NBA Power Rankings - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

NBA Power Rankings

The NBA season is long and full of glorious heights and shameful nadirs. We’re past the halfway point of the season and the picture is coming into focus. The anointed elite (OKC, Miami, San Antonio) remain the elite and a burgeoning middle class of teams ranging from pretty good to not bad have been making their cases for legitimacy on any given night.

Who can possibly beat the Heat in a seven game series? Are the Knicks a paper tiger or a true contender? Will the Clippers regain their early season dominance? And what happens if the Denver Nuggets put it all together at the right time?

Here’s a run down of how things stand now as we approach the All Star Break, and the final furious push toward the playoffs.

San Antonio Spurs (39-12) – The Spurs are on the verge of forty wins before the All-Star game and had won nine of ten before the meddlesome Pistons played the role of giant slayer. The Spurs play smart and efficient and it works, even though Tim Duncan is old and Manu Ginobli is broken. Gregg Poppovich is the best coach in the league and after a few years of regular season gold and playoff disappointment, this might be the team to break (on) through (to the other side).

2. Oklahoma City Thunder (38-12) – Last year’s Finals runner-ups traded James Harden and were roundly lambasted for their apparently miserly tactics. The Thunder didn’t skip a beat. They are routinely destroying the opposition through offensive brute force that remains startlingly efficient. If Kevin Durant specializes in late game daggers, Russell Westbrook is a grenade launcher that never stops firing.

3. Miami Heat (33-14) – The defending champions have lost more games than they probably should have. They settle into an odd complacency for certain possessions (or even games), only to turn on the buzzsaw defense or unleash their kraken, LeBron James. James is on a statistical tear and is shooting over 55% for the season.

4. New York Knicks (32-16) – The Knicks retain this spot solely for one reason: They are built to beat Miami. They probably won’t, but defensive powerhouses like the Bulls and the Pacers will never stop Miami. Miami is the rare team that in invulnerable to a stout defense. To beat Miami you must rain fire on them. Preferably from beyond the arc.

5. Denver Nuggets (32-18)- Denver is a fascinating and dangerous chimera. Their home record is ludicrously lopsided and they field a charming mix of wily steady veterans and athletic freaks that straddle brilliance and bonehead. Home-court in the playoffs seems more and more likely and their home-court is a killing field for other squads.

6. Chicago Bulls (30-20)- No Derrick Rose, no worries. Tom Thibodeau’s big men guard the paint with frightening tenacity and his system transforms novelty players into contributors. But the sky is not the limit for this squad, even when Rose returns. The Bulls will win a ton of games and probably lose in the first round. Sorry Chicago.

LeBron and company are still one of the elite teams to beat. Is there an up-and-coming team who might surprise them?

LeBron and company are still one of the elite teams to beat. Is there an up-and-coming team who might surprise them?

7. Houston Rockets (28-24)- This is the team none of the elite want to play. They are built to embarrass you. James Harden is having a great year as the marquee player, but the Rockets are fast and unpredictable. And they have momentum again.

8. Los Angeles Clippers (35-17)– Let’s acknowledge the vaunted Bench Mob was a marketing mirage. The Clippers will rise and fall with Chris Paul. They’ve been slipping but Chris Paul in all his glory is worth a playoff series at the very least.

9. Memphis Grizzlies (31-18)- Grizzlies just grabbed a good win against a space cadet Warriors team. They might still be shaking off the growing pains of losing all around pleasant guy and ball hog Rudy Gay. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph remain the best big man combo in the league and demolish lesser frontlines with ease.

10. Golden State Warriors (30-20)– The Warriors have lost three straight, two of which were heinous blowouts. The Warriors need to return to what got them here: improved defense, crisp ball movement, and contributions up and down the talented but superstar-less roster. At this point they seemed destined for the 7th seed.

11. Indiana Pacers (31-20)– The Central Division is fascinating. Just a bunch of hardnosed blue-collar defensive brawlers tag-teamed with mediocre scoring. Is it a recipe for success? Possibly. The Pacers lost a heartbreaker to Toronto, but are in good shape after a slow start. And Paul George is an All-Star, so there’s that.

12. Utah Jazz (28-23)– The Jazz need to ship out one of their starting big men to make room for Derrick Favors or Enes Kanter. They just lost a close one to the Bulls and they probably still have nightmares about their forty-point loss to Houston on their home floor.

13. Los Angeles Lakers (24-27)- Our national dalliance with schadenfreude might finally come to a sad conclusion, as the Lakers are finally putting together some wins, albeit not particularly convincing ones. However, Pau Gasol is out for a few weeks at least, and though much maligned, it is probably better to have four potential Hall of Famers on the floor than three. Kobe Bryant’s twitter feed also is pretty hilarious.

Instead of watching Kobe and the Lakers, it might be more fun to check out Kobe's tweets.

Instead of watching  the Lakers, it might be more fun to check out Kobe’s tweets.

14. Boston Celtics (26-23)- They’ve managed a decent stretch without Rajon Rondo, but it is going to catch up to them in the playoffs. The playmaking of gunners like Leandro Barbosa and Jason Terry leaves something to be desired. Still, the Celtics probably are a smart team and will probably continue to win more than they lose.

15. Brooklyn Nets (29-21)- This “super-team” hit another trademark rough patch with a bitter loss at home to the Los Angeles Lakers. Scary to consider where they would be without Brook Lopez. I didn’t expect to ever write that sentence.

16.Miluawakee Bucks (25-23)- The strangest of the Central Division teams, the Bucks keep doing what they do, win a few, lose a few, ad infinitum. They beat a hapless Orlando squad but fell to the more formidable Knicks and Jazz. Brandon Jennings wants a max contract, Monta Ellis is perpetually miscast as a leading man, but at least Larry Sanders will be on the court again soon.

17. Atlanta Hawks (27-22)- Once the darlings of the early season, Atlanta has suffered from injuries and by their own unrealistic expectations. Their most recent loss comes at the hands of the New Orleans Hornets. The Hawks are 5-5 in their last ten.

18. Portland Trailblazers (25-25)- A paper-thin bench, a rookie point guard, and absolutely no margin of error for that 8th spot out West. The Blazers have lost two in a row and the Lakers are directly behind them in the standings. Maybe Sasha Pavlovic has something left in the tank?

19. Dallas Mavericks (21-28)- The Mavericks are a team of hired guns that aren’t used to playing with one another and it shows. A mere two years away from a championship, this team is mired in mediocrity. They probably won’t make the playoffs, but they have too much talent to be truly terrible. That’s the worst place you want to be in the NBA.

The Wizards' chances? Let's not go there.

The Wizards’ chances to make a run? Hey, they are better with John Wall. It’s just going to take more time.

20. Detroit Pistons (19-32)- The news that awesome rookie Andre Drummond would be out for six weeks set the League Pass crowd a-howlin’. Detroit is such an oddball team, but the acquisition of Jose Calderon can only be a positive, as Brandon Knight continues to ho-hum his way in the league. Hey, Drummond though. He’s great.

21. Philadelphia 76ers (21-27)- The underachievers of the year lost one of their only “achievers” in Thaddeus Young, their “do a little bit of everything” stalwart. They also lost Jason Richardson and still don’t have Andrew Bynum. Also Doug Collins is probably losing his mind.

22. Cleveland Cavaliers (16-34)- The Cavaliers have been playing competitive ball as of late, posting seven wins out from their last ten games. They also have the luxury of the NBA’s best young point guard, Kyrie “Uncle Drew” Irving.

23. Toronto Raptors (18-32)- After a mini renaissance for the dinosaurs up North, Toronto has kind of glided back down to earth. The trade for Rudy Gay has seemed to pay some hero ball dividends, but the team remains ill-constructed.

24. Washington Wizards (14-35)- The Wizards are leaps and bounds better with John Wall on the court. The Verizon Center remains a ghost town, but there is some young talent on the team, and they’ve collected a number of prestigious scalps this season, including those of Miami, OKC, and the Clippers.

25. New Orleans Hornets (17-33)- The Pelicans-To-Be have three great young pieces in Greivis Vasquez, Eric Gordon, and Anthony Davis. Throw a few veterans and specialists on the roster and you’ve got a probable playoff team. They also have Austin Rivers, who is posting an absurdly low True Shooting percentage, and just seems to be not very good at certain things, such as playing basketball.

26. Phoenix Suns (17-34)- And just like that, the Suns are the worst team in the Western Conference. Goran Dragic is a keeper, but they need to ship everyone out of the desert and fast. Michael Beasley’s long awaited redemption has been delayed again.

27. Sacramento Kings (17-33)- The Kings have enough talent to be a kind of bizzaro-world version of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Unfortunately, it seems as though they’ll never put it together, and even more unfortunately, they’ll never put it together in Sacramento. Keith Smart is a classic GGBC. Good guy, bad coach.

28. Minnesota Timberwolves (18-29)- So sad. They should have beat New York. They didn’t. The Timberwolves are the woulda-coulda-shoulda team of the season. They had so much potential but injustice from the cosmos struck them down early.

29. Charlotte Bobcats (11-38)- There’s not much to say about the Bobcats. They almost beat the Lakers on Friday, but then they didn’t. This team was 7-6 at one point in the season. They are now 11-38. That is a John Edwards like fall from grace.

30. Orlando Magic (14-36)- Bad. Bad. Bad. On the other hand several teams want to trade for J.J. Reddick. In conclusion, the Orlando Magic are bad.

 

 

 

 

 

 


About the author

Alex Siquig

Alex Siquig is a writer who recently left the San Francisco Bay Area for the lovely streets of Baltimore. His work has been published in Thought Catalog, Lubricated, Urban Image Magazine, and he is the co-creator of the web-comic Black Snow: Two Drink Minimum, which finished second place in the Washington Post's Best Web-Comic of 2011. He lives with two fine cats and a fine woman. Contact the author.
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