Another week of NBA action brings us an all new batch of Power Rankings. Was an 11-game winning streak enough to help the Spurs knock the Lakers off the top spot in the Rankings? How much of a tumble did the Heat take after back-to-back losses to non-playoff teams? And how high did a Thunder win in Boston minus Kevin Durant propell OKC? Scroll down and find out where your team stands in this weeks Power Rankings, let the debate begin!
30. Philadelphia 76ers (3-11)
29. Houston Rockets (3-10)
28. Los Angeles Clippers (2-13)
27. Minnesota Timberwolves (4-11)
26. Detroit Pistons (5-9)
25. Charlotte Bobcats (5-9)
24. Sacramento Kings (5-9)
23. Toronto Raptors (5-9)
22. New Jersey Nets (5-9)
21. Memphis Grizzlies (5-9)
20. Milwaukee Bucks (5-8)
19. Washington Wizards (5-8)
18. Cleveland Cavaliers (5-8)
17. Phoenix Suns (7-7)
16. Golden State Warriors (7-7)
15. New York Knicks (7-8) –
After completing a 3-1 West Coast swing and riding a four-game winning streak, the Knicks make their first appearance in the top 15 this season. Despite allowing Blake Griffin to make about 17 posters in their win against the Clippers, the Knicks have actually looked pretty good in winning their past four. While the competition (Kings/Warriors/Clippers/Bobcats) hasn’t exactly been the toughest, the Knicks offense seems to be clicking on all cylinders, scoring at least 110 in all those games, including two games over 120. In the top-heavy East, New York just needs to continue to play a little better than .500 ball to sneak into the playoffs for the first time since the 03-04 season.
14. Atlanta Hawks (8-7) –
Things just keep getting worse for Atlanta, who is just 2-7 after a 6-0 start, including three straight losses. After losing a hard-fought home game against the Mavs, Atlanta no-showed in a blow-out loss to the Rondo-less Celtics, then lost in overtime to the Nets a night later. After not making any real moves to get better in the off-season, the Hawks have struggled recently, with key players such as Joe Johnson, Jamal Crawford and Mike Bibby looking suddenly older and slower. Johnson especially has not delivered after signing his huge deal in the off-season, only leading the Hawks in scoring once since a home-loss to Phoenix a few weeks ago, and hitting bottom with a six-point performance in the loss to Boston.
13. Indiana Pacers (7-6) –
Funny what a blowout win over the Heat will do for you in the rankings. After spending most of the season with a winning record, the Pacers put it together and throttled Lebron and Co. down in Miami and vaulted up the rankings into our top 15. Danny Granger has become one of the best outside threats in the league, hitting four or more 3’s an NBA-leading five times already this season. The biggest surprise for the Pacers however has been Roy Hibbert’s play in the post. The second-year man is averaging 15 points, 9 rebounds and over two blocks per game for Indiana.
12. Denver Nuggets (8-6) –
Are the wheels finally starting to come off in Denver? Carmelo Anthony has started to go through stretches where he looks disinterested, dreaming of the bright lights of New York. Chauncey Billups looks like age is finally starting to catch up with him, shooting worse than he has for the better part of a decade this season. JR Smith, the supposed Sixth Man of the Year candidate, is shooting so poorly that he’s having trouble getting off the bench because, well he can’t do much besides shoot. Denver has two tough home-games remaining this week against the Bulls and Suns that could see them drop to .500 if they don’t pick it up.
11. Miami Heat (8-6) –
The drama that is the Heat took another turn for the worse this week, after a buzzer-beating loss to the Grizzlies, Miami no-showed in a surprising 16-point home loss to the Pacers (!) a couple of nights later. With the news that Udonis Haslem may be out the rest of the season, it seems like things could continue to take a turn for the worst. Miami has a huge test tonight in a road-game against the Magic. The Heat can do one of two things tonight, win and silence their doubters (for now) or lose and hear the critics chirping even louder. Speculation of a Pat Riley move to the bench will continue to affect coach Erik Spoelstra, and while it’s definitely not too late for them, the Heat will need all the help they can get to turn this thing around.
10. Portland Trailblazers (8-6) –
Despite the injuries that continue to kill team morale, the Blazers are right in the thick of the West playoff race, for now. After a tough home game against the Hornets, Portland will head out on a four-game road trip that includes a stop in Boston. Portland has the depth on its roster to be able to withstand some injuries for a while, and as long as their young players continue to step up they will not fall out of the playoff race. While injuries may yet again prevent this team from being a title contender, they will not prevent the Blazers from being in every game they play.
9. Dallas Mavericks (9-4) –
Dallas heads into a big game tonight against the Thunder that will tell us a lot about how far this team has come from last season’s playoff debacle. The Mavs have underachieved against weaker competition, as evidenced by their home-loss to the Grizz and their struggles with the Pistons last night. Dirk Nowitzki had to bail Dallas out with 42 points in a harder-than-it-should-have-been 88-84 win over Detroit. The Mavs have the talent, but their two biggest acquisitions at last season’s deadline, Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood, have struggled so far this season. Who would have thought that Deshawn Stevenson would be the best player from that trade for the Mavs this year?
8. Orlando Magic (9-4) –
The Magic are a team with a good record, but who also seems to be underachieving. Role players such as Rashard Lewis and JJ Redick are struggling to find their shooting touch, and giving very little, if any, support to the rest of the team. This is unacceptable for two guys taking up so much cap space, especially for Lewis who is the second-highest paid player in the NBA today. Like Miami, Orlando has a chance to silence a lot of critics and firmly place themselves in the discussion of title-contenders with a win tonight against their in-state rivals. Revenge will also be on the Magic’s mind after the embarrassment they suffered at the hands of the Heat in an early-season loss.
7. Chicago Bulls (7-5) –
After finally getting to sit down and watch the Bulls play a complete game last night against the Lakers, I can confidently say that this team will be able to compete with anyone in the Eastern Conference come playoff time. And that’s before we even see how much better Carlos Boozer will make this team. Derrick Rose is playing at an MVP-level and teaming with Joakim Noah to provide a great pick and roll duo. This team plays as hard as any team in the league, and they will be a very tough out come playoff time. Chicago gave the Lakers all they could handle in Los Angeles, and if we are learning anything from this squad on their extended Western swing it’s that they are ready to become an elite team.
6. Utah Jazz (10-5) –
The Jazz followed up their very successful road-trip with a disappointing 1-2 homestand. The last loss at home to the Spurs was especially bad for the Jazz because it was viewed by many as a measuring stick to see where Utah stood in the West. The Spurs got off to a quick start, leading by as many as 15, and unlike their road games the week before, the Jazz were unable to complete the comeback. Deron Williams and Paul Millsap continue to play at an All-Star level, and should Mehmet Okur return at full-strength and they can get Al Jefferson to adjust sooner rather than later, this team will have the size inside to compete with the Lakers.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder (10-4) –
After a lethargic 5-4 start under the weight of great expectations, the Thunder have reeled off five consecutive wins, including an impressive road win over the Celtics without Kevin Durant (more on that later). I mentioned it last week but it has to be said again, Russell Westbrook has become one of the top point guards in the NBA today, period. The Thunder have two bonafide stars on their roster, as was evidenced by Westbrook absolutely dominating Rajon Rondo to the tune of 31 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds. Something to take away from the games OKC played without Durant is how good James Harden looked. He finally showed some of that offensive potential the Thunder saw when they drafted him, and it will be interesting to see how OKC goes about incorporating him into the offense more, because he is clearly more than just a spot-up shooter.
4. Boston Celtics (10-4) –
What to make of the past week for Boston? They started off by losing to the Kevin Durant-less Thunder at home, then dropping a road game to the Raptors two nights later, and ended the week with a blowout win in Atlanta without Rajon Rondo. As the win against the Hawks shows, talent is not an issue with this deep roster. The issue may be focus, as evidenced by the two losses they suffered during the week. It seemed like the Celtics took the Thunder and Raptors lightly, and they couldn’t recover in time to win those games. This is no doubt one of the top three teams in the NBA, but they will have a few surprising games if they keep showing a lack of focus against lesser competition.
3. New Orleans Hornets (11-2) –
Quick show of hands, how many of you predicted the Hornets starting the season 11-1? Okay better question, how many of you predicted the 11-1 Hornets losing to the 1-13 Clippers? Thus is the season of the Hornets in a nutshell. They shocked everyone with their hot start, then shocked everyone again by losing to the lowly Clippers. Although I must admit, I was pleased that my prediction of a Clipper win came true. Regardless of that set-back, the Hornets remain one of the hottest teams in the league. They handed the Spurs their only loss this season and seem to be clicking on all cylinders early. If MVP-candidate Chris Paul can keep his team playing at this level all season, we may have a surprise contender in the West this spring.
2. San Antonio Spurs (12-1) –
There is inevitably going to be a back-lash from keeping the Spurs out of the top spot, and before you flip out I ask you a simple question. Did you ever expect the Spurs to compete for the top spot this season? Yeah, me neither. The fact that the Spurs sit at 12-1 is one of the more impressive things you’ll see this season. They have quieted all of the pundits who said this aging team could no longer compete in an NBA with so many loaded teams at the top. The most surprising thing about this Spurs team is that they’re winning games by being an offensive juggernaut as opposed to the defensive team we’ve become accustomed to seeing. The trail only the Lakers in points per game so far this season, averaging nearly 108 per contest despite minimal contributions from Tim Duncan.
1. Los Angeles Lakers (13-2) –
Yes, despite the Spurs being on an 11-game winning streak, the Lakers are still the top team in the Power Rankings for the fourth consecutive week. Why you ask? Is it because I’m just a homer? Well, sort of, but that’s not why the Champs sit atop the rankings. Anyone who watched last night’s Lakers-Bulls game knows two things for sure. First, Derrick Rose is an absolute monster. Second, this Lakers team is deeper than the last two teams that won the title, and that’s without Andrew Bynum having played a second this season.
The Lakers biggest weakness a year ago, their bench, may now be the teams biggest strength, as evidenced by the fourth quarter last night when The Killer B’s (Brown/Blake/Barnes) put away the Bulls. Shannon Brown alone finished with 21, including five 3’s. The Laker offense is playing at record-setting levels, with five players in the top 20 in 3-point shooting, including four in the top ten.