Western/Eastern Conference Power Rankings 1-21

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By Andy Weise (West) and Jake McCormick (East)

Western Conference

1. Los Angeles Lakers (32-9)
Still have yet to hit double digits in losses and they continue to roll. One thing they need to do though is prove they can win consistently on the road. Get ready for some road games soon (23-3 at home, 9-6 on the road). The next eight games are on the road, seven against eastern conference teams.

2. Denver Nuggets (27-14)
Billups dropped 37 last night on the lowly Warriors but Denver seems like a team destined for the 2nd or 3rd spot in the west. They’d prefer the second so they could host a second round series. Like the Lakers, away from home they clearly are not the same team (9-11 on the road).

3. Dallas Mavericks (28-14)
Now here’s a team that can win on the road, 15-7 so far this season. The Mavericks seem to be in a good place you just have to wonder if they have what it takes to make any real noise. Solid team led by a great player in Dirk but will they ever return to the finals? I don’t think so.

4. San Antonio Spurs (25-16)
Here’s a team that wishes they could win 50 some games and then let the playoffs start. They have a group of savvy veterans and some nice complimentary young players, if they double their first 41 games they end up 50-32. I think they would take that.

5. Portland Trail Blazers (26-17)
Juwan Howard still the starting center? Check. Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge are two very good players and will keep this team in the playoff hunt but I don’t think they can beat any of the top four teams in a seven game series.

6. Phoenix Suns (25-18)
Amar’e Stoudemire was supposedly going to hit the free agent market this summer and now there are talks of an extension. I suppose good for him and good for the Suns but overall I think we have a franchise here that missed it’s window. It was fun seeing the highlights of Robin Lopez versus his brother Brook last night though.

7. Oklahoma City Thunder (24-18)
People talk about the NBA being very happy to have this type of franchise in Oklahoma City. My answer: Um, yes. What city wouldn’t want this up and coming team? OK, maybe Los Angeles, Boston and Cleveland but I hope they continue to do well.

8. Memphis Grizzlies (22-19)
I argue with people a lot about the OJ Mayo and Kevin Love trade. Lots of people claim Mayo could have been a big time difference maker in MN. The scary thing in Memphis is that Zach Randolph seems to be the difference maker so far. The guy gets exiled by even the Knicks, lands in Memphis which probably got a big yawn from everyone and they have a winning record this late in the season. Wow.

9. Houston Rockets (23-18)
They continue to fall which isn’t necessarily bad when you think long-term for this franchise. You hope that Yao comes back next year, you got Trevor Ariza who a lot of teams wouldn’t mind having locked up, maybe a nice draft pick coming and hopefully continue to develop some of your younger players like Aaron Brooks and Carl Landry. Decide what to do with McGrady hopefully by the deadline though.

10. Utah Jazz (24-18)
They have too much talent to be forgotten. They had a good battle last night with the Spurs and came out on top so I think there’s no reason to panic even if they haven’t taken a step forward from last year. It does seem more and more likely though that Boozer will play out the season in Utah.

11. New Orleans Hornets (22-19)
They aren’t throwing in the towel, 7-3 in the last ten games. I still think they need to make a big deal in order to make something click here. Whether it’s rebuild or try to build with Chris Paul still. David West and other pieces to Toronto for Chris Bosh? I think Toronto would have to listen..

12. Los Angeles Clippers (19-22)
Blake Griffin done for the season was pretty disappointing to many NBA fans. The Clippers really lucked out when they got him (imagine if OKC would have landed #1, wow!). They are still getting nice play out of Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby and Baron Davis among others. Playoffs next year definitely.

13. Sacramento Kings (15-26)
Kevin Martin is back but they haven’t won yet. Things aren’t going so well when Jon Brockman is the starting center for your team.

14. Golden State Warriors (12-28)
Monta Ellis is having a hell of a season for the Warriors, even if the record doesn’t really show much to be happy about. Corey Maggette also is playing at a very high level but he’s never played a full season and is already 30 so I don’t know how excited you can get about that.

15. Minnesota Timberwolves (9-34)
Al Jefferson’s averages continue to climb closer to another 20-10 season and Corey Brewer has started to finally look like the lottery pick everyone in Minnesota was hoping for. The rumors of Granger-for-Jefferson were mainly started out of Indiana when the Pacers reportedly offered a package for Jefferson that didn’t include Granger. Let’s hope David Kahn laughed and said “you want Al, give me Granger,” and the conversation was probably over there.

Eastern Conference

1. Cleveland Cavaliers (32-11)
I’d be shocked if I bump the Cavs any lower than No. 1 in the East for the rest of the season. Cleveland has won eight of their last 10 road games and only have 16 left away from The Q. Eleven of their next 13 games are at home (14-3 on the season), so expect the Cavs to widen the gap between them and the other elites in the conference.

2. Atlanta Hawks (27-14)
The Hawks have healed quite nicely, with two wins against Boston in a three day span and a three game winning streak snapped after Jamal Crawford couldn’t make his second straight buzzer beater. How the Hawks respond to the loss will go a long way in a stretch of six of their next seven games against teams above .500.

3. Boston Celtics (27-13)
With a lineup of Rondo/Allen/Perkins/Garnett/Pierce, the Celts are 21-5 on the season. Any other combination has resulted in a 6-7 record. After practicing Tuesday, Garnett was quoted as saying games 30 through 55 can be the toughest of the season, physically speaking. Knees, don’t fail KG now.

4. Orlando Magic (27-15)
The Magic followed up three straight West Coast road losses against playoff caliber teams with a home win against the lowly Indiana Pacers. After facing the Kings at home Friday, Orlando is faced with the tough task of playing in Charlotte on Saturday against an upstart Bobcat team. After going 27-14 on the road in 2008-09 (second best in the league), the Magic are hovering around .500 (12-11) this season.

5. Charlotte Bobcats (21-19)
The hottest team in the East?! With a 6-1 record over the past two weeks and the combo of Eastern Conference Player of the Week Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace Shake N Baking opponents, the Bobcats are sneaking up on the franchise’s first playoff berth with strong defense and the JackWall scoring combo. Shooting 82.4% in the first quarter of Wednesday’s 104-65 domination of Miami can’t hurt either.

6. Toronto Raptors (21-22)
Chris Bosh’s play against the Milwaukee Bucks was like his team’s likeness in the Jurassic Park series. A career high 44 points and 12 rebounds weren’t enough for the win, but Bosh has been playing like every game will be his last this season (31 double-doubles leads the league). Yet somehow, he still seems a bit underrated.

7. Miami Heat (21-20)
Wednesday’s loss to the Bobcats was EASILY the low point of the season for the Heat. Miami plays 12 of their next 16 games on the road (9-10 for the season), all of which could make or break the Heat’s season in the toughest division in the Eastern Conference. Michael Beasley needs to continue to step up, as he has scored 20+ points in five of their last eight games.

8. Milwaukee Bucks (17-23)
I’ll chalk Brandon Jennings taking Andrew Bogut’s free throw up to pure fatigue (six games on a 10 day West Coast road trip). Jerry Stackhouse’s debut at the Bradley Center resulted in a good ovation from the crowd, and he performed well in 17 minutes. Jennings’ aggressive play has picked up as well, which is crucial for a team that ranks at the bottom of the league in field goal percentage.

9. Chicago Bulls (18-22)
Derrick Rose has posted 22.3 ppg, 6.9 apg, 4.7 rpg, and a .491 FG% in January, all above his seasonal averages, and he led the team to four straight wins. Still, the Bulls are 4-14 on the road and lost the two most winnable games (at Golden State and the LA Clippers) on the current seven game road trip. Chicago will face five straight teams in the Western Conference playoff hunt to end the swing.

10. New York Knicks (17-24)
If Chris Bosh is underrated, than David Lee is invisible despite his No. 4 PER ranking among NBA centers. Lee has posted three consecutive double-doubles with 14 or more rebounds and six 20+ point games in the last eight. In the Knicks loss to Detroit on January 16, Lee tallied 26 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists and became the first player to do so since Kevin Garnett in 2004. Whether he’s traded or becomes a free agent after this year, Lee will be a steal anywhere he goes.

11. Detroit Pistons (15-26)
Beating Boston to begin a six game homestand and a three game winning streak last week have kept the Pistons’ hopes of relevancy back from the brink. Ben Wallace has done his part on a thin frontcourt, averaging 10 points and 13 rebounds over his past four games. Only 3.5 games back for the eighth seed in the East, Detroit is slowly getting back to full strength.

12. Philadelphia Sixers (13-28)
The Sixers have already used two more starting lineup variations than all of last season (eight to six). Still, there’s one statistical category Philly can proudly say they share with Boston, Cleveland and Dallas: All four teams have more road than home wins. So they have that going for them. Which is nice.

13. Indiana Pacers (14-28)
While at the Bucks/Raptors game Wednesday night, a fellow Bucks blogger stumbled on a stipulation in Tyler Hansbrough’s contract that is far more interesting than anything else going on with Pacer basketball, courtesy of shamsports.com:
“The rookie scale allows for players to sign for as much as 120% of their slotted amount, or for as little as 80%. With but the rarest of exceptions, players sign for the full 120%. Hansbrough is no exception; he, too, has signed for the maximum. But in all four seasons of the contract, only 80% is guaranteed, meaning that if he is waived, he receives only 80% for all remaining years. I’ve never seen this anywhere before, ever. You ought to know this.”

14. Washington Wizards (14-27)
Tuesday tweet from MrMichaelLee: Mike Miller uses an ill-timed metaphor to explain why playoffs remain possible for Wiz: “We’ve got a lot of firepower in that locker room.” Not anymore, and that response works on just as many levels.

15. New Jersey Nets (3-38)
It’s the Cavs at the top and the Nets at the bottom, and a constant shuffle of .500 teams in the middle from here on out. Just a prediction, but the disparity between 1 and 15 is mildly enjoyable; like the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team comprised of MLB All-Stars taking on Shelbyville.

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Comments

  1. Love the “firepower”remark about the Wizards…I made a bunch of jokes like that last week at the Bulls game.

    Chi is really cooked on this road trip, I have a feeling they’ll put an upset in PHX tomorrow, and win one more over someone that you won’t expect.

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