The Behind The Basket 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.
1. Chicago Bulls (47-18): Won all 6 of their games over the last 10 days, including by 8 points in Orlando, by 1 in Miami, by 8 over NO, and by 18 over Atlanta. Will certainly win the East even though Boozer and Noah have barely played together this year. Thibodeau should win the Coach of the Year award unanimously.
2. LA Lakers (47-20): Had their 8-game winning streak ended by a team with a 5-game losing streak. Squeaked by the Mavericks, who had just come off two back-to-backs that week and have another to start things off this week (somehow LA has none all month).
3. San Antonio Spurs (54-12): After playing only half a game each against Miami and LAL, Tony Parker appears to be back to his old self, just in time for a rematch with Miami tonight, then they travel to Dallas on Friday. Expect SanAn to take the rest of the season pretty seriously so they can keep the West’s top spot in the playoffs.
4. Dallas Mavericks (47-19): Not only was Dallas playing the Lakers in the middle of three back-to-backs in a week-and-a-half, but their next meeting with LAL is at the end of the month, on the second night of a back-to-back, right before another back-to-back. I’m sure known Mark Cuban hater David Stern had nothing to do with that bit of tremendously bad luck.
5. Miami Heat (45-21): With a 5-game losing streak in tow, the Heat had to face LAL and Memphis this week, two teams with big, strong frontcourts, Miami’s Achilles’ heal. So of course they own the Lakers down the stretch and the Grizzlies throughout. Now what about a week that features SA, OKC, Atl, and Denv?
6. Boston Celtics (47-17): Plenty of things to worry about with the C’s as the season winds down, especially if they drop more than 1 of their next 6 games (NJ, Indy, Hou, NO, NYK, Mem).
7. Orlando Magic (42-25): The team is carrying a lot of sorta/kinda injuries right now, and tonight they’re in LA on the back end of a back-to-back.
8. Denver Nuggets (39-27): Raymond Felton is right – the Nuggets are a better team than the Knicks. Now enjoy Orlando and Miami this weekend.
9. Memphis Grizzlies (36-31): Are 3-3 in March despite having faced SA, NO, Dal, OKC, NYK, and Mia. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I loved the Lionel Hollins signing two seasons ago.
10. OKC Thunder (42-23): The Heat on Wednesday should bust up their current winning streak (should be 4 by then) from the easiness that is the rest of their March schedule.
11. New Orleans Hornets (39-29): Chris Paul misses a game, and somehow they beat the Mavs. Then he returns, and immediately he puts up 31 points, 15 assists, and 5 steals. They’ll catch fire at least one more time before playoffs, but they’re still not a serious contender.
12. Houston Rockets (33-34): Lost two in a row with Luis Scola sidelined, but still almost downed the Spurs. He should be back by the Boston game on Friday.
13. Philadelphia 76ers (34-32): For a team that’s barely over .500 and just lost to Milwaukee by 28, no one wants to play them right now. Evan Turner is starting to shoot OK, and consequently he’s scored 10-plus points in 7 of the last 8 games that he’s played 15 or more minutes.
14. Atlanta Hawks (38-28): They beat the Blazers to stop the bleeding, but Denver, Maimi, and Chicago over the next 8 days aren’t looking good for this club, especially with Al Horford’s ankle giving him some trouble.
15. Portland Trail Blazers (37-29): As inconsistent as it gets: topped Orlando and Miami to start the week, then lost to Charlotte and Atlanta over the weekend. Four of their next eight games are Dallas, LA, and SanAn twice, plus they got Phi, OKC, and NO in there before March is over.
16. LA Clippers (26-41): Are on a little bit of a roll, so it’s time to show what they got with upcoming games against Memphis, Philly, and Phoenix. A surprise win over the Lakers or Mavericks in the last week of March wouldn’t hurt either.
17. Phoenix Suns (33-31): Are technically still in the running for a playoff berth. They are also technically 2-4 in March with plenty more games you expect them to lose.
18. Utah Jazz (34-33): Are looking unenergetic and sloppy all around, including a huge loss to Minnesota on Friday.
19. New York Knicks (34-31): If you honestly thought Amar’e and Melo would make a strong backbone for a team’s resurgence, you just might be insane.
20. NJ Nets (21-43): Are the only team that’s undefeated in March. OK, it’s only 4-0, but that’s still the second-longest winning streak right now. Boston and Chicago this week should put things back in perspective. I know they just beat the Clips, but LAC has a lot nicer set of recent wins (Bos, Denv, Hou).
21. Golden State Warriors (30-36): Had an amazing comeback against Orlando, but can they drop another 21 three-pointers night on Dallas (twice) or SanAn over the next week? Again, gotta like rookie coach Keith Smart.
22. Milwaukee Bucks (26-39): Not only did they easily beat Washington and Toronto this week, they also beat the hoo-ha out of Philly Saturday. And they dropped that 56-point turd in Boston. I assume Bucks’ fans are still trying to bask in the Packers’ Super Bowl victory.
23. Charlotte Bobcats (28-38): Good thing they squeaked by Portland and Toronto this weekend, because Houston, OKC, and SA spell an 0-3 week for the Cats.
24. Minnesota Timberwolves (17-51): With Kevin Love’s double-double streak out of the way, fans will again be able to remember that this team sucks and GM David Kahn is exhibit A. Plus we can again rip off the scab that is “Will Ricky Rubio ever play for the T-Wolves?” (no).
25. Indiana Pacers (28-38): Despite a win over the much-worse-than-you-probably-think Knicks, convincing losses to Minnesota and Toronto are just plain awful.
26. Detroit Pistons (23-44): Coming off a tough week, the Pistons have a chance at some more wins with Toronto, New York, Cleveland, and Indy twice all coming up soon.
27. Toronto Raptors (18-48): At least they have the good sense to not renew GM Bryan Colangelo’s contract. Detroit and Washington this week could be good for them.
28. Sacramento Kings (15-49): Are on a tremendous slide that a game with Cleveland on Wednesday just might be the perfect remedy for.
29. Washington Wizards (16-48): Have a chance at a win when they travel to Toronto on Friday.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers (12-53): Would be about a 6-seed if they were in the NCAA tourney.