NBA Power Rankings for Dec. 25th, 2012

When the Los Angeles Clippers were struggling in November and mired in a four-game losing streak, many people started to wonder if they’d truly joined the ranks of the elite. But following a huge winning streak, the Clippers are definitely among the league’s best teams. Now let’s take a look at where exactly they rank in the NBA’s top 10 clubs.

1. Miami Heat (19-6) – Miami retains the top ranking after winning three games last week – including one huge victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. A four-game road trip is coming up, but only the Milwaukee Bucks should pose a real threat during this stretch.

2. Los Angeles Clippers (21-6) – We expect a lot of jostling at the top of the Western Conference throughout the season. But for now, the Clippers are tops among the West and second overall after winning their past 13 games. What’s especially impressive is how six of these wins have come on the road.

3. New York Knicks (20-8) – The Knicks have stumbled a bit lately after losing three out of the past five games. But we still feel as if they’re one of the league’s top three teams at this point. Some people are worried that Amare Stoudemire’s impending return could hinder the team’s outstanding offensive production. However, if they want to get by Miami, they’re going to need some extra help.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder (21-6) – The Thunder’s 11-game win streak is over, and the team has now dropped two straight games and two spots from our last power rankings. One was a road contest against Minnesota while the other loss was a close road game against Miami. On a side note, shooting guard Kevin Martin may not be James Harden defensively, but he’s certainly doing well offensively (15.7 PPG, 45.8% 3P).

5. San Antonio Spurs (21-8) – The Spurs stumbled in our past power rankings after losing four out of their last five contests. But they’ve since rebounded with victories over the Hornets and Mavericks; the latter was actually a 37-point blowout. San Antonio has shown some great balance with six players averaging double digits.

6. Memphis Grizzlies (18-7) – After getting off to a hot start this season, the Grizzlies have been up and down in December. They’ve went 6-5, but have excelled lately with four out of the past five games being victories. Zach Randolph is definitely looking like an All-Star at this point with 16.8 PPG and 12.8 RPG.

7. Atlanta Hawks (16-9) – There’s a big gap between the Heat/Knicks and the rest of the East. For our money, Atlanta is the next best team. However, they drop a spot from last week after losing two out of the last three games. At least these losses came to Philadelphia on the road and Oklahoma City at home.

8. Golden State Warriors (18-10) – Most people have been waiting for a Golden State collapse since they weren’t predicted to be among the NBA’s top clubs. But this fallout hasn’t come yet and the Warriors are right in the thick of the Western Conference race. PF David Lee just seems to keep playing better and better since he’s now averaging 20.0 PPG and 11.3 RPG.

9. Indiana Pacers (16-12) – The Pacers opened the season in our top 10, but quickly fell out the following week. And for the early part of the NBA season, we hadn’t seen the same team that went 42-24 last season. Only recently has that club started to surface after Indiana won six out of their past seven games. None of the victories are particularly impressive, but they are wins nonetheless.

10. Houston Rockets (15-12) – Along with the Pacers, Houston is another team that’s resurfaced in our top 10. The Rockets landed in our power rankings in Week 2, but have since failed to be anywhere close until now. They’ve captured wins in six of the last seven games – including road victories over the Knicks and Bulls.