The defending champs, as always, start out at No. 1 in the opening night edition of our weekly, fully non-automated pulse check of the league,
2008-09 Power Rankings: Preseason
1. Celtics 66-16 He hasn't done too much in Charlotte, but Michael Jordan has fired up at least one Celtic amid all those doubts about Boston's hunger to repeat. Sayeth Ray Allen: ''MJ told me when you win one, you've just [been] lucky.''
2. Lakers 57-25 The Lakers were a popular choice to win it all even before Lamar Odom was shifted to sixth man. If that move works, they might even live up to such lofty billing.
3. Hornets 56-26 Too soon to say Posey's arrival is already paying off? The Hornets have already won something -- they were preseason ''champs'' at 7-0 -- and are third favorites to win it all according to the league's annual survey of GMs.
4. Cavaliers 45-37 Q: Why are folks like me making such a big deal about the Mo Williams acquisition? A: Because LeBron's Cavs took Boston to seven games in the second round without a No. 2 scorer/shooter in Williams' class.
5. Spurs 56-26 Is Pop's long, gray, unruly beard meant to mock folks who have written off the Spurs as too old? Better question: Have you considered how dangerous they might be if Manu is healed and rested come playoff time?
6. Rockets 55-27 Who knows how many games T-Mac, Yao and Ron-Ron actually play together? But I question anyone saying Artest might mess up Houston's chemistry. Mess up what? Rockets haven't won a playoff series since 1997.
7. Pistons 59-23 Who doesn't think the Pistons are slipping? In that league survey of GMs, more than half (55.6 percent) picked the team that didn't make a major offseason move over Cleveland (44.4 percent) to win the Central Division.
8. 76ers 40-42 Funny old game, isn't it? You can go to Duke, go No. 1 overall in the draft, play in major media markets with the Bulls and Clips . . . and you can still, as Elton Brand would tell you, find a whole new level of scrutiny in Philly.
9. Jazz 54-28 An early injury scare with D-Will isn't the best of starts, but he's the last guy I'd worry about in Jazz country. Far bigger question marks, to me, are Utah's suspect D and the pitfalls of having eight potential free agents.
10. Mavericks 51-31 Just thinking out loud (again): If they won 51 games last season when everyone in Mavsland was so miserable, shouldn't we hold off on all those obituaries until we see how the Mavs look (and feel) under Carlisle?