I'm not sure if you were watching, but the New Orleans Hornets put the rest of the league on notice this week.
After climbing back into the contender conversation last week, the Hornets came out and dominated this week's schedule to improve to 29-16 on the season.
For those of you who haven't been paying attention, that is only eight wins off their total of 37 from last season.
I guess having All-Star Chris Paul back does a thing or two for your team's swagger.
The NBA was full of surprises last week, as we saw the New York Knicks continue their downward spiral with four more losses to bring their losing streak to six games in a row.
However, what was even more surprising was the upward surge of the Portland Trail Blazers.
After losing their team leaders Brandon Roy and Marcus Camby, many people expected the Trail Blazers to fade into the lottery.
A favorable schedule of Minnesota and Sacramento allowed them to pick up two easy wins, and then they capped off the week by beating the Clippers and Pacers.
And who says the regular season doesn't have story lines?
Will all of those wins place the Hornets among the NBA's elite?
How far will the New York Knicks slide in this week's rankings?
Let's take a look.
The Bleacher Report NBA Power Rankings are done by averaging individual featured columnists' tallies. This week's contributors were Bob Evans (NBA/Cavaliers), Andrew Bailey (NBA/Mavericks), Tyler Conway (NBA), Mario Gonzalez (NBA), Brian Chappatta (Bulls), and Allen Kim (NBA Team Leader).
Previous Ranking: 30
Last Week's Record: 0-3 (Losses to Phoenix, Milwaukee and Chicago)
Last week Cavaliers Featured Columnist Eric Felkey said things couldn't get much worse for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the power rankings.
Sorry Eric, but you were wrong.
Not only could the Cavaliers not defeat sub .500 teams in Phoenix and Milwaukee, but they lost two more players due to injury.
The Cavaliers failed to defeat the league's worst shooting team in a home game against Milwaukee.
And they lost point guards Ramon Sessions and Mo Williams in the process.
Williams could be out over a month, and the jury is still out on the Sessions injury.
In fact, if you didn't think it could get worse, the Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that Manny Harris could see time as the starting point guard.
Now I like Harris, but an undrafted rookie as your starting point guard halfway through the season?
Oh, I'd say things have gotten much worse.
Previous Ranking: 29
Last Week's Record: 0-3 ( Losses to Atlanta, Portland and Golden State)
I guess the best thing you can say is: at least we're not Cleveland.
Sacramento continued their poor showing this week by losing games to Atlanta, Portland and Golden State.
These losses bring something to mind.
What happened to all of the "Sacramento in the playoffs talk" from the preseason?
I mean, Sacramento only improved their roster by adding a center with starting experience and a rookie big man who was supposed to take their team to the next level.
And what has happened to Tyreke Evans?
His statistics are down across the board, and he looks lost on the court in his second season.
If the Kings don't fix the ship quick, they could find themselves looking up at the Cavaliers.
Okay, maybe we won't go that far.
Previous Ranking: 27
Last Week's Record: 0-2 (Losses to Portland and the Los Angeles Clippers)
With only two games on the schedule last week, Minnesota didn't do anything to help their cause.
This team is clueless and it is a shame because they have one of the game's rising stars in Kevin Love.
There has been increased talk about Ricky Rubio possibly coming to the NBA next season, but if Minnesota is his destination, why?
The Minnesota management team is hands down the worst in the NBA.
I even heard whispers they were considering trading a first round draft pick to the Knicks for Anthony Randolph.
If David Kahn pulls off that deal, Minnesota fans should boycott the rest of the season.
Kahn's ineptitude has pushed the Minnesota rebuild back another three or four seasons.
If you don't believe me, look at how well Al Jefferson is playing in Utah.
Previous Ranking: 25
Last Week's Record: 0-4 (Losses to New Orleans, San Antonio, Orlando and Miami)
Okay, so last week wasn't the easiest of schedules for the Raptors.
The teams they faced are now a combined 126-51, two of them are division leaders and the other two will be in the playoffs.
When you are one of the worst teams in the league and have that schedule, let's just say you will probably end up 0-4.
On a positive note, I read on one of the Toronto blogger's Twitter accounts that Ed Davis is out of his knee brace!
It's a sad day in Toronto when the top news of the week is that your rookie power forward isn't wearing his knee brace anymore.
As we say in Cleveland, there's always next year.
Previous Ranking: 28
Last Week's Record: 2-2 (Wins over Utah and Detroit, Losses to Golden State and Dallas)
So it wasn't a horrible week for New Jersey.
Unless you count the fact that your owner pulled your team out of the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes.
Then you might think the week went pretty bad.
But let's look at the positives.
The Nets defeated one of the Western Conference's better teams in the Utah Jazz, and beat up on the bumbling Detroit Pistons.
If they could have pulled off a win over Golden State or Dallas, people may have forgot about that Carmelo guy.
Okay, maybe not.
One thing that has become very obvious about this New Jersey team is that they need to make a deal before the deadline.
Contention for this season is probably not in the cards, but they have to bolster their rotation and the shooting guard and small forward positions.
Oh, and will somebody please let Troy Murphy out of there?
The guy is drowning in New Jersey.
Last Week's Ranking: 26
Last Week's Record: 2-2 (Wins over Utah and Boston, Losses to Phoenix and Milwaukee)
Can someone please tell me who the Washington Wizards are?
I mean, you don't beat Boston and Utah in the same week without having some sort of a team.
But then you can't lose to Phoenix and Milwaukee in the same week and claim to be a playoff contender.
Yes, the Washington Wizards are not officially out of the Eastern Conference playoff race...yet.
Wins over Utah and Boston are supposed to be the things that get your team going, but you cannot lose to sub .500 teams if you are looking to gain any momentum.
And one other thing.
If the Wizards trade Andy Blatche because they have Yi and Rashard Lewis at the same position, I would write the General Manager some hate mail.
Unless they trade him to my terrible Cavaliers, then I will be happy.
Previous Ranking: 24
Last Week's Record: 2-2 (Wins over Dallas and Phoenix, Losses to Boston and New Jersey)
No matter how bad you think things are in Detroit, remember one thing: The Pistons are only two games out of the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
It's funny to think that a team 12 games under .500 can be just two games out of the playoff picture in the East, while 16 wins would put you third to last in the West.
But that's the way the cookie crumbles when you are a team in the Eastern Conference.
In regard to the Pistons, it may just be a bad thing.
Winning games over Dallas and Phoenix will give them hope that they can be a seven or eight seed, while losing to New Jersey shows that it is time to blow it up and start over.
The Pistons have plenty of attractive veterans to a contender, but they have to make a decision and go with it.
Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince would likely be the first to go, but I bet the Pistons would be willing to unload Ben Gordon or Charlie Villanueva on anyone who would be interested in taking on their large contracts.
Pay close attention to the Pistons over their next eight games.
They have tough games against Orlando, Miami, Denver, San Antonio and New York in that stretch.
If they do not come out of it with at least four wins, look for Detroit to become sellers.
Previous Ranking: 23
Last Week's Record: 2-2 (Wins over Chicago and Philadelphia, Losses to Atlanta and Philadelphia)
If the playoffs started today, the Charlotte Bobcats would be the No. 8 seed in the East.
If you didn't look at the standings and just paid attention to the rumors, you wouldn't know that.
Rumors are running wild about the Bobcats looking to trade veterans Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson to any team that is willing to take on their large contracts.
The Bobcats' ownership group has openly said they are looking to slash payroll because they are not making enough money, but having a team in playoff contention could make that very difficult.
And the schedule for the upcoming week doesn't appear too difficult for the Bobcats.
They are on the road for their next six games, but this week takes them to Sacramento, Phoenix, Golden State and Los Angeles for the Clippers.
Needless to say, the Bobcats could very well win three of those games and be sitting at 20-26 come next week's power rankings.
Previous Ranking: 18
Last Week's Record: 0-4 (Losses to Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State, Portland and Denver)
Don't expect to see the Indiana Pacers return to the .500 mark any time soon.
This team is on a downward spiral that seems to be destined for the playoff lottery sooner than they are going to be playoff contenders.
After four losses last week, their current losing streak has reached five games, and things don't look to get better any time soon.
The Pacers host Orlando this week and head to Chicago to take on the surging Bulls.
If the team can find any hope out of the week, it will come in their two home games against New Jersey and Toronto.
Although the way they have been playing, those games might be tougher than they seem.
If things don't take a turn for the better some time soon, the Pacers might just become sellers come trading deadline time.
Previous Ranking: 21
Last Week's Record: 2-2 (Wins over Charlotte and Utah, Losses to Orlando and Charlotte)
39 games to go in the season, and the 76ers are the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference.
As long as they are sitting in a playoff spot, don't expect Philadelphia to open up the trade gates.
Rumors have been swirling since the day the 76ers selected Evan Turner No. 2 overall.
His lack of production this season is why Andre Iguodala is still in Philadelphia, and quite possibly why they are in playoff contention.
I'm not sure which way Philadelphia fans should want this to go.
On one side, it is great for the city and organization to play in the playoffs.
On the other side, playoffs mean that the 76ers probably won't attempt to rid themselves of Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand's large contracts.
We will know soon if the 76ers are contenders or pretenders, but the general manager in me says sell high on Iguodala and Brand while you still can, and take the cap flexibility and draft picks for next season.
Previous Ranking: 22
Last Week's Record: 2-2 (Wins over Washington and Cleveland, Losses to Houston and Memphis)
What happened to Milwaukee?
They were supposed to be one of this season's "break out" teams after last year's surprise run to the playoffs.
This team was supposed to be deep after their offseason acquisitions, instead they have been nothing short of disappointing in the 2010-2011 season.
It doesn't help that last year's rookie sensation Brandon Jennings has been hurt, but things shouldn't be this bad.
Milwaukee does play in the Central, which should provide them with some easy games the rest of the year, but don't look for things to get better any time soon unless they pull off some kind of a trade.
Previous Ranking: 20
Last Week's Record: 3-1 (Wins over New Jersey, Indiana and Sacramento, Loss to the L.A. Clippers)
I bet Golden State fans wish they could be in the Eastern Conference.
They just beat up on New Jersey and Indiana, yet they are still five games out of the eight seed in the West.
That record would be good for the No. 7 seed in the East.
The Warriors are in an interesting situation though.
They have their next eight games at home, however they face the Spurs, Hornets, Jazz, Bulls and Nuggets in that span.
If the Warriors could get hot and use the home court to their advantage: they could find themselves right in the thick of the playoff hunt.
Previous Ranking: 19
Last Week's Record: 3-1 (Wins over Indiana, Minnesota and Golden State, Loss to Portland)
If only the Clippers could have beaten the injury riddled Trail Blazers.
4-0 in the week probably would have gotten them a spot higher on this list, but Blake Griffin and company will take what they can get.
Griffin and the Clippers have given the city of Los Angeles another reason to attend basketball games.
Usually the crowds come out for Kobe and the Lakers, but it looks like they are falling in love with Mr. Griffin.
I don't see the Clippers finding their way into the playoff hunt, but stranger things have happened.
This team needs to take advantage of the emergence of DeAndre Jordan and trade Chris Kaman to a contender when he gets back from injury.
Personally, I would try and find a taker for Baron Davis while I'm at it.
The young core of Eric Gordon, Eric Bledsoe, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Al-Farouq Aminu will give the fans something exciting to look forward to.
And the Clippers could use the extra cap flexibility and draft picks they would likely acquire in the deal.
Previous Ranking: 17
Last Week's Record: 3-1 (Wins over New York, Cleveland and Washington, Loss to Detroit)
It's hard to peg this Phoenix team.
Many people felt that they would be down in production after the loss of Amar'e, which has been the case.
But this group is a resilient bunch.
Led by Steve Nash and the newly acquired Vince Carter, the Suns have been keeping themselves in striking distance of the playoffs all season.
This week we should see what the Suns are made of as they take on both Boston and New Orleans at home.
Previous Ranking: 16
Last Week's Record: 2-2 (Wins over Milwaukee and New York, Losses to Memphis and Orlando)
This Houston team really frustrates me.
When you look at them on paper, this team should be in the playoffs.
Even without Yao Ming.
They have depth in every area, but could benefit from acquiring a scoring small forward or center.
Kevin Martin needs a stretch the floor compliment next to Luis Scola, and this team could make a serious run in the second half of the season.
But who could the Rockets acquire?
And more so, who would they give up?
Previous Ranking: 15
Last Week's Record: 2-2 (Wins over Houston and Milwaukee, Losses to Chicago and New Orleans)
We are all patiently waiting for this team to finally break out.
You know, kind of the way Oklahoma City did last year.
You have the youth, talent and coach to lead you there.
So it's time to finally go on a run and make that leap!
Alright, so now that my letter to the Grizzlies is done, let's get serious here.
This team has some serious fire power to work with.
Not only do they have a solid core of Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in their starting lineup.
They have desirable trading chips in O.J. Mayo and Hasheem Thabeet to add pieces to the playoff run puzzle.
I know many teams are reluctant to give up on high draft picks so quickly, but Memphis needs to make a move and get a few veterans on this team.
Mayo and Thabeet both badly need relocation to teams that will allow them to develop.
The Grizzlies could badly use a veteran scorer and defender in order to balance this team out.
How about Antawn Jamison and Anthony Parker from the Cavaliers?
Let me know what you think Grizz fans!
Previous Ranking: 13
Last Week's Record: 0-4 (Losses to Phoenix, Houston, San Antonio and Oklahoma City)
If the Knicks haven't hit the panic button yet, they should.
Losers of six games straight, the Knicks better right this ship before it sinks.
Luckily for them, they do play in the East so they should be able to limp into the playoffs.
But I think it's about time to do whatever you can to acquire Carmelo Anthony.
This team looks lost without another proven scorer to go to, and with games against Miami and Atlanta coming up: that could be something they badly need.
Who cares about Wilson Chandler's development and your fear that he could develop into a star?
If losing Chandler means you get Anthony, shrug your shoulders and move on.
I mean, look what happened to Cleveland last year.
They got stuck on J.J. Hickson and didn't trade for Amar'e.
That in turn cost them LeBron.
Don't let Wilson Chandler do the same for you.
Previous Ranking: 14
Last Week's Record: 4-0 (Wins over Minnesota, Sacramento, L.A. Clippers and Indiana)
Those are the two reasons that the Trail Blazers are not only afloat, but prospering in the absence of two of their stars.
When Brandon Roy went down for the season and Marcus Camby was ruled out for the next five weeks, I thought Portland's season was over.
Well, 4-0 in the week with Sacramento coming up means that this team is much deeper than we all thought.
Forget about opening up the trade gates and bringing in a flurry of players, the Blazers should wait this thing out.
Unless of course you can get Carmelo Anthony, then by all means indulge.
This Portland team could be one of the feel good stories of the season, and that will make it easier for them to forget that Brandon Roy's career may never be the same.
Previous Ranking: 12
Last Week's Record: 2-1 (Wins over Oklahoma City and Indiana, Loss to L.A. Lakers)
And on this week's installment of "As Carmelo's World Turns", watch as the Anthony becomes a silent assassin until the day he is traded.
New Jersey has pulled out of the 'Melo sweepstakes, and Anthony has taken a vow of silence.
This may be the best thing to happen to all parties involved.
Let's not be naive, Carmelo Anthony will be traded sooner or later.
But until then, he can protect his reputation by letting the front office handle the trade requests and going out and dominating the game the way he knows how.
Anthony and the Nuggets have a favorable schedule this week as they go on the road for five games.
Normally road trips are tough, but when you have Washington, Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia and New Jersey on the schedule, things get a little bit easier.
During this time Anthony can help the Nuggets get to 30 wins and leave them in a position for the playoffs before he gets traded.
Not a bad situation to be in.
Previous Ranking: 8
Last Week's Record: 0-4 (Losses to Washington, New Jersey, Boston and Philadelphia)
Don't look now Jazz fans, but it's put up or shut up time for your team.
Coming off four consecutive losses, three of which should have been wins, the Jazz are in for a tough road.
Their next two games on the schedule are against the defending champion Lakers, and the best team in the NBA—the San Antonio Spurs.
As if falling three spots in the power rankings wasn't enough, the Jazz will be under fire if they extend that losing streak to six games.
Two more losses in a row could drop the Jazz to the No. 8 seed in the West, and could cause the front office to make a move or two for the stretch run.
Previous Ranking: 10
Last Week's Record: 3-1 (Wins over Miami, Sacramento and Charlotte, Loss to New Orleans)
How does a team lose by 41 AT HOME and remain in the top ten of the power rankings?
By beating two teams currently in the playoff picture.
The Hawks saved themselves by defeating Miami in overtime and crushing the Bobcats on Saturday night.
If it wasn't for either of those victories, the Hawks could have easily found themselves at No. 11 or worse.
This team is showing that it is not different than the one from last year.
They give you false hope by beating a good team during the regular season, and then turn around and lay a goose egg in their next big contest.
The Hawks are one of those teams that desperately needs to make a move before the deadline.
They need to add depth at the shooting guard and power forward positions, and could benefit from picking up a small forward for depth.
A veteran scorer and any of the positions would be nice.
Previous Ranking: 11
Last Week's Record: 4-0 (Wins over Toronto, Memphis, Atlanta and San Antonio)
Eight games in a row.
That's how many the New Orleans Hornets have won.
Personally, I would have liked to see New Orleans up a spot or two on this list, but hey, I'm not the only one who contributes!
New Orleans dismantled Atlanta, then turned around and beat the best team in the NBA.
I guess they are always going to be the team who has to prove themselves, which they get the chance to do against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night.
Previous Ranking: 9
Last Week's Record: 2-2 (Wins over L.A. Lakers and New Jersey, Losses to Detroit and Chicago)
Dear Mark Cuban,
The time to make a deal is now!
It is very obvious that the loss of Caron Butler was a huge blow to your team.
Now go out and pick up a veteran scorer with the same skill set (Antawn Jamison anyone?) and get your team back on the right track.
This team's depth is off the charts, but it is time to turn some of that into another star player.
Dirk and Jason Kidd can't do it all at their age, so put together those assets and make a deal!
Your local Power Rankings guy.
Previous Ranking: 7
Last Week's Record: 1-2 (Win over New York, Losses to L.A. Lakers and Denver)
Things aren't easy this season for the young Thunder.
After taking the Lakers six games in round one last year, the Thunder have a target on their backs.
Last year, teams underestimated them—even with Kevin Durant.
Now, teams are game planning for Durant and company and the Thunder need to come up with a solution quickly.
Monday night will be no different as the Thunder take on the New Orleans Hornets, so hopefully they bring their "A" game or else they could find themselves on a quick descent down the playoff charts.
Previous Ranking: 5
Last Week's Record: 3-1 (Wins over Philadelphia, Toronto and Houston, Loss to Boston)
It's the same old story with the Orlando Magic.
Beat the teams you are better than, lose to the teams you need to beat to establish yourselves among the NBA elite.
I am going to make a prediction for the Magic this week.
Wins over the Pacers, Cavaliers and Pistons.
And one glaring loss to the Chicago Bulls.
That's just what we come to expect from the Magic year in and year out.
So I dare you Orlando, go ahead and prove me wrong!
Previous Ranking: 6
Last Week's Record: 3-1 (Wins over Cleveland, Memphis and Dallas, Loss to Charlotte)
Every time I watch the Chicago Bulls play the song "Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangsta" pops into my head.
You know the song, from the movie Office Space.
So why that song you ask?
Because these Bulls have no quit in them.
They could have played like garbage when Carlos Boozer was out for the first 18 games of the season.
They could have packed in it when Joakim Noah hurt his thumb and was out for the next two months.
Instead, Derrick Rose took the team on his back and said "Damn it feels good to be a gangsta".
Okay, maybe he didn't say that, but his game did.
Derrick Rose is quietly becoming one of my favorite players in the league (shhhh don't tell the Cavaliers that).
People told him he couldn't shoot the jump shot, so now he kills you with the jump shot.
You try to take that away, he blows by you and goes to the hole.
Find a way to stop him, because the rest of the league can't.
Oh, and he's only 22 years old.
Good luck with that NBA.
Previous Ranking: 4
Last Week's Record: 1-1 (Win over Toronto, Loss to Atlanta)
The Miami Heat got a much needed two game week last week after the injury bug that has bitten their three stars.
LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have all sat out games over the last two weeks due to injury.
See, who says it is easy having three superstars on the same team?
Hopefully the Heat use that time off to get healthy, because starting this weekend the Heat have quite a few games coming up.
Previous Ranking: 3
Last Week's Record: 2-1 (Wins over Oklahoma City and Denver, Loss to Dallas)
I'm not sure what all of the talk about the Lakers not playing well is about.
The team is in first place in their division and coming off victories over two playoff potential teams.
I know that the standard in L.A. is championship or bust, but come on.
We all know the Lakers coast through the regular season, scare you with their injuries and lack of production from Andrew Bynum.
And then they turn it on and win when it counts.
So until the Lakers are down 2-1 in the first round of the playoffs...chill.
Kobe has it all under control.
Previous Ranking: 2
Last Week's Record: 3-1 (Wins over Orlando, Detroit and Utah, Loss to Washington)
Can I admit something really quick?
Being awestruck in LeBron-land over the past seven seasons has really cast a shadow over my objectivity when it comes to the Boston Celtics.
I mean, you are supposed to hate your team's biggest rival in the conference.
But now that the Cavaliers suck, let me get something out.
I admire the Boston Celtics.
This team doesn't quit.
They are supposed to be old, on their last leg and ready to move on from their "Big Three".
Yet Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce continue to give 100 percent every night.
Whether it is the regular season or postseason, these guys bust their butts every night.
Not to mention the organization finds diamonds in the rough in Rajon Rondo and Glen Davis, and has done a good job with bringing Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal back to life.
Forget about the road to the NBA Finals going through Miami.
The road to the NBA Finals goes through Boston.
Previous Ranking: 1
Last Week's Record: 2-1 (Wins over Toronto and New York, Loss to New Orleans)
Alright, take everything I said about the Boston Celtics, and multiply it by 10 for the Spurs.
How does this team continue to do it?
Tim Duncan is supposed to be done, yet he accepts his role and reduced minutes and flourishes.
He doesn't average 20 points per game anymore, but he doesn't need to.
The Spurs have one of the most balanced scoring attacks in the game.
If you don't believe me, look at this stat line:
Manu Ginobli: 18.5 points per game
Tony Parker: 17.4 points per game
Tim Duncan: 13.6 points per game
Richard Jefferson: 12.2 points per game
George Hill: 11.2 points per game
There aren't too many teams in the league that can boast five players with at least 10 points per game and NONE of them averaging more than 33 minutes per night.
I don't know how Coach Pop does it.
He continues to find diamonds in the rough and turn them into solid contributors every night.
I mean, how many other teams could Matt Bonner have honestly played this important of a role on?
The only question I have about this team is, how long will they sustain this run?
But hey, that's the same question everyone has been asking about this team for three years.