NBA Power Rankings for March 24th, 2013

chris-bosh-miamiThe biggest story in the NBA remains Miami’s incredible win streak, which is the second best in NBA history. With 25 straight victories, the Heat need just eight more consecutive wins to tie the 1971-72 LA Lakers for the most ever. Miami’s success has overshadowed the fact that the Denver Nuggets have also played excellent with 15 consecutive wins. Thanks to their great run, Denver has climbed over several teams into the Western Conference’s third seed. You can check out how the rest of the league’s top clubs are doing below.

1. Miami Heat (54-14) – The question right now isn’t if the Miami Heat are the NBA’s best team, it’s if they can become the greatest team ever. Doing so will no doubt require topping the 33 straight wins by the Lakers and winning this year’s championship. As for the streak, the next four games are very winnable with Charlotte, Orlando (road), Chicago (road) and New Orleans (road) coming up. On March 25th, the Heat will face off against the Spurs in San Antonio. Assuming they can win the next four contests, this could be the deciding factor in their quest for greatness.

2. San Antonio Spurs (53-16) – San Antonio has certainly remained steady this season and have gone 8-2 in March. However, things look to get a bit hairier over the next five games because they face Houston (road), Denver, the Clippers, Miami and Memphis (road). If San Antonio can win three or four of these contests, they have a good shot at closing out the regular season as Western Conference champions. Greg Popovich has done a great job at keeping his players fresh this year because nobody plays more than 33 MPG. So watch out come playoff time!

ty-lawson3. Denver Nuggets (49-22) – For most of the season, Denver looked like a low playoff seed. However, they’ve now ripped off 15 straight wins and are looking to lock up home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The win streak hasn’t been an easy task either because the Nuggets have had to beat Oklahoma City (twice), the Clippers, the Lakers, Atlanta, New York, Chicago and Memphis along the way. Much like Miami and their hot streak, Denver will face the San Antonio roadblock on March 27th.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder (51-19) – One could make an argument that the Thunder should be ranked ahead of Denver since they’ve consistently won all season – including going 7-3 over the past 10 contests. However, the three losses were against other top Western Conference teams in San Antonio, Memphis and Denver; the Nuggets loss was particularly bad since it was at home. With so many other West teams playing well to close out the season, it’ll be a challenge for Oklahoma City to make the NBA Finals again…but it’s still a realistic possibility.

5. Memphis Grizzlies (47-22) – Memphis doesn’t exactly feature explosive scoring since Zach Randolph leads the team with 15.8 PPG. However, this might be the best defensive club in the NBA since they’re tied with Indiana in holding opponents to a league-low 89.5 PPG. Marc Gasol (1.71 BPG) plays in a big part in this because he swats plenty of shots and alters others. Mike Conley (2.30 SPG) and Tony Allen (1.48 PPG) also do an incredible job of pressuring the ball and forcing teams to make bad decisions.

blake-griffin-clippers6. L.A. Clippers (48-22) – With other teams currently surging in the West, the Clippers have simply been playing above average. This being said, it’s tough to figure out where they fit in when the playoffs roll around. L.A. certainly has the fire power to win in the postseason with Blake Griffin (18.6 PPG), Chris Paul (16.8 PPG) and Jamal Crawford (16.8 PPG). Plus their defense is pretty stout too with the Clippers holding opponents to 94.2 PPG. But the challenge will be putting all of this together through a seven-game series.

7. New York Knicks (42-26) – New York has really been an enigma this year. They began the season with the league’s best record for a while. Then the Knicks started cutting in and out of losing streaks while, subsequently, falling down to the Eastern Conference’s three seed at one point. As of now, they’re riding a four-game winning streak and tied with Indiana for the East’s second seed. Both Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith have been huge since they’re averaging 28.7 PPG and 20.3 PPG over the past four games.

paul-george-pacers8. Indiana Pacers (43-27) – The Pacers are one of the more impressive teams this year when considering that their star, Danny Granger, has only played five games. Granger could be healthy for the playoffs; but if he’s not, Indiana should be fine with Paul George (17.7 PPG), David West (17.3 PPG) and George Hill (14.4 PPG) leading the scoring charge. Roy Hibbert (2.71 BPG) is also proving to be nearly impossible for opponents to shoot over.

9. Brooklyn Nets (40-29) – The Nets are desperately trying to hold onto the fourth seed in the East so they have first round home court advantage. They’re currently in the midst of an eight-game road trip, which should test this team’s mettle. Denver should especially be a tough contest because they’re on fire right now. One players that’s particularly interesting on this team is Reggie Evans, who’s averaging 10.2 RPG in just 23.6 MPG. He’s really been dominant on the boards lately after averaging 16.8 RPG in the past five contests.

10. Atlanta Hawks (39-31) – Atlanta moves back into our top 10 thanks to the demise of Chicago and mediocre play by Golden State over the past few weeks. This month started horribly for the Hawks when they dropped six out of seven games. But things have gotten much better lately with Atlanta winning five out of the last seven contests. The most impressive victories during this stretch include Milwaukee (twice), the Lakers and Brooklyn. Al Horford has definitely been a beast over the last five games with 19.0 PPG and 13.0 PPG.

NBA Power Rankings for January 18th, 2013

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.

NBA Power Rankings for Oct. 29th, 2012

A week ago, we did a complete list of power rankings for all 32 NBA teams. Seeing as how the regular season doesn’t officially begin until tonight, we weren’t expecting the rankings to shift much – especially at the top. However, a major and surprising trade between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets blew this notion out of the water. That said, let’s discuss the trade and look at the top NBA teams heading into the 2012-2013 season.

1. Miami Heat – Nothing has changed here during the preseason since the Heat are pretty much the unanimous pick to repeat as NBA champions. The newest Miami pickup, Ray Allen, recently talked about how he doesn’t like the offseason divorce with the Celtics. However, winning a title in Miami should erase most of his negative feelings about leaving Boston.

2. L.A. Lakers – A week ago, we had the Lakers tabbed as the NBA’s third best team. After all, there haven’t been any regular season games yet to showcase the chemistry between Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace and new teammates Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. However, we don’t really need to see it right now following the big Thunder trade.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder – After failing to come to terms on a contract extension with G James Harden, the Thunder sent him, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to Houston for Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin, two first round picks and a second round pick. For the future, this isn’t a bad trade when draft picks are considered and Martin should provide plenty of offensive punch. But there’ll be nobody replacing Harden’s perimeter defense contributions this year, and the Thunder are a worse team at the moment.

4. San Antonio Spurs – No major preseason trades to report from the Spurs. Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing since they have a strong core group in Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. Unfortunately, the latter is dealing with some back problems that could hamper his production to open the season.

5. L.A. Clippers – The Clippers addressed their most pressing need of depth this summer after adding Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill and Matt Barnes. So far in the preseason, it looks like all four players could make solid contributions during the year.

6. Indiana Pacers – In the East, it’s basically the Miami Heat and then the rest. And for our money, the rest starts with the well-balanced Pacers who feature budding franchise center Roy Hibbert and smooth swingman Paul George.

7. Denver Nuggets – Many people wonder about Denver’s lack of a true superstar. But they added a very good player in Andre Iguodala and look poised to challenge for the West’s top spot with a number of solid role players in Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried.

8. Boston Celtics – Much of the Celtics hopes rest on how much better Rajon Rondo has gotten over the offseason. With Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett both another year older, Rondo will have to carry Boston more this year. Also, it will be interesting to see if Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa can fill the void left by Ray Allen at shooting guard.

9. Memphis Grizzlies – Nobody’s denying that the Grizzlies have talent with Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph providing plenty of offense and Marc Gasol and Tony Allen playing lockdown defense. But will this be enough to make a serious run at the Western Conference title? It might be if everything goes right for Memphis.

10. Atlanta Hawks – With Joe Johnson now departed to Brooklyn, nobody’s giving Atlanta much of a chance to win the Eastern Conference. And while we don’t see them as being any serious threat to the Heat, they could potentially make the Conference finals with the return of a healthy Al Horford. Josh Smith will need to step up in Johnson’s absence and stop taking so many ill-advised three’s too.