The Thunder and Bulls have been surging recently. Both teams' stock may be at a season-high right now.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 teams would finish in a giant round-robin tournament this week with no injuries or fatigue between games). Obviously more recent games 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. New Orleans Hornets (11-1): Dallas finally handed NO their first loss. The Hornets followed it up by beating the Mavs two nights later. CP3 is unquestionably the MVP at this point in the season.
2. San Antonio Spurs (11-1): The beat just keeps going. Even their recent three-game run against OKC, Chicago, and Utah resulted in one winning margin less than double digits, and that was a 9-point victory in which the Bulls put up 35 in the final period to make it look respectable.
3. Los Angeles Lakers (12-2): After looking ho-hum last week, they put a whooping on some overwhelmed foes this week. Upcoming contests with Chicago and Utah give them an opportunity to show they can beat two decent teams in a row, their last opportunity for quite a while. Pau Gasol = stud.
4. Dallas Mavericks (8-4): They’re in the middle of 3 consecutive back-to-backs that come right after two contests in a row against the Hornets. They split with NO in a pair of close ones and gave up 32 points in the fourth to the surging Bulls to earn another not-terrible-for-the-circumstances L. Their amount of individual talent is still quite imposing for anyone – the defense isn’t so bad, either.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder (9-4): OKC is on a crazy run right now, with their only loss in the last two weeks coming against SA (Jeff Green played hobbled). They stomped out Utah on Monday, blew out Houston on Wednesday, and then took Boston and Milwaukee back-to-back, on the road, with Durant and Green both sitting. They’re not this good in the long-term, but no one is raising their hand to face them right now; match-ups with Dallas and NO over the next week will clarify where they’re really at as we move toward December.
6. Boston Celtics (9-4): Oh the ways an injured Rajon Rondo will hurt a club. Once he returns and is healthy (by the end of this week it appears), they should be back to normal and closer to the top of this list again.
7. Utah Jazz (9-5): After coming off a trio of nice victories in four days last week (at Miami, at Orlando, at Atlanta), losses to the suddenly-getting-it Thunder and to SA aren’t the worst things in the world. It would be huge if they could win either game on Wednesday or Friday (NO and LAL).
8. Chicago Bulls (7-4): Well look who’s back. In case you weren’t paying attention, Taj Gibson is good and Derrick Rose is now hitting threes. They’ve won 5 of their last 6, including W’s over Dallas and Denver, and their only loss was in San An. They should be able to win two this week during their three-game stretch at LAL, Phoenix, and Denver.
9. Orlando Magic (9-3): We’ll find out how indicative that loss to Toronto was when they face off with SA and Miami early this week.
10. Miami Heat (8-5): Sure they had to face Memphis without D-Wade and Haslem left in the middle of it (might be out for a while), but the Grizzlies brought starters Zach Randolph and O.J. Mayo off the bench as punishment and still won. There are some fundamental problems with how the team plays with their backs against the wall (LeBron legacy alert), but I still wouldn’t bet against them in a series with anybody if Wade was playing healthy.
11. Denver Nuggets (7-6): Denver has been all over the place this whole season, taking down title contenders (Dallas, LAL) and losing in head-scratching ways (31-point beatdown to Indy, falling to the 6-7 Suns after a 3-day rest and Phx having just played at the Lakers the night before). I’m looking forward to the return of Chris Andersen and Kenyon Martin later this season so we can discover who the Nuggets really are.
12. Phoenix Suns (6-7): I understand the blowout back-to-back losses to the Heat and Magic, even if Robin Lopez wasn’t out for a month and Steve Nash had played against Orlando, but following those up with an 18-point shellacking at the hands of Charlotte is terrible. Nash didn’t play, but that’s just bad – and it shows you how valuable he is (see also: the Knicks with Stoudemire under D’Antoni).
13. Portland Trail Blazers (8-6): First Bill Walton. Then Sam Bowie. Then Greg Oden for the zillionth time. And now Brandon Roy. They picked up the emotional win over the Nuggets on Thursday right after the Roy-will-never-be-the-same news, but Portland better hope that Batum, Miller, Matthews, Aldridge, and Camby are enough to gut out a playoff spot in the West (it might be). They really shouldn’t be this high, but the league is flooded with bad teams this year.
14. Atlanta Hawks (8-5): I’ll say it again: Remember when they were 6-0? Surprise surprise, Joe Johnson is not playing like a max contract player (shooting down, scoring down, threes way down, rebounding down, turnovers up).
15. Milwaukee Bucks (5-8): They lost to the Lakers and the Thunder – OK. And to Philly by 11 – not OK. This is what shooting 41% as a team will do for you, even when you have the 2nd best D in the league.
16. Toronto Raptors (5-9): Three wins in a row, including over the Celtics!? Plus they beat Orlando last week. Bargnani and Sonny Weems have been hot. Their defense and rebounding have actually been OK. Things might be a little different this Thursday, however, when they go to Boston and Rondo isn’t hurt. I'd like to point out that here down is 50% of the league, and here down represents all of the clubs I'd put in the "bad team right now" category, and it's not like I have a lot of confidence in the three teams listed before Toronto.
17. Memphis Grizzlies (5-9): If you were told two players on the Grizzlies had to play smaller roles in a game as punishment for acting unprofessionally, and the team responded admirably with a win over the Heat after losing 5 in a row, would you even hesitate to guess it was Randolph and Mayo? Me neither. They shouldn’t lose any of their games this week (Detroit, GSW, Cleveland), but they probably will.
18. Golden State Warriors (7-6): Was anyone actually buying it when they were 6-2? At least they’ve beaten some bad clubs over the past two weeks so that they don’t look like a complete embarrassment. They’re as high as they are because they downed Utah a couple weeks ago – that separates them from many other middling teams.
19. Detroit Pistons (5-8): They’re currently in that place bad clubs get where their only wins are against other bad clubs and just by a few points (by 5 over Wash in OT, by 6 over Sac, by 6 over LAC, by 5 over GS, by 7 over Char – that’s every November win). But they are winning.
20. Indiana Pacers (5-6): Darren Collison is hurt – uh oh. If he’s back and healthy this week, they have a weird enough of a run-and-gun system that they might be able to catch Miami or OKC off-guard.
21. Houston Rockets (3-9): They’re just not deep enough to weather no Aaron Brooks or Chase Budinger (Yao is already assumed), and with Kyle Lowry shooting 29% while turning the ball over too much.
22. Charlotte Bobcats (5-8): They beat the Nash-less Suns on Saturday, plus they won their only other three recent winnable games (Min, Was, Tor).
23. New York Knicks (6-8): Three wins in a row are three wins in a row, no matter how bad the opposition. Can they make it five with an upcoming back-to-back with Charlotte?
24. New Jersey Nets (4-9): The good news is that they have 4 more wins than they had at this point last year. The bad news is that their only two wins this month were against LAC and Cleveland. They still have Philly and NY left before December, though.
25. Washington Wizards (4-8): Yes, they are better without John Wall, especially their offense. Sans savior, they’re 2-2 with a loss in Boston and in OT on the road. How good will they be when he returns?
26. Cleveland Cavaliers (5-7): Two back-to-backs this week provide three winnable games for a club that’s blandly bad at everything (Indy, Mil, and Mem) – although no one will be shocked if they win zero of them.
27. Minnesota Timberwolves (4-10): The T-Wolves are officially the league’s fastest team, using 99.5 possessions per game. And that’s with a starting lineup that includes Luke Ridnour, Kevin Love, and Darko Milicic. Oh – no wonder they’re so bad, losing recently to the likes of the Bobcats.
28. Philadelphia 76ers (3-10): Remember when they made the playoffs a couple times a few years ago with a very similar roster? That’s how good Andre Miller is at holding things down with a crappy team. Now their offense is rudderless, although they’re sporting a fairly solid defense.
29. Sacramento Kings (4-8): Their only win since November 1 was a squeaker over New Jersey at home. They’ve been losing to the likes of New York, Detroit, and Minnesota during that same time.
30. Los Angeles Clippers (1-13): The NBA needs to step in and remove Blake Griffin before his love for the game withers away.