NBA Power Rankings: Hot Streaks and Injuries are Shifting Playoff Picture

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIMarch 4, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 03: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat celebrates a basket against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on March 3, 2013 in New York City.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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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Another week has gone by, and the NBA trade deadline is dust in the wind. It's time to start worrying about the playoff picture as teams head towards the final stretch of the season.

Injuries continue to play a big part in some teams' struggles, while others are hitting insane hot stretches at the perfect time.

As we enter into March, here is this week's rendition of power rankings after a very exciting NBA Sunday.

30. Charlotte Bobcats (13-45)

Well, at least they have a great shot at the No. 1 pick next season. And that Kemba Walker kid isn't playing too badly.

29. Orlando Magic (16-43)

Rebuilding is always a hard thing to go through, but it gets even worse when you lose so badly to a team like the Kings.

28. Sacramento Kings (20-40)

I was considering saying something about the Seattle move, but Kings fans have been through enough this season. At least they beat Orlando last week.

27. Phoenix Suns (21-39)

Hey, at least Spring Training is well under way. Do yourself a favor and go spend a day out on the baseball diamond. Don't worry, you're not missing out on anything on the court.

26. Detroit Pistons (23-38)

Detroit struggled through February, and opened up March with a 95-100 loss to New Orleans. They could still sneak into the playoffs if Milwaukee stumbles, but don't hold your breath.

25. Minnesota Timberwolves (20-36)

There's so much potential here. But after Ricky Rubio's injury last year and Kevin Love's injury this year, it doesn't look like they'll ever stay healthy.

24. New Orleans Hornets (21-39)

Some nights they're horrible. Other nights there's no team more exciting to watch. There's definitely potential for the future here, it's just not showing its head this season.

23. Philadelphia 76ers (23-34)

It's easy to forget these guys actually play basketball when the whole world is glued to their computer screens wondering: what hairdo will Andrew Bynum come up with next?

22. Washington Wizards (18-39)

See New Orleans Hornets.

21. Cleveland Cavaliers (20-39)

For a lottery bound team, they've been surprisingly exciting to watch at times. Here's hoping for a healthy finish to the season from Kyrie Irving.

20. Portland Trail Blazers (27-31)

The roller coaster season continues as Portland once again is under .500 games after going 2-8 in its last 10. That bench isn't even NBA worthy, let alone postseason.

19. Toronto Raptors (23-37)

The Raptors have shown flashes of greatness, but even with Rudy Gay, they're just not playing consistent enough basketball to be considered postseason bound.

18. Dallas Mavericks (26-32)

Dirk Nowitzki looks to be rounding into form, and they still limped through February. They might win some more games now, but struggling against the west's top teams will keep them out of the postseason.

17. Golden State Warriors (33-27)

The Warriors are 3-7 over their last 10 and riding a four-game losing streak. Stephen Curry is blossoming, but not even that is enough to help them top the league's elite.

16. Los Angeles Lakers (29-30)

This year's most disappointing team is starting to find itself some legs. Kobe Bryant continues to lead the way, and they could easily sneak into a playoff spot by season's end.

15. Milwaukee Bucks (29-28)

They continue to hover above .500 and are on the fringe of the playoff picture after an abysmal February. J.J. Redick will help on defense, but they're far from postseason caliber on that side of the ball.

Their playoff spot is far from secure, and the Bucks will have to play some solid basketball through the final months.

14. Utah Jazz (32-27)

February wasn't a pretty month, but the Jazz continue to sit in the playoff picture despite looking like a lottery team.

They play tough inside, but are average overall statistically.. They should get to the postseason, but an early exit looks imminent.

13. Houston Rockets (32-28)

Houston continues to score like crazy, so much so that their defensive deficiency might not matter come the playoffs.

But defense makes a big difference in the postseason. They'll get their playoff spot, but how far they can go is yet to be determined.

12. Boston Celtics (31-27)

So much for being dead in the water. Even without Rajon Rondo, the Celtics have gained more steam in February than any other month of the season.

They're back hovering above .500, and are 6-4 in their last 10 games. Boston's far from a leading contender in the Eastern Conference, but it could play the spoiler if not given proper respect.

11. Chicago Bulls (34-25)

You can make a case for the Bulls just about anywhere in these rankings given their current state. They continue to win games with defense and timely shooting, but the Derrick Rose situation is shaky at best.

Last week's embarrassing 72-102 loss to the Thunder might have been a frightening sign of things to come. How good can this team be in the postseason with just Luol Deng and Joakim Noah?

10. Brooklyn Nets (34-26)

The Nets are right where you'd expect them to be at this point in the season, just 3.0 games behind New York in the Atlantic Division.

But with Boston slowly creeping up the standings, Brooklyn needs to finally make that push from playing good to playing great.

9. Denver Nuggets (38-22)

The Nuggets kicked off March on the right foot with a win over the Thunder, and they will look to continue their steady play throughout the month.

Denver's a dark horse in the Western Conference, but nothing will change until it can find better consistency on the road (13-19 away from Denver).

8. Atlanta Hawks (33-24)

The big trade of Josh Smith that never happened seems to be a good thing, as the Hawks have won seven of their last 10 games.

With a very tough March schedule ahead, the next month will be very telling of how settled this team actually is.

7. Memphis Grizzlies (38-19)

As expected, the Grizzlies are playing defense at a very high level, leading the Western Conference in points allowed per game.

Offensively the interior bruisers are there, but they're shooting just 44 percent from the field (23rd in the NBA). They can go deep in the playoffs, but at some point the offense is going to cause problems.

6. L.A. Clippers (43-18)

The Clippers are as enigmatic as it comes in the Western Conference. They continue to win against the teams they're expected to beat, but struggle against the NBA's elite.

They dropped games to the Heat and San Antonio in February, and have kicked off March with a loss to Oklahoma City.

Second half adjustments are still a problem. They looked better in this department against the Thunder, but it still wasn't enough to prevent a big time loss.

5. New York Knicks (35-21)

Slowly, but surely, the Knicks are slipping. They're 4-6 in their last 10, and continue to struggle against elite teams.

New York knows how to score, but unless they find a way to win with defense, they're in for a disappointing postseason finish.

4. San Antonio Spurs (46-14)

This is usually when the Spurs run away with the west, but it's impossible to overlook the Tony Parker injury (h/t CBS Sports).

Parker leads the Spurs in points and assists per game, and was a favorite for MVP. They'll make it into the playoffs, but it might not be as pretty as years past.

As long as Parker comes back in time feeling healthy, they'll be a force to be reckoned with.

3. Indiana Pacers (37-22)

They only lost three games in February, and already have their first win in March. No one is playing better defense, and they continue to do big things against big teams.

The biggest question is if their offense can do enough to win games in the playoffs. They might not be an elite scoring team, but they still have four starters averaging double-digits in points.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder (42-16)

The Thunder are a sound basketball team, but they continue to underestimate teams. They keep losing to teams they need to beat, most recently falling to the Nuggets to kick off March.

Still, it's hard to argue with the pieces they have, led by the deadly duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. They should gain some ground in the west with the Parker injury.

1. Miami Heat (43-14)

Right now the Heat look untouchable, holding a 7.0 game lead in the east while riding a 14-game win streak. LeBron James played some unreal basketball in February, and it looks like that's carrying over to March as well.

Last year's NBA champs are just as good, if not better at this point in the season as they were last year. That's a scary thought. As long as they stay healthy and on fire, it's hard to dispute their chances for a repeat.


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