NBA Power Rankings: Thunder, Pacers, Clippers, Rockets hold down top spots
1. Oklahoma City Thunder (43-14, Previous: 1) - The best addition at the trade deadline was Russell Westbrook returning to the Thunder. Yes, there will be an adjustment period, but they’re obviously better with him – and were already something close to great without him.
2. Indiana Pacers (42-13, Previous: 2) - Bold move by Larry Bird to trade Danny Granger and risk messing up his team’s chemistry. But let’s be clear here that the Pacers are a more talented team with Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen than with Granger. Bird knows best.
3. Los Angeles Clippers (39-20, Previous: 3) - The Clippers’ hiring of Doc Rivers is already paying huge dividends, as he’s the main reason Glen Davis agreed to sign there after a buyout from the Magic. A deep team just got deeper.
4. Houston Rockets (38-18, Previous: 4) – Houston bounced back from a 102-99 overtime loss in Golden State to beat the Suns in Phoenix, 115-112. They’re 9-1 in over their last 10 games with a big test Wednesday night in L.A. against the Clippers.
5. Miami Heat (40-14, Previous: 6) - Dwyane Wade has flirted with triple-doubles in each of the last two games (both wins), and the Heat are set to get LeBron James (broken nose) back for Thursday’s game against the Knicks. Miami is just fine right now.
6. Portland Trailblazers (38-18, Previous: 5) - LaMarcus Aldridge has missed the last three games with a left groin strain. The Blazers have the best starting five in the NBA with him, so getting him back healthy is a must.
7. San Antonio Spurs (40-16 Previous: 7) - Is age finally catching up to the Spurs? Tony Parker is out with what appears to be an entirely sore body, although he did elect to play in the All-Star game. Hey Tony, get your priorities in order.
8. Golden State Warriors (35-22, Previous: 8) - The Warriors are 4-0 post-All Star break, including a big win over the Rockets. They’re currently in the beginning of a six-game road trip, then finish up the regular season with 13 of their last 20 games at home.
9. Phoenix Suns (33-22, Previous: 9) – The Suns continue to impress, and Eric Bledsoe just returned to the practice court for a game of 3-on-3. He should practice in full soon. Phoenix is 14-11 without him, and will be a tough first round matchup for some unlucky team out West.
10. Dallas Mavericks (35-23, Previous: 10) - The Mavs are 8-2 in February, with their latest win coming Monday night on a buzzer-beater from Dirk Nowitzki at Madison Square Garden. Yes, Mark Cuban stormed the court with his team.
11. Toronto Raptors (31-25, Previous: 12) - Now that the Winter Olympics are officially over, maybe Canadians everywhere can take their eyes off the ice rink and give the Raptors some love. Probably not, but it’s a good time to at least consider it.
12. Memphis Grizzlies (31-24, Previous: 11) - Still on the outside looking in out West. They can’t afford losses to the Bobcats like the one on Saturday night. This team will definitely be fighting until the end.
13. Chicago Bulls (29-26, Previous: 15) – The fact that Tom Thibodeau has to even entertain the talk about losing the Bulls head coaching job is a shame. He’s one of the best pure basketball minds out there. Bulls management would be fools to part ways.
14. Washington Wizards (28-28, Previous: 14) – The Nene injury crushes the Wizards hopes of home-court advantage in the first round of this year’s playoffs. The next six weeks will be tough without him, but he’ll be back for the playoffs (if they get there).
15. Brooklyn Nets (26-28, Previous: 16) - Congrats to Jason Collins for becoming the first openly gay NBA player. Collins played 11 minutes Sunday, and did what he’s always done: foul people and set picks. The Nets won, too – which may even be bigger news.
16. Denver Nuggets (25-30, Previous: 17) - The Nuggets are 1-7 over their last eight games and have all but guaranteed they will not be a playoff team this season. It just wasn’t pretty from the start for this group.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves (27-29, Previous: 19) - They’re still hanging around, but it looks like they’ll need help from a team or two above them in the standings – and that isn’t likely to happen. Another season, another lottery in Minnesota.
18. Charlotte Bobcats (27-30, Previous: 20) - Good for the Bobcats for acquiring guards Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour at the trade deadline. They’re pushing for a playoff spot during a season when lots of teams with no real shot are tanking.
19. Atlanta Hawks (26-29, Previous: 13) - The Hawks are in a world of hurt. They had lost eight in a row before Saturday’s win over the Knicks, dropping them to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. They’ll be without Paul Millsap (knee) for a bit as well.
20. Detroit Pistons (23-34, Previous: 18) - Still playing very disappointing basketball. Look for this team to make some moves in the offseason, as they just aren’t constructed to win basketball games as is.
21. New Orleans Pelicans (23-33, Previous: 21) - Rumors had the Pelicans shopping Austin Rivers, who just hasn’t carved out much of a role for himself out in New Orleans. It didn’t happen at the trade deadline, so expect to hear the same rumor around draft time in June.
22. New York Knicks (21-36, Previous: 22) - Raymond Felton was arrested Tuesday morning on three counts of criminal possession of a weapon. As if Felton shooting a basketball wasn’t a bad enough idea.
23. Cleveland Cavaliers (22-35, Previous: 23) - The talk has now turned to whether or not Kyrie Irving should accept a max deal with the Cavs. Of course, if the Cavs weren’t playing so poorly, it wouldn’t be a topic right now.
24. Utah Jazz (20-36, Previous: 25) - The Jazz have recently beaten the Lakers, Sixers, and Celtics. That could come back to bite them when the lottery balls start bouncing around.
25. Sacramento Kings (20-36, Previous: 26) - It’s been a long time coming (essentially since he was drafted), but the Kings are finally going to free Jimmer Fredette. Hopefully he can get an actual chance on his next team.
26. Los Angeles Lakers (19-37, Previous: 27) - Between MarShon Brooks and Nick Young both fighting for playing time and shots, hero ball now starts in L.A. at the 12:00 mark of the first quarter. As Sandy Lyle (played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) said in the film Along Came Polly, “Make it rain!”
27. Boston Celtics (19-39, Previous: 24) - Boston goes 0-4 on its west coast road trip to successfully fall below the Jazz, Kings, and Lakers in the NBA standings. Keep it up fellas!
28. Orlando Magic (17-41, Previous: 28) - The Glen Davis era is officially over in Orlando. Crazy that someone with the nickname “Big Baby” couldn’t lead a team.
29. Philadelphia 76ers (15-42, Previous: 29) - Philly has five second round picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. Whoever they end up being, they could probably start on this sorry team right now.
30. Milwaukee Bucks (11-45, Previous: 30) - Thanks to Philly’s trade deadline, the Bucks may not hold down the last spot in our rankings after this week.