NBA Power Rankings: From Top To the Cleveland Cavaliers
After questionably the most riveting NBA off-season in history, many teams were left with new components to explore.
LeBron James and Chris Bosh went to Miami to team up with Dwyane Wade.
Amare Stoudemire and Raymond Felton ended up in the Big Apple.
Both Shaquille and Jermaine O'Neal joined the loads of talent in Boston.
These are just a few of the big moves that set the stage for high entertainment and jersey sales in the NBA. With just over 30 games left for each squad, fans can clearly see which teams will be favored when the playoffs kick off.
Which teams are hitting their stride and which look set to fall apart.
Here's the NBA Power Rankings.
30.) Cleveland Cavaliers (8-40)
Do the Cavaliers miss King James?
Cleveland opened up the year with a home win over Boston. A little over a month later a 7-9 Cavs team fell to the Celtics. That game marked the beginning of a 1-31 stretch.
Cleveland's current 21-game losing streak has caught national attention. During the skid, the Cavaliers have only reached 100 points four times and have only held four opponents to under 100.
If Cleveland plans to win a NBA Championship before LeBron does, they better start searching the college ranks for some talent.
29.) Toronto Raptors (13-36)
If a team's best player left for Miami prior to this season, they are clearly feeling the heat of having to fill a huge gap.
The Raptors are currently riding the second-longest losing streak in the league at 12 games. Andrea Bargnani has been a bright spot, averaging over 20 points per game for the first time in his five-year career.
DeMar DeRozan will be participating in the dunk contest. Unfortunately for Raptors fans looking for something to cheer for, he'll likely finish third or fourth.
The Raptors are still relatively young, however, and should improve with experience.
28.) Washington Wizards (13-35)
John Wall can do anything—but he can't lead the Wizards to a road victory.
Washington's 25 straight road losses place them third-to-last in the power rankings. This team is loaded with talent, young and old. Wall, Andray Blatche and Nick Young lead them in scoring, but they have depth.
Rashard Lewis, Kirk Hinrich, Al Thornton and Josh Howard have all averaged more than 16 points a night for other teams. For some reason this can't play outside their home arena. The Wizards are 13-10 at the Verizon Center, but winless away from it this season.
Until they can pack their game with them on road trips, the Wizards are a bottom-feeder.
27.) Sacramento Kings (12-34)
The Kings seem to be improving as the season progresses, with consecutive wins over the Lakers and Hornets, but they are very streaky.
With two eight-game skids and a six-game losing streak, the Kings seem to lose focus for periods of time. Tyreke Evans has not slumped, maintaining the form that earned him NBA Rookie of the Year honors last year.
The problem is the lack of scoring options. After Evans, the team has no dynamic scoring threat and that hurts their offensive output.
The Kings have a long way to go before they become a contender.
26.) Minnesota Timberwolves (11-36)
Despite Kevin Love and Michael Beasley's amazing growth as players this season, the Timberwolves can't seem to come out on top.
Love has been a double-double machine, even going for 31 points and 31 rebounds in November. Beasley is scoring over 20 points per game and becoming the player people thought he would be out of college.
Beyond that, the Minnesota roster is filled with young, undeveloped talent that has yet to break through.
Give the Wolves some time with these same guys and they'll be a playoff contender.
25.) New Jersey Nets (15-34)
When a team is involved in almost every trade rumor, there are problems with the team. With Carmelo likely not venturing to New Jersey, the Nets are stuck in mediocrity.
Devin Harris can be a superb point guard if you give him scoring options to work with, as he showed in Dallas. Brook Lopez is a good option—as he's improved his offense—but he grabs less than six rebounds a game.
A 7'0" center needs to crash the boards harder than that.
Until the Nets add a pure scorer, they will continue to struggle.
For now, a Nets fan most exciting part of the season is the off-season.
24.) Detroit Pistons (17-31)
If the Pistons kept their roster and move back to five years ago, they would be an elite team. Unfortunately for the Motor City team, its best players are running on fumes.
Tracy McGrady, Richard Hamilton and Ben Wallace are all past their prime. Ben Gordon has been a disappointment since leaving Chicago. Tayshaun Prince is a role player, not a centerpiece.
The team's bright spot is the impressive play of Rodney Stuckey since the departure of Chauncey Billups. Stuckey, however, will never provide the spark and big-play ability of "Mr. Big Shot".
The Pistons need to add young talent to this group of veterans to regain playoff stature.
23.) Milwaukee Bucks (19-27)
With Brandon Jennings still not fully recovered from injury, the Bucks are forced to rely on Andrew Bogut and John Salmons for their scoring. This is not ideal for an NBA team.
The Bucks have the league's worst offense, only scoring 91.9 points per contest. Their defense ranks in the top five in the league to keep games close, but they have no go-to scorer in the absence of Jennings.
Even with Jennings, the Bucks aren't very deep. They are one or two players away from where they need to be.
I expect the Bucks to drop further in the Eastern Conference and look forward to a lottery pick to rekindle their offense.
22.) Golden State Warriors (20-27)
Monta Ellis can score from anywhere on the floor and on almost anyone. He has a variety of moves and an eye for getting to the rim.
The problem is that he and the Warriors waste all of their energy on offense.
When it comes to defense, the Warriors are one of the worst in the NBA, allowing over 106 points per game. In close games, Golden State lacks a shutdown defender.
Golden State needs to pay more attention to stopping opponents, or the season will stop after 82 games.
21.) Houston Rockets (22-28)
The Rockets are faring well since the predictable departure of Yao Ming.
Kevin Martin brought his shooting touch from Sacramento and Luis Scola has stepped up as a double-double player. With Shane Battier and Kyle Lowry also in the mix, this team has playoff potential.
The lack of depth in the frontcourt causes them problems on both ends, leaving me to believe they will fall short.
If Aaron Brooks can bring energy off the bench, they are a tough team to play night in and night out.
20.) Indiana Pacers (18-27)
This team has a lot going for them.
They have an under-appreciated star in Danny Granger. They have a quality center in Roy Hibbert. They have good young guards in Darren Collison and Brandon Rush. They have experience in Mike Dunleavy. They also have depth in Tyler Hansbrough, T.J. Ford and James Posey.
Unfortunately, the Pacers haven't shot the ball well and have had some bad losses through the course of the season.
Look for this team to rise up the standings and threaten for the playoffs next year or the year after.
19.) Charlotte Bobcats (20-27)
The Bobcats roster is loaded with athletes.
Gerald Wallace and Tyrus Thomas are both physical specimens. Stephen Jackson and D.J. Augustin are both quick and can score the basketball.
Charlotte has struggled to score this season, averaging 93.4 points per contest. If this team could work out some kinks on offense and get the ball to the basket more they'd be a threat in the East.
They currently hold the No. 8 seed in the conference and could be a good match-up for Boston, who they only lost to by five points last time the teams matched up. Boston had previously beat them by 31.
18.) Philadelphia 76ers (21-26)
The 76ers are a team of great balance.
Elton Brand seems to have found a comfort zone in the Philadelphia offense in his third year as a Sixer. Andre Iguodala isn't quite the star people expected him to be, but is still a great player.
The rest of the roster is talented young players that understand their role to the team. They have recorded some big wins this season and rarely get blown out.
If the 76ers qualify for the playoffs they will likely be a first-round exit—but they won't go out without a fight.
17.) Los Angeles Clippers (19-28)
Has there been a more exciting story this season than Blake Griffin's highlight reel of dunks?
The thing that people overlook is the Clippers overall improvement as a team. Eric Gordon is silently averaging 24.1 points per game, giving the Clippers two scoring threats.
An aging Baron Davis is still efficient, but can't play as many minutes as he could in the past. Randy Foye and Eric Bledsoe have provided solid relief for Davis.
The Clippers record doesn't show how good they really are. Next year they could easily be a playoff team.
16.) Phoenix Suns (22-24)
The rumor that Steve Nash asked for a trade tells the story about the Suns.
Phoenix seems to be a team with no direction. One day they're building for the future. The next they are trading for Vince Carter.
The Suns still love the athletic power forwards, now boasting Channing Frye and Hakim Warrick. The problem is they've yet to find a center that fits the system.
Shaq was a bad fit. Amare struggled on the defensive end.
The Suns run-and-gun style revolutionized the NBA, but without a true center they will remain just good...not great.
15.) New York Knicks (25-22)
Amare Stoudemire and Raymond Felton have brought energy back to the New York Knicks.
The Knicks registered some big wins early. Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler proved that they can play and the Knicks surged out of the gates.
The problem with the Knicks is a lack of depth. Beyond their starting five, they don't have much to offer. They are 3-7 in their last 10 games and their starters are playing tons of minutes.
This team will go up and down—but until they add some depth—they will never stay too high.
14.) Memphis Grizzlies (25-24)
The Grizzlies have what it takes. The problem is they can disappear at any given time.
Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph have proved to be quite the one-two punch. Mike Conley has proved he has the ability to run the point at the professional level. Marc Gasol is a solid force at center. The Grizzlies even have some talent coming off the bench.
O.J. Mayo sums up the Grizzlies season. Some nights he's great—some nights he's awful.
Memphis is 6-1 in its last seven games. The loss was to the Nets.
The Grizzlies can cause anyone problems, and that includes themselves.
13.) Portland Trail Blazers (26-22)
With Brandon Roy out for an extended period and Greg Oden out for the season yet again a lot of people wrote the Blazers off.
Thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews, Portland is still potentially a playoff team. Aldridge is averaging career highs in points and rebounds with 21.4 and nine. Matthews has filled the giant void left by the injury to Roy.
Andre Miller has effectively run the point, always slowing down the game to his own speed. Portland doesn't have a flashy, high-scoring offense, but a hard-nosed defense keeps them in games.
The Trail Blazers currently hold the No. 8 spot in the West. Whether they hold onto it or not won't take away from an overachieving season.
12.) Utah Jazz (29-20)
The Utah Jazz are merely a good team.
Deron Williams can get the job done at point guard. Paul Millsap has been a great shooter this season, shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc. Al Jefferson has impressed in a Jazz uniform. After that, the Jazz don't have much to brag about.
Andrei Kirilenko is not the same player he used to be. The rest of the team is average at best.
The Utah Jazz are a solid team in the Western Conference, but they won't threaten for a title.
11.) Denver Nuggets (28-20)
Carmelo Anthony is probably amazed that he's still in a Nuggets uniform at this point.
That doesn't take away from the ability of this team to play. Anthony and Chauncey Billups have been their usual selves. The Nuggets have three players coming off the bench and averaging over 10 points a game in Al Harrington, J.R. Smith and Ty Lawson.
All of this adds up to be the highest scoring team in the NBA at 107.5 points per contest.
Denver may not have the best defense in the league—but if they can string together a couple of stops in crunch time—they can beat anyone.
10.) Atlanta Hawks (30-18)
Everyone in the Hawks starting lineup can flat-out score.
Joe Johnson is having another All-Star caliber year. Al Horford, Josh Smith, Jamal Crawford, Marvin Williams and Mike Bibby round out the starters. Each player in the lineup can go one-on-one and beat a defender.
The problem is that sometimes the Hawks get to focused on going one-on-one that they forget to use each other.
If Atlanta spreads the ball around on a consistent basis, the Eastern Conference had better keep an eye open for the Hawks.
9.) Dallas Mavericks (32-15)
If Dirk Nowitzki steps onto the court, the Mavericks are 30-8. If Dirk doesn't play, they are 2-7.
How can one player make so much difference?
There's not a thing that Dirk can't do and that makes him irreplaceable. With Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion on their last legs, Dirk has to show up each and every game.
Jason Terry and Caron Butler have helped the scoring effort and the addition of Tyson Chandler was huge, but this team relies to heavily on one player.
Come playoff time, the best teams will key in on Dirk and send the Mavericks packing earlier than they would like.
8.) Oklahoma City Thunder (30-17)
Only one duo scores more points than Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on a nightly basis.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
That says a lot for two players who combined for five years of NBA experience coming into this season.
The Thunder boast the most exciting offense in the NBA with Jeff Green, James Harden and Serge Ibaka also chipping in their fair share of points. For a team that really struggles to shoot the three, the Thunder can really fill up the stat sheet.
Defense is their downfall, but the Thunder are the last second tier team in the NBA.
All of the teams from here on out are top tier and could all be as high as No. 1 in this power ranking.
7.) New Orleans Hornets (32-18)
The New Orleans Hornets know how to win.
Chris Paul is having a fantastic season although some of his stats are slightly down. David West is leading the team in scoring, but averages less than 19 points per game. Emeka Okafor is a beast down in the blocks.
Trevor Ariza is a huge addition to this team and one of the more underrated forwards in the NBA. He was a huge part of the Lakers second title due to clutch shooting and stellar defense.
If the Hornets bench can continue to contribute, they will be hard to beat.
6.) Los Angeles Lakers (34-15)
The Lakers got off to a hot start, but the two-time defending champs are not where they want to be right now.
Pau Gasol hasn't been the force he was early in the season and Ron Artest isn't stopping the other teams best player quite like he did last year.
Los Angeles is still a formidable opponent, but right now Kobe's shoulders are slumping with all of the responsibility he's taking on.
If the Lakers want to get another three-peat, either Gasol, Andrew Bynum or Shannon Brown have to make a big statement in the playoffs.
As of now, the Spurs are the favorite in the West.
5.) Chicago Bulls (33-14)
If the season ended today, Derrick Rose would deserve the MVP award.
Rose has dazzled in so many different ways this season, finding ways to finish around the rim that some would see as impossible. With contributions from Boozer, Deng and Noah, the Bulls look ready to challenge the East's big three teams.
The Bulls have been dominant on the boards with Boozer putting up 20 points and grabbing 10 boards per game. Noah also nabs 11.7 rebounds per contest. The Bulls also hold their opponents to the lowest field goal percentage of any team in the league.
If Rose keeps up his play, the Bulls could surprise the world.
4.) Orlando Magic (31-18)
The Orlando Magic have the best roster from top to bottom in the NBA.
Dwight Howard is a very strong MVP candidate, averaging 22.4 points and 13.6 rebounds per game on a balanced roster.
The trade that brought in Jason Richardson, Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu was a great move for Orlando. The Magic now bring Arenas, Brandon Bass, J.J. Redick, Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon off the bench.
A bench like that is an incredible addition to an already effective starting lineup.
If the Magic get hot, they could very well hoist the trophy.
3.) San Antonio Spurs (40-8)
How does the team with the best record in the NBA end up third in a power ranking?
The San Antonio Spurs are old.
All five of their starters have walked on the court to begin each game. Duncan is averaging career lows in points and rebounds, but is still incredibly efficient. Ginobili is playing far better than his stats show...and his stats are good.
DeJuan Blair keeps this team young and is an animal inside the paint.
This team could win the championship. It's just as likely that they wear down and fall short of the NBA Finals.
2.) Miami Heat (34-14)
As I said before, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are the highest scoring duo in the NBA. Toss in Chris Bosh and you have the highest scoring trio at over 60 points per game.
No, they didn't win 70 games this season. It took a while for the trio to get used to playing with each other. Even now, there's still tons of room to improve.
The other two spots on the floor are divvied up between the rest of the team. Miami's downfall is its interior defense. In order to add LeBron and Bosh, the Heat had to give up Michael Beasley.
They are paying for it now.
Even with the troubles this team has to deal with, they have the talent to win the NBA Championship when all three stars are healthy.
That leaves just one team...
1.) Boston Celtics (37-11)
I said the Magic have the best roster top to bottom. The Celtics are their best competition.
I said the Pistons would be elite if they took their roster and went back five years. The Celtics would beat them by 50.
The Boston Celtics are hands down the team to beat this year.
Rajon Rondo is getting better and better by the day. Paul Pierce is shooting the ball as well as he ever has. Ray Allen is simply Ray Allen. Kevin Garnett can do it all. Glen Davis is the most deceivingly mobile player in the NBA.
Once those five have been discussed, what else do the Celtics bring to the table?