NBA Power Rankings: Teams Ready to Make a Push in 2nd Half of Season
With the NBA season now past the halfway point, the playoff picture is starting to come into focus.
Some teams don't even have the slightest chance of getting into the postseason. The rest of the 2012-13 season can be about building some positive momentum to take into the offseason and carry over into next year.
The teams in the top half of their conferences will want to position themselves to make a deep run or possibly become a title contender.
Here's how each team in the league stands, with teams ready to make a run italicized.
1. San Antonio Spurs (37-11)
There isn't a hotter team in the league than the San Antonio Spurs. They've won their last nine games in a row. Their window might be closing, but the Spurs have more than enough for another title run.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (35-11)
The Oklahoma City Thunder got a glimpse of the bad Russell Westbrook earlier in the week. It's not as much of an issue when the Thunder are on a roll, but it's the kind of thing that can wreck the team in the postseason.
3. Miami Heat (29-14)
Losses to the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers are a cause for concern for the the Miami Heat. They need Chris Andersen and Jarvis Varnado to bring the post presence and rebounding ability the team has lacked all season.
4. Los Angeles Clippers (33-14)
It's not a huge surprise that the Los Angeles Clippers struggled without Chris Paul. Getting him back healthy is vital to getting the Clippers back to the top of the Western Conference.
5. Denver Nuggets (30-18)
The Denver Nuggets are also a team on a roll at the moment. They've won six in a row and eight of their last 10. The Nuggets will certainly be able to take advantage of the fact that the teams ahead of them in the West have some major issues to deal with right now.
6. Golden State Warriors (29-17)
It's going to be interesting to see how Andrew Bogut can perform now that he's back from injury. His inside presence will be the difference if the Warriors want to advance in the playoffs.
7. New York Knicks (29-15)
It seems like the concerns over Amar'e Stoudemire's return were a bit premature. He's been great since coming back at the beginning of January.
The New York Knicks remain the second-best team in the Eastern Conference and have won their last three games in a row. They have a fairly easy four-game stretch ahead before a big game against the Clippers at Madison Square Garden.
8. Memphis Grizzlies (30-16)
Until the Memphis Grizzlies are able to win without Rudy Gay, there will still be massive question marks over whether the trade was a good idea. It's the right move for the long run, but it really hurts Memphis' chances of winning a title this year.
9. Chicago Bulls (28-18)
The Chicago Bulls are two games into a six-game road swing. Getting out of that relatively unscathed will be a nice achievement. Their reward is a home game against the Spurs and then a road game against the Boston Celtics.
Jimmy Butler did very well in replacing an injured Luol Deng. Tom Thibodeau might be wise to give Butler some more minutes now that Deng is back. The return of Derrick Rose is an ongoing storyline to watch in Chicago and could be the difference the team needs to push for an NBA title.
10. Indiana Pacers (28-19)
The Indiana Pacers are still a very good defensive team, giving up the second-fewest points per game. While scoring continues to be an issue, Danny Granger could be back very soon, giving the Pacers a much-needed offensive injection.
11. Brooklyn Nets (28-19)
P.J. Carlesimo has done a very good job since taking over as head coach. Brooklyn Nets fans can also put down the pitchforks after Brook Lopez was named to the All-Star team. The Pacers get the slight edge because of their better defense at this stage.
12. Houston Rockets (25-23)
Beating the Utah Jazz by 45 points was a huge win for the Houston Rockets. Turning around and losing to the Nuggets was a slight step in the wrong direction, but that's a tough team to play away from home.
Their game with the Warriors on Tuesday will be a good way to see if the Rockets have fully moved past the stage when they lost seven games in a row last month.
13. Utah Jazz (26-21)
The loss to the Rockets was rather embarrassing, but it is just one game. The Jazz are still a very good basketball team. Worrying, though, is the fact that Utah is looking at a negative point differential this late into the season.
14. Atlanta Hawks (26-19)
The Atlanta Hawks have stumbled a bit recently but still hold the sixth spot in the East. There's no way they lose out on the playoffs at this stage. The Josh Smith saga, though, could affect how the season winds up.
15. Portland Trail Blazers (23-23)
While a good team, the Portland Trail Blazers just don't have enough players to get the eighth spot in the West. This season should just be about building for the future.
16. Milwaukee Bucks (24-21)
Firing Scott Skiles was the best thing the Milwaukee Bucks could have done this season. Getting out from under his negativity has allowed this team to play more more carefree basketball.
17. Boston Celtics (23-23)
The Celtics might be a playoff team with Rajon Rondo off the court. They've won three games in a row and have a huge test with the Clippers coming up on Sunday.
Losing Jared Sullinger for the season could be a huge blow, though. The rookie power forward was very good coming off the bench. It looks like Chris Wilcox is now going to be the guy who spells Brandon Bass.
18. Dallas Mavericks (20-27)
The Dallas Mavericks' problems at point guard aren't going to be solved anytime soon unless the team makes a move. That's the biggest hindrance to Dallas sneaking into the playoffs.
19. Los Angeles Lakers (21-26)
There's not much that needs to be said about the Los Angeles Lakers at this point. Beating the Minnesota Timberwolves was nice, but that's not going to mean much if Dwight Howard continues to pick up injuries.
20. Detroit Pistons (18-29)
Jose Calderon is a nice upgrade for the Detroit Pistons. There might be too much space between them and the Boston Celtics in order for the Pistons to sneak into the playoffs
21. Philadelphia 76ers (20-26)
Andrew Bynum is the kind of injection the Philadelphia 76ers need to solidify their playoff push. Jrue Holiday has been fantastic this season, but the team's frontcourt has been lacking. If he can come back healthy, Bynum is one of the best pure centers in the league.
22. Toronto Raptors (17-30)
Getting Rudy Gay made some headlines, but it's very questionable what kind of effect he'll really have. The Toronto Raptors already have Landry Fields and DeMar DeRozan and lost one of their best big men in Ed Davis.
23. New Orleans Hornets (15-32)
The New Orleans Hornets' record is quite deceiving. This is a good basketball team now that Eric Gordon is back in the lineup. Niggling injuries aside, he's the spark this team needed on offense.
24. Minnesota Timberwolves (17-26)
It's a shame how injuries have ravaged the Timberwolves. This is pretty much a lost season at this point. The Timberwolves' biggest concern should be making sure Kevin Love is 100 percent when he makes his return.
25. Washington Wizards (11-34)
Despite being tied for the worst record in the league, the Washington Wizards have been playing some good basketball lately.
John Wall is back to looking like one of the best young point guards in the league. Getting him healthy has really helped to turn the Wizards around. Bradley Beal also looks like he'll be a key player for Washington in the coming years.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers (13-34)
Everyone knows how good Kyrie Irving is. He needs a quality supporting cast, so the rest of this season at this point is just about finding out how will play a part down the road.
27. Phoenix Suns (16-31)
A win over the Lakers was nice, but then the Phoenix Suns turned around and lost to the Mavericks. A four-game road trip won't do anything to help interim coach Lindsey Hunter acclimate himself.
28. Sacramento Kings (17-31)
2012-13 has been a disaster on and off the court for the Sacramento Kings. First, the Kings have been abysmal at times, and Sacramento looks like it's losing the team to Seattle. It's a shame on all counts.
29. Orlando Magic (14-32)
The Orlando Magic surprised many by staying out of the cellar in the early part of the season. Now they're firmly planted amid the worst teams in the league. Orlando has lost eight games in a row and shows no signs of turning it around.
30. Charlotte Bobcats (11-34)
The Charlotte Bobcats are a mess, but that's not anything new. They have lost eight of their last 10 games and don't show any indication of turning it around.
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