NBA Power Rankings: Biggest Risers and Fallers in Latest NBA Action
This past week has seen monumental trades, injuries and upsets in the NBA.
Without Rajon Rondo, the Celtics have been on fire, even beating the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday. Can they keep it going in the absence of their star?
The Toronto Raptors were another team of note, as their trade for Rudy Gay may help them turn the corner as a franchise.
Other teams, like the Clippers, are making headlines for all the wrong reasons. The club still leads Pacific Division of the Western Conference, but they've gone just 4-6 in their last 10 games.
Here is where all the teams stack up in the NBA, with a special focus on those teams who have made big moves up and down the rankings. Those who have moved up will be underlined, while those who have fallen will be in italics.
1. San Antonio Spurs (38-11)
The Spurs have asserted themselves as the best, most consistent team in the NBA. Currently riding a 10-game winning streak, the Spurs are now holders of the best record in the league.
Tim Duncan is playing better than ever, while Tony Parker is quietly having one of his best all-around seasons ever. As a team, the Spurs are third in the NBA in points scored and fifth in points allowed for an NBA-best point differential of 8.45.
While the Spurs' age could be a concern down the stretch, no team plays better team basketball than San Antonio. Their winning streak is just further validation of their team-first approach that has produced few superstars but plenty of wins.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (35-12)
Perhaps the ideal blend of teamwork and star power is on display in Oklahoma City, where Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have grown as all-around players to lead one of the best teams in the NBA.
Second in the NBA in terms of record and point-differential, the Thunder also lead the NBA in points scored. The Thunder's youth could be the their advantage in the playoffs.
3. Miami Heat (30-14)
The star power that came together so well last season seems to be splintering ever so slightly in Miami. They are still elite, but the Heat seem vulnerable. Their recent loss to the Celtics is troubling, but the Heat have been prone to those kinds of bad losses this season. They should be fine come playoff time.
4. Los Angeles Clippers (34-15)
The darlings of the NBA this season have hit a rough patch, winning just four of their last 10 games. The loss of Chris Paul has been huge for the Clips, as they've lost four of six since his departure from the lineup.
Even though the Clips have fallen, they can't fall too far. Paul made this team go, and he will back in time to ensure a playoff run.
The Clippers do have to be concerned, though, that they are so reliant on a single player. As good as Blake Griffin is, they cannot be consistent winners without Paul, so keeping him healthy will be a priority for the rest of the season.
5. Golden State Warriors (30-17)
The Warriors may be one of the hottest teams in the NBA, and with Andrew Bogut returning from injury, this club will only get better.
Stephen Curry has keyed the NBA's seventh-ranked scoring team, while David Lee has developed as a defender to go along with his typical double-double output. This team is strong at every position, and that has been huge during their four-game winning streak.
Watch as this team continues to ascend. Overall, this is a young group with a high ceiling. Despite the lack of a winning pedigree, the Warriors will be a team to watch for years to come.
6. New York Knicks (30-15)
The Knicks simply continue to be one of the best teams in the East. Seven wins in their last 10 games—along with a four-game winning streak—have the Knicks second in the East. This club is the most likely contender to beat the Heat in the East.
7. Memphis Grizzlies (30-16)
The Grizzlies have no reason to worry about the loss of Rudy Gay. Without Gay taking ill-advised shots, the Grizzlies can focus on playing the lockdown, grind-it-out style of basketball the club excels at. It was always Zack Randolph and Mark Gasol that kept this engine running anyway.
8. Chicago Bulls (29-18)
The defensively dominant Bulls have been excellent of late. What gives the Bulls a good shot in the playoffs is that they are just as dangerous on the road as at home; the Bulls have the fewest road losses in the NBA with seven.
9. Denver Nuggets (30-18)
The NBA's No. 4 point scorers, the Nuggets keep games interesting, but their lack of star power will probably keep the club from major postseason success. They are, however, one of the NBA's hottest teams with six straight wins.
10. Indiana Pacers (28-19)
The NBA's No. 2 defense has keyed the Pacers' tremendous season so far, but the emergence of Paul George as a potential superstar gives this club real reason for optimism. As he continues to grow, the Pacers will, too.
11. Houston Rockets (26-23)
The Rockets have been involved in quite a few shootouts, but they remain unproven. The West is so strong that the Rockets may have trouble keeping pace, as the club has gone 9-18 in conference games.
12. Utah Jazz (26-22)
Don't look now, but the Jazz may be one of the NBA's hottest teams. With seven wins in their last 10 games, the Jazz have improved their standing significantly.
Surprisingly, the Jazz have a negative point differential, but the talent is there for this club to keep ascending. Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter combine to form the deepest group of big men in the NBA, but don't be surprised if this group is broken up with a big trade.
For now, though, the Jazz are hot, and they could be dangerous going forward.
13. Brooklyn Nets (28-19)
The Brooklyn Nets had a chance to make a statement against the Miami Heat, and they did. They proved that they are not truly a top team in the NBA.
The club has played excellent defense this season, ranking fifth in the NBA in points allowed. Their ability to score, though, has been the issue. Joe Johnson is a pure volume scorer, while Deron Williams has struggled with his shot. With two stars shooting inefficiently, the Nets have struggled.
The Nets will have more opportunities to take on top teams, and they'll need some better showings than their 105-85 drubbing at the hands of the Heat.
14. Boston Celtics (24-23)
My first intuition was to drop the Celtics because of the loss of Rajon Rondo. That will definitely hurt them in the playoffs. For now, though, the Celtics have won four straight, including a big win over the Heat. If their recent success balances out with the big injury, the Celtics will stay put in the rankings.
15. Atlanta Hawks (26-20)
A slightly above-average record in a poor conference—paired with a .500 record in their past 10 games—means the Hawks belong right in the middle of the pack in terms of NBA standings. Al Horford and Josh Smith are stars, but two good big men does not a team make.
16. Portland Trail Blazers (24-23)
For a long time, the Trail Blazers were getting by on the strength of their starters. With LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum and J.J. Hickson all playing at excellent levels, this team looked very solid.
That group is still excellent, but a poor bench has begun to take its toll on this team. They've lost six of their last 10, looking nowhere nearly as strong as they once did.
This team has an excellent foundation, but a lack of depth will haunt this team as the season wears on.
17. Milwaukee Bucks (25-21)
The Bucks have been a strange team this season, relying on two notoriously trigger-happy guards to score, yet they are doing so relatively efficiently. That's no recipe for long-term success, but for now, the Bucks look like solid playoff contenders in the East.
18. Dallas Mavericks (20-27)
The Mavericks have been so much better lately, as Dirk Nowitzki has shaken off the rust, but they are still not great. All of their recent losses have been close games against good teams, but they have not beaten many of the top teams in the NBA.
19. Philadelphia 76ers (20-26)
Jrue Holiday is one of the bright spots of an otherwise forgettable season in Philly. He is dynamite, but the rest of the team is largely very boring. Andrew Bynum's potential return is the only reason to have hope right now in Philadelphia.
20. Los Angeles Lakers (22-26)
The Lakers have won two straight. Maybe that means they are finally getting their act together! More likely, the Lakers will continue to be maddeningly inconsistent, capable of beating anybody and losing to anybody.
21. Toronto Raptors (17-31)
He's been in Toronto for just two games, but Rudy Gay has made a big difference for the Raptors. He has averaged 24.5 points in his two games in Toronto, and more importantly, he's done it relatively efficiently, hitting just under half of his field-goal attempts.
The loss of Jose Calderon hurts, but Kyle Lowry is a suitable replacement. Getting Gay was still an excellent deal for the Raptors, and it should help them become a contender by next season.
22. Phoenix Suns (16-32)
The Suns may be the most boring team in the NBA, with no real star and mediocre results. There is some talent here, as Goran Dragic has been excellent, but the Suns are just mediocre.
23. Detroit Pistons (18-30)
The Pistons have a great group of young players, including twin towers Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. This team is a scorer away from being a real contender in the East.
24. New Orleans Hornets (15-33)
When Anthony Davis has been in the lineup, the Hornets have been pretty solid overall. That having been said, this team needs to gel. Davis and Eric Gordon are the Hornets' two best players, but both have struggled with injuries. As they gel together, this club could be dangerous.
25. Sacramento Kings (17-32)
This is a talented basketball team. Between Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas, this team has some good talent. They are, however, undisciplined, and that keeps them from being anything more than mediocre.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (18-26)
Like the Kings, the Timberwolves have the ability to be good. This team, though, has simply struggled with injuries. With Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love both constantly hobbled, the Wolves have never had a chance to develop their best lineup.
27. Cleveland Cavaliers (14-34)
Kyrie Irving continues to be spectacular, but the rest of the team continues to struggle. When Irving is on, this team is fun to watch, though.
28. Washington Wizards (11-35)
Even though the Wizards are still a pretty bad team, getting John Wall back has turned this team into a group of warriors. In a game against the Spurs, the Wizards were down 25 at the half, yet they got within single digits before the Spurs eventually pulled away.
Wall has been excellent since his return, with a PER of 18.15, but the rust is still apparent. He's giving up plenty of turnovers while struggling from deep, but that will only improve over time.
29. Charlotte Bobcats (11-35)
The Bobcats once again have company in the NBA's basement, but they are worse than the Wizards. The young talent is here between Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but this is still a poor basketball team playing worse than its talent level.
30. Orlando Magic (14-33)
The Magic hold the NBA's longest losing streak with nine straight, and they have earned it. The last time this team beat a club with a .500 record or better was Dec. 14th, and they will strugge to find another such win as the season wears on.
This is a team without a franchise player, a franchise scorer or any kind of real talent to get excited about. It is a collection of journeymen and role players. There are some decent players here. Together, though, this group just doesn't gel.
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