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 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.