The top ten of this weeks power rankings is very tight—any team inside that group can be considered the best with the way they have played over the past week. The Pacers grabbed two signature wins over two top ten teams while the Knicks finally showed how dangerous they are at full strength. The first big trade of the season went down as the Grizzlies dealt away Rudy Gay but they move up for what they received in return.
15. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks have a very confusing roster. They have one of the best defensive frontcourts in the entire league, led behind Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh, but then they boast a backcourt that is offensive minded, Brandon Jennings Monta Ellis, that are below average on defense—this combination puts them 16th in the league in points allowed. Clearly something has to give, if the Bucks want to succeed in a poor Eastern Conference, they should mold their team around their frontcourt, and move their backcourt for more serviceable defenders. If you follow these power rankings, I believe that Monta Ellis is toxic to this Bucks squad and Jennings needs him gone to reach his potential. That is why I see Ellis being moved at the deadline for a defensive specialist.
Last Week: 14
14. Boston Celtics
Just when it seemed that the Celtics were finished, Rondo goes down and then Sullinger. No chance they can succeed this season right? Typically after everyone wrote Boston off; the Celtics won four straight including wins over the Heat and Celtics. Remember those offensive woes the Celtics faced? In those four wins, Boston has scored at least 97 points each time and now has a cushion of 3.5 games in the East. Boston though seems destined to make a trade by February 21, which seems like a bad idea at the moment but it is still for the better because they have to look at the big picture—this team is old and run down and if they don’t obtain younger players they will fall back to irrelevance.
Last Week: 16
13. Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers continue to be one of the most exciting young teams in basketball. This club features Damian Lillard, who is taking the league by storm along with a very deep bench that has all players eligible right now playing at least seven minutes a night. LaMarcus Aldridge, one of the more surprising All Star bids, drained a against the Mavericks at home after hitting his first three of the season the play before. Aldridge may not be on the trading block anymore because Portland has been much better than the organization expected and this core has the makings of a consistent playoff team.
Last Week: 13
12. Houston Rockets
The Rockets only had two games this past week after they routed the Jazz on Monday and they broke even, dropping a shootout to the surging Nuggets and then a double-digit win over the Bobcats. The Rockets impressive start is starting to be forgotten as they are in the precarious eighth position and are already four and a half games behind just the sixth seed Nuggets. Houston may possess one of the most talented young clubs in basketball, but may end up in the lottery and need to wait a year before contending.
Last Week: 11
11. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets continue to play great under the coaching of P.J Carlesimo, 14-5 in his regime, but they lost in a nationally televised contest against the Heat by 20. Despite losing by 20, the Nets were very much in the game and had Miami on the ropes well into the third until LeBron James took over; leading a 36-14 run through the quarter. The Nets proceeded to take down the short-handed Bulls in a tight one as they continue to battle with the elite teams of the East. Can the Nets contend for a chance to go to the finals—right now the answer is no. They are way too slow and lack the athleticism the Knicks, Bulls and Heat all have, so Brooklyn needs to find some younger, quicker players to fight for a chance to win a championship.
Last Week: 10
10. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers should have fallen more last week so that is the reason why they fall seven spots this week. The Clippers have been incredibly pedestrian since Chris Paul has been sidelined with an injury, going 2-6 in his most recent absence. The scary part of CP3’s injury is that he is still yet to practice which means that his injury could be for an extended period of time. With Paul out, the Clippers have dropped games to the lowly likes of the Raptors by 25 and the Wizards on the road. If Paul is out past the All Star break, the Clippers could fall into the tight race at the bottom half of the Western Conference playoff picture.
Last Week: 3
9. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers could very well be in the top five of this week’s power rankings, but in such a competitive top ten, the Pacers can not jump many of these teams. Although, the Pacers did knock off the defending champion Heat in convincing fashion, containing the Heat to just 89 points as the offensively challenged Pacers scored 102. The Pacers continued their great week with a win over the Bulls in another surprising shootout over the Bulls, 111-101, pulling into a tie for the central division with the Bulls. The Pacers proved that they can contend with the best in the East twice in one week with the victories over the Heat and Bulls and could cause trouble for the two come playoff time.
Last Week: 12
8. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors 4-0 record this week is a bit misleading as they beat the likes of the Raptors, Cavilers, Mavericks and Suns, but they did score at least 100 in all four contests. Although, this Warriors team has gotten Andrew Bogut back—which boast this young explosive club to another level as they did indeed miss the former Utah standout. David Lee’s All Star play will only continue with Bogut back as he is another presence in the middle and takes some pressure off Lee to grab all the rebounds. When healthy, this Warriors team could possibly contend in the West, who saw that coming this season?
Last Week: 9
7. Miami Heat
The Heat did fall to the Pacers, which could be a scary thought for them during the postseason just like last year. However, the Heat did overcome their issues and knock off the Pacers last May and it is clear this team is better than last year. Surprisingly enough, this team is much better due to the addition of Chris Andersen. “Birdman,” may not be with the team come the postseason, for he is on a 10-day contract with the club, but he brings a post presence that can go after rebounds and play the five while the Heat play their smaller lineup with LeBron at the four.
Last Week: 8
6. Memphis Grizzlies
The Rudy Gay saga has finally ended in Memphis, not that it was such a burden on the organization but now they can move on. Memphis at first seemed to undersell Gay’s value as they got Ed Davis and Tayshaun Prince in return, but this trade is very productive for them. Davis is playing the best ball of his young career and is showing signs of promise for future years while Prince brings veteran leadership to a young Grizzlies locker room along with his defensive abilities. With the addition of Davis, the Grizzlies, who are reportedly not necessarily done at the deadline, may move Zach Randolph. Randolph, who may be much more talented than Davis has several years on the former Tar Heel and could give the Grizzlies a lot more pieces in return. The question if the Grizzlies truly won this trade is yet to be seen and it will be known based upon the performance of Davis and Prince and their postseason performance.
Last Week: 7
5. Chicago Bulls
Chicago did fall twice this week to two top Eastern Conference teams, the Nets and Pacers, both on the road. The Bulls shouldn’t be concerned because the team has been without Joakim Noah, who has an ailing foot, and Carlos Boozer, who has a hurt hamstring. Boozer did return to the lineup in the teams loss to the Pacers but in just limited minutes. In a seven-game series, the Bulls pose as the largest threat to the Heat in the East—the Bulls are the threat they are because they have already beat the Heat and are still yet to get their best player back, Derrick Rose. With Rose back, the Bulls going to the Finals is a reality.
Last Week: 4
4. Denver Nuggets
Man this Nuggets team can score. Denver has broken 100 points in nine of their last ten and has won eight of those contests. After having one of the toughest schedules through December, the Nuggets schedule has lightened up in January and now into February, which has brought upon this barrage of wins. Denver’s strong month has put them in a steady position at second in the West. The perks of having a tough early season schedule is that this young team that lacks experience now has been battle tested and are aware of the strategies to beat some of the best in the West.
Last Week: 5
3. New York Knicks
After coming back from injury, Amar’e Stoudemire was ridiculed for poor play and the cause for the Knicks slump at the time. Although, “Stat,” is a prime reason for the Knicks surge as of late, winners of their last five. In those past five wins, Stoudemire has averaged 18 points on 72-percent shooting, which is 5 points better and nearly 20-percent better than his season average. In the Knicks rout of the Kings by 39 on Saturday, Stoudemire scored 21 on 10 of 10 shooting as Carmelo Anthony was in the midst of a season-worst game and Stoudemire stepped up and filled the role as volume scorer. If the Knicks core rotation of Stoudemire, Anthony, Chandler and Felton can all remain healthy and play at an high level of play, the Knicks are as dangerous as any team in the NBA.
Last Week: 6
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder had another great week, which doesn’t surprise anybody because this team is simply great. The teams offense is shooting 47-percent from the field, third in the league, and lead the league in points per game at just under 106 points per game. The Thunder used this offense to beat down upon the short-handed Grizzlies by 17. Although, during the game, Russell Westbrook, infamous for his temper, had a tantrum on the floor and left the court for a short period of time before returning to the floor to finish the game. If Westbrook has the issues he had on Thursday, which was very similar to his issues in the postseason last year, the Thunder may face trouble because of lack of composure.
Last Week: 2
1. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs hold onto their number one ranking after just two games against the two worst teams in the East. However, their top ranking could be in jeopardy this coming week with the injury to Tim Duncan. Duncan who was battling a leg injury, hurt his knee in Saturdays win over the Wizards—it is reported that there is no structural damage to Duncan’s knee but he is not going to rush back and further hurt it. The Spurs don’t need to rush back the Big Fundamental because the Spurs have won ten-straight and show no signs of slowing down with the way they have performed. The Spurs are not even worried about the regular season because their real issues come up in the postseason and if they want to avenge last season’s loss to the Thunder they need Duncan at full strength.
Last Week: 1
Updated as of 2/5/13