NBA Power Rankings: Where Every Team Ranks Right Now

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2013

NBA Power Rankings: Where Every Team Ranks Right Now

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    The elite NBA teams are starting to assert themselves as a horde of squads stand out above the rest of the bunch. 

    There have been plenty of changes in the top 10 of the latest NBA Power Rankings, but do Chris Paul's Los Angeles Clippers, Kevin Durant's Oklahoma City Thunder, LeBron James' Miami Heat or some other team reign supreme? Those three players, along with Carmelo Anthony, have been doing everything possible to keep their teams at or near the top. 

    So, who's at No. 1? And how have the teams shifted around since the last edition, which came on Jan. 11? 

    You'll have to read on to find out. 

     

    Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, are current through Sunday, Jan. 20. 

30. Charlotte Bobcats (Previous Ranking: No. 29)

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    Record: 10-30

    Last 10 Games: 3-7

    Last Five Games: 1-4

     

    Even though Kemba Walker continues to play well, it's back to the bottom of the pack for the Charlotte Bobcats. While that would be devastating news for more than a few teams in the Association, it's a spot that's become all too familiar for this beleaguered franchise. 

    Behind a game-high 25 points from Walker, the Bobcats were able to avoid a seven-game losing streak by taking down the slumping Orlando Magic, but they're still clearly not ready to compete with the big boys. 

    This offense just struggles to generate points, which is problematic since you need to outscore the opponent to win. Charlotte ranks 22nd with 95.1 points per game, but it plays at a fast enough pace that the number is deceptively positive. 

    Plus, the Bobcats have met that average only once in the past six games, as the offense is beginning to trend even further downhill. 

29. Cleveland Cavaliers (Previous Ranking: No. 28)

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    Record: 10-32

    Last 10 Games: 3-7

    Last Five Games: 1-4

     

    If I were Kyrie Irving, I'd try to avoid wearing a perfectly transparent mask. Much like fans put brown bags over their faces when they're embarrassed by the product on the court, I'd opt for a much darker version to obscure my identity as much as possible. 

    Irving continues to leave little doubt that he's now an elite point guard, but this team misses the consistent presence that is Anderson Varejao. There just isn't enough talent to get by when the injury bug is biting this squad. 

    A fantastic effort from the masked floor general was enough to get by the Portland Trail Blazers, but that's all the recent success the Cavs have been able to generate. 

28. Phoenix Suns (Previous Ranking: No. 25)

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    Record: 13-28

    Last 10 Games: 2-8

    Last Five Games: 1-4

     

    Maybe things will go better for the Phoenix Suns now that Lindsey Hunter has replaced Alvin Gentry and will serve as the interim head coach for the rest of the 2012-13 campaign. 

    Paul Coro of the USA Today reports that the former head of player development will likely start to use a bit more of the team's youth as he tries to make it through the rest of the season: 

    Hunter will run his first practice Sunday in preparation for the team's next game Wednesday at Sacramento. Hunter's hire signals that the Suns intend to use more of their youth, as he has been a proponent of first-round draft choice Kendall Marshall. At 13-28, the Suns are in last place in the Western Conference and assumedly out of the playoff race.

    The Suns certainly have talent, but chemistry has been biting them, especially in close games down the stretch. While fresh players will certainly be exciting in the desert, it's not like they're going to suddenly turn things around. 

27. Orlando Magic (Previous Ranking: No. 27)

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    Record: 14-26

    Last 10 Games: 2-7

    Last Five Games: 2-3

     

    With Glen Davis back in the lineup, the Orlando Magic probably don't have to worry about going on any 10-game losing streaks from this point forward. 

    Then again, the continued development of Nikola Vucevic might have a lot to do with that as well. The second-year seven-footer has continued to get better as the season has progressed, and he's been especially impressive during the Magic's last five games. 

    That stretch, of course, included the only two victories that Orlando has earned in its last 15 tries. Over those five games, Vucevic averaged 14.4 points, 12.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists per contest on 60.8 percent shooting from the field. 

26. Washington Wizards (Previous Ranking: No. 30)

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    Record: 8-30

    Last 10 Games: 4-6

    Last Five Games: 3-2

     

    The Washington Wizards have looked like a completely different team since John Wall has stepped back onto the court. 

    Wall might not have a reliable jumper, but he can certainly make things easier for his teammates. From his first game back, a victory over the Atlanta Hawks, to his most recent performances, the former Kentucky Wildcat is creating for everyone and starting to establish a new culture in Washington. 

    Through his first five games, three of which have seen the Wizards come out on top, the dynamic floor general has averaged 15.6 points, 7.6 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game with a 25.30 PER.  

25. Minnesota Timberwolves (Previous Ranking: No. 18)

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    Record: 17-20

    Last 10 Games: 3-7

    Last Five Games: 1-4

     

    When you're bringing in guys like Mickael Gelabale and Chris Johnson to actually play significant minutes, you know that you're in some serious injury trouble. 

    Kevin Love is still out with his re-broken hand. Ricky Rubio isn't at 100 percent yet. Brandon Roy, Malcolm Lee and Chase Budinger remain out as well. 

    Now Alexey Shved and Nikola Pekovic have fallen prey to the injury imp. According to the Associated Press via USA Today, both key players will be missing some time. 

    I hate to use injuries as an excuse, but it's easy when discussing the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

24. Sacramento Kings (Previous Ranking: No. 23)

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    Record: 16-25

    Last 10 Games: 5-5

    Last Five Games: 3-2

     

    Don't be fooled by the Sacramento Kings' record in recent weeks. Even with DeMarcus Cousins on an absolute tear, the team hasn't been able to do much against teams outside of the NBA cellar. 

    In fact, the Kings' most impressive victory in their last 10 games came against the Toronto Raptors. Other than that, Sacramento managed to take down the Cleveland Cavaliers (twice), Washington Wizards and Charlotte Bobcats. 

    All of those teams are definitely contenders, but only if we're talking about contending for the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA draft. 

23. Los Angeles Lakers (Previous Rankings: No. 21)

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    Record: 17-23

    Last 10 Games: 2-8

    Last Five Games: 2-3

     

    Things started to look up for the Los Angeles Lakers when they won back-to-back games against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Milwaukee Bucks before hanging with the Miami Heat in the Staples Center. 

    That's nothing more than a tease, though, as the Lakers are still desperately trying to figure things out. Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard are all back in the lineup now, so at least they'll all be engaging in that process together. 

    Kobe has been struggling with his efficiency in recent days, turning the ball over and missing shots far more often than we've become accustomed to during the 2012-13 season. That's been coupled with an increased level of effort on defense, so it's hard to fault him much. 

    For now, the Lakers continue to look like a lottery team. Until they defend the rim at least moderately well, that's not going to change.

22. Philadelphia 76ers (Previous Ranking: No. 24)

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    Record: 17-23

    Last 10 Games: 3-7

    Last Five Games: 2-3

     

    The Philadelphia 76ers might have quickly made the transition from contenders (before the season started) to pretenders (ever since the season started), but there's still a lot to like in Philly. That will be especially true if Andrew Bynum ever plays basketball again. 

    Jrue Holiday in particular has been sensational. It's becoming increasingly difficult to argue that the breakout point guard should be watching the All-Star festivities from his couch. 

    In each of Philly's last three games, Holiday has been the game's highest scorer. He was absolutely incredible against the Toronto Raptors, recording 33 points and 14 assists while scoring all 12 of his team's points in overtime.  

21. Toronto Raptors (Previous Ranking: No. 19)

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    Record: 15-26

    Last 10 Games: 4-6

    Last Five Games: 1-4

     

    While a four-game stretch of losing basketball put a damper on what had been a nice turnaround for the Toronto Raptors, a five-point win against the Los Angeles Lakers—which wasn't as close as the score would indicate—is a solid uptick.

    Jose Calderon continues to improve his reputation around the league with his stellar play, much to the chagrin of Kyle Lowry. Because of the two-headed monster at point guard, it seems almost certain that some move will be made before the trading deadline. 

    Using the pick-and-roll to great success, Calderon eviscerated the Lakers defense on Sunday afternoon, finishing with 22 points and nine assists on 9-of-15 shooting from the field. It was the latest performance in what is becoming an increasingly impressive campaign. 

20. Detroit Pistons (Previous Ranking: No. 20)

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    Record: 15-25

    Last 10 Games: 6-4

    Last Five Games: 2-3

     

    The Detroit Pistons are stuck in NBA purgatory right now. They clearly aren't one of the absolute worst teams in the league, but there's also no way that this strange mix of young talent and past-their-prime veterans is going to be around when the regular season comes to a conclusion. 

    In the Association, that's not a place that you want to be. 

    For that reason, it's absolutely inexplicable that Lawrence Frank isn't giving Andre Drummond more than 20 minutes per game. When on the court, he's been one of the most productive players out there, and the future of this team clearly lies in a frontcourt duo of Drummond and Greg Monroe.

    Unless the Pistons start changing this, Detroit is going to be wasting the opportunity to jump-start the rebuilding process.  

19. New Orleans Hornets (Previous Ranking: No. 26)

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    Record: 13-27

    Last 10 Games: 6-4

    Last Five Games: 3-2

     

    If you're a New Orleans Hornets fan, you have to be excited right now. 

    Behind the return of Eric Gordon, the consistent play of Greivis Vasquez and the improving game of Anthony Davis, things are looking up for the Hornets. 

    Davis in particular has been impressing as of late as the Hornets have won six of their past eight contests. Even in a loss to the Golden State Warriors, the Brow went 9-of-12 from the field en route to recording 20 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, four blocks and a steal. 

    The No. 1 pick is averaging just under 30 minutes per game and has appeared 27 times. His PER is still above 20. 

18. Dallas Mavericks (Previous Ranking: No. 22)

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    Record: 18-24

    Last 10 Games: 5-5

    Last Five Games: 4-1

     

    While the Dallas Mavericks struggled immensely when Dirk Nowitzki rejoined the rotation and started to play himself back into shape, the team is rolling along now and working its way back into playoff contention in the Western Conference. 

    Dirk still isn't playing like his old self, but he's much improved. More importantly, his presence is taking pressure off the other members of the lineup and allowing them to thrive. Just look at guys like Vince Carter, who dropped 29 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder after a stretch of low-scoring outputs. 

    Dallas still has a lot of work to do, but things are trending upward. 

17. Houston Rockets (Previous Ranking: No. 9)

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    Record: 21-21

    Last 10 Games: 3-7

    Last Five Games: 0-5

     

    The Houston Rockets have started to come back down to Earth. Unsurprisingly, that's coincided with a cooling-off period from James Harden, who has finally realized that he can't keep up this torrid pace all season. 

    The bearded shooting guard's string of 25-point performances came to a close with a 24-point showing against the Boston Celtics, and he's been unable to start a new streak. After dropping 29 the next game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Harden hasn't topped 25 and has even struggled to hit the 20-point benchmark recently. 

    During January, the former Sixth Man of the Year has averaged 25.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 5.6 assists on 42.3 percent shooting. Those are still incredible numbers, but the waning efficiency isn't allowing the Rockets to experience the level of success they're coming to expect. 

16. Portland Trail Blazers (Previous Ranking: No. 13)

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    Record: 20-20

    Last 10 Games: 4-6

    Last Five Games: 0-5

     

    Poor shooting and bad defensive have been the nemeses of the Portland Trail Blazers lately, as the team quickly went from red hot to ice cold. An impressive four-game winning streak highlighted by a close victory over the Miami Heat quickly became a five-game losing streak. 

    Even with LaMarcus Aldridge asserting himself more and more, the Blazers just don't have enough depth to avoid stretches like this. When the starters' shots aren't falling, it's not like the backups are there to pick up the slack. 

    Portland is going to remain in playoff contention in the difficult Western Conference, but don't expect for the Blazers to avoid similar streakiness throughout the remainder of the 2012-13 season. 

15. Boston Celtics (Previous Ranking: No. 16)

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    Record: 20-20

    Last 10 Games: 6-4

    Last Five Games: 2-3

     

    Bolstered by the return of Avery Bradley—who is definitely still playing his way back into form—the Boston Celtics bench is finally becoming a strength instead of a liability. 

    Between Bradley's defensive skills, Jared Sullinger's work on the boards—something that is a rarity on the C's—and Jeff Green's athleticism, players other than the starters are beginning to make an impact for Boston. 

    Couple that with the continued excellence of Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and you have a team that should hang around in playoff contention throughout the 2012-13 season. 

14. Atlanta Hawks (Previous Ranking: No. 14)

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    Record: 22-18

    Last 10 Games: 2-8

    Last Five Games: 1-4

     

    It seems like a long time ago that the Atlanta Hawks were threatening the top of the Eastern Conference with a 20-10 record. 

    Now that Lou Williams has torn his ACL, knocking him out for the rest of the 2012-13 campaign, Jeff Teague is going to have to pick up the slack. Williams might come off the bench for the Hawks, but he's a vital piece of the puzzle. 

    Well, he was at least. 

    The Hawks have an inordinate amount of trouble creating offense individually, and free throws are an increasingly rare occurrence. Both of those areas get even weaker without Lou in the lineup. 

    Getting out of this free-fall is going to be tough for Atlanta. 

13. Milwaukee Bucks (Previous Ranking: No. 17)

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    Record: 21-18

    Last 10 Games: 5-5

    Last Five Games: 3-2

     

    Highlighted by the first win in Phoenix in over two decades, the Milwaukee Bucks have survived a difficult road trip, winning three of their four straight games away from the friendly confines of their home court. 

    Brandon Jennings and Larry Sanders have continued to play well, although the team could use some more efficient and controlled performances from the other starting member of the backcourt. Monta Ellis isn't exactly pulling his weight so far during the 2012-13 campaign. 

    The southpaw point guard certainly is, though. After his 30-point outburst against the Portland Trail Blazers, Jennings is now averaging 18.6 points and 5.8 assists per game with a 17.34 PER. 

12. Utah Jazz (Previous Ranking: No. 15)

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    Record: 22-19

    Last 10 Games: 7-3

    Last Five Games: 4-1

     

    At this point, the Utah Jazz have to be the least talked-about playoff contender. And make no mistake about it: This team is a definitive playoff contender. 

    Although the Jazz most certainly aren't glamorous, they get the job done on a consistent basis with their tremendous depth across the board. Ever since back-to-back losses against the Los Angeles Clippers pushed Utah's record to 15-17, the Jazz have been on fire. 

    I've been particularly impressed by the performance of Gordon Hayward, who continues to produce in a variety of ways during his limited playing time. He's proving on a nightly basis that he should have a larger role. 

11. Chicago Bulls (Previous Ranking: No. 11)

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    Record: 23-16

    Last 10 Games: 7-3

    Last Five Games: 3-2

     

    While Joakim Noah and the Chicago Bulls are doing an incredible job of hanging around near the top of the Eastern Conference while waiting for Derrick Rose to return, I have to question how long they'll be able to sustain that. 

    The 82-game season is a grind, and Tom Thibodeau isn't one to help out his stars by limiting their minutes. After a string of back-to-back-to-back overtime contests in just four days, this might become even more of a concern. 

    In the first game, a victory over the Toronto Raptors, Noah and Luol Deng played 48 minutes each, and Carlos Boozer was on the court for 41. Next game, an overtime win against the Boston Celtics, Deng's hamstring limited him to 27 minutes, but Noah and Boozer played 45 and 43, respectively. 

    Finally, during the loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in which Deng sat out, Noah received a light workload with only 27 minutes, but Boozer played 47, and Jimmy Butler was in for 48. 

    At some point, the exorbitant playing time might catch up with the Bulls. Note the "might," though. 

10. Indiana Pacers (Previous Ranking: No. 8)

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    Record: 25-16

    Last 10 Games: 7-3

    Last Five Games: 3-2

     

    Led by Paul George's increasingly deadly performances, the Indiana Pacers are starting to prove that they have some serious staying power among the Eastern Conference elites. 

    The young swingman has been particularly impressive during his last four performances, averaging 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.5 blocks and 3.3 steals per game while shooting 44.8 percent from the field, a scorching 46.4 percent on seven attempts per game from downtown and 81.8 percent from the charity stripe. 

    For the shooting-inept Pacers, that 44.8 percent is almost legendary. Indiana continues to chase after the best defensive numbers in the league while posting the second-worst offensive ones, second to only the Washington Wizards. 

9. Brooklyn Nets (Previous Ranking: No. 12)

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    Record: 24-16

    Last 10 Games: 8-2

    Last Five Games: 4-1

     

    Under P.J. Carlesimo, Deron Williams has had the freedom to run the offense more effectively, allowing him to re-enter his name into the pool of elite point guards. 

    Since Avery Johnson left and Carlesimo took over, the talented floor general has averaged 18.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 6.9 assists on 42.1 percent shooting from the field. During that same stretch—via Basketball-Reference—Williams has posted offensive and defensive ratings of 122 and 109, respectively. 

    During the Johnson era, the point guard's respective offensive and defensive ratings were 108 and 110. 

    Not too surprisingly, Williams' resurgent offense has helped spark the Brooklyn Nets, rocketing them up the standings in the Eastern Conference. 

8. New York Knicks (Previous Ranking: No. 6)

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    Record: 25-13

    Last 10 Games: 5-5

    Last Five Games: 2-3

     

    The New York Knicks live and die with Carmelo Anthony, so his performances in 2013 have been a little bit problematic. Although he's still scoring in volume, Melo has struggled with his efficiency, missing more shots and turning the ball over with increasing frequency. 

    For a team that thrives on three-point shooting and turnover-averse play, that's a bit of an issue.

    Melo is obviously still playing at a high level and deserves to be in the MVP conversation, but the Knicks need him to be nearly perfect if they're going to remain elite contenders in the Eastern Conference. 

    Getting back Iman Shumpert and his flattop should help New York's cause going forward, though, as his defensive prowess will help increase the point-stopping potency of this squad. 

7. Golden State Warriors (Previous Ranking: No. 5)

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    Record: 24-15

    Last 10 Games: 5-5

    Last Five Games: 2-3

     

    The Golden State Warriors collectively held their breath when the words "Stephen Curry" and "ankle" were put in the same sentence. 

    Fortunately for the Dubs and Curry's fantastic season, the point guard only missed two games before returning to post 20 points, seven assists and four steals against the New Orleans Hornets. Maybe the glass that makes up the Davidson product's ankles has gotten a little bit stronger as he's aged. 

    It shouldn't be at all surprising that Golden State dropped both games while Curry was resting that ankle, especially as it was at home against the Miami Heat and on the road against the San Antonio Spurs. 

    Between Curry's performances and David Lee's offensive excellence, Golden State remains right in the thick of things in the Western Conference, despite the slight downturn in play. 

6. Denver Nuggets (Prevouis Ranking: No. 10)

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    Record: 25-18

    Last 10 Games: 7-3

    Last Five Games: 3-2

     

    The individual members of the Denver Nuggets are finally starting to round into form as the team creeps up the Western Conference standings. 

    Ty Lawson in particular has begun to play better as of late, averaging 17.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 6.6 assists on 48.5 percent shooting over his last five games. With the speedy point guard remembering that he's supposed to be an efficient player, the offense in Denver has run much more smoothly. 

    Danilo Gallinari and Andre Iguodala have also stepped up their games as the Nuggets continue to play well. The loss to the Washington Wizards might have been a bit inexplicable, but following that up with an overtime victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder was a nice way to put it into the back of their minds. 

5. Memphis Grizzlies (Previous Ranking: No. 4)

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    Record: 26-13

    Last 10 Games: 6-4

    Last Five Games: 2-3

     

    Led by the steady interior presence that is Marc Gasol, the Memphis Grizzlies defense has been quite solid during the 2012-13 season. 

    According to Basketball-Reference, Memphis' offensive rating of 99.7 through Jan. 19 trailed only the Indiana Pacers' league-best mark. And it's not like the Grizzlies are that bad on offense, either. That's the difference between this squad and a team like the Pacers. 

    After surviving a difficult stretch filled with games away from the FedExForum, the Grizzlies now get to enjoy a homestand that should allow them to cement their spot near the top of the West. 

4. Miami Heat (Previous Ranking: No. 7)

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    Record: 26-12

    Last 10 Games: 6-4

    Last Five Games: 3-2

     

    The Miami Heat are starting to straighten things out once more, which might be a scary thought for the rest of the league, as the defending champions are already holding down the fort at No. 1 in the Eastern Conference.

    Then again, it's hard not to when you have this guy named LeBron James on your team. As good as he's been during the 2012-13 season, he's playing better during the Heat's recent stretch.

    Over the past five games, LeBron is averaging 26.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 1.2 blocks and 2.8 steals per game on 60 percent shooting. Sixty. That is not a typo. 

    After almost single-handedly leading a comeback against the Utah Jazz while Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade kept the bench warm—an insanely versatile performance in which he guarded Al Jefferson on one end and brought the ball up the court on the other—LeBron one-upped himself against the Los Angeles Lakers. 

    The best player in the world torched the Lakers defense, getting to the rim and finishing with ease en route to 39 points, seven rebounds and eight assists on 17-of-25 shooting. 

3. San Antonio Spurs (Previous Ranking: No. 3)

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    Record: 32-11

    Last 10 Games: 7-3

    Last Five Games: 4-1

     

    The San Antonio Spurs have been undeniably impressive during their last six games. After beating the Los Angeles Lakers and falling to the Memphis Grizzlies in a hard-fought overtime contest, they racked up four wins in a row against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks. 

    As well as so many players on the Spurs are playing during the 2012-13 campaign, Tony Parker has stood out. He isn't leaving much room for debate as he proves that he's undeniably an elite point guard worth building around. 

    While leading San Antonio in scoring during four of the past five games, Parker has averaged 23.0 points, 1.8 rebounds and 8.4 assists per contest during that stretch. And he's doing it while shooting 52.9 percent from the field. 

2. Oklahoma City Thunder (Previous Ranking: No. 2)

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    Record: 32-9

    Last 10 Games: 8-2

    Last Five Games: 4-1

     

    Kevin Durant is on an absolute rampage right now. 

    Even though the Oklahoma City Thunder weren't able to complete their comeback attempt against the Denver Nuggets, eventually falling in overtime after a furious fourth-quarter rally, they are without a doubt one of the best teams in the NBA.

    And no disrespect meant to Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Kevin Martin and the rest of the players on the roster, but Durant is the driving force.

    The small forward has topped 20 points in every game since a 19-point outing against the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 17. He set a career-high with 52 points against the Dallas Mavericks on Jan. 18. And in general, he just can't be stopped no matter what defensive strategies are thrown at him. 

    As long as Durant continues to score, the Thunder will continue to win a lot of games. 

1. Los Angeles Clippers (Previous Ranking: No. 1)

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    Record: 32-9

    Last 10 Games: 7-3

    Last Five Games: 4-1

     

    The Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder are neck and neck for the top spot in the power rankings—think of them more as a "1a" and "1b"—but the Clippers keep hold of the No. 1 ranking because of what they did without Chris Paul in the lineup. 

    CP3 is undoubtedly an MVP candidate, but the Clippers didn't even skip a beat when he was out of the lineup with a knee injury. The deep squad blew out the Memphis Grizzlies before taking care of the Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves. 

    Then, when Paul returned to throw more lobs to Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, L.A. kept winning, taking down the slightly resurgent Washington Wizards behind the point guard's 22 points and 11 assists. 

    There's quite a pack at the better end of the standings, but the Clippers remain atop the pile for one more week.