Coast to Coast is my bi-weekly column here at Fansided. Each week I’ll be taking a look at an interesting topic in the NBA, and giving my own spin on it. Feel free to disagree, because you most likely will anyways.
In previous Coast to Coast pieces, I broke down the East and the West. Now, with training camps underway, the off-season is over and the new season has begun. Throughout the season, I will release power rankings of all 30 teams once a week. For the first Coast to Coast of this week, I will unveil the first power rankings of the season:
1. Miami Heat- I’m a big fan of crowning the previous champs number 1 until they show me they don’t deserve it. The Heat will be the defending champs again this year, and they bring back all of their main core from last season besides Mike Miller, and they added Greg Oden and Michael Beasley (Beasley may or may not make the team). The East is better, but for now the heat are #1.
2. Los Angeles Clippers- The Clippers were one of the few teams that really filled their needs accordingly. Lacking a big time head coach that could bring together a lot of talent, they brought in Doc Rivers, and that was a big time hire. He will help on the defensive end, which was a problem at the end of games last year. They also nabbed JJ Redick and Jared Dudley to help their half-court offense woes, and it seems as if this team has very little holes. Oh yeah, they signed Darren Collsion for cheap too. I really like the Clippers this season.
3. Chicago Bulls- Without Derrick Rose last season, this team rallied around toughness and togetherness to win 45 games and a playoff series. With Derrick Rose this season, the team should really be improved, and with sky high confidence, the sky is the limit for the Bulls. With an improved Jimmy Butler, a good shooter in Mike Dunleavy Jr., and Luol Deng playing with a chip on his shoulder, I like the Bulls chances this season.
4. Indiana Pacers- The Pacers are a team built for playoffs. They are known as the team who has the best shot to take down the Miami Heat. Roy Hibbert has to prove that he can carry a great playoff run into the regular season, and they need Danny Granger to settle in on a role in order for this team to reach it’s full potential. They really improved their bench–which was abysmal last year–with Luis Scola, C.J. Watson, and Chris Copeland. Having Granger back may mean that Lance Stephenson will be their 6th man. They are loaded, and if they can fulfill their potential, they are in a great spot.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder- The Thunder were a lot higher on my list, until the news that Russell Westbrook had surgery on his knee on Tuesday, and will miss 6-8 weeks of the season. That essentially means we may not see a fully healthy Thunder until the middle of December. They still have Kevin Durant and the gang, but in a deep Western Conference, every game will count in the race for the playoffs. I think last year’s playoffs proved how much they need Westbrook.
6. San Antonio Spurs- The Spurs came as close as you can to winning a title last season, but they fell short. It almost seemed like destiny for San Antonio when Westbrook got hurt and the door appeared to open for them. This year they will be another year older and they will be facing stiffer competition. I’ve learned during my time writing about the NBA, that you never doubt Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan, and they will probably win 60 games and shock everyone. A storyline that never gained traction relating to the Spurs is the fact that they lost their top 2 assistants in Mike Budenhozer and Brett Brown, and the effect that will have is yet to be seen.
7. Brooklyn Nets- The Nets were seemingly cash strapped coming into the off-season, and it appeared as if the 4th seed was their ceiling. GM Billy King did a great job making something out of nothing, and traded for Jason Terry, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce. Now, this team arguably has the most talent in the league, and can really improve. They also have a new head coach in Jason Kidd, and he could turn out to be a total bust. On paper, this team could make it out of the East, but paper doesn’t play the games–just ask last year’s Lakers.
8. New York Knicks- The New York Knicks didn’t necessarily get worse, but they didn’t get better either. They traded for Andrea Bargnani, and signed Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih. While the rest of the East seemingly got better, the Knicks didn’t really do much. They were the 2nd seed last year, and they could easily be good again this year. It’ll be up to Mike Woodson to find a more stable offense to sustain them in the playoffs, and fit the new pieces in a good rotation. The Knicks are a wait and see kind of team.
9. Golden State Warriors- The Warriors shocked everybody last season when they got the 6th seed in the West, and knocked off Denver in the first round. Stephen Curry looks like a stud, and the hope has now turned into expectations in Oakland. They made a shocking move when they did a sign and trade for Andre Iguodala, and if the keep Andrew Bogut healthy, they should be fighting for a top seed in the West. If they can improve, and find roles for everyone, I think they could be in for a historic season.
10. Memphis Grizzlies- The Grizzlies are like the Knicks in the sense of not doing much. They did fire coach Lionel Hollins, and replaced him with assistant David Joerger. They signed Kosta Kuofos and Mike Miller, and they pretty much stayed the same as far as the roster. They had issues scoring last year, and Miller may be able to help that. They will be a solid defensive team, and they should make the playoffs again this season.
11. Houston Rockets- When the Rockets signed Dwight Howard, it had many people calling them favorites to win the West. I’m not that big on them, but they will be good. Their style doesn’t mesh well with the type of player Dwight Howard wants to be, and it will take some real growing up from him to make them a contender. They have some nice pieces in Howard, James Harden, and Chandler Parsons, but I’m not sold on the rest of the guys. They were bad on defense last year, and having Howard should fix that, but will he be frustrated if he is left on an island like he was last season? This team is talented, but some things need to be ironed out before they rank higher than 11th to me.
12. Atlanta Hawks- I’m higher on the Hawks than a lot of people are, and I think they had a good off-season. Not only did they bring in a promising coach in Mike Budenholzer, but they signed good talent while keeping financial flexibility. Paul Millsap was a steal at 19 million dollars for 2 years, and they have a good core. They do lack size, and that could haunt them later on. With Budenholzer, the system will be in place to help them succeed, and they should be better defensively as well. If all goes right for the Hawks, they could surprise a lot of people.
13. Portland Trail Blazers- The Blazers are an interesting team. They signed some nice pieces in Dorell Wright and Mo Williams, and they should be much improved. Their bench was an issue last season, and with those guys, they should be better in the reserve department. With Damian Lillard getting more comfortable, and the team trying to prove to LaMarcus Aldridge that they can win, they should be a playoff team next season. Their draft pick in C.J. McCollum should help their backcourt depth as well.
14. Minnesota Timberwolves- The Wolves had high hopes last season, until injuries ravaged their season. This season, they added talent in Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer, and with their guys getting healthy, this could be a playoff team. Ricky Rubio needs to prove he improved his jumper, and the team need to show that they’ve squashed the injury bug for good. With the talent they have, and led by Kevin Love, Minnesota could see themselves in the post-season. Chase Budinger may be out for the season, and that’s not good.
15. Cleveland Cavaliers- With a core of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Andrew Bynum, Anderson Varejao, and Jarrett Jack, the Cavs have a real shot at the playoffs. They signed Earl Clark, and drafted Anthony Bennett 1st overall as well. The biggest question for Cleveland is whether they can stay healthy or not. If everyone is healthy, and Mike Brown can improve them defensively, they should grab the 7th or 8th seed. That’s a big if though, and Andrew Bynum still hasn’t been cleared for full duties yet. If this team gets injured, they could see themselves in the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes.
16. New Orleans Pelicans- The Pelicans made a lot of noise this off-season when they traded Nerlens Noel for Jrue Holiday on draft night. With a deadly backcourt of Holiday and Eric Gordon, they have a chance to make some noise as well. They completed a sign and trade for Tyreke Evans, and he could really prove the doubters wrong. Best case scenario for the talented
Hornets Pelicans is the 6th-8th seed in the West, and worse case has them winning 30 games. It will be a make or break year for Monty Williams, and he has to fit all these pieces together. Evans has said he is willing to come off the bench, and it seems like they will be echoing those thoughts.
17. Los Angeles Lakers- Put me on the “Lakers will be better than most people thought” list. Much has been said about Dwight Howard’s departure, and how the Lakers won’t make the playoffs and things of that nature. This team still has a lot of talent, and if they can keep their aging stars healthy, they could make the playoffs. It isn’t crazy to think they can match last season’s win total of 45 games. They do have some questions though, and Kobe’s recovery is the biggest. The Lakers may shock some people, and don’t count them out. I used a Coast to Coast to break them down.
18. Denver Nuggets- The Nuggets made some confusing moves this summer, including firing Coach of the Year George Karl. Karl is now at ESPN, and they hired Brian Shaw for his first coaching job. The front office clearly wanted to develop their young talent, and Karl was more in to winning now. Now, we will see a team that starts Javale McGee, and playing younger players could mean more losses. They lost Andre Iguodala, and they might be trying to run a new system under Shaw. Overall, there are too many questions revolving around this team, and I’m not sold on them. They will be good in the Pepsi Center, as they have one of the best home court advantages in all of sports.
19. Detroit Pistons- The Detroit Pistons added a new tagline to their franchise this summer–“Grab whatever talent is out there.” They signed Josh Smith, and traded for Brandon Jennings in a sign and trade. The moves they made didn’t really help mold an identity, and their floor spacing will be terrible. They have a new head coach in Mo Cheeks, and it will be up to him to find roles for these guys. With an East that will see their bottom teams
tanking rebuilding, it isn’t crazy to think they could grab the 7th or 8th seed.
20. Washington Wizards- John Wall came in last year after injury, and played well. That has fans in Washington thinking this team could make the playoffs. If they stay healthy, and their draft pick Otto Porter can pan out, they will be battling Detroit, Cleveland, and Toronto for the bottom spots in the East. They lost Emeka Okafor to a herniated disk in his neck, and they will need guys like Kevin Seraphin and Chris Singleton to step up in his absence.
21. Toronto Raptors- As stated above, the Raptors can make it to the playoffs if all things go right. They have some role issues with Demar Derozan and Rudy Gay being repetitive on the court, but if Gay can improve his outside shot, that could smooth things over. This team certainly has talent, and new GM Masai Uriji has shown he has no allegiance to the previous regime. That means you will have full effort from guys trying to prove they belong. Plus now they have Steve Novak and Tyler Hansbrough, so go team white nerds! Health and team roles will play a big part in the Raptors’ season.
22. Dallas Mavericks- I feel for the Mavericks. Mark Cuban has tried so hard to land a top free agent, but has fallen short every time. They had to settle on Monta Ellis, but he has it all. Ellis says he will play “Monta-Ball” whatever that is. This team always has a chance with Dirk on the squad, but the West is too good for a mediocre team to really make noise. Who knows, maybe Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis, Devin Harris, and Samuel Dalembert prove to be steals, and Shane Larkin is better than we thought. Either way, the ceiling isn’t very high for this team.
23. Milwaukee Bucks- The Bucks are a weird team. They lost Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, which could actually mean they won. They filled their roster in with guys who would be nice supporting pieces on a championship contender, and made them their core guys. Gary Neal, Brandon Knight, Zaza Pachulia, and OJ Mayo don’t exactly scream championship. Overall they made some puzzling moves, and I don’t see Larry Drew taking these guys too far. The bigger story has to do with commissioner to be Adam Silver calling for them to get a new arena. Watch out Bucks fans, Seattle’s coming for you.
24. Boston Celtics- Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are now Brooklyn Nets, which means Danny Ainge is looking to rebuild with high draft picks. Of course, they still have nice players in Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green, so they won’t be the worst team in the league, but they won’t be good. They hired Brad Stevens from Butler, and that could be a disaster. Losing is the plan in Boston, but judging from a good Summer League, Kelly Olynik may be a good player going forward. Rondo won’t be back until December while he recovers from a torn ACL, so they could be right on track to grab a high pick.
25. Sacramento Kings- The Kings signed Demarcus Cousins to a max deal, which means they believe he can be a cornerstone player going forward. This team isn’t very good. They do have new ownership and a new coach in Mike Malone, so things are looking up, but they are still a mess. They need to find an identity, and start drafting good players starting next year.
26. Orlando Magic- The Orlando Magic have done well for a team that is rebuilding. They traded JJ Redick and got a good young piece in Tobias Harris, and they drafted a good player in Victor Oladipo. They have a good group of young talent that needs to develop, and with a high draft pick, the future is bright in Orlando. GM Rob Hennigan has done a nice job gathering players for the future. As for this year, don’t expect wins to go along with young talent.
27. Charlotte Bobcats- The Bobcats aren’t last! After signing Al Jefferson, they could see themselves winning 28 games this year! The Bobcats are not good, and they need to be looking towards the future. Jefferson is a good player, but where are they really trying to go. The only hope is that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker turn out to be good pro players, and that Michael Jordan can start drafting some future all-stars. But hey! They aren’t last!
28. Phoenix Suns- The Suns were a dumpster fire last year, and now they seem to be finding some stability. They hired Ryan McDonough as their GM, and Jeff Hornacek as their new coach. They traded for Eric Bledsoe, and got rid of Michael Beasley. Overall this team seems to be heading in the right direction, and they need to trade Marcin Gortat this season. They clearly want to start building through the draft, which means they will be bad for the foreseeable future. I’m not sold on Eric Bledsoe just yet, but I like the direction their going. I think they got a steal in Archie Goodwin as well.
29. Utah Jazz- The Jazz spent the off-season trading for Richard Jefferson. Let that sink in. Utah clearly wants to start over, and letting Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson walk for nothing proves that. They drafted Trey Burke, and his lack of size is a real issue. He had an underwhelming Summer League in Orlando, and he has a lot to prove this season. The Jazz will lose a lot of games this season, but choosing to develop Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter could pay off in the long run. We also may be seeing Tyrone Corbin’s final season as head coach.
30. Philadelphia 76’ers- The 76’ers were rumored to sign Chris Duhon this off-season. They will be horrible.
Well, there you have it. I’m excited to get started as the Lead NBA Writer here at Fansided, and we will bring you top notch coverage all season long. Every Monday, we will release a new power rankings when the season gets underway. Disagree? Tell me in the COMMENTS. It’s always fun to discuss the NBA.