NBA Power Rankings: Thunder take over top spot, Knicks best in East

Kevin Durant and the Thunder have surged ahead of the rest of the league.

Records through Dec. 10:

1. Oklahoma City Thunder
(17-4, last week No. 4) – Simply put, no team is playing better basketball right now than the Thunder. Winners of eight in a row, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook continue to find ways to co-exist. Pay attention, world.

2. San Antonio Spurs (17-4, last week No. 1) – One reason the Spurs continue to win? Depth. No player on San Antonio averages more than 31.9 minutes per game. Compare that with the Lakers, who currently have four guys averaging at least 34.8 per game. Kobe’s orders, probably.

3. New York Knicks (15-5, last week No. 6) – Message. Sent. The Knicks beat the Heat by 20 points — again. They’ve done it twice this season. Crazy, right? What’s crazier: They did it the second time without Carmelo Anthony. For now, they’re playing like the top team in the East. For now. 

4. Memphis Grizzlies (14-4 last week No. 2) – The Grizzlies ran into the red-hot Hawks on Saturday, but you try telling Zach Randolph that his team has dropped out of the Top 5. Memphis plays some of the best defense in the NBA, and Randolph’s aggressiveness down low is a big reason why.

5. Miami Heat (13-5, last week No. 3) – Five seems too low for the defending champion Heat, but don’t think for a second that Miami won’t be huge players in the postseason — and probably the NBA Finals. Until then, take the five spot and like it!

6. Los Angeles Clippers (14-6, last week No. 7) – The Clippers signed Jamal Crawford for one reason: to score off the bench. Through 20 games (zero starts), Crawford is averaging 17.9 points per game. That’s 15.2 points more than Lamar Odom.

7. Atlanta Hawks (12-5, last week No. 8) – A random two-point loss against the Cavs has prevented the Hawks from a 10-game wining streak. Even so, they’re playing like a team with something to prove. Lou Williams has been a very nice addition too.

8. Golden State Warriors (13-7, last week No. 10) – The Warriors have started their seven-game road trip with three wins including a good one over the Brooklyn Nets (see team below). David Lee is one of the more underrated players in the NBA.

9. Brooklyn Nets (11-8, last week No. 5) – Trouble in Brooklyn — and it has nothing to do with your favorite indie rock band. The Nets are on a four-game losing streak. After all, winning can be so pedestrian.

10. Chicago Bulls (11-8, last week No. 15) – The Bulls are struggling to find offense without their MVP point guard Derrick Rose, but they still rank No. 2 in the NBA in points allowed (91.3). They will be a scary first round playoff matchup if Rose returns in time.

11. Philadelphia 76ers (11-9, Last week No. 9) − It’s just kind of hard to take the Sixers seriously with Spencer Hawes on the court rocking a mullet and sweatband. Clearly he’s deep into the Andrew Bynum Book of Smart Decisions and Other Things That Aren’t Basketball.

12. Boston Celtics (11-9, last week No. 12) – Boston is still nowhere near where it should be as far as continuity goes, but it’s nice to see Jeff Green and Courtney Lee start to put it together out on the court. They won’t go anywhere without a strong bench.

13. Milwaukee Bucks (10-9, last week No. 11) – Milwaukee Bucks, meet earth. The Bucks are probably going to be more of a .500 team than the one that opened up the regular season. But .500 isn’t so bad if you’re a Bucks fan. Nice win over Brooklyn on Sunday.

14. Utah Jazz (12-10, last week No. 18) – Are the Jazz really going to sit there and let New Orleans become the “Pelicans”? Come on! There’s no jazz music in Utah! Give it up! Now taking suggestions for Utah’s new name.

15. Nuggets (10-11, last week No. 13) – The Nuggets are too talented to float around .500 all season. They look to take the next two in Detroit and Minnesota before an epic home game against the Grizzlies on Friday. Two physical teams. There will be blood.

16. Houston Rockets (9-10, last week No. 16) – Fun team to watch if you enjoy offense. Nightmarish team to watch on the defensive side of things. But who cares?! James Harden! Jeremy Lin! Ticket sales!

17. Indiana Pacers (10-11, last week No. 20) – Ben Hansbrough, who has played a total of 14 minutes in three games, has been promoted to backup point guard over DJ Augustin. In other news, the Pacers can’t buy a point.

18. Dallas Mavericks
(10-10, last week No. 17) – Dirk Nowitzki is still a few weeks away from a return, and with the way division foes San Antonio and Memphis are playing, it’ll seem like years longer. 

19. Minnesota Timberwolves (9-9, last week No. 21) – Still no timetable on when Ricky Rubio will return, but he’s practicing with the team. Just the thought of Rubio to Kevin Love jumps this team up a few spots. Oh, and they’re playing decent.

20. Los Angeles Lakers (9-12, last week No. 14) – Kobe Bryant is yelling at Dwight Howard. Dwight Howard is yelling at Kobe Bryant. Mike D’Antoni is confused. NBA fans around the world are cheering.

21. Orlando Magic (8-12, last week No. 19) – The Magic should get comfortable in third place in the Southeast Division. Miami and Atlanta are trending upwards, and Charlotte and Washington are, um, yeah…

22. Sacramento Kings (7-12, last week No. 26) – The three wins in a row over Toronto, Orlando, and Portland, aren’t exactly impressive, but anytime buried in the bottom of the rankings goes on a winning streak — or wins — you can bet they’ll jump up a few spots.

23. Portland Trailblazers (8-12, last week No. 22) – Sorry Portland, if you wanted to be ranked ahead of the Kings, you probably shouldn’t have lost by 19 to them on Saturday.

24. Detroit Pistons (7-15, last week No. 24) – Let’s put this into “Motor City” terms. The Pistons are one of those Ford Windstars from the late 1990′s.

25. Charlotte Bobcats (7-12, last week No. 23) –  Waiting for the Michael Jordan press conference: “Glen Rice isn’t walking through that door, fans. Muggsy Bogues isn’t walking through that door. Larry Johnson isn’t walking through that door.”

26. New Orleans Hornets (5-14, last week No. 28) – We already touched upon this earlier, but . . . the Pelicans?! Are there not enough pro teams named after birds already in this world? I vote for Brass.

27. Phoenix Suns (7-15, last week No. 25) – Shaun Powell of Sports on Earth tweeted: “Suns source: Michael Beasley is “toxic,” team in tailspin, could lead to major shakeup.” There’s a market for Marcin Gortat, but who would take Beasley?

28. Toronto Raptors (4-17, last week No. 27) – Jonas Valanciunas and Andrea Bargnani are two seven-footers who start for the Raptors. They combine — combine! — for 9.8 rebounds per night. How is that even possible?

29. Cleveland Cavaliers (4-17, last week 29) – Get this: Three of Cleveland’s four wins are against teams with winning records. They aren’t winning the winnable games.

30. Washington Wizards (2-15, last week No. 30) – The highlight of the Wizards season has already happened with a win over the Heat. The lowlights keep coming though.


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