who disappeared in the playoffs. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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8 GRIZZLIES
(39-25)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 at LA Clippers.
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-3 to Clippers in 1st round.
Never got their money’s worth from O.J. Mayo, who is gone. But will they get anything from replacements  Josh Selby and Wayne Ellington? Selby had an outstanding summer league, and Jerryd Bayless has been brought in to fill a huge hole at backup PG. Another team that looks terrific 1 through 10. Don’t sleep on them. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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9 NUGGETS
(38-28)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 at Philadelphia.
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-3 to Lakers in 1st round.
Sorry to keep hitting on the “strong 1 through 10″ theme, but damn – you know? There is nobody here who is a proven go-to scorer, and Al Harrington’s bench production will be missed. But Andre Iguodala was a helluva pickup for a team that allowed 101.2 points per game last season. Two deep everywhere, and sitting on a $13 million trade exception. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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10 KNICKS
(36-30)
SEASON OPENER: Nov. 1 at Brooklyn.
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-1 to Miami in first round.
One of my tweeps suggested I copyright Geriatknicks. They are all-in on winning in the next three years, having sacrificed future draft picks and cap flexibility (we’ve seen this movie before, eh?). That being said, Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby still have some life left in them, they retained their most important free agent (it was Steve Novak, not Jeremy Lin), and Amar’e has been schooled (in a good way) by Hakeem. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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11 SIXERS
(35-31)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 vs. Denver.
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-3 to Boston in second round.
They didn’t have what it takes to get past Miami anytime soon, so they wrote off their strong postseason as a stroke of luck and went out and got Andrew Bynum, who immediately becomes the best or second-best center in the East (don’t forget Hibbert). Jason Richardson and Dorell Wright give them the 3-point shooting they have been missing. A mystery mix that may need some time to develop chemistry. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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12 NETS
(22-44)
SEASON OPENER: Nov. 1 vs. New York.
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs
There is a lot of black-and-white Kool-Aid being consumed in the BK. Maybe a little too much? Joe Johnson and Mirza Teletovic will be huge offensive weapons, but at least one of them has to hit shots at something near a 50 percent clip. There is a bigger buzz surrounding this team that any outside of L.A., but they will be playing in the NBA’s toughest division. One thing we can all agree on: Good riddance, Jersey. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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13 JAZZ
(36-30)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 vs. Dallas.
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-0 to Spurs in first round.
Question No. 1: What are they going to do with Al Jefferson? If they can find a way to send him to OKC (for James Harden and Kendrick Perkins), do they do it? They have Enes Kanter ready to step in at some point, and Al will be a max player on the free agent market next season. They are a good team, but they are still in a rebuilding process and can’t hang with the West’s top 4. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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14 WOLVES
(26-40)
SEASON OPENER: Nov. 2 vs. Sacramento
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs.
The big question, of course, is when will Ricky Rubio return. But it is hard to find any team that had quite as good of an offseason, beginning with the signing of Andrei Kirilenko and continuing with the risk they are taking on Brandon Roy. A huge sleeper team, especially if Kevin Love displays the MVP form he showed last season. He has less of a load to carry this year. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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15 BULLS
(50-16)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 vs. Chicago.
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-2 to 76ers in first round.
No, we haven’t forgotten about them. And yes, we realize we have them behind the Nets, Jazz and Wolves, et al. They will be in the playoff chase at the bottom of the East, and after they get Derrick Rose back in late winter or early spring they will be a fierce first-round playoff opponent for someone. Until then, VladRad becomes the Serbian Scalabrine. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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16 MAVERICKS
(36-30)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 at Utah.
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-0 to Thunder in 1st round.
This is a playoff team, but not one that can get out of the first round. Starting five of Chris Kaman, Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Delonte West and Darren Collison is very solid. But there are a lot of guys playing for their next contracts, and Cuban still plans big splash in summer of ’13. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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17 BUCKS
(31-35)
SEASON OPENER: Nov. 2 at Boston.
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs
Monta Ellis loves to shoot. Brandon Jennings, who wants to make a big score financially, loves to shoot. Samuel Dalembert has never played for a contending team; nor has Joel Przybilla. Definition of a middle-of-the-pack team, and Scott Skiles is a lame duck with a so-so roster. Ersan Ilyasova may be their MVP. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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18 HAWKS
(40-26)
SEASON OPENER: Nov. 2 vs. Houston
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-2 to Celtics in first round.
Here we will see a test of the addition-by-subtraction theory. If Anthony Morrow can be as efficient an offensive player as Joe Johnson was three years ago (JJ dropped precipitously in 2 years since signing his max contract) and they can get Al Horford into the “Best Center in the East” debate, they are intriguing at the very least. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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19 HORNETS
(21-45)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 vs. Spurs
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs
The best thing that happened to Anthony Davis this summer was Blake Griffin’s knee injury. The kid was surrounded by winners on Team USA, and he was a sponge in soaking up winning work habits. Team USA assistant Jim Boeheim said he could be a top-3 center in 3 years. Eric Gordon, if healthy all season, will be worth his max money. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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20 CAVALIERS
(21-45)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 30 vs. Wizards.
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs.
Their season effectively ended last year when Anderson Varejao went down. But they might have the best point guard in the entire league, if Team USA camp can be used as a gauge. We like the fiestiness of Dion Waiters, but this is a young team with a lot more rebuilding to go through. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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21 MAGIC
(37-29)
SEASON OPENER: Nov. 2 vs. Denver
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-1 to Pacers in first round.
No, we haven’t forgotten about them, either. But Rob Hennigan got fleeced in the Dwight trade, and now he must find a way to turn his vets into trade assets. There will be a market for Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick – especially when teams start losing key players to injuries. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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22 BLAZERS
(28-38)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 at Lakers.
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs.
Who starts against Dwight Howard on Opening Night? Is it Jared Jeffries, Joel Freeland or Meyers Leonard? Yes, it’ll be a long season for Terry Stotts and Neil Olshey. But Damion Lillard has a chance to put up ROY numbers. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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23 WARRIORS
(23-43)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 at Phoenix
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs.
We said it before and we shall say it again: No “Most Likely to be Traded List” would be complete without David Lee, who is making too much money for a team still in rebuilding mode – and doing it around two players, Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry, who are being held together with screws and duct tape. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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24 SUNS
(33-33)
SEASON OPENER: Nov. 1 vs Golden State 
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs
We shall now learn if Marcin Gortat is still a borderline top-notch NBA center, as he won’t be running the pick-and-roll with Steve Nash anymore. Loved the waiver claim on Luis Scola, who can be flipped at some point for a No. 1 pick. Not much else to love. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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25 KINGS
(22-44)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 at Chicago.
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs.
The “Most Likely to be Traded” discussion also has to include Tyreke Evans, who needs a change of scenery. Best player on a god-awful team award has already been given to DeMarcus Cousins. And it is a shame that they are relocating to Anaheim. Or Kansas City. Or Louisville. Or Virginia Beach. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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26 WIZARDS
(20-46)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 30 at Cleveland.
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs.
You don’t expect to find sleepers lurking this low, but let’s face it – a team with Nene and Emeka Okafor, with John Wall feeding them passes, could be a dark horse in a very weak conference. Like Lillard in Portland, Bradley Beal has an opportunity to put up ROY numbers. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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27 ROCKETS
(34-32)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 at Detroit.
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs.
Hardest team to judge in early September because moves are still to come to get them up to the NBA’s minimum team payroll. Made a nice trade in getting a minimally protected No. 1 pick from Toronto for Kyle Lowry. Jeremy Lin gets to be offensive option No. 1 as he was in NY (when ‘Melo was hurt). Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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28 PISTONS
(25-41)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 vs. Houston.
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs
Has a rookie ever had a 20-20 game in his debut? Something to think about while awaiting Drummond vs. Asik. Over/under on Corey Maggette’s first DNP-CD is Nov. 14. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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29 RAPTORS
(23-43)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 vs. Indiana.
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs.
There will be children on the West Coast who will not even have begun their trick-or-treating by the time Jonas Valanciunas picks up his third foul trying to defend Roy Hibbert. Worst offseason signing was Landry Fields, hands down. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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30 BOBCATS
(7-59)
SEASON OPENER: Nov. 2 vs. Indiana.
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs.
Lost 23 in a row to close last season, meaning they can set they NBA record of 27 consecutive defeats Friday, Nov. 6 at New Orleans. Offseason grade here, and more analysis here.
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Comments

  1. Dylan Reid Chiu says:

    You should be fired. There is no way the raptors gonna be the second worst team in the NBA and I ‘m from Africa. I know more about basketball more than you. I should have your job to feed my family and put my kids in school. Your a complete idiot, you should not be allowed to write any articles more related to the NBA because your a complete idiot.

  2. Jamison has no chance to be 6th man of the year. He won’t even be the 6th man on his own team, because he’s only going to get 12-15 mpg backing up Gasol.

    The Spurs definitely need more rim protection, but Duncan is still one of the best rim protectors/post defenders in the league.

    Despite having more big names, the Clippers can’t match the Spurs’ league best depth.

    Bynum is clearly better than Hibbert.

    Bayless is the real Mayo replacement, not so much positionally as role wise.

    Kidd looked just about officially done last season. And the Knicks have no business being ahead of the Bulls and Mavericks.

    Harden will most likely be re-signed. If they were to trade him though, the Jazz would have to throw Burks in with Jefferson. The Thunder already lack wing depth, so not getting a wing back would further exacerbate that.

    It was said after Mayo signed that he will start. They view West as their backup PG.

    The Magic will be one of the three worst teams in the league and given his rapidly declining game and freshly minted terrible contract, Nelson will not have an ounce of trade value.

    The Warriors are not salary dumping Lee, nor are they re-building. Like the Raptors in the East, the re-build is mostly complete and they’re trying to make the playoffs now.

    Drummond is 50/50 to crack the rotation, but even if he does, he’s only going to get 12-15 mpg backing up Monroe, so forget about that 20-20 game.

    1. Heat, 2. Thunder, 3. Lakers, 4. Spurs, 5. Celtics, 6. Clippers, 7. Pacers, 8. Nuggets, 9. Grizzlies, 10. Bulls, 11. Mavericks, 12. 76ers, 13. Knicks, 14. Nets, 15. Jazz, 16. Timberwolves, 17. Hawks, 18. Bucks, 19. Warriors, 20. Raptors, 21. Suns, 22. Wizards, 23. Cavaliers, 24. Hornets, 25. Kings, 26. Pistons, 27. Trail Blazers, 28. Rockets, 29. Bobcats, 30. Magic

  3. You are a complete joke and should not be able to write without having a caption that you clearly have no idea what you are talking about.

  4. These rankings make sense to me, I don’t think any team if more than 2 or 3 spots away from where I would put them (which doesn’t make me angry like everyone else). What does stick out to me regarding this list is that I can only see 3 possible teams winning the title, barring injury of course. I don’t think any team in the East is close to the Heat (and I don’t care how hard Boston played them last year, when they had to win they won). And despite the Spurs regular season dominance I also so no way they beat either the Lakers or the Thunder in a 7 game series.

    And it coming down to only 3 teams might seem boring, but if the finals are any other scenario besides Heat-Lakers or Heat-Thunder I will be upset. I want to see the best playing each other.

  5. Worst projections I’ve ever seen, you sir have just lost all credibility. You don’t actually watch basketball do you?

  6. Ziggy diggy says:

    I diagree with these projections, why is toronto 2nd worst and cleveland at 20? Their only addition was an unproven scoring guard in the draft. Anyways, I’m curious to see how your flawed projections pan out over the season.

  7. Potentially the worst power rankings I’ve ever seen. There have been other rankings that I’ve disagreed with, but still respected their perspective, but this here, I really just do not understand. The Lakers have proved nothing yet, Dwight is better than Bynum, but by how much? and Nash will be hitting the age wall at some point. So the lakers high level of success is a huge uncertainty, and I would definitely not rank them over a reigning champ. Meanwhile at the bottom end, a team like the raptors have kept the core, have done nothing but improve the roster, and since they gave up their pick they have no motivation to tank. They definitely will not do worse than last year.

  8. Orlando at 21??? When they just lost Howard and picked up scrubs (except for Afflalo)? That is the most laughable ranking I’ve ever seen…

  9. Is the league really gonna start cracking down on flopping this year? If they do, the Clippers don’t deserve to be 5th. They’ll barely be a .500 team without favorable whistles

  10. Haahhhh!! So last season the Raptors lost Bargnani for 36 games and were the 8th worst team in the NBA. Now with a healthy Bargnani, an upgrade at PG with Lowry, Valanciunas and as much as he might be overpaid Fields is better than James Johnson………that’s the 2nd worst team in the NBA? Yet Orlando who wish they had the yound talent the Raptors have and just lost their best player for next to nothing are at #21? Bwaaaaahhhhhhhh

    WHAT A JOKE!

  11. Haahhhh!! So last season the Raptors lost Bargnani for 36 games and were the 8th worst team in the NBA. Now with a healthy Bargnani, an upgrade at SF, Valanciunas and as much as he might be overpaid Fields is better than James Johnson………that’s the 2nd worst team in the NBA? Yet Orlando who wish they had the yound talent the Raptors have and just lost their best player for next to nothing are at #21? Bwaaaaahhhhhhhh

    WHAT A JOKE!

    • Yeah, and Doug Smith from the Toronto Star recommended that we read your posts after his. Totally lost all your Canadian fans, sir.

  12. how do u have the raptors at 29th…7 spots lower than where they finished last year…when they have not lost any of there core and added an upgrade in kyle lower over jerrd bay…thats the stupidest thing i have heard

  13. As great as it is to add Dwight Howard, you can’t minimize losing a player as good as Andrew Bynum. While certainly an improvement, it is not a major upgrade. Please remove the comment about Jamison being a sixth man candidate. The sixth man of the year last year was James Harden, so how you could project AJ to be anywhere near that level is beyond me.

    If the Clippers should be a 60 win team, then what are the Lakers/Heat/Thunder/Spurs? You think that the additions they made plus the expected improvements from Blake/DeAndre will give them TEN extra wins this season, in the Western conference? 60 wins is a 73% winning percentage, OKC was 71% last year.

    Once you’re an expert, you can say whatever you want and expect it to make sense, I suppose.

    • natsthecat says:

      No you cannot.
      Because these guys are not “experts”. They are sports writers on the web..and at least half of what they say is to generate web hits.

  14. chrissheridan dik says:

    jamison is just a trash.. he can’t even make a difference in cleveland with lebron on his side. the reason why they lost to cletic is because he can’t guard garnett all series long and even make a shot.. and now your claiming that he could get the sixth man. piece of shyt article..

  15. of course… the one who wrote this article is a well known lebron hater… u can’t put a team on top if you can’t even see how this team blend to each other.

  16. The Warriors at #23 below the Bucks, Cavs, and Magic? Laughable, even if Bogut and Curry aren’t healthy.

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