MVP Race: LeBron James is the best player in the league, Tony Parker is the best player on the team with the best record, and Chris Paul is technically the most valuable player to his team’s success. Depending upon your definition of ‘MVP’…take your pick.
Rookie Watch: Damian Lillard will be the rookie of the year. Mark it down, dude.
#1 Miami Heat 40-14 (Last Week- 2): Yes, I realize they have the third most wins, but that is far less relevant in terms of power rankings. The defending champs are currently playing the best basketball in the league. The question I’m left asking: Is there a team in the Eastern Conference that is going to give a healthy Miami team a serious enough challenge in the playoffs?
#2 San Antonio Spurs 45-13 (1): The Spurs remain the best team out West, regardless of being leapfrogged by the Heat in these rankings. In fact, even though they are 17-3 over their last 20 games, no one wants to talk about them. If healthy in April, is there a team out West that can prevent them Duncan from having a shot at his 5th title?
#3 Los Angeles Clippers 40-18 (4): Chirs Paul’s overall impact goes beyond the measurables. The questions regarding their interior toughness in a playoff series against teams with a low post presence remain, but these Clippers will still run most teams off the court if Paul is permitted to dictate tempo.
#4 Oklahoma City Thunder 41-15 (3): Not taking anything away from the remarkable seasons of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but the Thunder don’t have quite the same look as last year. I know that may be the unpopular opinion, and goes against the grain…but I tend to avoid drinking the Kool Aid, and I have to call it like I see it. They miss Harden’s playmaking ability and ability to help defend the stronger swingmen.
#5 Denver Nuggets 36-22 (5): The addition of Andre Iguodala was precisely what the Nuggets needed to add to a sneakily deep, young roster. Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, and Kenneth Faried round out a solid core of players, and each are 25-years-old or younger.
#6 Indiana Pacers 35-21 (8): Depending upon how the Pacers are able to incorporate a returning Danny Granger, they may be the answer to that question of which team can potentially challenge Miami in the postseason. Paul George’s emergence, David West’s resurgence, and the steady play they receive from George Hill have some folks already considering them a contender.
#7 Memphis Grizzlies 37-18 (6): I’m never one to penalize a team for simply playing the schedule that is placed before them, and winning seven consecutive games is a positive thing regardless of the opponent, but it has to be taken into account when ranking them. That said, could Zach Randolph may have been right when said the Grizzlies could eventually be better without Gay?
#8 New York Knicks 33-20 (7): The Knicks look as though they are scrambling, fans are gripping, and the postseason is steadily approaching. Reports are, they made attempts to improve before the deadline, but were unable to complete a deal. The question for the Knicks remains the same as it was at the beginning of the season when TNT’s Charles Barkley asked: If they aren’t knocking down shots, who are they going to beat in a playoff series?
#9 Golden State Warriors 33-23 (10): Since giving up 140 points to Houston a couple weeks back, the Warriors are 3-7. Even though few are saying it, they seemed to play better and more efficiently when Bogut was out of the lineup. The fact that Bogut has been in and out of the lineup (back) since returning probably hasn’t helped. David Lee and Steph Curry are still playing at a high level, and Jarret Jack wants to say “hello” to everyone that ‘gave’ the 6th Man of the Year Award to Jamal Crawford in December.
#10 Houston Rockets 31-27 (N/A): James Harden isn’t likely to receive any type of MVP love or consideration, so I will give him some due credit. Houston would have likely been a 28-32 win team for the season prior to pulling the deal for Harden. In a huge response to a disappointing Finals performance, the 4th-year guard has the Rockets fighting to hold off teams like the Lakers and Mavericks as they maintain a surprising playoff spot.