NBA Power Rankings: Top Risers and Fallers of the Week

Maxwell Ogden@MaxwellOgdenCorrespondent IIIFebruary 25, 2013

NBA Power Rankings: Top Risers and Fallers of the Week

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    With the 2013 All-Star Game and trade deadline both behind us, the NBA is ready to move forward with its push for the postseason. In the week since such events, we've already seen the postseason landscape take shape.

    Who are the top risers and fallers of this past week of NBA basketball?

    Some teams have snapped out of recent funks, while others have elevated their season-long brilliance. Others have hit a dry spell and fallen from their perch among the postseason contenders.

    So how is the NBA's playoff picture shaping up?

    ***All records and stats are accurate as of games through Sunday, February 24.

30. Orlando Magic

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    W-L Record: 15-41

    Scoring Offense: 93.8 (25th)

    Scoring Defense: 99.8 (21st)

    Last 10: 1-9

    The Orlando Magic have lost 17 of their past 18 games. Who else would be 30th on this list?

    The Magic made long-term improvements by trading sharpshooter J.J. Redick, but they're a significantly weaker team in the short run.

    While this should appeal to Magic fans in hopes of landing the top pick, it's clear that Orlando has lost hope on a successful season.

    At this point, improving a 9-20 home record and building around breakout center Nikola Vucevic would be the ultimate "win."

    This franchise needs to hope for the right ping-pong ball.

29. Charlotte Bobcats

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    W-L Record: 13-43

    Scoring Offense: 93.8 (24th)

    Scoring Defense: 102.8 (28th)

    Last 10: 2-8

    The Charlotte Bobcats have six more wins than last season—that's something to build upon.

    Although their record displays failure, head coach Mike Dunlap has done a commendable job. This team is as competitive as ever and has a bright future with their current core.

    Kemba Walker's breakout season with 17.7 points, 5.5 assists and 1.8 steals is a major reason why.

    And it's been fun watching Michael Kidd-Gilchrist do things like this

    Until the future comes around, however, this will continue to be a rough season.

    Charlotte can only go up from here with players like Walker and Kidd-Gilchrist anchoring the rotation.

28. Phoenix Suns

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    W-L Record: 18-39

    Scoring Offense: 94.6 (22nd)

    Scoring Defense: 100.2 (22nd)

    Last 10: 2-8

    The Phoenix Suns began this season at 11-15. In the 30 games since, they're 7-23 and have fallen to 18-38 overall.

    This is a tale of an organization that invested too much time and money into unproven talent.

    The Suns are 2-8 during their past 10 games and have lost by at least 10 points in six of those eight defeats. In other words, Phoenix is struggling—badly.

    There is reason to believe that next season will breed greater results, as the Suns do possess a young core, led by point guard Goran Dragic.

    With that being said, the opportunity to capitalize on a promising frontcourt of Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat has been lost.

27. Sacramento Kings

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    W-L Record: 19-38

    Scoring Offense: 97.1 (16th)

    Scoring Defense: 104.3 (30th)

    Last 10: 2-8

    The Sacramento Kings went 9-8 from Dec. 19 to Jan. 19. Since then, they've gone 3-12.

    Isaiah Thomas is having an excellent second half of the season, averaging 18.8 points and 4.7 assists during the month of February.

    DeMarcus Cousins, meanwhile, is averaging 17.3 points and 10.0 rebounds per game for the year. He's also posting a Player Efficiency Rating of 20.34.

    Unfortunately, a two-man show is hardly enough to secure wins in this disaster zone.

    Tyreke Evans is playing well, and the Kings acquired depth at the trade deadline, dealing No. 5 overall pick Thomas Robinson to Houston for Patrick Patterson (among other players on both sides).

    The future looks bright from a young star perspective. In every other sense, however, Sacramento is doomed, and that is a product of poor management.

26. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    W-L Record: 20-33

    Scoring Offense: 95.5 (19th)

    Scoring Defense: 97.6 (16th)

    Last 10: 3-7

    The Minnesota Timberwolves are not eliminated from postseason contention, but they're doing everything they can to make that happen.

    The T-Wolves have lost 18 of their past 22 games. For the sake of improvement, they have gone 2-3 during their past five.

    Most recently, however, they suffered a heartbreaking 100-99 loss against the Golden State Warriors.

    With Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio playing together, the T-Wolves are an above-average team. With just one or the other, however, they are below average.

    Even with Andrei Kirilenko making a case for Defensive Player of the Year, there just hasn't been enough consistency on either end.

    "Maybe next year" is a phrase that Timberwolves fans are growing sick of.

25. New Orleans Hornets

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    W-L Record: 20-37

    Scoring Offense: 94.5 (23rd)

    Scoring Defense: 97.3 (13th)

    Last 10: 5-5

    The New Orleans Hornets may not be a postseason contender, but that hasn't stopped them from being fun to watch.

    The Hornets are 4-4 during their past eight games. Three of those four losses have come by single digits.

    The core of Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Greivis Vasquez and Eric Gordon is beginning to hit its stride.

    Assuming Gordon remains healthy, the Hornets should be able to sustain a high level of play.

    As a young team, building momentum for next season will be key as we hit the final stretch of 2012-13. Improving their home record would be a great place to start.

    In other news, Davis leads all rookies in double-doubles.

24. Detroit Pistons

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    W-L Record: 22-36

    Scoring Offense: 94.7 (21st)

    Scoring Defense: 97.3 (14th)

    Last 10: 4-6

    The Detroit Pistons appeared to be one of the league's most improved teams upon the acquisition of point guard Jose Calderon.

    Unfortunately, Detroit has lost four of its past six.

    This has been the story of the Pistons season, and the best they've managed was a four-game winning streak in late December into early January.

    In a home-and-home against the Indiana Pacers, the Pistons lost by scores of 114-82 and 90-72.

    It looks like another playoff-less season for Detroit.

23. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    W-L Record: 18-38

    Scoring Offense: 97.6 (13th)

    Scoring Defense: 101.3 (24th)

    Last 10: 5-5

    No game has summed up this year's Cleveland Cavaliers as much as their recent 109-105 loss at the Miami Heat.

    The Cavaliers came back from 22 points down, gaining an eight-point lead with 5:16 remaining in the fourth quarter.

    When they aren't blowing minds by achieving the improbable, they're blowing leads and failing to display the necessary veteran prowess to contend.

    Still, Cleveland is 9-7 during its past 16 games. This team has the upside to defeat any caliber opponent.

    With 20-year-old point guard Kyrie Irving running the point, this team doesn't need much more to be competitive.

22. Philadelphia 76ers

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    W-L Record: 22-32

    Scoring Offense: 92.2 (29th)

    Scoring Defense: 95.8 (7th)

    Last 10: 4-6

    The Philadelphia 76ers could not have picked a worse time to fall apart.

    With the Milwaukee Bucks losing three consecutive games, Philly has failed to close any ground during its postseason push.

    Having lost five consecutive games, the Sixers are actually in a worse spot than they previously had been.

    Not only have they fallen further behind the Bucks, but they're now tied with the Toronto Raptors. In other words, it's all slipping away.

    Jrue Holiday is having a breakout season, but Andrew Bynum can't return soon enough.

21. Portland Trail Blazers

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    W-L Record: 26-30

    Scoring Offense: 96.8 (17th)

    Scoring Defense: 99.7 (20th)

    Last 10: 3-7

    The Portland Trail Blazers are dropping down the standings—fast.

    The Blazers just snapped a seven-game losing skid. In that time, their average margin of defeat has been 12.0 points per contest. That includes a 99-63 loss at the 19-37 New Orleans Hornets.

    A major reason for this collapse is the fact that the Blazers possess virtually no depth. They rank last in second-unit scoring, efficiency and defensive efficiency.

    As a result, fatigue has forced a playoff-caliber starting lineup to steadily drop out of the postseason race.

    With Eric Maynor coming to Portland via trade, the Blazers could see an improvement in their bench's production. If that fails, however, this will be a lost season for a promising team led by Rookie of the Year favorite Damian Lillard.

20. Milwaukee Bucks

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    W-L Record: 26-28

    Scoring Offense: 97.7 (12th)

    Scoring Defense: 98.8 (18th)

    Last 10: 2-8

    The Milwaukee Bucks have lost nine of their past 11 games. Even with the addition of J.J. Redick, one can't help but ask: Could the Bucks lose their grip on a postseason spot we once labeled as a lock?

    Milwaukee plays six of its next nine games on the road. Fortunately, the Bucks are a solid 12-14 away from home. It's close enough to .500 that one is inclined to believe that they will survive their extensive road trip.

    The Bucks are currently four games in front of the Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Rpators for eighth in the Eastern Conference. With Philly having lost five straight, that has Milwaukee sitting comfortably.

    Just don't think that this is an impressive postseason resume—the Sixers would be 10th in the Western Conference.

    The talent is there with Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders, but this team hasn't put it together.

19. Washington Wizards

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    W-L Record: 17-37

    Scoring Offense: 92.0 (30th)

    Scoring Defense: 95.7 (6th)

    Last 10: 6-4

    The Washington Wizards are one of the hottest teams in the NBA.

    They have won six of their past eight games. In that time, they've taken down the Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks.

    Say what you will about their overall record, but John Wall, Bradley Beal, Nene, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster have been playing some really solid basketball.

    Washington is 12-9 since Wall returned from injury.

18. Dallas Mavericks

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    W-L Record: 25-30

    Scoring Offense: 101.5 (7th)

    Scoring Defense: 102.6 (27th)

    Last 10: 6-4

    For all that is made of the Dallas Mavericks' lack of a franchise point guard, they don't have a problem racking up assists: Eighth in assists per game and assisting 59.6 percent of their field goals (via

    As a result, the Mavs are seventh in the NBA in scoring offense and eighth in three-point field-goal percentage. As soon as their defense improves, Dallas could solidify its status as a postseason contender.

    Most recently, we've seen the Mavericks win six of their past nine games. In that time, Dirk Nowitzki has stepped up to average 18.3 points per game.

    That includes a 30-point, 13-rebound slugfest with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers—one Dallas lost. Even still, the Mavericks are just 4.5 games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth seed.

17. Toronto Raptors

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    W-L Record: 23-33

    Scoring Offense: 97.4 (14th)

    Scoring Defense: 98.6 (17th)

    Last 10: 7-3

    Don't look now, but the Toronto Raptors are rising up the ranks of the Eastern Conference's playoff structure.

    Toronto has won six of its past seven games, defeating the likes of the New York Knicks, Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers in the process.

    The Raptors actually defeated the Knicks twice since Feb. 13.

    As a result, they have moved to four games behind the crumbling Milwaukee Bucks. Assuming both teams continue to move in their current directions, Toronto could make a postseason appearance.

    Rudy Gay is a major reason why—just don't think he's the only force in Toronto.

    Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have been superb.

16. Chicago Bulls

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    W-L Record: 32-24

    Scoring Offense: 92.5 (28th)

    Scoring Defense: 91.3 (3rd)

    Last 10: 4-6

    The Chicago Bulls had lost six of nine entering their Feb. 22 showdown with the Charlotte Bobcats.

    In response to their recent woes, Chicago pulled out a 105-75 victory. No matter the team, a 30-point win is a 30-point win.

    And it's all about balance.

    Chicago remains an elite defensive team, with or without Derrick Rose. With two All-Stars in Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, the Bulls have firepower on both ends.

    This has the Bulls just three games out of second place in the East.

    With Rose approaching a complete recovery, one can't help but believe in the endless possibilities for Chicago's short- and long-term future (via The Chicago Sun-Times).

15. Los Angeles Lakers

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    W-L Record: 28-29

    Scoring Offense: 102.0 (6th)

    Scoring Defense: 100.9 (23rd)

    Last 10: 7-3

    The Los Angeles Lakers are 11-4 over their past 15 games and winners of three consecutive outings.

    Most importantly, their victories have come against two teams that they're competing with for the final spot in the playoffs: the Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks.

    As a result of their hot play, the Lakers are just 2.5 games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth seed. A major reason for their recent victories has been the play of Kobe Bryant.

    Against Portland, Kobe dropped 40 points on 15-of-23 shooting. He willed the Lakers to a 111-107 win as Steve Nash shot 2-of-11 and Dwight Howard suffered a shoulder injury.

    Against Dallas, Bryant finished with 38 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists on 13-of-21 shooting—L.A. won 103-99.

    These are coming down to the wire, but Bryant is stepping up. Until that changes, the Lakers make their way up the power rankings.

14. Boston Celtics

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    W-L Record: 29-27

    Scoring Offense: 95.9 (18th)

    Scoring Defense: 95.9 (9th)

    Last 10: 6-4

    After winning seven consecutive games to begin the post-Rajon Rondo era, the Boston Celtics have since lost four of six.

    That includes a 94-91 defeat at the Charlotte Bobcats, 97-90 at the Denver Nuggets, 113-99 at the Los Angeles Lakers and a 92-86 defeat at the Portland Trail Blazers.

    This recent stretch of road losses has the Celtics in a rough position, as five of their next seven games come away from home.

    To be fair, Boston remains two games above .500.

    With just three games separating Boston from sixth, we could see it gain more position than one might think.

13. Utah Jazz

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    W-L Record: 31-25

    Scoring Offense: 98.5 (11th)

    Scoring Defense: 98.8 (19th)

    Last 10: 6-4

    The Utah Jazz have won three of their past four games and are now 21-6 at home.

    During that recent stretch of victories, Utah downed both the Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors by double digits.

    With one of the top interiors in the NBA (Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter), their pound-it-inside approach has created a lethal low-high attack.

    Utah is shooting 36.0 percent from beyond the arc as a team. Its also sixth in points in the paint (via

    If the Jazz learn how to win on the road, this team could be lethal (10-19 on the season). Even still, this team is dominant at home and currently one of the hottest teams in basketball.

12. Brooklyn Nets

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    W-L Record: 33-24

    Scoring Offense: 95.6 (20th)

    Scoring Defense: 94.8 (5th)

    Last 10: 5-5

    The Brooklyn Nets had tallied four consecutive impressive victories before dropping their last two to the Rockets and Grizzlies.

    Brooklyn won 89-84 at the Indiana Pacers on Feb. 11. They proceeded to defeat the Denver Nuggets 119-108 and won two straight against the Milwaukee Bucks.

    Brooklyn has extraordinary frontcourt depth and is led by All-Star center Brook Lopez, rebounding machine Reggie Evans and the underrated Andray Blatche.

    Even with Joe Johnson nursing a heel injury and Deron Williams not the same player he once was, the backcourt is still above average.

    Throw in Gerald Wallace and endless depth, and you have a dangerous team.

11. Houston Rockets

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    W-L Record: 31-27

    Scoring Offense: 106.3 (2nd)

    Scoring Defense: 103.5 (29th)

    Last 10: 6-4

    The Houston Rockets are 3-3 during their past six games. Every win has been impressive, and every loss head-scratching.

    Houston has defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors and lost to the Washington Wizards, Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Clippers.

    This has been the story for the 31-27 Rockets, as they are dominant one night and lackluster the next.

    Fortunately, this high-powered offense led by James Harden has the capability of keeping this team in the postseason hunt.

    There's just one issue come the playoffs: The Rockets are 13-20 against Western Conference foes.

10. Atlanta Hawks

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    W-L Record: 31-23

    Scoring Offense: 97.4 (15th)

    Scoring Defense: 96.6 (12th)

    Last 10: 6-4

    The Atlanta Hawks have won five of their past seven games. They're 9-5 during their past 14 outings.

    The question is, will holding on to Josh Smith pay off in the end?

    The Hawks acquired a quality perimeter player in Dahntay Jones at the trade deadline (via ESPN Dallas). This provides Atlanta with the perimeter defense that it desperately needed.

    Assuming Smith and Al Horford can continue to provide the offense, the Hawks will be a tough out come the postseason.

    The major question for the Hawks, however, has nothing to do with their stars.

    It's whether or not Jeff Teague can continue his recent hot streak and run point at a high level.

9. Golden State Warriors

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    W-L Record: 33-23

    Scoring Offense: 101.2 (8th)

    Scoring Defense: 101.4 (25th)

    Last 10: 4-6

    As of Feb. 19, the Golden State Warriors had lost six consecutive games. As of Feb. 24, the Warriors have won three straight.

    They haven't come easy, but this young team has showed incredible resilience to bounce back from a dry spell.

    Most recently, they won 100-99 at the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Jarrett Jack led the way with 23 points and eight assists.

    Their shining moment, however, came as they took down the Western Conference's top team. In an overtime battle with the San Antonio Spurs, Jack put up 30 points and 10 assists to lead the Warriors to a 107-101 OT victory.

    David Lee, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Bogut (if healthy) and Jack make this team one of the best.

8. New York Knicks

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    W-L Record: 33-20

    Scoring Offense: 100.1 (10th)

    Scoring Defense: 96.3 (11th)

    Last 10: 5-5

    The New York Knicks snapped a four-game losing skid on Sunday with a 99-93 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in MSG.

    They lost by 34 against the Indiana Pacers, 14 to the Los Angeles Clippers and 10 at the Washington Wizards.

    The question is, are we seeing the Knicks collapse, or is this simply a dry spell?

    Prior to this recent stretch of losses, the Knicks had won six of seven. For that reason, we're inclined to believe that the team is in store for better days.

    The longer they struggle, however, the further Indiana will pull away for second place in the Eastern Conference.

    The pressure is on Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and the three-point shooters to turn things around as soon as possible.

7. Denver Nuggets

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    W-L Record: 35-22

    Scoring Offense: 105.2 (3rd)

    Scoring Defense: 101.6 (26th)

    Last 10: 6-4

    The Denver Nuggets rank in the top five in terms of scoring offense, rebounding and assists per game.

    They're sixth in turnovers forced, fourth in blocks and third in steals.

    In other words, the Nuggets are a team that will light up the scoreboard, move the ball around, crash the glass and oppose every shot or pass that the opposition executes.

    Unfortunately, Denver has lost four of its past six games. The Nuggets are also 26th in scoring defense.

    When it comes to late-game situations, Danilo Gallinari has become one of the more clutch players in the NBA. In the same breath, Andre Iguodala is as good as any at making the key stop when the game is on the line.

    Head coach George Karl has a very deep team to work with.

6. Memphis Grizzlies

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    W-L Record: 37-18

    Scoring Offense: 93.4 (27th)

    Scoring Defense: 89.6 (2nd)

    Last 10: 8-2

    When the Memphis Grizzlies traded Rudy Gay, the concern around the league was that they would be unable to mount any form of perimeter offense.

    In response to that criticism, they have won seven consecutive games—that includes a win over Gay and his new team, the Toronto Raptors.

    In that time, the Grizzlies are shooting 38.1 percent from beyond the three-point line.

    You can say what you will about the quality of their opponents, but winning seven in a row is no easy feat. For what they lack in perimeter scoring, they make up for along the interior.

    They have one of the top big-man pairings in the league with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, and they consistently exploit opposing defenses because of it.

    Behind Gasol and Z-Bo, the NBA's second-ranked scoring defense will be a tough out come the postseason.

5. Los Angeles Clippers

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    W-L Record: 40-18

    Scoring Offense: 100.4 (9th)

    Scoring Defense: 94.1 (4th)

    Last 10: 6-4

    For all that is made about their high-flying offense, the Los Angeles Clippers are actually better on the defensive end.

    They rank fourth in the NBA at 94.1 points allowed per game.

    This is a major reason that L.A. has won six of its past eight games—it's also a factor in how the Clippers overcame a 26-point loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

    The following game, L.A. won 107-94 over the Utah Jazz.

    Perhaps the scariest truth about the Clippers is that they are a team that has been marred by injuries.

    Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups have both missed significant time, while Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford have battled minor ailments.

    When healthy, however, this is one of the best teams in the NBA.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    W-L Record: 41-15

    Scoring Offense: 106.6 (1st)

    Scoring Defense: 97.5 (15th)

    Last 10: 6-4

    The Oklahoma Thunder have lost three of their past five.

    Fortunately, OKC has turned it around the last two, defeating the T-Wolves and the Bulls handily.

    The question for the Thunder is simple: Can they sustain any form of momentum?

    Since their overtime loss to the Denver Nuggets on Jan. 20, the Thunder have just one winning streak over two games—they've followed up a single win with a loss on three different occasions.

    We know that OKC has the talent. The question is, do they have the resolve?

    We'll lean toward yes.

3. Indiana Pacers

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    W-L Record: 35-21

    Scoring Offense: 93.7 (26th)

    Scoring Defense: 89.4 (1st)

    Last 10: 8-2

    The Indiana Pacers are winners of four consecutive games, with each victory coming by at least 18 points. That includes a 125-91 demolition of the New York Knicks.

    With the NBA's best scoring defense, the Pacers have managed to smother any caliber opponent that attempts to penetrate their interior defense.

    If you try to kick it outside, the Pacers also rank first in opponent three-point field-goal percentage at .314—second best is the San Antonio Spurs at .325, a full .011 points higher.

    In other words, you can't score against this team.

    With Danny Granger having returned, one has to believe that the offense is soon to improve as well.

    Between he, Paul George and David West, the Pacers will be able to score enough for their defense to lead the way.

2. San Antonio Spurs

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    W-L Record: 45-13

    Scoring Offense: 104.3 (4th)

    Scoring Defense: 95.8 (8th)

    Last 10: 8-2

    The San Antonio Spurs have won 25 of their past 30 games.

    They're 16-2 during their past 18 games and winners of six of their last seven outings. That includes a 116-90 destruction at the Los Angeles Clippers—the same Clippers team that is 22-6 at home.

    The Spurs rank in the top 10 in both scoring offense and scoring defense.

    They're also first in assists, fourth in three-point field-goals made per game and fifth in three-point field-goal percentage.

    They're an elite defensive team that moves the ball better than anyone and consistently converts their three-point field-goal attempts.

    Even with their recent loss to the Golden State Warriors, no one should be questioning their spot among the elite.

    Veterans Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili pair perfectly with Gary Neal, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter under head coach Gregg Popovich.

1. Miami Heat

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    W-L Record: 39-14

    Scoring Offense: 103.2 (5th)

    Scoring Defense: 96.1 (10th)

    Last 10: 10-0

    The Miami Heat are allowing an average of 92.2 points per game when Chris "Birdman" Andersen has played for them.

    They're 11-1 in that time.

    Even in his limited playing time, Birdman has found a way to alter shots, crash the glass and provide an intimidation factor for any slashing scorers.

    Pair that with LeBron James playing out of his mind, and you have a 10-game winning streak.

    The defending champions have been clicking on all cylinders, winning by double digits in seven consecutive games.

    Their opponents in that time include the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers.

    In the words of Muhammad Ali, "The Champ is here!"