Power Rankings: Lakers still on top
It's not easy being you.
You just had to slog through 165 days -- five months and 12 days -- without a fresh helping of ESPN.com's NBA Power Rankings.
We mercifully end the drought on this very good Friday to coincide with the four teams that have exhibition games overseas this season (Chicago, Denver, Indiana and Utah) holding their annual media days and starting practices this weekend. The other 26 teams are scheduled to open training camps either Monday or Tuesday.
The new season starts with the defending champions accorded the standard respect here by returning to the rankings in the top spot. Yet the Los Angeles Lakers also find themselves in a loaded top 5, with each of those teams seemingly capable of winning it all but all five likewise confronted by major unknowns whether it's Ron Artest's willingness to blend in with the champs in L.A., Vince Carter's ability to replicate Hedo Turkoglu's success in Orlando, Shaquille O'Neal's effectiveness as LeBron James' sidekick, or the health questions that persist about Boston's Kevin Garnett and San Antonio's Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
For the purposes of review, allow me to pass along my usual reminder that the season's first batch of rankings measures each team's standing and outlook heading into camp. It is not (repeat, not) a firm predicted order of finish. How last season ended and how good a team is projected to be in 2009-10 are big parts of the equation at this early stage, but how each team fared in its summertime dealings factors in as well, along with the usual dash of totally subjective whim from the committee (of one).
The next batch will appear Oct. 26, on the eve of opening night, after all 30 teams have had a month to show us something. You then can click here every Monday throughout the regular season for our human, thoroughly nonautomated taking of the pulse of the league. You can also rank the teams yourself or click here to comment on the first set.
Editor's note: "Last Week" and "Record" categories are from the final Power Rankings of the 2008-09 regular season.