NBA Power Rankings: Mavs, Heat, Celtics on Top, Lakers Drop

| by Hoops Karma

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 (19-4): This 12-game win streak should continue at least 3 more games until they meat Miami and Orlando back-to-back next week.

2. San Antonio Spurs (20-3): It’s been 5 games since they’ve won by less than 16 points. You should check them out: 10th fastest team in the league and #2 offense.

3. Miami Heat (17-8): People gave up on them too quickly, and now they have an 8-game win streak (all by double digits) and a crushing victory over a top team (at Utah) to prove they're legit. Have the league’s #4 offense and #2 defense.

4. Boston Celtics (19-4): Are on a nice tear, but Philly of all teams nearly caught them this past week. Look for them to end this New York foolishness that’s gone on for too long this Wednesday.

5. Utah Jazz (17-8): Went 1-2 against Miami, Orlando, and Dallas this week. That sounds right where most fans expect them to be.

6. Orlando Magic (16-8): Took a few more hits this week than they should have (3 straight losses), but they were still getting everyone back from the stomach flu and on the same page. I wouldn’t be too worried about it.

7. Chicago Bulls (14-8): Boozer is back and their defense is looking rugged and solid (see also: Boozer and Noah frontcourt). They should be favored to win their next 13 games before facing Boston on January 8. Their record will likely be at least 25-10 then. There are still tons of questions and/or problems with every team from here on.

8. Oklahoma City Thunder (17-8): They finally earned a big win, crushing Cleveland by 29 on Sunday. They have a hella easy schedule for the next couple weeks before things get interesting with Denver and Dallas on the 25th and 27th.

9. New York Knicks (16-9): Their winning streak is fool’s gold – only decent wins in it were over the big-time reeling Hornets and Nuggets. Expect them to be exposed against Boston and Miami this week (although both visit MSG). Then they get OKC, Chicago, Miami, and Orlando as 4 of their next 5.

10. Los Angeles Lakers (17-7): Their last two wins (over the terrible Nets and Clippers) were toss-ups won in the final minutes (at the buzzer, in the case of the Clips). They’re 1-3 against teams with winning records (4 games out of 24…odd), and that lone victory was won in the final period over the Boozer-less Bulls.

11. Atlanta Hawks (16-9): I want to like that win over Orlando, but the Magic were still under the spell of that stomach flu. Earning a W against Boston or Orlando over the next week would do wonders for the respect I currently don’t give them.

12. Denver Nuggets (14-9): And just like that Chris Andersen is out again, this time with a broken bone in his back. They’ve looked a little ragged recently, and if this Melo thing heats up and becomes a distraction (again), they could be exposed as the also-rans that many pundits predicted at the beginning of the year.

13. Indiana Pacers (11-11): Coming off a disappointing week, Indy would be happy to split with Chicago and LAL this week, or with Boston and New Orleans next week.

14. Portland Trail Blazers (12-12): It’s really tough watching new Brandon Roy trying to play like old Brandon Roy, but they still managed to take Phx-Orl-Phx over four days. There still is talent on their roster, but it’s going to take a long time until they accept and play like Roy is further down the team-options food chain.

15. Memphis Grizzlies (10-14): I’m assuming they’re still resting on their win over LAL two weeks ago.

16. Phoenix Suns (11-12): No excuse for getting relatively handled by the hobbled Trail Blazers twice this week. That thing they’re calling defense (when the other team has the ball) is horrendous.

Everyone from here down is looking terrible, so they’re really tough to rank. Please don’t get upset because your favorite atrocious club got placed behind some other atrocious club this week.

17. Philadelphia 76ers (8-15): Took out Charlotte, Cleveland, and NO recently – that qualifies as major success for the bottom 14 teams in the league.

18. Milwaukee Bucks (9-13): You have to think they’ll start hitting shots at some point because I’m still kinda banking on their inclusion in the playoffs this year (currently sit at #8 in the East in the standings).

19. New Orleans Hornets (14-9): A lot of their losses since starting 8-0 could be pooh-poohed because NO had been playing over their heads and they were facing some really good teams in those L’s. Yesterday’s 18-point beating in Philly marks much deeper problems, however. For starters, Chris Paul should be shooting a lot more than 6 to 13 shots a game, like he has in every contest over the past 28 days.

20. Houston Rockets (7-13): In case you missed the memo, Aaron Brooks is still hurt and the bench is still not deep enough.

21. Toronto Raptors (9-15): The injuries are starting to pile up and Amir Johnson is back to his foul-happy ways.

22. Charlotte Bobcats (8-15): We knew they were bad, but scoring 62 points in a game (very consistent 15 or 16 all four quarters) is pretty awful.

23. Los Angeles Clippers (5-20): They were this close to adding the Lakers to their Giant Killers resume. At least they beat the crappy crappy Kings last Monday.

24. Minnesota Timberwolves (6-18): Have won 2 of their last 5: not too shabby for the teams down here.

25. New Jersey Nets (6-18): Free fall mode is fully engaged. Thankfully their next three are Philly, DC, and Toronto.

26. Golden State Warriors (8-15): Six games into the back-breaking part of their schedule, the Warriors are 0-6 (vs SA, Phx, OKC, Dal, SA, Mai) with Utah on deck. Have actually been close in a few of them.

27. Detroit Pistons (7-18): They’re only getting worse, and with one of the league’s slowest paces and Jerebko injured forever, there are about zero reasons to watch this team if you don’t live in Michigan.

28. Sacramento Kings (5-16): Are currently experiencing every sort of problem you can imagine, but they did spank Washington on Wednesday. 

29. Washington Wizards (6-16): Just got mauled by Sacramento. Yeah, that Sacramento. Can someone please tell me when this John Wall guy is supposed to help them win games?

30. Cleveland Cavaliers (7-17): Have been getting thrashed unmercifully this whole month (6 L’s by 10+, including 4 by 20+).