By Jake McCormick and Andy Weise
Welcome to the Andy Weise/Jake McCormick TSB NBA Power Rankings! For the rest of the season, this Wolves/Bucks mutated combination will rank each conference and provide witty insight into each team’s continued development/regression. Since the West is the clearly dominant conference, we’ll start the discussion there.
1. Los Angeles Lakers (23-4)
What other team would be a safe bet on winning a championship? Only Boston has a better road record and I don’t think many people would complain about a Boston/LA final this year again with Rasheed Wallace and Ron Artest joining the rivalry.
2. Denver Nuggets (19-9)
The Nuggets might have this year’s MVP in Carmelo Anthony but I’m still worried about the depth of this team if they lose any of the key players. As long as everyone is healthy though, they’re going to be in the hunt.
3. Dallas Mavericks (20-9)
When will Dirk’s yearly haircut come? Does anyone even like the headband look? I certainly don’t. Next think you know he’ll do a ponytail like Mike Miller or pigtails like Latrell Sprewell.
They finally lost a game at home but they continue to surprise me and probably some other people. After putting Amar’e on the trade block over the summer, will they try that again or risk losing him for nothing?
5. Houston Rockets (17-11)
This one really surprises me, I thought this team was destined for the NBA lottery without Yao Ming and then would end up somehow with the top pick in the draft and win the title next year (Happened to the Spurs in the 90s with Robinson hurt, Duncan drafted, title the next year). Why are they doing well? They play hard.
6. Portland Trail Blazers (18-12)
Oden is gone and Przybilla just went down. Let the trade rumors begin with Steve Blake, Andre Miller, Jerryd Bayless and Travis Outlaw all mentioned as bait to get another big guy. Maybe the Blazers were really onto something when they tried to get Millsap away from the Jazz.
7. San Antonio Spurs (15-10)
What was all this talk about the Western Conference up for grabs between the Lakers and the Spurs? Will they throw up the white flag if they fail to advance to the second round of the playoffs?
8. Utah Jazz (16-12)
What was your favorite Eric Maynor moment? The Jazz saved themselves some money by shipping Maynor and Matt Harpring’s contract to OKC. I suppose a fan could get upset and say thanks for trading a first round pick away to save money. The fan isn’t paying the bills though.
9. Memphis Grizzlies (13-15)
What the heck is going on here? A three game winning streak and a 7-3 mark in the last 10 games? Are things finally clicking in Memphis? Zach Randolph is playing like a monster and the supporting pieces in Mayo, Conley Jr., Gay & Gasol make the starting lineup somewhat exciting.
The only place this team can go is up. They have a fantastic young core and with more and more time, they’re going to be pretty good. If they can snag a decent free agent for a good price this summer, look out. David Lee anyone?
11. Sacramento Kings (13-14)
I know a lot of people wanted to crown Brandon Jennings as the Rookie of the Year after he dropped 55 but he hasn’t topped 25 in the last month. Tyreke Evans of the Kings gets my vote right now, he’s what is keeping this team relevant.
12. New Orleans Hornets (12-14)
This franchise desperately needs to win in order to to fill seats but the wins seem to come sporadically. After a while you start to wonder how long Chris Paul will stay happy in New Orleans. I give it another year until he sees some of his Olympics teammates team up once summer 2010 hits. How about Chris Paul and fillers to Atlanta for Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson?
13. Los Angeles Clippers (12-16)
When Blake Griffin is back, holler at me.
14. Golden State Warriors (7-20)
Don Nelson needs to step aside sometime and let this franchise develop under someone who wants to be around for the next ten years. Every month we hear about different players Nelson doesn’t like or wants traded.
15. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-24)
My weekly trip to the Target Center on Tuesday night resulted in a blowout by the Atlanta Hawks. The only thing I could get excited about is the fact that the Wolves are under the cap for 2010 and Joe Johnson is a free agent? It’s too good to be true that he would actually end up in ‘Sota though.
1. Boston Celtics (21-5)
The Celtics are 9-1 in December, and only lost by one point on the road against the Sixers. They lead the Eastern Conference in defense and are easily the deepest, most experienced team in the East.
2. Orlando Magic (21-7)
As despised, yet successful, a player as JJ Redick was at Duke, he has slowly become a deadly sharpshooter off the Magic bench in December, shooting 14-25 (.560) from beyond the arc. Oh yeah, and Jameer Nelson started his return trek to take over the starting point guard positions.
As if Joe Johnson is underappreciated enough, he scores 40 points and is overshadowed by Derrick Rose’s late game surge to carry the Bulls to a win. Regardless, the Hawks are continuing to flex their athleticism and versatility in a weak conference.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (21-8)
Cleveland’s win in Phoenix snapped the Sun’s 18 game home winning streak. The Cavs have won six of their last seven, thanks in large part to King James’ four straight games of 25 points or more.
5. Miami Heat (13-12)
After Cleveland, the four remaining playoff spots are a crap shoot. Miami’s win against Orlando was encouraging, but beating Utah tonight is a must to keep that confidence riding high on a current 2-3 homestand.
6. Milwaukee Bucks (12-14)
Coach Scott Skiles still has the Bucks playing above their skills, and have lost to the Lakers, Cavaliers and Kings by a combined four points before Andrew Bogut’s 31/18 against the Pacers snapped the three game skid. But close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
7. New York Knicks (11-17)
The Knicks have gone 7-3 since banishing Nate Robinson. D’Antoni Euro Ball is picking up steam with Danilo Gallinari headlining the improvements. It remains to be seen if they can beat quality teams and stay consistent.
Chris Bosh is playing as well as he ever has, and coincidentally in a contract year…hmm… Toronto can light up a scoreboard at will, but plays such bad defense that they have to score 105+ points a night to emerge victorious.
9. Detroit Pistons (11-17)
Detroit has been ravaged by injuries lately, and scoring is not their forte without Ben Gordon, Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton. Will Bynum has been a bright spot off the bench.
10. Chicago Bulls (10-17)
It has to be tough being a Bulls fan right now. For every win, the much needed departure of Vinny Del Negro is pushed back like a Brett Favre retirement deadline.
11. Charlotte Bobcats (11-16)
If you could combine the Bobcats’ defense with the Raptors’ offense (Both second in the conference), you’d have a pretty damn good team. Unfortunately, this is reality, and Larry Brown’s reputation as a wizard rebuilder continues to take a hit.
12. Indiana Pacers (9-17)
As despised, yet successful, a player as Tyler Hansbrough was at North Carolina, he has come on as a reliable bench player for a team riddled with injuries and a lack of defense. He’s at his best off the bench, but may be forced into a starting role if things get any worse.
13. Washington Wizards (9-17)
Gilbert Arenas’ 31 points against the Sixers kept the Wizards from dropping their fourth straight home game. Was he auditioning his skills for potential Wizard trade partners, perhaps? Only time will tell…
14. Philadelphia Sixers (7-21)
So much for Allen Iverson revitalizing a city completely focused on their successful professional football and baseball teams. That win against Boston was the biggest shocker of the year easily, and it was fully aided by a much healthier team.
15. New Jersey Nets (2-26)
I’d be surprised if they move up this list. As much as I love Wisconsin’s own Devin Harris, this team will only be interesting this year because they are fun bad to watch. Anyone who’s been a fan of terrible teams understands what “fun” bad is.