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?
After a one-week hiatus -- hey, if the elite teams can mail it in for a couple of games, we can too -- the Rankings return, and there are a few notable changes. The Cavaliers took their turn riding the mini-losing streak train, so the Lakers are once again partying at the top. But Orlando, Boston, and Denver all are looking good as well, and with one week left in the regular season, exciting times are ahead as we finally prepare for some playoff basketball.
- 1. Lakers (62-16) | Prev.: 2
When Sasha Vujacic is throwing down monster dunks in traffic, you know things are going well in Los Angeles. And with Andrew Bynum scheduled to come back for the final two (possibly three) games of the regular season, it appears more good times are ahead in the playoffs.
- 2. Magic (57-20) | Prev.: 4
You know, losing to Houston in a game where they really never felt like they had any say in the game is inexcusable. That's the kind of thing that proves this team just isn't ready for the postseason. If they want to hang with the big boys...what? They beat Cleveland by how much? What? They're what against LA, Boston, and Cleveland? ... Yeah, well....I gotta go. (Matt Moore)
- 3. Nuggets (52-26) | Prev.: 9
Quick -- which team is the two seed in the Western Conference right now? Why yes, it is the Nuggets. A seven-game winning streak has Denver a game and a half in front of San Antonio in the standings.
- 4. Celtics (58-19) | Prev.: 3
Boston is only going as far in the post-season as Kevin Garnett will take them. Don't let Doc Rivers try to tell you any different.
- 5. Cavaliers (62-15) | Prev.: 1
LeBron Is Really Really Really Really Really Really Good. So good, in fact, that he almost never commits a personal foul. Hmmm.
- 6. Rockets (50-28) | Prev.: 10
With the Spurs having to go into the playoffs without one of their big three, the Rockets might take their place as the team most likely to give the Lakers their toughest challenge out West. But that's only if Ron Artest keeps his mouth shut.
- 7. Blazers (49-28) | Prev.: 11
Nate McMillan was genuinely excited when he found out his team officially clinched a playoff spot, and why not? It's the first time in the coach's four seasons they've made it, and the first in six overall for the franchise.Problem is, with a likely first round matchup against Houston, it could be a very short trip.
- 8. Spurs (50-27) | Prev.: 6
Yes, the announcement that Manu Ginobili won't be back for the playoffs was disappointing. But would anyone really be surprised if the Spurs ended up in the Conference Finals anyway? We've seen Tony Parker take over, and really, a healthy Tim Duncan (which is admittedly a question mark) is as scary as almost anyone in the post-season.
- 9. Hornets (48-29) | Prev.: 5
Rasual Butler has been doing some incredible things lately, and David West has been doing the same on basically one leg. Still, there's something missing from this team that was here last season, and unless they manage to find it, the team will have trouble getting out of the first round.
- 10. Mavericks (46-31) | Prev.: 13
Steve Nash said after the Suns' loss in Dallas on Sunday that the Mavs "put them out of their misery." That might be true, but facing the Lakers in the first round of the players is likely to make the Mavericks equally miserable, once they're done in four or five games. (P.S. - I don't care what the rumors say: Shaq's not going to Dallas.)
- 11. Jazz (47-30) | Prev.: 8
The Jazz broke through on the road with a nice win over a Hornets team that they seem to own, but they've still got three away in Dallas, San Antonio, and L.A. before the post-season. That could shorten their travel plans, because after ending the season against the Lakers, Utah might have to stick around for a few days to before taking them on as the eight seed in the first round of the playoffs.
- 12. Heat (41-37) | Prev.: 14
Dwyane Wade would beat the crap out of James Bond and throw him out of an airplane. And I'm talking the good Daniel Craig James Bond. Not just the wussy Timothy Dalton Bond. (MM)
- 13. Bulls (38-40) | Prev.: 16
Even without Luol Deng, the Bulls might give somebody some trouble in the first round. The team has won nine of its last 12, and seems to be gelling at just the right time.
- 14. Hawks (44-34) | Prev.: 7
Josh Smith has become some sort of weird conceptual art piece wherein he does things that don't make any sense, yet result in a positive outcome. It's not quite serendipity, but it's not quite chaos theory. Additionally, I hope you're all as excited as I am about the inevitable Diawara vs. Mo Evans matchup that we have coming. (MM)
- 15. Sixers (40-37) | Prev.: 15
Good thing Philly has clinched a playoff spot. Because with a trip to Chicago and games against Boston and Cleveland (twice!) to end the season, they could easily drop four of five heading into the post-season.
- 16. Suns (42-35) | Prev.: 12
There are far more questions than answers with this team in terms of what they'll look like next season, but one thing is certain: with the "Shaq to Dallas" rumors already underway, they're guaranteed to be as much of a circus in the off season as they were all year long.
- 17. Pistons (37-40) | Prev.: 17
Barring something crazy, Detroit will indeed make the playoffs -- which is something that many weren't so sure of a few weeks ago. The Iverson experiment was a bust, and a brief first round playoff matchup with LeBron and the Cavs is all that's standing between them and an off season full of tough decisions.
- 18. Bobcats (35-43) | Prev.: 18
Three straight losses, all of them tight, to Boston, Miami, and Detroit. Make no mistake though. Teams look absolutely worn out after playing the Cats. Gerald Wallace has guarded Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, Michael Beasley, Tayshaun Prince, Rip Hamilton, and Andre Iguodala at different times in the last week and has done a good job on all of them. This team makes any significant improvement to its roster this summer and maybe the momentum carries over next year. In unrelated news, I just bought a Bobcats shirt from the NBA Store. (MM)
- 19. Pacers (33-44) | Prev.: 20
As if this season wasn't tough enough, looks like next year they're already planning to go at it without Mike Dunleavy Jr., until at least January. The good news? No team members have been involved in any incidents with the police for two years now. (Seriously.)
- 20. Nets (32-45) | Prev.: 21
Mathematically, the Nets are still alive for a playoff spot. But they're also five games out with five to play. Meanwhile, you MUST check out the team's video touting Brook Lopez for rookie of the year -- if the speed metal and the strobe lights don't give you a seizure before it ends.
- 21. Raptors (30-47) | Prev.: 23
After putting together a nice little six-game winning streak, the Raps must have realized it was a little late in the season for that, because then they dropped two straight at home to the Knicks and the Hawks.
- 22. Bucks (32-46) | Prev.: 19
@CV31 is no different from the rest of us, in that he has a special place in his heart for the Miami Heat dancers.
- 23. Knicks (30-48) | Prev.: 22
Gotta love the New York press. After Zach Randolph got popped for DUI the other night, the claim comes out that even though Z-Bo technically didn't get into trouble while he was there, they were in a rush to trade him because they knew it was coming. Way to pile on, guys.
- 24. Warriors (28-49) | Prev.: 24
Don Nelson must be trying to get kicked out of the league. He sat healthy players to get his kids some minutes, asked Jamal Crawford to give up $18 million, has turned Anthony Randolph into the offensive focal point, kept ailing Stephen Jackson active one extra day just because Mark Cuban's team was the next opponenet and took off two games under the guise of preparing his top assistant (Keith Smart) for life as a head coach, even though Nellie just signed a contract extension last summer. Put the Spurs in a snow globe, shake it vigorously, smash it with a mallet and bury it in a sandbox. That's the Warriors right now. (Tom Ziller)
- 25. Thunder (21-56) | Prev.: 25
Malik Rose "doesn't think" the Thunder are packing it in -- and I "don't think" he has a clue.
- 26. Grizzlies (22-55) | Prev.: 26
Here's a fun game to play with your friends. Split a bottle of vodka with three buddies. Now each of you throw a dart at a map of the United States and Canada. That's as good a guess as to where Rudy Gay, OJ Mayo, and the Memphis Grizzlies are going to be in three years. (MM)
- 27. Timberwolves (20-51) | Prev.: 27
With the season having long since ended in Minnesota, it's time for a little draft talk. (BP)
- 28. Wizards (18-60) | Prev.: 28
Hey, Gil! Good to see you! Wow! What a performance! This is awesome! This Wizards team can really do some damage! Let's get ready for the... oh, that's right. It's APRIL. If you're Blake Griffin, are you excited to potentially be drafted by a team with this much talent, or afraid to be drafted by a team with this bad of luck? (MM)
- 29. Clippers (18-60) | Prev.: 29
Zach Randolph's DUI isn't an indictment against him, it's just another in a long list of reasons why Mike Dunleavy should be removed as both coach and GM.
- 30. Kings (16-61) | Prev.: 30
It's official -- the Kings have become must-watch television. As Lil' Wayne reported last Tuesday night Spencer Hawes is playing "unheard of," Kevin Martin is making a last-gasp effort to sneak into the scoring title's bronze medal and not a single soul in Royal Purple has a conscience right now. And this weekend features the Suns and the Warriors on Sacramento's docket -- all the kindling an arsonist needs. Bad but thrilling basketball. (TZ)