NBA Power Rankings for December 19th, 2012

Throughout the year, we’ve ranked the Oklahoma City Thunder lower than most power rankings put out by other sites. The reason why is because they hadn’t really beaten any top-notch competition on the way to the NBA’s best record. However, they recently grabbed a big win over a great team and have shot up our rankings. If you’re interested in seeing how far they’ve moved up, keep on reading…

1. Miami Heat (16-6) – The Heat may not have the league’s top record, but they are the defending champion and perhaps the most talented team too. This being said, we’ve had the Heat at number one or two from the very beginning of the season. Don’t be surprised if Miami is hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy again in June.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder (20-4) – After winning their last 11 games – including a comfortable victory over the Spurs – Oklahoma has moved up two spots from last week. Could the NBA Finals be a rematch of Miami and the Thunder? Maybe with the way that Serge Ibaka has stepped up his scoring production this year (from 9.1 to 14.6 PPG).

3. New York Knicks (18-6) – It may seem illogical to drop the Knicks two spots in the power rankings since they went 2-1 last week and are playing without Amare Stoudemire. But the Thunder are on fire lately and we can’t get off our original pick for the Heat to win the title yet. Knicks PG Raymond Felton has been steadily improving over the year and he’s now averaging 16.2 PPG and 6.7 APG.

4. L.A. Clippers (18-6) – Besides Oklahoma City, another team that’s streaking lately is the Clippers. They’ve rebounded nicely from a four-game losing streak in November to win 10 straight games now. The scoring has been pretty balanced on this team since seven players are averaging 9.6 PPG or more.

5. Memphis Grizzlies (16-6) – Memphis checks in at number five for the second straight week following two wins last week. The jury is out on whether Memphis is a true threat to dethrone Oklahoma City as the Western Conference champion, but they are definitely playing well so far.

6. Atlanta Hawks (15-7) – The Hawks recently lost to the Golden State Warriors, but they still move up a spot based on another team’s demise. Al Horford continues to provide solid, all-around play for this club since he’s averaging 15.3 PPG and 10.0 RPG.

7. San Antonio Spurs (19-8) – San Antonio represents the biggest drop in our rankings after falling from number three to number seven. They’ve lost four out of the past five games and have vacated the West’s top spot. If there’s anything good to come out of the downturn, all of the losses came against quality teams on the road.

8. Golden State Warriors (17-8) – Few people predicted the Warriors to be among the league’s best teams. But here we are a quarter of the way through the season and Golden State is keeping pace with the elite ballclubs. Two of their past three victories have come on the road against Miami and Atlanta, which is definitely a good sign.

9. Chicago Bulls (14-10) – Chicago could definitely be higher if Derrick Rose weren’t out for most of the season. But he is and the Bulls are dealing with it the best they can. Joakim Noah came up big against the Celtics last night after putting up a triple-double (11PTS, 13REB, 10AST).

10. Milwaukee Bucks (13-10) – The Bucks have bounced in and out of the top 10 this year, and at the moment, they’re back in. Winning four out of the past five games has propelled the Bucks into the thick of things. C Larry Sanders is providing some outstanding defensive play (3.1 BPG) for Milwaukee this season.