The NBA sure knows how to create a totally worthless season. Make the players get back to work way too quickly so you can get your Christmas Day ratings, then jam far too many games together that will clearly cause terrible play and numerous injuries, all so you can make that TV and gate revenue. It’s obviously causing some ridiculous outcomes, so please take any Power Rankings with a grain of salt.
1. Miami Heat (11-5): Killed the Spurs. Killed the Lakers. Killed the Sixers. Sure those other teams had some injuries, but so did the Heat (remember Dwyane Wade?).
2. Chicago Bulls (15-3): Lost to the surging Grizzlies a week ago, but overall doing great without Derrick Rose, even though you probably couldn’t name their backup PG two weeks ago. C.J. Watson as a starter: 16 ppg (52% FG, 58% 3FG), 7.0-to-1.7 assist-turnover rate, 2.0 spg, 3-0 record.
3. Philadelphia 76ers (11-5): We now know their interior D and rebounding take a huge hit when both centers are hurt (their next biggest rotational player is 6-9 Elton Brand, who plays below the rim). With Hawes and Vucevic, the Sixers are without question the most well-rounded team in the league.
4. Denver Nuggets (12-5): Fast, great offense, and much better without Carmelo – you gotta watch them.
5. Orlando Magic (11-4): Lost to SanAn by 2 in OT on final night of back-to-back-to-back, then regrouped two days later and flattened the Lakers. Doing well overall, but what are the expectations, and how do they affect Howard’s future in Orlando?
6. Oklahoma City Thunder (13-3): That loss to the Wizards has to be due to the league’s greedy schedule – no other way to explain it.
7. San Antonio Spurs (10-7): It’s worth mentioning, since most fans have already written off Duncan, that this team still follows his presence and lead, no matter what his stats – that’s the sign of a truly great legend.
8. Atlanta Hawks (12-5): I’m still not buying them as legit contenders, but they are 5-2 in Horford’s absence so far. Not many challenges before February.
9. Dallas Mavericks (10-7): Lost two heartbreakers in LA to last-second artists Derek Fisher and Chauncey Billups. Still figuring things out. Still dangerous.
10. Utah Jazz (10-5): Only losses this month are by 3 to the Lakers and by 3 to the Mavericks. Need some help outside of the PF and C positions.
11. Los Angeles Clippers (9-5): Chris Paul needs to hurry back quickly and end this flip-flopping nonsense before they run into the Lakers, Grizzlies, Nuggets, Thunder, Jazz, and Nuggets all in the next 10 days.
12. Indiana Pacers (11-4): Nothing but offensive rebounding and defense - now it's time to start hitting more 2-pointers (shooting 38% beyond the arc, only 42% inside it). Easy schedule up until now makes it tough to predict future (only 2 W's over winning clubs, but also 2 L's to losing clubs).
13. Los Angeles Lakers (10-8): This is what happens when your best-frontline-in-a-decade becomes less dominant.
14. Memphis Grizzlies (9-6): In much the same way no one should have been surprised when Denver improved without Carmelo, Memphis is 8-3 without Zach Randolph.
15. Minnesota Timberwolves (7-9): Are really close to being 12-4 right now, plus they have some good wins (SA, Dal, LAC). Could they be the greatest bottom-of-their-division club of all-time? Not if they pass Portland.
16. Houston Rockets (9-7): Are on quite a tear that includes W’s over Portland and SanAn. Two upcoming meetings with Minnesota will determine who’s best of these two forgotten franchises.
17. Portland Trail Blazers (9-7): Took a beating on their 6-game road trip. Now they get a back-to-back-to-back. Need to right the ship over their next 7 games (Sac, Mem, GS, Phx, Uta, Char, Sac).
18. Phoenix Suns (6-9): They’re the Hawks of losing teams: unpredictable and therefore both scary and not scary at the same time.
19. Milwaukee Bucks (6-9): Are better than their record indicates (you saw they beat the Heat, yes?) considering all the missed games and that they’ve played a league-low 5 contests at home (tied with Cleveland).
20. Boston Celtics (6-9): Does Danny Ainge have the guts to blow them up?
21. New Orleans Hornets (3-13): Have faced arguably the league’s toughest schedule up to this point, and their next five are SA, OKC, Orl, Atl, Mia. It’s amazing that they’re hanging with the teams they are.
22. Golden State Warriors (5-10): Coach Marc Jackson’s big talking point was defense. Last year their DefRtg was 26th, now it’s 26th. Well done, coach.
23. Cleveland Cavaliers (6-9): Cannot hang with the Bulls or Hawks at all (L’s by 39 and 27). Let’s see how they do with the Heat on Tuesday. OK OK, the Knicks on Wednesday might be a better gauge of their progress.
24. New York Knicks (6-10): Losses to Phoenix and Denver somehow felt like karma.
25. Sacramento Kings (6-11): Will this sudden jolt they’ve gotten with new coach Keith Smart (4-6) remain? Unlikely.
26. New Jersey Nets (5-12): Are hanging around in some of their losses to good teams because of their offense. You got to think they’d be in a much better spot if Brook Lopez, the cornerstone of their D, didn’t break his foot before the season.
27. Detroit Pistons (4-13): They suck and play abysmally slow (87.3 possessions/game, 30th) – no wonder their seats are empty.
28. Toronto Raptors (4-13): 0-6 without Bargnani. Finally got around to playing Ed Davis more minutes.
29. Charlotte Bobcats (3-14): Call it The Curse of MJ, but the Bobcats’ suckitude is almost as bad as the Wizards’. Hello, Bismack Biyombo.
30. Washington Wizards (2-14): Drop them to the Big East, already. Actually, see if they can handle the Big 10 first.