NBA Power Rankings: Ours is much more of an emotional look than most. Recent events matter, and long-term projections are (mostly) ignored. After all, no one wants to simply read the Vegas odds for winning the title each week, right?
Sometimes, numbers can be deceiving. When you use a statistic like point differential as a main component in compiling your rankings, things are bound to get a little skewed. Like, say, having the Lakers at three, behind two teams that they're undefeated against on the season -- and who L.A. recently beat on the road without their starting center, Andrew Bynum. Believe what your eyes are telling you, people: that the Lakers are the best team in the league right now. Well ahead of the 29 others, who we've ranked for your amusement as follows:
- 1. Lakers (47-10) | Prev.: 1
They've admittedly been letting teams hang around for too long lately, but hey, wins are wins. Pau Gasol's recent minute totals are troubling (averaging 42 per game over his last 10), but if Phil Jackson isn't worried about it, then neither am I.
- 2. Celtics (46-12) | Prev.: 3
Boston has two more wins and one more loss than the Cavs, so I'm fine with ranking them here, despite Cleveland's current one seed in the East. Besides, the Celtics are 5-0 without Kevin Garnett this season, including the last two which featured Rajon Rondo's birthday party in Phoenix, followed by a thrashing of the Nene-less Nuggets in Denver.
- 3. Cavaliers (44-11) | Prev.: 4
Delonte West returned from injury to score 20 points in his first game back, making the already scary Cavaliers that much scarier. West was inactive the following game because of soreness in the previously injured wrist, but with almost two months to get it ready for the playoffs, he should be fine.
- 4. Spurs (38-17) | Prev.: 2
So Tim Duncan sits out with a sore knee, and Manu Ginobili is out with an ankle injury. But Tony Parker scores 37 points, and the Spurs kill the mavericks by 17 points anyway. Not bad, right? The Cavs come to town on Friday, which will be a better test of just how ready the Spurs are to contend for the title this season.
- 5. Jazz (34-23) | Prev.: 15
We've been a little Jazz heavy this week, but with good reason. Utah is 8-1 in their last nine games, including wins over the Lakers, Celtics, and Hornets. With Carlos Boozer getting to work his way back into shape for the playoffs, there are plenty of reasons to fear the Jazz.
- 6. Magic (41-15) | Prev.: 5
Orlando traded for Rafer Alston to help them out at the point guard spot, and so far, he's been just average. Orlando is 2-1 since adding him, and Alston is averaging over 10 points and six assists in those three games. Honestly, the jury's still out.
- 7. Rockets (36-21) | Prev.: 11
Winners of five straight, looking like a much better team with Ron Artest in the starting lineup, and Tracy McGrady out of it.
- 8. Nuggets (37-20) | Prev.: 6
Nene has been such a big part of what the Nuggets have done this season, that without him, Denver lost by 38 to the Celtics -- who didn't even have Kevin Garnett.
- 9. Blazers (35-21) | Prev.: 7
Greg Oden is injured (still? again? what's the appropriate adverb?). And, not that the team has had the chance to rely on him too heavily or anything, but based on how the seedings in the West are likely to shake out, this team isn't making it out of the first round of the playoffs.
- 10. Hornets (33-22) | Prev.: 10
The Tyson Chandler trade attempt was made for financial reasons, which obviously didn't sit well with Chris Paul. The trade was rescinded, Chandler returned, and all is well. Which is too bad, because I enjoyed watching Chris Paul play angry for a couple of games.
- 11. Suns (32-24) | Prev.: 12
Look, Amare Stoudemire or no, the way this incarnation of the Suns plays defense, they're just not going to beat teams like the Celtics. But they are 4-1 now since Gentry took over, and if they continue to beat the teams they're supposed to beat, they should have no trouble sneaking into the playoffs.
- 12. Hawks (32-24) | Prev.: 9
Josh Smith will not be suspended for this hit on Matt Harpring near the end of Atlanta's loss in Utah the other night. Because, you know, it was against Matt Harpring.
- 13. Heat (30-26) | Prev.: 13
Dwyane Wade followed his career high 50-point effort against the Magic with a career high 16 assist performance against the Pistons. Scary team guy to have to face in the playoffs.
- 14. Mavericks (33-23) | Prev.: 8
Dallas has too many ugly and embarrassing losses this season to be taken seriously, and it wouldn't surprise me if they're the team that Phoenix ends up passing for a playoff spot.
- 15. Bucks (28-31) | Prev.: 19
Currently leading what will be the most interesting subplot for the remainder of the regular season: the battle for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
- 16. Sixers (27-28) | Prev.: 17
Win four in a row, lose four in a row. That's pretty much the definition of a .500 team, isn't it?
- 17. Bulls (26-31) | Prev.: 18
Lots of changes in Chicago after the trade deadline, and the way Tim Thomas and John Salmons contributed in a blowout win over the Magic, they appear to have been for the better.
- 18. Nets (25-32) | Prev.: 20
It took an absolute miracle from Devin Harris for the Nets to avoid their sixth straight loss, so maybe you can't blame Brook Lopez for being a little loopy afterwards.
- 19. Knicks (24-32) | Prev.: 22
Nice to see Nate Robinson carry the momentum from his dunk contest win into playing well in actual basketball games. Where there's, you know, defense and stuff.
- 20. Pistons (27-28) | Prev.: 14
Seven straight losses, and under .500 for the first time since "Nineteen-Ninety-Teal." Michael Curry may have been put in an impossible situation, but it's clear at this point that he's not the one to fix it -- to everyone except Joe Dumars.
- 21. Raptors (23-36) | Prev.: 23
Do not anger Chris Bosh: the T'Wolves led by as many as 16 in the second quarter on Tuesday, but after Brian Cardinal (seriously?) started talking after he fouled Bosh, CB finished with 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting -- and the Raptors completed a 24-point turnaround in winning the game by eight.
- 22. Pacers (24-35) | Prev.: 16
With Mike Dunleavy about ready to shut it down for the year, the best 22-31 team we've seen in some time might be done as well. Now if only his father would do the same thing.
- 23. Bobcats (22-35) | Prev.: 21
In the least surprising news of the season, Boris Diaw and Raja Bell went bonkers in their return to Phoenix. Wasn't enough to prevent the Suns from winning their fourth in five tries under their new head coach, but hey, it probably feels good to know that they were right all along.
- 24. Warriors (20-37) | Prev.: 24
Leave it to the Warriors to provide the cure for what was ailing the Clippers. Guys, how about you play defense for one freaking possession of a game. Just to see how it feels? No? Oh well, I tried.
- 25. Timberwolves (18-38) | Prev.: 25
You just don't give the Coach of the Year trophy to the man heading up an 18-38 team. But even now without Al Jefferson, the T'Wolves have somehow remained engaged and competitive -- Kevin McHale has done a helluva job this season.
- 26. Thunder (13-44) | Prev.: 26
Kevin Durant is a bona fide scorer in this league, and will be for many years to come. But if you watch closely, he doesn't dominate in stretches or take games over the way Kobe or LeBron can. Yet -- it's only year two.
- 27. Grizzlies (15-41) | Prev.: 27
Is the fun over this season? When your starting five manages just 54 points combined against the (admittedly awesome) Cavs, the team might have started to pack it in.
- 28. Clippers (14-43) | Prev.: 28
Baron Davis's slump may have been attributed to his uncertainty around the trade deadline? I'll buy that for a dollar. Once Marcus Camby and Zach Randolph came back -- and the team had a fighting chance -- he was able to come one rebound shy of a triple double in a win over the Warriors.
- 29. Wizards (13-43) | Prev.: 29
Hey Wizards fans, look! Gilbert Arenas is healthy again! Which means you'll have an entire offseason to get your hopes up that this team is somehow built to get out of the first round of the playoffs.
- 30. Kings (12-46) | Prev.: 30
Yeah ... I got nothing.