NBA Power Rankings, Jan. 28-Feb. 10
by Josh Nagel - 02/11/2007
As the All-Star break approaches, teams are making their moves, either buying or selling depending on their playoff position. The old saying states that "nothing in the world is free" but evidently the Grizzlies didn't get the memo. They simply handed one of the league's best big men to the Lakers, and the happy recipients suddenly become a lot more formidable in the west. There were more major moves this season than there have been in recent memory, with the capper of course being the Suns deal to bring Shaquille O'Neal to Phoenix in exchange for Shawn Marion.
There are a couple of puzzling aspects to this trade, though it appears to be a matter of addition by subtraction that helps both clubs. But for one, why was Marion so unhappy in Phoenix? Did it ever occur to him that the $17 million he makes per year for averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds would not be possible if he did not play with the league's best playmaker in Steve Nash, not to mention an unselfish supporting cast? Marion is a good but not elite player, though he is paid like one. He should have realized how good he had it, and now he'll see how bad he has it in Miami.
As for Shaq, if he revitalizes the Suns and takes them deep in the playoffs as he promises, then you have to assume he was doing the Heat a major disservice by sitting out every night if he could have been helping them avoid becoming the laughingstock of the league. On the heels of a couple of action-packed weeks in the NBA, both on and off the court, here are the NBA power rankings through Feb. 10:
1. Boston -- 39-9. Despite missing Kevin Garnett for a few games because of injury, the Celtics keep rolling along, and they picked up a nice nationally televised win over the Spurs on Sunday. They are 5-1 in their last six both straight up and ATS.
2. Detroit -- 37-13. The Pistons have won eight in a row and covered in four of those. They are in the top three in every major defensive category, and their balanced offense gives them enough options to keep opponents off guard.
3. Phoenix -- 36-15. Despite his ludicrous claims otherwise, Shaq's skills have eroded and he's gone from slow to even slower. But if he can somehow give the Suns 15-20 minutes of effective play per night, especially down the stretch, then you have to say the trade was worth it.
4. New Orleans -- 34-15. The Hornets will be a tough out in the playoffs, as they have by far the most unselfish team in the league and almost a college-team mentality the way they work together. Chris Paul should be a darkhorse MVP candidate, while underrated David West should get some All-NBA consideration.
5. Dallas -- 34-16. Still looking for a little more consistency, the Mavericks still have won seven out of their last 10. But an embarrassing 101-82 road loss to the Nets makes you wonder if they have lost some of their signature road toughness. Rumored to be interested in dealing for Jason Kidd, it says here that such a trade would be a bad deal. That's because they would have to depart with Devin Harris who, while he is injured for the time being, has been one of the best things the Mavs have going for them.
6. L.A. Lakers -- 33-17. What a gift from the Grizzlies; not only is Pau Gasol a big man who can fill the void while young Andrew Bynum is sidelined with an injury, he has been a legitimate 20 points-per-game scorer for many years and provides the Lakers with the low-post scoring threat they have long needed.
7. San Antonio -- 32-17. Although Tony Parker finally is being recognized as one of the league's best point guards, his value to San Antonio still can't be understated. Without him the Spurs have struggled mightily, but he will be back in time to help them when it counts.
8. Utah -- 33-19. The on-again, off-again Jazz are officially on again. The Kyle Korver pick-up was a nice addition to their rotation, and by winning nine of their last 10, the Jazz have showed how lethal they can be.
9. Orlando -- 32-20. Given the flashes of immense talent he sometimes shows, it's probably fair to say Hedo Turkoglu has underachieved in the NBA. His recent emergence is exactly the kind of veteran presence the young Magic need, but they might still be a year or so away from realizing their potential.
10. Denver -- 31-19. The helter-skelter Nuggets split a pair of overtime games last week and crushed LeBron James and the Cavaliers in a nationally televised game Sunday. Plenty of offense behind Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson, but the question is whether they can get enough stops on defense to advance in the playoffs.
11. Golden State - 30-20. Just think, if the Warriors could have somehow started 3-3 instead of 0-6, they'd be in a lot better in shape in the playoff hunt. The signing of Chris Webber reeks of a public-relations ploy as opposed to a move that will significantly help them make a playoff push.
12. Houston - 30-20. One of the hottest teams in the league right now, the Rockets have won six straight and nine of their last 10. They have relied on one of the league's stingiest defenses, but probably could use another scorer to make them more potent as they go into the second half of the season.
13. Portland -- 28-22. A string of recent home losses has put a damper on Portland's surprising first half of the season. With another year of seasoning from Brandon Roy and friends, and the return of top draft pick Greg Oden, next year might be the breakout season for the Blazers.
14. Cleveland -- 28-22. If LeBron James wants to avoid being grouped with Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter on the all-injured list - and it's not a flattering comparison - then he needs to stop missing several games for injuries like a sprained finger. He could have made a big difference in a few of Cleveland's recent losses.
15. Toronto - 27-22. The Raptors have alternated wins with losses for the majority of the season. They'll have to show the ability to win more than one in a row to be considered a legitimate contender in the east.
16. Washington - 24-26. The absence of injured Gilbert Arenas might have finally caught up with the Wizards, who have lost six straight. Fellow star Caron Butler also has missed time with an injury.
17. Sacramento 23-26. The Kings have a somewhat formidable lineup now that all their players are healthy; what remains to be seen is whether it's too late for them to make a run at one of the final playoff spots.
18. Atlanta -- 22-26. The inconsistent Hawks won three straight on the heels of a three-game losing streak, but have lost their last two for a 3-5 mark in their last eight. Such up-and-downs are to be expected out of this young team.
19. Indiana -- 21-30. The Pacers lost seven straight before winning their last two, but the slide put a serious damper on their postseason hopes. With Jermaine O'Neal on the injured list, they can't stop anyone in the post.
20. New Jersey -- 22-29. Jason Kidd is probably just as responsible for this mess as anyone else; so long as he gets his numbers, he doesn't seem to care much. Why should he be allowed to leave this misery … simply because he wants to?
21. Chicago -- 20-30. Recent injuries to Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng have not helped the cause for the Bulls, who still lack an inside scoring presence and are forced to rely too heavily on guard play to win.
22. Philadelphia 21-30. The two Andres, Miller and Igoudala, probably have squeezed more out of this team than anyone would have imagined. They have won three straight, and this is probably as a big a pleasant surprise as Chicago's season is a disappointment.
23. Milwaukee -- 19-32. The Bucks have lost seven of their last 10, including an inexcusable home loss to the even more woeful Knicks. If Andrew Bogut played like a No. 1 overall pick more often, this team would have a lot more wins.
24. Charlotte -- 18-33. The jury is still out on Michael Jordan as a general manager/owner in the NBA. But rumor has it the jurors are leaning toward convicting him of incompetence, based in part on the evidence he left behind in Washington.
25. L.A. Clippers -- 16-32. Mike Dunleavy should try to make the most of his limited time in sunny Southern California. The only reason he hasn't been fired by now is because owner Donald Sterling would have to cut him a large check, and that's not one of his favorite pastimes.
26. New York 15-36. The Knicks gave the nation a glimpse of why they are so dreadful last week on ESPN in a game they nearly won against Portland. Guys like Nate Robinson, Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford seem to want to go one-on-one on every play, and Isaiah Thomas does nothing to stop it. Thank goodness Stephon Marbury is out for the season. The only guys who are unselfish - David Lee and Renaldo Balkman - only touch the ball if they are fortunate enough to get an offensive rebound. What a mess.
27. Memphis -- 13-37. The Grizzlies should win some sort of award from the United Way for their selfless giving to the Lakers. The "trade" of Pau Gasol signifies that the ownership has no interest in winning or, for that matter, respectability.
28. Seattle 13-37. The Sonics have won four of six, and had the Suns on the ropes last week in Phoenix before coming up short at the end. Of all the rebuilding teams, Seattle might be the quickest to turn things around.
29. Minnesota 10-39. It would have been a sweet one for Al Jefferson and friends if they could have pulled off the upset against Boston on Friday night. Even so, this NBDL team in disguise is showing some improvement.
30. Miami -- 9-41. The Heat earned the cellar dweller designation with the league's worst record, but they might not be here for long. Shawn Marion should provide some desperately needed help as Miami starts the rebuilding process.