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.

NBA Power Rankings for December 12th, 2012

Entering this NBA season, we had trouble deciding if it would be the Lakers or Oklahoma City Thunder coming out of the Western Conference. Thus far, the Thunder have held up their end of the deal by rising near the top of the West standings. The Lakers, on the other hand, are a dismal 9-13 and have dropped out of our top 10 for the first time this year. Will they be back? Who knows, but the following teams are looking like strong playoff clubs right now.

1. New York Knicks (16-5) – Little has changed from our rankings last week since New York is still on a roll. Sure the Knicks recently lost a road game to the Bulls, but they also defeated the Heat on the road just before that. And once again, this is happening with Amare Stoudemire still injured!

2. Miami Heat (14-5) – The Heat remain a fixture in our top two spots – despite losing to the league’s worst team (Washington Wizards) on December 4th. At this point, the Eastern Conference Finals are shaping up to be one heck of a battle! Of course, calling the Knicks and Heat in the Conference Finals now is a little premature.

3. San Antonio Spurs (18-4) – San Antonio checks in at number three in our rankings despite having a league-best 18-4 record. The Spurs have won 10 out of their last 11 games, but we’re going to need to see something out of them in the playoffs. Second-year PG Gary Neal is adding a nice shooting touch (36.8 3P%) for the club.

4. Oklahoma City (17-4) – We keep saying that the Thunder haven’t beat a top contender yet, but they certainly have beaten some solid teams during an eight-game win streak. For this reason, they move up one spot in our rankings this week.

5. Memphis Grizzlies (14-6) – The Grizzlies flip-flop with Oklahoma City following a loss to the Hawks at home. We don’t expect Memphis to remain stagnant here though since the top of the West should be pretty back and forth. Zach Randolph is providing some really nice all-around play with 17.6 PPG and 12.9 RPG.

6. L.A. Clippers (15-6) – Los Angeles has rebounded in a big way from a four-game losing streak at the end of November. They’ve now won eight straight games with victories over Utah, Dallas and Chicago during this span. Chris Paul is doing a good job of leading this squad with 16.2 PPG, 9.0 SPG, and 2.67 SPG.

7. Atlanta Hawks (13-6) – As mentioned before, Atlanta recently won a big game on the road against the Grizzlies. And they’ve won four out of the past five contests – with the lone blemish being a road game against the Heat. Josh Smith has stepped up his game and shooting with the loss of Joe Johnson during the offseason; Smith is averaging 17.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG and shooting 46.2% from three-point range.

8. Golden State (14-7) – It’s truly time to start taking the Warriors seriously with recent wins against the Heat and Nets. With Andrew Bogut sidelined most of the year because of an injury, PF David Lee has carried the load inside with 18.8 PPG and 11.2 RPG.

9. Chicago (11-9) – The Bulls continue to stay above water even though they won’t have Derrick Rose for most of the season. Joakim Noah (10.8 RPG) and Carlos Boozer (9.9 RPG) are controlling the boards for Chicago while Luol Deng (17.8 PPG) is leading the club in scoring.

10. Brooklyn Nets (12-9) – In recent weeks, the Nets have hovered around the 5th to 7th range in our power rankings. But that was before a five-game losing streak happened! The least we can say about this bad run is that all five losses came to good, playoff-type teams. However, if the streak continues, don’t expect the Nets to be here next week.

NBA Power Rankings for Nov. 26th, 2012

The New York Knicks were flying high atop our NBA power rankings for last week. However, they’re really starting to miss Amare Stoudemire and have stumbled quite a bit lately. This being said, an old number one has reclaimed their previous spot in our rankings. Here’s a look at the 10 best teams right now.

1. Miami Heat (10-3) – The Heat were playing fairly mediocre to begin the season. However, they’ve since went on a hot streak and won four games in a row. Combining this with the fact that the Heat already look better than last year’s championship team, and we couldn’t resist putting Miami at number one.

2. San Antonio Spurs (12-3) – Just like always, there’s nothing flashy about the Spurs. Tim Duncan paces the team in scoring with 19 PPG while Tony Parker is dishing out an admirable 7.5 APG. But even without flashiness or big numbers, the Spurs have managed to win their first four games on a six-game East Coast road trip.

3. Memphis Grizzlies (10-2) – At the beginning of the year, we said the Grizzlies were a fringe title contender who’d have to battle through a tough Western Conference. And so far, Memphis has done a great job at standing out in the talented West. Zach Randolph has really been hitting the boards while Mike Conley Jr. (14.8 PPG, 6.5 APG) is having his best season ever.

4. Brooklyn Nets (9-4) – We weren’t exactly expecting to see Brooklyn with this kind of record at this point.After all, they faced the L.A. Clippers, Portland, and New York in the past three games. But following three straight wins against these clubs, we have to take the Nets very seriously.

5. New York Knicks (9-4) – Just last week, New York was cruising along with an 8-1 record and looking like the league’s best team. However, the Knicks lost a close game in Dallas, got blown out in Houston, beat Detroit, then lost an overtime thriller in Brooklyn. All of this amounts to losing three out of their past four games, but things should get better soon with an easy upcoming stretch.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder (11-4) – As we’ve said before, the Thunder still have yet to beat any serious title contenders, so it’s hard to rank them much higher than this – even with a very good record. Once we see Oklahoma start winning against top-tier teams, we’ll be better able to gauge their chances of success without James Harden (trade to Houston).

7. L.A. Clippers (6-5) – Boy how much things change in a week’s time. We were ready to anoint the Clippers as a fully-matured squad capable of winning a championship in our last rankings. However, three straight losses to the Nets, Hawks and Hornets have us thinking otherwise. Jamal Crawford (18 PPG) continues to slide after an incredible start.

8. Atlanta Hawks (8-4) – One squad that has been playing great basketball lately is Atlanta. Winners of five straight games, they’re a very balanced unit. Balanced may not be the word since Al Horford is the leading scorer with just 15.9 PPG. Jeff Teague (13.9 PPG, 7.3 APG, 1.5 SPG) is easily having his best season as a pro.

9. L.A. Lakers (7-7) – Just when we thought the Lakers were getting over their rough start and gelling as a team, they get blown out in Sacramento, then drop another game against Memphis. A lack of bench depth could really continue to hurt the Lakers all season and cripple any title chances.

10. Denver Nuggets (8-6) – After losing three straight games to open the season, Denver has played much better and won four out of the past five games. Six different players are averaging double digits on this team with Andre Iguodala leading the way with 15.3 PPG. But can this ultra team-based approach result in a serious title run? History suggests no, but we’ll see….

NBA Power Rankings for Nov. 20th, 2012

Last week the San Antonio Spurs were sitting atop our NBA power rankings. But things have changed slightly with another week past in the NBA season since a few other teams are shining just as brightly as the Spurs. The Heat, Thunder, Lakers and Grizzlies are all playing some excellent basketball right now, so let’s find out where they rank in our current top 10.

1. New York Knicks (8-1) – The Knicks finally lost a game on the road in Memphis, but they’re still playing better than any team in the league. With victories over the Heat, Spurs, Mavericks and Pacers, New York has survived a very tough early schedule. And remember that Amare Stoudemire is still out with an injury!

2. Miami Heat (8-3) – We, like just about everybody else, think the Heat still have a great chance to repeat as NBA champions – especially now that they’re back from a brutal six-game road trip. Lebron is providing a usual Lebron-like state line of 24.5 PPG, 9.0 RPG and 6.5 APG.

3. L.A. Clippers (8-2) – The Clippers are no longer just a young team with promise – they’re a definite title contender. Jamal Crawford still paces this team in scoring with 19.7 PPG while Chris Paul is averaging an outstanding 10.0 APG and 2.2 SPG.

4. Memphis Grizzlies (8-2) – The Grizzlies opened the year with a road loss to the Clippers,and then went on to rattle off an eight-game win streak. They’re the only team in the league to beat the Knicks, which has to count for something.

5. San Antonio (8-3) – The Spurs have struggled a bit lately after losing two out of three home games to the Knicks and Clippers. Interestingly enough, the Clippers have now won both games against the Spurs this year. Kawhi Leonard continues to provide a youthful spark for San Antonio with 10.6 PPG and 2.0 SPG.

6. L.A. Lakers (6-5) – After starting the year 1-4 and seeing former coach Mike Brown hit the road, Los Angeles has gone 5-1 – but keep in mind that this entire stretch has been at home. Dwight Howard has made a good transition to the West Coast since he’s chipping in 11.7 RPG and 2.8 BPG.

7. Oklahoma City Thunder (8-3) – We’re still not entirely convinced that Oklahoma City can be as good as last year without James Harden. Plus they’ve yet to beat a true championship-caliber team thus far. But with Kevin Durant (24.5 PPG, 10.5 RPG), anything is possible for the Thunder.

8. Brooklyn Nets (6-3) – The Nets’ five-game winning streak finally ended against the Lakers on the road. And things don’t look to get any easier with some tough games on the horizon. But at this point, we have to say that the Nets have been quite impressive.

9. Milwaukee Bucks (6-3) – Will the Bucks be in the top 10 at year’s end? Maybe….maybe not. All we do know is that Monta Ellis (21.4 PPG) and Brandon Jennings (7.7 APG, 3.1 SPG) continue to keep this team towards the top of the East.

10. Philadelphia 76ers (7-4) – Philly makes their first appearance in our top 10 after winning six out of their last nine games. Jrue Holiday (18.6 PPG, 8.9 APG) is really starting to excel in his third season. It’ll be interesting to see how this team does when Andrew Bynum comes back from injury.

NBA Power Rankings for Nov. 14th, 2012

After months of waiting, we’re finally seeing some meaningful NBA basketball being played. Thanks to this, we’ve gotten a chance to see who’s truly the best team at this point in the season. Now keep in mind that our power rankings don’t reflect how we think the playoffs will conclude, but rather who’s number one right now. This being said, here’s a look at the top 10 NBA teams.

1. San Antonio Spurs (7-1) – The Spurs had just about as many questions to answer as anybody else to start the 2012-2013 NBA season. And they’ve definitely answered these questions and then some after beating several top clubs and compiling a 7-1 record. Their lone loss was a road game to the upstart Clippers.

2. New York Knicks (5-0) – With Amare Stoudemire currently injured, the Knicks weren’t expected to have the greatest start. However, Carmelo Anthony is having an MVP-type season thus far, and J.R. Smith is shooting the lights out at a 72.2% clip from 3-point range. We doubt Smith keeps up this torrid pace, but you can’t deny that New York is playing excellent right now.

3. Miami Heat (6-3) – We still aren’t ready to be pushed off our preseason prediction of the Heat winning it all. However, they haven’t beaten any top tier teams yet and have lost games against other contenders such as the Knicks, Clippers and Grizzlies. It is worth mentioning that these were all road games though.

4. L.A. Clippers (6-2) – Jamal Crawford has come back down to earth after an extremely good start. However, the Clippers as a whole are still playing out of this world with wins over the Heat, Grizzlies, Hawks and Spurs. The only reason we don’t have them ranked higher is because of home losses to Cleveland and Golden State.

5. Memphis Grizzlies (6-1) – While we expected the Grizzlies to be good this year, we didn’t anticipate them bolting out to a 6-1 record. A big reason for the hot start is the improved play of PG Mike Conley Jr., who’s averaging 13.9 PPG and 6.9 APG. If he can maintain this, Memphis is a serious contender in the West.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder (6-3) – Following a slow start and the trade of James Harden, the Thunder seem to be back on the right track. So far Kevin Martin has come close to matching Harden’s offensive production at shooting guard; however, the defense can’t be replaced in this situation.

7. L.A. Lakers (3-5) – The only team in our top 10 with a losing record is the Lakers. They’ve easily taken the cake for most disappointing start this year, and coach Mike Brown paid the ultimate price after losing his job. Now we get to see what Mike D’Antoni can do with a lineup that includes Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace……but very little else.

8. Milwaukee Bucks (5-2) – We knew that the Bucks would have a great backcourt this year with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. And they haven’t let anyone down either since Ellis is averaging 20 PPG while Jennings is dishing out 7.9 APG.

9. Chicago Bulls (5-3) – The Bulls make their first appearance in our top 10 after hanging tough without PG Derrick Rose. Luol Deng has stepped up his production (19.1 PPG) in the absence of Rose while Joakim Noah has also been solid with 16 PPG and 9.8 RPG.

10. Brooklyn Nets (5-2) – A new look and arena for the Nets seem to be paying off since they’re one of the East’s top squads. With Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and the newly-added Joe Johnson, Brooklyn has three solid scoring threats now.

NBA Power Rankings for Nov. 5th, 2012

Now that we’re a few games into the 2012-2013 NBA regular season, we finally get a chance to see how some teams perform when it really counts. Okay, so maybe these first few games don’t count for everything, but they’re a lot more relevant than preseason results. Interestingly enough, some of our previous top teams have stumbled out of the gates – L.A. we’re looking at you – while others have been surprisingly good. Let’s discuss all of this and more in our latest NBA power rankings.

1. Miami Heat (2-1) – A loss on the road to the Knicks hasn’t wavered our confidence in Miami’s ability to repeat this season. Ray Allen has made a nice transition from the Celtics to Heat since he’s averaging 15.7 PPG while shooting 56.3% from the three-point line. Lebron James is his usual self too by posting statlines of 23 PPG, 8.7 RPG and 6.7 APG.

2. San Antonio Spurs (3-0) – Are the Spurs too old to remain an NBA power? They certainly haven’t shown any signs of dropping off so far with an undefeated early season record. SF Kawhi Leonard is injecting some nice youth into San Antonio by averaging 12.7 PPG and 3.3 SPG.

3. L.A. Clippers (2-1) – For the first time in his career, SG Jamal Crawford spent time working on his shooting this summer. And it’s definitely paid off so far since he’s averaging 25.7 PPG and shooting 53.5% from the field. If this keeps up, maybe Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will be taking a back seat to Crawford’s talents.

4. Oklahoma City (1-2) – How much are the Thunder going to miss James Harden? We guess pretty badly after beginning the season 1-2. However, Oklahoma City certainly has plenty of firepower with Kevin Durant, Kevin Martin and Russell Westbrook all averaging over 20 PPG to open the season.

5. Indiana Pacers (2-1) – Even without a true star player, Indiana looks to be a force in the East thanks to a well-rounded lineup that includes PF David West (19 PPG, 8.7 RPG), SF Paul George (14 PPG, 13 RPG) and C Roy Hibbert (11 PPG, 4 BPG).

6. L.A. Lakers (1-3) – It’s hard to rank the Lakers too far down the list because of an extremely talented lineup that includes Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Metta World Peace and Steve Nash. But the team hasn’t exactly had a dream start after dropping three out of their first four games.

7. Houston Rockets (2-1) – The Rockets leap into our rankings on the strength of good guard play from James Harden and Jeremy Lin. Harden is playing like an early MVP candidate since he’s scoring 35.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 6.3 APG. As for Lin, he’s averaging 15.7 PPG and 7.3 APG.

8. New York Knicks (2-0) – New York has five starters averaging double digit-scoring so far in Steve Novak, Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony. The latter is putting up his usually-stellar 28.5 PPG and has the Knicks off to a very hot start.

9. Memphis Grizzlies (1-1) – Not much has changed for Memphis after starting out on the road at L.A. and Golden State. We can’t really fault the Grizzlies too badly after losing to the Clippers so it may be some time before we get an accurate gauge on whether they’ll move up or down our rankings.

10. Milwaukee Bucks (2-0) – The Bucks opened the year with a big win at Boston and also grabbed a home win against Cleveland. PG Brandon Jennings is playing excellent right now with 17 PPG and 13 APG while SG Monta Ellis (18.7 PPG) and SF Mike Dunleavy (18 PPG) are also off to good starts.