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NBA power rankings 2012: Knicks, Nets one spot apart as season starts

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The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets should have a healthy crosstown rivalry in their first year in the same city, as both teams are expected to contend in the Eastern Conference.

Al Bello

Thursday night's season opener between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets is more than just the start of the season and a brand new crosstown rivalry: It also should be a pretty good game, at least if SB Nation's NBA power rankings are right.

Each team is expected to be a contender in the Eastern Conference, as the Knicks clocked in at No. 11 with the Nets at No. 12. New York has been a playoff squad for two years, since the acquisitions of Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, although this year's squad features a whole cast of older players joining the squad for the first time or returning after nearly decade-long gaps. Stoudemire's absence is an issue for the Knicks, as the power forward is one of several players already injured and will miss the start of the season. Seth Rosenthal emphasized the importance of the veteran squad's health heading into the year.

An offense with healthy, functional point guards and a healthy, functional Carmelo Anthony (possibly spending some time at the four) should climb out of the bottom third and meet the D halfway. Mike Woodson will make certain these Knicks play deliberate, ugly basketball, but that doesn't mean it won't be effective.

As for the Nets, a new look matches a new lineup, that adds Joe Johnson to a starting five that already featured Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez. They looked good in the preseason and should continue to do work as the year begins:

A squad with so many new faces could take some time to establish roles and delegate responsibility, and there's a possibility that Avery Johnson isn't the ideal coach for this group. In any event, the first unit is monstrous -- especially if Brook Lopez can pull together a full year of production -- and the bench might prove deeper than it looks.

The two teams tip off their season at the Barclays Center Thursday night.