After two teams in this half of the power rankings made a deal that reaped benefits, the rankings have had many teams rise and fall. A new team takes the number 30 spot while teams such as the Cavilers and Hornets show promise with a young core to build around. As the trade deadline comes closer, the Raptors and Pistons will not be the only teams who have made deals in the 30-16 part of these power rankings.
30. Orlando Magic
Welcome back to the bottom of the power rankings, Orlando. The Magic are losers of ten straight and have went from surprising contender for a playoff spot, to bottom feeder of the East. This week, Orlando went winless including a 17-point loss to the 76ers where they scored only 61 points. Even though the likes of J.J Redick and Nikola Vucevic, the Magic have floundered, ranking in the bottom half of the league in points for and against on average. This was predicted to be a troubling year for Orlando because of who they got back for star center Dwight Howard, but with Redick possibly on the move this team could gain some key pieces into building a ball club that can go to the Finals just like they did just a few years ago.
Last Week: 28
29. Charlotte Bobcats
The Bobcats get out of the number 30 spot simply because the Magic have been playing the worst basketball of the year. Charlotte’s rough December and January only got worse in February when rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist took a knee to the head from teammate Jeff Taylor and had to leave the game on a stretcher. The rookie only suffered a concussion, which is a relief to many because it seemed worse when the stretcher came out to take him away. Without Gilchrist, this team now becomes even more tough to watch and will show how valuable he is to this young Bobcat squad.
Last Week: 30
28. Sacramento Kings
The Kings road woes continued on their recent road trip, going 1-5 on their trip, making their road record this year 5-21. Sacramento tried challenging the Jazz’s 45-point loss to the Rockets with a 39-point loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden for the worst loss of the year. Their rough road trip culminated with a seven-point loss to the Jazz where DeMarcus Cousins received two technical fouls and was ejected from the game. With so many young players on the roster, the Kings may need to move some of them to try and gain some veteran expertise to fix this toxic locker room.
Last Week: 27
27. Washington Wizards
The Wizards seemed to cool off after they heated up when John Wall returned from injury; they dropped their last four going into Monday. Although, the fully healthy Wiz grabbed a win against the reeling Clippers at home, ending their losing streak and one of their most complete wins of the year, led behind five double digit scorers and a defense that forced LA to shoot four of seventeen from beyond the arc. These kinds of wins against the class of the West, despite not having their best player, are ones that are remembered by young ball clubs such as the Wizards.
Last Week: 24
26. Phoenix Suns
The Suns did shock many viewers who tuned into their nationally televised matchup against the Lakers in Steve Nash’s return game. The Suns had a furious comeback that showed shades of the Nash-led Suns and took the game. For just one night, the Suns allowed their fans to forget about their abysmal season and how much they miss the two-time MVP. Besides the morale victory, the Suns remain awful this season. They allow over 100 points per game on average and are near the bottom of the NBA with a record of 4-20 on the road.
Last Week: 29
25. New Orleans Hornets
The Hornets had four relatively tough matchups this week—the Lakers, Jazz, Nuggets, and the Timberwolves. In all four, the Hornets lost and allowed over 100 points. After knocking off the Grizzlies last week they drop four straight duds—the soon-to-be Pelicans allowed their four adversaries to shoot 52-percent from the field. Anthony Davis is clearly not playing enough, only 28 minutes per game, and Austin Rivers is playing too much, 23 minutes per game. Davis is clearly the best player on this club and changes their identity on defense with his shot blocking abilities. On the other hand, Rivers is just awful—he is shooting 34-percent from the field and has a PER of 5.42. As long as Rivers plays nearly the same amount as Davis, the Hornets will not be a contender anytime serious.
Last Week: 25
24. Cleveland Cavilers
Kyrie Irving is a bad, bad man. The second-year pro went off against the Finals runner-up Thunder on Saturday night—Irving scored 13 points in the final 3 minutes including the dagger three. Irving is single-handedly making teams take the Cavs serious as he is posting an average of 24 points and 5 assists on 47-percent shooting. If Irving had a healthy Anderson Varejao and some other contributing players, Irving very well could be a part of the MVP picture. Despite being 14-34 on the season, the future is bright in Cleveland as long as Irving remains in town and doesn’t leave like the last superstar to play for the Cavs.
Last Week: 26
23. Minnesota Timberwolves
The injury-plagued Timberwolves snapped their six-game skid with a blowout victory over the Hornets, one that featured Ricky Rubio play some of the best ball of the season, nine points, seven assists, and three of five shooting in twenty two minutes of play. This is a bright spot in what has been a mess of a season in Minnesota, for they have lost their superstar Kevin Love and Rubio has not been the same player he was before the ACL injury. Another year in the lottery could do wonders for this team though as they could obtain a top shooter to boast their three-point shooting, where they currently rank last at 29-percent.
Last Week: 22
22. Dallas Mavericks
A string of tough losses for the Mavs may just about seal their playoff hopes—they are five and a half back of Houston for the eighth spot with less than half of the season remaining. Dallas’ tough stretch included losses to Portland and Golden State by a combined five points and then a blowout loss to the Thunder on the road. Dirk Nowitzki’s Hall of Fame career may have several poor years at the end of it if he continues to play with this group of guys as the Mavericks still depend on him to be the man who averaged 23 points per game the year they won the title, which he is not anymore.
Last Week: 19
21. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons ascend in this weeks power rankings due to the fact that they were a huge winner in the Rudy Gay-headlined trade. Detroit gave up Austin Daye and Tayshaun Prince for Jose Calderon, a great facilitator who will greatly benefit Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Knight, who has the duties of a point guard no longer will and could display his natural scoring abilities with Calderon finding him and Monroe will continue to develop as a post presence and Calderon will find him often during games. Lastly, Drummond, who is quickly becoming a walking highlight reel, will be throwing down some big dunks off of Calderon’s great passes. As Detroit begins to go young and move on finally from their back-to-back titles nearly ten years ago, the final player from that roster was finally traded (Prince) the Pistons got a player who could move them in the right direction quickly.
Last Week: 23
20. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers had a misleading week by all means. They did go 3-1 over the past seven days, but their lone loss came to the Suns in which they were outscored 29-13 in the fourth to an inept offensive club. The Lakers also did lose Dwight Howard, who reinjured his labrum and he can be back as soon as their Thursday night matchup against the Celtics, but he can also be out indefinitely. In their Sunday win over the Pistons, the Lakers got lucky with poor defense against the Pistons down the stretch, but walked out with a one-point win. With an injury prone center and constant poor play, the Lakers playoff chances continue to get more and more bleak.
Last Week: 21
19. Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers have won three in a row! After seemingly falling out of the playoff picture during January the Sixers have bounced back. Yes, Philly may have had an ugly 78-61 win over the Wizards on Monday and then knocked off two weak opponents, Wizards and Kings, but the Sixers are right back in the thick of things in the playoff picture. The 76ers now stand in ninth place in the East and three games back of the injury-riddled Celtics. If Andrew Bynum can return before March and be a substantial presence in the paint, the Sixers may get hot at the right time and grab the final playoff spot in the East like last year.
Last Week: 18
18. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors made their first major move since they traded Vince Carter to the Nets back in 2004 when they dealt Jose Calderon and Ed Davis away and got Rudy Gay from the Grizzlies. At first, many questioned the deal for Toronto because Davis has excelled with Andrea Bargnani out of the lineup, and Calderon has continued to be one of the best passers in the league this year, averaging seven assists. Also, the Raps just resigned small forward DeMar DeRozan to a four-year forty million dollar deal. Although, the Raptors have been very impressive with Gay in the lineup, blowing out the Clippers and kept pace with the defending champs Heat. Gay has averaged 24.5 points in his two performances and him and DeRozan possess the athletic abilities to bring back the highlight-filled team that included Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady.
Last Week: 20
17. Utah Jazz
After getting demolished by the Rockets at home last Monday, the Jazz had a very successful week. Utah went 3-1 with their only loss coming to the Blazers on the road. The Jazz continue to boast one of the deepest teams in the entire league which makes them a team bound to make a trade at the trade deadline, for they have several young reserves who seem deserving of starter minutes. Now that a top West team, the Grizzlies, have made a deal, the Jazz may be the next playoff team to trade away one of their starters on the trading block, Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson. Being on the playoff bubble, the Jazz are looking to lock up a playoff spot while remaining young and cap flexible so they can contend in the future, that is why Millsap or Jefferson may be on the move because they both will be asking for a lot of money over the offseason.
Last Week: 17
16. Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta only played in two games this week and went 1-1. Although, the way that Raptors game concluded, they might as well have lost. A completely blown call by the referees cost the Raptors a tight one and Atlanta escaped against the short-handed Raptors. Reports have come out that Atlanta is listening to offers for forward Josh Smith. Smith, who has high value already, may have his trade value at its highest. In his last five, Smith has averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds per game, the stats other teams want to see. Atlanta is really banged up and could get a lot back for Smith, so they may be bound to make a deal at the deadline.
Last Week: 15
Updated as of 2/5/13