NBA Power Rankings
by Josh Nagel - 01/05/2009
For those who are looking to ring in the New Year by ringing in at the cashier's cage, look no further than the top of the standings and Power Rankings. The four teams with single-digit losses - the Celtics, Lakers, Cavaliers and Magic - have been reliable investments for your money, with Orlando in particular coming on as of late.
Here are the NBA Power Rankings through Jan. 4:
1. Boston Celtics (29-6) - The defending NBA champs are in a minor "slump," if you can call it that for a team with a 29-6 overall record. Even so, they have lost four of their last six, but this blip far from jeopardizes their perch on this list.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (26-5) - Following a mini-slide of their own, the Lakers have heated up again, winning six straight and managing to cover in their past five. Bringing in Lamar Odom off the bench has seemed to have an uplifting effect on this club, as he adds instant energy and offense.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (27-6) - While the Cavs don't exactly win with flair, they have the league's top-ranked defense and keep finding ways to grind out wins. They have won seven of their past 10 but their profit has dropped off a tad with just four covers in that span.
4. Orlando Magic (26-8) - The Magic have been on a tear of late, winning three of four in an impressive road swing before Sunday's loss at Toronto. The Magic also are doing it with defense, ranking in the Top 5 in most major categories. They have won and covered in eight of their past 10 outings.
5. Denver Nuggets (23-12) - Now that they have a true on-court leader in Chauncey Billups, the Nuggets are reaping the benefits. They have won five of six overall but have struggled to bring in the cash, with just four covers in their past 10 games.
6. San Antonio Spurs (22-11) - The Spurs have quietly surged back into their familiar role as a serious contender, with a miracle buzzer-beater from Tony Parker on Saturday against the 76ers giving them their seventh win in their past eight. But their often-plodding style isn't good for the gamblers, as they have cashed just three times in this run.
7. Atlanta Hawks (22-11) - This up-and-coming team is showing signs that last year was no fluke, responding to a close home loss against Boston with six straight wins and have taken seven of their past eight, with six cashes in the mix.
8. Houston Rockets (21-14) - The injury carousel known as the Rockets is in full spin, and Tracy McGrady finds himself in his reserved seat alongside Ron Artest. What to make of this club? The Rockets have split their last 10 but covered just once in their last seven.
9. Detroit Pistons (21-11) - The Pistons have made some progress from their early struggles and have managed to win seven straight. The bad news for bettors is that they are barely pulling out close games, and thus have just three covers in their last nine outings.
10. New Orleans Hornets (20-10) - Chris Paul will single-handedly keep the Hornets in most games; unfortunately for him, he's had to do just that of late. The Hornets have won seven of 10 but their slumping offense still ranks 23rd in the league. They have brought home the money just twice on their past 10.
11. Dallas Mavericks (20-13) - Sunday's blowout loss to the Grizzlies illustrates the erratic nature of this team. What's more, this once-reliable home team is just 4-12 ATS in Dallas so far this season.
12. Portland Trailblazers (20-13) - The Blazers have yet to turn the corner in their development, and they have lost a few games at home against opponents they should be beating (New Orleans, Dallas); that is, if they want to be taken seriously.
13. Phoenix Suns (19-12) - Typical of the Suns, they lead the league in field-goal percentage but are ranked No. 22 in defense. They have been difficult to peg and predictably erratic, and are just 12-19 ATS thus far.
14. Utah Jazz (19-15) - The injury bug has led to much of the inconsistency for the Jazz, who figure to be contenders once they get their lineup intact. They have won just two of their past six contests.
15. Miami Heat (18-14) - The surprising Heat have won six of their past eight and have covered in five of those. They have done it the hard way, with defense and toughness, with players like the underrated Udonis Haslem leading the effort.
16. New Jersey Nets (16-18) - Vince Carter got his annual buzzer-beater out of the way against the Hawks, now he can go back to not earning much of his $20 million salary and the Nets fans can start wondering where it all went wrong … again.
17. Milwaukee Bucks (16-19) - A work in progress on the court but a pleasant surprise at the book, the Bucks continue their cash-winning ways with covers in seven of their past for a season record of 24-11 ATS.
18. Chicago Bulls (14-20) - Any time the Bulls face a team with a stronger front line, which is just about every game, they struggle. Saturday's loss to Minnesota was proof; the Timberwolves don't have much to offer but they do have a couple of good post players.
19. New York Knicks (13-19) - For all the critics who thought Mike D'Antoni was an odd fit for turning this franchise around, good call. The Knicks have lost seven of their past nine with a six-game losing streak in the mix.
20. Philadelphia 76ers (13-20) - The 76ers were struggling before Elton Brand went down, and it's no surprise that their woes have continued. They have lost six of their past seven, covering just three.
21. Indiana Pacers (12-21) - The Pacers are part of the top-five offense, worst-five defense club (Phoenix, New York and Golden State are others) and the results speak for themselves. The Pacers have lost six of their last nine.
22. Toronto Raptors (14-20) - Streaks of two wins followed by three straight losses have accounted for the Raptors' past 10 games, an accurate depiction of their unpredictability.
23. Charlotte Bobcats (12-22) - The Bobcats are laying the groundwork for respectability, but Larry Brown will have to stick around a couple years - provided he lives that long - to see it happen. They have the league's worst offense at 91.2 points per game and are 29th in rebounding.
24. Memphis Grizzlies (11-23) - Rudy Gay, Darrell Arthur and O.J. Mayo might be a formidable trio someday, but for now they take their growing pains. The Grizzlies have lost eight of their past 10, sprinkling in four covers.
25. Golden State Warriors (10-25) - What was supposed to be their breakout season has become a lost one for the Warriors, whose rec-league quality defense is a league-worst at 111.3 points per game.
26. Los Angeles Clippers (8-25) - The league's second-worst offense has slumped to seven straight losses, though the Clippers have managed to cover in three of their last four.
27. Sacramento Kings (8-26) - There's no one left to trade or release, so all Kings fans can hope for is that the "build" part of rebuilding starts sometime soon.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves (8-25) - The Timberwolves somehow blew a 27-point lead at Dallas but the consolation prize was that they still covered, which they have done in six of their past seven games.
29. Washington Wizards (7-25) - The Wizards finally have shown some signs of life, with five straight covers and three wins in their past five.
30. Oklahoma City Thunder (4-30) - Putrid on the court but profitable at the sportsbook, the Thunder have covered in eight of their past 10 despite getting just two victories in that span. They are 21-13 ATS for the year.