|Derek E. Hingle/USA Today|
By Kenneth Teape (@teapester725)
With the NBA season officially coming to end Thursday night with the Miami Heat defeating the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals here are the final power rankings for the season.
1.) Miami Heat (66-16) – NBA Champions for the second consecutive season lands the Heat in the top spot. Was Game 7 the last time we will see the Big 3 of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh? But as long as Lebron James is on the team they will be title contenders.
2.) San Antonio Spurs (58-24) – They gave the Heat all they could handle in seven games but ultimately came up short. Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard put themselves on the NBA map and look poised to take over even more next season. Manu Ginobili’s struggles bring up the question of retirement for him as well.
3.) Indiana Pacers (49-32) – A surprising season in Indiana ended with a tough loss to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Paul George has emerged as a legitimate star taking over for the injured Danny Granger. Finding a way to get David West back into the fold and improving the bench will improve the Pacers’ chance of besting the Heat next season.
4.) Memphis Grizzlies (56-26) – A surprising sweep at the hands of the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals does not diminish a franchise best season in Memphis. How different will they look next season though in a full campaign without Rudy Gay and with a new head coach as Lionel Hollins was not retained?
5.) New York Knicks (54-28) – Some people are disappointed with a second round exit at the hands of the Pacers but it was yet another season of improvement for the Knicks. Bringing in another point guard and infusing some youth is a must for the Knicks to improve next season. Carmelo Anthony finally taking that next step wouldn’t hurt either.
6.) Oklahoma City Thunder (60-22) – Kevin Durant learned just how hard it is to be a star player without a sidekick this postseason. With Russell Westbrook sidelined with a torn meniscus in round one Durant could not carry the team by himself as the Thunder were hammered by a bruising and intimidating Grizzlies front line of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in Round 2.
7.) Golden State Warriors (47-35) – Quite possibly the Cinderellas of the NBA this season, Mark Jackson led the Warriors to an improbable appearance in the second round of the playoffs. Stephen Curry showed just how great of a player he was throughout the playoffs as the Warriors are a young team on the rise. Adding one more veteran piece would go a long way for the development of this team.
8.) Chicago Bulls (45-37) – Derrick Rose did not appear in a game all season yet the Bulls still found themselves in the second round of the playoffs. A Game 1 win against the Heat gave optimism to the Bulls but they were swept away in the next four games. Injuries really killed them all season but they still found a way to persevere. Next season with Rose back in the fold could lead to the Bulls being contenders yet again.
9.) Los Angeles Clippers (56-26) – The Clippers showed just how overrated of a team they truly are in the playoffs. After going up 2-0 against the Grizzlies in the opening round they were swept in the next four games. This will be a big offseason for the Clippers as they look to retain Chris Paul and need to find a new head coach as well.
10.) Boston Celtics (41-40) – A new era looks to be on the horizon in Boston. Doc Rivers may be let out of his contract to sign with the Clippers and would officially end an era in Boston. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett supposedly wouldn’t be too far behind as they would try their hand at another title run with CP3 in Los Angeles before ending their Hall of Fame careers.
11.) Atlanta Hawks (44-38) – The Hawks made the playoffs this season to the surprise of many. After moving the albatross contract of Joe Johnson they were not expected to make much noise this season but behind Josh Smith and Al Horford found themselves in the playoffs. Smith is expected to walk this season though in free agency. The Hawks will have a ton of money to spend; how they spend it can determine the future of this franchise for multiple seasons.
12.) Houston Rockets (45-37) – Trading for James Harden gave the Rockets the superstar player they have coveted since Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. It was a successful first season with Harden in the fold as supporting cast with good players surrounding him in Amir Asik and Chandler Parsons as well. Could this offseason be when the Rockets add another star to play alongside Harden?
13.) Denver Nuggets (57-25) – A disappointing playoff performance led to the firing of George Karl even though he won Coach of the Year. Andre Iguodala opted out of his contract as well. The Nuggets will have a lot talent next season for whoever ends up coaching but without a legitimate superstar on the roster it is hard to see them succeeding much in the postseason.
14.) Brooklyn Nets (49-33) – P.J. Carlesimo did a great job as interim coach but was relieved of his duties after a disappointing first round loss to a banged up Bulls squad. Jason Kidd was hired fresh off of retirement as a player to be the head coach. There is a lot of risk for both Kidd and the Nets with such a move and will be interesting to see how the first time coach fairs in a market as demanding as New York.
15.) Los Angeles Lakers (45-37) – Losing Kobe Bryant to an Achilles injury derailed any chance they had at making noise in the playoffs. Making the playoffs was a surprise all in itself. The Lakers need to figure out a way to keep Dwight Howard around in purple and gold or next season could be even tougher than this past one.
16.) Milwaukee Bucks (38-44) – One of the worst playoff teams in recent memory will have a hard time even duplicating this next season. Larry Sanders has been a nice surprise as he has grown into a legitimate defensive threat but with the futures of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis up in the air the Bucks already below average offense could get much worse.
17.) Utah Jazz (43-39) – The Jazz fought tooth and nail for the last playoff spot out West but were ultimately beat out by the Lakers. There is a bright future in Utah with youngsters like Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks around; but they could lose their two best players in Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson to free agency this offseason. Getting a point guard and retaining at least one of Millsap or Jefferson would be a good start for the Jazz.
18.) Dallas Mavericks (41-41) – With Dirk Nowitzki hurt early in the season the Mavericks were unable to bounce back from it. Getting to .500 was a good feat for the Mavericks who are once again armed and ready to spend in free agency. Owner Mark Cuban will do his best to reload this roster and make them back into contenders after watching veterans and integral parts to their championship team walk in free agency the last two seasons.
19.) Washington Wizards (29-53) – The Wizards turned things around once John Wall got back into the lineup and would have easily been the 8th seed had he not missed the first 33 games of the season. The Wizards went 5-28 in that span, too big a hole to climb out of. The future is bright in Washington though with Wall, Bradley Beal and the third overall pick in this season’s draft.
20.) Portland Trail Blazers (33-49) – Damian Lillard surprised many by taking home the Rookie of the Year award this season by averaging 19.0 points and 6.5 assists per game. Lillard and the Blazers have a bright future if they can get some bench players and veterans on the team as the Blazers bench was as bad as any in the NBA this past season.
21.) Philadelphia 76ers (34-48) – The prized acquisition of the offseason in Andrew Bynum never suited up for the 76ers and now he is a free agent. The poor season led to the firing of Doug Collins but we also witnessed the coming out party of point guard Jrue Holiday. Evan Turner is not playing up to potential either for as high as the 76ers drafted him at.
22.) Toronto Raptors (34-48) – Trading for Rudy Gay put a spark in the team for a little while but the Raptors still fell short of the playoffs. Gay and DeMar DeRozan give the Raptors a dynamic duo on the wings to go along with young and potential-laden big man Jonas Valanciunas gives the Raptors some hope that the playoffs are not too far off.
23.) Minnesota Timberwolves (31-51) – The Timberwolves were hit by the injury bug as much as any team in the NBA and it ruined any chance they had at a playoff berth. Kevin Love appeared in only 18 games all season and Ricky Rubio looks to have a long way to come after knee surgery. Brandon Roy was lost five games into the season and that set the tone for an injury plagued year in Minnesota. Look for them to bounce back with a healthier Love and Rubio next season alongside breakout player Nikola Pekovic.
24.) Detroit Pistons (29-53) – The Pistons have as promising a frontcourt as any team in the NBA with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond looking like a dominant combination for as long as the Pistons keep both of them around. Drummond showed immense potential before getting injured and Monroe played as you would expect him to. If Brandon Knight can ever get it together full time the Pistons will have something on their hands.
25.) Sacramento Kings (28-54) – It looks as if the Kings will be remaining in Sacramento and not be moving to Seattle after all. That is good news for fans of the team and it will be interesting to see how the new management handles the roster. There is some talent there but not much of a team as DeMarcus Cousins seemed to have worn out his welcome in Sac-town and former ROY Tyreke Evans looks to be on his way out as well.
26.) New Orleans Hornets (27-55) – The Hornets are no more as the Pelicans will be New Orleans team next year and may have the brightest future of any team in the NBA. Anthony Davis looks like the real deal when he is able to stay on the court as concussion and ankle problems sidelined him for parts of the season. Austin Rivers had one of the worst seasons in NBA history so there is nowhere to go but up for him.
27.) Cleveland Cavaliers (24-58) – Kyrie Irving looks more like a superstar with every game he plays. The Cavaliers won the lottery again and are poised to add more talent to a young roster that is brimming with potential with Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller alongside Irving. Anderson Varejao is still very productive when he is able to stay on the court and could be used as a trade chip to bring even more talent into the fold in Cleveland.
28.) Orlando Magic (20-62) – The youth that the Magic have stockpiled showed some signs this past season of being something worthwhile. Nikola Vucevic finished second in the NBA in rebounding at 11.9 per game, 0.5 behind top rebounder Dwight Howard. Other youngsters Tobias Harris and Moe Harkless look like good talents as well in their first chances at getting significant playing time.
29.) Phoenix Suns (25-57) – It was the worst season in Suns franchise history and things do not look to be on the up-and-up any time soon. Alvin Gentry was fired during the season and there is not a lot of talent on this roster that people will be jumping at to take over as coach. The re-building process in Phoenix will be a long and tough one but the Suns have no one to blame but themselves.
30.) Charlotte Bobcats (21-61) – It is getting to the point you almost feel bad for the Bobcats. Their 7-5 start to the season stands as one of the biggest surprises of the year seeing where they ended up at. Kemba Walker is a good player and there is some other intriguing talent on the roster in Bismack Biyombo and Gerald Henderson but no one that looks like a budding superstar. First year player Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has potential but he is far from realizing it as he is a sound player but does nothing exceptionally well.