NBA Power Rankings: Cavs Remain No. 1, but There Is a New No. 30

Jose SalviatiCorrespondent IIMarch 30, 2010

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - MARCH 03:  Terrence Williams #8 of the New Jersey Nets dunks against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Izod Center on March 3, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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Does it get any better for a sports fan?  

Baseball is about ready to start its season, we are winding down March Madness, the Masters is around the corner—with Tiger, and World Cup fever is starting to boil.  Add the coming NBA Playoffs and you have a sports-lovers paradise.

The NBA season is long, with games seemingly mattering more at the beginning and end of the season.  The middle of the season tends to be about enduring injuries and finding motivation in the second of a back-to-back against a sub .500 team.  Of course, if you are the sub .500 team, then even the end of season games might not matter.

For those teams that are gearing up for a playoff run, these games are about best positioning themselves.  For those just barely in the playoff picture, it's about staying there. Those on the bubble are working hard to get in.  

All in all, it makes for impassioned games full of excitement. 

Which teams are embracing the moment?  Which are wilting under the pressure?  Which are tanking for a better shot at John Wall?

1. Cleveland (Record: 58-16, Last Week's Power Ranking 1)

It's 100% fair and 100% by the book, but there is something wrong about trading a guy then getting him back 30 days later for nothing.  The number one spot and home-court throughout the playoffs seems assured.  

The rest of the season is a formality, it's time to see if the Cavs and LeBron have what it takes to take that last step to greatness.

2. Orlando (Record: 52-22, Last Week's Power Ranking 3)

Vince Carter was channeling Vinsanity when he stubs his toe.  No worries, J.J. Redick fills in nicely for last season's Eastern Conference champs.  Are Magic fans worried that so much of their hope rests on 33-year-old, but suddenly looking older, shoulders?

3. LA Lakers (Record: 54-20 , Last Week's Power Ranking 2)

Bynum is out again and so is Walton, yet the Lakers continue to roll.  Laker fans, always a panicky bunch, are concerned about the teams record when compared to last year. This year's edition, however seems built for the playoffs more-so than last year's team was.  We all know how last years team did, right?  

When the second season starts is when both Derek Fisher and Ron Artest will likely silence their critics.

4. Phoenix (Record: 47-26 , Last Week's Power Ranking 7)

Tough break for the Suns. Winners of 21 of their last 26 and seven in a row suddenly look vulnerable.  Sure, they were riding on Amare Stoudemire's back for most of that run, but it was the steady play of Robin Lopez that freed Stoudemire to do what he does.  

With Lopez out and the Suns just starting a five-game road swing, we may have seen the Suns peak.

5. Dallas (Record: 49-25, Last Week's Power Ranking 5)

The dust has settled on the trade that brought Caron Butler and made the Mavs look like world beaters. Two wins and three losses in their last five show they still have some work to do.

6. Utah (Record: 49-26, Last Week's Power Ranking 6)

Having lost only five times total in the month of March, this is a team that seems ready for the playoffs to start.  Andrei Kirilenko's injury appears to not be serious, not that it matters much to the Jazz.  They always seem to have someone ready to step up, in this case it's been C.J. Miles.

7. Denver (Record: 48-27, Last Week's Power Ranking 4)

This team might be playing with a heavy heart having dropped four of their last five. No disrespect to Adrian Dantley, but this team is George Karl's and his absence seems to have had an effect.  Whether or not Karl returns in time for the playoffs has to be a non-issue for the Nuggets.  

They need to right this ship now.

8. Atlanta (Record: 47-26, Last Week's Power Ranking 8)

A game-winning, last second, playoff-clinching, acrobatic dunk against the defending Eastern Conference champs.  Wow.  This team is poised to make some noise in the playoffs.

9. Boston (Record: 47-26, Last Week's Power Ranking 9)

This team is so old and disjointed and inconsistent.  Yet, when I see them play I hear Rudy Tomjonivich's words in the background, "Never underestimate the heart of a champion."

10. Portland (Record: 45-29, Last Week's Power Ranking 11)

The Blazers and Rockets should win an award for having overcome so many injuries and remaining competitive.  Too many coaches and GM's lean on the injury crutch when explaining their sub-par record when the truth is injuries hit every team.  

The Blazers prove that you can overcome them.

Now lets hope they can overcome an angry owner who seems hell-bent on making someone pay for the 2007 draft goof.  Passing on Kevin Durant will do that to an owner.

11. San Antonio (Record: 44-29, Last Week's Power Ranking 13)

Another team with championship heart that cannot be overlooked.  If the association thought otherwise, wins against the Thunder, Cavs and Boston reminded them.

12. Oklahoma City (Record: 44-28, Last Week's Power Ranking 11)

The young guns destroyed the Lakers, but lost to the Blazers. Teams like the Thunder have to prove themselves in the playoffs, to themselves, their opponent and the referees.  Something tells me however that this team will make some noise once the regular season concludes.

13. Milwaukee (Record: 40-32, Last Week's Power Ranking 12)

Are the Bucks the classic case of a team that peaked too soon?  Sure looks that way. The start of March saw the Bucks win nine of ten, but they've dropped two of their last three.

14. Miami (Record: 40-34, Last Week's Power Ranking 14)

If MVP is defined as the player whose team would most suffer if he left, then D-Wade is the hands-down MVP.  Would the Heat even make the NCAA Final Four without Wade?

15. Charlotte (Record: 38-35, Last Week's Power Ranking 16)

Now that the hoopla over MJ has subsided and the rumors that Larry Brown might move on yet again are dying down, it's time for this team to focus on the task at hand.  Hard to believe for a team that started 3-9, but the fifth spot in the East is within reach.

16. Houston (Record: 36-36, Last Week's Power Ranking 15)

The Rockets came so close, but will likely fall short of the playoffs.  When you consider this team lost it's top three scorers from a year ago (Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest) what they have accomplished is incredible.

17. Memphis (Record: 38-35, Last Week's Power Ranking 17)

This was the year the Grizzlies proved the Gasol trade wasn't all that one-sided.  The playoffs are out of reach but a winning season is in sight.

18. Chicago (Record: 35-38, Last Week's Power Ranking 20)

Has there been a more embattled coach this year than Vinnie Del Negro?  The inconsistency in his squad must leave fans and the front office frustrated, but you can't argue with overall results.  The Bulls are within one game of a playoff spot. 

19. Toronto (Record: 36-37, Last Week's Power Ranking 18)

What's happening in Toronto?  The team seems to be going downhill as fast as their chances of re-signing Chris Bosh.

20. New Orleans (Record: 35-40, Last Week's Power Ranking 19)

The super small Hornets are out of the playoffs and have some tough decisions to make this off season.  With only two contributors over 6'9" in David West and Emeka Okafor on the squad, but a glut of good guards, something has got to give.  

Who leaves the Big Easy next season, Darren Collison, Marcus Thornton or, gasp, Chris Paul?

21. Indiana (Record: 27-47, Last Week's Power Ranking 21)

A real nice push at the end of March leaves Pacer fans excited and reminds everyone that Danny Granger is a player.  Sadly, outside of Indiana no one cares.  The Pacers are dangerously close to eclipsing the Clippers as the association's franchise with the least amount of personality.

22. New York (Record: 26-47, Last Week's Power Ranking 22)

Has there every been a more wasted season than the Knicks 2009-2010 campaign? This entire year was only about the 2010 free agent class.  That Knick management still sold tickets to the games was criminal.  

With rumors floating around now that Kobe Bryant is interesting in testing the Knick waters (there is a better chance that Tiger is the keynote speaker at a NOW convention), it will be a very interesting off-season in New York indeed.

23. Philadelphia (Record: 26-47, Last Week's Power Ranking 25)

No disrespect to the 76ers, but the team is looking more and more Clipper-esque.  How does a team with this type talent play so poorly?  A team this dysfunctional hasn't been seen outside of the greater Los Angeles area in some time.  

That being said, they did put together two nice wins against the Bucks and Hawks.

24. LA Clippers (Record: 27-46, Last Week's Power Ranking 24)

Ah, the Clippers.  The love-able proverbial NBA doormat.  Its hard to believe that they were so close to reaching .500 and getting their first-round draft pick on the court just a few short months ago.  Since then, the team has gone downhill faster than Lindsey Vonn.  

Another "wait till next year" season from the NBA team that perfected the phrase.

25. Sacramento (Record: 24-50, Last Week's Power Ranking 23)

Tyreke Evans is down, but not out.  The Kings aren't so lucky.  We can officially count them down and out.  Evans likely ROY award should get the cowbells ringing in the state's capital however.

26. Golden State (Record: 21-52, Last Week's Power Ranking 27)

Don Nelson is on the verge of compiling more wins than any other NBA coach in the history of the association.  Cool.  Even more intriguing than that however is how exciting the Warriors, and Stephen Curry in particular are.  

Once they figure out how to translate that excitement into wins they might have something special by the Bay.

27. Detroit (Record: 23-50, Last Week's Power Ranking 26)

Every franchise goes through this.  For ever high there is a season of lows.  This year's Piston team seems to be taking much more than a reasonable amount of failure for the once-proud franchise.  Eight losses and counting.  Ouch.

28. New Jersey (Record: 10-64, Last Week's Power Ranking 30)

What?  Is the right?  (Double-checking the rankings.) Yup, the Nets are out of the cellar and deservedly so.  

They now stand at nine wins and insure they won't have the distinction of being the worst NBA franchise of all time. Of course, they need one more win to not share that distinction with the infamous 1972-1973 76ers.

Last minute update—the Nets got 10, the Nets got 10!! That rush of wind you heard last night was a sigh of relief from the state of New Jersey.

29. Washington  (Record: 21-51, Last Week's Power Ranking 28)

Zero for March.   That's just pathetic.  No wonder they want Arenas back next year.

30. Minnesota  (Record: 14-60, Last Week's Power Ranking 29)

Zero for March.  That's just pathetic.  Will they want Kurt Rambis back next year?

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), Lucas Shapiro (NBA Trades/Breaking News), Keith Schlosser (NY Knicks), Curtis Finchum (Oklahoma City), Bryan Toporek (Philadelphia 76ers) and DeMarco Williams (NBA Lead).


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