NBA Power Rankings: Who Rose and Who Fell Going into All-Star Break?

Ethan NorofCorrespondent IFebruary 21, 2012

NBA Power Rankings: Who Rose and Who Fell Going into All-Star Break?

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    A brand-new batch of NBA power rankings is exactly what basketball fans need to ring in the 2012 All-Star break as we head toward the second half of the regular season.

    The members of the Miami Heat appear to be some of the only people in or around the NBA not getting swept up in "Linsanity," and the team is playing some lights-out ball right now.

    With San Antonio making a triumphant charge to the forefront of the pack and Boston really fading, there are some significant shakeups from where things stood previously.

30. Charlotte Bobcats

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    Status: Falling

    Record: 4-27

    Charlotte needs a lot of help. The best way to build a sustainable core of talent in the NBA is to bottom out and draft wisely, but that is not a slam dunk for this franchise.

    The team has nothing to lose in letting its youthful pieces play in order to develop their skills, and that's exactly what the Bobcats should do for the rest of the season.

29. Washington Wizards

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    Status: Stagnant

    Record: 7-25

    The Wizards began the season at a woeful pace under Flip Saunders, but there is enough talent in D.C. that this club should be much better.

    John Wall's slow start had some people questioning his skills, but he has come on with a vengeance of late and is poised to show why there are brighter times ahead for his team.

28. New Orleans Hornets

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    Stats: Stagnant

    Record: 7-24

    The Hornets have been stung by a ridiculous amount of injuries to key pieces, but the fact that Eric Gordon has played in just two games this season has really taken the wind out of the sails.

    Gustavo Ayon and Greivis Vasquez are two solid examples of what type of youth the team would like to build around, but this is a rebuilding project that will take longer than just one season.

27. Toronto Raptors

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    Status: Falling

    Record: 9-23

    Toronto's recent play has been inconsistent, but the impending return of Andrea Bargnani (calf) can really help the Raptors attempt to turn it around.

    The Raptors have played some impressive basketball, but disheartening losses to teams like the Wizards and Bobcats have limited the outlook of this bunch to date.

26. New Jersey Nets

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    Status: Rising

    Record: 10-24

    Brook Lopez is back in action, Deron Williams is playing like an All-Star and the Nets have both Anthony Morrow and MarShon Brooks providing offense on the wing.

    New Jersey is obviously a major player in the Dwight Howard trade sweepstakes, but the Nets should be better in the second half regardless of what personnel moves are made after a first half that had many players banged up.

25. Sacramento Kings

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    Status: Falling

    Record: 10-21

    Coach Keith Smart is tapping into his team and seems to be really getting through to those on the roster, as both DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans have been much improved since he took over.

    Second-round pick Isaiah Thomas is quickly turning heads since his insertion into the starting lineup, and things in Sacramento are not as bleak as many make them seem.

24. Milwaukee Bucks

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    Status: Falling

    Record: 13-19

    Injuries to Andrew Bogut (ankle) and Drew Gooden (wrist) have this club struggling to find some consistency on the inside despite the strong play of Ersan Ilyasova.

    The feud between Scott Skiles and Stephen Jackson simply isn't going away, and it would be shocking if Milwaukee held onto the veteran through the March 15 trade deadline.

23. Golden State Warriors

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    Status: Rising

    Record: 12-17

    Although some have doubted the ceiling of this Golden State bunch, there is more talent on the roster than often made out to be the case.

    If the Warriors can get consistent minutes from Ekpe Udoh down low, the team could certainly rise up the rankings in the foreseeable future.

22. Phoenix Suns

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    Status: Rising

    Record: 14-19

    It seems like a long time ago that the Suns were struggling to win a game, but Phoenix has a turbulent beginning to the campaign firmly in the rear-view mirror.

    Many are wondering whether or not Steve Nash will be traded by a team that is obviously rebuilding, but the club has shown no inclination to explore that option.

21. Detroit Pistons

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    Status: Rising

    Record: 11-22

    Detroit's absolutely miserable start had confidence low for what the Pistons could do, but this team is buying into what Lawrence Frank is selling and has righted the ship.

    With the team absolutely rolling heading into the All-Star break, it will be very interesting to see what the Pistons do for the remainder of the campaign.

20. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Status: Falling

    Record: 12-17

    Kyrie Irving has returned from his concussion with success, but Anderson Varejao's absence from the starting lineup is really going to hurt this team.

    Cleveland just isn't getting the necessary production from players like Omri Casspi and Anthony Parker that it needs in order to be more successful.

19. Utah Jazz

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    Status: Falling

    Record: 15-16

    There were some high hopes for the Jazz when the team enjoyed a home-heavy beginning of the season that resulted in initial success, but that optimism has really faded of late.

    Devin Harris continues to struggle running the point, and Utah is likely going to be on the outside looking in when it comes to a potential postseason berth.

18. Boston Celtics

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    Status: Falling

    Record: 15-16

    It has been an incredibly frustrating season for the Celtics, and many people in and around Boston are ready to push the panic button.

    Injuries are playing a major part in the storyline this season, but it has become more evident than ever that this current core of players is not one that is going to contend for a championship.

17. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Status: Rising

    Record: 16-17

    The Timberwolves could be a whole lot better if it weren't for a few close calls, and this is clearly a Minnesota team that is much improved from recent seasons.

    The emergence of Nikola Pekovic at center allows the team to space the floor more efficiently, but the shooting guard position remains one without a definitive answer at this time.

16. Portland Trail Blazers

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    Status: Falling

    Record: 17-16

    Nicolas Batum, Jamal Crawford and Wesley Matthews have all appeared to be on different pages than Nate McMillan at times this season, and this is a Portland team really searching for an identity.

    A blazing-hot start has been followed up by a period of extreme mediocrity, and there were much higher hopes in Rip City this season than what we've seen so far.

15. Denver Nuggets

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    Status: Stagnant

    Record: 18-15

    Denver's struggles are overblown right now, as even though the team has skidded a bit of late, that should have been expected with key contributors Danilo Gallinari (ankle) and Nene (calf) sidelined.

    Once this bunch gets healthy after the All-Star break, things will probably be a lot different in Denver, and the potential addition of Wilson Chandler makes this team even deeper on the wing.

14. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Status: Rising

    Record: 18-15

    Zach Randolph is seeking to return to the fold shortly after the All-Star break, and that is going to give this Memphis team a huge lift.

    Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol have led by example this season for a youthful Grizzlies group, and it wouldn't be surprising to see a strong second-half performance.

13. Houston Rockets

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    Status: Rising

    Record: 19-14

    Houston has battled bouts of inconsistency throughout the season, but what team hasn't? This year has been more unique in that regard.

    Kevin McHale's maddening indecision on a stable rotation has seen different players contributing, but the Rockets need to find a way to keep everyone in the game on a more regular schedule.

12. Atlanta Hawks

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    Status: Falling

    Record: 19-13

    Jeff Teague is struggling, Joe Johnson is banged up and the lack of an interior presence is beginning to be exploited by stronger opposition on a regular basis.

    This is one team to watch closely as we approach the trade deadline, as there could definitely be some changes to the current roster.

11. Indiana Pacers

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    Status: Falling

    Record: 19-12

    Indiana has been a surprising team for a lot of people this season with the initial success, but this is a team that looks as if it is running out of steam before the All-Star break.

    Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and Co. will look to recharge their batteries and getting a healthy George Hill (ankle) back will be a nice boost for the remainder of the year.

10. Orlando Magic

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    Status: Rising

    Record: 21-12

    This is a team that is really capable of playing well when everyone is playing to his potential, but that has been the biggest problem for the Magic this season.

    Dominant Dwight Howard continues to do his thing, but the contributions from Jameer Nelson and a lackluster performance from the bench (outside of J.J. Redick) has something left to be desired.

9. New York Knicks

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    Status: Rising

    Record: 16-17

    All eyes are now focused on both Jeremy Lin and Carmelo Anthony to see if the two can make the offense work together.

    Suddenly the Knicks are an extremely deep team with a healthy Baron Davis and free-agent addition J.R. Smith, but New York still has to prove it is for real with a strong effort after the All-Star break.

8. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Status: Stagnant

    Record: 19-13

    Two steps forward, one step back has been the theme of Los Angeles' season so far, and it's going to be tough to realistically compete for a championship with this core.

    There are just too many deficiencies (point guard, small forward, second unit) to consider a deep playoff run unless the Lakers make a few changes before the trade deadline.

    It would be a major shock if there are no alterations whatsoever within the next month.

7. Dallas Mavericks

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    Status: Rising

    Record: 21-12

    Remember when the Mavericks were too old? Remember when there were concerns about Dirk Nowitzki being over the hill?

    Dallas doesn't.

    This is still a talented team capable of putting on an impressive performance any given night.

6. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Status: Rising

    Record: 20-12

    It's a real testament to Philadelphia's bench that the Sixers have been playing so well without Spencer Hawes (Achilles), and the reserve unit doesn't get enough credit for what they do on a consistent basis.

    Louis Williams, Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner could all start on a lot of other teams, and those three have been integral in Philadelphia finding consistent success to date.

5. Los Angeles Clippers

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    Status: Stagnant

    Record: 19-11

    Vinny Del Negro is taking minutes away from DeAndre Jordan since Kenyon Martin was added into the fold, and that is a troubling trend for this team going forward.

    The Clippers need to do a better job of executing late in games, and it's concerning how many minutes both Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are playing every game.

4. San Antonio Spurs

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    Status: Rising

    Record: 23-9

    San Antonio has been on an impressive stretch, and the team has really responded well to its extended road trip prior to the All-Star break.

    Tony Parker's ridiculous play, coupled with outstanding contributions from the second unit, has made Manu Ginobili's extended absence from the lineup a non-story.

    For an "old team" (which San Antonio is not), these guys are still really good.

3. Chicago Bulls

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    Status: Rising

    Record: 26-8

    Derrick Rose is back, Rip Hamilton is poised to return after the All-Star break and Chicago is getting healthier while simultaneously playing some very good basketball.

    Chicago is very clearly the second-best team in the Eastern Conference at this time, but there is one club that is playing far above any other.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Status: Rising

    Record: 25-7

    Oklahoma City is rolling, and anyone who tried to play up the nonexistent "beef" between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are looking ridiculously foolish right now.

    With Durant (23), Westbrook (23), James Harden (22) and Serge Ibaka (22) all under 25 years of age, Oklahoma City is staring at an extraordinarily bright future both now and for several seasons more.

1. Miami Heat

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    Status: Rising

    Record: 25-7

    Maybe Miami prefers to fly under the radar, but we should all be paying far more attention to what is going on currently in South Beach.

    With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the rest of the Heat absolutely decimating the competition right now, this is a bunch that looks like they're clearly out to prove a point.