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?
The Cavaliers are on a six-game winning streak, and are 15-2 over their last 17. It's thanks largely to LeBron James being in a class by himself, as he calmly showed at the end of Cleveland's close win at home over the Magic. LeBron's club seems to be peaking right now, whereas the Celtics are just trying to get healthy, and the Lakers are trying to stave off boredom until the playoffs begin. Everyone else? Ranked as follows:
- 1. Cavaliers (54-13) | Prev.: 1
Seriously, what are you supposed to do if you're the Orlando Magic? Up one late, playing LeBron for the drive seems like the right move. But since LeBron is LeBron, he steps back and drains a long three to essentially give the Cavs the win. Cleveland is now 30-1 at home -- impressive.
- 2. Lakers (53-14) | Prev.: 2
Phil Jackson criticizes his team for not having a "killer instinct" after Sunday's win over Dallas, then they go ahead and prove him right by letting the Sixers come from 14 down in the fourth to beat them in their very next game. When do the playoffs start, again?
- 3. Magic (49-18) | Prev.: 5
Orlando has proven that they can contend with anyone (except the Pistons) even without Jameer Nelson. They have to be pleased with the contributions they're getting from guys like Courtney Lee and Rafer Alston, but Dwight Howard is going to need to shoot the ball in the fourth quarter most of the time if the team wants to win games.
- 4. Spurs (45-22) | Prev.: 3
With the Lakers virtually assured of the one seed for the playoffs, San Antonio can afford to rest Tim Duncan now and then to get ready for the post-season. And with Tony Parker doing his thing, they'll win a lot of those games without Duncan anyway.
- 5. Rockets (44-25) | Prev.: 7
The details of the Carl Landry shooting are pretty scary, and almost seem like someone was intentionally after him. Regardless, Houston will have to get by without him for a couple of weeks, which, in the tight race for seeding in the West, could have its consequences.
- 6. Celtics (50-18) | Prev.: 6
This is the lowest we can (with any conscience at all) rank Boston right now, despite the fact that they're injury-ravaged and have only won four times in their last 10 games. They should have plenty of time to get healthy for the playoffs, but the injuries are probably going to cost them home court advantage to the Cavaliers.
- 7. Hawks (40-28) | Prev.: 12
Winners of six in a row, holding steady in their lead over Miami for the fourth seed in the East. Which is important, because they'll need all the help they can get against Dwyane Wade in the playoffs.
- 8. Nuggets (43-25) | Prev.: 14
Denver seems to have stopped the bleeding at the moment, winning three in a row against the league's bottom feeders. Their win streak is likely to get to five, before we'll get a better idea of whether they've righted the ship or not when they head out on the road to face the Suns, Hornets, and Mavericks.
- 9. Blazers (42-25) | Prev.: 8
SLAM's Lang Whitaker, describing Brandon Roy's game while Portland was losing to Atlanta: "Does Brandon Roy get as many calls as Jordan used to get? Or more? it's unbelievable. He flops so much I keep thinking he's Italian."
- 10. Jazz (42-26) | Prev.: 4
Let the "Utah Jazz are a fraud" columns begin! (Hey, they are just 13-20 on the road, it's not like it isn't justified.)
- 11. Heat (36-30) | Prev.: 11
Dwyane Wade's MVP season is really fun to watch. But as long as LeBron keeps doing what he's doing, James is a lock to take home the hardware.
- 12. Sixers (34-31) | Prev.: 19
Peaking at the right time? Perhaps. Showed a lot of heart coming back from 14 down in the fourth to beat the Lakers, and if they can extend their current four-game winning streak, home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs isn't out of the question.
- 13. Mavericks (41-27) | Prev.: 10
Dallas is looking to improve their eight seed status, but their schedule down the stretch would indicate that maybe they should be happy to just hold onto that playoff spot.
- 14. Hornets (41-25) | Prev.: 9
Chris Paul is the only one playing consistently lately, and as tight as the West is, it's not a stretch to see the Hornets fall to that eight spot, where they'd get to play the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. Have fun with that.
- 15. Suns (36-31) | Prev.: 15
We'll let the always optimistic Ben York of Fanster take it from here: "Down, yes, but not quite out...yet. If they can beat Philly and Washington at home this week, and somehow find a way to win at least 3 of the 4 games against Denver, Utah, and Portland next week...they could find themselves in a good position for a playoff push come April."
- 16. Bulls (31-37) | Prev.: 17
God bless the Bulls fans, who must be watching the single most gobsmacking NBA season in recent memory. Simply atrocious coaching from Vinny Del Negro, matched only by indecently inconsistent play up and down the roster. I guess it could only be worse if Chris Duhon were still running the point. (Tom Ziller)
- 17. Bobcats (29-38) | Prev.: 16
Winners in seven of their last 10, playoffs are still a possibility. Until you look at their remaining schedule, where back-to-backs against the Lakers and Celtics, along with games against the Heat and Magic await.
- 18. Bucks (31-38) | Prev.: 20
As long as @CV31 keeps Twittering, that's what we'll continue to talk about in this space. Seems like he might be looking for a loophole to get around not sending out updates at halftime. Let's hope so!
- 19. Pistons (33-33) | Prev.: 13
If Will Bynum (pictured below) played for the Celtics or Lakers, he'd be a household name by now. (Matt Watson)
- 20. Knicks (28-38) | Prev.: 21
As Shoals notes, the Knicks have been pretty much free of drama this season, ignoring Stephon Marbury's freedom quest, Eddy Curry's familial tragedy and (now) Danilo Gallinari's back injury. Ta' hell with wins -- Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni have created a winning culture. Maybe it's corny, cliche and Albomy. But it really matters. Cheers to that. (TZ)
- 21. Pacers (28-40) | Prev.: 22
When people are calling to see Josh McRoberts get some run, you know the season's over.
- 22. Nets (28-39) | Prev.: 18
Devin Harris has not one, but two injuries to his shoulder. Looks like his stellar season might come to a bit of a premature end, and the Nets' playoff chances are gone right along with him.
- 23. Raptors (24-44) | Prev.: 23
Fortunes change so remarkably fast in the NBA. Two years ago, LeBron was the Class of 2003 star most likely to flee. Then it was Dwyane Wade, watching his Miami empire crumble. Then Carmelo Anthony, ripping down his own Denver empire with DUIs and coaching feuds. Now? Chris Bosh is leaving the field in his dust. The Raptors need a major infusion of talent (coaching and playing) this summer. (TZ)
- 24. Thunder (19-48) | Prev.: 24
Winners in six of their last 10, including one over the Spurs earlier this week. There's hope here, people.
- 25. Warriors (24-43) | Prev.: 25
Two years ago when the Warriors stood on the surface of the Moon and screamed holy war, every team that rejected Don Nelson looked like a loser. So much for that conventional wisdom. Geniuses are difficult partners, and Nellie is more mad than most. Thank God the team gave him a lucrative contract extension and basically handed the GM job to his confidant! (TZ)
- 26. Grizzlies (17-49) | Prev.: 26
Scored just 32 second half points, but were still able to gut out a win in Detroit over the Pistons. What does that mean? Just fewer ping pong balls, unfortunately.
- 27. Timberwolves (20-47) | Prev.: 27
Just don't have the bodies right now to do much of anything. Managed only 86 points in a loss to the Tim Duncan-less Spurs.
- 28. Wizards (16-52) | Prev.: 28
Did their part in keeping the Kings winless against Eastern Conference teams, which is about all you can ask at this point.
- 29. Clippers (13-43) | Prev.: 30
Baron Davis made his long awaited return to the Bay, but despite his 29 points, the Clippers couldn't beat the Warriors who were playing without a suspended Stephen Jackson.
- 30. Kings (12-46) | Prev.: 29
Just three games left to lose against Eastern Conference teams before Sacramento becomes the only team ever to go 0-30 against an entire conference. You can do it, guys!