NBA Power Rankings: Nuggets Third of Four Championship Contenders

Rich Kurtzman@@RichKurtzman Senior Analyst IFebruary 23, 2010

As the NBA season chugged past the trade deadline this week, many of the league’s powerhouses added big names to help them challenge for a championship.

The Cleveland Cavaliers grabbed veteran power forward Antawn Jamison, a 20-10 career guy, to aid King James in finally earning his crown. The Dallas Mavericks added Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood, both likely improvements that have yet to pay dividends. Likewise, Houston traded away Tracy McGrady and Carl Landry, while picking up stellar youngster Kevin Martin, improving immediately while setting up for future success as well.

Other playoff players, including the Lakers, Nuggets, and Magic, all stood pat, believing their current makeup is good enough to compete.

And while the regular season nears the last quarter of its games, many in the media are arguing that there are only four realistic contenders for the 2010 NBA title. Not surprisingly, those four led Bleacher Report’s power rankings last week , and they do once again this time around.

But, the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks have been quickly closing in and may still make noise in this great league.

And now, the post-NBA trade deadline power rankings.

1. LA Lakers (Last Week: 2)

The Lakers regained the top spot on our list as the Cavaliers took a stumble. Despite missing their undoubted leader, Kobe Bryant, LA is still holding onto the No. 1 spot in the west, five games ahead of Denver.

Cleveland (Last Week: 1)

Cleveland made the biggest news of the week by getting Jamison, but his acquisition has not worked out so far. The Cavs not only saw their 13-game winning streak snapped by the Nuggets this week, but they are 0-3 since the trade.

Denver (Last Week: 3)

After the Nuggets beat the Cavs Thursday in Cleveland, some said they were the NBA’s best team . Denver then lost to Washington and put those thoughts in doubt. But on Sunday, the Nuggets beat another of the NBA’s elite in the Celtics, and their 7-1 record against division leaders has the Denver Post’s Woody Paige calling them legit contenders .

Orlando (Last Week: 4)

The Magic have been holding steady as the No. 2 team in the East, and at 38-19 they are still in the title race. They aren’t as consistent as Cleveland; are they as good? No, but they should still go deep into the playoffs.

Utah (Last Week: 5)

The Jazz are without a doubt the hottest team in the NBA right now. At 19-2 since the start of January, Utah is only one game behind Denver in the Northwest and sit third in the West overall.

Oklahoma City (Last Week: 10)

The Thunder have made the biggest jump from last week to this one on our power rankings, and their fantastic play is a big reason why. Oklahoma City, behind second leading scorer Kevin Durant, is on an NBA best nine-game winning streak.

Dallas (Last Week: 7)

Dallas is on a nice little streak of their own, the winners of the last four, and they lead the Southwest by three-and-a-half games.

Phoenix (Last Week: 11)

The Suns are 8-2 in their last 10 games but are still only middle of the pack in the West. Phoenix sits in fifth overall and have many wondering how deep they will go in the playoffs this year.

Boston (Last Week: 8)

Boston has been falling off lately, at only 6-4 in their last 10, and injuries are catching up to the aging Cs. Luckily they didn’t trade away Ray Allen because the 34-year-old shooting guard has been keeping the Celtics afloat as of late.

Atlanta (Last Week: 6)

The Hawks are inconsistent of late, but playing in the East definitely benefits them. Atlanta is currently fourth, and are only a half game behind Boston in third.

Toronto (Last Week: 13)

The Raptors are hot right now, 8-2 in their last 10, and making a serious push towards the playoffs. It’s too bad Chris Bosh will be leaving in the offseason because it seems Toronto is remembering how to play basketball again.

Portland (Last Week: 12)

The bruised and battered Blazers have battled tough all season in the face of a multitude of injuries. Portland is hanging onto the playoffs in seventh position but they did just get their best player in Brandon Roy back from injury.

San Antonio (Last Week: 9)

The Spurs are falling both in the power rankings and in playoff seedings as well, down to eighth in the West. Has the championship window finally closed in San Antonio?

Chicago (Last Week: 19)

The Bulls made a jump on our list after playing winning basketball lately; 6-4 in their last 10 is solid for the sixth best team in the East.

New Orleans (Last Week: 16)

The Hornets are currently on the outside of the playoffs looking in at 30-26, and they could really benefit from the return of leader Chris Paul.

Miami (Last Week: 18)

The Heat are only 5-5 in their last 10 and the days of Miami being in Wade county could be near their end. 

Houston (Last Week: 14)

The Rockets are on a two-game losing streak since getting Kevin Martin, but their moves will set up much cap room for the future as well as a young star in Martin.

Charlotte (Last Week: 17)

Charlotte is about to be overtaken by Milwaukee for the last playoff spot in the East and at 4-6 in their last 10, deservedly so.

Memphis (Last Week: 15)

The fact that the Grizzlies are over .500 (28-27) and are out of the playoffs is a good illustration of why the West is better than the East.

Milwaukee (Last Week: 20)

We admittedly slept on the Bucks this week. Their 7-3 record in the last 10 is second best in the East currently as they make a push for the playoffs.

Philadelphia (Last Week: 21)

The 76ers are bad and will not be better any time soon it seems. And to add insult to injury, Allen Iverson may never play for Philly again.

22. LA Clippers
(Last Week: 22)

The Clippers traded away Marcus Camby to the Blazers and owner Donald Sterling is saying he wants to make a run at a big name free agent this coming summer. Still, don’t hold your breath Clippers fans.

Detroit (Last Week: 25)

It’s sad to see the greats fall, and the Pistons were once the best the East had to offer. Now, the championship teams have been destructed, and even Rip Hamilton may be moved.

Washington (Last Week: 27)

The Wizards are somehow playing well although the team was completely blown up at the deadline. Washington beat Denver with what some where calling a “D-League lineup.”

Sacramento (Last Week: 26)

The Kings are more like jesters at this point, losers of four straight, and they traded away the best player on their roster.

Golden State (Last Week: 28)

The Warriors still play basketball, just not well. Sure they score a lot of points, but they still can’t win. Sad.

Indiana (Last Week: 24)

The Pacers, along with the rest of the teams at the bottom of the list, are fighting for ping pong balls in the league’s lottery at this point.

New York (Last Week: 23)

Sure, the Knicks got an aged and hobbled Tracy McGrady to cheer for on Thursday, but they are still horrible. Their seven-game losing streak is currently the worst in the league.

Minnesota (Last Week: 29)

The Timberwolves are the only bad team in the Northwest, and they are terrible. After taking three point guards last year, their fans should hope for someone with size with their high pick in 2010.

New Jersey (Last Week: 30)

1-9 in their last 10, an NBA worst 18-game losing streak at one point this season, and a horrendous 5-51 record on the year all amount to the worst team the league has to offer. Somebody please cut the Nets down.

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 ), Bryan Toporek ( Philadelphia 76ers ), Jared Wright (Portland Trail Blazers), Shaun Ahmad ( Washington Wizards ) and DeMarco Williams (NBA Lead).

Follow Rich on twitter and facebook .


    Sexton Doesn't Feel Pressure to Fill Kyrie's Shoes

    NBA logo

    Sexton Doesn't Feel Pressure to Fill Kyrie's Shoes

    Alec Nathan
    via Bleacher Report

    Nuggets Las Vegas Summer League Roster Is Ready

    Denver Nuggets logo
    Denver Nuggets

    Nuggets Las Vegas Summer League Roster Is Ready

    TJ McBride
    via Mile High Sports

    5 Questions Facing MPJ and the Nuggets

    Denver Nuggets logo
    Denver Nuggets

    5 Questions Facing MPJ and the Nuggets

    Denver Stiffs
    via Denver Stiffs