NBA Power Rankings: Where Each Team Stands as Trade Deadline Approaches

Ethan NorofCorrespondent IMarch 5, 2012

NBA Power Rankings: Where Each Team Stands as Trade Deadline Approaches

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    A new week of the 2011-12 NBA regular season has a fresh batch of power rankings out, and the Miami Heat no longer hold the top seed.

    The Los Angeles Lakers are flipping the script with strong play out of the All-Star break, the Boston Celtics have a lot of questions circling the team and the Portland Trail Blazers are trending in the wrong direction.

    There are a few teams in both the Eastern and Western Conference that could emerge as surprises, but the March 15 trade deadline is sure to have a significant impact on the current favorites.

30. Charlotte Bobcats

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    Record: 4-31

    There just isn't much to like about what has happened in Charlotte this season.

    The Bobcats desperately need to hit a home run in the 2012 draft to turn this ship around.

29. Washington Wizards

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    Record: 8-28

    John Wall and his teammates had an incredibly frustrating start to the season, but there are some encouraging signs for the future.

    Jordan Crawford has found his stride at shooting guard, but Washington will have some interesting decisions to make in the offseason about how this roster will be constructed around Wall going forward.

28. New Orleans Hornets

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    Record: 9-28

    New Orleans could be rolling out a very different lineup after the trade deadline rolls around.

    This is a Hornets team with its eye firmly fixated on the future, and it has placed an emphasis on acquiring cost-controlled talent for any potential new ownership group.

27. Detroit Pistons

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    Record: 12-26

    Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey have all been bright spots for the Pistons this season, but this team has been marred by inconsistency all year.

    This is a roster that needs to undergo some changes (no more overpaid veterans) in order to get the train moving full steam ahead toward a promising future.

26. Toronto Raptors

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    Record: 12-25

    Andrea Bargnani (calf) being sidelined for a large portion of the season has really hindered what Toronto has been able to do this year.

    With Jonas Valanciunas coming into the fold next season and another offseason to address some personnel needs, the Raptors could have a lot of people doing a double take in 2012-13.

25. New Jersey Nets

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    Record: 12-26

    Deron Williams is having an incredible season for the Nets despite being written off by many before the campaign even began.

    There is a serious lack of talent around Williams, and it will be very interesting to see what happens with this team if Dwight Howard isn't in the fold after the trade deadline.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Record: 13-22

    Kyrie Irving is having a historic season as a 19-year-old rookie for Cleveland, but unfortunately for the exciting young point guard, he isn't getting much help.

    Anderson Varejao's (wrist) injury took a major contributor out of the lineup, and it's going to be extremely tough for this bunch to push for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

23. Sacramento Kings

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    Record: 12-25

    DeMarcus Cousins doesn't get enough credit for the season he's having for Sacramento, and he's showing everybody why his team has no plans to trade him.

    Cousins is a legitimate candidate to build around for the next decade, and a young Kings team has also greatly benefited from the insertion of Isaiah Thomas into the starting lineup.

22. Milwaukee Bucks

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    Record: 14-23

    Milwaukee showed a lot to like earlier this season with two victories over Miami, but this Bucks team is suddenly in a whole bunch of trouble.

    Brandon Jennings isn't playing as well as he had been, the injuries are mounting and the Stephen Jackson situation continues to be a distraction hovering around the club.

21. Golden State Warriors

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    Record: 14-20

    The Golden State Warriors have $16 million invested in the combination of Andris Biedrins and Kwame Brown at center this season.

    Joe Lacob is on a quest to somehow land Dwight Howard even if it means he has to blow apart the roster, and it's frightening to think about what is going on in the front office on a day-to-day basis.

20. Utah Jazz

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    Record: 17-19

    There were many who were quick to heap praise on the Jazz when the team got off to a hot start thanks to a home-heavy schedule, but the good times have subsided.

    The backcourt is awful, the frontcourt rotation is crowded and it's going to be very challenging for this Utah team to beat teams ahead of it in the standings for the remainder of the year.

19. Phoenix Suns

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    Record: 17-20

    Multiple teams continue to express interest in Steve Nash, but the Phoenix stance remains the same: There is no interest in dealing the veteran.

    The long-term outlook of this team would be much clearer if the front office would commit to a full-blown rebuilding project, but that doesn't appear to be something under consideration at this time.

18. New York Knicks

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    Record: 18-19

    Before Linsanity hit, this was a team that was outside the top 20 and was in a bath of hot water.

    Before we all get swept up in the movement and what this Knicks team is capable of doing, New York is still under .500 and has yet to show the necessary consistency in order to be taken seriously by many.

17. Portland Trail Blazers

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    Record: 18-19

    For all of the talent on the Trail Blazers roster, there is just no excuse for this team to have a sub-.500 record at this juncture of the season.

    Nicolas Batum has emerged brilliantly, and LaMarcus Aldridge has been strong all season, but disappointing seasons from Raymond Felton and Wesley Matthews have put a red-hot start in the rearview mirror for Portland.

16. Boston Celtics

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    Record: 19-17

    It seems that the outlook of this team changes on a weekly basis for many, but there is no doubt that this core has reached the end of the line in terms of competing for a championship.

    Boston has to find a way to rebuild the roster while still remaining relevant, and general manager Danny Ainge has carefully crafted cap space to spend in the 2012 offseason.

15. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Record: 19-19

    Minnesota is knocking on the door of a playoff berth, and it wouldn't be surprising to see a pesky Timberwolves team find itself in the hunt down the stretch.

    Kevin Love has followed up a magical 2010-11 season with an even better performance in 2011-12, and the impact Ricky Rubio has had just can't be understated.

14. Denver Nuggets

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    Record: 21-17

    Some were down on the Nuggets going into the All-Star break, but this team is getting healthier at the right time, and Ty Lawson is on an absolute role.

    When Danilo Gallinari and Nene get back out onto the court, it's going to be hard to find a team that boasts as much depth as Denver.

13. Atlanta Hawks

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    Record: 22-15

    Josh Smith is having an off-the-charts season, but he's not going to be able to carry this Hawks team by himself.

    Joe Johnson's knee tendinitis is a cause of concern, Jeff Teague's play hasn't been the same since Kirk Hinrich debuted this season and Al Horford simply can't be replaced in the starting lineup.

12. Houston Rockets

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    Record: 21-17

    Kevin McHale has the Rockets playing a completely different brand of basketball than we've seen from this team in previous seasons, and his players are drinking the Kool-Aid.

    After brief bumps in the road with both Kevin Martin and Samuel Dalembert, both players have stepped up to the plate and will be integral (along with Kyle Lowry) going forward if the strong push is going to continue.

11. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Record: 22-15

    A lot of people seem to have forgotten about the Grizzlies this season, but this is a team that is a short time away from getting a healthy Zach Randolph back in the lineup.

    Already receiving phenomenal seasons from both Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol, Z-Bo's return will make this Memphis bunch an even scarier one to face in the postseason.

10. Dallas Mavericks

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    Record: 22-16

    The Mavericks have played above the expectations set for this team prior to the season, but how long will Dallas be able to keep it up?

    Lamar Odom, Delonte West and Roddy Beaubois will have to be major contributors in the second unit for the Mavs to have any of the same playoff success the team enjoyed last season.

9. Orlando Magic

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    Record: 24-14

    For all of the success Orlando has had this season, it stems from having Dwight Howard in the middle of the paint and commanding attention from the opposing defense.

    The only way general manger Otis Smith will convince Howard his long-term future is in Orlando is by landing a star to pair with him.

    The odds are long to do that.

8. Indiana Pacers

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    Record: 23-12

    This Pacers team is one that will bend, but it's going to be insanely difficult to break this motivated bunch.

    Roy Hibbert and Paul George have each taken huge steps forward as players this season, while the offseason addition of David West has had an obviously beneficial impact both on and off the court.

7. Los Angeles Clippers

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    Record: 22-13

    Chris Paul absolutely deserves to be mentioned in the MVP conversation, but the Clippers have work to do before being considered legitimate title contenders.

    Vinny Del Negro has to learn how to better manage minutes (specifically DeAndre Jordan's), and it's going to be imperative these guys aren't burned out before the playoffs arrive.

6. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Record: 22-16

    Despite popular thought that the Sixers don't have a superstar, the depth Philadelphia has is a prized possession.

    Getting a healthy Spencer Hawes (Achilles) back will be critical to the second half of the season, as the Sixers have not been the same team without him in the lineup.

5. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Record: 23-14 

    Remember a couple weeks ago how the narrative around this team was all doom and gloom without leaving any room for optimism?

    Things have changed.

    The Lakers don't need a total makeover, but it would be foolish to say this team is fine as constructed going forward if there are any hopes of competing for a title.

4. San Antonio Spurs

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    Record: 25-12

    The San Antonio Spurs were supposed to be old, washed-up and over the hill in terms of pushing for a title this season.

    Whoops.

    It's pretty incredible to watch what this team has done this season while playing without Manu Ginobili for most of the year, and the Spurs should absolutely be feared going forward.

3. Miami Heat

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    Record: 28-9

    Miami has shown that this isn't an infallible team, but the recent skid has highlighted the importance of Chris Bosh.

    The bench has to be consistent, as the second unit has stalled to produce at times, and the Heat would be wise to pursue a backup big man prior to the trade deadline.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Record: 29-8

    Kevin Durant is a phenomenal superstar for the NBA to build its brand around, and his level of play this season is going largely overlooked.

    Averaging over 28 points per game while shooting better than 50 percent from the floor, Durant is also averaging career-high marks in rebounds, assists and blocks.

    The tandem of Russell Westbrook and Durant has a chance to be among the most prolific in quite some time.

1. Chicago Bulls

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    Record: 31-8

    It's downright scary what a healthy Derrick Rose brings to the Chicago lineup.

    The Bulls have garnered contributions from every member of the starting five this season, and the Bulls are hitting their stride at the right time of the year.

    With the talent in both the first and second units, the Bulls will be a tremendously tough out for opposing teams for the remainder of the year and in the playoffs.