As we bring in the New Year and usher out 2009, one thing has remained constant for much of the year. The NBA's elite four have been the same bunch. Their ranks have switched around, but the nucleus of the very best has remained intact.
Will 2010 bring change? Doesn't look like it. For now, let's take a look at the final rankings for 2009.
1. LA Lakers - We are aware that the Cavaliers walloped the Lakers on national television on Christmas Day, much to the delight of LeBron enthusiasts. But keep in mind it was one game, and the Lakers have a much better resume at this point in the season.
2. Boston - I can't remember the last time I had such a hard time determining who the better team was—LA or Boston. I'm sure the NBA suits love this, as we all should. One of the most historic and storied rivalries looks like it will add another chapter come June, 2010.
3. Cleveland - Christmas Day was an example of how dangerous the Cavs can be when clicking on all cylinders. Now, if they can find a way to sustain that type of performance for the rest of the season, as well as when they play Orlando or Boston in a series, we might end up seeing a dream matchup of LeBron-Kobe in the Finals.
4. Orlando - Should have beaten the Celtics at home without Pierce, but better to lose now than later.
5. Atlanta - It's still hard for many outside Atlanta to take the Hawks seriously given how bad they were for much of the decade, but this team is growing before our eyes. They aren't at the Boston level yet, but they are well on their way.
6. Dallas - Dirk is having an MVP caliber season, and, for a change, the Mavs are playing defense.
7. Denver - Wanted to see Denver take the next step and compete for the No. 1 seed, but they have been a little stagnant this year. Still, there is a load of talent on this squad and Ty Lawson is no joke.
8. Portland - Injuries, injuries, injuries. When your coach is on crutches, you know it's bad.
9. Phoenix - Deja Vu with Dirk and Steve Nash both having MVP-type seasons. Nash has shown that it wasn't the D'Antoni system that had him doing so well. The Suns are fast and exciting once again.
10. San Antonio - The Spurs lack explosiveness that many anticipated they would gain with the addition of Richard Jefferson. Plenty of time remains in the season, but Duncan and Ginobili won't be getting any younger.
11. Houston - With their surprising finish to last season and start to this year, the Rockets have decided they do not need the services of one Tracy McGrady anymore. Expect him and his $23 million contract to be on their way out before the trading deadline.
12. Utah - Gritty team that continues to stay in the middle of the pack.
13. Miami - The Heat are overachieving with a decent set of young players to compliment Dwyane Wade. However, Pat Riley knows this team doesn't have the talent to compete for a championship yet.
14. Oklahoma City - One of the most exciting teams to watch. I pity the true fans of Seattle basketball.
15. Toronto - Very inconsistent, especially on the defensive end of the court.
16. New Orleans - Injuries have had their way with the Hornets, but with CP3 back in the lineup, you can never count them out of a game. They need to start winning on the road if they want to have a legitimate shot of making a run at the playoffs.
17. Sacramento - Rumors are out that Kevin Martin will be traded, but I don't see why the Kings can't incorporate Tyreke Evans and Martin together. It's a great young nucleus.
18. Memphis - Young teams blow fourth quarter leads. The Grizzlies are a very young team.
19. LA Clippers - Baron Davis's dropping the Celtics in overtime was the highlight of the season for Clips fans.
20. Milwaukee - Teams seem to have keyed in on Brandon Jennings as his scoring has slowly come down.
21. Charlotte - Another young team that can't win on the road or in close games.
22. Detroit - RIP has been killing my fantasy squad. Will he be healthy for more than one game at a time? Anyone?
23. New York - If I'm a Knicks fan, do I hope that we drop the remaining games, somehow get the No. 1 pick and take John Wall as bait for LeBron in 2010? Hmm.
24. Chicago - Del Negro will be fired. Whether it's today, tomorrow, or at the end of the season. He will be fired.
25. Washington - Give the Wizards until the All-Star break to gel and get healthy. Then watch out in the second half. They will be the most dangerous team to deal with for the playoff favorites.
26. Golden State - High-scoring ball club with no defense. Come on Nellie, you haven't learned by now that defenses win championships?
27. Indiana - Nine out of 10 basketball fans can't name three guys on this squad outside of Danny Granger.
28. Minnesota - Kevin Love and Corey Brewer are coming on strong. This team will be better in the coming seasons.
29. Philadelphia - Look at the bright side; you don't hear crickets in the arena anymore.
30. New Jersey - At least there's Jersey Shore.
The Bleacher Report NBA Power Rankings are done by averaging individual feature columnist's tallies. Weekly contributors are: Alex McVeigh (Dallas), Rich Kurtzman (Denver), Denton Ramsey (Houston Rockets), Jose Salviati (LA Clippers), Keith Schlosser (NY Knicks), Curtis Finchum (Oklahoma City), Brandon Ribak (Orlando Magic), Bryan Toporek (Philadelphia 76ers), Shaun Ahmad (Washington Wizards) and DeMarco Williams (NBA Lead).
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