You may as well play Whodini’s ‘Rumors’ in the background of this week’s rankings, as that definitely seems to be the theme around the NBA. We heard rumors of the pending sale of the Sacramento Kings that could potentially end with the franchise being relocated to Seattle, Wa. There have been all types of rumors surrounding the availability of players such as Rudy Gay (Grizzlies), Pau Gasol (Lakers), and Tayshawn Prince (Pistons). There have even been rumors of an All Star break return for Andrew Bynum, the Philadelphia 76ers’ biggest off-season acquisition.
Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, LeBron James
#1 Los Angeles Clippers (Last week- 1): Not only are the Clippers the best team in the league, but their roster depth permits them to continue playing dominant basketball even in the absence of MVP-candidate Chris Paul. LAC went into Houston and Memphis on back-to-back nights sans Paul and won by an average of 15 points.
#2 Oklahoma City Thunder (2): KD’s name has been left out of the MVP discussion for much of the year. His recent stretch of 34.2 PPG, 6.4 rebs, 4.8 asts, and 1.8 blocks per game (last five) should remind folks of just how much his game has developed and how dominant this (recently less) silent assassin can be. OKC goes on the road for 8-10.
#3 San Antonio Spurs (3): The fact that San Antonio has recently been ‘treading water’ shouldn’t surprise anyone. Coach Popovich is a master at monitoring minutes and pacing the Spurs throughout the month of January in anticipation of the annual Rodeo Trip that kicks off the month of February. Expect much of the same with San Antonio next stretch of four games in six nights.
#4 Miami Heat (4): Even though they’ve recently struggled, the Heat remain the top seed out East. With 40+ games to address their issues, it actually might take a roster move (or two) to correct the rebounding and interior issues they have. They’ve been out-rebounded in five of their previous six losses, and by double-digits in a majority of those. Back-to-back on the road vs. the Warriors and Lakers could be very telling.
#5 Denver Nuggets (N/A): After a surprisingly slow start, the Nuggets have gone on a 13-4 run that resembles the team we all expected. Coach Karl utilizes depth and interchangeable players as well as any coach. This week should be interesting, as the Nuggets sandwich a visit from John Wall and the Wizards with a home-and-home with the top-seeded OKC Thunder.
#6 Memphis Grizzlies (8): For a team that has become a perennial threat at being top-4 seed, it has been a bit surprising to have hear the rumors of both Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph being on the trading block. It’s possible, they want to address the ball-stopping redundancy issue both players are guilty of contributing to, but I just find it difficult to believe they would truly consider moving both.
#7 New York Knicks (6): At just 4-5 since Raymond Felton went down with an injury, it isn’t a mystery why the Knicks are suddenly struggling. Amar’e is still playing limited playing time, but it will be interesting to see how the Knicks respond to the eventual returns of Felton and Iman Shumpert.
#8 Brooklyn Nets (N/A): Whether you agreed with Avery Johnson’s firing, fact is, the Nets are as hot as any team (9-1) in the league under P.J. Carlesimo. Much like the Knicks have shown under Mike Woodson, sometimes a different “voice” can get through to the same group of players. The next two weeks should give us some true insight into Brooklyn’s ultimate place in the Eastern Conference hierarchy.
#9 Golden State Warriors (5): Dropping three of four games is no way to head into what will likely be the most difficult 15-game stretch of the season, but if the Warriors are to develop into a true playoff threat they’ll have to find a way to stay on pace. At about 21 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds per game, Stephen Curry could be on his way to his first All Star appearance.
#10 Indiana Pacers (N/A): Much like what has taken place in Denver, the Pacers have overcome a surprisingly slow start to go on a 14-4 run of their own. Paul George’s game has finally developed along with his 6’8″ frame, as the 3rd year small forward has some NBA insiders whispering about the availability of a suddenly expendable Danny Granger.