After not posting last week, the power rankings are back with a two-week update on all the events in the past fourteen days. There have been some large drops by teams such as the Timberwolves and climbs by teams such as the Wizards after a tough start to the year. The All Star Game reserves have been selected and some teams in the bottom half still have a selection and that will be analyzed as well.
30. Charlotte Bobcats
The futility continues in Charlotte—the Bobcats have dropped eight of their last ten and seem to be on pace for yet another top pick in June. Their only victory in the past 14 days is over the Timberwolves, a team playing just as poor. Without their star player. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist might have hit his rookie wall in January—the small forward is averaging just over seven points per game on an average of 25 minutes. After such a successful start to this campaign many began to think the Cats had a shot at relevance this year, but they fell back to Earth very quickly and are back to last place in the East.
Last Week: 30
29. Phoenix Suns
Phoenix, days after firing head coach Alvin Gentry, were featured on TNT at home against one of the league’s best Clippers. To much surprise, the Suns came out on top but it is not as impressive considering the Clippers were without their star point guard Chris Paul. Phoenix has been a solid team at home, right at .500 at home, but are a woeful 4-19 outside Phoenix. Besides that win against Los Angeles, the Suns have lost their other five contests over the past couple of weeks. The wheels are off in Phoenix and a top lottery pick may do wonders for a team that needs star power. Maybe Shabazz Muhammad could be a good fit for the Suns.
Last Week: 27
28. Orlando Magic
Orlando is the home of the leagues longest active losing streak of six and winners of two of their last twelve. The Magic are in a free fall after spending majority of the first two months vying for a playoff spot, now seven back of eighth place Boston. However, there is some positive news out of Orlando, J.J Redick, a top trade target this season, has been playing awesome despite the losses. This month, the former Duke star has excelled, scoring an average of 16 points per game while shooting 46-percent from three. If Redick can keep up his stellar play going into the trade deadline, the Magic may be able to deal him for a more physical, athletic wing and future picks as this team is clearly still in rebuilding mode.
Last Week: 25
27. Sacramento Kings
The Kings are trying to remain competitive in their ball games despite having their ownership in turmoil. rather than shipping them to Seattle, it is hard to play through the question of their location next season being in question. Sacramento dropped games to the Hornets and Suns, both fellow Western Conference bottom dwellers. Although the most frightening site came when they lost to the Grizzlies 85-69, a game in which the team shot 34-percent from the floor. The Kings did get a morale victory though on Monday when Isaiah Thomas hit a beautiful floater with seconds to go to lift them over the Wizards.
Last Week: 24
26. Cleveland Cavilers
Kyrie Irving’s efforts were finally rewarded when he was selected as a reserve for the All Star game and may be in line for a start now that Rajon Rondo can not play in the mid-February game. Irving celebrated his selection with a 35-point outing in a win against the Bucks and a buzzer beater reminiscent to Jeremy Lin’s game winner just a year ago to knock off the Raptors in Canada. Now that Anderson Varejao is out for the year with a blood clot in his lung, the Cavs have lost their biggest trade chip. However, Tristan Thompson has been stellar with Varejao out of commission, averaging 14 points and 11 rebounds in the month of January.
Last Week: 29
25. New Orleans Hornets
The Hornets have finally climbed out of last place in the West as the Suns took their spot over the past two weeks. The Hornets have been rather competitive with Eric Gordon returning to the lineup, the team is 8-5 with the former Hoosier playing. As well, Ryan Anderson has been returning to his form as a stretch-forward with a stroke from beyond the arc. Anderson went 7 of 12 from the three as the Hornets took down the powerhouse Grizzlies. The Hornets also showed signs of future success when they had four-point losses to the Warriors and Spurs, and a 12-point win over the reeling Celtics.
Last Week: 26
24. Washington Wizards
When healthy, this Wizards team actually poses a threat in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference. Washington is 6-4 with John Wall active this season, and Wall has been a big contributor to the team’s success. He is averaging 14 points and 6 assists in his ten performances, in just 25 minutes of action. This team has grabbed wins over the Nuggets, Blazers, and the Bulls over this stretch with the Bulls one being the most prominent. In a game that saw tough defense, the Wizards out-defended one of the leagues best, holding the Bulls to just 73 points making people forget about the fact they only scored 86.
Last Week: 28
23. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons sit tenth in the East, which sounds pretty awful because the East is pitiful this year, but this team may be in prime position to make a playoff run. With Boston, the eighth seed at the moment, has lost their star point guard, and the Sixers, in ninth place, is still awaiting the return of Andrew Bynum and it is not given that he will perform at such a high level. The Pistons likelihood of capturing the final spot in the playoffs is not that that crazy because of the play of their young players—Andre Drummond continues to stuff the stat sheet in limited minutes and Will Bynum, who only plays 17 minutes per game shoots 44-percent from the field and 38 from beyond the arc.
Last Week: 22
22. Minnesota Timberwolves
The injuries just keep piling up in Minnesota—as if it wasn’t hard enough for Kevin Love to be out for much of the season, Nikola Pekovic, a center who has burst onto the scene this year with Love out, is out with a thigh injury. Ricky Rubio, the flashy Spanish point guard, has not been his former self after his torn ACL. Rubio is averaging four points and five assists on 25-percent shooting and is shooting one for fifteen from three this season, which is just .067-percent. Andrei Kirilenko’s strong return to the NBA has been negated by the injuries that this Timberwolves team has faced this season as the Russian forward has averaged 13 points and 6 rebounds on a nightly basis.
Last Week: 17
21. Los Angeles Lakers
Here we are again—the Lakers have finally snapped their road losing streak at seven with a win at Utah, then proceeded to knock off the defending conference champion Thunder at home in a maintain at the Staples Center. Is this the beginning of the Lakers season, because every time they get some momentum it gets stopped immediately with more issues. With Pau Gasol now coming off the bench in a more effective role, and Kobe Bryant having back-to-back 14-assist performances, maybe the Lakers may have put all the pieces together and will now be on their winning ways. LA is just four games back of the eighth seed Rockets and if they show the dominance they have in these past two games they could grab a low-seed come April and upset some strong teams.
Last Week: 19
20. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors continue to surprise many in the league with their tough play despite the injury of European Jonas Valanciunas and the mediocre play of Kyle Lowry, who is still slow after his ankle injury from a while back. Toronto hung tough with the Bulls and Heat but did take down the Lakers at home. Lowry’s issues on the floor has led to the team once again putting their faith in Jose Calderon as Lowry has become subject to trade rumors with teams facing point guard trouble. It is heart breaking though to see them fall to the Cavs at the buzzer at home to a play identical to the one that they lost to the Knicks courtesy of Jeremy Lin.
Last Week: 23
19. Dallas Mavericks
Just like the Lakers, the Mavericks are showing their competitive selves once again in January. Dallas is tied with the Lakers record-wise as they both are four games back of Houston and it could be to Dirk Nowitzki beginning to channel his old self, posting an average of 16 points and just about 6 rebounds in the month of January and a percentage of 36 from the three-point line. Although, O.J. Mayo continues to slip up from his early season success pushing Mark Cuban more and more to make a trade at the deadline for a wing scorer, could Rudy Gay be in the works for Dallas, only time will tell with that one.
Last Week: 21
18. Philadelphia 76ers
After burying their playoff hopes, the Jrue Holiday-led Sixers are back in contention for a playoff spot now that Rajon Rondo is lost for the season. The Sixers sit three games back of Boston for that final spot and the good news gets better—Andrew Bynum is finally back and working out with the team. Bynum and the medical staff is not sure if he will be ready before the All Star Game but that is definitely the goal, as the team could build some chemistry and be ready to go after the break and make a playoff push. Philly is already making a playoff statement with a huge win over the Knicks at home by 17, showing that with Bynum in the lineup, this team could be as dangerous as everyone thought they would be.
Last Week: 20
17. Utah Jazz
The Jazz were in the midst of a strong run that saw them win seven of their last nine, highlighted by wins over the Heat and Pacers, but then they faced the Rockets at home on Monday night. Houston tore a part the streaking Jazz, both of which are competing at the bottom of the West’s playoff picture, losing by 45. Yes, 45 at home thrashed you read that right, a relevant NBA team, a place where they were 15-4. The Jazz can’t let this bring them down too much. As already noted, they are part of a tough Western Conference where a tough stretch might seal their fate with the playoffs. Utah has a balanced roster that sees a lot of players garner time, so coach Tyrone Corbin may feel comfortable making some lineup changes to see the issue in Utah after the loss.
Last Week: 18
16. Boston Celtics
Boston, a part of the NBA’s elite going into the year, has made a habit of being extremely inconsistent and streaky through their 44 games. So, when the team faced a six-game losing streak going into Sunday’s tilt against the Miami Heat, they seemed doomed. It only got worse as during the game Rajon Rondo, who was a late scratch for the contest, reportedly suffered an torn ACL and is out for the remainder of the season. Despite, not knowing of the results, Boston won the game showing signs of life that the Paul Pierce era is not over just yet. Although, without Rondo in the lineup this team is doomed—Rondo is clearly the teams best player all around, as he has five triple doubles this year. The team lacks speed on both ends of the floor and seems bound for the lottery where they will be faced with the task of building around their injured superstar point guard.
Last Week: 12