The power rankings return with a two-week ranking that includes the effect on top teams after the Rajon Rondo injury. There was not much movement in the top half of the league except for the fact that there is yet another top team in a volatile season. With the All Star Game quickly approaching teams are trying to position themselves for the playoff push after the break.
15. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks continue to be one of the most confusing franchises in all of basketball. For starters, the Hawks won the front end of a home and home with the Nets convincingly behind Jeff Teague’s 28-point performance, but then dropped one to the same team on the road. The Hawks then loss to the Spurs without Tim Duncan or Manu Ginobili but then came back from 27 down to beat the Celtics in double overtime. To add to the confusion, the Hawks found out that Lou Williams will be out the rest of the season with a torn ACL, a tough blow for the Hawks as Williams has been a huge reason to the teams early success, third in the team in scoring coming off the bench.
Last Week: 15
14. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks continue to remain relevant in the East despite the issues on the team— Monta Ellis and his entire game and the firing of coach Scott Skilies. The Bucks sit comfortable at seventh place in the East, but they have captured some signature wins over the past two weeks. On the road the Bucks won a shootout against the Blazers and then won another high-scoring affair at home against the Warriors. The Bucks have broken the 100-point barrier in the nine of their last ten due in part to Brandon Jennings and his great play, 21 points, 6 assists on 42-percent shooting. If the Bucks continue to have their offense flow through Jennings and less through Ellis they will keep up their great play.
Last Week: 14
13. Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers continue to be one of the most welcoming surprises in this season with a theme of change. This young Portland squad has beaten many of the NBA’s elite, the Pacers and Clippers being the victims this past week. LaMarcus Aldridge was selected to the All Star Game which is a bit surprising considering the big man has not been as effective as he has in the past, but he is still right there with the elite face up power forwards in the league today. Portland is in a safe spot for now in a tough Western Conference and could set itself up for future success down the road if they could lock up a playoff spot in the first year of the Damian Lillard era.
Last Week: 16
12. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers, who seemed to be the team to take the Heat to the limit in the East this postseason once again, has stumbled over this two-week stretch. After a 10-point win over the Rockets and a Martin Luther King Day win over the Grizzlies by one, the Pacers have dropped three straight. Yes, they were against competitive opponents, Jazz, Blazers and Nuggets, but it has been they way they lost—they have allowed over 100 points in all three contests. It is unfortunate that the referees may have costs Indiana their game against the Nuggets, a one-point loss in Denver, a tough place to play. Indiana did get credited with an All Star selection, Paul George, who will be attending his first game and is rightfully deserved, for he has carried this Pacers team to the top of the East once again.
Last Week: 10
11. Houston Rockets
The Rockets, who were stumbling two weeks ago with losses over the Timberwolves and Mavericks, responded this past week with key wins over the Nets and a domination of the Jazz. Houston used their most lethal weapon to their advantage, speed and the three, to win those two games. In their win over the Nets, they shot 42-percent from three and scored 119 against the leagues fifth best defense. In the 45-point win over the Jazz, Houston went 46-percent from the three-point line, hitting 16 of their 34 attempts, and dropped 125 points on a team that allows 99 points on average.
Last Week: 13
10. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets did face trouble on a short west coast road trip when both the Grizzlies and Rockets blew them out, but that can not allow you to overlook the fact that the Nets marched into Madison Square Garden and convincingly took down the Knicks. The Nets made the Knicks play there game and despite the three-point final result, the Nets played much better than their New York counterpart. The Nets must have been agitated when Brook Lopez was not selected to the All Star Game, the seven-footer is clearly a snub, for he is averaging the most points amongst centers and has a PER of 25, a top five number in the entire league. With Rajon Rondo going down and can not play in the February event, Lopez or even point guard Deron Williams can be elected who has stepped up his game with P.J Carlesimo at the helm.
Last Week: 11
9. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors seemed primed to claim their elite status in the league with wins over the Clippers and Thunder at home, along with two All Star reserves, Stephen Curry and David Lee. However, all went awry towards the end of the week—Curry was not selected to the All Start Game, one of the most notable snubs in recent memory, but Lee did earn a selection. Also, the Dubs dropped two of their three straight on the road to the Bulls and Bucks, and then in Mondays victory over the Raptors, Stephen Curry, sprained his ankle in the second half of the game, a reoccurring injury for the guard. It is reported as a mild sprain so does not seem serious, but Curry has a bad injury history and this ailment could drag on.
Last Week: 8
8. Miami Heat
The Heat responded to their issues with two romping’s in California over the Warriors and Lakers, and then had at least 110 points in their next two against mediocre teams the Raptors and Pistons. Although, the Heat, winners of those four went into the TD Garden and lost a double overtime thriller against the Heat despite the fact that they lost Rajon Rondo before the game and an extended period of time. The Heat had to rely too much on Lebron in crunch time as Dwyane Wade had one of his worst performances all year. There is a plus side to this contest—the Heat have always faced trouble with Boston during the big three era, but with Rondo out this team may have trouble making the postseason which favors the Heat as no matter where Boston is seeded they cause havoc for the Heat.
Last Week: 9
7. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies continue to build themselves into the team they were in the first couple of weeks—a hard-nosed team that no one can beat down on and will battle you until the end. Marc Gasol did not grab an All Star nod but his teammate Zach Randolph did, and the good news only continued through the week, with wins over the Lakers and Nets at home. The reported trade that would essentially move Rudy Gay for Paul Pierce is interesting—the deal instantly makes the Grizz a title contender, for Pierce has championship experience which Gay lacks and he is still averaging 18 points per game, which is actually a point more then Gay’s season average.
Last Week: 7
6. New York Knicks
The Knicks panic meter began to rise substantially when they dropped the ball against the Nets at home and got routed by the weaker 76ers on the road by 17. Although, Carmelo Anthony carried the Knicks in a bounce back from their Saturday night in Philly with a big win over the Hawks back at home. Melo dropped 42 on the Hawks including the potential game winning and-one on a fierce drive to the basket. With Raymond Felton finally back in uniform the Knicks can run the floor at a fast pace with Jason Kidd no longer running the point.
Last Week: 5
5. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets continue to be one of the best teams in basketball—after getting blown out by the Thunder at home in Oklahoma City, the Nuggets bounced back and won at home in a shootout. The same team also contained James Harden and the Rockets, among the leagues highest scoring offenses to just 95 points. The Nuggets capped off their dominant week in the association with a controversial win over the Pacers by one, which the refs may have helped decide. Denver’s hot streak has been due to this hot January has pushed them to second in the West and it could be thanked to Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari, both of which had tough starts to the year but are both averaging 18 points per game in 33 minutes of action.
Last Week: 6
4. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls have finally been rewarded for their tough, gritty play without Derrick Rose—Chicago had two players selected to the All Star Game, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. Deng is more of a surprise as Noah as Brook Lopez seemed more deserving, but this shows how much the coaches respect Chicago and what they have done this season. Deng is amongst the top player in minutes played and has carried this Bulls team on offense, leading the team in scoring with 17 points a game. Besides the fact of two All Stars, this Bulls team is as good as they were with Derrick Rose and they are only going to get better when the injured guard returns, which may be sooner rather than later.
Last Week: 4
3. Los Angeles Clippers
Chris Paul may just be the NBA’s Most Valuable Player this year, for his Clippers seem lost with him out of the lineup. The Clippers have been 1-3 without Paul losing to the Suns and the Blazers, both winnable games for a team like this. CP3’s injury is not to serious so there is no need to panic in Los Angeles, but this team needs him back for them to remain amongst the top of the Western Conference.
Last Week: 2
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder faced trouble this week for the first time all year as they dropped two to Western Conference foes the Warriors and Lakers. As well, this team was outshot by the Nuggets, a seemingly impossible task with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook carrying the team, but OKC allowed the Nuggets to shoot 48-percent from the field seven players score in double figures. These defensive issues could be noticed in their loss to the Lakers on Sunday, when Kevin Martin, a known weak defender, was left on the bench opting to be more defensive rather than offensive.
Last Week: 1
1. San Antonio Spurs
This does not surprise anybody—the Spurs continue to dominate the regular season just like every other year, but in this past stretch they have not needed Tim Duncan to win games, Tiago Splitter has taken his role for the time being. Duncan, who was out four of the past five with a left knee ailment, has not been missed as Splitter has been posting an average of 15 points and 9 rebounds with a absurd 64-percent shooting percentage. Tony Parker also has been filling the void Duncan leaves as he has been averaging 24 points and 10 assists per game over his past five, four of which Duncan has been sidelined. This may be a broken record though—the Spurs are a very strong regular season team, and that doesn’t guarantee postseason success, so is this a different year or the same season over and over again in San Antonio.
Last Week: 3