Here’s my final crack at ranking the NBA clubs in a season of pure madness (and huge profits for the men who made it madness). Hopefully we never have a season this stupidly put together and forced down our throats by Stern/the owners/the NBA again because it’s very difficult to sort out and devise meaningful Power Rankings during it.
0. Washington Wizards (17-46): Beat the Bulls, Heat, and busting-their-humps-to-make-the-playoffs Bucks in a row, so here’s their gift since they obviously have many more seasons ranked near the bottom coming up.
1. San Antonio Spurs (47-16): Anyone who doesn’t think they’re the best team going into the playoffs simply hasn’t been paying attention this season.
2. Miami Heat (46-18): LeBron is your MVP in a season that nearly doesn’t deserve one.
3. Chicago Bulls (48-16): Is there a point at which I’m supposed to know how much Rose to expect in the playoffs? First Round and Second Round opponents (likely Philly and Boston) both have enough firepower to sink the Bulls.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (46-18): Obviously everything from this point forward comes down to how soon Harden can come back at 100%. If it’s sooner than later, pencil them into the Western Finals with SanAn.
5. Los Angeles Lakers (41-24): Embarrassed by Spurs twice, and it took an un-reproduceable series of happenings and advantages to barely top OKC in double-OT. Who will defend wing/perimeter scorers in the playoffs if Artest is suspended for long?
6. Los Angeles Clippers (40-24): Are one Harden concussion away from having moved past the Lakers for the West’s #3 seed. Certainly have the talent to become the talk of the playoffs.
7. Boston Celtics (37-27): Bigger playoffs monkey wrench than Memphis, and that’s saying a lot. It’s conceivable that Boston could appear in the Finals with perfect circumstances, but no way they do so and win it all. Enjoy the C’s last big year in some time while it lasts.
8. Memphis Grizzlies (39-25): Would much rather face the Artest-less Lakers in Round One (no one to guard Gay) than the hot Clippers. Oh well, if you’re supposed to be the big bad upset bully, it’s gotta start with somebody.
9. Indiana Pacers (41-23): Have been displaying more than enough offense to cause the Heat, especially with a questionable DWade, real issues in Round Two.
10. Denver Nuggets (36-28): Have about 5 MVP-of-the-team-right-now candidates, which makes them a real pain to handle in the playoffs. They probably aren’t big enough to take the Lakers in Round One, but a) Which Laker is going to keep Gallinari from averaging 20 ppg? and b) What happens if Bynum decides he’s going to out-crazy McGee in the series?
11. Dallas Mavericks (36-29): We all expected a comedown from last year’s Championship, but no one saw this far of a fall coming, as they’ve now been relegated to about the 4th-most talked about upset alert club.
12. Utah Jazz (34-30): Did not see Utah saying “F it, we’re going to make the playoffs,” but they did, and right about now Spurs fans should be saying, “Damn, look at that frontline, and why did Devin Harris suddenly return to All-Star form at the end of the year?”.
13. New York Knicks (34-30): More likely occurrence in Round One match-up with Miami: Carmelo leads the series in scoring or Knicks get swept out of first round for second year in a row?
14. Phoenix Suns (33-31): In all likelihood the Suns aren’t sneaking into the playoffs considering their final game is with the Spurs, but Nash definitely deserves top-5 MVP consideration because Phoenix has 0% chance of earning half this many wins without him this year when you look at the rest of that lineup.
15. Atlanta Hawks (38-26): Earned first note-worthy win in nearly a month when they squeaked by the Rondo-less, KG-less, Pierce-less, Allen-less Celtics by 5 at home on Friday. Inspiring confidence for the playoffs they are not.
16. Philadelphia 76ers (33-30): At one point, it was their year, now it really isn’t. Can they get their collective heads together enough for one inspired playoffs series? Probably not.
17. Milwaukee Bucks (30-33): And like that they’re out of the playoffs hunt. Was there ever really a point we thought an Ellis-Jennings backcourt was prepared for a post-season run? No, no there wasn’t.
18. Houston Rockets (33-32): Have been right around .500 and right around the 8th/9th seed for three straight years. Time to do something different, not just tweak what’s there.
19. Orlando Magic (36-28): Dwight Howard has dropped from one of the league’s top-2 most valuable players to out of the top-10 in less than a season, a season in which he reached career highs in rebounds, steals, and assists.
20. Portland Trail Blazers (28-36): What exactly do they build upon next year? Barring winning the draft lottery, I’m guessing a sale/possible sale of the team is all that will have fans excited by next October.
21. New Jersey Nets (22-42): Final game ever in New Jersey is Monday night against Philly.
22. Golden State Warriors (23-41): GS fired coach Keith Smart after making the club much better last year, but now they’re committed to Mark Jackson who made them much worse this year. This is why they won’t be good anytime soon.
23. Minnesota Timberwolves (26-39): Could Minnesota’s sports franchises have a worse string of injuries than the one they’ve had since Favre was in town (Rubio, Love, Mauer, Morneau, Peterson being the 5 most obvious)? And now the Vikings are probably leaving town…ugh!
24. Detroit Pistons (24-40): Gotta respect the dignity they’re showing the game and their fans by not tanking down the stretch of a lost season. I wish them all the best in the draft lottery – Monroe can use all the help he can get.
25. New Orleans Hornets (20-44): Just get this season over with and move on with what’s bound to be a much brighter future.
26. Toronto Raptors (22-42): Will start next season with Jonas Valanciunas (last year’s #5 pick), whoever they select in the top-5 or so this summer, and a hopefully healthy Bargnani – brighter days ahead.
27. Sacramento Kings (21-43): The owners are being exposed as scoundrels, face-of-the-franchise Evans apparently wants out of town (I guess a better way of saying it is off this franchise), and rising face-of-the-franchise Cousins is certainly NOT who you build a team around. Brighter days far far away.
28. Cleveland Cavaliers (21-42): Currently lthe worst of all teams that can legitimately pass as NBA franchises.