The NBA’s Profits>Product season has quickly devolved into endless injuries and some complete nonsense results, making the Power Rankings very fluid and difficult to pinpoint. Here's my best stab at it this week.
1. Miami Heat (25-7): Even with the Bulls’ record, there’s really no debate who the cream of the East is and will continue to be for some time.
2. San Antonio Spurs (22-9): The Spurs were going to move up to #1, but the new injuries to Ginobili and Splitter make me think we’re going to see a SanAn L sometime in their next 4 games (@Utah, @Port, @Denv, Chi) - if not, they're up.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (24-7): Just so we’re all clear here, OKC is not playing like a contender, but everyone is so far behind the Heat and Spurs right now, think of OKC as the NBA’s 3rd best team in the same way the Suns are the 3rd best team in the Pacific Division.
4. Chicago Bulls (25-8): The Bulls did two things this week they haven’t done in over a month, and both took place without Rose: they beat an over-.500 team (Boston) and lost to a sub-.500 one (New Jersey). Then Boston fell to 15-15 a few days later, so it’s now been 45 days since Chicago’s topped a club that currently has a winning record (Orlando, Jan. 6); are they anything more than just an average team that’s extraordinarily consistent?
5. Dallas Mavericks (20-12): For the first time during Cuban’s ownership, the Mavericks are having to win games with defense, and for the most part they’re doing it – but they’d still love to have Tyson Chandler back.
6. Los Angeles Clippers (19-10): Losing to the Spurs by 3 in OT and in Dallas by 4 aren’t the worst losses you can have when you’re trying to figure out how this Randy Foye/Mo Williams duo (which is much worse than it sounds) is supposed to now play 65
contributing minutes a night in Billups’ absence.
7. Orlando Magic (20-12): The Heat paid them back big-time, but the remainder of Orlando’s roadtrip is pretty easy (Mil, NJ, Atl, Was) so their record should move firmly into 3rd in the East very soon.
8. Los Angeles Lakers (18-13): I can’t be the only one who’s noticed the disturbing Kobe trend where he plays exclusively in one of two modes: 1) full-on gunner with an eye solely fixated on MJ’s career scoring mark, and 2) completely detached sulker who does nothing because he’s upset that Mike Brown implored the team to play some team ball during the last break. Bryant should watch the Heat and see that it’s possible to have a strong impact on a game from the wing even while taking only 12-15 shots every once in a while.
9. Philadelphia 76ers (20-12): Are probably the only Eastern team that’s shown they can give the Heat problems, but not while their centers are hurt. Whenever Hawes and Vucevic are both back in full form, look for a very quick and steep rise up the rankings (Philly is 12-0 when both play at least 10 minutes, including wins over Indy, LAL, and Atl).
10. Houston Rockets (18-14): I’m not sure how one gets plastered by the Warriors after two days rest and then shows guts in a 4th quarter battle with a win over the Thunder on the back end of a back-to-back a few days later, but that’s the type of season we’re in.
11. Portland Trail Blazers (17-15): Mixing talent with internal strife and a disjointed clubhouse creates this kind of a season.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves (16-16): It took a totally bogus star call for Love with 0.1 seconds remaining to beat the Hawes-less Sixers, so I’m not real impressed by their second 3-game win streak this month.
13. Memphis Grizzlies (18-14): A few recent good games by their offense will soon get overshadowed by a likely bad showing in a Houston-Philly-Dallas back-to-back-to-back leading up to ASG weekend.
14. Atlanta Hawks (19-12): Have been rather underwhelming in their recent group of games against good opponents.
15. Denver Nuggets (17-15): Badly missing Galinari and Nene, but super-close losses at the Grizzlies (by 1) and Thunder (in OT) aren’t the worst thing that can happen. Having to play the Spurs right before and after the ASG – that’s more like it.
16. Indiana Pacers (19-12): I will now quote part of last week’s message about the Pacers: “…as I continue to point out that their record is deceiving and their schedule has been easy.” Their record is deceiving and they take a beating whenever their schedule is not easy.
17. New York Knicks (16-16): Linsanity continues. When does Carmelo return and screw it up? Or will a 2-week stretch with Atlanta, Miami, Boston, Dallas, and San Antonio (with Philly, Chicago, Portland, and Indy the next week) do the trick?
18. Boston Celtics (15-15): I just got done saying how important KG has been to the Celtics’ resurgence, and on cue they go and lose to the Pistons twice this week in the only two games he’s missed all season.
19. Utah Jazz (15-15): Remember when they had won 8 of 9 early in the season? Well they just lost 8 of their last 11, including to New Orleans and Golden State.
20. Cleveland Cavaliers (12-17): Kyrie Irving came back from his concussion on fire, scoring 21 ppg over 3 contests, but he’s also taking some bad shots and has almost as many turnovers as assists. No one will ever say it, but he needs to be tutored in the ways of running an efficient offense by back-up Ramon Sessions.
21. Detroit Pistons (11-22): Winners of 7 of their last 9, including 2 over Boston sans Garnett. Could keep it going with Cleveland, Toronto, and Charlotte making up 3 of their next 4, but don’t expect sustained success beyond that.
22. Milwaukee Bucks (13-18): Wins this month: by 7 over NJ (who cares), by 1 over Cleveland in OT (yawn), by 6 over Toronto (whoop dee doo), and Miami…?!?
23. Phoenix Suns (13-19): Just beat the Lakers by the exact same 12-point margin they lost to them by only two days prior. In case you missed it, Steve Nash is working on completing the first ever 55-40-90 season (currently .543 FG, .407 3FG, .871 FT).
24. Golden State Warriors (11-17): 3-point shooters all over the place, but still an extreme lack of this defense Mark Jackson talked about installing before the season started. They were 10-18 at this point last year.
25. New Orleans Hornets (7-23): They lost 23 of their previous 25 contests, but the Hornets won 3 straight this week behind great defense, including putting the breaks on Linsanity’s ride – all without Eric Gordon, Carl Landry, and Emeka Okafor.
26. Washington Wizards (7-24): It’s cute that regressing egomaniac John Wall thought he deserved to be a higher pick than 12th in the Rising Stars Challenge. Try not making the Wizards’ offense worse year after year before you complain about such things.
27. Sacramento Kings (10-21): It wasn’t long ago that Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins were declared the team cornerstones that would lead Sacramento upward. Kings’ winning percentages the last 3 seasons: .323, .293, .305
28. New Jersey Nets (9-24): Because this season is one of the worst and nonsensical ever (remember this when we go trashing David Stern after he retires), the Nets just killed the Bulls and then lost to the Bucks in Brook Lopez’s return.
29. Toronto Raptors (9-23): How about this idea? Give Bargnani some pre-season MVP love next year since the club that’s 6-7 when he plays is now 3-16 without him, including a rather damning loss to the Bobcats. If that’s not value, I’m not sure what is.
30. Charlotte Bobcats (4-27): One losing streak ends so that another can begin.