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NBA post free agency Power Rankings: Who is closing in on Miami?

Jul 29, 2013, 8:44 AM EDT

Los Angeles Clippers' Paul and Griffin wait for play to resume as the Clippers trail the San Antonio Spurs during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles Reuters

This summer saw Dwight Howard find a new home, the Clippers and Pacers add depth, and a few other teams making bold moves to get better (or, in some cases, worse intentionally). So how did all this impact the PBT Power Rankings? Glad you asked. Here is where things stand this summer (the number in parenthesis is the squad’s record last season).

source:  1. Heat (66-16). They are the two-time defending NBA champions and they won 66 games last season, including 27 in a row at one point. Yes, we all saw cracks in the armor in the playoffs, but until someone knocks them off the top of the mountain they get to hold this spot in off-season rankings.

source:  2. Thunder (60-22). I think the Westbrook injury lulled people into looking past this team. Did they lose Kevin Martin? Yes. But remember this: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are both just 25 — they are still ascending, getting better every season.

source:  3. Pacers (49-32). They pushed Miami to seven games then they get Danny Granger back. That means their bench (the weak spot last season) will have Lance Stephenson, C.J. Watson, Luis Scola and Chris Copeland. They should be better and more dangerous.

source:  4. Clippers (56-26). They keep Chris Paul and with the additions of J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, this could well be the best offense in the NBA next season. Can Doc Rivers get them to defend? And with that, can DeAndre Jordan step up as defensive anchor? They will go as far as their defense takes them.

source:  5. Spurs (58-24). This is probably too low for the Spurs, a team that was just a made free throw or a rebound away from winning the NBA title. They are going to be very good, but can they stay healthy and have things break for them again?

source:  6. Bulls (45-37). They get Derrick Rose back, remember the last two seasons they had him healthy they won 62 games and were on a 62 win pace (if the lockout season had been 82 games). They will defend, but can Tom Thibodeau back off the gas at times and bring Luol Deng and Joakim Noah in fully healthy for the playoffs.

source:  7. Rockets (45-37). This postseason’s big winners, they landed Dwight Howard and that makes them instant contenders. There are questions, like will Howard play to his pick-and-roll strengths (he fought against that in L.A.) and not just try to be a post up guy. I think this could be a growing together season for the Rockets with 2014-15 being the season they explode.

source:  8. Nets (49-33). Another big off-season winner — Mikhail Prokhorov laughs in the face of your puny luxury tax. Still we have big questions: Can Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett stay healthy? Can Deron Williams return to his Utah form? Can Jason Kidd coach?

source:  9. Warriors (47-35). Last season’s playoff darlings make a bold move and add Andre Iguodala. They are going to be improved, but how many games they win and how far they go in the playoffs could hinge on how healthy Andrew Bogut is in the middle for them.

source:  10. Grizzlies (56-26). This is a team with so much size teams struggle to deal with them, plus they have one of the best defenses in the NBA. But they didn’t address their need for floor-spacing shooters, unless you think Mike Miller is going to stay healthy all season.

source:  11. Knicks (54-28). They had the third best offense in the NBA last season (in points per possession) but were 17th in defense. Can the addition of Metta World Peace and a healthy Iman Shumpert improve their defense enough? It feels like the top of the East got better and they stood largely pat.

source:  12. Nuggets (57-25). It feels like they took a step back this summer — big changes in the front office and the loss of Andre Iguodala. Still some real talent on the roster, but they need JaVale McGee to take a big step forward if they want to remain top four in a deep West.

source:  13. Timberwolves (31-51). Last season should have been a breakout year for them, injuries robbed them of that. This season Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio will lead them to a playoff spot in the West, and they will be fun to watch getting there.

source:  14. Lakers (45-37). They still have Kobe Bryant, but he will not be quite the same player. They still have Steve Nash, if he can stay healthy. They still have Pau Gasol, at least until they find a good trading partner. The Lakers could get a lower playoff spot, but this is mostly a placeholder season for the Lakers looking ahead to free agency.

source:  15. Mavericks (41-41). A combination of Dirk Nowitzki (finally healthy), Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon might make this a playoff team in the West, but it will be a bottom seed. Still the big goal in Dallas is to bring in another elite player.

source:  16. Hawks (44-38). No Josh Smith anymore, but they have Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver in the back court, Elton Brand and Paul Millsap in the front court with Al Horford. I think they remain pretty similar to last season in terms of wins.

source:  17. Wizards (29-53). With a healthy John Wall playing like an $80 million guy — meaning his jump shot is falling like it did at the end of last season — to go with a more mature Bradley Beal and a healthy Nene, I think this is a playoff team out East.

source:  18. Cavaliers (24-58). Andrew Bynum, with the way the contract was structured, was a good risk. But whether or not they get anything for Drew, with a healthy Kyrie Irving the Cavaliers will be back in the playoffs.

source:  19. Trail Blazers (33-49). LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum… shouldn’t this team be better than it showed last season? I like the Robin Lopez addition, moving Aldridge to the four, but they need to make big strides in a deep West to make the playoffs.

source:  20. Pelicans (27-55). This was an aggressive team this off-season and I think they made great moves adding Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans. This is a young team on the rise, they will look a lot better the second half of the season and they could slip into a bottom playoff spot if things come together.

source:  21. Raptors (34-48). With Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and an improved Jonas Valanciunas the Raptors have a shot at the playoffs in the East. But they need to get back to playing defense like they did a couple years ago for Dwane Casey to have a chance.

22. Pistons (29-53). They added Josh Smith this offseason, and combined with Andre Drummond (who looked great at Summer League) and Greg Monroe they should have a fantastic front line. But do they have the balance and depth to make the postseason?

source:  23. Kings (28-51). They have DeMarcus Cousins plus an interesting backcourt with Greivis Vasquez and Ben McLemore. If Cousins will play consistent defense they become very interesting, but that’s a big “if.”

source:  24. Celtics (41-40). They have started the rebuilding process and the most-asked question around them this season will be is Rajon Rondo still with the team after the trade deadline?

source:  25. Bucks (38-44). They scraped their way into the postseason, but now with a backcourt of O.J. Mayo and maybe Brandon Jennings (his situation is still up in the air) they take a step back. I like Larry Sanders and John Henson up front, though.

source:  26. Bobcats (21-61). Adding Al Jefferson in the paint makes them less bad this coming season, but they are not going to be good. Cody Zeller looked good at Summer League and could be a surprisingly good rookie.

source:  27. Jazz (43-39). Trey Burke, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter could be part of a good team in a few years, but this season they will learn some hard lessons. Burke is going to be a lot of people’s call for Rookie of the Year.

source:  28. Suns (24-56). They got a nice piece for the future in Eric Bledsoe and they have three first round picks next season. That is how you rebuild. It won’t be pretty this season but I like the direction the team is going long term.

source:  29. Magic (20-62). The team with the worst record in the NBA last season will be in the running for it again. Victor Oladipo could have a good rookie year and now they get a whole season of Tobias Harris.

source:  30. 76ers (34-48). The Bynum trade misfired, so they are rebuilding from the ground up by shipping out Jrue Holiday and starting over. The Sixers will be back but should have a pick near the top of the draft next season. Which is the new goal.

  1. clevelandschronic2 - Jul 29, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    Sorry for mispelling im on my iphone

  2. 00maltliquor - Jul 29, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    Cavs are way too low! I hate CLE (because of Dan Gilbert, sadly) but c’mon, give them their props!

  3. 00maltliquor - Jul 29, 2013 at 1:38 PM

    Blazers too low too.

    • hannsta - Jul 29, 2013 at 5:01 PM

      Agree, Blazers were in playoff picture last year until no bench and intentional tanking ruined their record, dont sleep on ’em this year.

  4. deadhardy2013 - Jul 29, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    people overrate the Nets…their record last season was inflated due to being in the pathetic Eastern Conference…they added 3 aging players way past their primes…they’ll still be a playoff team…but they aren’t better than the Warriors or Grizzlies imo

    • 00maltliquor - Jul 30, 2013 at 2:26 AM

      Alright then, just watch. When the Nets are dominating this upcoming season just stay humble and come on here and admit your wrongdoings. If they suck I will personally call myself out.

  5. jah1z - Jul 29, 2013 at 6:01 PM

    The Bulls and the Clippers are rated too high. To put the Rockets at 7th simply because the Author doesn’t know if Howard will play as a roll man or a post man is ridiculously stupid. This airhead Author didn’t even take consideration that the Rockets will have elite defense for 48 minutes in Howard and Asik. When Howard goes to the bench, Asik will come in and keep up the defensive pressure. There is no way the Bulls and Clippers will do better than the Rockets. The Rockets is a solid top 3 team…..I don’t even think the Thunders can beat the Rockets after they lost K.Martin. And the Clippers???

    C’mon now, we have Harden, Howard and C.Parsons. The Clippers have CP3, B.Griffen and Deandre. You mean to te me the Clippers’ 3 are a bigger offensive spread than Harden, Howard and C.Parsons. This Author is delusional.

    The Rockets should be #2 or 3.

    • adamsjohn714 - Jul 30, 2013 at 2:29 AM

      The clippers had some pretty big pickups this offseason. Resigning barnes was huge, and dudley is really good.

  6. antistratfordian - Jul 29, 2013 at 7:44 PM

    The Heat aren’t ranked high enough.

  7. arrondior - Jul 29, 2013 at 9:02 PM

    Honestly, the West just got so cloudy. It’s really hard to know just how good the Clippers are now. I’d argue that the Thunder haven’t improved and the Westbrook situation looks a lil hinky. San Antonio is getting old very fast and the Rockets just got much scarier. Their front court is going to be rotating Asik and Camby up front with Howard with Harden in the backcourt. And then you have Golden State. Trying to rank the West right now is kind of silly. Luckily for the Heat, the East is a much easier conference!

  8. surly1n1nd1anapol1s - Jul 29, 2013 at 9:21 PM

    I would assume Lance will be starting for the Pacers and Danny will lead the bench.

  9. antistratfordian - Jul 29, 2013 at 11:37 PM

    I look at the Pacers and see that they won 49 games last year (.605)… after winning 42 games in 2012 (.636)… and they’re getting the 41% shooting Danny Granger back. Why have just one 40% shooting wing when you can have two!

    BUT they played 1 more game against Miami this year versus last year!!!” Yawn.

    So what does all this make me think? It makes me think that, like Paul George, they’re going to continue to be overrated.

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