Odds to win the 2006 NBA Championship
The 2005-06 NBA regular season is about to tip-off. Here are the power rankings for this year’s 30 franchise’s in the league prior to game one of the new campaign.
1.SAN ANTONIO SPURS – With Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili leading the way, the defending champion Spurs are the favorite to capture their second straight title and fourth in eight years.
2.DETROIT PISTONS – Detroit has its same core of players back, but there is a new head coach in Flip Saunders. The Pistons will continue to win with defense, and until a team in the East beats them its hard to put anyone but the world champions ahead of them.
3.MIAMI HEAT – The new-look Heat will follow the lead of their two All-Stars Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade. Head coach Stan Van Gundy has to figure out how to get his club to develop a winning chemistry on the court. Did this club really need the major offseason shakeup?
4.INDIANA PACERS – Ron Artest returns after serving a long suspension for his role in the brawl on November 19, 2004 at The Palace of Auburn Hills. With a lineup that consists of Artest, All-Star Jermaine O’Neal and Stephen Jackson, the Pacers are ready to once again compete with the elite
5.DALLAS MAVERICKS – A full season under Avery Johnson may actually lead to this team playing some defense. Dirk Nowitzki will carry the bulk of the load once again, while Jason Terry and Erick Dampier need to have big years if they hope to beat the Spurs.
6.HOUSTON ROCKETS – Year two of the Tracy McGrady/Yao Ming experiment will bring better results. Head coach Jeff Van Gundy has to figure out how to get this team out of the first round of the postseason. The last time Houston won a playoff series was in 1997.
7.SACRAMENTO KINGS – Mike Bibby is ready to become and All-Star, while free agent acquisition Shareef Abdur-Rahim, two-time All-Star Brad Miller and sharp-shooting Peja Stojakovic are all primed to have big seasons. Sacramento is going to be a lot better than most of the so-called experts think.
8.CLEVELAND CAVALIERS – New general manager Danny Ferry had a busy offseason, as he re-signed All-Star center Zydrunas Ilgauskas and inked free agents Damon Jones, Larry Hughes and Donyell Marshall to contracts. Mike Brown is the new head coach and should do a nice job. Bottom line, management has surrounded phenom LeBron James with a supporting cast that should get the Cavaliers into the playoffs for the first time since 1998.
9.DENVER NUGGETS – Denver was on fire after George Karl took over the team on January 27th. The Nuggets ran into a buzzsaw in San Antonio in the first round of last year’s playoffs, but they should be able to carry over their success under Karl into the new campaign.
10.NEW JERSEY NETS – Head coach Lawrence Frank has to be excited about starting a season with Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson and Jason Kidd all on his club’s roster. This will be an exciting team to watch, if it stays healthy.
11.SEATTLE SUPERSONICS – Ray Allen can do it all, and with the help of fellow All-Star Rashard Lewis the Sonics will once again over achieve and win more games than expected. Seattle will play hard for new head coach Bob Weiss.
12.PHOENIX SUNS – Can league MVP Steve Nash and the rest of the Suns hold down the fort while superstar Amare Stoudemire, who is expected to miss up to four months after having a microfracture procedure in his left knee in early October, recovers from surgery? The addition of Kurt Thomas does help, but he was acquired to help make life easier for Stoudemire down low. Phoenix is going to be put to the test.
13.GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS – It’s been 11 years since the Warriors have participated in the postseason, but it looks like they are finally ready to once again compete in the playoffs. Two-time All-Star Baron Davis, who was acquired at last year’s trade deadline, teams with Jason Richardson to give Golden State one of the most electrifying backcourts in the league, while forwards Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy will continue to improve. This is a team on the rise.
14.NEW YORK KNICKS – With Larry Brown calling the shots from the bench, the Knicks have instant credibility. Stephon Marbury should become an even better player under Brown, while a healthy Eddy Curry and three-point threat Quentin Richardson will help bring excitement back to Madison Square Garden.
15.MILWAUKEE BUCKS – Rookie center Andrew Bogut, who was selected with the first overall pick in the 2005 draft, and shooting guard Michael Redd could develop into one of the league’s most lethal inside-outside combinations. Terry Stotts has replaced Terry Porter as the team’s new head coach, while Bobby Simmons, who was the 2004-05 NBA’s Most Improved Player, signed with the club as a free agent and should make an impact. T.J. Ford’s return will improve the transition game and the addition of one-time All-Star center Jamaal Magloire will also help big time. The Bucks could end up being one of the biggest surprises in the upcoming season.
16.MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES – The Timberwolves don’t have to worry about Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell complaining about their contracts anymore, as both players are gone. Superstar Kevin Garnett will be on a mission to try and get Minnesota back into the playoffs after a very disappointing 2004-05 campaign. New head coach Dwane Casey knows what Garnett is going to give him, but what can he expect out of the rest of his roster?
17.UTAH JAZZ – If Carlos Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko can stay healthy, the Jazz may have a chance to compete for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference. Rookie point guard Deron Williams, who was the third overall pick in the 2005 draft, will get a chance to learn about life in the NBA on the court, while Mehmet Okur will continue to develop into a solid center.
18.MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES – President of basketball operations Jerry West traded away point guard Jason Williams and swingmen James Posey and Bonzi Wells. He allowed power forward Stromile Swift and Earl Watson to leave through free agency. Veteran point guard Damon Stoudamire was signed as a free agent, while guards Bobby Jackson and Eddie Jones and were obtained in trades. The Grizzlies have been swept out of the first round of the playoffs two straight years. West is still considered a genius by many, but he did not get an impact player that will make his team a threat in the West.
19.LOS ANGELES LAKERS – It’s never boring when it comes to the Lakers. A new soap opera could be ready to get underway, as Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant have been reunited for the 2005-06 campaign. The Lakers re-hired Jackson as their new head coach on June 14. Jackson has returned to the club that he guided to NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Bryant needs to play like he’s from another planet if this team wants to avoid missing the playoffs for the second straight year and second time since 1994.
20.PHILADELPHIA 76ERS – If Allen Iverson and Chris Webber can co-exist, the Sixers could surprise. After three-plus years as the head coach in Portland, new general Maurice Cheeks is back where he wanted to be all along. Andre Iguodala had an excellent rookie campaign and should be even better in his sophomore season. The team made two big investments in the offseason, as it gave center Samuel Dalembert and three-point specialist Kyle Korver lucrative, multi-year contracts. Everything must shake right for this club to be a factor in the East.
21.WASHINGTON WIZARDS – Washington returned to the playoffs last season for the first time since the 1996-97 campaign, when it was known as the Bullets. The Wizards won 45 games and earned a seven-game series win over the Chicago Bulls in the first round. They fell in round two, as the Miami Heat swept them in four games. All-Stars Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison had great seasons and should do well once again, but Larry Hughes, who averaged 22.0 points in 2004-05, signed with Cleveland as a free agent. The loss of Hughes will hurt a lot and the Wizards will find that he was more valuable than they thought.
22.CHICAGO BULLS – The Bulls had an excellent 2004-05 campaign, as they won 47 games and made the playoffs for the first time since 1998. In the playoffs, the Bulls were eliminated by the Wizards in six games in the first round. Center Eddy Curry and Antonio Davis were dealt to the Knicks, who sent Tim Thomas, Mike Sweetney, Jermaine Jackson and draft considerations to Chicago. Reigning Sixth Man of the Year Ben Gordon should have another solid season, while Kirk Hinrich and Tyson Chandler will also need to have big years if the Bulls want to compete for a spot in the postseason. The void in the middle that was created when Curry was sent to New York will hurt Chicago’s chances of getting back to the playoffs.
23.BOSTON CELTICS – Paul Pierce will once again have to be a one-man show. Ricky Davis was a good citizen last season and could be a big help this season if he stays that way. Sophomores Al Jefferson and Delonte West could be very productive, while rookies Gerald Green and Ryan Gomes will get a chance to play during their rookie campaigns. This is a team that is looking towards the future, which should be bright.
24.ORLANDO MAGIC – The Magic lack team chemistry. Even though they have Steve Francis, Grant Hill, Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson, something is still missing. Orlando may get a very unhappy Francis this season, which will become one giant headache.
25.LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS – When are the Clippers going to put it together the right way. Elton Brand and Corey Maggette are a nice start, but adding Sam Cassell, who is always complaining, is not a great move for a young team. Shooting guard Cuttino Mobley was a nice addition. Let’s not forget, it’s the Clippers.
26.CHARLOTTE BOBCATS – Emeka Okafor proved that he is the real deal in his rookie campaign, while Raymond Felton and Sean May were smart selections in the draft. The Bobcats will be playing in a new arena and the fans will support this franchise. The future looks bright in Charlotte.
27. NEW ORLEANS/OKLAHOMA CITY HORNETS – The 2005 draft was great for the Hornets. Multi-talented guard Chris Paul was available for the Hornets to select with the fourth overall pick. The Wake Forest product was arguably the best overall talent in the draft. He has great play-making ability and can score. Paul is an impact player who will help bring excitement back to the fans of the Hornets. Drafting Paul was a step in the right direction for a club that has been effected by the damage sustained to New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.
28.PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS – New head coach Nate McMillan has a tough job ahead of him in Portland. Sebastian Telfair and Zach Randolph are the keys to a club that has a long way to go. It looks like management finally realized that it has to tear it all apart and start again from scratch.
29. ATLANTA HAWKS – Adding Joe Johnson, who was acquired from Phoenix in a controversial sign-and-trade deal in the offseason, is not going to make this franchise a 25-win team. Marvin Williams, who was the second overall pick in the 2005 draft, will develop and become a solid player eventually, but this squad is still a long way from being close to a .500 club.
30. TORONTO RAPTORS – Chris Bosh’s stock is on the rise, but what else do the Raptors have. This is a franchise that has no idea where they are going. It is going to be a long season in Toronto.