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Behind The Basket Power Rankings 2.2

Look who's moving up, right out of the cellar and into 29th placeThis week I’ll examine the major deficiencies of the 8 teams most likely to advance to their conference semifinals in May since they’ve become quite glaring by now.

Top 8

1. Chicago Bulls (37-10): The Bulls can’t function well if Noah, Boozer, or Deng get hurt; the first two are long overdue while the third is not having the healthiest season. They haven’t faced a tough stretch since the first week of the season, so concerns about their ability to consistently beat good teams still linger.
2. San Antonio Spurs (29-14): Injury concerns with 34-year-old Ginobili and 35-year-old Duncan can really derail them – just look at last year’s playoffs when both were in terrible shape.
3. Miami Heat (33-11): With Bosh, they’re a below-average rebounding squad. Without him, they’re a terrible rebounding squad. Either of these situations can be exploited by a lot of these top teams in a 7-game series.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (34-11): Still haven’t solved the Spurs. Still can’t convince Westbrook to shoot less than Durant, and we already know Westbrook’s track record in the playoffs.
5. Los Angeles Lakers (28-17): Suspect on the road. Have real trouble when the refs aren’t handing them the game (it took a 34 to 5 free throw advantage to top Memphis in double-OT). Hard to believe Bynum won’t break down at some point, and then they’re doomed.
6. Orlando Magic (29-17): Because they live and die by the three and are a below-average offensive rebounding club, they have a huge problem against teams with athletic defenses that are quick enough to pester outside shooters and retreat inside for defensive boards. 
7. Philadelphia 76ers (25-20): Are far too small and unable to get offensive rebounds without Spencer Hawes at full-strength, which he hasn’t been for quite a while.
8. Memphis Grizzlies (25-18): Zach Randolph is a world-class chemistry killer, and he’s back, which quickly resulted in a loss to the Raptors.


9. Denver Nuggets (25-20): Kenneth Faried making Nene tradeable = impressive. Getting one of the NBA’s 5 worst head cases for Nene = uh oh.
10. Phoenix Suns (23-22): Are 9-2 since the ASG and knocking on the playoff door.
11. Atlanta Hawks (26-19): At least they’ve been able to beat the bad teams recently.
12. Indiana Pacers (25-18): Indy’s defense has been slacking of late, and they were already severely overrated before that point.

13. Houston Rockets (24-22): Why didn’t they keep Derek Fisher as a heady back-up, at least while Kyle Lowry’s hurt?
14. Los Angeles Clippers (26-18): Could the Clippers slide out of the playoffs? They’re 11-11 without Billups, and 9th seeded Phoenix is surging.
15. Boston Celtics (23-21): And they made no trades because…? Once the veteran HOFers are gone and the team implodes around Rondo’s locker room issues, then what?
16. Dallas Mavericks (26-20): Recent losing has been plentiful. Recent winning has been generally unimpressive.
17. Utah Jazz (23-22): The W over the Lakers on Sunday was their only out-of-character result in weeks.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves (22-24): Losing fast and furious without Rubio – no more hope for playoffs.

19. Portland Trail Blazers (21-24): I thought they’d make trades to improve, but they have their eyes set on saving money for free agents and acquiring good draft choices, two things they haven’t exactly had a lot of success with recently. In the meantime, tank city.

Looking Bad

20. New York Knicks (21-24): Scoring lots of points against teams on the slide.
21. Milwaukee Bucks (20-24): It’s hard to say how much Monta Ellis helps this club, but new blood usually provides a boost and a little bit of a honeymoon period, especially when Ersan Ilyasova is continuing to tear it up.
22. Golden State Warriors (18-24): Because it’s so easy to bust on Mark Jackson as a “coach,” espcially when he talks about defense: the Warriors were 19-23 at this point last year and their defense is ranked 26th in the league for the second season in a row.
23. Toronto Raptors (15-30): With Bargnani back, Toronto just earned their best win of the season: Memphis.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers (16-26): Do they want Varejao back soon in order to have a decent finish, or do they prefer sliding past some clubs for a great draft pick?

25. Detroit Pistons (16-29): They had a nice little stretch going. Had.
26. Sacramento Kings (16-29): Purely hypothetical question: Is it better to have an NBA team in your hometown that’s dysfunctional and can’t figure things out, or to not have a team at all?
27. New Jersey Nets (15-31): The high-draft-pick-for-Gerald-Wallace trade looked even worse the next day when we found out Deron Williams isn’t sticking around after this year. Oh crap!  

Looking Terrible 

28. Washington Wizards (10-34): Regardless of stats, Nene is a vast upgrade over McGee, but will it yield improvements considering Blatche and Wall are still around?
29. Charlotte Bobcats
(7-36): Three wins in the last two weeks – what’s gotten into these guys?
30. New Orleans
Hornets (11-34): Charlotte, Washington, and New Jersey all in one week was supposed to be a moment to shine, not go 1-3 (including an L to the Lakers).

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Reader Comments (3)

REALLY looking forward to play offs. Every team has looked vulnerable lately including the once untouchable Heat and the always game Thunder. I'm hoping for a Clipper dark horse, or for Dwight to finally pull his team to the finals.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergav

Dwight got them to the Finals in 2009. They would have won, actually, but with All-Star PG Jameer Nelson hurt the entire series, they lost two OT games and surrendered the series 4-1. That means they were within 2 points of being up 3-2, and Game 5 might have gone Orlando's way if Nelson could have gone more than 12 ho-hum minutes off the bench. That's the year almost every major contender except the Lakers had major injuries, so it was an all around crappy playoffs devoid of the heavy weights able to be heavy weights.

March 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterZachariah Blott

You don't think the Pistons can get back to winning and close 2012 strongly? They're better as a team now that Greg Monroe is rolling at both ends.

March 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPistons

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