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 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 March 6th, 2013

tony-parkerAfter the way that the Miami Heat have been playing lately, there’s little suspense about the number one team in our power rankings. Following 15 straight victories, the Heat are looking like a lock to win the East, and they are even challenging the Spurs for the top overall record. Speaking of which, San Antonio is still playing well – it’s just that they’ve been overshadowed by Miami. As for the rest of the top teams in our power rankings, you can check everything out below.

1. Miami Heat (44-14) – It’s pretty difficult to stop Miami when either LeBron James or Dwayne Wade could go off for 30+ points on any night. And that’s exactly what’s been happening during their 15-game win streak since both stars have had some big games lately. In the Heat’s last game against Minnesota, Wade poured in 32 points and dished out 10 assists. As for LeBron, four games ago, he torched the Kings for 40 points and 16 assists. Good luck to the rest of the league come playoff time…

2. San Antonio Spurs (47-14) – After falling down to number two in our last power rankings, San Antonio holds steady at this spot. They lost a disappointing home game to the Phoenix Suns on February 27th after beating them on the road just three days earlier. However, the Spurs have since bounced back by winning contests against Sacramento and Detroit. Tony Parker is being dubbed an MVP candidate behind LeBron since he’s averaging 21.0 PPG and 7.6 APG while shooting 53.3% from the field.

russell-westbrook3. Oklahoma City Thunder (44-16) – The Thunder definitely appear to have put a mid-February three-game losing streak behind them. After all, they’ve won five out of the past six games and beat the Clippers on the road. Thanks to the latter victory, Oklahoma is still holding onto the second spot in the West. Russell Westbrook has played out of his mind during the recent win streak since he’s averaging over 32 points in the last six games.

4. L.A. Clippers (43-19) – Los Angeles is still sitting two games behind Oklahoma City for the second seed in the West. And this is a very important battle because these two clubs could be meeting in the playoffs’ second round, where home court advantage will be huge. Based on their fairly mild remaining schedule, it’s certainly possible that the Clippers could overtake the Thunder; however, they missed out on a big opportunity after getting beat by Oklahoma City at home.

5. Indiana Pacers (38-22) – The Pacers have been a really interesting story as the season has moved along. They got off to a very sluggish start over the first two months, but played great in January and February. Will the good times continue in March? Well so far there’s been no sign of trouble after victories over Toronto and Chicago. Paul George scored 22 points to lead Indiana over the Raptors, while David West poured in 31 points during the Bulls win. And this perfectly exemplifies the solid one-two punch that these two have provided Indiana all year.

tayshaun-prince6. Memphis Grizzlies (39-19) – Defying all logic, Memphis continues to remain among the Western Conference powers after trading leading scorer Rudy Gay. They have claimed victory in nine out of the last 10 games, and the only loss was a road contest in Miami. Defense has been the name of the game during this excellent streak since the Grizzlies have held six opponents under 90 points over the past 10 contests. Is the addition of Tayshaun Prince a big sole reason for this lock-down defense? It’s a stretch to say that, but he’s certainly been an integral part of the strong defensive effort.

7. Denver Nuggets (40-22) – The Nuggets move up a spot since they’re in the midst of a six-game winning streak. Victories against Portland (road), the Lakers, Oklahoma City and Atlanta have stood out during this stretch. The offense seems to be going through Ty Lawson more and more lately since he’s scoring 23.8 PPG over the past 10 contests – up from his season average of 16.6 PPG. On the other hand, Danilo Gallinari’s production (16.6 PPG) has taken a hit since he’s averaging just 11.7 PPG over the same period.

8. New York Knicks (36-21) – After being passed by Indiana in the Eastern Conference standings, New York has remained close to the Pacers and are only a half game back. The biggest reason why they’re hanging tough is because they have won four out of the past five games. The only fairly impressive victory during this stretch was against Golden State, but the Knicks are racking up wins nonetheless. New York might have the NBA’s best bench since it features J.R. Smith (16.1 PPG), Amar’e Stoudemire (13.9 PPG), Rasheed Wallace (7.2 PPG).

9. Chicago Bulls (34-26) – Ever since the beginning of February, Chicago has been struggling. They have dropped 9 out of the past 15 games and are tied with Brooklyn for the fourth playoff seed. They did get a nice boost though after beating the Nets on March 2nd. The game before that, against the Philadelphia 76ers, Joakim Noah had a very impressive triple-double as he scored 23 points, grabbed 21 rebounds and blocked 11 shots. He’s quietly been the Bulls’ all-around MVP in a season without Derrick Rose.

10. Brooklyn Nets (34-26) – Just like Chicago, the Nets have had a rough time lately after losing four of the last five contests. All of the losses were against decent teams, but that doesn’t exactly take the sting away. There are still plenty of bright spots for this club though, including the outstanding rebounding of Reggie Evans. The undersized power forward is averaging 9.3 RPG in just 22 minutes per game, and he’s averaged 10.8 RPG in the past five games.

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.

NBA Power Rankings for February 17th, 2013

lebron-jamesThe San Antonio Spurs continue to roll, despite being in the midst of a 9-game road trip. They’ve won 14 out of the last 15 games and are firmly entrenched atop the NBA standings. However, the defending champion Miami Heat have also played well as of late and are starting to take control of the Eastern Conference. So which team is number one in this week’s power rankings? Here’s the answer…

1. San Antonio Spurs (42-11) – The Spurs have truly broken away from the pack over the past five weeks. Once sitting behind the Clippers and Thunder in the West, San Antonio has now bolted out to a 2.5-game lead over Oklahoma City for the league’s best record. Second year player Kawhi Leonard (10.5 PPG) is really doing well during this stretch and he’s scoring 16.6 PPG over the past five games. This has supplemented the already-high and expected production from Tony Parker (20.8 PPG), Tim Duncan (17.2 PPG) and Manu Ginobili (12.3 PPG).

2. Miami Heat (36-14) – Miami cemented their second place spot after winning their past seven games. In fact, we were really debating about whether to put the Heat above San Antonio – especially after a 10-point victory at Oklahoma City. That makes Miami winners of seven straight games and places them four games ahead of second place New York in the East. LeBron James has really taken the team on his back lately and is averaging 31.5 PPG in February.

russell-westbrook3. Oklahoma City Thunder (39-14) – The Thunder have had a rough week after losing to the Heat by 10 and the Utah Jazz by 15. However, they’re still in second place in the West and are getting excellent play out of stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Kevin Martin is also in line for a Sixth Man of the Year award since he’s scoring 15.0 PPG and shooting 43.6% from 3-point territory.

4. L.A. Clippers (39-17) – Up until a couple of weeks ago, L.A. had lost 8 out of their past 11 games. However, they’ve since won four straight games and move up a spot from our last power rankings. Three of these victories have come on the road – with one being a 14-point win against the Knicks. The Clippers have a very well-rounded team since six players are averaging in double figures with Blake Griffin (18.5 PPG) and Jamal Crawford (16.8 PPG) leading the way.

5. Indiana Pacers (33-21) – After winning 6 out of their last 8 games and beating Miami, Chicago and Atlanta during this stretch, Indiana moves up a couple of spots. Now this team gets a week to rest up before taking on New York in a big Eastern Conference showdown. Based on how they’ve been playing over the past two months, we really like the Pacers chances of moving up to the East’s number two seed soon.

amare-stoudemire6. New York Knicks (32-18) – New York opened this year with the league’s best record and held the top spot for weeks. However, they’ve stumbled somewhat as the season has dragged on and have lost three out of the past four games. What’s particularly disheartening about these losses is that two of them came to Eastern Conference bottom-feeders Toronto and Washington. Perhaps the Knicks will get back on the winning track as their team chemistry gets more used to having Amar’e Stoudemire (13.6 PPG) in the lineup.

7. Denver Nuggets (33-18) – Denver had been a fast-climbing team in our rankings after winning nine straight games in late January/early February. However, they hit a big roadblock by losing their last three contests. If there’s any silver lining with the losses to Boston, Toronto and Brooklyn, all of the contests have come on the road. Plus Ty Lawson (15.8 PPG) has really stepped up his game by averaging 22.0 PPG throughout February.

8. Memphis Grizzlies (33-18) – After the Grizzlies traded away Rudy Gay, the common reaction was that Memphis would fade away and have trouble earning a playoff spot in the West. However, they’re hanging onto the West’s fourth seed and have grabbed three straight victories. It’ll be interesting to see how the Grizzlies replace Gay’s 17.2 PPG as the season rolls along.

brook-lopez9. Brooklyn Nets (31-22) – Sometimes it’s hard to figure out where Brooklyn fits among the league’s top teams. One week they’re beating Indiana and Denver, the next week they’re losing to Washington and the L.A. Lakers. In any case, it’s all combined to leave the Nets sitting at fourth place in the East. Brook Lopez continues to lead this team with 19.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG and 2.17 BPG.

10. Chicago Bulls (30-22) – Chicago drops two spots in our rankings after losing five out of their past seven games. Now all of these losses have come to good teams, but they’re still losses nonetheless. For this reason, we thought of putting Golden State (30-22) at the number 10 spot. However, we like how complete of a team the Bulls are with Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Nate Robinson, Joakim Noah and Richard Hamilton all in this lineup.

NBA Power Rankings for Feb. 7th, 2013

tony-parkerOver the past couple of years, NBA analysts and fans have questioned if the San Antonio Spurs are too old to compete with the league’s best teams any longer. And the Spurs have responded to this questioning by winning 11 straight games and grabbing the NBA’s best record. This being said, it was a no-brainer to rank San Antonio number one in our latest power rankings. As for how everybody else fared, take a look below.

1. San Antonio Spurs (39-11) – While the Spurs haven’t played any truly elite teams over the last two weeks, they did grab quality victories over Golden State, Atlanta (road) and Memphis during their 11-game win streak. A primary catalyst behind San Antonio’s recent surge is improved play by C Tiago Splitter (10.8 PPG, 5.8 PG) and SG Danny Green (10.0 PPG, 41.9% 3P). Overall, seven Spurs are averaging at least 9.7 PPG.

2. Miami Heat (32-14) – LeBron James and company have had a fair amount of success since mid-January. They’ve won 8 out of the last 10 games, including road victories over the Lakers, Nets and Warriors. James (26.8 PPG) has stepped up his scoring production in February and is averaging 30.3 PPG this month. Unfortunately, Ray Allen (10.7 PPG) has seen his scoring dip down to 3.3 PPG during the same span.

kevin-durant3. Oklahoma City (37-11) – The Thunder have stumbled from first to number three since our last power rankings. They’ve won 5 out of the last 9 games, which is pretty mediocre for this team. Furthermore, Oklahoma City lost to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers just three games ago. One big culprit for the average play of late involves the Thunder playing 12 out of their last 17 contests on the road.

4. New York Knicks (31-16) – After going through some rough patches in December and January, the Knicks appear to be back on track. They’ve won five out of the past six games and are chasing Miami for the East’s best record. Amar’e Stoudemire seems to be working his way back into the New York lineup nicely following a long injury recovery. He’s averaging 14.2 PPG and 4.2 RPG, which is far better than what he was doing a couple weeks ago.

5. Los Angeles Clippers (35-16) – Once the story of the season after winning 17 straight games, Los Angeles has struggled worse than any other NBA team lately. They’ve lost 7 out of the last 10 contests, which includes dropping games to bad teams like Phoenix, Toronto and Washington. Much like Oklahoma City, the Clippers appear to be victims of a rough road schedule, which includes playing 11 out of the last 14 games away. Things won’t get any easier since four out of the next five contests will be played on the road.

danilo-gallineri6. Denver Nuggets (31-18) – The Nuggets are definitely the league’s hottest team right now. They have been victorious in the last 13 out of 15 games and are quickly climbing the Western Conference ladder. This has truly been a team effort since nine Denver players are scoring 8.0 PPG or more. Danilo Gallinari (17.1 PPG) has really been doing well as of late since he’s averaged 21.8 PPG over the past five games. Rumor has it that Denver may be trying to further bolster their lineup by adding Kevin Garnett.

7. Indiana Pacers (31-19) – Indiana went through a three-game losing streak towards the end of January. But they’ve since rebounded by winning five straight contests, including wins over Chicago, Atlanta and Miami. Paul George (17.6 PPG) is really backing up his first All-Star selection by averaging 20.6 PPG during his team’s five-game undefeated run. David West is also pitching in 17.2 PPG and some crucial late-game baskets.

joakim-noah8. Chicago Bulls (29-19) – The Bulls have done a decent job of battling through some tough road games recently and are still looking good in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Derrick Rose still isn’t back from injury, so SF Luol Deng (17.2 PPG) continues to lead this club. C Joakim Noah has also been a force since he’s averaging 12.3 PPG, 11.3 RPG and 2.1 BPG. Assuming Rose can come back soon and get in shape for the playoffs, he’ll definitely have a nice supporting cast.

9. Brooklyn Nets (29-20) – While the Nets are certainly a strong playoff-bound club this year, they’ve yet to truly crack that elite team barrier. Don’t tell this to PF Reggie Evans though, who downplayed how good King James was and questioned the Heat’s lockout-shortened season title. LeBron responded scoring 24 points, grabbing 9 boards and dishing out 7 assists. Looks like Brooklyn still has a ways to go before they can back up Evans’ boasting.

10. Memphis Grizzlies (30-18) – We don’t expect Memphis to be ranked this high throughout the remainder of the season. After all, they just traded away their leading score, Rudy Gay, in a move that many people called ‘panicky.’ They did get Tayshaun Prince (10.3 PPG) in the deal; however, he’s unlikely to match the production that Gay put out. It certainly doesn’t help matters that Zach Randolph’s scoring has dropped by over a point in the last month.