Welcome to our inaugural power rankings for the 2011-12 NBA season (a regular Monday feature at PBT). These are fun if ultimately meaningless — in the NBA we have a playoff system to decide who is best (are you listening college football?). This is a preseason ranking, so remember that when you get mad about where your team is ranked.
1. Mavericks (last season 57-25). The defending champions always get to start out on top. The Mavericks are going to be a very good regular season team again — Lamar Odom gives them some real versatility — but how much will they miss Tyson Chandler in the playoffs?
2. Heat (58-24). They made it to the finals and added Shane Battier. In the playoffs last year this team seemed to really figure out how to play together, expect that to carry over to the regular season.
3. Bulls (62-20). Best regular season record in the NBA and they added Richard Hamilton. No team went harder in the regular season last year, but when it got to the playoffs they didn’t have another gear. Will that change this time around?
4. Thunder (55-27). This is a team that won 18 of 22 down the stretch last year and went to the Western Conference finals. Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka make them able to match up with the big front lines in the West and they have that Kevin Durant guy.
5. Lakers (57-25). They will miss the depth of Lamar Odom off the bench, but this is still a team that boasts as good a front line as there is in the league with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, plus they have Kobe Bryant on the wing. Look for L.A. to be a more physical defensive team this year.
6. Knicks (42-40). They won free agency by signing Tyson Chandler, who will turn them from a bad to average defensive team. Plus, he will change their pick and roll game because he sets a mountain of a pick and then rolls hard. Not that Toney Douglas knows what to do with it.
7. Celtics (56-26). Amazing starters but not a lot of depth here, we’ll see how that impacts them as the season wears on. I’m expecting a big year for Brandon Bass.
8. Grizzlies (46-36). Expectations are high. After Rudy Gay went down last season the Griz found an identity working the ball inside out, can they now integrate Gay into that or will it throw off their system?
9. Spurs (61-21). They were the best team in the West last regular season, but they didn’t have the size up front to stop a team with a big front line in the playoffs. A team like Memphis. That hasn’t changed.
10. Clippers (32-50). This honestly may be too high a ranking for them, but like everyone else we are excited to see the Chris Paul/Blake Griffin pick-and-roll. The real question is how well this team defends.
11. Blazers (48-34). This is a good team that added Jamal Crawford. They lack the superstar to get them over the top, but you underestimate them at your own peril.
12. Magic (52-30). They still have the single best big man in the league in Dwight Howard. At least for now. I’d say the swirling trade rumors around the team will hurt them on the court, but really it’s their roster that does that more.
13. Nuggets (50-32). They are fielding the best team in China (J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin and Wilson Chandler are all still there). Keeping Nene was huge for this team.
14. Sixers (41-41). They took steps forward last year under coach Doug Collins, but can they do that again? Will the roster let them take that step forward?
15. Hawks (44-38). No Jamal Crawford is going to hurt them. But at least with Mike Bibby gone Jeff Teague finally gets to be the point guard here.
16. Rockets (43-39). The best team not to make the playoffs last season. They should be about the same. GM Daryl Morey is looking under every rock for a big man to sign.
17. Pacers (37-45). Great pick up with David West, if he is back anywhere near his old form the Pacers move up in the Eastern rankings.
18. Bucks (35-47). Last season it seemed everyone on their roster was injured. This team defends like mad, if they can stay healthy they are a team you don’t want in the first round of the playoffs. Good center, good point guard, good defense.
19. Suns (40-42). They were able to keep Grant Hill and pair him with Steve Nash in a remake of the Over The Hill Gang.
20. Warriors (36-46). Hands down, man down. Momma, there goes that man. They just gotta come out and compete.
21. Jazz (39-43). The Derrick Favors and Al Jefferson front line is worth watching.
22. Kings (24-58). There is so much potential on this roster, and I am in no way convinced they can bring it all together. Do you trust the Tyreke Evans/DeMarcus Cousins combo to bring it every night?
23 Wizards (23-59). I expect John Wall to have a monster, breakout sophomore campaign. But it is JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche that decide how good this team is and how far it goes.
24. Nets (24-58). How will the trade rumors that will surround this team all season impact them on the court? This team looks better on paper than it does on the court, and I don’t love it on paper.
25. Pistons (30-52). I like the Lawrence Frank hiring, but he has a mountain of work ahead of him.
26. Timberwolves (17-65). They could be this year’s Clippers — entertaining to watch but not going to win a lot of games.
27. Hornets (46-36). They got some nice building blocks from the Clippers, but there is a lot of building to do. And until they have an owner none of that building really starts in earnest.
28. Raptors (22-60). How big a step forward can DeMar DeRozan take this season?
29. Cavaliers (19-63). Kyrie Irving is going to be thrown to the wolves this season, but there is not a whole lot around him.
30. Bobcats (34-48). Sorry MJ, but this is not a good team that has had a rash of injuries and has a disgruntled star.