1. Miami Heat
If you were expecting somebody other than Miami to be residing atop these rankings, you’ve been living in a dark cave in Mongolia for the past two seasons. They have one of the top coaches in the league masterminding an elite offensive and defensive unit. They also have the best player the league has seen since Jordan’s mid-1990s heyday.
This summer was a simple case of consolidation. They lost Mike Miller via the amnesty clause in an effort to hold off the punitive luxury tax, though they did pull off two very shrewd business moves: inking Greg Oden to a veteran’s minimum contract and Michael Beasley. Both are low-risk, high-reward additions. Oden hasn’t played since December 5th 2009 as he has battled various knee injuries since being taken #1 overall in the 2007 draft and Beasley is a proven scorer with off-court issues which have held him back since he was picked second overall in 2008.
2. Chicago Bulls
Derrick Rose is back, did you hear? He’s come back and he’s not happy with anybody who said he’d take time to shake off the rust. Two-thirds of the way through the preseason his PER sat at 39.43. LeBron James led the NBA with a PER of 27.65 last season. Jordan’s highest ever was a touch higher, 29.71. Even Wilt Chamberlain’s laughable 1962-63 season in which he averaged 44 points and 24 rebounds registered 31.8.
Of course, Rose won’t play at this level all season, however should he keep playing at a superstar level as he has proven he still can, the Bulls are poised as likely the best-placed team to knock off the Heat in the playoffs. They added depth this summer, picking up Mike Dunleavy Jr and drafting Tony Snell, both able to spell Luol Deng and hopefully make his 40-minute nights a rarer occurrence. Jimmy Butler will start alongside Rose following his breakout year and holding his own against LeBron James in the playoffs.
Really though, their big addition was the return of Rose. Now if only Joakim Noah could stay healthy.