Heisler’s Preseason NBA Power Rankings

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RANK TEAM THE RUNDOWN LAST
1 THUNDER
(47-19)
SEASON OPENER: Nov. 1 at San Antonio 
LAST SEASON: LOST 4-1 to Miami in NBA Finals
Everyone’s picking the Heat and Lakers, but the Thunder is youngest, hungriest, most physical and hardly the least talented.
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2 HEAT
(46-20)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 30 vs. Boston 
LAST SEASON: Won NBA Finals, 4-1 over OKC
Good news: With teams playing smaller—LeBron James jumped center for half of last spring—lack of size isn’t the problem it used to be for them. Better news: They’re in East, where no one’s close.
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3 CELTICS
(39-27)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 30 vs. Miami
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-3 to Miami in East finals
Well, no one thinks anyone in East is close to Miami. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce aren’t done and even without Ray Allen, the old guys have more young guys like Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green behind them.
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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
Still San Antonio after all these years. Big challenge in West is avoiding the bracket with Thunder or Lakers, so you only have to play one of them, which is enough.
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5 CLIPPERS
(40-26)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 vs. Memphis
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-0 to Spurs in 2nd round
You read right. Second-best summer of any L.A. team brought Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill and Lamar Odom to a team that won one less game than Lakes, lasted one day less in the playoffs and has top-3 player Chris Paul.
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6 LAKERS
(41-25)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 30 vs. Dallas 
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-1 to OKC in 2nd round
I know they’re supposed to be No. 1-2 but just opened 0-6 in Preseason from Hell as Kobe Bryant suffered three different injuries. In good/bad news, games were blacked out locally because Time Warner, now paying Lakes $150 mill per, neglected to make a local cable deal.
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7 PACERS
(42-24)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 at Toronto
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-2 to Miami in 2nd round
This big, young team defends under Frank Vogel, who replaced Jim O’Brien at 17-27 two seasons ago, going 42-24 last season and reaching East semis. However, Danny Granger has slipped. Slow-footed Roy Hibbert has come a long way but is still just Roy Hibbert.
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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
As far under the radar as any good team, the Grizzlies have become an annual contender without maxing out. Two seasons ago, Rudy Gay was hurt. Last season Zach Randolph’s injury cost him his starting job. If they ever get both going, you’ll hear about it.
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9 NUGGETS
(38-28)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 at Philadelphia
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-3 to Lakers in 1st round
Everyone loves Andre Iguodala’s all-around game, except in Philadelphia where he’s remembered as Scottie Pippen  without Scottie’s clutch offensive game. Now Iggy’s the Nuggets’ problem, but with Ty Lawson happening, they have enough others to carry on.
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10 JAZZ
(36-30)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 vs. Dallas
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-0 to Spurs in first round
The Jazz have good players (Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap), big ones (Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter) and promising ones (Gordon Hayward) everywhere – but point guard. After John Stockton and Deron Williams, they now have Mo Williams, a shooter, and Jamaal Tinsley, a playmaker. Now if they could only put them together…
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11 SIXERS
(35-31)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 vs. Denver
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-3 to Boston in second round
Despite last spring’s run to East semis and this fall’s 6-1 preseason, you’d like their chances better with the Andrew Bynum who was an All-Star starter, averaging 19-12. Unfortunately, the Bynum they got waited until August to have knee procedure in Germany and is back to having to show he can stay healthy.
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12 BUCKS
(31-35)
SEASON OPENER: Nov. 2 at Boston
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs
After years of playing alongside another smurf, Monta Ellis was sent here where he plays alongside Brandon Jennings, who’s even smaller than Stephen Curry. It’s fine with the Bucks, the more so with Jennings finally learning to shoot, having averaged 20 points and 45% from the floor alongside Monta in April.
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13 KNICKS
(36-30)
SEASON OPENER: Nov. 1 at Brooklyn
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-1 to Miami in first round
Tiring of watching underlings plan, owner James Dolan took charge, turning the calendar back to the years after the Knicks’ glory run in the ‘70s, when they grabbed big names and sank out of sight. Should make playoffs again with Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Jason Kidd – and once more don’t figure to stay long.
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14 HAWKS
(40-26)
SEASON OPENER: Nov. 2 vs. Houston
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-2 to Celtics in first round
After years of speculation about which high-priced player had to go, the managerially challenged, financially pressed Hawks donated Joe Johnson to the Nets. Now instead of Iso-Joe offense, it’s Iso-Nobody.
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15 BULLS
(50-16)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 vs. Chicago
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-2 to 76ers in first round
With Derrick Rose not expected back before All-Star break, if then, the team looks as confused as everyone else. Seemingly on hold, the Bulls refused to match Omer Asik’s offer sheet from Houston, bringing in only Kirk Hinrich and Marco Belinelli.
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16 HORNETS
(21-45)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 vs. Spurs
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs
Monty Williams got his team which started 4-23 with CP3 gone and Eric Gordon out, to finish 17-22. Then, in a deserved stroke of luck, they drew Anthony Davis in the lottery. The rook should be good for 13-9 and 2.0 blocks while learning the league and filling out. Then, watch out.
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17 NETS
(22-44)
SEASON OPENER: Nov. 1 vs. New York
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs
Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace look OK, until you remember the Nets blew their shot at Dwight Howard, who wanted to join them, ending long-running talks with Orlando to re-sign Brook Lopez.
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18 RAPTORS
(23-43)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 vs. Indiana
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs
Nothing has worked for former Suns GM Bryan Colangelo since arriving in 2006 – but this could. Kyle Lowry, stolen from Houston, is one of the best unknown players and will work in tandem or alongside sharp-shooting, often-hurt Jose Calderon. 7-1 rookie Jonas Valanciunas, whom they drafted at No. 5 in 2011, looks like he was worth it.
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19 PISTONS
(25-41)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 vs. Houston
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs
Rallied from last season’s 4-20 start to finish 21-21 with Greg Monroe, their new hope, and Rodney Stuckey moving to shooting guard alongside Brandon Knight. The key to moving up further is Andre Drummond, the 6-10 rookie who fell to them at No. 9 and is promising but raw.
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20 KINGS
(22-44)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 at Chicago
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs
The young guys who looked like the cast of “Lord of the Flies” is even younger with starters going 25-23-23-22-21. It’s up to Keith Smart, who took over last season as principal-er, coach, to chill out wild child DeMarcus Cousins, who averaged 20-11 after the All-Star break.
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21 MAVERICKS
(36-30)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 at Utah
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-0 to Thunder in 1st round
Mark Cuban, who always thinks of something, kept his aging nucleus together to shock the world in 2011, then stripped the roster to pursue Williams and Howard. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen and, with Dirk Nowitzki’s knees showing their mileage and the team shed to the bone, Cubes better think of something else.
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22 BLAZERS
(28-38)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 at Lakers 
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs
After axing Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, Nate McMillan and three GMs in three seasons, the Blazers did something right, hiring former Clippers GM Neil Olshey, who cut years off their turnaround by snagging Weber State’s Damian Lillard. Seen by admirers as a bigger Kyrie Irving, Lillard is averaging 17, shooting 50% this preseason.
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23 CAVALIERS
(21-45)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 30 vs. Wizards
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs
Lowly Cavs made an impressive move off bottom in Irving’s debut but this draft class looks more problematic with Dion Waiters, the Syracuse sixth man they surprised everyone by selecting at No. 4, looking like the reach he was, shooting 36% in exhibitions.
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24 WIZARDS
(20-46)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 30 at Cleveland
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs
They’ve been down so long, no one expects much – but that’s a lot of talent with hot rookie guard Bradley Beal joining John Wall and all their airheads gone. Unfortunately, Wall has yet to be what he was supposed to, and he’s out until Thanksgiving.
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25 WARRIORS
(23-43)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 at Phoenix
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs
They finally dealt Ellis, acquiring Andrew Bogut in hope the big lug could stay healthy after missing 130 games in four seasons. Unfortunately, Bogut missed the preseason with ankle woes and may not make it for the opener.
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26 WOLVES
(26-40)
SEASON OPENER: Nov. 2 vs. Sacramento
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs
It doesn’t get any more exciting, or deflating: The Woofies went 18-13 with rookie Ricky Rubio starting before he blew out his knee. He returns around Jan. 1 – a month after Kevin Love, their 6-7 power forward who had an eye-popping 26-13 but broke his hand in preseason.
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27 SUNS
(33-33)
SEASON OPENER: Nov. 1 vs Golden State 
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs
They also serve who exceed expectations, but not by enough that many notice. Alvin Gentry kept Suns in playoff race with Steve Nash and may again with Goran Dragic, an unknown except to insiders and fantasy players who have him among top 20 players.
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28 ROCKETS
(34-32)
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 31 at Detroit
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs
Thinking he had Pau Gasol, GM Daryl Morey was about to sign Nene as a free agent when David Stern upset the apple cart. The center is now Asik, another kind of center. With Lowry and Dragic gone, the new point is Jeremy Lin – at $25 million for three years – now shooting 25% in preseason coming off knee surgery.
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29 BOBCATS
(7-59)
SEASON OPENER: Nov. 2 vs. Indiana
LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs
Now we know why Michael Jordan was ready to shut the NBA down in the lockout. Mike has since hired GM Rich Cho, tacitly admitting he can’t do this himself (or can’t get away from his promotional work for Nike). Cho’s draft pick at No. 2, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, is shooting 34% in preseason, looking like a rookie.
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30 MAGIC
(37-29)
SEASON OPENER: Nov. 2 vs. Denver
LAST SEASON: Lost 4-1 to Pacers in first round
Why they held onto Dwight Howard until the bitter end: In 2009, they were in the Finals. Now they start Glen Davis, Nikola Vucevic, Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick and DeQuan Jones.
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(RELATED: Sheridan’s September Power Rankings)

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Comments

  1. trueheatfan says:

    OKC number 1 over Miami?? i guess thi sguy didnt watch last years finals. LBJ is the greatest player on the planet. Add Allen and Lewis to this team and they spread the floor on offence even more. The raptors are going to suprise a lot of teams. Coach casey has these guys playing solid D. Valencuiness is going to be a monster – dont forget, he’s only 21. Kyle Lowry is a steal for Toronto – he may have also made Calderone the best backup PG in the NBA. Evereyone needs to stop hatin on Canada and recognize this team as a future playoff threat.

  2. The Bulls brought in “only Kirk Hinrich and Marco Belinelli.” Tell that to Nate Robinson, Nazr Mohammed, and Vladamir Radmanovic. Not that those are huge signings, but they’re all at least better than Bellinelli.

  3. Sorry, I hate to be one of those people, but theres a few mistakes in this:

    Lillard was drafted number 6, not 13.

    Andre Drummond was drafted 9th, not 6th.

    Who is “Kone”, under the Clippers forecast?

    Lastly, no way the Bucks finish with the 12th best record.

    • Power Rankings aren’t previews of finishing spots, they’re rankings of who’s hot right now.
      Having said that, listing the Bucks five spots higher than the Nets is totally insane. The smallest backcourt in the league is stinking it up in pre-season.

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  1. [...] Mark Heisler of Sheridan Hoops: Rallied from last season’s 4-20 start to finish 21-21 with Greg Monroe, their new hope, and Rodney Stuckey moving to shooting guard alongside Brandon Knight. The key to moving up further is Andre Drummond, the 6-10 rookie who fell to them at No. 9 and is promising but raw. [...]

  2. [...] Sheridan Hoops’ Mark Heisler ranks the Sixers #11. [...]

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