The NBA’s Profits>Product season has 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 (31-9): Bosh is back, just in time for one hell of a week: @Orl on Tuesday, @Chi on Wednesday, @Philly on Friday, Orlando on Sunday.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (32-9): The Thunder have appeared beatable at times, so the rest of March is very important since they’ll be hit with a bevy of half-decent to decent clubs that are all fighting for their places. Get Cole Aldrich more minutes already.
3. Chicago Bulls (34-9): Continue to beat teams that aren't a challenge. Continue to lose to teams that are. They're possibly the most consistent good team in the league in that regard, which should scare Chicago fans.
4. San Antonio Spurs (26-13): SA has a completely ho-hum attitude toward getting minutes for their stars and they've played by far the toughest schedule of all the contenders, and they're still 2nd in the West. We could be looking at Duncan's 5th championship if they're healthy in the playoffs, except no one's looking. Just the way Pops wants it.
5. Orlando Magic (27-15): Aren't as close to contending as the front office may think, so Orlando will probably hold onto Howard. Two killer back-to-backs this week should make their place a little clearer (Mia & @SA, then @Mia & Chi).
6. Memphis Grizzlies (24-16): Fans better be praying that Z-Bo doesn't “pull a Melo” and rush back to screw up team chemistry.
7. Los Angeles Lakers (25-16): Had a negative point differential this week while going 2-2 against 4 teams that are a combined 30 games under .500 – this season's looking mighty similar to last year for LA, which should be worrisome to fans who can say with a straight face that a club with 3 All-Stars and the highest payroll still needs more help.
8. Philadelphia 76ers (25-17): Typical Sixers' 3-game win streak, winning by a total of 57 points. Evan Turner is looking great in the starting lineup, grabbing a lot of the boards they need while Spencer Hawes is out, but they still could use the big guy's interior D.
9. Atlanta Hawks (24-17): Joe Johnson's career began nosediving before he signed that monster contract two years ago, Al Horford has been hurt forever, and now Josh Smith wants out of town. I hope fans enjoyed being overrated while it lasted.
10. Denver Nuggets (23-19): The roster is kinda all back together now, and this week's schedule will be a good test of where they are on their road back: Atl, OKC, Bos, and Dal.
11. Houston Rockets (22-20): The weak week that should have ended their skid did not, chiefly due to a lack of defense. Gotta win at least 2 this week with OKC, Char, LAC, and Phx on deck.
12. Los Angeles Clippers (23-16): Are 8-9 without Chauncey Billups since he ripped up his left Achilles. They're done, and again the Pacific is gift wrapped for the Lakers.
13. Indiana Pacers (23-16): Shocking - their 6-game win streak against absolute nobodies translated into zero success against 4 winning clubs this past week.
14. Boston Celtics (21-19): Hanging around that 7/8 seed so they can get embarrassed in the first round…or will Danny Ainge finally pull the trigger on a deal with an eye toward the future? (Yes, I know that's exactly what I said about them last week.)
15. Portland Trail Blazers (20-21): I'm calling it now: they'll make enough trades to patch up the locker room and push past the Rubio-less Timberwolves and sinking Rockets for the West’s 8th playoff spot. Then they'll lose in the first round for the fourth year in a row.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (21-21): I take it you're not trading Luke Ridnour now, right?
17. Phoenix Suns (19-21): Still have enough punch to do things like go 2-1 against OKC, Dallas, and Memphis.
18. Dallas Mavericks (23-20): At least they got the “with Carmelo” Knicks this week who suck – other than that, they've won only one of their last nine.
19. Utah Jazz (19-21): Generally playing like a very consistent .450/.500 team: losing to the good opponents and beating the bad ones. They don't stray from that formula very far. I'm real curious how that will manifest itself against the Suns, Timberwolves, Warriors, and Lakers this week.
20. Golden State Warriors (17-21): Picked up two unexpected wins last week against falling teams (Dallas, Clippers). Can they keep it up and beat Boston and/or Utah this week?
21. Cleveland Cavaliers (16-23): The Cavs are showing all the signs of a young team that has some real talent: very inconsistent but able to get some nice wins (Denv, OKC, Hou in a row this past week is great). Will need Varejao back in order to finish strong with their heads up.
22. Detroit Pistons (15-26): It took Detroit 25 games from the start of the season to hold 3 opponents under 90 points. Well they just did it three times in a row, including the Lakers in overtime and the Hawks. Can the winning continue against Utah, Sac, Phx, and LAC this week?
23. New York Knicks (18-23): 6-1 without Carmelo, 2-7 since. I'd love to interview the psychiatric counselors of all those people who were paying $5,000 for Lin jerseys a couple weeks ago.
24. New Jersey Nets (14-28): Can’t shake the injury bug.
25. Milwaukee Bucks (17-24): Don’t look now, but Ersan Ilyasova has stepped it up big-time in his newest starting role, including a 29-25 game a couple weeks ago, something Dwight Howard hasn’t accomplished in over 5 years.
26. Toronto Raptors (13-28): Bargnani is back just in time for a very winnable stretch of games: 5 of next 7 are Cleveland, New Jersey, Charlotte, and New York twice.
27. Sacramento Kings (14-27): At what point are we allowed to say and collectively think that Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, and Jimmer Fredette aren’t the answers this club needs to improve?
28. New Orleans Hornets (10-31): Schedule eases up this week – it’s now or never to peak.
29. Washington Wizards (9-30): Why do fans continue to think that the PG who can’t shoot, turns the ball over way too much, and can’t play defense is not part of this team’s problem? It’s time for Wall to show real improvement, but unfortunately it’s also time for a ton of winning opponents to flood the schedule – maybe he can improve next year.
30. Charlotte Bobcats (5-34): Their recent 5-game losing streak was only their 3rd worst of the season, so I guess they’re kind of improving, plus they just had 2 of their 3 best defensive games of the year (surrendered 84 to Orlando and 83 to NJ).