With another week of NBA action in the books, FanSided.com’s Grant Mailhes takes a look at the NBA landscape and hits us with the updated power rankings for the upcoming week.
1. Miami Heat (56-14)
Was there any doubt that the Heat would be the #1 team in this week’s Power Rankings? The Heat have won an astounding 27 games in a row (2nd All-Time). LeBron James may be playing at a level we have never seen before. They realize they can make history in the next couple of weeks so don’t expect them to lose their top spot anytime soon.
2. San Antonio Spurs (53-17)
Good news for Spurs fans: Point Guard Tony Parker has returned from his ankle injury after missing the previous 3 weeks. The All-Star has been one of the main reasons the Spurs have been atop the West for most of the season. The Spurs went 6-2 without his presence, but they will need him in the playoffs if they’re going to win a championship.
3. Denver Nuggets (49-23)
The Nuggets’ 15 game winning streak was snapped Monday night against the New Orleans Hornets in blowout fashion. However, the Nuggets were without star point guard Ty Lawson, and were well overdo for an off night. According to Marc Stein of ESPN, the Nuggets are 9-4 against the rest of the top 5 teams in the Western Conference. Head Coach George Karl believes in his team and they too believe they can beat anyone.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (52-19)
The Thunder have been one of the top teams in the NBA this season. However, some are still questioning if this team is actually ready to win a NBA championship after trading James Harden to the Rockets. Recently, they have lost games to the Spurs, Nuggets, and Grizzlies. Still, they deserve to be in the Top 5 in this week’s Power Rankings.
5. Memphis Grizzlies (47-23)
After trading Forward Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors, experts thought the Grizzlies would fall out of the Western’s Conference’s top seeds. They’ve held their own thus far but will be without big man Marc Gasol, due to an abdominal injury, possibly for the rest of the regular season. The Grizzlies are 18-8 without Gay and are leading the NBA in average points per game against (89.7 per game).
6. Los Angeles Clippers (48-22)
Who would of thought the Clippers would be the “King of L.A.” this late in the season after the Lakers acquired All-Star Center Dwight Howard and future Hall-of-Famer Steve Nash in the off-season? Although “Lob City” has cooled off considerably since their 17 game winning streak earlier in December, they are still one of the top seeds in the West. The Clippers are in a tight battle for the third seed with the Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies.
7. Indiana Pacers (44-27)
The Pacers are currently the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference and have been dubbed as the Heat’s biggest threat in the East due to their size down low. Their struggles on the road this season (15-19) and their inability to win close games have been cause for concern as they approach the playoffs. However, their balanced attack and consistent defense make them one of the league’s toughest teams to beat.
8. Houston Rockets (39-31)
Who wants to play the Rockets in a Playoff Series? I doubt anyone is raising their hand. James Harden is well on his way to becoming a superstar, if he isn’t already. The Rockets have shown they can play with the best teams in the league and are one of the most potent offenses in the NBA. According to John Hollinger’s team rankings, Houston is 4th in True Shooting Percentage and 5th in Offensive Efficiency.
9. New York Knicks (42-26)
The Knicks have won four straight after a forgetful West Coast trip where they went 1-4. The focus now for New York has to be for everyone to get healthy before the playoffs roll around. Carmelo Anthony has returned from his knee injury, which should help the Knicks stay in contention for the 2nd or 3rd seed in the East.
10. Brooklyn Nets (41-29)
Deron Williams has finally returned to his old self recently, catapulting the Nets to only 2 games behind the Knicks for the Atlantic Division lead. Coach P.J. Carlesimo is still tweaking his rotation so it will be interesting to see if they can catch the division leading Knicks.
11. Golden State Warriors (41-31)
One of the best stories in the NBA this season, the Warriors are vying to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Their sharp shooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have a lot to do with their success but most credit must be given to 2nd year Head Coach and Coach of the Year candidate, Mark Jackson.
12. Atlanta Hawks (39-32)
Without Shooting Guard Joe Johnson (Traded to the Brooklyn Nets in the off-season), Josh Smith and Al Horford have taken command of the team. Point Guard Jeff Teague has improved tremendously this season. However, most expect this team to be a first or second round team at best.
13. Los Angeles Lakers (36-35)
The Lakers have been one of the most inconsistent teams all season. Some of that has to do with their injuries but also because of their age. Just when you thought the Lakers were finding their groove, they laid eggs against Phoenix, Washington, and Golden State. Coach Mike D’Antoni must find a way to make Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol co-exist.
14. Chicago Bulls (38-31)
We are all wondering when Derrick Rose is going to debut this season. I’m sure his teammates are asking the same question themselves. The truth is, no one really knows. At this point, there isn’t a lot of optimism as the playoffs approach.
15. Dallas Mavericks (34-36)
Dallas is 7-3 in their last 10 and is only two games behind the Lakers for the 8th and final playoff spot. Can Dirk lead his team back to the playoffs?
16. Boston Celtics (36-33)
Kevin Garnett will miss the next 2 weeks due to ankle inflammation, which could cause the Celtics to drop to the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. Who would have predicted that we could potentially see a feisty Heat/Celtics 1st round Playoff Series?
17. Milwaukee Bucks (34-35)
The Bucks are doing everything not to face the Miami Heat in the 1st round of the Playoffs. Losing three in a row won’t get the job done.
18. Portland Trail Blazers (33-37)
The future looks bright in Portland with Damian Lillard at the helm. However, their playoff hopes are slipping away.
19. Washington Wizards (26-44)
How much better are the Wizards with John Wall? They’ve gone 21-15 since the young guard returned from injury. Not to mention he just dropped 47 on the Grizzlies Monday night, in a win.
20. Utah Jazz (35-36)
The one time sixth seed in the West has fallen out of the playoff picture but is still in the race for the final playoff spot in the West. They snapped their 4 game losing streak Monday night against the struggling Philadelphia 76ers.
21. Philadelphia 76ers (27-43)
The 76ers made a splash in the off-season, trading for Center Andrew Bynum from the Lakers. Unfortunately, Bynum never debuted for the team and is done for the season.
22. New Orleans Hornets (25-46)
The future New Orleans Pelicans are lottery bound but do have a nice nucleus of young players in Greivis Vasquez, Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis.
23, Toronto Raptors (26-44)
The Raptors haven’t won as many games as planned since trading for Rudy Gay, whom could be shut down for the rest of the season.
24. Minnesota Timberwolves (24-44)
The Timberwolves have been decimated with injuries all season long. They were thought to be a playoff team before the season started.
25. Sacramento Kings (25-46)
The Kings season is over. Now the focus is whether they will actually be in Sacramento moving forward.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers (22-47)
Kyrie Irving is a stud and looks like he will be the premier Point Guard in the league sooner than later. The issue is whether he can stay healthy.
27. Detroit Pistons (24-47)
The Pistons have won only 2 games since the All-Star break. They do however have a solid frontcourt to work with in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.
28. Phoenix Suns (23-48)
The only thing going for the Suns is that they have the best medical staff in the entire league (See Jermaine O’Neal for example.).
29. Orlando Magic (18-53)
The Magic may have one of the worst records in the league, but they stole a young player with plenty of potential in Tobias Harris from Milwaukee.
30. Charlotte Bobcats (16-54)
There is no question the Bobcats will be the favorites to win the NBA draft lottery once again. The real question is if Michael Jordan is a better player or worse talent evaluator.