The Hoops Karma 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 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. Here are last week's rankings.
1. Dallas Mavericks (12-4): They just got through consecutive games with the Hornets and three consecutive back-to-backs over the past two weeks with some big wins (NO, SA, Mia, OKC) and only two close losses to hot teams (NO, Chi).
2. San Antonio Spurs (14-2): Dallas handed them their first loss in forever, but then the Spurs buried the Hornets 65-34 in the second half of a 14-point win on Sunday. SA is looking polished and capable in nearly every aspect of their game.
3. Utah Jazz (13-5): Took care of NO and LAL this week with precision-perfect offense; you may have heard of this Deron Williams guy who runs their O.
4. Boston Celtics (12-4): Rondo is back, so they're back to beating up on teams like Toronto (who beat the C's last week in RR's absence).
5. Orlando Magic (12-4): Avenged their early-season blowout to Miami. Are winning with an overpowering Dwight Howard, an overpowering amount of threes, and an overpowering defense (#1 in the NBA) – all the regular Magic ingredients.
6. New Orleans Hornets (12-4): When your collective team talent is this low (as far as top-end teams go), you're bound to take a skid. They may not be a top-5 team again this year, but they certainly aren't as bad as their L to the Clips was, either. A match-up with OKC on Monday will be quite revealing for both squads. A re-match with SA on Sunday will give the Hornets an opportunity to show they have remained a serious title contender and weren't just month-long pretenders.
7. Denver Nuggets (10-6): Even with Chris Andersen and Kenyon Martin still out, their defense is keeping them decent.
8. Los Angeles Lakers (13-4): The Lakers are 1-3 against teams with winning records (only 4 opponents in 17 games?), and the win was over the inconsistent Bulls sans Boozer. Luckily they only face two more winning clubs until Christmas (Indy and Chicago – ugh).
9. Chicago Bulls (9-6): Chicago will continue to be predictably/unpredictably up-and-down until they get a real inside banger on both ends upon Boozer's return.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder (11-6): Their great run is over, and now they get NO. After that, their next couple weeks don't look too bad.
11. Indiana Pacers (8-7): I mentioned last week that they might be able to top the Heat or Thunder this week – try the Heat and the Lakers, and a close OT loss to the Thunder. They haven't had a bad/unexplainable loss since November 3, but they're not exactly consistent.
12. Miami Heat (9-8): As you already know, they're losing to everyone even remotely half-decent right now. As you should also know, they will break out of this in a big-time way at some point.
13. Portland Trail Blazers (8-8): Since the game where Ron Artest pointed out that Brandon Roy is hurt, the Blazers are only 3-6 (including that Lakers game), although most of the L's have been to good clubs.
14. Atlanta Hawks (11-7): At least they managed to beat the Wizards, Knicks, and Raptors in a row. They're shooting well, and that's about it. I've said it before and I'll say it again: they are worse than their record.
15. Phoenix Suns (8-9): Since downing the Lakers and Nuggets back-to-back two weeks ago, it's been an ugly ride for the Suns, with their 7 opponents averaging 119 ppg against them.
16. New York Knicks (9-9): They've won 6 of their last 7, but the best team by far in that bunch was the 8-9 (and falling fast) Warriors.
17. Cleveland Cavaliers (7-9): You realize their record could be almost exactly the same as Miami's when LeBron has his homecoming this Thursday?
18. Memphis Grizzlies (7-10): Losses to the likes of the Cavs, Wizards, and Roy-less Blazers over the past two weeks can't give Memphis much confidence as they prepare to face the Lakers, Nuggets, and Jazz over the next seven days. This is Z-Bo's 8th year as a starter; he's yet to see the playoffs in that time.
19. Toronto Raptors (6-11): They could be a .500 team if they get all their talent on the same page at the same time. And manage to play better defense.
20. New Jersey Nets (6-11): Beat two teams this week who would be in the playoffs if the season ended today (Portland, Atlanta). Still not consistent, but wins are wins at this point.
21. Detroit Pistons (6-11): This week brings them Boston, Miami, and Orlando. Good luck with the Cavs after all that next Sunday. Their defense has to get better soon (particularly the defensive rebounding, which is some of the worst in the league) or they're going to freefall.
22. Houston Rockets (5-11): Even with a dearth of healthy talent, they have a good enough system that they pulled off the W over the Thunder on Sunday (6 double-digit scorers, 26 assists to 11 turnovers, 6 players with 5+ rebounds – all signs of smart, unselfish basketball).
23. Charlotte Bobcats (6-11): They don't look good, but their biggest loss this month was only by 8 to the Heat, with other not-so-bad defeats like by 4 to SA, by 1 to Utah, and by 3 to Orlando.
24. Washington Wizards (5-10): They continue to look much better when John Wall either doesn't play or comes off the bench. They have several winnable games over the next two weeks. I'm curious how they go assuming Wall starts in them.
25. Golden State Warriors (8-9): Again, they were 6-2 – funny what a horrendous defense can do to you. Their next seven games could be back-breakers for their season: SA, Phx, OKC, Dal, SA, Mia, Utah.
26. Milwaukee Bucks (6-10): They've lost to Philly, Cleveland, and Detroit recently, and their only win in two weeks was by 3 over Charlotte. You can't shoot 41% for this long and expect to win games.
27. Philadelphia 76ers (4-13): They pick up random wins here and there; in between they lose to the Raptors, Wizards, and Cavs.
28. Los Angeles Clippers (3-15): Their win over NO last Monday is the single least explainable game of the season (if you really need one, basically their offense looked smooth for once and their shots fell). I want to move them up higher with that win, but it was clearly a humongous fluke.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves (4-13): Three of their four wins have come in the past 9 games, but they came against LAC, NY, and Sacramento. I honestly feel they are even worse than their record indicates.
30. Sacramento Kings (4-11): They lost to the Clippers by 18 points. Tyreke Evans looks like he's trying to single-handedly save his team, but he's just spinning his wheels forcing the action.