There’s been a lot of jostling around in our NBA power rankings this season with the LA Clippers, Miami Heat, New York Knicks and San Antonio Spurs all holding the top spot at some point. Interestingly enough, a fifth team will be added to this list after sweeping a three-game road trip. And the best club from last week’s power rankings falls out of the top two for the first time this season….
1. Oklahoma City Thunder (31-8) – Throughout the early part of the season, our big qualm with Oklahoma City was that they hadn’t really beaten any top-caliber teams. Then, when the Thunder did start beating elite clubs, the LA Clippers went on a huge run and held down the top spot for a while. But now, after winning three straight road games, the Thunder are definitely worthy of number one. Kevin Durant scored over 40 points on the road twice during this stretch, and Oklahoma will need plenty more of this with an upcoming five-game road trip.
2. LA Clippers (31-9) – Despite winning six out of their last seven games, LA falls to number two after a recent home loss to the Magic combined with Oklahoma City’s hot run. However, the Clippers are only behind the Thunder by the slimmest of margins in our eyes. On an interesting side note, Chris Paul’s assists have steadily increased from 9.1 APG a couple of weeks ago to 9.7 APG now.
3. Miami Heat (26-12) – January has not been kind to the Heat since they’re just 5-4 this month. That said, they’ve dropped out of the top two for the first time in this year’s power rankings. But do keep in mind that Miami is coming off of a six-game road trip, and the schedule gets easier next week with home games against the Pistons and Raptors. LeBron James has to feel pretty good about the next five off days since he just scored 39 points last night in a win over the LA Lakers.
4. San Antonio Spurs (30-11) – Compared to what we’ve seen from the Spurs in November and December, January has been a pretty mediocre month for San Antonio at 5-3. They’re still keeping pace with the Clippers and Thunder though, so that’s a good sign. Strong bench play has enabled Tim Duncan and Tony Parker to play 30-32 minutes a night and stay fresh.
5. New York Knicks (25-13) – After three straight losses to the Celtics, Bulls and Pacers, New York rebounded with a couple of wins against New Orleans and Detroit. Okay, so these aren’t exactly powerhouse teams; but they’re wins nonetheless, which was needed after Carmelo Anthony’s one-game suspension. C Tyson Chandler (12.4 PPG, 11.0 RPG) continues to be a catalyst in the paint for the Knicks.
6. Indiana Pacers (24-16) – Indiana had a recent hot streak squelched after losing two out of the past three games. A tough four-game road trip to the West looms ahead, which will truly test this young team. F Paul George has done it all by posting a stateline of 16.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 1.7 SPG up to this point.
7. Chicago Bulls (22-15) – Chicago has grabbed some really nice wins this month, which include road victories over New York and Miami. What’s impressive is that the Bulls are sitting in fourth place in the East without Derrick Rose. Seeing as how he’s been in the gym lately working on his shooting, we could see Rose suit up for Chicago some time in February. When that happens watch out!
8. Memphis Grizzlies (24-13) – The last three games have been a disaster for the Grizzlies since they’ve been blown out by at least 21 points each time. Sure two of these contests were against the Spurs and Clippers; however, that’s no excuse for a team trying to prove it belongs with the elite contenders. A lack of bench scoring continues to plague Memphis and their strong core of Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley.
9. Brooklyn Nets (23-16) – Winners of seven out of their last eight games, Brooklyn is the NBA’s hottest team right now. And this stretch includes impressive wins against Oklahoma City and the Pacers. The Nets are loaded in the front court with a number of solid contributors in C Brook Lopez, PF Andray Blatche, SF Gerald Wallace, PF Kris Humphries and PF Reggie Evans.
10. Golden State Warriors (23-14) – Golden State has far exceeded preseason expectations up to this point. However, they’ve hit a rough patch after dropping four out of the past five games. If there’s any solace to take out of the recent bad run, it’s that all four losses have come against great/good teams. The next six games won’t offer any relief since upcoming opponents include the Clippers, Spurs, Thunder, Bulls and Bucks.