NBA Power Rankings: Raptors, Clippers, Grizzlies climb – Metro US

NBA Power Rankings: Raptors, Clippers, Grizzlies climb

NBA Power Rankings: Raptors, Clippers, Grizzlies climb
Getty Images

1. Golden State Warriors (38-4) Last week: 1 – Just when you thought the Warriors might be a little vulnerable, they go into Cleveland and absolutely embarrass the best team in the Eastern Conference. If a message was needing to be sent, it sure was.

2. San Antonio Spurs (36-6) Last week: 2 – Had the Warriors lost to the Cavs, we might be looking at the Spurs in the top spot this week. Nonetheless, San Antonio will continue to their under-the-radar fundamentally sound basketball as they have for the last 15 years.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (30-12) Last week: 4 – The two wins over the T-Wolves don’t mean much, but a 19-point win over the Mavs and 24-point win over the Heat? Yeah, those are big ones. Another Player of the Week honor for Kevin Durant, who averaged 26.0 points and 8.3 rebounds last week.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers (28-11) Last week: 3 – LeBron James was a career-worst minus-34 against the Warriors, according to Elias. The team was manhandled. That will stick with them for the rest of the season, and maybe that’s a good thing.

5. Toronto Raptors (26-15) Last week: 7 – Just two games for the Raptors last week, but they took care of business in both. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are a lethal duo in the backcourt and will both be All-Stars this year. They can separate themselves from the pack.

6. Los Angeles Clippers (27-14) Last week: 9 – The Clippers have separated themselves a bit from the middle of the Western Conference pack and look more like a contender than a pretender. But as always with them, can it last?

7. Atlanta Hawks (25-17) Last week: 5 – The Hawks seem to be treading water over their last 10 games, winning a couple and then losing a couple. It’s pretty simple, though: They need more out of Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver. If those two get it together in the second half, this is a dangerous team.

8. Chicago Bulls (24-16) Last week: 6 – Losing Joakim Noah hurts the Bulls on the court, but really hurts them behind the scenes. Sure, Noah will still be around, but it’s just different in a suit than in a jersey. Chicago is a playoff team regardless, but will they go into sell mode?

9. Miami Heat (23-18) Last week: 8 – Bad weak for the Heat, who had a chance to make a statement on the road against the Warriors, Clippers, and Thunder and lost to them all – two by double-digits. You gotta compete against the best.

10. Dallas Mavericks (24-19) Last week: 11 – Mark Cuban did everything in his power to avoid blowing up his team. Dallas may not be a powerhouse, but they’re certainly competitive and will be a tough out in the West. It’s great to see Dirk still hitting daggers for the Mavs, too.

11. Memphis Grizzlies (24-19) Last week: 13 – The Grizzlies have won five of six, though their one loss was a blowout loss at home to Houston. Still, three straight wins and the return of Mike Conley after six games has this team feeling good.

12. Detroit Pistons (22-19) Last week: 12 – Just one win for the Pistons over the last week, but boy was it a big one: a 113-95 win over the Warriors. Yes, they lost the next one against the Bulls, which proves they still aren’t a consistently great team, but that win is big for them.

13. Boston Celtics (22-20) Last week: 14 – The Celtics got back on the winning track with three wins before falling in Dallas in overtime. But the Wizards and Mavericks games showed a lot of heart and determination out of them. They are what they are, though: A team lacking enough talent that can still pull off wins when they out-effort the opponent.

14. Indiana Pacers (22-19) Last week: 10 – Three straight losses – to teams they should be better than – and four of five heading into Tuesday’s game in Phoenix. Perhaps that can get them back on track because they’ll need to be ready for the Warriors in Golden State on Friday.

15. Houston Rockets (22-21) Last week: 16 – The Rockets might have climbed back into the playoff picture, but buyer beware: their last five losses have come from the Hawks, Warriors, Spurs, Cavs, and Clippers. In other words, good teams. They aren’t at that top level yet.

16. Orlando Magic (20-20) Last week: 15 – Scott Skiles won the NBA’s Coach of the Month for December, but after a 1-7 January so far, we can bet he’s not going to repeat this month. Games this week against the 76ers and Hornets should get them going again.

17. New York Knicks (21-22) Last week: 17 – Crisis averted for the Knicks as Kristaps Portzingis’ foot injury that took him out of Monday’s game is minor. It took the Knicks two overtimes to beat the Sixers on Monday, but there was a fun vibe in Madison Square Garden. The Knicks have life.

18. Washington Wizards (19-21) Last week: 19 – The Wiz will reach the halfway point of the season on Wednesday against the Heat – and you can bet they’d like to forget that first half. Still, is Bradley Beal returns this team is good enough to make a run at the playoffs and prove to be a tough out.

19. Utah Jazz (18-23) Last week: 18 – The Jazz have to be very careful after going 1-3 last week. They’re just a half-game up on the Trail Blazers and Kings for that final playoff spot. Missing the playoffs would be a big disappointment.

20. Portland Trail Blazers(19-25) Last week: 21 – Somehow the Blazers took a three-game winning streak into Philadelphia and lost the game. Weird one. But they’ve still won four of their last five. Sidenote: Damian Lillard dropped a music video on MLK Day for his song “Bigger than Us”.

21. Sacramento Kings (17-23) Last week: 22 – Look at the Kings! Big win over the Clippers in Los Angeles, and they look to make it an L.A. sweep on Wednesday. Out of all the teams currently out of the playoff picture, this could be the one with the ability to turn things around the quickest.

22. Charlotte Hornets (19-22) Last week: 20 – They’ve lost nine of their last 11 games, but there is good news for the Hornets: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been cleared for full contact. And taking a look at this team’s slide, it couldn’t come at a better time.

23. Milwaukee Bucks (18-25) Last week: 23 – The Bucks are riding a two-game game winning streak, which isn’t much, but when you consider the rough first half they’ve had it’s at least something. They might want to keep those wins coming or those trade whispers are going to get much louder.

24. Denver Nuggets (16-25) Last week: 25 – The Nuggets beat the Warriors (without Draymond Green, but still) last week, which is more than most teams will be able to say this season – so there’s that. They’re playing better basketball as of late.

25. New Orleans Pelicans (13-27) Last week: 24 – A disappointing loss to the Lakers turned what could have been a 3-1 week into a 2-2 week. And it’s losses like those that are going to keep the Pelicans out of the playoffs. They just can’t seem to get anything going, even with one of the best players in the league.

26. Los Angeles Lakers (9-34) Last week: 26 – Whether it’s a sore shoulder, sore Achilles, or sore anything else, Kobe Bryant is doing his best to stay on the court for Lakers. It might not help them win any games, but does it matter?

27. Minnesota Timberwolves (13-29) – Last Week 27 − Leave it to the Suns to help the Timberwolves snap their nine-game losing streak. With the Mavericks, Cavs, and Thunder up ahead, another losing streak is on the horizon.

28. Brooklyn Nets (11-31) Last week: 28 – They’re 1-8 over their last nine games, and it doesn’t look to be get any better anytime soon. What’s worse? Deron Williams seems to have found new life in Dallas. Where was that in Brooklyn?

29. Phoenix Suns (13-29) Last week: 29 – Winless last week, and just one win over their last 14 games. It’s too bad the Super Bowl isn’t being played in Arizona again this year so sports fans around there would have at least something to look forward to.

30. Philadelphia 76ers (5-38) Last week: 30 – They may no longer be as historically bad as we once feared, but they are still pretty darn bad.