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December 25, 2011
Weekly Power Rankings: The Champs are on top

The NBA has given us the NBA regular season for Christmas.

The quality of basketball might not be up to par with what we're accustomed to, but it beats the lockout, right?

With that I give you the first of my weekly NBA Power Rankings. This is all in fun and debate. And I'm sure many of you will tell me I have no idea what I'm talking about.

This should be fun. Let the 66-game season begin.

1. Dallas Mavericks - The defending NBA Champions raise their championship banner today without Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson, Peja Stojakovic or J.J. Barea back this season. But the champs picked up Lamar Odom for next to nothing.
2. Miami Heat - There hasn't been talk of winning multiple championships or parades before the season. That's good.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder - If James Harden emerges as a breakout player this season and takes a starring role, the Thunder could easily unseat the Mavericks in the Western Conference. They already have some guy named Kevin Durant.
4. Chicago Bulls - Is Rip Hamilton the answer at shooting guard? Is Carlos Boozer healthy? Can Joakim Noah avoid another major injury? Derrick Rose would appreciate the help this season.
5. Los Angeles Lakers - As long as Kobe Bryant is on the team the Lakers will be a problem. No Andrew Bynum for four games is a problem. If Pau Gasol plays up to his abilities, the Lakers should have enough to survive without Bynum.
6. San Antonio Spurs - They're old. They lost in the in the first round of the playoffs last season. But they'll win a bunch of games and try to be rested for the playoffs.
7. Boston Celtics - The Big 3 of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce try for another ring led by All-Star guard Rajon Rondo. But will the compressed schedule wear on the veterans.
8. Memphis Grizzlies - Losing Darrell Arthur was big, but getting Rudy Gay back this season is even bigger. Zach Randolph looked like one of the best players in the NBA in the playoffs. The Grizzlies have youth, experience and one of the best reserves in the league in O.J. Mayo.
9. Los Angeles Clippers - Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler give the other tenant in Staples Center a lot to be excited about. If Paul can mesh with his new teammates quickly, maybe the Clippers will headline some of those Staples doubleheaders.
10. New York Knicks - How quickly Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Chandler find chemistry will be key, considering rookie Iman Shumpert will be asked to do a lot at guard while Baron Davis recovers from his back injury.
11. Portland Trail Blazers - Brandon Roy's retirement was a big loss but Jamal Crawford and Wesley Matthews are capable of holding down the guard spot. Greg Oden is injured, but unfortunately the Blazers are used to playing without him.
12. Houston Rockets - After being close to making the playoffs the last couple of seasons, the Rockets are poised to breakthrough. The Rockets failed to land a top free agent like Nene, but Samuel Dalembert should be adequate.
13. Atlanta Hawks - Tracy McGrady won't be the player off the bench Crawford. Al Horford and Josh Smith give Atlanta nice combo in the frontcourt. Smith could emerge as an All Star this season.
14. Denver Nuggets - Two of Denver's key players from last season (Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martin) can't return to the NBA until the end of the basketball season in China and might not be Nuggets when they return. But Nene is back.
15. Orlando Magic - What will happen with Dwight Howard? That's the big question entering this season.
16. Indiana Pacers - If David West can return to All-Star form from his knee injury, the Pacers could improve drastically from last season, when they were the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
17. Milwaukee Bucks - Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut being healthy and the additions of Stephen Jackson and Beno Udrih could put the Bucks back in the postseason.
18. Philadelphia 76ers -Jrue Holiday's improvement could dictate how much better the Sixers are this season.
19. Phoenix Suns - This is nod to the brilliance of Steve Nash. Don't be surprised to see Nash's name come up in plenty of trade rumors, linking him to contenders looking for the final piece to a championship team.
20. Utah Jazz - The rebuilding process began last season when the Jazz dealt Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets. It continues this season with plenty of young talent on the frontline.
21. Golden State Warriors - The search for an interior presence led them to sign Kwame Brown after attempts to land Chandler and DeAndre Jordan failed. Stephen Curry already has a sprained ankle. Not good news in Oakland.
22. Sacramento Kings - Tyreke Evans evolution as a player, DeMarcus Cousins' improvement and Jimmermania are all things to watch.
23. Washington Wizards - John Wall can prove he's the NBA's next great point guard by leading the Wizards from the bottom of the standings.
24. Charlotte Bobcats - Their playoff berth seems like a long time ago. It was just two seasons ago.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves - Rick Adelman as coach helps. Time to see if Ricky Rubio can live up to the hype.
26. New Orleans Hornets - Eric Gordon is on the verge of being an All Star. Will anyone notice him in New Orleans?
27. New Jersey Nets - Brook Lopez is injured. Looks like trading for Howard is on hold for now.
28. Detroit Pistons - Greg Monroe was a bright spot in a season that had more drama than wins in 2010-11.
29. Toronto Raptors - DeMar DeRozan is fun to watch. Andrea Bargnani is a great shooting big man.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers - Kyrie Irving's rookie season is dedicated to helping the city forget about "The Decision." Good luck, Kyrie.

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