The Bee’s Jason Jones’ preseason NBA rankings (with last season’s record):
1. San Antonio Spurs (62-20): They’re nothing flashy; they just win a lot of games.
Adding center Spencer Hawes was one of the most underrated offseason transactions.
▪ 3. Golden State Warriors (51-31):
An improved bench will make them tought to beat.
▪ 4. Portland Trail Blazers (54-28):
Point guard Damian Lillard continues to improve; the rest of the league should watch out.
▪ 5. Houston Rockets (54-28):
Is center Dwight Howard finally back to being the player he was in Orlando?
▪ 6. Chicago Bulls (48-34):
This is the “if Derrick Rose is healthy” ranking.
▪ 7. Oklahoma City Thunder (59-23):
This is the “if Kevin Durant is not healthy” ranking.
▪ 8. Memphis Grizzlies (50-32):
Maybe point guard Mike Conley will be recognized for his solid play.
▪ 9. Cleveland Cavaliers (33-49):
LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving will need some time to learn to play together.
▪ 10. Dallas Mavericks (49-33):
Forward Chandler Parsons, signed as a free agent, is being paid like a superstar. Now he has to play like one.
▪ 11. Washington Wizards (44-38):
It’s time for the young team to become a force in the Eastern Conference.
▪ 12. Toronto Raptors (48-34):
They won’t surprise anyone this season after last year’s turnaround.
▪ 13. Phoenix Suns (48-34):
They are relying on three dynamic point guards to get them into the playoffs.
▪ 14. Brooklyn Nets (44-38):
A healthy Brook Lopez could lead them to the to the Atlantic Division title.
▪ 15. Miami Heat (54-28):
He’s not LeBron James, but Luol Deng is a capable replacement.
▪ 16. Atlanta Hawks (38-44):
With big man Al Horford healthy, the Hawks should not be under .500.
▪ 17. Charlotte Hornets (43-39):
Lance Stephenson should help the offense which struggled last season.
▪ 18. New Orleans Pelicans (34-48):
It’s time for the talent and potential to lead to more victories.
▪ 19. Indiana Pacers (56-26):
Without injured Paul George and departed Stephenson, they’re just a team hoping to make playoffs.
▪ 20. Los Angeles Lakers (27-55):
How much can can Kobe Bryant get out of this group – and himself – at 36?
▪ 21. New York Knicks (37-45):
Carmelo Anthony in the triangle offense should be fun to watch once the team learns it.
▪ 22. Denver Nuggets (36-46):
Coach Brian Shaw still is waiting to see how this team looks at with everyone healthy.
▪ 23. Kings (28-54):
Have they improved enough to move up in the competitive Western Conference?
▪ 24. Orlando Magic (23-59):
A collection of young, talented players should be competitive – in the future.
▪ 25. Detroit Piston (29-53):
Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith have to rebound from their struggles last season.
▪ 26. Minnesota Timberwolves (40-42):
Ricky Rubio is leading a very young team; Nikola Pekovic will anchor the paint.
▪ 27. Boston Celtics (25-57):
Rajon Rondo is an accomplished veteran stuck on a rebuilding team, but for how long?
▪ 28. Utah Jazz (25-57):
They have a lot of high draft picks, but the future is uncertain.
▪ 29. Milwaukee Bucks (15-67):
Jason Kidd has a lot of work to do in his first season as coach.
▪ 30. Philadelphia 76ers (19-63):
They figure to be at the bottom of the league all season.