NBA Power Rankings: Teams That Have the Most to Prove Heading into the New Year

Josh Schoch@JoshSchochAnalyst IIIDecember 29, 2012

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 26:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during a break in the action against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on December 26, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Lakers 126-114. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

With 2012 quickly ending and 2013 rapidly approaching, there are some teams in the NBA that have a lot to prove in the new year.

Whether the team is streaking and needs to prove that it is legit, or it is trying to make up ground and come back to prove that it is still a contender (and sometimes you get both in the same city, nudge, nudge), there are a few teams looking to prove what they've got in 2013.

1. Los Angeles Clippers

Riding a 15-game winning streak, the Clippers are so hot that calling them the hottest team in the NBA is almost an insult. They're the hottest team in sports.

The team has the best record in the association right now, but it is still one of the teams with a lot to prove in 2013.

There are a lot of teams who can go on lengthy winning streaks in the beginning of the season to take the best record in the league. It happens. The question facing the Clippers is whether or not they will be able to keep winning once this magical streak come to an end.

In 2013, the team needs to prove that it is a legitimate title contender.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder have the second-best record in the league, and have been playing well. The team made it to the NBA Finals last year for a reason, and has stayed among the title contenders.

3. Miami Heat

Rebounding has been a bit of a problem, but the Heat still own the best record in the East. The reigning champs are among the best teams in the league, and there isn't much new in South Beach.

4. New York Knicks

The Knicks have been one of the best teams all season, but as 2013 nears, we are going to see some major changes in New York.

The team is starting to face adversity, as Raymond Felton injured his finger and it has lost a few games in the last week or so.

Amar'e Stoudemire will return in due time, and the team will need to find a way to keep its rhythm and also get him involved.

2013 is going to be a big year for the Knicks. They have the potential to be great, but will need to prove that they have what it takes to do so.

5. San Antonio Spurs

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That's the motto for the Spurs, and it's been working.

The team is playing well on both ends of the court, ranking fourth in offense and fifth in defense in points scored/allowed per possession, and is third in the West behind the Clippers and Thunder.

6. Golden State Warriors

One of the youngest teams in the NBA, the Warriors have been playing lights-out all season.

Led by Stephen Curry and David Lee, this team has a ton of weapons, and will have one more sometime this season when Andrew Bogut returns.

The team is going to make some noise this season.

7. Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks just keep on winning.

They lost three out of four a few weeks back, but have won three straight. It appears Atlanta will keep rolling through the new year.

8. Memphis Grizzlies

Remember when the Grizzlies were 12-2?

Memphis has been awful as of late after starting the season hot. The team is 6-6 in the month of December, and it's tough to judge if the Grizzlies started off hotter than usual or are currently colder than usual.

It's a mystery.

The Grizzlies need to prove themselves one way or another in 2013. You could call the team good or bad at this point at make a very strong case, but hopefully we will find out in the next couple of months.

9. Houston Rockets

The Rockets' all-new backcourt of Jeremy Lin and James Harden has them among the NBA's best, instead of No. 9 in the West and just missing out on the playoff picture.

The team has the highest-scoring offense in the league right now, and these new additions have been a huge reason why.

10. Indiana Pacers

Winners of seven of their last eight, the Pacers finally look like the team we expected them to be.

While the Pacers are the best team in terms of both points allowed and rebounds per game, they are going to be inconsistent because of their struggles on offense.

11. Milwaukee Bucks

Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings are hot. The Bucks are hot. Milwaukee is hot.

Maybe the team is just finally living up to potential, but the Bucks look a lot better than they did a month ago.

12. Los Angeles Lakers

The most intriguing team in the NBA, the Lakers are already on their second coach and are currently below .500, but they are starting to put it all together.

The team had won five straight before losing to Denver on Wednesday night, and just got point guard Steve Nash back. Pau Gasol is improving, and the team is starting to come together and play like we expected it to once it acquired both Nash and Dwight Howard.

2013 is a fresh start in a lot of ways, and no team needs it more than the Lakers. The team sits at No. 11 in the West, but will try to get hot and play well in the new year.

The Lakers certainly have the most to prove of any team, needing to show that they are still a playoff team, potentially a championship contender, and that all of their wheeling and dealing has been worth it.

13. Chicago Bulls

Despite being without star point guard Derrick Rose all year, the Bulls have been resilient. The team has shown grit, and has been highly successful because of it.

Look for that to continue until Rose returns, at which time this team could emerge as a championship dark horse.

14. Denver Nuggets

Denver beat the Lakers on Wednesday by dropping 69 points in the second half, and the Nuggets have been playing well.

Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari and Andre Iguodala give this team a perimeter that should be feared, and the team has a lot of potential.

15. Boston Celtics

Rajon Rondo has been exceptional this season, but his team is middle-of-the-pack. The Celtics are good-not-great at a lot of things, and are doing exactly what we expected.

16. Minnesota Timberwolves

The team is finally healthy, and now Minnesota looks like it is poised to make a run to start the season.

Despite going 1-4 in their last five games, the Wolves have played well, they've just lost to good teams. Once they start playing average teams, we'll see the Wolves start winning.

17. Portland Trail Blazers

Portland looked bad at the start of the season—and I mean bad.

However, after winning eight of their last 11 games, the Blazers look to start the new year off right and find a way to make the playoffs.

18. Brooklyn Nets

Avery Johnson is out, and the Nets will be trying to prove that that was a good move in the new year.

Sitting at exactly .500, the Nets are still in the thick of things, but need to bounce back from a 3-10 month of December.

19. Philadelphia 76ers

The key for this team is point guard Jrue Holiday. It's unknown how much Andrew Bynum is going to play this year (if he plays at all) and as long as he is out, the Sixers will continue to live up to expectations of mediocrity.

20. Utah Jazz

The Jazz have shot horribly as of late, shooting 38.6 percent, 41.1 percent and 37.2 percent in the three games the team lost during its 1-3 skid.

21. Dallas Mavericks

Dirk Nowitzki is back, and that's all that matters in Dallas.

The Mavs have to prove that they are still an elite team with Dirk on the court, but first they have to fight their way into the playoff picture.

22. Phoenix Suns

The loss of Steve Nash really hurt the Suns, and we didn't have very high expectations coming in. The team has looked even worse in recent games, losing four straight.

23. Orlando Magic

Another team that lost its star to the Lakers and has dropped four straight, Orlando fans have seen the best and worst of this team...but usually the worst.

24. Detroit Pistons

The Pistons started off 0-8 before looking really good for a while. Now they're really bad once more, dropping seven of their last nine.

25. Toronto Raptors

The Raptors are hot, winning six of their last seven. The bad news is that this comes in the wake of a 1-12 slump.

This seems to be the theme for the Raptors. Every good run comes with an even worse slide.

26. Cleveland Cavaliers

Kyrie Irving has been a menace when healthy, but unfortunately he still needs a lot of help.

The Cavs always seem to be riding a losing streak with a few wins scattered here and there, but the future is bright with Irving around.

27. Sacramento Kings

The Kings might be the worst road team in the league. Despite an 8-7 record at home, they are 1-12 on the road, which is why they rank second-to-last in the West.

28. New Orleans Hornets

Speaking of the bottom of the West, the Hornets currently reside in the basement.

The Hornets finally ended an 11-game skid on Wednesday against the Orlando Magic on the road, but came home and lost to the Raptors on Friday.

29. Charlotte Bobcats

At least they're not last.

The Bobcats are coming off a historically bad season, and are the most improved team in the bottom third of the league. Their seven wins almost match last year's total already, but the team is currently on a 17-game losing streak.


30. Washington Wizards

After starting 0-12, the team's only bright spot came when it went 3-3 in the middle of the season. Since then, the team had dropped eight in a row before winning on Friday.

The Wizards' only hope to become a respectable team is the return of John Wall.


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