Just when several teams seemed locked into the top 15 of the power rankings, they tumble. Teams such as the Lakers and Bucks faced tough stretches this past week and now sit back in the bottom half of the league. With the trade deadline quickly approaching many teams on the wrong side of the rankings are faced with decisions on their rosters and trades will need to be made so they can contend not just this year but down the road.
30. Charlotte Bobcats
In a battle of two basement dwellers, the Bobcats fell due to Kyrie Irving’s buzzer beater, but in another battle of weak teams, the Bobcats knocked off Detroit in a shootout. The New Year though has been great for this awful squad, in the two games they have played they are averaging 106 points a game, which is great for an offense that lacks much talent on the offensive side. Everyone is aware of Kemba Walker this season and his jump to solid starter in this league in this campaign, but their other lottery pick, Bismack Biyombo, has been commendable at times like his 17-rebound performance to add to his ten points in their win over Detroit.
Last Week: 28
29. Cleveland Cavilers
It becomes more and more clear that Kyrie Irving is a star in this league, despite his poor roster and record. The reigning Rookie of the Year is averaging 23 points a game, 5 assists and has a PER of 21.1, fifth among point guards this season. Irving has also been the hero of the team, showcased on Friday against Charlotte. Past Irving, there is a huge drop off in talent, Anderson Varejao remains out with an injury and their next best player is a toss up. Dion Waiters has had a mediocre rookie campaign and there is still room for improvement for the Syracuse scorer—Waiters does not facilitate enough for a shooting guard who is only averaging 14 points a game. The Cavs seem bound to make a deal at the deadline to keep Kyrie Irving content in Ohio before all the losses begin to pile up.
Last Week: 28
28. Washington Wizards
The Wizards still have four wins on the season, a total that some teams get in a span of a week, which is just a depressing thought. After taking the resurgent Nets at home into double overtime after blowing an eight-point lead with 1:23 to play in the first OT, the Wizards got throttled by the Heat, finishing the game victim to a 21-0 run by the Heat. Although, the Wizards have beaten the Heat earlier in the year, but now mark them winners over both Finals team from last season—the Thunder fell to the now five-win Wizards at the hands of Bradley Beal with .03 seconds remaining, capping off one of their best performances of the year. The only positive news out of Washington is that John Wall is practicing and can be back before the All Star break, a definite morale boost for a team that has nearly none.
Last Week: 29
27. New Orleans Hornets
The Hornets sit in last place in the West, and when a team starts Austin Rivers, an overrated rookie who has a PER of 6.2, eighth worst among qualified players, you can not be surprised. Besides Rivers and their health issues, the Hornets have a good nucleus building—Ryan Anderson continues to be one of the most versatile power forwards in the business and Anthony Davis has showed signs of greatness when his health enables it. Do not forget Eric Gordon, despite having his future in New Orleans questioned, he is still the teams leader clearly despite playing only three games. This was showcased on Sunday when he converted a three-point play with just under five seconds remaining in OT.
Last Week: 27
26. Phoenix Suns
The Suns remain one of the most quiet, boring teams in the entire league—they average just a score of 96 points a night, and allow over 100. The Suns lack exciting impact players, for Michael Beasley has been nothing but trouble for this team with his horrific shot choice. Seeming bound for the lottery, the Suns need to acquire a big name prospect who brings electrifying play to the floor, because it is a near census that this team is the most boring in all of the NBA.
Last Week: 26
25. Dallas Mavericks
The window may have closed for Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs. Even after the German returned from his knee injury, the Mavericks have continued to falter and now sit four and a half games out of the final playoff spot in the West. The Mavs dropped the ball against the last place Hornets in the final seconds and lost in a 2011 Finals rematch against on the road in Miami. The old legs in Dallas need to be shipped out and it is time to rebuild because the Dirk Nowitzki era is as good as over.
Last Week: 25
24. Orlando Magic
Orlando had a frustrating week as they dropped a close one to the Bulls, and then blew a second half lead to Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks at home. Following those two losses the Magic came up on the losing end of a shootout against the Blazers. Even though this team has clearly missed Glen Davis, but Nikola Vucevic has filled his void for the time being. In his past ten, the Swiss product is averaging 14 and 14 along with nearly two blocks a game, clearly making an impact throughout the game. The Magic continue to out play their standards that were set so low, so this year could be thought of as a great season for the organization.
Last Week: 23
23. Sacramento Kings
The Kings continue to be stuck between a rock and a hard place—Demarcus Cousins, who was as good as gone in Sacramento a couple weeks back is playing like a superstar. In his past ten, Cousins is posting an average of 18 points and 11 rebounds and four assists. Clearly this team is not a playoff contender, so they are destined to make a trade, but the decision is who needs to go. Is Cousins, a talented young center, but toxic locker room personality a need for this team in the future, because he can give the Kings the best deal, but they would be losing a lot in the future.
Last Week: 24
22. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors looked very strong on Wednesday when they took down the Blazers by 23 at home, but then fell a part towards the end of the week. The Raptors allowed Demarcus Cousins to demolish them with 31 points and 20 rebounds, and then they just could not keep up with the Thunder and lost by double digits. The Raptors seem basically locked into making deal come February 21st, most likely with Andrea Bargnani, but it seems more and more likely that Kyle Lowry will be gone, the stat-sheet stuffing point guard has a great contract that they acquired in the summer, but he has been outplayed by veteran Jose Calderon and seems gone with Bargnani.
Last Week: 22
21. Detroit Pistons
Detroit seemed poised to dominate the Bobcats on Sunday after they held on to knock off the Hawks on Friday, but they were outplayed by the weaker Bobcats and showed their immaturity with 22 turnovers. A prominent issue of the Pistons, is the fact that they could not light up the scoreboard—they rank 22nd in the league in scoring, only scoring one less point than they allow. Only four players are scoring in double figures on average, and this will be their downfall until a volume scorer comes to the Motor City.
Last Week: 21
20. Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers faced the class of the West in a tough back-to-back, the Thunder and then the Spurs, and to not much surprise they lost convincingly in both contests. With Jrue Holiday being the only capable scorer and passer, the Sixers have fallen off from their hot start. The Sixers have broken 100 points twice in their last ten and are clearly making a case that they were the biggest loser of the Dwight Howard deal, getting an injured center who does not seem near his return and role players.
Last Week: 18
19. Utah Jazz
The Jazz christened in the new year with a blowout win over the Timberwolves by 22 in a duel of two teams battling for the eighth spot in the West. Now with the Timberwolves likely out of the picture, the Jazz seem to be on the inside track to grab one of the final spots in the playoffs, but if they want to succeed in the playoffs they need to acquire a point guard. Mo Williams injury woes have been well documented and with guys like Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap on the trading block, they could acquire a top-flight point guard who can make an instant impact in Salt Lake City. The Jazz remain just below the West’s elite, but they are right in the middle of the pack jockeying for position in the tight playoff picture.
Last Week: 20
18. Los Angeles Lakers
Just when fans of any team began to shake from the fact that the Lakers were gearing up to dominate the league like many projected, they drop three straight that led the media to freak out. The hysteria will only greaten when the teams two stars, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, reportedly had a strong exchange of words after their New Years Day loss to the 76ers— although Kobe Bryant, who is new to twitter this week, down played the whole report with a joking picture on his feed. All joking aside, this is unbelievable how poor this team has played, despite chemistry issues, a team that features a top ten player of all time, the bar none top center in the league, and a former back-to-back MVP should not be playing this poor. LA should be panicking because the finger just can not be pointed at Pau Gasol or Dwight Howards ailing back.
Last Week: 13
17. Portland Trail Blazers
After a New Year’s day win over the powerful Knicks in MSG courtesy of a Damian Lillard clutch three that sealed the deal, the Blazers took their talents to the road to knock off the Grizzlies and the Timberwolves both in grinded out victories. With Lamarcus Aldridge beginning to get back into the swing of things, he has looked weak in his early season performances. Portland has also showed signs of maturity, a great sign for a team being carried by a rookie, as they have won those tight battles with the three listed before and the Magic in overtime. The Blazers are yet to hit their peak and could easily sneak into the playoffs, which not many expected.
Last Week: 19
16. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks lost all three of the contests this week by an average total of 12, against a varied group of teams including an elderly Spurs club, a high powered offense in the Rockets, and a team that is one of the worst on the offensive end Indiana. Milwaukee does boast a strong offense and a solid frontcourt to defend the basket so the fact that they could not at least compete is a frightening thought. Brandon Jennings has not been great this year, but once again Monta Ellis is a prime culprit of the Bucks poor play and he needs to be dealt come the trade deadline—with several defending power forwards that could play face up outside of the paint, the Bucks may be able to package a deal for an all-around small forward that can replace Luc Richard Mbah a Moute or any woeful three in the starting lineup.
Last Week: 14
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