The NBA gets back to business after the All-Star weekend. Following are the Power Rankings following the break.
1. Miami Heat: The defending champs have spent much of the season on cruise control, but when focused, they seem to be unstoppable.
2. Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers have Chris Paul, arguably the best point guard in the game; Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, one of the most athletic frontlines in the game; and an extremely deep bench including Jamaal Crawford, Eric Bledsoe, and Lamar Odom among others.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder: Many wondered how the Thunder would respond after James Harden was traded the weekend before the season started, but improvements made by Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka as well as the solid play of Kevin Martin, who came to the Thunder in the Harden trade, have made the loss of Harden bearable.
4. San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs have been as good as any team in the NBA. The main question surrounding them is whether their age will catch up to them in the playoffs.
5. Indiana Pacers: The Pacers have a 25-16 record, despite not having Danny Granger due to injury, because of a dominant defense and a rapidly improving Paul George.
6. Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies defense, led by Marc Gasol, has been dominant. It is still too early to see how the Rudy Gay trade will impact them.
7. New York Knicks: The Knicks have cooled off after a hot start, but they are still playing solid basketball led by Carmelo Anthony.
8. Denver Nuggets: The Nuggets lack a superstar, but they make up for it with a bunch of good players including Andre Igoudala, Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson, and Kenneth Faried.
9. Brooklyn Nets: The Nets have played well since firing Coach Avery Johnson and replacing him with P.J. Carlismo.
10. Golden State Warriors: Even without Andrew Bogut, the Warriors are in playoff position thanks to two of the best shooters in the league: Klay Thompson and Steph Curry.
11. Chicago Bulls: Without Derrick Rose, the Bulls have relied on tough defense to win games.
12. Atlanta Hawks: After the Joe Johnson trade, the Hawks seem to be in the same spot as they’ve been the past few years: make the playoffs as a 5-8 seed, maybe win one series, but never fall to the lottery or contend for a championship.
13. Boston Celtics: Just like the past three seasons, the Celtics seem too old to make a run. Will they be able to “turn it on” for the playoffs again? Rajon Rondo’s ACL tear may finally end their string of deep playoff runs.
14. Houston Rockets: James Harden has been excelling in his new role as a starter, and he has helped lead the Rockets to a winning record.
15. Utah Jazz: The Jazz seem to be on their way back to contending like they were before losing Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, and Deron Williams.
16. Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers’ top six of Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, Metta World Peace, and Antawn Jamison is as good as any in the NBA on paper, but their lack of depth and inability to play well together has left them with a losing record.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks’ backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis is a defensive liability but is capable of lighting it up on offense.
18. Portland Trail Blazers: LaMarcus Aldridge and rookie Damian Lillard lead a Portland team that is in rebuilding mode.
19. Dallas Mavericks: The Mavericks streak of twelve straight playoff appearances seems to be in jeopardy.
20. Philadelphia 76ers: The 76ers are struggling while waiting on the healing knee of Andrew Bynum, who they received in the trade that sent Andre Igoudala to the Nuggets and Dwight Howard to the Lakers.
21. Toronto Raptors: The Raptors have not played well so far this season. It will be interesting to see how Rudy Gay helps them.
22. Detroit Pistons: The Pistons are young but have some very promising players including Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight.
23. New Orleans Hornets: The Hornets could be very good in a few years as the Pelicans, but right now they are struggling. Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers have shown promise, Greivis Vasquez and Ryan Anderson have been playing very well, and Eric Gordon has shown flashes of what the Hornets thought they were getting when they traded for him.
24. Minnesota Timberwolves: The Timberwolves have had horrible luck with injuries. Ricky Rubio tore his ACL last year, and he missed the beginning of this year. Almost as soon as he returned, Kevin Love went down with a hand injury. If those two are ever healthy at the same time for a season, the Timberwolves could be a playoff team. Until then, they will be stuck in the lottery.
25. Sacramento Kings: The Kings have a talented team on paper with Isaiah Thomas, DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans, and Thomas Robinson, but have yet to turn that talent into wins.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavaliers seem to be on their way back to playoff contention thanks to last year’s rookie of the year, Kyrie Irving. However, they still have a lot of work to do before they can return to where they were with LeBron James.
27. Washington Wizards: The Wizards may improve now that John Wall has returned from injury.
28. Phoenix Suns: The Suns have played poorly since trading point guard Steve Nash to the Lakers.
29. Orlando Magic: The Magic have struggled since trading Dwight Howard, a franchise player, and getting a couple of decent players in return.
30. Charlotte Bobcats: Michael Jordan has been unable to succeed like he did as a player in the front office. It looks like his Bobcats may have the league’s worst record for the second straight year.