NBA Power Rankings for March 14th, 2013

dwayne-wadeAt the beginning of February, the top of the NBA looked pretty competitive with several different teams seeming like they could be the league’s best. However, the Miami Heat have easily proven themselves to be number one since then after going on a 20-game winning streak.

This 20-game run is tied for the third best all-time behind the 2007-’08 Houston Rockets (22 games) and the 1971-’72 L.A. Lakers. The latter is arguably the greatest NBA team of all-time, while the ’08 Rockets were ousted in the first round of the NBA playoffs. We suspect that this year’s Miami Heat are more in line with the ’72 Lakers team, which featured Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Pat Riley and Gail Goodrich.

1. Miami Heat (49-14) – A few weeks ago, there was more of a debate between whether the San Antonio Spurs or Heat were the NBA’s beat team. However, as we discussed before, there’s definitely no debate now since the Heat are not only on a historical win streak, but they’ve wrestled the league’s top record away from the Spurs. Interestingly enough, LeBron James’ scoring (26.1 PPG) has dipped to 24.1 PPG over the last 10 contests while Dwayne Wade (21.8 PPG) has poured in 25.0 PPG during the same stretch.

kawhi-leonard2. San Antonio Spurs (49-16) – The Spurs aren’t on the same torrid streak they were on in January. In fact, they’ve been pretty mediocre after going 5-4 lately and losing their last game to the Minnesota Timberwolves. However, San Antonio also beat Oklahoma City by 12 during this stretch and remain in the second spot in our power rankings. Kawhi Leonard continues to make himself a bigger part of this team after scoring 14.5 PPG over the last 10 games. He’s also leading the club with 1.8 SPG and averaging 5.4 RPG.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (48-17) – Oklahoma City has done pretty well in March after going 6-2 this month. Road losses to Denver and San Antonio are the only blemishes during a stretch that also includes victories over the Clippers, Lakers, Knicks, Celtics and Jazz. Russell Westbrook seems to be asserting his role in the offense a little more lately after raising his season-long average of 23.2 PPG to 24.7 PPG over the last 10 games. Unfortunately, the rest of the team doesn’t seem to be scoring as much, but the wins keep coming nonetheless.

4. Memphis Grizzlies (44-19) – How is this even possible? The Grizzlies trade away Rudy Gay – their leading scorer – and win 14 out of 15 games. Ironically, the only team that’s beaten them is during this stretch is the Miami Heat, which is the only club that’s been hotter too. Memphis has played good defense all year and has really stepped things up over the past few weeks. Of course, you have to play strong defense when your leading scorer is only averaging 15.8 PPG (Zach Randolph).

5. L.A. Clippers (45-21) – Los Angeles has provided lots of highlight-reel dunks lately, including DeAndre Jordan’s posterizing of Brandon Knight. deandre-jordanHowever, the insane dunks haven’t really led to more victories in March, and the Clippers are just 3-3 in the past six games. They’ve also dropped home games to the Grizzlies and Thunder during this stretch, which makes it hard to rank them any higher. The schedule does get slightly easier over the next two weeks though.

6. Indiana Pacers (40-24) – Indiana is still holding onto the Eastern Conference’s second seed, despite a challenge from the Knicks. This is a team that does a good job of beating who they’re supposed to – although they’ve had some difficulties with strong teams. They have lost recent games to the Clippers, Celtics and Heat over the past couple weeks. The rest of March looks pretty easy for the Pacers though, and we expect them to increase their lead over New York.

7. Denver Nuggets (44-22) – Ty Lawson is definitely taking the reigns of this team as he’s averaging 21.0 PPG over the past 10 contests. This is up ty-lawsonfrom Lawson’s season average of 17.0 PPG and has really given Denver a boost. Of course, it also helps that Danilo Gallinari (16.4 PPG), Andre Iguodala (12.9 PPG), Kenneth Faried (11.8 PPG), Corey Brewer (11.7 PPG) and Wilson Chandler (11.4 PPG) are scoring in double figures too. There are also three other players who are scoring at least 8.3 PPG or more, giving the Nuggets a very good bench.

8. Brooklyn Nets (38-27) – We don’t particularly think that the Nets have done great lately. But they’ve done well enough to surpass some of the other struggling Eastern Conference playoff teams like New York and Chicago. After losing four out of the past five contests, Brooklyn has rebounded to win four out of the last five games. The next three contests are very winnable too, and the Nets could certainly use some W’s because they’ll be heading out on an eight-game road trip on March 18th.

9. New York Knicks (38-24) – The Knicks have been fading over the past two months and things haven’t gotten much better lately. They lost three out of the past four games and don’t perform well against playoff teams on the road. They were beaten at Denver last night by 23 points, and were dismantled at Golden State by 29 the game before. Carmelo Anthony is really suffering these days since his season average of 27.5 PPG has dipped to 22.1 PPG over the last 10 games.

10. Golden State Warrior (37-29) – Previously this year’s Cinderella story, Golden State had an awful month in February. They lost six straight games at one point and lost 10 out of 13 games from February 5th to March 2nd. Amazingly, the Warriors are still in the thick of the Western Conference race after all this, and they’ve won four out of the last six games. We don’t see the Warriors gaining home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but they could lock down the fifth seed with some strong play.

NBA Power Rankings for February 23rd, 2013

serge-ibakaThe defending champion Miami Heat have really started to take form in February. They’ve now won nine straight games, including victories over the LA Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls. The hot streak doesn’t look to end any time soon either because Miami has some easy home games coming up. This being said, we had to put the Heat on top this week in our NBA power rankings. However, there were a couple of other teams who are right on Miami’s trail for the best overall ranking so let’s discuss all of this below.

1. Miami Heat (38-14) – LeBron James has definitely been the biggest catalyst in the Heat’s great month. He’s averaging 30.2 PPG in February, which is up three points from his season average of 27.2 PPG. The big challenge come playoff time will be finding reliable bench production. Ray Allen has averaged 10.8 PPG off the bench, but he’s only scoring 7.6 PPG this month and is shooting 31.1% from the field.

2. San Antonio Spurs (44-13) – It’s hard picking a number one team when you also factor in how successful the Spurs have been lately. They’ve gone 16-2 since early January and have held the league’s best record for two weeks. And they’ll finally be ending a nine-game road trip in Phoenix tomorrow night, which means a friendly home stretch is coming up. Tony Parker is quite possibly having the best season of his 11-year career with 21.1 PPG, 7.6 APG and 53.6% shooting.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (40-15) – The Thunder finally ended a three-game losing streak by beating the Minnesota Timberwolves at home. Based on their recent struggles, Oklahoma City has now fallen behind the Spurs by three games in the Western Conference race. So it’ll be interesting to see how they respond over the final 27 games of the season. Serge Ibaka has really improved his offensive role with the team in averaging 13.3 PPG and shooting 55.6% from the field. Of course, he’s still providing excellent defense too with 3.0 BPG.

chauncey-billups4. Los Angeles Clippers (39-18) – After suffering through a terrible stretch from mid-January to early February – where they lost 8 out of 11 games – the Clippers appear to be back on track. They’ve now won four out of the past five games, with the lone loss being to the Spurs. Chauncey Billups returned from a long injury layoff during this stretch and is giving the team a big boost with 10.4 PPG and 44.4% three-point shooting.

5. Indiana Pacers (34-21) – Just last week, we predicated that the Pacers would soon take over the Eastern Conference’s number two spot. And this came true in a major way after Indiana thumped New York by 26 points. Paul George (17.7 PPG) was huge in this game as he scored 27 points and carried the Pacers to victory. David West (17.2 PPG) has also come up big in plenty of games this season, giving Indiana a nice one-two punch.

6. Memphis Grizzlies (36-18) – Who’d have thought that the Grizzlies would be firmly entrenched in the West’s number four spot after trading away their leading scorer, Rudy Gay. They’ve now grabbed six straight tony-allenvictories and are getting more offense out of starting SG Tony Allen, who’s averaging 11.6 PPG and shooting 57.5% in February. Traditionally known for his defense, Allen is having a career revival in Memphis.

7. New York Knicks (32-20) – The aforementioned 26-point loss to the Pacers isn’t the only problem that the Knicks have had lately. They’ve dropped four straight games and fallen out of the Eastern Conference’s top two spots for the first time this year. Unfortunately, Amar’e Stoudemire’s return hasn’t quite provided the boost New York has been looking for in the win-loss column – although he is averaging 13.3 PPG and 5.0 RPG.

8. Denver Nuggets (34-22) – The Nuggets continue to fall down our power rankings after losing four out of the past five contests. Losses to Toronto and Washington have really hurt Denver’s bid to grab home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Of course, you can’t really blame any of this on PG Ty Lawson (16.2 PPG) since he’s played incredible and is averaging 23.0 PPG and 9.0 APG in February.

9. Brooklyn Nets (33-23) – Brooklyn recently went on a good run after beating Indiana, Milwaukee (twice) and Denver – before finally losing to the Rockets last night. Brook Lopze continues to impress in his fifth season with 18.9 PPG, 7.3 RPG and 2.1 BPG. He’s especially stepped up his scoring production in February after contributing 20.1 PPG this month. You can bet that Lopez is still carrying a chip on his shoulder after not making the All-Star team.

10. Chicago Bulls (32-23) – As more and more reports surface regarding Derrick Rose’s return, it’s looking like he won’t be back this season. The thinking here is that the Bulls don’t want to rush their franchise player back onto the court – especially when the supporting cast is doing an admirable job already. Center Joakim Noah has really stood out this year by averaging 11.3 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 20.6 BPG and 1.29 SPG.