The Hoops Karma Power Rankings examine how comparatively powerful or dominant each NBA team is right now (for clarity’s sake – this is how I think the team’s would finish in a giant round-robin tournament this week with no further injuries or fatigue between games). Obviously more recent contests and happenings weigh heavier than those in the past, but a look at how the clubs have progressed throughout the season is necessary to get a sense of patterns that will continue or possibly change. Unlike college rankings, these are re-evaluated each time; no one has to wait for someone else to lose in order to move up if they’re doing well. Again, these look at how powerful a club is RIGHT NOW. Here are last week's rankings.
1. San Antonio Spurs (40-7): If you watch them with any regularity, it seems hard to fathom that their team FG% is as low as third in the league (47%). They’re doing everything well and collectively keeping everyone’s minutes relatively low (Parker, 33 mpg; Ginobili, 31 mpg; Jefferson, 31 mpg; Duncan, 29 mpg; Hill, 28 mpg). Go to LA to face the Lakers this Thursday in their second game of a 9-game road trip.
2. Boston Celtics (36-11): The C’s came off a horrendous loss to the Suns to out-everything the Lakers in the second half of a 13-point victory in LA. I guess they have the switch and know when to use it. Still looking forward to seeing their centers at full strength (Perkins and O’Neal combined for only 2 points against the Lakers).
3. Chicago Bulls (33-14): Looked decent in win over Orlando (hello Tom Thibodeau defense), but Magic PG Nelson sat with knee pain after one quarter. They’re playing well and hanging on to the #2 spot in the East while they await Noah’s return.
4. Miami Heat (33-14): Still gelling now that the Big Three are all back and mostly healthy. Should be able to top Orlando on Thursday before setting up a great match-up with the Celtics on Feb. 13.
5. Orlando Magic (31-17): Orlando has a lot of streaky players right now, and a hurt Jameer Nelson certainly doesn’t help keep Dwight from getting swarmed. Losses to Chicago and Detroit aren’t the best, but they start February off with a real chance to show they’re not slipping: Miami, Boston, LAC, NO, and, LAL are 5 of their first 7 games of the month.
6. Dallas Mavericks (31-15): Have won four in a row while Dirk continues to work back into form. He has a ways to go, but the victories are encouraging.
7. Los Angeles Lakers (33-15): Continue to lose the occasional weird one (95-100 to Sacramento in LA) and to get slapped around by every true contender (96-109 to Boston in LA). Thursday against SanAn will give them another opportunity to finally beat one of the big six contenders (LAL, SA, Dal, Mia, Bos, Orl).
8. Oklahoma City Thunder (30-17): Recent losses to Miami, New Orleans, Denver, and LAL put their season in perspective a little bit. Durant’s comment about Bosh being a “fake tough guy” was funny and is easily the most quotable thing he’s said in his entire career.
9. New Orleans Hornets (31-18): Followed up big wins last week over Atlanta and SA with close losses this week to Sac-town and Phoenix. Ugh. I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised when the overall team talent isn’t as good as the elite clubs they occasionally beat.
10. Atlanta Hawks (30-18): The forgotten fifth team of the East, but forgotten for a very good reason: they’re not as good as their record indicates. Their next few weeks are cake and will help prop up their lofty record to the point fans will somehow be shocked when they get annihilated in the first round of the playoffs.
11. Denver Nuggets (28-19): Their injured and absent frontline was the culprit in an uninspiring loss to Philly on Sunday after winning four easy ones leading up to it (Indy, Wash, Det, Clev). The Nuggets’ season is like the movie Magnolia in that you keep expecting something to happen, you want to see what that something is, and you won’t be shocked no matter what it is (except for raining frogs).
12. Houston Rockets (22-27): Are done with their killer January which ended with L’s to the Mavs and Spurs. Their reward is a back-to-back on the road with the Lakers and Jazz on Feb. 1 and 2.
13. Memphis Grizzlies (24-24): Somehow got to .500 despite losing to New Jersey this week. Should teeter-totter with the even mark for the next couple weeks (Orlando [bad], then Minny and Cleveland [good], then Houston [?], then LAL and OKC [bad]).
14. Portland Trail Blazers (25-22): They need to re-deal, re-roll, hit the reset button, do the Superman backwards time thing, something. Miring themselves in inconsistent, .500 ball isn’t the place to be. I’m not sure what the front office has in mind, but you can bet they’ll be making some trades before the year is out; unfortunately their two first-round picks this summer (theirs and NO’s) aren’t looking so good in a weak draft. Cautionary tale for teams that plan on building around stars who had multiple injuries in college.
15. Los Angeles Clippers (18-28): This Eric Gordon wrist sprain is no good for the Clips, especially with Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, and Orlando on deck.
16. Philadelphia 76ers (21-26): Pestered a distracted Carmelo Anthony into a 12-point, 6-turnover game on Sunday to earn their best win in a while.
17. New York Knicks (25-22): Took out Miami in the Garden while the Big Three are getting their rhythm back together. Are they actually on their way back up? Their next five games should let us know: Dallas, Phi, Phi, LAC, LAL. Rookie C Timofey Mozgov made the most of his first game playing over 17 minutes, going for 23 points and 14 rebounds against Detroit.
18. Golden State Warriors (20-27): Their only recent win was Sunday’s W over Utah, who haven’t done anything positive of late and were without Deron Williams. Before that, the Warriors gave up 100-plus points in every game this month outside of the 98 they “held” Cleveland to on Jan. 7.
19. Utah Jazz (28-20): Wow they’re looking hagrid, losing 7 of their last 8. Their only January wins that count as half-decent were all nailbiters (98-92 vs. Memphis on Jan.1, 103-99 vs. Houston on Jan. 8, 131-125 vs. NY on Jan. 12).
20. Milwaukee Bucks (19-26): Still grinding along through all the injuries. Picked up decent win over Atlanta this week.
21. Phoenix Suns (22-24): Consecutive wins over Boston and the Hornets look nice, but so have all their other groups of wins that came before groups of losses. Steve Nash’s Encouragement promo is the best one yet.
22. Charlotte Bobcats (20-26): Won three in a row against some poor clubs: Sac, Phx, GSW. Might be able to take Utah and Detroit on Monday and Wednesday.
23. Indiana Pacers (17-27): Their offense got back on track enough to ravage the Nets to the tune of 124 points on Friday on 63% shooting and 12 threes, then they put up only 89 the next night while losing by 21.
24. New Jersey Nets (14-34): Have won 4 of 7 since officially separating themselves from the Carmelo debacle, and one of those L’s was in the final 6 seconds to Dallas. Another one was a 32-point killing at the hands of the Pacers.
25. Detroit Pistons (17-31): Beating Orlando was a fluke. Hopefully they can pull out a win or two this week against Charlotte, NJ, and Milwaukee.
26. Sacramento Kings (12-33): Took over the Clippers’ role as giant killers, dropping the Lakers (in LA, no less) and the hot-up-until-then Hornets on a back-to-back. Can they keep it up against the Celtics or Spurs this week? Not likely. After that they get Dallas twice, OKC twice, Miami, and Orlando over the following three weeks.
27. Washington Wizards (13-33): Playing some very uninspiring ball right now. John Wall has a lot of hoops IQ points to make up in a hurry – looks absolutely lost and lethargic at the ends of games. Congrats to Nick Young for taking over some of the late-game responsibilities.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves (11-36): Ended the month with three wins for all of January: over Toronto, Washington, and NJ. That’s it.
29. Toronto Raptors (13-35): I understand they got a bunch of injuries right now, but getting buried 103-87 by the Timberwolves is unacceptable, especially when Minnesota had only one starter in double-figures.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers (8-39): Should be able to land either Kyrie Irving, Jared Sullinger, or Enes Kanter in this summer’s draft before their new guy has to wait for a year due to the impending lockout. They just can’t catch a break at this point.