NBA Power Rankings
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 12/24/2009
When is having Christmas Day off a bad thing? When you are in the NBA. The association puts their best of the best (or at least tries too) on Christmas Day, while the rest of the NBA gets to sit at home and watch the teams they are trying to chase. About two weeks away from the halfway point in the season, eight of the 10 teams playing have winning records and four have 20-plus wins.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
The start of the mid-December road trip began ominously with a bad loss at Utah but the Lakers rebounded to win four straight on the road and win back at home against the Thunder heading into their Christmas day showdown with the Cavaliers.
2. Boston Celtics
The Celtics are falling apart everywhere except the win column. Kevin Garnett's thigh, Paul Pierce's knee and Glen Davis' thumb are having people waiting for a Boston collapse but 13-1 in their last 14 games tells us otherwise.
3. Orlando Magic
The Orlando/Boston game on Christmas is definitely the most intriguing game of Christmas Day, the Magic and Celtics battle for Eastern Conference supremacy. The Magic are favored by 5.5 at home over Boston, Las Vegas gives them the nod as the better team, I will wait to see if they can actually beat Boston before doing the same.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
A win on the West Coast is big no matter the circumstances and the Cavaliers were dragged into overtime against Sacramento but they responded by shutting out the Kings 13-0 in the extra period.
5. Denver Nuggets
In a matchup of the No. 3 from the East and No. 3 from the West the Nuggets pounded the Hawks while improving to 13-1 at home.
6. Dallas Mavericks
The Southwest is the Mavericks to lose now. Heading into Christmas Dirk and company are three games better than Houston and San Antonio in the standings and far better in the talent department.
7. Atlanta Hawks
Even after the bad loss at Denver, the Hawks still own the third best point differential in the entire league, they have outscored opponents 105-97.
8. Portland Trail Blazers
How about these road wins to propel Portland back into the Western Title discussion: wins at Miami, Dallas and San Antonio, and all this in the span of four days.
9. Phoenix Suns
The opposite of the Trail Blazers in the west are the Suns. The road woes continue for Phoenix who can almost forget about competing with the Lake Show for the Pacific Division title. They are six games behind the defending champs and mostly because of their 8-9 road mark and a defense that is being gashed for 106 points per game.
10. Houston Rockets
The Rockets are doing just enough to stay in the Top 10 discussion. They have a few impressive wins but they also win the games they are supposed to and that is more than can be said about most of the NBA.
11. San Antonio Spurs
The ninth best defense in the league does not hide the fact that the disappointing Spurs cannot string together enough consecutive wins to compete with Dallas for the top spot.
12. Utah Jazz
More of a statement about the Eastern Conference depth than anything, the Jazz is the eighth team from the West in the top 12 of the Power Rankings. They are slotted into that eighth seed right now and could very well finish there, but the Jazz are still a team to avoid in the postseason. To get to the postseason they are going to have to improve in the games against the Northwest, where they are 1-4.
13. Miami Heat
They allow 97 points per game and score 97 points per game and still the Heat is two games over .500 heading into the holiday. That is a sign of a team who has been able to win the close ones.
14. Toronto Raptors
Is that some life we see from north of the border? Three straight wins, including a win at Detroit where the Raptors have had an atrocious 11-game losing streak have Toronto back within shooting distance of .500 even if they refuse to play defense. No team needs to win in a worse way than Toronto, who needs to keep Chris Bosh around to preserve jobs throughout the entire organization.
15. Oklahoma City Thunder
Not playing their best ball as of late but it has been more to do with the schedule than the Thunder. They lost at Houston and at the Lakers but avoided a dreaded three-game slide going into the holiday break with a huge 117-113 win at Phoenix as 8.5-point underdogs.
16. Sacramento Kings
Their overtime loss to the Cavaliers was a bit of a microcosm of the Kings' season. They are not as bad as everyone thought but when it comes down to it they are just not good enough to really contend. A 13-0 overtime shutout at home is tough and things on the road are not much easier where they are 3-11.
17. New Orleans Hornets
Another Jekyll-and-Hyde team, they can't lose at home, 11-3, and can't win on the road, 2-11. With the luxury tax set for next season, if the Hornets do not make a push soon, David West could be out the door for basically nothing but cap space and expiring contracts
18. Memphis Grizzlies
Another statement about the depth of the west, the Grizzlies are the fourth team from the West in the top 18 of the Power Rankings to not be in playoff contention right now. If this were the east the Grizzlies would be right in the mix. How about this for a three-game winning streak: home wins against Indiana, Denver and Golden State -- Memphis will be sticking around long into the New Year at this rate.
19. Milwaukee Bucks
Early season promise has dissipated to a 4-12 run since late November. The Bucks have scored home wins against Portland and Toronto and a road win at Indiana, but a home loss to Washington on Wednesday tells you everything you need to know about this group.
20. Charlotte Bobcats
A few little known facts about the Bobcats: if the playoffs began on Christmas Day, Charlotte would be in the postseason. And Charlotte is the third best team in the league ATS at 17-10 behind only Atlanta (20-8 ATS) and Sacramento (18-9-1 ATS).
21. Los Angeles Clippers
They left the dreaded North, Northeast, Southwest road trip 2-3 and that alone is an accomplishment.
22. New York Knicks
It is amazing that this team was once battling with the Nets for last place in the league. The Knicks have shown incredible progress stringing together a four-game winning streak in winning at Atlanta and at New Orleans and now sweeping a home stand against the Clippers, Bobcats and Bulls.
23. Washington Wizards
Another two-game winning streak for the Wiz Kids; that is three this year. None have made it to three games and this one looks unlikely to do that either.
24. Chicago Bulls
They are mailing it in over in Chicago. The second worst offense in the league (91 points per game), the Bulls have Vinny Del Negro on the chopping block and look to have given up on the season while waiting to cash in on the Dwayne Wade or Chris Bosh sweepstakes.
25. Detroit Pistons
To be fair, it has mostly to do with injuries but the Pistons were flirting with respectability just two weeks ago. Now six straight losses have them seven-games under .500 and now fighting just to stay within striking distance of the top eight in the East.
26. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors get the nod here in the bottom of the barrel because at least they are fun to watch. They are in the midst of an awful seven-game losing streak and their defense (112 points per game) could be considered the worst of the decade but they are scoring 106 points per game and not getting blown out on a regular basis despite the defensive lapses.
27. Philadelphia 76ers
A 98-97 Philadelphia win at Boston will go down as one of the major head scratchers of all time especially because it took place during a 2-15 stretch of play.
28. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers are not atrociously bad; there are bright spots - they have had solid rookie play and they are only getting outscored by an average of four points per game. However, they have had one of the easiest schedules in the association and things will only get harder for the last place Pacers.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves
They get outscored by 10.60 points per game but, amazingly, the Timberwolves are 15-15 ATS, a testament to just how little respect the oddsmakers give the T'wolves. One thing going for Minnesota is that it does not have to worry about being caught by the….
30. New Jersey Nets
Another showdown with Minnesota resulted in a 103-99 loss. These two teams have put on two of the best games of the season and that is saying a lot as the Nets have been losing by 20 points regularly this month.