Updated NBA Western Conference Power Rankings

Jared Wade@@Jared_WadeContributor IMarch 11, 2013

Updated NBA Western Conference Power Rankings

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    There is only one elite team in the Eastern Conference, which means the drama is all out West.

    Led by the Los Angeles Lakers' surge and the San Antonio Spurs' attempt to survive the loss of Tony Parker, there are as many storylines as there are teams.

    The ultimate pecking order will be determined in the playoffs but this is how the franchises stack up now.

15. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    If the Washington Wizards didn't exist, the Minnesota Timberwolves would be on a nine-game losing streak. Everyone has been injured, and nobody has been playing particularly well. 

    It has been a cold, cold winter in Minneapolis, but for the Wolves, there is no thaw coming.

14. New Orleans Hornets

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    A 25-point collapse against the Los Angeles Lakers last week aptly summed up the New Orleans Hornets' season.

    They have a lot of skill, and at times, play like they can beat good teams—then reality strikes and they can be steamrolled by any team with real talent.

13. Sacramento Kings

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    The good news is that the Kings are still in Sacramento.

    The bad news is that the people in Sacramento have to watch their team play like this. 

    It is ultimately a small price to pay if the franchise remains in California's capital, but man, is this team a dread to look at.

12. Utah Jazz

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    There is nothing more depressing than a late-season collapse. The Utah Jazz are in the midst of a legendary stumble, losing seven of their nine games since the All-Star break, including their last four.

    The Los Angeles Lakers are playing well enough that they would have earned a playoff berth regardless, but it has been downright neighborly of the Jazz to just give the Lakers their spot.

11. Phoenix Suns

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    Don't look now, but the Phoenix Suns aren't horrible. Well, I mean, they're still horrible—but they are getting a few wins.

    Maybe it's the karmic lift from reuniting the Morris twins? Or perhaps having the two of them just confuses the opposition?

    Either way, this team has improved since making the deal for Marcus Morris.

10. Portland Trail Blazers

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    After a rough February, the Portland Trail Blazers are back on solid footing. By shooting 50 percent or better in each of his last six games, Damian Lillard has been the lead cog that has helped the team win four of its past seven. 

    The Blazers seemingly may be doing little more than hurting their draft position, but these are the type of late-season wins that should help them start the next season off on the right foot.

9. Golden State Warriors

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    With just two wins in their last eight games, the Golden State Warriors are in free fall.

    Worse still, since beating the Oklahoma City Thunder on Jan. 23, they have beaten just one team currently slated to make the playoffs (the San Antonio Spurs).

    At this point, perhaps the only thing keeping Golden State as a likely playoff team is Utah's poor play. Coach Mark Jackson needs to figure out a way to fix this—and fast.

8. Dallas Mavericks

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    With the recent play of the Los Angeles Lakers, the Dallas Mavericks' late-season push for the playoffs will likely come up short.

    But with four wins in their past five games, you have to respect Rick Carlisle's team for trying.

7. Houston Rockets

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    Only four teams have scored more since the All-Star break than the Houston Rockets' 107.4 points per 100 possessions.

    On the other hand, only seven teams have given up more points than their 104.7 per 100—none of those squads will be appearing in the postseason. 

    This is nothing new for the Rockets, but it is disturbing to see them get even worse defensively late in the season. 

6. Los Angeles Clippers

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    No team in the West has dominated its division more, but the Los Angeles Clippers have dropped two of their past four, including losses to the Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder.

    It's nice that that they have been able to smack around a handful of Eastern Conference teams in recent weeks, but throw in a recent defeat at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, and there are legitimate questions as to whether the Clippers can win in the playoffs against any of the elite teams outside of the Pacific Division.

5. San Antonio Spurs

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    A defeat at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers last week was the San Antonio Spurs' third loss since the All-Star break.

    Their biggest loss, however, came when Tony Parker went down with an ankle injury.

    This team simply isn't the same without him.

4. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Kobe Bryant has been downright scary since the Los Angeles Lakers turned into a dominant team in the second half of the season.

    The man now known as "Vino" is averaging 32.6 PPG, 7.6 APG and 5.7 RPG over his last seven games while shooting 52.0 percent, including 35.8 percent from three-point range.

    His buddy Dwight Howard is grabbing 15.3 RPG and swatting 3.1 BPG over that same stretch.

    It may have been a rough route to get here, but this team is starting to look like the Goliath everyone expected it to be last summer.

3. Denver Nuggets

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    With the second-best home-court advantage in the NBA (they have a 28-3 record in the Mile-High City), it is easy for the Denver Nuggets to string together wins. 

    But now they are winning no matter where they playing, picking up huge wins in Oklahoma City, Atlanta and Los Angeles (over the Clippers) of late. 

    Point guard Ty Lawson has finally fully shaken off the rust he showed for so long at the start of the season, and this has sparked the Nuggets to become arguably the scariest "starless" team in the NBA.

2. Memphis Grizzlies

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    The Memphis Grizzlies are 9-1 since the All-Star break—with the only loss coming when they took their talents to South Beach.

    Against all expectations, they have only gotten better since trading Rudy Gay.

    Who'd have thought? 

    Marc Gasol has been particularly dominant of late, averaging 18.7 points per game on 60.1 percent shooting over his past six games.

1. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    There is now no disputing that the Oklahoma City Thunder are the best in the West.

    An impressive win over the Boston Celtics on national television this weekend capped an impressive string of victories that includes wins on the road over the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers and a home beatdown of the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Throw in the fact that the team has two of the four best players in the conference, and the Thunder's No. 1 spot is a no-brainer.