NBA Power Rankings: Where Do Jeremy Lin's Knicks Rank Among All 30 Teams?

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2012

NBA Power Rankings: Where Do Jeremy Lin's Knicks Rank Among All 30 Teams?

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    The Jeremy Lin bandwagon is on its way to needing a new set of wheels to carry all of the members, the Oklahoma City Thunder are the apex of conditioning and the Los Angeles Lakers need more than Rajon Rondo to piece together their mess.

    Life without the NFL is officially under way, and all eyes are now on the NBA, which has seen the emergence of "Linsanity" and the return of Manu Ginobili over the past week.

    While some teams continue to impress and remain pleasant surprises, others are failing and flailing in an attempt to salvage what's left of their season.

    No football? No problem, as a fresh set of NBA Power Rankings is just what the doctor ordered.

30. Charlotte Bobcats

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    Record: 3-24

    Kemba Walker may be pictured smiling, but there hasn't been much to smile about in Charlotte this season.

    The Bobcats are nearing full strength as they await the return of D.J. Augustin (toe) and Gerald Henderson (hamstring), but having dropped 14 in a row, it's going to take much more to fix this team.

    If Charlotte is able to win between 10 and 12 games this season, consider that its greatest accomplishment of the year.

29. New Orleans Hornets

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    Record: 4-23

    For the Bobcats to have any chance of escaping the very bottom of the NBA barrel, the Hornets are going to have to remain battered and bruised.

    Trevor Ariza has had to hold down the fort on his own, with Eric Gordon (knee), Jarrett Jack (knee) Chris Kaman (ankle), Carl Landry (knee) and Jason Smith (concussion) all watching from the sidelines.

    The result? An eight-game losing streak to go along with the second-worst record in the league.

    New Orleans would like to think it has officially hit rock bottom, but until star guard Gordon returns, that's far from a certainty.

28. Washington Wizards

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    Record: 6-22

    Are the Wizards holding John Wall back from reaching his full potential, or is he just an overhyped talent on an incompetent team? 

    Some will argue the latter, but the truth is Washington is wasting Wall's time and development. The Wizards have been the pillar of inconsistency thus far and look to be headed nowhere fast.

    Andray Blatche (calf) will be welcomed back later this month, but his presence will not render Washington much more competitive of a product.

    The upside for the Wizards? Wall has three years before he can opt to explore his other options.

27. New Jersey Nets

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    Record: 8-21

    Brook Lopez (foot) cannot return soon enough, as Deron Williams continues to struggle with an unhealthy and unproven supporting cast.

    The Nets have dropped six in a row, and while they haven't had the luxury of an easy schedule, there is still cause for major concern as Williams' opportunity to explore other avenues inches closer.

    Luckily for New Jersey, once Lopez returns, a substantial winning streak could put it right back in the playoff and Dwight Howard pictures. Until then, optimism is at an all-time low.

26. Toronto Raptors

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    Record: 9-20

    Despite an impressive win at home over the Celtics and nearly overcoming an 18-point deficit against the Lakers, the Raptors have struggled against teams with athletic big men.

    Andrea Bargnani (calf) continues to watch from the sidelines, and Jerryd Bayless (ankle) has now joined him.

    Unlike the Bobcats, the Raptors, with James Johnson, Jose Calderon and DeMar DeRozan, are able to steal a victory every once in a while. That said, Toronto needs more than Bargnani to emerge as a playoff team.

25. Sacramento Kings

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    Record: 10-17

    The Kings have been able to keep their heads above water while playing at home but are a near lock to lose when playing on the road.

    For the first time in a while, Sacramento is at full strength, yet it has failed to show any glimpses of the team that kicked off the season with a win over the Lakers.

    A recent victory at home over the Thunder gave the Kings something to bask in. However, such outings are few and far between, and it doesn't appear Sacramento is headed for a major turnaround anytime soon. 

24. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Record: 10-16

    Injuries to Kyrie Irving (concussion) and Anderson Varejao (wrist) have subdued the energy coming out of Cleveland.

    Irving's return is supposedly imminent, but Varejao is expected to miss extended time. The Cavaliers have also sorely missed the sharpshooting tendencies of Anthony Parker (back) as of late.

    Cleveland seemed poised to make a playoff run with its newest savior, but until the team is healthy, its current two-game losing streak sets the tone for what's to come.

23. Detroit Pistons

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    Record: 8-21

    A four-game winning streak helped propel the Pistons up a few spots from last week, yet despite seeing the return of numerous key players, Detroit's success has an expiration date.

    The Pistons do not boast the right balance of talent and are not a threat to win outside of the Palace.

    Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight will help Detroit snag a few victories, but 20 wins for the season will be a stretch.

22. Milwaukee Bucks

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    Record: 12-15

    The Bucks have seen their span of dominance at home vanish while falling out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture for the time being.

    Brandon Jennings' recent sentiments on his impending free agency, however misconstrued, are a source of concern, and Milwaukee has never been more vulnerable in the low post than it is without Andrew Bogut (ankle).

    In order to shift Jennings' loyalty in their favor and re-enter the postseason conversation, the Bucks need to rid themselves of Stephen Jackson in favor of another piece that fits into their game plan better.

21. Golden State Warriors

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    Record: 10-14

    Will the real Warriors please stand up?

    After blowing a sizable lead at home against the Thunder, Golden State went on to Denver, where it manhandled the Nuggets. Monta Ellis, David Lee, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson imply the Warriors' record should be must better, yet it remains abysmal.

    Golden State's roster is built to score, while its head coach, Mark Jackson, continues to preach defense.

    Something has to give at some point, whether it's Jackson evolving his philosophy or the Warriors front office blowing up the roster in favor of a more defensive-minded presence.

20. Phoenix Suns

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    Record: 12-15

    The Suns are prepared to oblige a trade request from star point guard Steve Nash, but they must be secretly hoping that it never comes.

    Phoenix is 6-4 in its last 10, including an impressive victory on the road against the Hawks. Nash continues to bring out the best in Marcin Gortat, Channing Frye and Jared Dudley, rendering the Suns a legitimate threat on any given night.

    Could the Suns will their way into the playoff hunt on the back of Steve Nash?

    That's the $11.7 million question Phoenix will mull over as we near the trade deadline.

19. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Record: 13-15

    Perhaps declaring the Timberwolves ready to make a postseason run was premature, as they have dropped three in a row, including a heartbreaking loss to the Jeremy Lin-led Knicks at home.

    With Kevin Love out of the lineup for two games, Minnesota, even with Ricky Rubio, struggled. While this is to be expected, it brought serious depth issues to the surface.

    The Timberwolves finally have a promising young core in place, but they still need to put the finishing touches together or risk not escaping the realm of a below-average team.

18. Utah Jazz

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    Record: 14-12

    Despite Al Jefferson's return, the Jazz have nearly fallen out of the playoff picture.

    Utah has played less-than-.500 ball over the past two weeks, and the Thunder have cut into their impressive home record.

    For the Jazz to strengthen postseason hopes, better basketball has to played on the road, and Jefferson and Paul Millsap must be utilized much better. Too often the team is settling for jump shots instead of pounding it down low to its prolific bigs.

    If a resurgence of will and strategy isn't implemented soon, the playoffs will be but a pipe dream.

17. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Record: 14-14

    Memphis' recent two-game winning streak was a much-needed one, but it continues to struggle without Zach Randolph (knee) when it plays low-post-laden teams like the Jazz.

    Rudy Gay has performed admirably, but Mike Conley and Tony Allen have been sources of inconsistency that proved especially costly in the Grizzlies' loss to the Jazz.

    In order for Memphis to prove that last postseason was not a one-time wonder, the team must start winning in bunches, instead of just on occasion.

16. Portland Trail Blazers

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    Record: 15-13

    The Blazers have fallen out of the Western Conference's top eight, dropping six of their last 10 games.

    Portland's sorry road record continues to be a serious concern. The Blazers are 4-10 away from home, visibly lacking any sort of confidence on road trips.

    With LaMarcus Aldridge, Raymond Felton, Wesley Matthews and company, many had Portland contending for a title, not struggling to stay in the playoff picture.

15. New York Knicks

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    Record: 13-15

    Jeremy Lin and company have clawed their way back into the top half of power rankings after an improbable five-game winning streak.

    There are no more doubts about Lin's abilities—just questions as to whether he can inspire Carmelo Anthony to move the ball upon his return.

    The Knicks may continue to be without Anthony (groin) next week, but Amar'e Stoudemire's return (family emergency) should inject even more life into New York's offense.

    Expect the Knicks to place even higher looking ahead toward next week.

14. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Record: 16-12

    The Lakers are extremely fortunate that Kobe Bryant continues to defy the laws of age, as he single-handedly prevented an 18-point meltdown on Sunday against the Raptors.

    Los Angeles currently holds the Western Conference's fifth seed, but the Nuggets, Rockets and Blazers are hot on their trail.

    While the Lakers have a clear-cut need for a point guard, there are so many other issues at hand. Rajon Rondo has emerged as a person of interest, but Los Angeles must also resolve its perimeter shooting woes, especially if it is inclined to take on another jump-shooting liability.

    With almost half of the season in the books, it remains unclear whether or not Bryant and company have what it takes to contend for a title.

13. Houston Rockets

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    Record: 16-12

    Houston's mini winning streak helped propel the team into the West's sixth seed just behind the Lakers.

    Kyle Lowry continues his hot play, and the Rockets' backcourt depth has proved extremely valuable, especially in their wins at Denver and Portland.

    Houston continues to be a mystery, as it is held together with unproven talent and an underwhelming amount of veteran leadership.

    Despite losses against sub-.500 teams like the Warriors, though, they refuse to fall out of the playoff picture.

12. Boston Celtics

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    Record: 15-12

    After a down-to-the-wire loss against the Lakers, the Celtics seemed as if they were prepared to enter a downward tailspin, getting blown out by the Raptors in Toronto.

    Boston redeemed itself, though, by holding on to defeat a Bulls team that was down both Derrick Rose (back) and Richard Hamilton (groin, thigh).

    Despite winning seven of their last 10, the Celtics core continues to struggle off back-to-backs. The truncated schedule is an issue for all teams, but with the number of aging veterans on the Celtics' docket, it is of even larger concern for them.

    Boston needs to figure out how to rest members of its Big Three without compromising any wins, or the team is liable to fade down the stretch.

11. Denver Nuggets

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    Record: 16-12

    The Nuggets once held the second seed in the Western Conference, but a recent string of injuries has pushed them down to the seventh.

    Danilo Gallinari (ankle), Nene (calf) and Timofey Mozgov (ankle) are likely out for Denver's next game against the Suns on Tuesday. The team found a way to win in Indiana without Gallinari or Mozgov, but Nene's absence may prove too difficult to fully overcome.

    Until the Nuggets are at full strength, they will continue to drop in the standings, as any team that is missing two to three starters every night would.

10. Orlando Magic

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    Record: 17-11

    The Magic continue to be a wealth of uncertainty.

    After a stretch of tumultuous games, Orlando has come back to beat both the Heat and Bucks and nearly defeat the Clippers and Hawks in overtime.

    Ryan Anderson and Dwight Howard remain the only two guaranteed sources of production. Unless the Magic get more scoring and defensive help on the perimeter, they will continue to be the league's wildest roller-coaster ride.

9. Indiana Pacers

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    Record: 17-10

    The Pacers are losers of three straight, including a disappointing loss at home to an injury-plagued Nuggets team.

    Indiana remains a distant second to the Bulls in the Central Division but must improve its quality of play against teams with winning records.

    Roy Hibbert and David West continue to thrive alongside each other, but the Pacers have struggled on the perimeter in the absence of George Hill (ankle).

    If Indiana intends to keep pace with the league's elite, it is going to have to start protecting the ball and making smarter decisions from the outside, as such issues have played a large role in its current losing streak.

8. Atlanta Hawks

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    Record: 18-10

    The Hawks were playing at a Cloud Nine level until the Heat brought them back down to earth on Sunday.

    With Al Horford (pectoral) and Jason Collins (elbow) watching from the sidelines, Atlanta is anything but laden with big men. Kirk Hinrich and Marvin Williams' struggles aren't rendering the Hawks any more of a threat either.

    It's clear that Atlanta is going to lose the battle of catch-up with the Heat, but once its low post is at full strength, this team will be poised for a top-four finish in the East.

7. Dallas Mavericks

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    Record: 17-11

    Winning three straight games and now within two games of the first-place Spurs, the Mavericks have finally hit their stride.

    All season, Dirk Nowitzki has lacked consistent production from his supporting cast, Jason Terry aside. Suddenly, though, everything is clicking on both ends for Dallas, with Vince Carter and Lamar Odom beginning to assume the roles they were brought in to play.

    With each passing day, the Mavericks look more like a team prepared to adequately defend their NBA title and less like a squad that will struggle to make the playoffs.

6. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Record: 19-9

    The 76ers have surprised the entire league, and it doesn't appear they are prepared to assume a less prominent role anytime soon.

    Andre Iguodala has led this team of essentially non-household-name players to a more than impressive start that has them holding the Eastern Conference's third seed.

    Back-to-back losses at the hands of the Clippers and Spurs left many wondering if Philadelphia had peaked, but it cruised to victory on the road against an injury-ridden Cavaliers team. 

    Winning the games you're supposed to is not to be discounted, and the 76ers have done just that, while staying competitive against the league's elite.

5. Clippers

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    Record: 17-8

    Chauncey Billups' absence hurts the Clippers on the perimeter, but the team, especially Chris Paul, is driven to succeed in the face of adversity.

    Blake Griffin and Paul continue to establish a second-nature-like chemistry, and while the loss at Cleveland was disheartening, Los Angeles redeemed itself by edging out the 76ers on the road one night before dismantling the reeling Bobcats.

    The Clippers have won eight of their last 10 and are only three games back of the surging Thunder for the top seed in the Western Conference.

    Billups' injury is a loss, but the Clippers will continue to win.

4. Spurs

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    Record: 19-9

    Manu Ginobili's absence was supposed to cripple the Spurs, but they instead excelled. Upon his return, they continued their strong play by blowing out the lowly Nets on the road.

    A healthy San Antonio is bad news for the rest of the league. The Spurs have won seven straight, which is currently the longest winning streak in the league.

    With Ginobili back in action, San Antonio will undoubtedly become a more viable road team and a lock to remain near unbeatable at home.

3. Chicago Bulls

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    Record: 23-7

    Chicago has won seven of its last 10 and has proved to be near unstoppable when fully healthy. Prior to their loss at Boston, the Bulls had won five straight and were owners of the NBA's best record.

    The absence of Derrick Rose could prove devastating, but the team has posted a 5-2 record without its closer.

    If Rose misses extended time, Chicago will be at a major disadvantage, but for the interim, its depth will be more than enough to hold the team over.

2. Miami Heat

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    Record: 21-7

    After a disappointing loss against the Magic, the Heat rebounded with a blowout win over the Wizards and then proceeded to pick apart the Hawks as if they were the Wizards.

    LeBron James is thriving as both a scorer and facilitator, and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have been spectacular as well.

    Norris Cole, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller have given Miami the depth it so desperately craved last season, and the Heat are rolling as a result.

    It's still too early to crown the Heat champions, but at the level in which they are playing, few teams stand between them and a title.

1. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Record: 21-6

    The Thunder have continued their dominance both at home and on the road. The condensed schedule has had little effect on their well-conditioned core.

    Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are once again on the same page, and James Harden is the Sixth Man of the Year thus far.

    Oklahoma City's victory in Utah locked up Scott Brooks' All-Star head coaching spot, and it's impossible to argue that he doesn't deserve it, given how he has brought this team together.

    Many have selected the Heat as the favorites to take home this year's Larry O'Brien Trophy, yet the Thunder are not to be underestimated.