NBA Power Rankings: Where Every Team Ranks Right Now

Kyle NewportFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2013

NBA Power Rankings: Where Every Team Ranks Right Now

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    The NBA playoff picture is beginning to take shape, and the power rankings are ready to be unveiled.

    Every list needs to have criteria of how the teams are being evaluated, so let's take a look at how the teams are judged here:

    1. The team's overall record or how they have played all year will be the main stat.

    2. How the team has performed as of late will be considered.

    3. If there are any toss-ups, it will be decided by who the hotter team is and who would win in a seven-game series.

    So now that the criteria has been established, let's see how the teams stack up with just over one month remaining in the regular season.

     

    *All stats are from ESPN.com

No. 30: Charlotte Bobcats (13-50)

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    Not really much debate here. 

    After getting off to a 7-5 start, the team has gone 6-45. That means the Bobcats have only won 12 percent of their games since that good start, which includes an 18-game losing streak.

    Not only did they have that 18-streak earlier in the season, but the team is currently on a 10-game losing streak. Charlotte has lost by an average of 21.5 points per game during the recent skid. Ouch.

    The Bobcats have been the league's worst team for a long time, and it doesn't look like that's going to change anytime soon.

No. 29: Orlando Magic (18-46)

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    Ironically, the Bobcats' last win came against these Orlando Magic.

    The Magic were seconds away from beating the Miami Heat earlier this week, but they couldn't stop LeBron James.

    Not much was expected after the team finally traded Dwight Howard. J.J Redick is now gone, so the team has gotten rid of two mainstays this season.

    Jameer Nelson, Aaron Afflalo, Glen Davis and Nikola Vucevic have all done well this season, but there's not much else on this roster. None of those four players are superstars, so Orlando will need to search for a franchise player this offseason.

No. 28: New Orleans Hornets (22-42)

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    Anthony Davis is back and playing well, but the rest of the team is struggling—besides Greivis Vasquez, who has been playing well lately.

    First-round bust Austin Rivers is done for the season after breaking his hand this week. Unfortunately for the Hornets, Eric Gordon is only shooting 38.7 percent in his last four games. If they are going to compete anytime soon, they need him to be a superstar.

    The Hornets are 3-7 in their last 10 games, but the schedule gets a little easier with Washington and Minnesota in the next few games.

No. 27: Washington Wizards (20-41)

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    The Wizards are playing arguably their best basketball of the season, but it's still not enough to get them out of the bottom part of the list.

    They have won five of their last nine games, and they have kept most of their recent losses close. Only two of the team's last 13 losses have been by more than 10 points. It's a good sign that Washington is able to stay in games now.

    John Wall has been shooting 46 percent in his last five games and has averaged 16 points to go with 5.6 assists.

    Washington has a chance to win some games in its next six games. The Wizards play the Cavs, the Bobcats, the Suns (twice) and the Hornets. If they are going to show how far they have come, the next six games will give them a chance to show their growth.

No. 26: Sacramento Kings (22-43)

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    The Kings are 3-10 in their last 13 games, and the schedule is about to get even tougher with games against both L.A. teams.

    DeMarcus Cousins has only scored more than 10 points twice in March, which is not a good sign. He has been the team's leading scorer all season. He has also finished below 10 rebounds three times this month.

    It's troubling that the team can't get consistent play out of Cousins. He went 1-of-12 from the field against the Denver Nuggets this month, and the team still was within seven points.

    There's just not much firepower on this team. The rest of schedule is pretty brutal for Sacramento, so the team needs to see who can be a starter on next year's team.

No. 25: Phoenix Suns (22-41)

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    Phoenix has won three of five games, and that includes games against the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets.

    The Morris twins are combining for 20 points and eight rebounds per game in their last five games, so at least there's some positive signs for a struggling team.

    Michael Beasley had back-to-back good games this weekend, but he has not put up big numbers consistently this year. He shot 50 percent from the floor this weekend and put up 28 points on Friday.

    Point guard Goran Dragic has put up two double-doubles in his last five games, including 17 points and 16 assists against the Sacramento Kings.

No. 24: Minnesota Timberwolves (21-39)

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    The Timberwolves have lost eight of nine games and face some contenders in the next few games.

    Outside of back-to-back one-point losses, none of their other recent losses have been close. The team's only win this month came against the Washington Wizards.

    Ricky Rubio is putting up consistent numbers lately (13 points, eight assists), but his shooting percentage has to improve if he's going to lead this team in the future.

    Minnesota is missing Kevin Love and Brandon Roy, so there's a lot of pressure on Rubio and Derrick Williams to live up to high expectations.

No. 23: Cleveland Cavaliers (21-42)

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    Another day, another Kyrie Irving injury. For updates, check out Bleacher Report's Ryan Rudnansky article.

    The explosive point guard can score like crazy, but he just can't stay healthy. It's going to plague the team for years, and it doesn't help to have Anderson Varejao on the shelf as well.

    Since acquiring Wayne Ellington from the Memphis Grizzlies, the Cavs are 11-10. He has shot 45.5 percent since joining the team, which is the highest in his career.

    Cleveland has some building blocks, but they need to have a healthy squad if they are going to compete in the future. 

No. 22: Detroit Pistons (23-42)

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    Losers of eight of 10 games, the Detroit Pistons are struggling mightily.

    They recently lost to the San Antonio Spurs by 39 points. This season has gotten out of hand in Detroit, and the next two weeks aren't any easier.

    Brandon Knight has averaged 20 points per game in the team's last five games, so he is still performing well. He is also shooting 46.4 percent and 42 percent from three-point range.

    Kyle Singler is in the starting lineup. Enough said.

No. 21: Philadelphia 76ers (23-39)

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    It doesn't look like Andrew Bynum is going to play anytime soon, so the Philadelphia 76ers need to figure out how to move forward.

    Philadelphia has lost 13 of 14 games, but it has kept most of those games relatively close.

    Evan Turner isn't living up to expectations. He has shot below 32 percent in four of five games this month, but he has grabbed at least nine boards in three games in March.

    Jrue Holiday has only shot above 36 percent from the floor once this month, so the 76ers are struggling to get consistent shooting.

    Until those two youngsters start to shoot better, the 76ers are going to be losing a lot more games.

No. 20: Toronto Raptors (25-39)

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    Toronto has lost eight of its last 11 games. Rudy Gay is shooting only 38 percent during that stretch, including a 7-of-26 performance in a recent game.

    The Raptors brought Gay in to be a star, but he hasn't lived up to those expectations. He has been held to under 30 percent four times since the beginning of February.

    He has only one double-double since joining the team. The Raptors need Gay to take control and be the player he was in Memphis. 

    The schedule gets easier, as they get the Bobcats twice in the next few games, so Toronto needs Gay to improve.

No. 19: Portland Trail Blazers (29-33)

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    After going on a seven-game losing streak, the Trail Blazers have won four of eight games.

    Damian Lillard is well on his way to winning Rookie of the Year. He has made over half of his shots in each of the past five games. His numbers just seem to get better and better as the year goes on.

    LaMarcus Aldridge has shot over 43 percent in four of those five games, so that's a big reason as to why Portland has started to win more lately.

    The two players combined for 61 points in a 30-point thrashing at San Antonio recently.

No. 18: Dallas Mavericks (29-33)

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    Dallas has some stars on the roster, but the team has not figured out a way to win this season.

    Dirk Nowitzki has missed a lot of time this season, and his numbers are down when he has played. O.J. Mayo has come in and put up some big numbers.

    Vince Carter has been one of the team's better players, but it just hasn't been enough.

    The Mavericks have won three straight, but it is probably too late to make anything of a lost season. They are three-and-a-half games out of the final playoff spot, so it would take a big run for the Mavs to get back in contention.

No. 17: Utah Jazz (32-31)

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    Utah is currently only half a game out of the eight seed, but it is in free-fall. The team has lost seven of its last eight games. Three of the last four losses have been by three points or fewer.

    After missing three games, Al Jefferson rejoined the team. He had 23 points and six rebounds in his first game back, but he had only seven points and four boards last game.

    Now that Jefferson is back, the Jazz should get back to winning more. It was a big loss to not have him in the middle of the paint, so he will be a nice addition to a struggling team.

No. 16: Milwaukee Bucks (31-29)

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    The Bucks are comfortably in the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference, and they have won five of six.

    Milwaukee has been squeaking out wins recently, and it needs to continue to play well. The team is only two games back of Boston and Atlanta for a better seed. It will be crucial for them to avoid Miami in the first round of the playoffs if they want to advance.

    Brandon Jennings has shot over 50 percent in each of the last three games, and he has put up insane assists numbers during his four-game double-double streak. He has averaged nearly 15 assists per game during the streak.

    With Jennings playing the way he is, the Bucks have a good chance to move up in the standings.

No. 15: Atlanta Hawks (34-28)

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    Josh Smith is shooting 46 percent this month, and Al Horford has not shot below 50 percent in any game this month. However, their team has lost four of five games.

    The Hawks had won five of six entering March, but this month has been cruel to them. 

    It's tough to lose that often when the team's two stars have been playing so well, but Atlanta has run into some hot teams. 

    It doesn't get any better. The Hawks' next game will be against the Miami Heat.

No. 14: Houston Rockets (34-30)

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    After thrashing the Mavericks by 33 last Sunday, the Rockets lost in Dallas on Wednesday. It was a weird series of events, but it shows that teams have to be ready to play every night.

    The Rockets lost their last game against the Suns, but they get a rematch in their next game. For their sake, they need to come out ready to play.

    James Harden has been a monster in March. He has averaged 26 points and 8.6 assists in the month.

    Jeremy Lin has been nothing special during that streak. He's shot nearly 50 percent, but he needs to take more shots and help his team win. 

    Houston leads the Lakers by one game, but it's clear the Lakers are the hotter team.

No. 13: Los Angeles Lakers (33-31)

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    As most people expected, the Los Angeles Lakers are back in contention. They have gotten on a roll and are now the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.

    Thanks to eight wins in 10 games, the Lakers are in position to make the playoffs.

    One thing is for sure: Nobody should ever count Kobe Bryant out. The superstar has had at least 29 points in eight straight games. He hasn't shot below 40 percent during that streak.

    Los Angeles looks like they have finally figured things out. Dwight Howard has back-to-back games with over 20 points and shot over 50 percent in both games.

    Now that they are playing well, expect them to keep climbing these rankings.

No. 12: Golden State Warriors (35-29)

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    In an article written earlier this weekend, David Lee got banged up. He is dealing with a knee contusion, but it isn't believed to be serious.

    Stephen Curry hasn't topped the 40-percent mark in three games, which is problematic if Lee isn't fully healthy. Lee made the All-Star team, so he is a vital piece to the mix.

    Jarret Jack has only topped 37 percent from the field once in five games, and six assists are the most he has had in that stretch.

    It will be tough to hold off the charging Lakers, and the Warriors need to hope Lee's injury doesn't linger for the rest of the season.

No. 11: Chicago Bulls (35-28)

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    If Derrick Rose returns soon, the Chicago Bulls are going to be dangerous in the playoffs. For now they will need to find a way to get back to winning.

    The Bulls have lost five of seven games, most of which have been to contenders.

    Joakim Noah has grabbed 13 boards in back-to-back games, but he isn't scoring as much as he needs to without Rose. He has a combined 17 points in two games, and he is shooting under 40 percent as well.

    If Chicago is going to finish ahead of Boston, the Bulls need Noah to start dominating the way he is capable of. There is still over a month left in the season, so there is plenty of time for Rose to get back in time for the postseason.

No. 10: Boston Celtics (34-28)

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    Without Rajon Rondo, the Boston Celtics have not backed down. In the past six games, the Celtics are 5-1 and have lost to only the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    Paul Pierce has averaged over 20 points per game during the six-game stretch. He has shot under 50 percent only once. 

    Kevin Garnett has three double-doubles in those six games. The Celtics need their two stars to continue to perform at a high level if they are going to make a run in the playoffs.

    In the five wins, Jason Terry has shot 48 percent from three-point range. It's almost unfair for a team to have two potential Hall of Famers playing at a high level and then have a shooter catch fire at the same time.

No. 9: Brooklyn Nets (37-26)

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    Currently on a three-game winning streak, the Brooklyn Nets are playing well at a great time. Only two of their next eight games are against teams with a winning record.

    During the winning streak, star Deron Williams has shot 59 percent from three.  That includes his 11 three-pointers against the Wizards.

    It's tough to lose when one player is that hot. But Brook Lopez has been just as good. He has only finished under 50 percent from the field once in five games, and he has averaged seven boards during the winning streak. 

    If Joe Johnson can snap out of a recent funk, the Nets are going to go on a long winning streak.

No. 8: New York Knicks (38-22)

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    Yes, the Knicks are the No. 2 seed right now in the Eastern Conference. However, they haven't beaten a quality team lately. During a recent 6-2 stretch, the team's best win is against the Golden State Warriors. They have lost to the Heat and Thunder by a combined seven points, which is nothing to be ashamed of.

    The Knicks are hoping Carmelo Anthony isn't out for much longer, but NBA.com reported on Saturday that Amar'e Stoudemire will miss six weeks after undergoing knee surgery.

    New York's schedule isn't too bad for the rest of the season, so it could maintain a high seed while waiting for its stars to get healthy. 

    While the stars are out, J.R. Smith has had at least 20 points in three straight games. There is plenty of talent on this team, but they need to prove they can still beat the good teams.

No. 7: Indiana Pacers (39-24)

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    Right behind the Knicks in the standings are the Indiana Pacers. However, the Pacers are the more complete team right now because they don't rely on stars to carry the team.

    The Pacers are second in the league in points per game allowed, which is a good formula to win in the playoffs.

    Paul George, David West, Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough give the team balance up front. George Hill and Lance Stephenson aren't stars, but they have learned how to get the job done.

    George has at least 20 points in three of the last five games, and he has two double-doubles during that stretch. Hibbert also has two double-doubles in that span, which gives the team balance down low.

    If there's one team in the playoffs that Miami doesn't want to see, it's got to be Indiana. The Pacers have won two of three meetings this season, and they had the Heat on the ropes last year.

No. 6: Los Angeles Clippers (45-20)

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    The team's last four losses, which also include San Antonio and Miami, are concerning because they haven't been able to knock off the league's best since early in the season.

    Chris Paul has not had fewer than eight assists in six games, and he has double-digit assists in half of those games. In March, he has averaged nearly 17 points and 10.5 assists. The Clippers' championship hopes will depend on Paul. If he can take his game to an even higher level, Los Angeles can make a deep run in the postseason. If he struggles, they have no shot.

    At this point, there is a very real possibility of the Lakers and Clippers meeting in the postseason. The Clippers have been the better team all year, but the Lakers are the hotter team right now.

     

    (As this happened, DeAndre Jordan threw down what might be the dunk of the year, courtesy of NBA.com. If he does that more often, Paul can rack up even more assists.)

No. 5: Memphis Grizzlies (42-19)

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    The Grizzlies have won 12 of 13, with their only loss coming at the hands of the Miami Heat.

    For a team that traded away Rudy Gay and Wayne Ellington this season, they are playing extremely well. However, Brooklyn and Golden State are the only teams with a winning record they have beaten during their hot streak.

    Memphis is the best defensive team in the NBA. Marc Gasol could be the NBA Defensive Player of the Year. 

    In the last 10 games, point guard Mike Conley is averaging 15 points and nearly seven assists per game. He is also averaging 2.6 steals per game, so he is pretty much doing it all right now.

    The schedule is about to get harder as the team prepares for a four-game road trip, and three of the four games are against teams with winning records.

    Memphis' hot streak may be somewhat due to a weak schedule, but it's important not to overlook what the team is doing. They have been playing great defense all year.

No. 4: Denver Nuggets (42-22)

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    Outside of the Miami Heat, the Denver Nuggets may be the hottest team in the NBA. They have three winning streaks of at least six games in this calendar year, and they are currently on an eight-game streak.

    During the current streak, the Nuggets have knocked off the Clippers, the Lakers, the Thunder and the Hawks. Only the Thunder managed to keep it close.

    Ty Lawson has turned into a star at the point. In 17 games since the beginning of February, he has been held under 20 points only four times. He has eight games of over 25 points during that streak, and he has averaged 7.5 assists during that span.

    Lawson isn't doing it alone, however.

    Kenneth Faried is shooting over 50 percent in the last 10 games. Andre Iguodala is around 47 percent as well, so the team has three players at the top of their games.

    Denver is making a late surge, and they could wind up being the No. 3 seed if they keep it up.

No. 3: San Antonio Spurs (48-15)

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    There may be some debate about No. 2 and No. 3, but luckily they will meet on the court on Monday.

    The San Antonio Spurs got smacked by 30 against Portland in their last game, but that's the only game they have lost in regulation since the first week of February. They lost two games in overtime in a three-game stretch last week.

    The Spurs are a top-5 offense and a top-10 defense. That will be a deadly combination in the playoffs.

    Tony Parker's currently out, so that's one reason they aren't No. 2 right now. 

    Danny Green continues to be a pleasant surprise. He has shot nearly 50 percent in the last 10 games and is shooting 43 percent from three-point range on the season. Not only has he been a great shooter, but he has been solid on defense.

    Tim Duncan is still Tim Duncan. Never count out the Spurs as long as he's playing.

No. 2: Oklahoma City Thunder (47-16)

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    Monday's meeting between the Spurs and the Thunder could end with the two being tied atop the Western Conference. 

    Oklahoma City has the NBA's top offense. Kevin Durant has been held under 25 points only once this month, and he has flirted with a double-double nearly every game. He also has two triple-doubles in his last nine games.

    Russell Westbrook has at least 29 points in three of the five games this month, and he has two double-doubles in those games. What makes it interesting was that one was because of his assists and one was because of his rebounding.

    The Thunder have won seven of eight games, and the only loss was a two-point defeat at Denver.

    Oklahoma City is healthy and playing better than San Antonio right now, so they get the nod.

No. 1: Miami Heat (47-14)

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    Not even up for debate.

    On Sunday, the Heat ran their winning streak to 18 games by defeating the Indiana Pacers (recap via ESPN.com). Here are some of the opponents that have fallen victim to the Heat during the streak: Rockets, Clippers, Lakers, Thunder, Hawks, Bulls, Knicks and Pacers.

    Most of those games have been blowouts. The closer games have been against teams like the Magic and the Kings.

    As the only team that has clinched a playoff spot, they have built up a comfortable lead as the No. 1 seed. If any of their players get banged up, they have the ability to rest them to get them ready for the postseason.

    LeBron James is the NBA's Most Valuable Player. Going through the numbers at this point would just be redundant. He is just on another level at this point, and now he has his team on a franchise-record winning streak.

    Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are no slouches, but James is just playing out of his mind.