As we enter the last month of the season, things are starting to shape up. The Mavericks and Bucks are among two teams riding high in the last week or so, and teams like the Lakers are stumbling a bit.
The seeding for the playoffs is extremely tight, so each game counts more than ever, and we're starting to see teams that can and can't adapt to injury problems.
Without further ado:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (Last week: 2)
With LeBron's versatility, the Cavs really won't be missing Shaq or Big Z until they run up against the Celtics and/or Magic. Until then, they just better hope they can hold down the fort with LeBron sitting out.
2. Orlando Magic (Last week: 5)
A huge win over the Lakers yesterday showed that the Magic might be poised to make some...uh...magic come playoff time. With a healthy Jameer Nelson playing well again, and Matt Barnes providing an edge on the perimeter, the Magic might be back in the Finals.
3. Dallas Mavericks (Last week: 6)
No one can say the Mavs haven't faced their share of injuries, but with Dirk playing amazing basketball and rookie Rodrigue Beaubois providing a much needed spark , the Mavs are still gaining on the Lakers, and getting closer to locking up the No. 2 seed, which is the goal of every team not called the Lakers.
4. Los Angeles Lakers (Last week: 1)
I wouldn't be too concerned about the Lakers' recent troubles. I would be troubled about the fact that Ron Artest might be headed towards his annual meltdown, and Kobe is chewing out the team . Kobe seemed to become a better teammate last year while they were winning, but what about when times get rough?
5. Denver Nuggets (Last week: 3)
The Nuggets are working on a pretty good stretch of basketball right now, but might be missing some production with Kenyon Martin out for a stretch. If Birdman can make up for some of Martin's production, they might come out OK. They do have a tough schedule to close the season, and they're chasing Dallas, who has an easy one.
6. Utah Jazz (Last week: 4)
Jazz fans seem worried about another late-season swoon, but with Carlos Boozer holding down the paint and the wing players finding their three-point stroke , they're going to be a tough battle every night.
7. Boston Celtics (Last week: 10)
They certainly seem to be showing their age, but after the comeback win against the Wizards, no one can doubt that they still have the hearts of champions. I'm not sure what Michael Finley accomplishes for them, but if Kevin Garnett can get back into some form of himself , the Celtics are certainly capable of making a deep playoff run.
8. Phoenix Suns (Last week: 9)
Amar'e Stoudemire is putting up big numbers, and Steve Nash is still working his magic. The Suns have a lot of players that seem to be overachieving right now, but they could also be players that are just breaking out of their shell. They're playing with some swagger, and they're playing more physical basketball than previous incarnations.
9. Atlanta Hawks (Last week: 7)
The Hawks are one of the most exciting teams in the league to watch, but they also have a lot of question marks heading into the home stretch. The trouble will come with their lack of size at the center position, since they'll be going up against the likes of Dwight Howard, Shaq, and Kendrick Perkins. None of those mathups are easy.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder (Last week: 8)
Their turnaround this year has been stunning, and they've got a young superstar in the making with Kevin Durant (who is generating some legit MVP buzz ). Clearly they won't be winning a title this year, but they have quite the ceiling for the next decade, and if the Thunder were smart, they would have given Durant his extension yesterday.
11. San Antonio Spurs (Last week: 14)
With Tony Parker down, the Spurs might just be treading water at this point. Luckily, they are fairly deep at the point, with both George Hill and Roger Mason Jr. both capable of leading the team. However, those that claim that the Spurs are a second-half team are rapidly running out of time.
12. Portland Trailblazers (Last week: 11)
One bright side of the ridiculous rash of injuries for the Blazers has been the new talent they've unearthed. Martell Webster and Nicholas Batum have shown that they can be contributors on the NBA level. I would chalk this one up to a lost season for them, but they might be an exciting team once everyone is healthy.
13. Milwaukee Bucks (Last week: 19)
This week's highest riser, the Bucks are a team that are coming together in such a way that some are even labeling them the East's most dangerous team . Salmons looks to be a great fit, Bogut is turning into a monster, and we've seen the potential of Brandon Jennings.
14. Toronto Raptors (Last week: 13)
A recent cold streak has them in danger of missing the playoffs , which would certainly be the last straw for Chris Bosh. They can score alright, but with the defensive struggles of both DeMar DeRozan and Hedo Turkoglu, the Raptors just can't seem to string many wins together.
15. Miami Heat (Last week: 18)
We've seen the magic that Dwyane Wade can create on the floor, and not just with his scoring, as he showed with 14 assists against the Lakers. However, Michael Beasley has been about as inconsistent as they come as of late.
16. Memphis Grizzlies (Last week: 17)
Hasheem Thabeet seems to be a nowhere man, not developed enough for the big leagues, too developed for the developmental league. If Memphis can find a PG through the draft, and can re-sign Rudy Gay for next year, they could be another team on the rise.
17. Chicago Bulls (Last week: 12)
The Bulls have a great collection of talent, and they figure to be major players in this summer's free agency. As they move towards the playoffs though, assuming they get healthy , they can still make a good run this year, as Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah are two young players very capable of making a night-to-night impact.
18. Houston Rockets (Last week: 20)
Houston probably won't be making the playoffs this year , as Kevin Martin has taken a little time to adjust. But with Yao back next year, Luis Scola firmly entrenched at power forward, and Martin and Brooks, plus any help they get from the lottery makes them well-suited for next season.
19. Charlotte Bobcats (Last week: 16)
Charlotte seems to have the Lakers' number as of late, but they are still capable of shocking some team in the playoffs. They're s surprising team, and Larry Brown has done good things with them, I guess it's all up to Jordan now to keep them competitive.
20. New Orleans Hornets (Last week: 15)
With the stellar play of Darren Collison of late, some are wondering whether this makes Chris Paul expendable or not. Everything about human goodness makes me want to think it's not true, and it sounds like that Paul isn't going anywhere, but between Collison and Marcus Thornton, all of a sudden the Hornets have some good, young talent.
21. Los Angeles Clippers (Last week: 22)
The Clippers made a purely financial move at the deadline, in a possible attempt to get LeBron James , but they don't really have a history of getting lucky in those matters. They just better hope Blake Griffin is ready to come back and make an impact next year.
22. Philadelphia 76ers (Last week: 21)
The 76ers haven't really bounced back post-Iverson the way the Grizzlies have, but then again, they don't really have as much talent as the Grizzlies. With so much money tied up in scrubs like Brand and Dalembert, and an offense that just doesn't seem to be clicking , it doesn't look like things will be getting better in Philly anytime soon.
23. Washington Wizards (Last week: 24)
Andray Blatche was playing like a young Kevin Garnett , at least, until he ran into an older, trash-talking Kevin Garnett. The Wizards might have some cap space to play with this summer, but it's unclear who they will spend it on, and knowing them, probably not wisely.
24. Detroit Pistons (Last week: 23)
It sure was nice of the Pistons to use their cap space on Ben Gordon and Charlie V. Now, it looks like the only hope for the Pistons is to dump the last two members of the championship team.
25. Sacramento Kings (Last week: 25)
With Martin's departure clearing up the jam at shooting guard, and Carl Landry shoring up the power forward spot, the Kings are slowly getting it together. Some luck with the lottery balls, and they might have a young, exciting team to rival the Thunder.
26. Golden State Warriors (Last week: 27)
They sure have their work cut out this off-season , but this year, they'll be limping to the finish.
27. New York Knicks (Last week: 28)
Knicks fans have been telling themselves that this misery, they've gone through will be rewarded, but will it be rewarded with LeBron James, or Rudy Gay?
28. Indiana Pacers (Last week: 26)
The Pacers are another team close to rock bottom, with plenty of work to do .
29. Minnesota Timberwolves (Last week: 29)
The Wolves are being hampered more by coaching than by talent on the field. If they can't find a way to make the Kevin Love/Al Jefferson combo work, then they should all be fired. Most teams would kill for a young frontcourt duo like that.
30. New Jersey Nets (Last week: 30)
The good news? Well, the Nets might not just be the worst team in NBA history. And they might get Evan Turner . That's about it.
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), Shaun Ahmad (Washington Wizards) and DeMarco Williams (NBA Lead) .
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