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Behind The Basket Power Rankings 2.9

The best team in the DC areaThe 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. Miami Heat (51-22): Since snapping their losing streak a few weeks ago, the Heat have one loss (to the surging Thunder) and 4 double-digit victories over playoff teams (by 33 over Mem, by 30 over SA, by 21 over Atl, and by 12 over Phil).

2. Chicago Bulls (53-19): Their only loss in the past 3.5 weeks was the second night of a back-to-back, on the road, in OT, without Boozer. This past week they won both ends of their first of two back-to-back by 40 and by 33.

3. LA Lakers (53-20): Are healthy at the right time and squeaking out a lot of close wins because of it. Play Dallas this Thursday, again under extremely favorable circumstances; LA comes off 3 days rest, Dallas will be playing the back end of a back-to-back on the road.

4. Dallas Mavericks (52-21): After getting through a two week schedule of three back-to-backs, LAL, and SA, the Mavs rolled over four easy ones this week by 28, 8, 17, and 8 points. Face the Lakers again on Thursday, this time on the second night of a back-to-back on the road (for comparison’s sake, the Lakers had no back-to-backs this entire month).

5. OKC Thunder (48-24): The Thunder have won 9 of their last 10, but they’ll now play 3 back-to-backs in a row, although the competition in them doesn’t look that bad.

6. Denver Nuggets (44-29): Have been playing well recently, including a great offensive performance against the Duncan-less Spurs.

7. Orlando Magic (47-26): The Magic made short work of their three bad opponents this week, topping Cleveland by 11, NY by 12, and NJ by 10. Still battling injuries – Howard still playing like an MVP.

8. Houston Rockets (38-35): Only a close fourth-quarter loss in Miami has kept the Rockets from improving their pursuit of the final Western playoff spot. Catch a break by getting SanAn on Friday with the possibility of both Duncan and Ginobili sitting out.

9. Memphis Grizzlies (41-33): Took care of business and got the close wins over hurting giants Boston and San Antonio. A close-as-it-sounds 99-96 loss in Chicago definitely doesn’t hurt them in the rankings, and their last stretch of games looks quite manageable and should allow them to stay ahead of Houston for the West’s eighth and final playoff spot.

10. Portland Trail Blazers (42-31): Kind of ironic that the Trail Blazers are starting to benefit from other teams’ injury woes.

11. New Orleans Hornets (42-32): Losing David West means the Hornets lose their frontcourt depth, which showed at times against the frontcourt-heavy Lakers on Sunday despite Carl Landry’s valiant effort.

12. Boston Celtics (51-21): The team’s Offensive Rating over their past 5 losses, which came in the last 9 games, is an abysmal 93. Despite anything that comes out of Shaq’s mouth, the club is in a lot of trouble right now, especially once they lose the East’s #2 spot to Miami and are forced to face the Sixers in the first round of the playoffs.

13. San Antonio Spurs (57-16): If you somehow unwisely assumed Tim Duncan is much worse than he was 5 years ago, check out the team’s quick 0-3 freefall now that he’s out – but also note that all three L’s were very close and to Western playoff teams. Throw in Ginobili’s injury Sunday, and the Spurs will have to pull out all their tricks to remain in first ahead of the Lakers with Por, Bos, Hou, Atl, and LAL on the upcoming docket.  

14. Philadelphia 76ers (37-36): Are without a doubt the scariest right-around-.500 team in the league that no one wants to face.

15. Atlanta Hawks (42-32): Are officially in the playoffs. Have officially no chance of getting anyone talking in the playoffs.  

16. Phoenix Suns (36-36): Getting close to beating LAL, NO, and Dallas doesn’t help you make the playoffs. The Suns still have too many tough games on their remaining schedule to realistically catch the Grizzlies.

17. Milwaukee Bucks (29-43): Unfortunately were one of Sacramento’s four recent victims, but so were the Pacers who they’re chasing. Can take over the chase for the East’s final playoff spot this week with games against Char (1 game ahead of Mil), Tor, Indy (2 games ahead of Mil), and Phil.

18. Charlotte Bobcats (30-42): With the unexpected win Friday over a hurting Boston squad, the Bobcats remain right in the thick of the playoff race. A win over Milwaukee on Monday would help significantly toward catching the Pacers (1 game ahead of Charlotte) and distancing themselves from the Bucks (1 game behind Charlotte). I bet they wish they still had Gerald Wallace right now (last 3 games: 82 points, 59% shooting, 25 rebounds, 8 steals, 2 blocks).

19. Indiana Pacers (32-42): Good news: Tyler Hansbrough continues his great late-season exploits while averaging 18 ppg and 8 rpg in March. Bad news: the Pacers just split their week 2-2 that featured lightweights NJ, Char, Sac, and Det.

20. Utah Jazz (36-38): An 0-5 week (but all against top-11 teams) pretty much officially ends their playoff chances, placing them 5 full games behind Memphis with only 8 remaining.

21. LA Clippers (29-45): Blake Griffin has officially hit the rookie wall, averaging only 20 ppg on 47% shooting and 10 rpg in March, all three of which are season lows for a month. The Clips have matched last year’s win total with 8 games remaining.

22. Sacramento Kings (20-52): Completed an awesome 4-1 road trip, which hopefully carries over to next year when they’ll play 0 games in Sacramento. Will certainly drop back down quickly even if Marcus Thornton keeps pouring it on while Evans slowly returns.

23. Golden State Warriors (32-42): For as terrible as this month has been for the team and “real fans,” seeing them run and gun and fun their way to 84 first-half points against the Raptors on Friday was great.

24. NJ Nets (23-49): With Deron Williams out, the losses keep piling up. Only need one more win to double last year’s win total.

25. Detroit Pistons (26-47): Lost to Cleveland on Friday – not sure what else to say about a team with this drab of a season.

26. Minnesota Timberwolves (17-57): No Love = no chance. Next three don’t look any better: Chi, Mia, Mem.

27. Toronto Raptors (20-53): Limping out the season. A lockout is probably the best thing for this team right now.

28. New York Knicks (35-38): I can’t say it enough: Carmelo and Amar’e are not the kind of “superstars” you can build a good team around – just way too many holes in their games and in their heads.

29. Cleveland Cavaliers (14-58): Not only is their season a wreck and the upcoming draft is one of the weakest in years, but Ohio State stud Jared Sullinger – who would be a nice draft pick for Cleveland for a couple reasons – claims he’s staying in college for another year.

30. Washington Wizards (17-55): Behind VCU, the Wizards are the second-best team in the DC area.


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Reader Comments (20)

Knicks remind me so much of the 2006-2008 Nuggets with Melo and Iverson, except without Nene and Camby anchoring a decent defense. Two high usage players who don't really do anything else. They'll probably "get it" next year by winning 45-50 games and getting their asses kicked in the first round again.

March 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBenjamin

are you kidding me, putting miami and chicago ahead of lakers? what stats are you looking at? since after the break, lakers have gone 14-1.

March 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermike

Thanks for your comment. I know the national media gets really hooked on win-loss records during arbitrary time frames (like since the All-Star break, which was 5 weeks ago), but I don't. These rankings look at how powerful a team is right now. Miami and Chicago are playing tougher schedules than the Lakers right now and getting more blowout wins. Also, LA and Miami played just over two weeks ago and the Heat beat them - I'd say that's a little more time relevant than games played since Feb. 16.

March 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZachariah Blott


The winning percentage of the Lakers opponents since the all star game has been better than the Bulls and the Heat. SInce the Heat LA game the Heat have lost, LA has not. If you use that as the starting point LA is "hotter", considering they beat the team the Heat lost to.

March 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJamesD

Again, I'm not as hung up on winning percentages over a 5-week period as the national media. These rankings look at strength of teams right now. I like how you use the LA-Miami game as the starting point but don't consider it a loss for the Lakers. As long as their opponents either get hurt while winning, play them in the middle of incredibly tough stretches of games, or "miraculously" allow LAL to shoot more than twice as many free throws as themselves, LA is pretty good at winning close games - again, while Chicago and Miami play back-to-backs and actually get multiple blowout wins. And I see you're getting real selective with starting points - first you use the Miami-LA game and then you want to include LA's win over OKC, which was at the end of a 3-game Thunder losing streak in February, not now when they're actually hot. Plus they had to face the Lakers right after the trade, so they didn't have Jeff Green or Kendrick Perkins, either of whom would have certainly helped in a 3-point contest. Compare apples to apples if you're going to make comparisons like this.

March 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZachariah Blott

zach we know you hate the Lakers and since it's your website you can rank the teams as you see fit but can you at least get the Lakers record correct. It's 53-20 thanks.

March 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndre the Giant

I don't hate the Lakers. I hate fake fans. I hate when the refs consistently favor big-market teams with mysterious foul counts at the ends of tight playoff series. I hate when those same teams are given much easier schedules than other teams. I hate when the NBA/Stern clearly has an agenda that makes for good storylines and carries it out. I hate when biased fans in these large markets pretend none of these things exist. But I don't hate the Lakers. Last I checked, LA lost the last time they faced either of the two teams above them in these rankings.

March 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterZachariah Blott


If we go to the all star break as the starting point, LA is still performing better. As you have made clear during your rankings all year, head to head losses are not factored much into your rankings. Suddenly when Miami beats LA it matters. So who is really being selective? Bulls beat LA the last time they played as did Miami, but that shouldn't matter because these rankings look at how strong a team is NOW.

And stop whining about the schedule without pointing out that while Chicago and Miami do play more back to backs, the LAkers have the much tougher schedule in the second half of the season. It tends to balance out, especially when this is a business and the Lakers are the marquee franchise. The league obviously is going to schedule the Lakers for more Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday games since those are the nights their corporate partners showcase the NBA. They are also the defendiong NBA champions. Perhaps they are rewarded for winning. If the Heat or Bulls win I'm sure the schedule will reflect this.

The only way LA iis not ranked #1 is because they are the Lakers and have Kobe Bryant, whom you do hate. Any other team you would have #1. Your site, your rankings. But for someone who spends a good amount of words complaining about how unfair and biased the NBA is, then does the same thing their site, comes off as petty and hypocriticial.

Im sure Drose and the Heat

March 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJamesD

Simplifying the scheduling to nothing but back-to-backs is nice and all, but it's funny how much rest LAL seems to have compared to their opponent whenever the opponent happens to be a good one. That's where the scheduling becomes key. Other teams get consecutive back-to-backs with tough ones on the back end or a tough one right after it. The Lakers had consecutive back-to-backs once this season, and they got crushed in the last two: by 14 to Orlando (fine) and by 20 to Charlotte (?). What would you say is the toughest 2-week stretch of games the Lakers had to face this year, considering opponents, locations, and rest time? I bet it wasn't that bad and I bet they didn't do that great, yet those are the conditions under which other contenders tend to have to face LA. There is NO WAY it is a coincidence, and I suspect you agree.

Like many teams, the Lakers have multiple back-to-backs from here on out, but the second nights are Utah, Sacramento, and Golden State. Somehow they conveniently end up with rest before playing Dallas, Denver, OKC, Portland, and SA - the hardest ones. Thankfully the Lakers get 4 of those 5 at home and 2 of them having to play on the second night of back-to-backs - not a bad way to finish the year if it's meant to look tough.

The Heat didn't move above the Lakers after beating them a couple weeks ago (check 2.7); it took a 10-day stretch facing LAL, Mem, SA, OKC, Atl, and Denv with 1 loss to a hot team and 3 blowout wins to do it. Show me the last time the Lakers did that well in a stretch that tough - you can't because they didn't. Make sure you know what you're talking about when you say I'm selective with when I use head-to-head comparisons because that one win of Miami's didn't do it; it took that whole run. Compare that run to the Lakers' recent string of close calls over bad and injured-while-beating-LA-late teams, and it's clear who's been better recently.

March 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZachariah Blott

Your argument, much like your sometimes misplaced use of advanced stats, assumes each player has equal value and each team has equal value. They don't. LA has a different schedule because they are the defending champs, the l;eagues marquee franchise, with one of the league's marquee players. IThis has happened before with the Bulls. It was happening with Cleveland with Lebron 2 years ago. Its not as big a deal to me because I get why its done. Is it fair, no.

During the Heat streak LA has been equally impressive, and been so for a longer time. For example, LA blew out San An AFTER they waxed Miami by 30. Miami blew out San An on the SPurs 4th game in 6 dyas. But you SELECTIVELY forgot to factor that in. LA took the pedal off, Miami didn't. LA beat a much better San AN team. They also followed the MIami loss with wins at Orlando and Dallas, teams that were playing better than the Heat.

Starting 3/16/11, the Heat ost to OKC, they have beaten ATL, Denv (back to back), Det and Philly. , LA has beaten Minn, Por, Phx, Clips, NO. Shouldn't Miami get penalized for the loss?

March 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJamesD

What Miami is going to get penalized for is the loss to Cleveland. Plus I'm sure you noticed the Heat played two more difficult teams than the hardest LA had to face during that stretch (OKC, Denv).

March 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZachariah Blott


I don't necessarily agree that OKC is better than Portland since Gerald Wallace arrived. SInce Portland did beat OKC on SUnday I could be right.

Denver lost the day before they lost to the Heat to Orlando. So why give the Heat so much credit for beating them on the 2nd night of a back to back? Reading your previous postings this should mitigate the win somewhat. Funny when LA wins these games you are quick to point in out.

March 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJamesD

When you change the Heat's decent run to eliminate 3 huge wins (LAL, SA, and Memphis) from it, I see how it's easier to argue for the Lakers' stretch. Again, what would you say was LA's toughest 2-week stretch this year? I'd love to hear this.

March 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZachariah Blott

People, read the first paragraph before respond! Every week, people get their panties in a bunch when their favorite team isn't ranked as high as they'd like. This is RIGHT NOW, not since the start of the season.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGavriel

@ Zach, as I said in my comment it's your website so you can rank them as you wish; I just ask that you get their record correct (I notice you didn’t even acknowledge you made the mistake). Yes the Lakers did lose to Miami recently however they lost to Chicago a long time ago and even someone as "anti-lakers" as you are would agree that the Lakers are playing much better basketball than were the last time they played Chicago. I guess "fake fans" is something left up to interpretation. I would also like to point out that just because you have a website or a blog doesn’t make you a real fan either. For example I don’t have a website or a blog or a twitter feed however I do own Bulls season tickets and I am willing to bet that Jerry Reinsdorf thinks I am a real fan because I actually spend my hard earned money on tickets. The problem with your website is that I would hope you take your personal opinions out of your writing and just state the facts. Look I am not naïve to the fact that David Stern like any other leader of commerce has a job to generate the most $$$ for his constituency and the Lakers are clearly the marquee franchise of the league and when they are in the finals “fake fans” actually watch where as hardly anyone watch Spurs vs. Pistons in 2005. The Lakers just got a $20 billion TV deal which according to Forbes makes them the only NBA franchise worth over a billion so obviously whether they have real or fake fans they have fans plural in the millions which most other teams don’t fans in the thousands (New Orleans comes to mind). You can say you don’t hate the Lakers and to be honest I might believe you but you can’t deny the fact the majority of the Caucasian media/bloggers and Uncle Tom’s like Jason Whitlock HATE Kobe Bryant for whatever reason. I am waiting for the day I log on to your website and you write an article that says Zach B is better fit than Kobe Bean Bryant on the Lakers and I bet you will some stats to prove it. Look as a “REAL FAN of the NBA” you can show me all the stupid Hollinger Stats but if I had to go on the court to win a game give me Kobe Bryant over any NBA player today. I don’t have data to prove it I just know that when 08 US Olympic team was struggling with Spain in the gold medal game and everyone was tight it was Kobe who hit a 30 ft shot and got fouled and won the game for OUR country. Also last point before I get off my soap box, you seem like someone who is really into the advanced metrics like and have maybe even attended the Sloan conference, which I believe was founded by Daryl Morey or the Rockets. I have one question if Daryl is such a genius why can’t his teams make the playoffs with all his advanced data. Hey regardless if I agree with your opinion or not (I don’t) at least I read your website which makes me a “real reader”.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndre the Giant

you can’t deny the fact the majority of the Caucasian media/bloggers and Uncle Tom’s like Jason Whitlock HATE Kobe Bryant for whatever reason

Andre, you are loosing all credibility with these baseless silly non-sequitur insinuations (racism being the root of alleged Kobe HATE). You do realize ~80% of all basketball players are black, if someone is a racist, they picked the wrong sport to follow!

Perhaps you could cite where Zach only praises white players and degrades all black players...oh yeah, won't find that.

Also last time I checked Zach doesn't HATE Kobe, he feels he's over-rated and his fans are annoying, BIG difference.

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGavriel

I love the articles on this site, but the rankings are worse than what and 8 year old can come up with.

Oh wait, even an 8 years old cannot come up with such delusional conspiracy theories .. the refs are conspiring to favor the big market teams.. David stern puts in the schedule to favor Lakers.. one of your comments you even mentioned that players in other teams get injured when they play Lakers, as if that was part of some conspiracy..

Are you for real dude?

April 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAZ

just curious.. whats your definition of a real fan and a fake fan?

April 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAZ

Did you watch the Finals in 2006? Have you heard of Tim Donaghy? Are you aware the FBI believes him? Do you honestly think it's a "conspiracy" that the NBA higher ups affect games and series and set up profitable storylines? If you saw the 2006 Finals or 2002 Western Finals (only the most obvious recent cases) and don't think the league has a direct say in the outcome of games, I'm not sure what to tell you.

April 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZachariah Blott

So, let me get this straight.. Tim Donaghy is the reason why Lakers are better after the all star break?
You are a funny dude..

I may not agree with the racist factor that Andrea brought in, but he made a point. We wont come to read your stuff if we were fake fans and wanted to hear only praise for lakers.. like AZ said, how do you define a real fan anyway?

April 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZachIsDelusional

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