March 4, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) goes into position during the free throw against Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

NBA Power Rankings: Heat, Lakers atop the league


[Editor's note: The season is nearly upon us so it felt like the best time to release the first edition of Air Alamo power rankings, which will be posted every Tuesday morning, along with the rankings of our San Antonio Spurs from other prominent bloggers.]

Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk (7): Every year we sleep on them, every year they are better than we thought. They slip a little for us to start the season because Manu Ginobili is out for at least the season opener.

Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News (3): Core returned intact, and why not? Motivation comes from knowing they blew it in Western finals. Is that enough a year later?

John Schuhmann of NBA.com (3): Here’s one reason why the Spurs can be just as good (or better) as they were last year: Manu Ginobili is healthy. This team was ridiculously good (plus-15.7 points per 100 possessions) with Ginobili on the floor last season, but that was only for 34 games. Of course, defensive regression is still very much an issue.

Sheridan Hoops (4): Still San Antonio after all these years. Big challenge in West is avoiding the bracket with Thunder or Lakers, so you only have to play one of them, which is enough.

Marc Stein of ESPN.com (2): Came into the season thinking that the ceiling for the Spurs would likely be holding off the West’s chasing pack headed by Denver and Memphis rather than playing at the Thunder/Lakers level. Now? OKC and L.A. look sufficiently vulnerable to get us rethinking.

Average Spurs ranking: 4th

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Air Alamo power rankings

1. Miami Heat: Aside from adding one of the most potent perimeter shooters of all-time and a potentially serviceable asset in Rashard Lewis, the defending champions didn’t really do that much this offseason. (See what I did there?)
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Injuries and depth concerns could derail an otherwise strong roster.
3. San Antonio Spurs: At the expense of the Thunder, who likely improved long-term by flipping James Harden to Houston, the Spurs have emerged as a contender to sneak into the Finals.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and backup point guard Eric Maynor will be asked to compensate for the loss of the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year.
5. Boston Celtics: With the expected athletic declines of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce — which has maligned the two veterans for the past couple seasons — Rajon Rondo will streamline last season’s 25th-ranked offense.
6. Denver Nuggets: The Nuggets will occasionally reach dizzying levels of efficiency and speed.
7. Memphis Grizzlies: While the Grizzlies struggled to convert from the perimeter last season, hitting less than a third of their 3-pointers, their defense and interior girth was enough to nearly propel them into the semifinals.
8. Indiana Pacers: The development of Paul George, 22, will be instrumental for the nearly capped out Pacers.
9. Los Angeles Clippers: Chris Paul is all you need.
10. Brooklyn Nets: Though the Nets will not finish amongst the elite teams defensively, their offensive talent will be enough to win most games.
11. Atlanta Hawks
12. Utah Jazz
13. Dallas Mavericks
14. Minnesota Timberwolves
15. Philadelphia 76ers
16. Chicago Bulls
17. Golden State Warriors
18. Milwaukee Bucks
19. Houston Rockets
20. New York Knicks
21. Toronto Raptors
22. New Orleans Hornets
23. Phoenix Suns
24. Portland Trail Blazers
25. Cleveland Cavaliers
26. Washington Wizards
27. Sacramento Kings
28. Detroit Pistons
29. Orlando Magic
30. Charlotte Bobcats

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