Hit List, NBA / Jul 13, 2010 / 10:00 am

NBA Hit List Power Rankings: 2011 NBA Playoffs

While there are still a lot of free agents to be signed, all of the big free agents are now in place and the playoff picture for next year has become a little clearer. Looking ahead, we predict the playoff teams, ranking them No. 1 through No. 8, in each conference. Where does your squad stack up?

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. MIAMI HEAT – When you have three of the 10 best players in the League on one team, you can’t not put them in the first spot. No matter who they have around these guys, they will be the beasts of the East. There is just simply too much talent in those three guys alone to not put them on top. Remember the questions about the rest of the roster after Boston’s Big Three in 2008? They proved to be alright and the rest of Miami’s roster will be okay too.

2. ORLANDO MAGIC – While the Magic will finish second in their own division, they will also be second in the conference. With two straight trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Magic have a ton of talent still on the roster. If they trade Marcin Gortat for some wing help (in addition to signing Quentin Richardson), they will probably be back there. Also, the roster has had a year to gel, and with no major changes like last offseason when Hedo Turkoglu left and Vince Carter was brought in, they should be ready.

3. BOSTON CELTICS – Despite their old age creeping up by the minute on their big men such as Jermaine O’Neal Kevin Garnett, the Celtics will win the Atlantic Division by default, securing the three-seed. They will show a lack of focus and disinterest at times, but ultimately their talent will allow them to settle into this spot easily.

4. CHICAGO BULLS – The low-post scorer the team has craved for years has finally arrived in the form of Carlos Boozer. Boozer will help Derrick Rose like he did with Deron Williams in Utah. With Joakim Noah and Luol Deng also in place, plus Kyle Korver and possibly J.J. Redick on their to Chicago the Bulls will be very deep and very talented.

5. MILWAUKEE BUCKS – The Bucks were a surprise last year, but this season, they will be on a lot of people’s radars. This offseason they shored up their biggest weakness: the ability to create shots by re-signing John Salmons while adding Corey Maggette and Chris Douglas-Roberts. They also added Drew Gooden and Larry Sanders to their frontcourt, making them an incredibly deep team.

6. ATLANTA HAWKS – While the Hawks grossly overpaid Joe Johnson, his presence there ensures the playoffs for another year. This team has a lot of talent with Johnson, Josh Smith and Al Horford. But, they are unfortunately stuck in the same division as Miami and Orlando, so they won’t be a top-four seed like last year.

7. CHARLOTTE BOBCATS – Charlotte made its first-ever playoff appearance last year, and they will probably repeat that feat this year. Even though they lost Raymond Felton, he won’t be terribly missed, especially if D.J. Augustin comes up big for them. With Larry Brown as coach again, the Bobcats will likely only need 40 wins to get back to the postseason, and that is certainly achievable.

8. NEW YORK KNICKSLeBron didn’t choose the bright lights of New York, but Amar’e Stoudemire did. It will only take 37-42 wins to garner the eighth seed in the East this year, and the Knicks have just enough talent to sneak into the postseason. With Stoudemire, Anthony Randolph, Felton, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, the Knicks do have some nice pieces which are superior to the rest of the lower part of the Eastern Conference.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1. LOS ANGELES LAKERS – The defending champs resume their rightful spot atop the Western Conference this season. They will be top dog on talent alone like they were this year, and with the signing of Steve Blake, re-signing of Derek Fisher and their crop of talented second-round picks, L.A. may actually have improved this offseason.

2. DALLAS MAVERICKS – Dallas has basically the same roster intact as last season when they earned the No. 2 seed, and with more time for Caron Butler to get acclimated, Dallas should be very good again. The emergence of Rodrigue Beaubois and the addition of Dominique Jones give the Mavs some much needed scoring punch off the bench, keeping them here.

3. DENVER NUGGETS – Assuming George Karl comes back healthy, the Nuggets will win their division this year. Karl’s loss on the sideline threw the team into disarray. His presence will give the team some stability. Talent-wise, the Nuggets are loaded. With Carmelo potentially in a contract year, Stan Kroenke & Co. will add whatever pieces necessary to ensure he re-signs.

4. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER – The Thunder were one of the surprises of last year and will be even better this sean with another year of experience under their belts. With their entire core returning, GM Sam Presti has added some great pieces to fill some of the team’s weaknesses. He traded for Cole Aldrich to provide toughness and rebounding, and also got Daequan Cook and Mo Peterson to improve their outside shooting.

5. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS – Portland had 53 wins last year despite being decimated by injuries all season. If the team can stay even remotely healthy, they should reach that number yet again. They brought in Luke Babbitt and Elliot Williams via the Draft to help provide depth and shooting, and with Marcus Camby back, Portland’s depth should be greatly improved.

6. PHOENIX SUNS – I didn’t think the Suns would make the playoffs before the moves they made yesterday. Turkoglu should thrive in Phoenix and Josh Childress can provide energy and defense off the bench that complements Jared Dudley. Also, Robin Lopez will continue to develop and if Hakim Warrick can average between 12 to 16 points and 6 to 8 rebounds, it will help lessen the loss of Amar’e greatly.

7. SAN ANTONIO SPURS – Despite being more talented than a seventh seed, Gregg Popovich‘s strategy for the last few years has been just get into the playoffs without regard for seed. With his aging roster needing more rest each year, Coach Pop will monitor Duncan, Parker and Ginobili‘s minutes, greatly preventing the Spurs from being a higher seed. But then again, does it matter with this team?

8. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES – The Grizzlies were very close to the playoffs last year and by retaining Rudy Gay, they are ready to enter the postseason in 2011. They added Xavier Henry and Greivis Vazquez to provide much needed bench scoring this year, and if Mike Conley can prove to be more than serviceable, the Grizz will make the playoffs for the first time since Pau Gasol left town.

What do you think?

Follow Daniel on Twitter at @dgm591.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DIMEMag.

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  • Craig

    “Cannot put them in the first spot”?

  • http://www.cnnsi.com JAY

    Do these guys proof read?

  • Shakers

    I love this site, but Dime needs their editors to pay attention. Sorry to be an editing dork, but damn. Examples:

    Despite their old age creeping up by the minute on their big men such as Jermaine O’Neal Kevin Garnett)

    The Grizzlies were very close to the playoffs last year and by retaining Rudy Gay. They are ready…

  • http://www.cnnsi.com JAY

    You’re not an editing dork. Dime needs a proof-reader….. hey, isn’t Alf looking for a job? Lol.

  • http://www.cnnsi.com JAY

    Come on Alf… hit us with your daily job-finder quote. I just set that up like Stockton to the Mailman… now deliver the goods.

  • WinDelRoj

    lol funny. kinda hope that MIA does get to play NY in the playoffs. Nostalgic reasons

  • http://rockets.com BIGYAO

    how can you put the grizzlies ahead of the rockets that’s just retarded. And the suns are not going to be that good also i think new york are going to suck

  • SJ

    I have a feeling this was typed up before Splitter got signed on with the Spurs. He alone should bump them up to at least the 5 spot above the Blazers. All three (Parker, Ginobili, Duncan) are healthy going into the season, too. Don’t be too surprised if they run the West this year.

  • http://www.SoulChorea.com Kermit The Washington

    I don’t get it…why is Amare holding 3 basketballs in that picture? That pic makes no sense haha

  • brad

    Jazz? Even without Al Jeff I think they make the playoffs. . . but with him they could win division.

  • http://www.cnnsi.com JAY

    @Kermit
    Maybe the Knicks were planning on acquiring their own big 3.
    Or maybe Amare is getting ready to juggle.

  • keygotsole

    @kermit guess he showing how much basketballs are needed in Miami

  • CTP

    Hahahahahaha. You really think the jazz, who’ve missed the playoffs once in 20 years, aren’t going nex year?! But the Grizzlies are?!

    Wow! I only wish I could bet you. Jazz are going to be at least a 5 seed. Espescially after landing big al.

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    @Kermit — We were asking the same question during Stoudemire’s press conference. Somebody said the three balls represent STAT’s rebounding average next season.

  • ab_40

    phoenix is done. I also predict dallas will be one of the lower seeds or not in the playoffs. They’ll battle with the clippers, the kings, the grizzlies and the suns for spots 6,7 and 8. Portland is gonna be a beast. Espacialy on D. if camby slides to the 4 and oden is the 5 I hope they stay healthy I’ll give him the MIP if he can come up with 14-12 and 2.5 if he stays healthy dominance will come for the dude. And ahw no houston they’re with that group as well. Phoenix and Dallas can stop they’re not gonna win and they have no pieces for future succes. Houston with yao at 100% come all star break is gonna be trouble for a lot of teams.

  • yoda

    i’ll skip comments on editing. even i as non english native can see mistakes.
    as for list, i think that you put bobcats and knicks up too soon. i have a feeling that nets will be among top 8 (unless they are screwed by being in really tough division, can’t check that right now) and that cavs might creep into top 8 too. but it depends on who they have playing center.

  • jysn

    i think the cavs will slide n that 8th spot.. whats the bet lebron is hurt when the heat play the cavs this year?

  • Rizwan

    ‘The Thunder were one of the surprises of last year and will be even better this SEAN with’

    ‘Despite their old age creeping up by the minute on their big men such as Jermaine O’Neal Kevin Garnett)’

    ‘When you have three of the 10 best players in the League on one team, you CANNOT put them in the first spot’

    Lucky you guys are a free site, or you’re out of business!

  • DizzyDutch

    seriously, I would put the thunder as the number 2 team in the west. ya’ll really think Dominique Jones is going to be an impact player? who dominique jones? San Antonio and Portland will be the 3rd and 4th seeds with the Nuggets coming in at a 5th seed. Rockets with Yao coming back should be a lock for the 6th seed. The Mavs, Jazz and Suns will battle for the last 2 spots as is.

  • http://www.SoulChorea.com Kermit The Washington

    LOL…rebounding average? OUCH

  • Sporty-j

    I think People are overacting on Chicago and i would still put Atlanta in front of them because they have not proven anything on the court. I know they signed Korver and Reddick but they lost a great Defender in Kirk. I dont know how the Knicks are expected to make the playoffs with just Amare alone but i guess thats your opinion. I think Oklahoam City is going to be the second seed and wouldnt be suprised if they beat L.A. this season and the Suns are going to miss Amare big time. If Shaq and my Heat can forgive each other and mend fences you can just book us for the 3rd round even though i still think Boston posses a great threat. Raja “lockdown” Bell to the Heat!!!

  • http://thesphericalstudies.blogspot.com/2010/07/lebron-james-is-not-jesus.html haslem

    pointing out mistakes is fun

    “With Larry Brown as coach again, the Bobcats will likely only need 40 wins to get back to the postseason, and that is certainly achievable.”

    I agree with everything though. Sucks for the Hawks all that money and they’re in a rut

  • Manu14

    Once again nobody expect the Spurs, but this year with a healthy big3, the addition of Splitter and Hill & Blair improving, they’re going to make a lot of damages…

  • DJ

    Dam why you show Utah no love?
    They don’t miss the playoffs, NEVER!
    But everyone saying utah should be in over memphis, watch out, grizzlies will be good this year! Them and OKC will be sweeeeeeeeeeeeet!
    Still, GO UTAH XD

  • tahir

    season hasn’t even started and hating on rockets already started… dats ok just watch houston rain on all these so called super stars teams…

  • Stunnaboy09

    I hate how people compare Miami’s big 3 to Boston. The C’s as TRADED for, so they already had a roster in place. Miami signed theirs, so they have a bunch of minimum players to round out theirs. Unless Chalmbers turns into Rondo somehow I see Heat finishing with like 50 wins and a second round exit.

    The Timberwolves are just the most retarded annoying franchise I’ve seen. Your trading your BEST player for draft picks. Do they REALLY like Milic THAT much. Looks like the Timberwolves are loving the lottery.

    OKC and Dallas are the only legit threat to LA this year. Maaaybe Portland but it all depends on old man Oden.

    Durant for MVP though

  • Stunnaboy09

    and now that Stoudemire is off his contract year wont suprise me if he does average 3 rebounds per game…

  • Jake

    the only way the grizzlies are making it over the jazz and the rockets is if yao and d williams break each others legs. the rockets were better than the griz WITHOUT yao and jerry sloan + deron williams alone guarantees you a playoff spot

  • Brandon Jennings

    We will win our division, not the Bulls. FTD!

  • Heckler

    is it me, or does the Dime staff actually worsen ever so often?

    we all subscribe to the mag and we adore this site. but yall are falling off.

    too many clown ass writers (who cant write) and waaaaay too many clown ass article features.

    c’mon yall. get it together over there in ny.
    yall falling off faster than elton brand…

  • http://www.cnnsi.com JAY

    Phoenix may make the 6th seed but the Dime commentary is off.

    “Turkoglu should thrive in Phoenix…”

    I disagree. Turkoglu said in interviews that he was uncomfortable playing on the wing and he needs the ball to be productive. He also said that “the team”, meaning Raptors, wasn’t using him correctly. How will it be different playing with Nash?? Nash has the ball 80-90% of the time.

  • Mateus

    Why does miami have 3 of the best 10 players in the league? lebron is one, wade another, but who is the third? Bosh? Are you serious?
    Lebron, Kobe, Wade, Dirk, Durant, Dwight Howard, Carmelo, Nash, Chris Paul, Brandon Roy. Bosh isnt better than any of those in the list

  • http://www.cnnsi.com JAY

    @Heckler
    “we all subscribe to the mag and we adore this site. but yall are falling off.”
    I dropped my subscription. Too many fuckin shoe ads. I think the shoe ads:articles ratio was like 12:1.
    I’m not exactly a DimeMAG guy…. I like these Dimeforums and that’s it. Majority of the writers suck a fat-man’s titty. These writers probably don’t give a shit either way as long as we click on their sponsorship ads. (I clicked 4 times by accident today… way to trick us into clicking them by putting the banners everywhere.)

  • bigdoggchad

    @Mateus I was wondering the same thing don’t even know if Bosh is top 15.

  • “Tha Boddy” Wall for one and Wall for all!

    The Wizards should be up there they have and explosion of talent that is better than the Bucks Knicks or the Bobcats.Pencil the Wiz in any spot 5-8 it’s that serious in D.C

  • Stunnaboy09

    Don’t know why ya’ll hating on Dime, while some are duds majority of them are on point. And as my dad told me, you can’t complain if its free…

  • http://www.cnnsi.com JAY

    @Stunnaboy09: “And as my dad told me, you can’t complain if its free…”
    That’s a load of bull. Lol. We live in a free society and everyone complains like a son of a bitch. Obama just gave the people free universal health care and there’s still people complaining.

    “majority of them are on point”
    LMAOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

  • CP

    Still waiting patiently for the Jazz to be penciled in to that 3rd spot in the west. It’s ok to edit that in Dime, because it was an obvious typo.

  • the cynic

    since when is Bosh a top 10 player?

  • http://dimemag.com zac

    whoever jay is is an idiot cause the blazers have more depth than last year and will b higher up than people think exspecially with canby oden roy pryzbilla batum and bayless playing a full season

  • http://www.areyouretarded.com bostonfan

    ARE RETARDED TAKING GRIZZLIES BEFORE THE ROCKETS WTF!!!! HOW CAN YOU MAKE THAT ASSUMPTION ??? COULD SOMEBODY PLEASE TELL ME ? Any way Suns are going to suck so is New York

  • saul

    With the hornets ownership in dysfunction and CP3 being unhappy, everyone seem to be counting this team out. But I PROMISE YOU, the hornets are GOING TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS. The hornets are going to be the surprise team in the west. please remember where you read this.

  • Atlas

    The Al Jefferson trade has the Jazz contending for home court advantage. They are one of only few teams in the West that have actually improved this summer. I guess this is why writing up a power poll in the middle of the busiest free agency/trading time of the year is a dumb idea.

  • Daniel Marks

    Jazz are now probably into the playoffs with Jefferson but before that I didn’t think they had enough pieces especially with the injury-prone nature of Miles, Kirilenko, and Okur.

    Grizzlies have a very solid team, their entire starting five is returning and they fixed their biggest problem: bench scoring off the bench and they almost made the playoffs last season.

    Also, don’t think Wizards can make the playoffs their division includes Miami, Orlando, Charlotte, and Atlanta which means they have 16 games against those teams. Last 2 seeds in the East are up for grabs pretty much, first 6 teams I think are pretty set.

  • lakshow

    first off, miami will not win the east, boston and chicago is still a better team, the league isnt 3 on 3! them 3 guys, no bench, no pg, no center and you guys give them the crown! you see when things like lebron and bosh going to miami, that really exposes the idiots who dont know basketball!

  • SlimeBucket

    @Daniel, I think you are assuming momentum for the Thunder ala the Hornets when they had a good playoff showing. Outside of Durant and Westbrook they are not that great. And you have the Spurs, Suns, and Jazz(way too low). I wish I could bet money against you. :)

  • j

    Thunder are so so so overrated. Yes they had a good series against LA, but they matched up well there. Compare them to the blazers, who if healthy will be much improved. Look at the big game toward teh end of last year in portland when camby exploded, portland did not have roy and dominated Seattle, oops I mean Oklahoma. I also like what the suns were able to do after losing Amare, i think they can surprise, the Spurs are hard to say they are bad, but if LA can be healthy watch out for the Clippers. They got my prediction for teh rookie of the year, an all star center, a good pg when he is interested, and some good young energy players around. Oh yeah, and i almost forgot UTAH, since it looks like you forgot about them, but i guess this was written before Al jefferson.

  • super j

    These prelim rankings are suspect — both grammatically and realistically. What have the Nuggets and Spurs done to merit being ranked above Utah, except get old? Regardless of the Al Jefferson deal.

    Seriously, the Knicks at #8?

    Please revise this article before your credibility is shot.

    Cheers,
    Your readers

  • MEXICAN wrestler

    so the two best point guards in the league wont be making the playoffs according to this article….sad really, if that ends up being the case

  • Daniel Marks

    This was written before Al Jefferson, thought Utah didn’t have the depth to overcame age and injury before him. Clippers could be dangerous, as could Rockets, and also Grizzlies.

    Thunder will be very good, they are really deep now. Aldrich, Peterson, and Cook can help right away. Also think Byron Mullens and Eric Maynor can be big off the bench this year.

  • laura

    knicks are DEFINITELY not in the playoffs. Amare needs a good point guard to be effective (knicks don’t even have a point guard yet), not to mention the fact that he had possibly the best pg ever helping him on the pick-n-roll. Cavs can sneak in at the eighth spot because i don’t think those guys are gonna give up without lebron. byron scott is known for making teams overachieve

  • KnicksFan

    i hope miami plays NY and dantoni put in ronny turiaf to flip mario charlmers in game 5 while d-wade and LeBron are on the bench. Then they run on court and get suspended for a game then the knicks win that game and the next going in to a crazy game 7

  • LakerLand

    “…and possibly J.J. Redick on their to Chicago the Bulls will be very deep and very talented…” -Lol

  • Jazzman

    No Jazz in top 8 of west huh… You may wanna re-think that one and put them near the top.

  • Matt

    28 years, 27 winning seasons, 3 times missed playoffs.

    I’m sorry, but the Jazz are one of those teams that no matter what happens, will make the playoffs every year if they have a point guard of Deron Williams caliber and Jerry Sloan on the bench. Will they win the title? not unless they upgrade significantly, but 50-55 wins? without a doubt.

    Rockets will also have Yao back, and lets face it, he puts them in a position to make the playoffs.

    Also, I don’t see the nuggets as a top three team. They fell apart without Karl last year and you could truly see that as a team they didn’t care for each other, and now that it has been exposed, I just think the implosion will continue, even with Karl back on the sidelines.

  • USA Basketball

    i think boston slips alot more this year than whats posted in this article. they’re the east coast spurs because of age. they let tony allen walk? he was posey pt. deux minus 3pt shot. boston needs youth and energy guys to take load of off “the old 3″ or “los tres viejos” cuz the east is reloaded even knicks have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs. even teams that aren’t in the eastern conference discussion r gonna make it a tough season like the NETS (yeah i said it) the wizards minus arenas “should” be fun 2 watch but just like doug collins has more young talent than they know what 2 do with. hated collins as a commentator and the hate grows w/him going to a talented young team like philly. some underrated ballers on both squads.

  • Keyon dooling

    FEAR THE DEER!!! We will win the division.

  • Ron G

    did anyone really watch basketball last year. New York in the playoffs, not likely. Amare is not much of an upgrade to Lee, if at all. Randolph was let go because they were disappointed in him. You don’t get into the playoffs without at least two prominent players or at least a good point guard.
    New york and their fans are fooling themselves and must have not watched how much better the suns sometimes played without Amare. Half their games were won because the defensive bench came in and got them back into it. Everyone else is just average. Utah and Chicago seem to not get noticed, and whomever it was going on about the Suns being over and Portland being dominant, write back in a year from now. NO one seems to realize yet the suns are improved without Amare and Portland did very little to improve. They are a team that will lack maturity to get to the next level for a few more years. If you look back on the power rankings for the past few years, most experts should laugh at themselves.

  • http://wsdmail.net Bball

    Jazz not in the playoffs? Since when did that happen? Al jefferson, Raja Bell and not to mention their number nine draft pick Gordon Hayward. I mean come on, this team will get the three seed or higher I garantee it. Did you see D-will against the nuggets in the first round. He didn’t even need Boozer, Okur, or Kirelinko (however you spell his name.)

  • the man

    hummmmmmmm you got the mephis and jazz and thunder in there lets see houston rockets almost beat the lakers with no yao hummmm and they want make it to playoffs hahah lol lol obvisouly u have no idea what u are doing ,brooks shouldve of been an allstar, scola shouldve of been an allstar, k-mart, ariza, and not to mention yao ming and not even talking about the back ups we got battier, lowry that cleveland tried to steal, jordin hill the draft pick we stole from knicks #8 overall,budinger true shooter, recent backup brad miller hahaha who does these things

  • the man

    ohhh and not to mention we are killing the summer league right now with are bench players lol patrick patterson born scoring and rebounder for #14th pick from ketucky do some you tubing on him lol mephis in the playoffs hahahahah

  • the man

    who in the hell will have the knicks going to playoffs they have nothing but amare he will take the place of that only guy on there team that was good and white power forward who went to golden state they have no chance winning 30 games

  • the man

    i think the rockets have the best gm in the game morey he is bullying the nba right now the rockets have built a team not a stardom which people think that wins championships

  • Jeff

    I usually don’t post on websites like this, but honestly, not having the Rockets OR the Jazz in the West playoffs is absolutely ridiculous.

    The Jazz are always in the hunt, albeit this year, obviously not a championship team without Korver or Boozer.

    And of course, the Rockets… you know, that team that stretched the Lakers to 7 games last year WITHOUT Yao Ming… the team that has the most heart in the league, and the best GM. The rockets have also set themselves up for years to come, with all the high draft picks they’ve shored up, and still having a good roster for the upcoming season.

    I was expecting a rank between 3 and 6 for both teams, but having the Grizzlies above both of them is a joke.

  • T-Man

    No jazz in the top 8. WOW!! with the best point guard, Jerry Sloan ,and now we have big Al. the jazz in going to be good as hell. Even before they where still way good.