NBA Power Rankings: 76ers and Teams Teetering on the Brink of Title Contention

Brian Mazique@@UniqueMaziqueCorrespondent IIIJanuary 17, 2012

The Philadelphia 76ers have been impressive thus far, but with only one win over a team with a winning record, I can't call them a contender just yet.

I usually publish my weekly power rankings on Sunday mornings, but the outcry from Sixers fans based on their 12th spot on this past Sunday's rankings inspired me to drop a mid-week edition.

The 10-3 record certainly jumps out at you, but a closer look at the Sixers' schedule shows my reasoning behind holding them back from grouping in the same class as the Thunder, Bulls, Heat and even the Spurs.

The Sixers' opponents' win percentage is .329—that includes sweeping a home and home with the Wizards this past week. Some say they are blowing those teams out, as they should, and that proves they are elite. While that does matter, a blowout win over the Wizards isn't as impressive as a narrow victory over a quality team.

Fret not, Sixers fans. Over the next three games the team will surely be tested. They host the Nuggets and Hawks before traveling to Miami to take on the Heat. If they come out of that stretch respectably, they will rise. A 2-1 record would be proof they are legit. A 3-0 record would be down right startling. Anything less than two wins justifies my ranking.

The Sixers aren't alone in their status of uncertainty. Here are two other squads with similar situations:

Indiana Pacers

Are the Indiana Pacers really title contenders? It's hard to tell. They have three major victories—a win over the Hawks and two over the Celtics. But as the season progresses, wins over the Celtics don't hold as much weight as they used to.

Despite their loss to the 76ers, their opponents have still been better than Philly's (.356 winning percentage), and based on roster, the Pacers are a better team.They do have one bad loss at home against the Pistons, which certainly hurts their prospects of moving up.

They only have two games remaining this week, both on the West Coast, at the Kings and at the Warriors, which is not an easy win. The Bulls, Heat and Knicks have fallen at Oracle Arena this year.


Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers came out of the gates strong, but they have lost three of their last four, and what looked like one of the best teams in the West is suddenly a question mark,

They still have depth, length and athleticism, but they have looked tired and sluggish as of late, especially on defense. In the losses over that four-game span, they gave up 104 points per game.

They need a strong week to ascend back up the rankings. They play three road games this week, at Atlanta, Toronto and Detroit. A 3-0 week is certainly possible, but the Atlanta game is a tough one.

Here are the entire mid-week power rankings:

1. Chicago Bulls 12-3

2. Oklahoma City Thunder 12-2

3. San Antonio Spurs 9-4

4. Miami Heat 8-4

5. Indiana Pacers 9-3

6. Orlando Magic 9-3

7. LA Clippers 7-3

8. LA Lakers 10-5

9. Denver Nuggets 8-4

10. Atlanta Hawks 10-4

11. Philadelphia 76ers 10-3

12. Portland Trailblazers 8-5

13. Utah Jazz 8-4

14. Memphis Grizzlies 6-6

15. Dallas Mavericks 8-6

16. Golden State Warriors 4-8

17. Houston Rockets 6-7

18. New York Knicks 6-7

19. Minnesota Timberwolves 5-8

20. Cleveland Cavaliers 6-6

21. New Orleans Hornets 3-10

22. Milwaukee Bucks 4-8

23. Boston Celtics 4-8

24. Toronto Raptors 4-10

25. Phoenix Suns 4-8

26. Charlotte Bobcats 3-11

27. New Jersey Nets 3-11

28. Detroit Pistons 3-10

29. Sacramento Kings 4-10

30. Washington Wizards 1-12


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