The 2013-14 NBA season is back in full swing and demanding attention from fans after a brief hiatus for All-Star Weekend and a major distraction in the form of a relatively dull trade deadline.
With less than two months of hoops action left before the playoffs get started, it’s time to consider how every team in the league stands.
There is a good probability that these latest rankings do not change too much at the end of the campaign, as each club has shown its true colors and major moves are unlikely since the deadline has passed.
Let’s take a look at the updated power rankings:
1. Miami Heat
The Heat proved that they are still the team to beat in this league by dominating the rival Thunder this past Thursday.
The schedule has been pretty sparse since, as Miami has played just one game in the six days following that matchup. It’s fortunate, as LeBron James broke his nose in the contest and had to miss Sunday’s showdown with Chicago.
2. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers are locked and loaded for a playoff run after dumping Danny Granger and bringing aboard Evan Turner at the deadline.
Expect the coaching staff to work to integrate the versatile swingman into the lineup over the next few weeks. He failed to log a minute in Saturday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks but is sure to see time in the immediate future.
3. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs were forced to play nine consecutive road games and emerged a respectable 6-3 in that span.
They return home for a three-game stand against Detroit, Charlotte and Dallas, so expect a few more wins to be added to this team’s total, which would put it closer to surpassing the Thunder for the top spot in the Western Conference.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook must shake off the rust and return to form for OKC to be a truly dominant force in the West and have a shot at winning the Finals in 2014.
His return hasn’t gone all that great thus far, but his presence should make the difference between another early exit and a Western Conference Finals appearance come the postseason.
5. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers added some frontcourt depth by snatching up Glen “Big Baby” Davis after his release from the Orlando Magic.
Considering Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan were getting run into the ground by head coach Doc Rivers—who had little in the way of suitable reserves on his bench—this signing should be remembered as one of the better ones of the current season.
6. Houston Rockets
The Rockets have turned it up a notch on both ends of the floor and are rounding into a complete team at the right time.
The sky is the limit for this squad if it can keep up a high level of play on the defensive end and carry that momentum into the playoffs.
7. Phoenix Suns
Phoenix has an extremely tough schedule to close out the 2013-14 campaign, but it has defied expectations all season long.
Don’t expect the upstart Suns to cave now, as they can taste the playoffs and deserve to be there due to their strong play.
8. Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers lost LaMarcus Aldridge for a week due to a strained groin but may have found a great bench contributor in the process.
Thomas Robinson stepped up and delivered a 14-point, 18-rebound performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Portland needs more from its bench, so it will be interesting to see if T-Rob can carve out a bigger role once Aldridge is back in action.
9. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs have won eight of their last 10 and are finally starting to get better on the boards.
This team still doesn’t have the size needed to hang with some of the giants in the conference, but could play spoiler come the spring due to the presence of Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and their rag-tag supporting cast.
10. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizz have turned it around after early-season woes and are squarely in playoff contention for some of the last spots in the West.
With Tony Allen back in the lineup, it’s likely that Memphis improves even more on defense and morphs back into the smothering unit it was during their 2013 Western Conference Finals run.
11. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are a defensive juggernaut but still find themselves plagued by inconsistent play once their starters hit the pine.
Andrew Bogut has to get back in uniform before we can truly find out if Golden State is a pretender or contender going into the 2014 playoffs.
12. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors are a well-rounded club and have been playing arguably the best basketball in the East outside of the two powerhouses atop the conference.
This team is going to be intriguing to watch in the playoffs, as Toronto could knock on the door of the conference finals if it catches fire at the right time.
13. Washington Wizards
Nene is the key cog to the Wizards defense, so fans should closely monitor his knee strain. He left Sunday’s game against the Cavs, and it could have a lasting impact on what this group is capable of doing down the stretch.
Hopefully it isn’t a major issue for Washington, as it is on the verge of its first playoff run since 2008.
14. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls simply will not roll over and die, leaning on unheralded players to lead them into contention after trading away Luol Deng and losing Derrick Rose for the season.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau has instilled an understanding into his players that great defense can overcome all odds, which is exactly what they are doing, and it is working to great effectiveness.
15. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets made shock waves by signing Jason Collins to a 10-day contract, and the move should pay off.
He’s the sort of vocal defender that head coach Jason Kidd coveted, and he’ll be able to contribute tough screens and six fouls coming off the bench for this size-starved squad.
General manager Billy King commented on the historic signing in a statement, via Fran Blinebury of NBA.com:
The decision to sign Jason was a basketball decision. We needed to increase our depth inside, and with his experience and size, we felt he was the right choice for a 10-day contract.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves
The T-Wolves should be better than their record indicates, but this dysfunctional squad cannot seem to find a way to shore up its defense.
Kevin Love is playing out of his mind on offense, but it is clear Minnesota needs to get some stops and protect the basket better on the opposite end of the court.
17. Charlotte Bobcats
The Bobcats have not lost since the All-Star break and continue to barrel towards their second playoff appearance in franchise history.
If Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson are both in the zone, Charlotte can put up enough points to beat anyone—largely due to a strong defensive scheme that head coach Steve Clifford has implemented.
18. New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans are a young team, but some of their recent shortcomings have been inexcusable. They suffered through three losses in the past week that all could have been wins had a play or two gone their way.
Once the inexperienced but talented stars learn to close out games, New Orleans is going to be a squad to watch in the loaded Western Conference.
19. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks need to get healthy in order to get back on track for some home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference.
Atlanta doesn’t rely on any individual to get the job done, but losing All-Star Paul Millsap to a knee contusion is a crippling blow that will hinder its ability to win until he’s back on the court.
20. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs are still trying to figure things out, which isn’t a good sign considering they’ve seemingly gone all in on trying to make the playoffs this year.
Cleveland needs to identify what is working and what isn’t in a hurry, as it is in serious danger of missing the postseason with a 22-35 record with more than two-thirds of the season in the rearview.
21. Sacramento Kings
The Kings are looking like a fringe playoff squad in 2014-15 if they can keep building around the success they have found with the Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins tandem.
Isaiah Thomas seems to be the odd man out here, as Sacramento was reportedly looking to trade him at the deadline, and the point guard is due to hit restricted free agency this summer.
22. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons made the bold move to can their coach in the middle of the season, swapping Maurice Cheeks for interim John Loyer.
It might have paid off right away with a win over the Spurs, but this is a dysfunctional Detroit team that has since lost four of five and is playing terrible basketball—especially on the defensive end of the floor.
23. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets haven’t had much go right for them in 2013-14, and it’s looking more like this team is going to have to rebuild through the lottery this coming offseason.
The odds were against Denver going into the campaign due to the sheer amount of upheaval and change surrounding the team. It proved to be too much for a group that was already overachieving for a few years under former coach George Karl.
24. New York Knicks
The Knicks may be accepting their fate, as the latest reports indicate the team is hoping to buy out some of the veteran bench players now that the deadline has passed.
While the Eastern Conference is absolutely abysmal, New York is even worse. The only thing that could have saved this squad was sweeping changes, and it is far too late for that at this juncture.
25. Orlando Magic
The Magic’s rebuilding effort is humming right along, and hopefully this team can make some strides to close the season strong.
It will still be a bit before fans are talking playoffs down in Orlando, but adding a solid piece or two in the offseason and getting the younger players more experience will go a long way.
26. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are looking forward to the upcoming lottery, as the ping pong balls might change this franchise’s fortunes forever.
The Kobe Bryant era is coming to a close in Los Angeles, so a new star must be unearthed in the draft for the Lakers to remain relevant going forward.
27. Utah Jazz
The Jazz know that just getting their young pieces more reps is instrumental at this point in the season. They are out of contention and have to see what they have going into yet another critical offseason.
A few shrewd personnel choices this summer and nailing the draft could have Utah competing sooner than people expect.
28. Boston Celtics
The Celtics stood pat the trade deadline, a surprising move considering the amount of assets this team has.
General manager Danny Ainge has built a contender from a pretender in one offseason, back when he brought in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to augment Paul Pierce on the way to a championship run in 2008.
It’s doubtful he can overhaul the C’s like that again this summer, but he could make significant strides towards morphing this club back into a powerhouse.
29. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks are downright terrible and currently have the worst record in the league.
On the bright side, there is tons of room for improvement, and this offseason could be a fun one for fans in Milwaukee, as the team has plenty of cap space and draft picks.
30. Philadephia 76ers
The 76ers continued to tinker with the roster at the deadline, moving contributors such as Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes to acquire more future assets and financial maneuverability.
General manager Sam Hinkie is taking the long road to morphing Philly back into a contender, but it might be worth it in the end.
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