2012-13 NBA Power Rankings: Clippers, Heat, Rockets Rise; Nets, 76ers, Celtics Fall
These are the teams that are looking really good right now:
1. Los Angeles Clippers (21-6): No one has been hotter in the Association the past few weeks than the Clips. Currently riding a franchise-record 13-game win streak, this team shows no sign of slowing down any time soon.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (21-5): Even though the Thunder’s own winning streak was snapped by the Timberwolves last week, OKC still owns the best record in the league and leads a loaded Western Conference just past the quarter-turn in the season.
3. San Antonio Spurs (21-8): Quietly as ever, the Spurs also have put up 21 wins so far. Coach Gregg Popovich’s offense is running smoother than ever, putting up 105 ppg—third-best in the league—and leading the league in sharing the ball, with a shade under 26 apg.
4. Miami Heat (18-6): Meanwhile, in the Eastern Conference, the Heat are continuing to lead the way with their solid play. For whatever reason, it seems Miami is flying under the radar with all the attention given to the Knicks—which is probably the last thing any team should let happen.
5. Memphis Grizzlies (18-7): The Griz are right up in the early race for the West, and it’s because of their defense—which Memphis is playing better than any team in the conference, allowing just over 90 ppg.
6. New York Knicks (20-7): New York continues to keep good pace with the rest of the league’s elite, and are the only team in the East to hit the 20-win mark so far. It will be interesting, however, to see how the Knickerbockers’ dynamic changes when Amare Stoudemire returns.
7. Atlanta Hawks (16-9): More than one team in the Southeast Division is playing well, as the Hawks are only a few games back of the Heat for the divisional lead. More importantly, star center Al Horford is staying healthy having missed only one game and averaging near a double-double with 16 ppg and 10 rpg.
8. Golden State Warriors (18-10): The Warriors took one on the chin with the Lakers’ comeback win on Saturday, but still showed why they are a threat in the West thus far. Coach Mark Jackson has his team doing a lot of things well, with Golden State ranking in the Top 10 in points scored, assists, and rebounds.
9. Indiana Pacers (16-12): Indiana is struggling mightily to score, ranking No. 28 in offense. But fortunately, Frank Vogel’s team defends and rebounds well enough to make up for it, leading the league in giving up only just under 90 ppg, and coming in at No. 2 in rebounding with 46 rpg.
10. Chicago Bulls (15-11): Right now, the Bulls are doing exactly what they need to do in order to succeed this year, by staying in the thick of the East’s—albeit early—playoff race until Derrick Rose returns. Luol Deng (18 ppg, 7 rpg), Carlos Boozer (14 ppg, 9rpg), and Joakim Noah (14 ppg, 11 rpg) make up arguably the league’s best frontline and will carry this team until Rose returns.
11. Houston Rockets (14-12): The moves made to acquire Jeremy Lin and James Harden have paid large dividends, despite Lin’s underwhelming play thus far. But, with that backcourt in plae, the Rockets lead the league in scoring at over 105 ppg, and the team ranking in the Top 10 in assists and rebounds as well.
12. Denver Nuggets (15-13): The Nuggets offense has been just as good as expected, putting up 102 ppg with six players posting averages of 11 ppg or more. But rather unexpectedly, the Nuggets are controlling the glass with their mark of just under 46 rpg putting them at No. 3 in the league in that category.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves (13-12): With their two key cogs finally healthy in Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, the Wolves put up a statement win at home against the Thunder last week to end OKC’s win streak with a dominant defensive effort. Minnesota continued to prove its defensive mettle, holding the Knicks to 94 points despite a loss to New York Sunday.
14. Milwaukee Bucks (14-12): The Bucks have been very average this season, not doing anything too well, but not too bad either which could catch up to them later this season. But, for now, things are working well with Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings combining to put up over 37 ppg and 11 apg.
15. Boston Celtics (13-13): Boston has battled some injury issues lately, with players such as Jeff Green and Leandro Barbosa joining Avery Bradley on the injury report. But Boston—which is 4-6 in its last 10 games—face a test Tuesday against division-foe Brooklyn.
16. Utah Jazz (15-14): Utah’s talented frontcourt has helped the Jazz out to plus-.500 start, and No. 9 in the league in rebounding at over 43 rpg. Al Jefferson is putting up a double-double each night, with 16 ppg and 10 rpg.
17. Brooklyn Nets (14-12): Speaking of Brooklyn, it seems like the wheels are shaking in an and around the Barclays Center, as the Nets have lost seven of their last 10 games. Brooklyn did pick up a divisional win against the Sixers in their last game, but dropped three straight in bad fashion to Chicago, Utah, and New York.
18. Portland Trail Blazers (13-13): Portland has managed to even their record at 13-13 with a 7-3 stretch in the team’s last 10 games. A loss to Sacramento Sunday ended a five-game win streak that featured impressive wins over the Spurs and Nuggets.
19. Los Angeles Lakers (13-14): The Lakers seem to be putting things together, coming into Christmas with a four-game win streak which featured a come-from-behind win against the Golden State Warriors Saturday. With Steve Nash and Pau Gasol back in the lineup, the Lake Show could be up for a surge heading into 2013.
20. Philadelphia 76ers (13-15): The Sixers started well, but have lost nine of their last 12 games to fall to two games below .500. Partially due to the absence of Jrue Holiday for four games, Philly endured a five-game losing streak that still has the team reeling.
21. Orlando Magic (12-15): The Magic are still somehow managing to win games with the detritus they received in the Dwight Howard deal in August. Coach Jacque Vaughn has his unit playing well on defense and sharing the ball, as Orlando ranks in the Top 10 in rebounding, assists, and defense.
22. Dallas Mavericks (12-16): Dirk Nowitzki returned to the lineup Sunday in a 38-point loss to San Antonio, which couldn’t have come at a better time as the Mavs have dropped 10 of their last 15. In Nowitzki’s absence, O.J. Mayo showed the merit of his off-season signing by Dallas, putting up a team-high 19 ppg, shooting 47 percent from the field and nearly 49 percent from three-point range.
23. Phoenix Suns (11-17): Phoenix has been streaky lately, following up a seven-game losing streak with a four-game win streak. But the Suns have since lost two in a row, losing badly in their last game to the Clippers by a score of 103-77.
24. Toronto Raptors (9-19): Although their record still is quite an eyesore, the Raptors have won five games in a row. But this streak follows a stretch in which Toronto lost 12 of 13, a stretch the Raptors may never recover from this season.
25. Sacramento Kings (9-18): After losing five in a row, the Kings rebounded with two wins out of three against Golden State and Portland, while losing narrowly to the Clippers. But the Kings will need to improve on their No. 27-ranked defense that’s allowing almost 102 ppg if Sacramento hopes to sustain success.
26. Detroit Pistons (9-21): Detroit has dropped 10 of its past 14 games, but did get a favorable boost from their scheduling with two straight games against the Washington Wizards. On the plus side, Detroit’s defense has been surprisingly good under coach Lawrence Frank, giving up just under 96 ppg to rank No. 9 in the league.
27. Cleveland Cavaliers (6-23): Kyrie Irving’s return to the lineup proved immediate dividends, with Cleveland gaining a win over the Lakers last week. From there however, Cleveland lost six in a row before Saturday’s 12-point win over Milwaukee.
28. Washington Wizards (3-22): The Wizards’ woes have been masked by the disasters in New Orleans and Charlotte. But combined with Washington, the three teams have dropped 33 games in a row and the Wizards show no signs of improvement.
29. New Orleans Hornets (5-22): Anthony Davis’ return to the lineup has not helped the Hornets’ troubles, as they currently ride an 11-game losing streak. On a positive note, Greivis Vazquez is proving his worth at the point guard spot, putting up nearly 14 ppg and 9 apg.
30. Charlotte Bobcats (7-20): After a 7-5 start, the Bobcats showed signs they may not dwell in the cellar this season. But, Charlotte is back at the bottom having lost 15 games in a row as a result of some atrocious basketball.