NBA Power Rankings
by Josh Nagel - 02/02/2009
LeBron James got the money for bettors twice on Super Bowl Sunday. First, he led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a nice road win 90-80 over Detroit and brought home some nice moneyline cash for those who took the 5.5-point underdogs.
Then, his 33 points in Cleveland's win held up in one of the Super Bowl's most popular props as the Pittsburgh Steelers could not match his feat in their 27-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
Perhaps signing with the Cleveland Browns - as James fantasizes of in a recent commercial - is what it will take for that franchise to turn around, as well.
Here are the NBA Power Rankings through Feb. 1:
1. Boston Celtics (40-9) - Just when it looked like the Celtics might be hitting the wall after an historic start to the season, they go on another run that is reminding us why they are the defending NBA champions and the best team in the league. They have now won 11 straight, and their 109-101 win over Minnesota on Super Bowl Sunday was their first non-cover after eight straight cashes.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (37-9) - The Lakers have done their part to keep pace by winning six of their past seven with four cashes in the mix behind the league's top offense. Another potential injury to Andrew Bynum has to cause some concern for both the Lakers and their backers.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (37-9) - Cleveland's win over Detroit on Sunday showed that the Pistons are no longer a top-tier Eastern Conference team and that the biggest threat to Boston resides in Cleveland. The addition of Mo Williams has made a huge difference, as the Cavs now have two players who can win a game single-handedly.
4. Orlando Magic (36-10) - It's a credit to Boston and Cleveland that Orlando's recent impressive surge almost registers as an afterthought. But they can't be ignored; the Magic have won and covered in eight of their past 10, and they continue to be a bettor's delight with a 31-14-1 ATS mark.
5. San Antonio Spurs (32-14) - Much to the dismay of the rest of the league, the Spurs won't be easy to get rid of. Although they can still be stagnant on offense, their nationally televised 114-104 win over Phoenix was a signature San Antonio performance, won with tough defense and clutch shooting. The Sours have won eight of 10 and delivered the cash five times.
6. Denver Nuggets (31-16) - Similar to Orlando in the East, Denver's breakout season seems to have gone somewhat under the radar, but they show no signs of slowing down. Improving once they traded Allen Iverson was expected; what's been a bit of a surprise is how little they seem to miss Carmelo Anthony whenever he's out with an injury.
7. Portland Trailblazers (29-17) - Brandon Roy is a deserved All-Star pick for this up-and-coming team, which also, coincidentally, features the league's best shooter in Shavlik Randolph at 100 percent. Sure, he's just 3-for-3, but a record is a record.
8. Houston Rockets (29-19) - The return of Ron Artest and Tracy McGrady seemed destined to be temporary and, sure enough, T-Mac already is hobbling again. When they are healthy and playing well, this is an elite team. Quick: How many times have they been both this year? Exactly.
9. New Orleans Hornets (28-16) - Lately it looks as though Chris Paul is trying to carry the load for the Hornets, and it's out of necessity. He's not getting much help from the role players who performed so well last season, and that's a big part of why the Hornets are 25th in offense at 96 points per game. David West is a surprising All-Star pick because he hasn't done enough to help Paul share the burden.
10. Dallas Mavericks (27-19) - Whenever you feel like Dallas has turned the corner, you end up thinking you spoke too soon. Even so, the Mavs have won and covered in five of seven. But it still makes sense to proceed with caution.
11. Atlanta Hawks (27-20) - It was probably fair to expect a little more from the Hawks this year than what we've seen so far, which is just about the same borderline-playoff club they were last year. An injury to promising young forward Al Horford hasn't helped their cause.
12. Utah Jazz (26-22) - The Jazz held for as long as they could without their best player. Now, they had better hope Carlos Boozer returns in time to save their playoff hopes. The Jazz have lost seven of 10 straight up and are 2-8 ATS in that span.
13. Detroit Pistons (25-20) - Sunday's home loss to the Cavaliers was exactly the type of game the Pistons have been winning for the past several years and, frankly, one they should win. That they let it slip away is a fair indication that this team is on the downward slide. They have lost and failed to cash in seven of their past 10 games.
14. Phoenix Suns (25-20) - One move that went somewhat unnoticed was Phoenix's trade for Jason Richardson. It says here that was a bad move. They let go of valuable role players Boris Diaw and Raja Bell to get Richardson, and looked how it turned out. The Bobcats have improved since the trade, the Suns haven't.
15. Miami Heat (25-21) - Rumor has it Shawn Marion is on the trading block, and it probably wouldn't be a bad idea. He hasn't helped them much, and his departure could bring on a bigger role for Michael Beasley, who needs to get more minutes.
16. Philadelphia 76ers (23-23) - The 76ers have just treaded water since fighting back to .500. While they have made some progress, they'll need an outstanding second half of the season to repeat last year's playoff appearance.
17. Milwaukee Bucks (24-27) - Milwaukee's feel-good turnaround season just came to a screeching halt when word came that star Michael Redd is out for the season. Don't expect a total collapse, as coach Scott Skiles won't let that happen, but now it will take another season before the rebuilding project really shows some dividends.
18. New York Knicks (21-25) - The good news is that the seemingly lifeless Knicks have found a little pep in their step, winning six of their past seven and cashing for bettors in each contest. The bad news? They still have a ways to go.
19. Chicago Bulls (21-27) - The underachieving Bulls have been a team of maddening streaks, following a five-game losing skid with a three-game win surge. But with a rookie head coach and a relatively young roster, the prospects for a significant turnaround appear dim.
20. New Jersey Nets (21-27) - The woeful Nets have a similarly bleak outlook now that Vince Carter, the NBA's favorite China doll, has gone down with an ankle injury. Hopefully this season will convince the New Jersey brass that it's time to start over.
21. Toronto Raptors (19-30) - Outside of Chris Bosh and Jermaine O'Neal, the talent-poor Raptors just don't have enough threats for the opposition to worry about.
22. Indiana Pacers (19-29) - The Pacers seemed to have adopted Golden State's strategy of simply trying to outscore their opponent. This has led to a bunch of losses and a whole lot of overs, as they lead the league with a 31-17 mark against the total.
23. Charlotte Bobcats (19-28) - The Bobcats remain a player or two away from turning the corner, but their fifth-ranked defense has helped them reach a measure of respectability. They have covered in seven of their past 10 games, six of which were wins, and they remain an upper-tier value with a 27-20 ATS mark.
24. Minnesota Timberwolves (16-30) - The Timberwolves have slowed from their torrid pace to start the calendar year, but they haven't completely disappeared. Minnesota has split its last 10 games while covering in six of those.
25. Golden State Warriors (15-33) - Golden State's road win over New Orleans on Friday showed what they are capable of and what was expected from them this year. Unfortunately it was their first road win of the season over a team with a winning record. Having the league's second-best offense but worst defense will have that effect.
26. Oklahoma City Thunder (11-36) - The Thunder are starting to throw in a few straight-up wins to go with their prowess against the spread this season. They have split their last 10 games while covering in six for a 30-18 ATS record thus far.
27. Memphis Grizzlies (11-35) - Talk about consistency; the Grizzlies have lost and failed to cover in 12 straight games, which has to rival a record for point-spread futility. They even managed to not cash when sending a game to overtime as a seven-point underdog.
28. Los Angeles Clippers (10-37) - More losses and more injuries keep mounting in another dismal season for the Clippers, who have lost eight of their last 10, including five straight defeats and non-covers.
29. Washington Wizards (10-37) - Changing coaches hasn't changed the fortunes of the woeful Wizards, who had lost and failed to cover in five straight before a visit from the Clippers on Saturday ended their slide.
30. Sacramento Kings (10-38) - Although there are plenty of candidates from which to choose, the Kings get the nod as the worst team in the NBA right now. They have been consistently awful and non-competitive.