The Behind The Basket Power Rankings examine how comparatively powerful or dominant each NBA team is right now (for clarity’s sake – this is how I think the team’s would finish in a giant round-robin tournament this week with no further injuries or fatigue between games). Obviously more recent contests and happenings weigh heavier than those in the past, but a look at how the clubs have progressed throughout the season is necessary to get a sense of patterns that will continue or possibly change. Unlike college rankings, these are re-evaluated each time; no one has to wait for someone else to lose in order to move up if they’re doing well. Again, these look at how powerful a club is RIGHT NOW.
1. Dallas Mavericks (45-17): Their only 2 losses since Jan. 20 (20-game stretch) were both buzzer-beaters. They get the Lakers on Saturday to finish off a 5-game week.
2. Chicago Bulls (43-18): Went 4-1 on their roadtrip, including wins in Orlando and Miami. With their relatively easy rest-of-March, the Bulls could be the East’s #1 shortly.
3. LA Lakers (45-19): With Bynum coming on strong, the Lakers finally downed the mighty Spurs. Can they continue it against the Heat, Mavericks, and Magic? If so, there’s no doubt they’re #1.
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4. San Antonio Spurs (51-12): With Tony Parker back way earlier than expected, they killed the Heat and got killed by the Lakers over the weekend. The one consistent? The Spurs keep resting their starters and getting valuable minutes for their role players.
5. Boston Celtics (46-15): Even as they keep winning against a bunch of unimpressive teams (which make up most of the rest of their March schedule), fans are quite worried about their center position and how they’ll match up with Dwight Howard and/or LA’s group of bigs over the next three months.
6. Orlando Magic (40-23): Remember 2009? Remember Turk, JJ, Jameer, and everyone else hitting all those 3’s? Well the Heat do, as well.
7. Miami Heat (43-20): People are having a lot of fun with this losing streak. Miami did beat the stuffing out of the Lakers in LA on Christmas – can they replicate that result on Thursday? If not, the Spurs loom the following Monday.
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8. Denver Nuggets (37-27): All signs point toward “great trade” and “much improved.” Hopefully this all puts Melo’s career in the proper light.
9. OKC Thunder (39-22): Still extremely inconsistent, but the rest of their March is a relative cakewalk with a Heat-on-the-16th center.
10. Memphis Grizzlies (35-29): They just split 2-2 against SanAn twice, NO, and Dallas. It’s not much of a limb to go out on, but it appears they’re in the Western Conference playoffs to stay, even with Gay out. Consider it Battier’s karma overpowering Z-Bo’s.
11. Houston Rockets (32-32): Are back to .500, and still could be in two weeks after they face SA and Boston. Somehow they’ll finish the year with a winning record, end up in the lottery, land Harrison Barnes in the draft, and be the team he develops into a superstar with. It just feels right.
12. New Orleans Hornets (37-28): Chris Paul had to be carted off the floor, and now they get Chicago, Dallas, Denver, and Boston over the next 12 days. Has anyone else noticed how many major injuries he’s had in his career?
13. Philadelphia 76ers (30-29): Are getting contributions from everyone, but Iguodala’s two triple-doubles in a row are quite noteworthy, which now gives him as many for the season as LeBron (3).
14. Atlanta Hawks (37-26): Still have enough talent to do some damage (beat Chicago on Wed.), but overall their season is slipping away, with LAL, Chicago, Portland, Denver, Miami, and Chicago all on the schedule over the next 15 days.
15. Portland Trail Blazers (33-26): Showing the inconsistency you expect from middle-of-the-road teams that still have identity issues. Enjoy the Orlando-Miami vacation.
16. Phoenix Suns (32-29): Is anyone else a little bit sad each time you watch them play?
17. Utah Jazz (33-30): Time to forget about the playoffs and focus on rebuilding.
18. New York Knicks (32-29): Wake me up when they figure out what the hell they’re actually about/doing. Are 0-3 against the Cavs this year.
19. NJ Nets (19-43): Just might be the best clearly bad team in the NBA. Deron Williams put on quite a show in London: 37 points and 29 assists in two wins.
20. LA Clippers (23-40): Get rid of Baron Davis, win some games. Their March schedule doesn’t look too bad, so they could finish the month with as many as 11 wins.
21. Indiana Pacers (27-35): Have been pretty consistent for a while, so they might have a good week considering they have Minny and Toronto on Wednesday and Friday.
22. Golden State Warriors (27-35): Although they’ve looked horrid of late, rookie coach Keith Smart is making some smart decisions. Owner Joe Lacob continues to make owners everywhere look like a-holes by referring to non-season-ticket holders as not “real fans.”
23. Milwaukee Bucks (22-36): This nightmare of a season will be over soon, plus they have Washington and Cleveland up to start off the week.
24. Charlotte Bobcats (26-36): Just got pummeled over a tough stretch, and the next few weeks look to be more of the same (Chi, Port, Hou, OKC, SA, Bos).
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (15-49): Split with Detroit and Washington this week, so that’s something.
26. Detroit Pistons (23-41): Started March with absolutely nothing on the schedule (Mil, Min, Was), and could only pull out one of them. When is Jerebko coming back? At least he’s fun to watch.
27. Toronto Raptors (17-46): Again had a better win during the week than Sacramento (NO vs. LAC).
28. Sacramento Kings (15-45): The Tyreke Evans-Sergio Rodriguez video is quite telling of how bad the heads of many of these players are.
29. Washington Wizards (16-46): Beat Minny. Lost to Detroit and Golden State. Can they beat either Milwaukee, LAC, Toronto, or New Jersey over the next two weeks?
30. Cleveland Cavaliers (12-50): Somehow the Cavs have the Knicks’ number (3-0 vs. them). It’s the other 28 teams that are a problem.