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 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 January 2nd, 2013

We’ve moved past the quarter point of the 2012-2013 NBA season, and the Western Conference is really looking good at this point. In fact, the NBA’s best three records belong to the West as three teams out there are really streaking. But does this mean that we think a West club is a shoe-in to win the championship? Keep reading to see what we think about the number one team and the rest of the top 10.

1. Miami Heat (21-8) – Miami may only have the league’s fifth best record at this point, but they’re still favored by many to repeat as NBA champions. Furthermore, the Heat defeated the league’s current number one club – Oklahoma City – just a few days ago. LeBron James (26.3 PPG), Dwayne Wade (20.4 PPG) and Chris Bosh (18.0 PPG) are scoring over 60% of the team’s points right now.

2. L.A. Clippers (25-7) – After winning 17 straight games, the Clippers finally dropped a contest on the road to Denver. Based on this red-hot streak, we like the Clippers better than anybody in the crowded West. Five Los Angeles players are averaging double digits with Blake Griffin leading the way at 17.8 PPG.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (24-6) – Following back-to-back road losses against Minnesota and Miami, the Thunder have rebounded by winning three straight games. With the West so muddled, Oklahoma City is really going to need their mediocre bench to step up more.

4. San Antonio (25-8) – The Spurs have kept pace with the NBA’s best clubs after winning their last six contests – most of which were blowouts. San Antonio’s balance is definitely impressive since seven players are averaging at least 9.5 PPG; Tony Parker leads them all with 19.3 PPG.

5. New York Knicks (21-10) – The last eight games have been rough on the Knicks since they’ve lost five of these contests. What’s particularly bad about this is that only three of the games have been on the road – and none were against truly elite teams. Things don’t get any easier since the Knicks will face San Antonio on Thursday.

6. Atlanta Hawks (20-10) – Atlanta has been seesawing in December, but lately, they’re doing pretty well. The Hawks are winners of four out of their past five games. This team doesn’t score a lot of points – Josh Smith paces the scoring with 16.6 PPG – but they do play some pretty good defense. A healthy Horford has been difficult for opponents to deal with this year (15.9 PPG, 9.8 RPG).

7. Golden State Warriors (21-10) – Thus far, Golden State has been the surprise of the year. Few people picked the Warriors to make the playoffs, but they’re currently fifth in the West right now. Both Stephen Curry (20.0 PPG, 6.5 APG, 1.5 SPG) and David Lee (20.1 PPG, 11.0 RPG) are propelling this team to success.

8. Memphis Grizzlies (19-9) – Memphis drops a couple spots from our last power rankings after losing three of their last four contests. Memphis is really going to need some increased scoring production since they’re averaging just 94.7 PPG. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies don’t have much bench production since Quincy Pondexter leads non-starters with 6.7 PPG.

9. Indiana Pacers (18-13) – One of the NBA’s hottest teams right now is Indiana. They’ve won eight of the last 10 games and are starting to resemble last year’s team which went 42-24. The Pacers have especially victimized below .500 teams since they’re 15-2 against these clubs.

10. Houston Rockets (17-14) – The Rockets stay in our power rankings for the second week in a row – despite losing two out of the last three games. However, it is worth noting that both losses came against San Antonio and Oklahoma City. James Harden is having a career year with his new team as he’s scoring 26.1 PPG.

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….