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NBA Power Rankings: Lakers' Weapons Keep Them on Top

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NBA Power Rankings: Lakers' Weapons Keep Them on Top

Kobe Bryant's improbable heroics against Miami Friday night helped the Lakers' win streak stay alive. 

The defending champs have now won nine consecutive games, and are the NBA's undisputed heavyweight through the first quarter of the '09-'10 season.

1. Los Angeles Lakers (16-3, Last Week: 1)

Center Andrew Bynum, now playing in his fifth NBA season, appears primed to make his first All-Star appearance.

The 22-year-old Bynum is averaging 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game for the streaking Lakers.

 

2. Orlando Magic (17-4, Last Week: 2)

The essential swap of Hedo Turkoglu for Vince Carter appears to be working greatly in Orlando's favor so far. 

VC has been on fire lately, and is averaging close to 20 points per game for the season.

Carter gives the Magic a true perimeter scorer that can create his own shot and is explosive enough to take over a game by himself.

The artist formerly known as "Air Canada" is looking like the perfect complement to Dwight Howard down low.

 

3. Boston Celtics (17-4, Last Week: 4)

While the Celtics have beaten their fair share of mediocre teams over the course of their current eight-game winning streak, the streak does include impressive wins on the road over Miami and San Antonio. 

It's not going to get much more difficult for the Celtics either, as their upcoming schedule looks like this: at Washington, at Chicago, at Memphis, vs. Philadelphia, vs. Minnesota, vs. Indiana.

 

4. Denver Nuggets (16-6, Last Week: 8)

While it's still extremely early, Carmelo Anthony is looking like a legitimate MVP contender.

Anthony is going for about 30 points and six rebounds per game, while shooting 48 percent from the floor, and 87 percent from the line. 

 

5. Cleveland Cavaliers (15-6, Last Week: 5)

With the recent failures of the Bucks, the Cavs have already built a five-and-a-half-game lead in the Central Division after just 20 games.

24-year-old LeBron James is averaging 27 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists per game.

If you don't think he could average a triple-double someday, you're wrong.

 

6. Atlanta Hawks (14-6, Last Week: 6)

The Hawks rebounded from a curious home loss to the Knicks by going into Dallas and beating the Mavericks 80-75. 

While allowing Dirk Nowitzki to score 32 of Dallas' 75 points, Atlanta was able to hold every other Dallas player (other than Jason Terry, who scored 17) under 10 points.

 

7. Dallas Mavericks (14-7, Last Week: 7)

Since shooting an incredible 81 percent in the first half of last week's historic win over the Nets, the Mavs offense has been MIA, as the team has scored 82 and 75 points in their past two games, respectively.

The impact of the Josh Howard injury appears to be setting in for the Mavericks, as Howard is the only player on the roster other than Nowitzki capable of consistently getting his own shot.

 

8. Phoenix Suns (15-7, Last Week: 3)

With Tuesday's one-point loss to Dallas, the Suns have suddenly lost four of their last five games.

Amar'e Stoudemire, a career 21-9 guy, is averaging 19-8 this season.

In order for the Suns to remain in the upper echelon of the West, they're going to have to get more out of him.

 

9. Utah Jazz (12-8, Last Week: 11)

The Jazz have been all over the place so far this season, but have quietly gone 8-2 in their last 10 games.

They're about to be tested in their next three games, though: at Lakers, vs. Magic, vs. Lakers.

 

10. Portland Trail Blazers (13-9, Last Week: 9)

Portland's win over the Rockets Saturday night was marred by the Greg Oden season-ending injury.

Oden's broken kneecap is just the latest chapter in what has turned into one of the league's saddest stories. 

 

11. Houston Rockets (11-9, Last Week: 13)

Following Saturday's loss to Portland to cap off a west coast road trip, the Rockets have three days off to prepare for the Cavaliers, who come to town Wednesday night.

Those scrappy Rockets have struggled to win games against the better teams in the league, but their perseverance and relentless style of play certainly make it tough on their opponent.

 

12. Miami Heat (11-9, Last Week: 12)

Tough to punish Miami much after losing in the toughest possible fashion last Friday night against the Lakers, one night after being blown out in Denver.

Miami gets a few days off before a rematch of the '06 finals against the Mavs this Friday night.

 

13. Oklahoma City Thunder (11-9, Last Week: 15)

While the Thunder are near the top of the league in defense, the stellar offensive play of both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have made GM Sam Presti look like a draft-day genius.

Durant is averaging 28 points and seven rebounds per game, and Westbrook is going for 16 points and seven assists a game.

 

14. San Antonio Spurs (9-9, Last Week: 10)

The Spurs have just struggled to play consistently well in the early going.

While they've played tough opponents (Boston, Denver, Utah) during their three-game losing streak, those are the kinds of games the Spurs are going to have to start winning in order to come anywhere close to contending for a championship.

 

15. Milwaukee Bucks (9-11, Last Week: 14)

The Bucks have fallen hard since their 8-3 start.

They've started off December with three consecutive losses, and it's not going to get much easier, as they still have games with Boston, Portland, LA Lakers, Orlando, and Cleveland before the month is over.

 

16. Sacramento Kings (9-11, Last Week: 16)

Rookie guard Tyreke Evans has been on fire lately, and has risen as a legitimate contender to Bucks guard Brandon Jennings for the Rookie of the Year award.

Evans leads the surprising Kings in both scoring (20 PPG) and assists (5 APG) so far.

 

17. Charlotte Bobcats (8-11, Last Week: 17)

The Bobcats have the dubious distinction of being the only team in the league that the New Jersey Nets have defeated this season.

Luckily for Charlotte, they were able to rebound with a win over Philadelphia; a team that may actually be worse than New Jersey right now.

 

18. New Orleans Hornets (9-11, Last Week: 21)

Chris Paul returned in a big way after missing several weeks with an ankle injury, tallying 16 points, 15 assists, and eight steals in New Orleans' 98-89 victory over Minnesota. 

Maybe his return can save the Hornets' awful road record.

Through 10 road games so far, the Hornets are 1-9.

 

19. Los Angeles Clippers (9-12, Last Week: 19)

How badly has the bottom half of the Eastern Conference struggled thus far?

If the Clippers were in the East, they'd currently be in seventh place.

In the West, the Clips sit in 11th.

 

20. Toronto Raptors (10-13, Last Week: 22)

Despite their sub-.500 record, the Raptors are actually in second place in the Atlantic Division.

If they want to make the playoffs, they'll have to beat up on lowly divisional rivals Philadelphia, New York, and New Jersey.

 

21. Memphis Grizzlies (9-12, Last Week: 24)

The Grizzlies are actually 6-4 in their past 10 games.

Remember the draft's second overall pick, Hasheem Thabeet?

He's averaging 2.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, and .9 blocks per game in 10 minutes per game this season. 

Stellar!

 

22. Detroit Pistons (8-12, Last Week: 23)

Ben Wallace, after almost retiring over the summer, has looked a bit like his old self in his first season back in Detroit.

Big Ben is averaging nine rebounds and just over one block per game for the Pistons, who have struggled to find their groove as a team so far.

 

23. Washington Wizards (7-12, Last Week: 26)

After two straight close wins over the Raptors and Bucks, the Wizards then lost two close games to the Raptors and Pistons.

They've played much better since the return of Antawn Jamison, and, with the rest of the conference struggling, I still believe the Wizards to be a playoff team.

 

24. Chicago Bulls (7-12, Last Week: 20)

Luol Deng is enjoying a nice comeback season, going for 17 points and eight rebounds per game.

Unfortunately, the Bulls have been awful lately, and just lost Tuesday night to the suddenly hot Nets.

 

25. Indiana Pacers (6-12, Last Week: 18)

The Pacers have lost five in a row, and are just 1-9 in their last 10 games.

What's a good way to stop a losing streak?

A game against those Nets this Friday night.

 

26. Golden State Warriors (6-12, Last Week: 25)

The Warriors are 0-4 in their last four games; all against teams currently in the playoff picture.

On the bright side, Monta Ellis is finally looking like the same guy the Warriors committed $66 million to, and is averaging close to 25 points per game this season.

 

27. New York Knicks (7-14, Last Week: 28)

Still waiting for 2010.

However, the Knicks have impressively won three straight, including wins over the Hawks and Blazers.

 

28. Minnesota Timberwolves (3-18, Last Week: 29)

Just call them the Minnesota Dragon Slayers.

Just six days after stunning the Denver Nuggets, the Minnesota Dragon Slayers struck again, defeating the Utah Jazz last Saturday night.

 

29. Philadelphia 76ers (5-16, Last Week: 27)

Why are they behind the T'Wolves if their record is better?

The Sixers have now lost 10 in a row, and are looking like they're out of the playoff race before it even gets started. 

The way they're looking, even the "mighty" Allen Iverson can't save them.

 

30. New Jersey Nets (2-19, Last Week: 30)

Suddenly, the Nets have won two of their last three games, after beating Chicago Tuesday night.

With their next two against the Warriors and Pacers, could the Nets actually be looking at a little winning streak?

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