NBA Power Rankings: Thunder, Trail Blazers, Rockets climb; Warriors fall

Kevin Durant Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook, right, is set to return after the All-Star break. The Thunder could then make a joke out of the competition if Kevin Durant keeps it up. Credit: Getty Images

1. Indiana Pacers (33-7, Previous: 1) - The Pacers continue their reign at the top of this week’s power rankings. They are 10-2 since Christmas and Lance Stephenson has quickly become the most interesting man in the NBA. The 23-year-old 2-guard played 40-plus minutes in both Indiana’s 106-92 win over the Clippers last Saturday and the Pacers’ 102-94 road victory over the Warriors Monday.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder (31-10, Previous: 3) - Kevin Durant is averaging 36.1 points, 6.1 assists, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.8 steals in January. The dude is just out there casually putting up video game numbers.

3. Portland Trail Blazers (31-10, Previous: 6) – Still pretty much the best offense across the board. The Blazers have scored 100-plus points in 35 of 41 games this season (average 109.6). Defense remains an issue, as they allow an average of 103.5 points per game (27th in NBA).

4. Miami Heat (29-12, Previous: 2) - The Heat have lost four of their last six games, with wins coming over the Sixers and Bobcats. Now LeBron James can be jealous of Kevin Durant’s spot in our power rankings, too.

5. Houston Rockets (28-15, Previous: 7) - The Rockets put four quarters of offense together Monday night against Portland, winning, 126-113. Chandler Parsons had a season-high 31 points. He’s been huge for them this season.

6. San Antonio Spurs (32-9 Previous: 5) - Again, the Spurs lose to a contender in the Blazers. If they can’t roll with the top teams in the West, they won’t last. Four tough tests in a row now coming up for San Antonio (vs. OKC, @ ATL, @ MIA, @ HOU).

7. Los Angeles Clippers (29-14, Previous: 8) - Couldn’t compete with the Pacers over the weekend, but really, who can? The important thing is that the rest of the team stays healthy ahead of Chris Paul’s February return.

8. Golden State Warriors (26-17, Previous: 4) - Their 10-game winning streak has been followed by four losses in their last six games. With just three road games in the next month, it’s time for the Warriors to accumulate wins.

9. Memphis Grizzlies (20-20, Previous: 10) - Marc Gasol has returned to the court for the Griz, but he’s still not quite back to his pre-injury level. The Griz are 3-1 with him back, and still have a great shot at a playoff spot.

10. Atlanta Hawks (21-19, Previous: 11) – We continue to be impressed by the resilient Hawks, who beat the Heat Monday night. That was a game circled on Atlanta’s calendar after losing to them in OT earlier this season.

11. Dallas Mavericks (25-18, Previous: 9) - Epic choke job against the Clippers last week. A double-digit loss to the Blazers over the weekend. Wins over the Suns and Cavs mean a lot less with those losses hanging around.

12. Denver Nuggets (20-20, Previous: 12) - Denver has given up 116-plus points in its last four games (1-3). Unlike another pro sports team in Denver, their offense isn’t good enough to make up for that.

13. Toronto Raptors (20-20, Previous: 14) - Kyle Lowry (16.5 points, 7.4 assists) deserves some love. Not sure what the Raptors are doing, but his trade stock probably hasn’t been higher.

14. Brooklyn Nets (17-22, Previous: 16) - The Nets are now seventh in the Eastern Conference and climbing. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett make their return to TD Garden for the first time as Nets this Sunday. Tears will be flowing.

15. Phoenix Suns (23-17, Previous: 15) - The sun will not set on Phoenix just yet. Goran Dragic won’t let it. The guard is averaging 19.4 points and 6.0 assists this year. But Phoenix still needs Eric Bledsoe back.

16. Washington Wizards (20-20, Previous: 17) - The Wiz can finally go over .500 with a win on Wednesday against the Celtics. That almost guarantees that they lose.

17. Minnesota Timberwolves (19-21, Previous: 13) - The T-Wolves are still stuck in neutral playing .500 ball. They’ll probably miss the playoffs again this season. Can Kevin Love – who is having an MVP-type year – continue to deal with it?

18. Chicago Bulls (20-20, Previous: 18) – The Bulls are playing the best basketball of their season right now, and it’s without the injured Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, who now resides in Cleveland. Every NBA team should want a Joakim Noah. All heart.


19. Detroit Pistons (17-24, Previous: 19) - Maurice Cheeks hasn’t coached a team to a winning record since the 2003 Portland Trail Blazers. It’s not looking like 2014 will be any different. Is the seat getting hot?

20. Charlotte Bobcats (18-25, Previous: 22) - They currently hold the eighth spot in the East, but we’re going to predict the Cats once again miss the playoffs. The Pistons, Cavs, or Knicks will at some point overtake them. Sorry, Charlotte.

21. New Orleans Pelicans (16-24, Previous: 20) - To tank or not to tank, that is the question Pelicans management (and fans) are probably asking themselves. The answer, though, is obvious.

22. Cleveland Cavaliers (15-26, Previous: 21) - Cavs No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett is easily the worst No. 1 overall pick in NBA history so far. And now everybody is calling for him to go to the D-League. It makes sense, he’s not even playing.

23. New York Knicks (15-26, Previous: 23) – Just when you thought the Knicks were starting to look like an actual basketball team, they go and lose four straight. Back to the drawing board.

24. Boston Celtics (14-28, Previous: 25) - The Celtics surprised everybody – including Rajon Rondo – when they named him captain last week. So wait, does that increase his trade value?

25. Sacramento Kings (14-25, Previous: 26) – The Kings are accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment. It looks like they’re trying to corner the growing nerd market in the NBA.

26. Utah Jazz (14-28, Previous: 24) – The Jazz continue to play .500 ball as of late, but shot a franchise-low 28.8 percent from the field in their 98-72 loss to the Timberwolves over the weekend. To make matters worse, Minnesota ranks last in opponent field goal percentage (.471). Yikes.

27. Los Angeles Lakers (16-26, Previous: 27) - Kobe Bryant says the Lakers’ standings won’t affect his return to the court this season. So wait, he hasn’t handed the keys to Nick Young yet?

28. Philadelphia 76ers (13-28, Previous: 28) - Thaddeus Young involved in trade rumors. Evan Turner involved in trade rumors. The Sixers are trying to take this rebuilding thing to a new level – and probably will.

29. Orlando Magic (11-30, Previous: 29) - The Magic were out-tanked by the Celtics on Sunday, as Boston literally dribbled out the clock and lost in Orlando. Why didn’t THEY think of that?!

30. Milwaukee Bucks (7-33, Previous: 30) - Honestly, who gives a Buck?


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