NBA Power Rankings: Breaking Down League's Rising and Falling Teams

Josh Schoch@JoshSchochAnalyst IIIJanuary 9, 2013

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 02:  Omer Asik #3 and James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets celebrate a play against the New Orleans Hornets at Toyota Center on January 2, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  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 Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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We're about halfway through the NBA season, and this edition of NBA power rankings will highlight which teams are moving up in the world and which are free falling.

As we enter the second half of the season, keep an eye on these teams to see if their current trends continue throughout the early months of 2013.


1. Los Angeles Clippers (27-8)

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are still killing it for the Clippers.

Despite losing their first two games of 2013 after a perfect month of December, the Clippers are still the best team in the Association. Oh, and that domination of Golden State proved just how good this team is.


2. Oklahoma City Thunder (26-8)

That loss to Washington on the road was disappointing, but the Thunder are playing excellent basketball.

The team plays Minnesota at home before playing nine of its next 10 games on the road. This could be difficult for the Thunder, as they play the best teams near the end of the second road trip.


3. Miami Heat (23-10)

A sound thrashing of Washington on Sunday was important for Miami, as the Heat begin a six-game road trip on Tuesday.

The Heat are still the best team in the East, but they are looking back now to see what teams are chasing them.


4. San Antonio Spurs (27-10)

The Spurs have won eight of their last 10 games, and are streaking right now. One of the hottest teams in the league, San Antonio has worked its way into third place in the West.

While the Spurs have lost two of their last three, this comes after a seven-game winning streak. During that streak, the team was led by Tony Parker, who averaged 21.7 points per game and recorded two double-doubles.

Parker has been playing lights-out, and he is a big reason why the Spurs have been so dominant.

The team won by an average of 18.9 points per game during its seven-game stretch, completely outclassing its opponents. While this did come during one of their easiest stretches of the schedule, the Spurs took full advantage in order to shoot up the rankings.


5. New York Knicks (23-11)

The Knicks have certainly cooled off since their fast start, going 5-6 in their last 11 games. However, the team is still in second place in the weak Eastern Conference thanks to mediocre play across the board in the East.


6. Memphis Grizzlies (22-10)

Winners of three of their last four, the Grizzlies compiled some important road victories before entering a difficult stretch of games.

Memphis plays many playoff contenders over the next few weeks and will need to bring its A-game.


7. Houston Rockets (21-14)

The Rockets are on fire right now. The team has won nine of its last 11 games, with those two losses coming at the hands of the previously-mentioned Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs.

James Harden has been key during this run for the team, as he has averaged a hair under 30 points and just under six assists per game.

The Rockets were under .500 before they went on this run. Now, the team sits at sixth in the West and have been possibly the most impressive team during that time.


8. Golden State Warriors (22-11)

The Warriors have proven just how important home-court advantage is in their last two games, beating the Clippers by 21 at home before losing to them by 25 on the road.

The team has been very impressive this season, and ranks fifth in the West right now.


9. Atlanta Hawks (20-13)

The Hawks have lost three of their last five after going on a nice four-game winning streak. Before that the team has lost three out of four, and before that the team won five of six.

The Hawks go on spurts of winning or losing, and it's impossible to tell if the team is truly hot or cold.


10. Denver Nuggets (20-16)

The Nuggets have held onto their No. 8 seed in the West for a while now, and by winning three of their last four the team has gained a two-game lead on the Jazz for the final playoff spot.


11. Indiana Pacers (21-14)

While their record may better than that of the Nuggets, the Pacers have the benefit of playing in a very weak Eastern Conference.

Indiana has not been quite as good as last year to my mind, but there are some promising signs for the team moving forward.


12. Chicago Bulls (19-13)

Despite playing without star point guard Derrick Rose, the Bulls have been holding steady in the East.

Ranking fourth in the conference, the Bulls have been led by Carlos Boozer as of late, as he helped the team upset the Heat and take down the Cavaliers in their last two games.


13. Brooklyn Nets (20-15)

Brooklyn has been playing well as of late. The team has won six of its last seven, including an upset of the Thunder in OKC. The team's only loss during that stretch came against the Spurs on the road, and it is now sixth in the East.


14. Minnesota Timberwolves (16-15)

Minnesota has won three of its last seven games due to quite a bit of inconsistency. However, the worst news by far is that Kevin Love re-injured his broken hand (via CBS).


15. Portland Trail Blazers (19-15)

Winners of their last three, and five of their last six, Portland has been playing well and is in seventh in the West right now.

Led by Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum, the Trail Blazers have been one of the surprising teams in the NBA this year. This team will be fighting for a playoff spot over the next few months.


16. Boston Celtics (17-17)

Forget about them winning their last three games. The C's are cold right now.

Before the team went on its little spurt, it had lost eight of its last 10 games and pushed itself out of the playoff picture. During that stretch, the team scored 100 points only once while giving up at least 100 six times.

Boston is struggling, and if I were the GM of the Celtics I'd be looking to make a blockbuster trade for a young player like DeMarcus Cousins.


17. Milwaukee Bucks (17-16)

Losers of four of their last five, the Bucks sit at one game above .500 and have recently gone through a coaching change (Scott Skiles is out and Jim Boylan is in).

If the team were in the West, it would be on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture. But since it is in the East, it could easily take a playoff spot.


18. Utah Jazz (18-18)

By winning three of their last four, the Jazz have finally reached .500. It isn't much of a hot streak, but if the team can keep it going for a little while longer it could work its way back into the playoff picture.


19. Philadelphia 76ers (15-21)

You can't get much colder than the Sixers are right now.

Losers of four straight and 12 of their last 16, the team has been truly awful. Ever since it started off 12-9, the team has faded away and is now 2.5 games out of the playoff picture.

Jrue Holiday's play has been the lone bright spot on an otherwise pitiful team. He is getting All-Star attention, but I'm sure he'd trade that in for a few wins for his team.


20. Los Angeles Lakers (15-19)

I'm not highlighting the Lakers as one of the coldest teams here because of their struggles with injuries.

The Lake Show has very rarely had its roster at full strength, as every star on the team except for Kobe Bryant has been injured at some point or another. If the team can get healthy and stay that way, things will be just fine.


21. Toronto Raptors (12-22)

Despite losing their last two games, the Raptors are riding the best run of the season in Toronto.

Terrence Ross has stepped up and provided a much-needed spark for the team, and before losing to the Kings and Thunder the Raptors had won eight of nine.

In addition to Ross' play, DeMar DeRozan has become a viable option at shooting guard and the team continues to improve.

While we won't see the Raptors in the postseason this year, we might in a few years if they continue to develop.


22. Orlando Magic (12-22)

Nine. Straight. Losses.

The Magic looked like they could put up a fight in the East when they were 12-13, but after falling to 12-22 that idea has faded.

The lone bright spot in this sea of misery? Nikola Vucevic's 20 points and 29 rebounds on New Year's Eve, setting the franchise record for rebounds in a game. That says a lot for a team that used to have Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard.


23. Dallas Mavericks (13-22)

Loser of nine of their last 10 and 12 of their last 14, the Mavericks have been horrendous.

The team welcomed Dirk Nowitzki back from injury with a loss, and the team has gone 1-7 since his return. Nowitzki has averaged 19.7 points per game in his last three contests, but the team has lost all three.

Dallas is one of the coldest teams in the league right now, and not even the return of its superstar could spark a few victories.


24. Detroit Pistons (13-23)

One of the highlights of Detroit's season came recently, as the team took down the Miami Heat to spark a four-game winning streak before falling to the Bobcats at home.


25. Sacramento Kings (13-22)

The Kings are 6-6 in their last 12, 5-5 in their last 10, 4-4 in their last eight, and 2-2 in their last four. Notice the trend?

The Kings are simply mediocre, and the sad thing is that going .500 is a substantial improvement for them. It might be time to trade DeMarcus Cousins.


26. Phoenix Suns (12-24)

After losing eight of nine, the Suns just keep moving closer to getting great odds for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.

Don't worry about the playoffs, Phoenix. Just focus on who's coming out of college.


27. Cleveland Cavaliers (8-28)

Another team that will be focusing on the draft and trying to help out star point guard Kyrie Irving, Cleveland has been awful.

It's tough to judge when a team that has a record of 8-28 is hot or cold, but I'm going to say that going 3-5 in their last eight is considered a hot streak.


28. New Orleans Hornets (9-25)

The Hornets were almost as bad as the Wizards at one point, going 5-22 before winning four of their last seven. Now the team is "hot" and has shot up all the way to No. 28 in the NBA. Bravo.


29. Charlotte Bobcats (9-24)

The Bobcats have proven why they make Michael Jordan cry at night this year, going 7-5 before reeling off 18 consecutive losses.

Luckily for MJ, the team has won two of its last three.


30. Washington Wizards (5-28)

I'm just going to skip over the team's 4-28 start and say this: Brad Beal is a man!

Beal stepped up on Monday night as the Wizards took down the Thunder on his buzzer-beater. The rookie is showing why I said he would be the best player in last year's draft class, and that makes me so happy!


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