As NBA Training Camps get ready to start Marc Stein of ESPN has put out his first Power Rankings of this season. If he is as consistent as ESPN has been in the NFL Power Rankings we will review his rankings weekly to see how the Cavs are fairing in comparison to other Eastern Conference teams, especially those nearest them in playoff contention (hopefully).
Eastern Conference Rank: 9
Thoughts: Stein notes that the Cavs have an interesting group of talent on their roster. He basically wishes the team good health as they “needs (deserves)” it. The Cavs are on the outside looking in of the Eastern Conference playoff spot, if his rankings were proven true but only 1 and 2 spots below the 7th and 8th seeds according to Stein’s rankings. The honest truth for anyone early in the season, or in this case before the season starts, is that the Cavs should be one of the hardest teams to predict.
The Eastern Conference Playoff Contenders
Eastern Conference Rank: 1
Thoughts: Not surprising to see the Heat at #1 and probably should be there. Stein notes the interesting additions of Mike Beasley and Greg Oden when the team had no cap space. For the Cavs the only interest in the Heat is whether Lebron James will leave and will they match up in the first round of the playoffs. Stein notes the possible difficulty for the Heat to get out of the East which is shown by the next team.
Eastern Conference Rank: 2
Thoughts: Stein gives, deservedly, alot of credit to the Pacers after their strong showing against the Heat last year. The return of Danny Granger and the addition of Luis Scola should give the team even more fire power after their experience last year. The Pacers have a young star in Paul George and just need to continue to build. Like the Heat the Pacers are only in the conversation for the Cavs for playoff matchup.
Eastern Conference Rank: 3
Thoughts: The top 3 teams in his rankings are from the East. A scary thought for the Cavs and a sign of the difficulty for the Heat to 3 peat. The Nets added veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to an already interesting team with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez. Age, injury and bench depth will be key for this team. If healthy come playoffs they will give anyone a hard time and make the chase for a championship physically difficult from the East.
Eastern Conference Rank: 4
Thoughts: The Bulls return to a relatively high spot on the rankings with the return of Derrick Rose. The defensive minded team will need more offense this year to compete but should continue to push teams physically and defensively. How Rose returns from injury and if he has developed a stronger long distance shot will key their championship aspirations.
Eastern Conference Rank: 5
Thoughts: The Knicks return with a similar roster but with the hope of health for Amare Stoudemire and rebirth of new acquisition Andrea Bargnani. How the roster melds around Carmelo Anthony will continue to be the big question. Anthony’s isolation offense requires spot up shooters, strong defenders and high rebound rates. The ball does not move much with Melo and at this stage of his career you can’t imagine that will change much. No surprise if the Knicks are top 3 or 4 in the East or fall near missing out on the playoffs. The Cavs could cause some issues for this team.
Eastern Conference Rank: 6
Thoughts: The Hawks added Paul Milsap and Elton Brand to a roster that is in rebuild mold. Losing Josh Smith and adding Milsap could easily be a positive, at minimum its a wash while Milsap is much cheaper. Point guard Jeff Teague is back to run the team and should continue his development. The Hawks star, Al Horford, plays out of position at the 5. If the team finds more playmaking from its wings it could surprise some teams but could easily fall out of the playoffs all together. 12 seems a bit high for the team.
Eastern Conference Rank: 7
Thoughts: The Wizards added Otto Porter to John Wall and Bradley Beal in the draft. Porter is a do everything, not great at one thing player who could fill a need at SF. The dynamic backcourt needs to carry this young team with its limited power players. The Cavs and Wizards may renew their rivalry as they both build around their franchise PG and solid 2 guard. The Cavs have more depth then the Wiz and should be ranked above them, at least to start the season based on higher skill level at point.
Eastern Conference Rank: 8
Thoughts: The Pistons, like the Cavs, have brought talent together but how it fits will be interesting. Ball dominant players Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith could take away from Greg Monroe as the center of the offense. Spacing will also be an issue, since both Smith and Jennings like to shoot 3 pointers but probably shouldn’t as much based on their career averages. Their first round pick could provide good shooting from the 2 spot, but playing time might be limited to start with. Outside of injuries they might be the most boom/bust potential this year. They could come together and be a top 4 seed or completely fail. The Cavs are right behind them in these ranks.
Cleveland Cavaliers (See Above)
Eastern Conference Rank: 10
Thoughts: The Raptors finally moved 1st round bust Bargnani to NY. Rudy Gay and Jonas Valanciunas are the core of the team seeking to return to the playoffs. The development of “Big V” will define the opportunities for this team. Gay, as he ages, becomes more of a injury concern. His lack of reliable 3 point shot also can clog the lane on offense.
The Rest of the East
Orlando Magic – #24, 11th in the East
Milwaukee Bucks – #26, 12th in the East
Boston Celtics – #27, 13th in the East
Charlotte Bobcats – #28, 14th in the East
Philadelphia 76ers – #30, 15th in the East
Agree with his rankings? Who did he miss greatest on? Who will the Cavs have the biggest problem beating out for a playoff spot?