Week 16 NBA Power Rankings: Thunder and Suns Surge Into Top 10
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With the trade deadline looming about a week-and-a-half away, fringe teams are trying to decide between being buyers or sellers, while contenders are contemplating standing pat as opposed to making a move to beef up the roster for the playoff stretch.
While the Cavaliers continue to roll at the top, each of last season's Finals participants (the Lakers and Magic) have started to gain some steam as we near the All-Star break.
Here's how all 30 teams stack up headed into the unofficial halfway point of the season.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (41-11, Last Week: 1)
Cleveland has now won 11 games in a row, and has stretched their lead in the Eastern Conference all the way to 6.5 games over second-place Orlando.
As the season progresses, LeBron James is just getting better and better.
He put on a show Saturday night against New York, with 47 points (35 in the first half alone), eight rebounds, eight assists, and five steals.
2. Denver Nuggets (34-17, Last Week: 3)
In Friday night's big 126-113 win over the Lakers at Staples Center, Chauncey Billups poured in 39 points with an incredible nine three-pointers.
Considering how good the Nuggets have been without Carmelo Anthony, it's scary to think about how good they can be once he comes back.
3. Los Angeles Lakers (40-13, Last Week: 2)
Kobe Bryant missed his second game in a row Monday night, but the Lakers were able to stop the Spurs at home.
However, if Kobe isn't able to shed the slew of injuries he's suffered so far this season, LA certainly isn't going to be cruising through the Western Conference playoffs.
4. Utah Jazz (31-18, Last Week: 6)
The Jazz stretched their win streak to eight games with Saturday's 116-106 victory over the Nuggets, who were playing without both Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony.
Utah is suddenly looking very formidable in the West, after starting the season hovering near .500 for the first month or so.
5. Orlando Magic (35-17, Last Week: 5)
The Magic were able to take down the Celtics for the second time in two weeks Sunday, using a huge third-quarter run and a barrage of three-pointers to steal the game in Boston.
Vince Carter suffered through one of the worst months of his career in January, but his 48-point explosion against New Orleans has to make the Magic feel a bit better about him.
6. Atlanta Hawks (32-17, Last Week: 4)
Due to the NBA's unnecessary insistence that there be a second "center" on the All-Star roster, Al Horford was selected as a reserve over more-deserving teammate Josh Smith.
With injuries occurring seemingly every day to this season's All-Stars, might Smith get a call in the end?
7. Phoenix Suns (31-21, Last Week: 15)
Phoenix has quietly won five in a row, and has been led by the resurgence of Amar'e Stoudemire.
During the five-game streak, Stoudemire is averaging 26.6 points, 10 rebounds, and over a block per game.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder (29-21, Last Week: 17)
Like Phoenix, OKC has won five straight games, and has climbed all the way to seventh in the West.
Kevin Durant hasn't scored fewer than 25 points in a game since the calendar switched over to 2010, and his rebounding numbers are skyrocketing as well.
9. Toronto Raptors (28-23, Last Week: 9)
They were in this same slot last week, and have done nothing to warrant being dropped since then.
With Sunday's home win over Sacramento, the Raptors improved to 19-6 at the Air Canada Centre this season.
10. Boston Celtics (32-17, Last Week: 8)
Garnett injury + Pierce Injury + Allen Ineffectiveness + Rasheed Ineffectiveness = the Celtics are old, and are wearing down quickly.
They may be the contender that needs to make a move the most by the deadline.
11. Dallas Mavericks (32-19, Last Week: 7)
Not so fast, Celtics!
The Mavericks have also looked awful lately, and needed a furious fourth-quarter surge just to take down the Warriors Monday night.
They've been involved in just about every major trade rumor.
12. San Antonio Spurs (29-21, Last Week: 12)
The Spurs are still struggling, and it isn't a good sign that they lost to the Lakers by double-digits without having to face Kobe Bryant or Andrew Bynum.
For now, they are still stuck in the group of teams fighting for the final playoff spots.
13. Portland Trail Blazers (30-23, Last Week: 10)
Portland is clinging to the eighth spot out West, just a game-and-a-half ahead of Houston.
They have a tough back-to-back starting tonight against Oklahoma City and Phoenix.
14. Chicago Bulls (24-25, Last Week: 16)
The Bulls lost three in a row in the middle of last week, but rebounded with a win Friday over Miami.
Their final two before the break are at Indiana and home against Orlando.
15. Houston Rockets (27-23, Last Week: 18)
The Rockets are 5-5 in their last 10 games, but, due to the struggles of the Mavs and Spurs, are just 4.5 games out of the Southwest Division lead.
Without Trevor Ariza and Kyle Lowry tonight in Miami, the Rockets are going to need Chase Budinger to handle more of the scoring load.
16. Charlotte Bobcats (24-25, Last Week: 11)
The once red-hot Bobcats have dropped three straight games and are tied with Chicago for the sixth spot out East.
What better way to potentially head into the break on a high note than with games against Washington and Minnesota?
17. Milwaukee Bucks (23-26, Last Week: 20)
With the struggles of the Heat, the Bucks are now tied (in terms of record) with Miami for the final playoff spot.
Oh, and I can think of a better way to head into the break: with games against Detroit and New Jersey.
18. New Orleans Hornets (27-25, Last Week: 13)
New Orleans blew a 17-point second-half lead and dropped a game to Orlando Monday night that they should've had.
Luckily for the Hornets, it's unlikely that anybody in New Orleans noticed.
19. Memphis Grizzlies (26-24, Last Week: 14)
The Grizz have come crashing back down to earth since their big win last Monday night over the Lakers, losing three straight games.
20. Philadelphia 76ers (19-31, Last Week: 25)
Where did this come from?
Philly has won four in a row, and appears to be pushing towards the playoffs.
Will their recent success make them reconsider potentially trading Andre Iguodala?
21. Miami Heat (24-27, Last Week: 19)
The Heat have been abysmal lately.
It won't get any easier, as they face a back-to-back with Houston and Atlanta Tuesday and Wednesday.
22. Los Angeles Clippers (21-29, Last Week: 21)
The Mike Dunleavy coaching era is over in Clipperland, but interim coach Kim Hughes has gotten off to a rough start with a 98-81 loss to San Antonio.
On the plus side, Chris Kaman was named to the All-Star team as a replacement for Brandon Roy.
23. New York Knicks (19-31, Last Week: 22)
It's almost official: Still waiting for summer 2010.
Since the All-Star teams were announced, snub David Lee has been playing out of his mind, and is now averaging about 20 points and 12 rebounds per game on the season.
24. Minnesota Timberwolves (13-38, Last Week: 29)
How can the worst team (by record) in the Western Conference be as high as 24?
They've impressively won four straight games, while everyone else near the bottom of the West is mired in a terrible funk.
They've also had a different leading scorer in each of those four wins (Brewer, Love, Flynn, Gomes).
25. Indiana Pacers (18-33, Last Week: 26)
Will Troy Murphy be traded?
The 29-year-old forward is averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds per game this season, and could be a nice addition to a contender's frontcourt.
26. Washington Wizards (17-32, Last Week: 23)
It's been recently reported that if Caron Butler were to be going somewhere, he's likely headed to Texas, to either Houston or Dallas.
It's been an extremely disappointing season for a team with better talent than they've shown.
It probably doesn't help that the face of their franchise has been suspended for the season.
27. Detroit Pistons (17-32, Last Week: 27)
The Pistons, after spending much of the first decade of this century at the top of the Eastern Conference standings, are currently tied for the second-worst record in the East to start the new decade.
With several long-term contracts on their books, it will be tough for Detroit to try and rebuild any time soon.
28. Sacramento Kings (16-34, Last Week: 24)
It's shocking how awful the Kings have been with Kevin Martin in the lineup this season.
The Kings have only recorded two of their 16 wins this season with Martin on the floor.
29. Golden State Warriors (13-39, Last Week: 28)
The injury-ravaged Warriors have now dropped nine straight games, and they received more bad news last night against Dallas when Monta Ellis went down late in the fourth quarter with an apparent injury to his surgically-repaired ankle.
It's an unfortunate occurrence for Ellis, whose uncertain status may cause him to be skipped over should the Western Conference All-Stars need a replacement for Kobe Bryant.
30. New Jersey Nets (4-46, Last Week: 30)
Good lord, this team is so horrible.
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