NBA Power Rankings, Jan. 14-Jan. 27
by Josh Nagel - 01/28/2008
The NBA season started with some surprise contenders such as Orlando and Boston immediately making an impact and adding a new wave of needed respectability to the Eastern Conference. But lately it has been sleepers from the West such as the New Orleans Hornets and Los Angeles Lakers who have stepped up and shown the immense depth of the Western Conference. If the trend keeps up, the possibility exists for an entertaining and unexpected matchup in the NBA Finals. But don't count out familiar faces such as the Spurs or Pistons just yet. Here are the NBA power rankings through Jan. 27:
1. Boston -- 34-8. A slip-up at home to Toronto earlier in the week and a loss at the buzzer to Orlando on Sunday notwithstanding, this Celtics team still has been the best top-to-bottom team in the league thus far.
2. Detroit -- 31-13. The Pistons had a rough recent road stretch, as one of the NBA's best road teams failed to beat Orlando, Chicago and even New York. But that's no cause for panic, and they have rebounded with two straight wins.
3. New Orleans -- 31-12. If a rising team needs the proverbial "statement" game to prove it's for real, than there is no bolder statement than the Hornets' 102-78 crushing of the Spurs in San Antonio. It was their eighth-straight win and cover, and they look more impressive with each game.
4. Phoenix -- 32-13. The surging Suns have won six of seven and covered in five of those games. Role players such as Leandro Barbosa and Boris Diaw have stepped up recently and given Phoenix a boost.
5. Dallas -- 30-13. The Mavericks have won nine of their last 11 but have covered just four times and pushed ATS twice in that span. Even so, Dirk Nowitzki and friends look poised to remain among the elite in the West.
6. San Antonio -- 28-14. The mid-season malaise officially has hit the Spurs, who historically seem to slump around this time of year. They are 5-5 in their last 10. However, there is no reason for major concern, although it's certain coach Gregg Popovich won't stand for many more performances like the one his team had in the blowout home loss to New Orleans.
7. L.A. Lakers -- 27-15. The Lakers blew a big halftime lead at San Antonio last week, then squandered a late nine-point edge against the Cavaliers at home on Sunday. If they are to be considered a legitimate contender, they have to finish off teams like the Cavs. A recent bout of frontcourt injuries hasn't helped their cause.
8. Orlando -- 28-18. The Magic have won four of their last five to counter a recent skid, but some inconsistency should be expected from this young team. A buzzer-beating win over the Celtics on Sunday should help restore their confidence.
9. Denver -- 26-16. The Nuggets have started to get hit by the injury bug a bit. Carmelo Anthony has been sidelined with an ankle problem and Marcus Camby and Kenyon Martin are regulars on the injured list. They will have to keep most of their core healthy in order to contend.
10. Portland -- 25-18. The Trailblazers have cooled off a bit, splitting their last 10 games and looking like a team whose record more accurately reflects its talent level and potential. Even so, a winning season this year would have to be considered a breakthrough.
11. Golden State - 26-18. The Warriors have some momentum, having won seven of their last 10 with a couple of impressive back-to-back road wins in this stretch. But they have to avoid disastrous performances, like last week's home loss to the Timberwolves, in order to be taken seriously.
12. Utah -- 25-18. The up-and-down Jazz have won and covered in eight of their last nine. If they can get consistent performances from players such as Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur - their former stars who have been reduced to role players - to complement Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, the Jazz can be a formidable team in the West.
13. Toronto - 24-19. The Raptors have won and covered in seven of their last 10, largely due to the efforts of star forward Chris Bosh and some timely contributions from their role players.
14. Houston - 24-19. The Rockets seem to have crawled out of their recent funk, winning eight of their last 11 games. But performances like Sunday's 97-89 home loss to the Jazz won't help their cause. They also need to find a way to get injury-prone Tracy McGrady to stay on the court for an extended period of time.
15. Cleveland -- 24-19. The Cavs have won eight of their last 10, including back-to-back overtime triumphs and Sunday's road win against the Lakers. Their recent ability to win close games has marked a welcome sign of progress.
16. Washington - 23-18. Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison have helped keep the Wizards vying for a playoff spot, though they have their work cut out for them. They are 6-4 ATS in their last 10.
17. Atlanta -- 19-21. The rebuilding Hawks have suffered a recent skid, losing five of their last six. But Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and friends are an exciting, young team with a bright future.
18. Sacramento 18-24. The Kings, finally at full strength with the return of Mike Bibby and Kevin Martin, had won six of eight and looked like they might shape into a late-season contender for a playoff berth. But they have dropped their last two, and blowout losses to teams like the Clippers can't happen if they are going to make a run.
19. Indiana -- 19-26. The slumping Pacers have lost seven of 10 and haven't looked very competitive in most of those losses. The loss of Jermaine O'Neal to injury leaves them without any semblance of a post threat.
20. Chicago -- 17-26. There are times when the Bulls look like the playoff team of last year; unfortunately, they are few and far between. An impressive win against the Pistons was offset by home losses to New Orleans and Phoenix.
21. New Jersey -- 18-26. Long overdue for his pink slip, coach Lawrence Frank officially has laid a furter with this team. The super-soft Nets have lost nine straight, including their last to lowly Minnesota. What's more, Jason Kidd reportedly has asked for a trade … again.
22. Philadelphia 17-28. The 76ers have gotten a lot out of their modest talent with these 17 wins. It could be much worse, but they are outclassed almost every time they take the floor and can only overcome their talent deficit every so often.
23. Milwaukee -- 17-27. The Bucks have some talent and perhaps a promising young core, but they are too guard-oriented and lack toughness all around, especially in the paint. They have lost seven of 10, although they are 5-5 ATS in that span.
24. Charlotte -- 17-27. The Bobcats are 6-4 ATS in their last 10, but have won just three of those. They simply don't have enough weapons to consistently compete with most teams.
25. New York 14-28. As woeful as these underachievers have been, you have to give a little credit where it's due. The Knicks have won five of seven, none over opponents of any note aside from the Pistons. But hey, it's better than losing to everyone, which had become their calling card.
26. L.A. Clippers -- 13-27. It's pretty much a lost season for the injury-plagued Clippers, brightened only by the occasional win and the development of center Chris Kaman.
27. Memphis -- 13-31. The Grizzlies score points in bunches; unfortunately, the other team usually scores more.
28. Seattle 9-34. The Sonics should be competitive in another year or two; what must be agonizing for their fans this year is how close they have come in several games, only to watch it slip away at the end.
29. Miami -- 9-34. Who would have thought that a Pat Riley-coached team that features Dwyane Wade in the starting lineup could lose 15 straight and become the laughingstock of the league? Not many, but they did, and despite ending the streak with a 98-96 win over the Pacers on Saturday, the outlook remains bleak.
30. Minnesota 7-35. If a team with this woeful of a record can be accused of making progress, it's the Timberwolves. They have somehow scraped together wins in three of their last four, and just missed what would have been a sweet win against the Celtics, the team to which they made the regrettable trade of Kevin Garnett.