Houston, New Orleans and Oklahoma City are meeting the media Friday. The NBA's other 27 teams open for business Monday.
So it's time!
Time for the return of ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings, with your faithful Committee of One back to oversee the ladder for its 15th successive season.
LeBron James and his title-winning Cavaliers -- how does that sound, Cleveland? -- naturally start out on top, upholding our longstanding tradition which mandates that the No. 1 spot must be where the defending champions open. That means Golden State, fresh off becoming the first team in ESPN history to sit atop this poll from wire-to-wire last season, must settle for No. 2, launching our first good rankings debate of the new season.
Friendly annual reminder: Our Training Camp edition of the rankings is not meant to be a predicted order of finish in each conference. This introductory batch gives significant weight to a team's personnel successes (or failures) from the summer -- as well as any injuries -- when sorting the 1-to-30 order. Which should explain, for example, why Oklahoma City has tumbled to No. 10 after losing Kevin Durant in free agency. Or why Miami, no longer home to Dwyane Wade and facing an uncertain future given the status of Chris Bosh, opens at No. 20.
The Cavs are the NBA's reigning champs, which should provide enough justification for seasoned Power Rankings consumers to explain why the Warriors, even after landing Kevin Durant, and thus winning the offseason, open one notch lower than they're so used to. And you should also note that the Cavs return almost intact, offsetting the departures of Timofey Mozgov and Matthew Dellavedova with the handy acquisition of Mike Dunleavy (and assuming J.R. Smith will soon re-sign).
The regular season is obviously important because the Warriors and their superstar quartet need as much time as they can muster to build chemistry. But the regular season also threatens to be somewhat meaningless for the Dubs, since there's little they can do over the next 82 games to impress us after 73-9 failed to add up to a championship. The ride from now 'til April will be long, strange and chaotic.
Did the Committee really see ESPN'er and trusted pal @adamreisinger suggest that the Spurs are headed for a crash to their first sub-50-win season in what seems like forever? Not ready to go that far here, but a decline of sorts from a franchise-record 67 wins into the 50s seems unavoidable as we all face the mammoth adjustment of learning to function without Timothy Theodore Duncan.
Is this the second-best team in the West? Is the gap between the Warriors and Clippers/Spurs so dramatic that we shouldn't even bother asking? Do we need to include the obligatory line you're supposed to throw out about the Clips at the start of every season about how the Chris Paul-Blake Griffin-DeAndre Jordan trio better win ... or else? We wish the Clips' offseason inspired fresher questions, but it didn't.
A year ago we were touting Boston as a viable surprise pick for Atlantic Division supremacy. The Raps let us know what they thought about that by winning a franchise-best 56 games and hanging in there all the way until Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. So the least we can do is start them out at No. 2 in the East this time. Especially after the productive summer for gold medalists Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
Restlessness among Celtics fans is tangible, but we're not quite sure why. Boston officially left the Free Agents Never Choose Us club with the marquee signing of Al Horford and still has lots of trade chips to put into play. I'd venture to say most teams out there would trade places with Danny Ainge, whose Celts -- don't forget -- also still happen to reside in the East. Life is pretty good in green.
Folks tend to forget just how consistently good Utah was for the better part of two decades with that Karl Malone-John Stockton-Jerry Sloan foundation, but I'm not sure I've ever been more intrigued by a Jazz team than this one. Adding Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw and George Hill, along with a healed Dante Exum, to what the Jazz already had makes them the scariest of the West's up-and-comers.
Mike Conley emerging as the highest-paid player in NBA history? Chandler Parsons vacating his (virtual) assistant GM role in Dallas to join his third Southwest Division team in four seasons? Committee fave Nick Van Exel coaching alongside new boss David Fizdale? Age and health remain major question marks in Memphis, but the Griz will be an irresistible watch because of those first three sentences ... at least to us.
Did we learn our lesson from last season? That's what Blazermaniacs will surely be wondering when they hear we're lukewarm on the nearly $300 million Portland spent this offseason. The Blazers made a lot of experts look foolish in 2015-16, so maybe they'll do it again, but expectations might also be rising too quickly in the Pacific Northwest. How much help did Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Terry Stotts really get?
Question: How wounded were Oklahomans by Kevin Durant's departure? Answer: They celebrated what might be only one extra season of Russell Westbrook as if it were a championship. Plenty of uncertainty about the future remains, but let's also be clear: Our respect for Angry Russ is such that we still expect the Thunder, thanks to some typically Presti-esque tweaks around him, to make a run at 50 wins even without KD.
The Committee still ain't sold on Indy swapping out Frank Vogel for Nate McMillan -- not at all -- but there also isn't an executive alive who cares less about what external know-it-alls think than Larry Legend. The Pacers' summer shakeup was so uncharacteristically dramatic that we'll just sit back now and watch how Nate, Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young and Al Jefferson all settle in around Paul George.
We're all on the same quest in the East. We're all on the lookout for a team or two that can legitimately prevent a third successive Cleveland trip to the Finals that again looks like such an inevitability. Nominating the Hawks to do just that means you think Dwight Howard and a promoted Dennis Schroder can give Atlanta more than Al Horford and Jeff Teague did. We're trying to talk ourselves into it.
Can't remember the last time you could ask this same question in the East and the West: Who's the fourth-best team in the conference? Yet it's an anomaly that represents a grand opportunity for Stan Van Gundy's Pistons, who just snapped a run of seven successive seasons with a losing record by going 44-38 and, according to ESPN Forecast, start the new season as a favorite to snag the East's fourth seed.
Death, taxes, these Power Rankings ... and Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas. Four things you can always count on. It's going to be a big adjustment for all of us -- life without Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan; new teams for Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade -- but Dirk continues to hang in there gamely with a franchise that, like it or not, is also becoming increasingly known for its Plan B offseasons.
Dwight Howard-bashers will tell you the Rockets are poised for improvement based purely on an addition-by-subtraction basis. Not so fast. For all our years of unabashed Mike D'Antoni fandom, we have to ask: You're sure that the boost James Harden gets from the D'Antoni Effect offensively can offset all the problems this Houston roster is going to have guarding people?
The season begins with only three West teams you'd confidently classify as 50-win material, which is the lowest number we can remember for ages. The flip side: Portland, Utah and these Wolves have pundits everywhere gushing about how big a jump they're about to make. New boss Tom Thibodeau will naturally try to temper expectations, but who's going to stay rational about Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins?
Exactly how much has Charlotte lost through the exits of Al Jefferson, Courtney Lee and Jeremy Lin? ESPN Forecast pegs the Hornets to win 43 games -- down from 48 last season -- while the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook tagged them with an over/under of just 39.5 wins. What seems clear, whichever projection you prefer, is that the Hornets' top-eight status in the East is under threat on top of losing February's All-Star Game.
The legit June whisper going around was that the Bulls were planning a quiet July. Instead they wound up finally acquiring Dwyane Wade -- six years after they first tried -- to conclusively win the subsequent news conference. But can they win actual games with a Jimmy Butler/D-Wade/Rajon Rondo core? And when their coach ranks as their best outside shooter? Put us firmly in the camp with all the other skeptics.
Scott Brooks isn't easily fazed; don't forget he once endured a 3-29 start to the season in his early OKC days. But his new gig sure won't be an easy one. Not when it begins with fresh questions about how well Washington's backcourt stars mesh ... questions curiously raised by John Wall himself. Wasn't getting spurned in free agency by local product Kevin Durant supposed to be the low point of the summer?
With such a fancy training camp location -- Atlantic Paradise Island Resort in the Bahamas! -- Miami clearly rejects the notion that this is no longer one of the league's glamour teams. But who really knows what to expect from what's left of the Heat in Year 1 post-Wade? I frankly never thought Dwyane Wade would leave and don't know what to think now until we know more about Chris Bosh's availability.
National broadcasters seem to believe in Phil Jackson's offseason, given the 22 games the Knicks will have on ESPN, ABC or TNT compared to seven last season. Your faithful Committee, by contrast, prefers to reserve judgment, with just too many valid questions about how much Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah have left to be the Knicks' new chief sidekicks flanking Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis.
Jittery Bucks fans don't have to worry about us getting carried away with our projections like we did in this cyberspace a year ago. Not after the Khris Middleton injury news; Milwaukee was outscored by 12.6 points per 100 possessions with Middleton off the court last season. The afterglow emanating from Giannis Antetokounmpo's $100 million contract extension lasted all of three days.
Our own Zach Lowe recently tried to make sense of Orlando's overload of big men and the new arrival -- Frank Vogel -- who has to sort it all out. It's really no clearer, two months since Zach's deep dive, if the Magic can bring a halt to their four-season playoff drought, but we know this much: Vogel's plan to use Aaron Gordon "like Paul George" at small forward makes it a story worth tracking.
Goal No. 1, of course, is seeing Anthony Davis crack the 70-game plateau for the first time in his career. The grander goal would then be climbing back into the West's top eight and resurrecting the momentum that the Pels were mounting after The Brow's third season, when they made the playoffs before hiring Alvin Gentry away from Golden State to unleash Davis. Jrue Holiday's availability is obviously another huge variable.
The opening of the new Golden 1 Center should at least temporarily revitalize Sacramento's playoffs-starved fan base and might even spawn a second honeymoon period for owner Vivek Ranadive. How long any of that lasts, though, remains to be seen, with all eyes on star big man DeMarcus Cousins and new coach Dave Joerger -- and how they click -- as well as the Rudy Gay saga and Cousins' ongoing lack of a true top-shelf sidekick.
The Nuggets did try to barge their way into the D-Wade Sweepstakes but ultimately head to training camp with five players 21 or younger: Nikola Jokic, Emmanuel Mudiay, Juan Hernangomez, Malik Beasley and Jamal Murray. Since we all know youth doesn't win in the NBA, brace for lots of losses in Denver to go with all the trade rumors about the Nuggets packaging some of those pieces into a deal for a true cornerstone.
Devin Booker, Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss ... much of what we said about the Nuggets applies to the Suns, too. Are they going to go slow and build around their three prized youngsters? Or will they instead try to pool their assets -- either some of those newer ones or vets such as Tyson Chandler and either Eric Bledsoe or Brandon Knight -- to make some significant deals? These are questions you'll hear from now through the February trade deadline.
A long Year 1 back in Lakerland awaits rookie coach Luke Walton -- brutally long if you believe the oddsmakers whose livelihoods depend on getting these forecasts right. The Lakers' over/under via Vegas going into training camp, with all that youth on their first Kobe Bryant-less roster in two decades, is 24.5 wins, according to the Las Vegas Westgate SuperBook ... three fewer than the Sixers' projected 27.5.
This season marks the 50-year anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain's 68-13 Sixers of 1966-67. It's also the start of a new era in Philly, with Ben Simmons ranking as the undisputed Rookie of the Year favorite and what was affectionately known as "The Process" now a memory. Are we getting ahead of ourselves to be swept up in all that romanticism and start these guys higher than No. 30? You really expected otherwise?
All of the wise, measured moves we've seen from Sean Marks since the affable Kiwi assumed control of Brooklyn's front office can't change the reality that the Nets, until they prove otherwise, look like the weakest team in the league's weakest division. As much as we'd love to give bonus points for our fond memories of Olympic chats with new Net Luis Scola, or our longstanding belief that Jeremy Lin is underrated, we can't.
PS -- The next edition of the rankings hits Oct. 24, on the eve of Opening Night, with peerless data and background material provided, as always, by ESPN Stats & Information and the Elias Sports Bureau. Then we'll meet up back here every Monday during the regular season to take the pulse of all 30 teams, relying on our trusty formula that weighs what's happening in the present against that team's big-picture outlook for the season, while always allowing for a dash of subjective whim.