NBA Power Rankings, Dec. 11-Jan. 13
by Josh Nagel - 01/14/2008
Some of the early-season surprises such as New Orleans and the Los Angeles Lakers have proven that their fast starts were no fluke, while the same can't be said for the young Orlando Magic. The Celtics continue to be the best team in the league thus far, though others have closed the gap. Namely, their Eastern Conference rivals, the Detroit Pistons. It's been a while since two teams form the East were considered the league's elite, and that's probably a good thing. Here are the NBA power rankings through Jan. 13:
1. Boston -- 30-5. Despite losses to the Wizards and Bobcats in two of their last three games, the Celtics have still won eight of 10 overall and are the class of the league to this point. They also got even for a home loss to the Pistons by winning in Detroit.
2. Detroit -- 28-9. The Pistons just suffered an embarrassing road loss to the Knicks - any team as good as Detroit losing to New York should be ashamed - but that's just a blip on a recent run of dominance. They have also won eight of 10 overall and have covered in seven of those games.
3. San Antonio -- 24-11. The Spurs have been a little banged up and went through what seems like an annual mid-season mini-slump. Even so, they have won six of their last 10; however, they are 1-5 ATS in their last six.
4. Dallas -- 26-11. The Mavericks have flown a little under the radar this year but, after a bit of a slow start, they appear to be back on track. They have won seven in a row, and covered in six of those.
5. Phoenix -- 26-11. Similar to the Mavericks, the Suns have operated with less fanfare than in recent years, and their blistering full-court style is no longer a novelty in the league. Still, they have won seven of nine, despite covering just once in their last six.
6. L.A. Lakers -- 24-11. With the development of Andrew Bynum and the return of Derek Fisher reliving some pressure off Kobe Bryant, the Lakers continue to look like more than just a token first-round playoff participant. A 22-12-1 record ATS in among tops in the league.
7. New Orleans -- 25-12. At some point you have to stop using words like "surprising" and "upstart" to describe the Hornets, because it's increasingly looking like they are for real. They made a rare national TV appearance last week and were extremely impressive; Chris Paul runs the show, but David West is a solid threat in the post and they have a nice blend of role players.
8. Orlando -- 23-16. It was probably predictable that the young Magic, after an astounding start, would level off and suffer some growing pains. But you have to wonder if coach Stan Van Gundy has been too harsh in his public criticism of his team; the Magic have lost five of their last six.
9. Portland -- 22-14. The surging Trailblazers have stayed hot by winning eight of their last 10 but it seems like it's all destined to end at any moment. That's because they simply aren't talented enough right now to become an elite team in the West.
10. Denver -- 22-13. The Nuggets have won seven of 10 and are 8-2 ATS during that span. Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony have been aided by contributions from players like Marcus Camby and Anthony Carter.
11. Utah -- 21-17. The Jazz have been erratic lately -- great one night and awful the next, or vice versa. When Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer and friends are on, they look awfully intimidating. When they are not, they look average. They have won five of six and are 3-3 ATS in that span.
12. Golden State - 21-16. The Warriors had an impressive home win against the Spurs in overtime last week; recent road wins against the Rockets and Nuggets were encouraging, too. If they can avoid the occasional slip-up against inferior teams, the Warriors should be in good shape.
13. Toronto - 20-17. With a regular rotation that includes players such as Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, Carlos Delfino and Rasho Nesterovic, the Raptors have by far the most international flair in the NBA. What's that gotten them? Mediocrity, for the most part, though they have won three straight.
14. Washington - 19-16. The Wizards have won four of five overall and ATS. They have benefited from the leadership and All-Star caliber season from Caron Butler and a balanced scoring effort from the rest of the roster.
15. Houston - 20-18. If the Rockets ever find a way to consistently play to their potential, they could be a dangerous team. They are definitely a club nobody in the upper echelon of the Western Conference will want to face in the playoffs; that is, if the Rockets find a way to get there.
16. Atlanta -- 17-17. The upstart Hawks have lost five of their last seven, but most of their losses have been by six points or fewer. Once this young team learns how to win more close games, they will be positioned to become a contender.
17. Cleveland -- 19-18. If you've watched the Cavs play lately, my condolences go out to you. This team is wretched to watch aside from LeBron James; low-scoring, dull and marginally talented. But if you are a fan, the good news is they have won five of their last six.
18. New Jersey -- 18-18. About the only team more excruciating to watch than the Cavs; let's hope they don't meet each other in the playoffs. Soft, poorly coached and uninspired, they have somehow won six of eight, but most of those came against Eastern Conference bottom feeders.
19. Indiana -- 16-22. Things have taken a turn for the worse since the Jamaal Tinsley shooting incident. The Pacers have lost eight of 10, and it's pretty bad sign when you're relying on Mike Dunleavy to do the bulk of the scoring.
20. Milwaukee -- 15-22. The Bucks have some talent but their big men, Andrew Bogut and Yi Jianlian, looked awfully soft in their recent loss to the Lakers on ESPN. Commentator Jeff Van Gundy was correct that they seem to lack the required competitive spirit.
21. Sacramento 15-20. The Kings have hung in there despite getting hit hard by the injury bug. Veteran Brad Miller is having a good year, as is journeyman John Salmons. If Ron Artest and Mike Bibby get healthy, they might be capable of making a run at the playoffs.
22. Chicago -- 14-21. The Bulls have been a little better since firing Scott Skiles, but his departure has done little to help their on-court deficiencies. They might make a run at the playoffs but, with no inside scoring threat, don't count on them going far.
23. Philadelphia 14-23. Andre Iguodala probably made a mistake by not signing the recent long-term deal offered by the 76ers. He's probably not a superstar on a league-wide level, he's simply the best the 76ers have to offer. He might regret overestimating his market value.
24. Charlotte -- 13-23. If the Bobcats can get more production out of high-priced trade acquisition Jason Richardson, it would take some scoring pressure off Gerald Wallace and Emeka Okafor and make the Bobcats more balanced, an attribute they sorely need.
25. L.A. Clippers -- 10-23. The Clippers simply have been buried by injuries to the likes of Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston, and it looks like it's too late to recover. They have lost nine of their last 10.
26. Memphis -- 10-26. The Grizzlies show occasional flashes of potential, but this always seems to dissolve into multiple losses. They have lost eight of their last 10, and most of those have not been competitive.
27. Seattle 9-27. The Sonics are fun to watch, and a young team with a lot of upside. All they lack is experience and an inside scoring threat. Give them a couple of years; until then, have fun watching Kevin Durant and friends grow up.
28. Miami -- 8-29. It's officially a lost season for the gimpy Dywane Wade and the Shaq-less and lifeless Heat, who have lost eight straight.
29. New York 9-26. The Knicks are one of the most troubled franchises in all of professional sports right now. The problem, Isaiah Thomas and his bosses refuse to acknowledge this fact, which just makes things worse.
30. Minnesota 5-31. About one win per month is the current pace for the Timberwolves, who hope to win a few more and avoid NBA infamy.