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NBA Power Rankings: Heat on top, Blazers best in West

Jan 9, 2012, 2:14 PM EST

Miami Heat's James does a dance with Chalmers during a time-out in overtime after they tied their NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks in Atlanta Reuters

A little shifting up at the top but nothing too dramatic. Your big movers this week is the 76ers, who are playing well and moving up the rankings, and the Hornets dropping like a rock.

1. Heat (8-1 last week ranked No. 1). Chris Bosh drops 33 on the Hawks and wants you to remember that he is pretty dang good, too. As are the Heat — they won three games without Dwyane Wade last week. Make sure you tune in Wednesday because Heat vs. Clippers is appointment basketball.

2. Bulls (7-2, LW 3). Look for the Bulls to go on a little run — Boston on Friday is the only team over .500 they play the next two weeks.

3. Blazers (6-2, LW 5). Best team in the West so far. Beat the Thunder and Lakers, but then looked tired against the Suns (we’ve chosen to ignore that game, good teams are having ugly losses do to the schedule this year). Interesting game against the Clippers Tuesday in a matchup of the West’s new guard.

4. Thunder (8-2, LW 2). They fall after losses to Dallas and Portland but they are the first team to win all three of a back-to-back-to-back, so they don’t fall far. Kevin Durant is going to put on show in Madison Square Garden next Saturday, just watch.

5. Pacers (6-2, LW 8). Lost to Miami and won an ugly one against Boston as their schedule gets tougher (Philly Monday will be interesting). Don’t expect them to fall apart — the Pacers are going to be solid all season because they are doing it with defense.

6. Hawks (6-3, LW 7). They had the Bulls and Heat twice each last week and went 2-2 (and had a 19 point lead over the Bulls in the game they lost). That’s not bad, not bad at all. Still don’t believe in this team long term, but they had a good week.

7. Spurs (6-3, LW 4). They are now 3-1 without Manu Ginobili. They are also 6-0 at home and 0-3 on the road, falling Sunday to a Thunder team playing its third game in three days.

8. Nuggets (6-3, LW 10). The Nuggets blow up the statistical myth — they are playing at the fastest pace in the league and have a top-10 defense (giving up just 98.1 points per 100 possessions, seventh in the league). To sum up Knicks fans, you can run and defend.

9. 76ers (5-2, LW 15). They are running more and with it their offensive numbers are much improved. Their differential of points scored versus given up per 100 possessions is best in the league — better than the Heat. On the schedule this week are the Pacers and Knicks — two teams they will be fighting for playoff positioning all season. Heavy home schedule ahead for Philly.

10. Lakers (6-4, LW 9). Andrew Bynum is a beast this season and the Lakers remain tough because you can’t handle him and Pau Gasol on the same front line. Oh, and that Kobe guy. Note that Matt Barnes has secured the starting job at the small forward and Metta World Peace is seeing him minutes drop.

11. Clippers (4-2, LW 13). Just two games last week and only three this week — but they are the Trail Blazers, Lakers and Heat. Yikes. Started to see some defense from them this week but that is going to have to get much, much better.

12. Magic (6-3, LW 6). The thumping by the Bulls led Stan Van Gundy to admit they are not on that level. They are beating who they should but are not knocking off the elite.

13. Celtics (4-4, LW 12). We’re going to have a better feel for the Celtics after this week where the play Dallas, Chicago and Indiana.

14. Knicks (4-4, LW 11). Losses to the Bobcats and Raptors last week — those are games that good teams win. The Knicks are wildly inconsistent. Knicks fans are counting on the eventual Baron Davis and Iman Shumpert starting backcourt to save them. That’s trouble.

15. Mavericks (4-5, LW 20). Nice win against the Thunder as they are starting to find a regular season groove (even if they have to do it without Jason Kidd for a few games). That said, they have lost the intimidating aura a defending champion should have.

16. Jazz (5-3, LW 24). They went 4-0 last week and move up, but they did it all at home save for beating Golden State. They look good — Derrick Favors in particular — and seven of their next eight are in Salt Lake City.

17. Suns (4-4, LW 21). The Steve Nash of old is back and the Suns looked pretty good last week.

18. Cavaliers (4-4, LW 23). They are playing better than we thought, and Kyrie Irving has figured out how to fit his game into the NBA in a way the more explosive John Wall has yet to realize. Still not sold, but they’re playing pretty well.

19. Grizzlies (3-5, LW 19). The Grizzlies were 2-2 this week but will struggle without Zach Randolph, as they did against the Lakers Sunday. The good news is the next four are at home for Memphis, the bad news is the Thunder, Bulls and Knicks are in that mix.

20. Timberwolves (3-5, LW 22). A 2-2 week with a win over San Antonio. Sunday started a three games in three nights stretch, which brutally ends against the Bulls.

21. Bucks (2-6, LW 14). They go 0-5 on West Coast swing, playing while missing a couple starters (including Andrew Bogut)… which is about what you’d expect. They are a better team than this but we’re going to have to wait to see it.

22. Rockets (2-6, LW 16). They went 0-4 last week, but with a brutal schedule (OKC and both Los Angeles teams made up the schedule). They will look better beating weaker teams but they struggle with the upper echelons.

23. Raptors (3-5, LW 25). Dwane Casey has them playing slower and better defense. You see flashes of potential, then you seen them get crushed by the Sixers and fall to the Nets and it makes your eyes bleed. Going to be that kind of season.

24. Warriors (2-6, LW 17). Really tough schedule so far and their next seven are against the East (including a road swing through Florida).

25. Kings (3-6, LW 27). We feel for Keith Smart — how do you implement real changes dropped into a condensed schedule with far fewer practices? DeMarcus Cousins has put up good numbers after being freed from the Paul Westphal shackles.

26. Hornets (2-6, LW 18). Tough winless week and its hard to be optimistic with Eric Gordon still sidelined.

27. Bobcats (2-6, LW 26). They actually have the worst defense in the league right now, giving up 111.8 per 100 possessions per Basketball-Reference.com. The good news is Hoopdata says they are only 29th in the league (with Houston worse).

28. Pistons (2-6, LW 28). Got the win against Orlando because Greg Monroe could single cover Dwight Howard and when you can do that you beat the Magic. Aside that they got crushed by everyone else.

29. Nets (2-7, LW 29). Their differential of points scored versus given up per 100 possessions is worst in the league (-13.4) — even worse than Washington.

30. Wizards (0-8, LW 30). Last week owner Ted Leonsis essentially said that Flip Saunders job was not in danger. He asked him to play a lot of young players and with that comes losses. Okay. But if those young players aren’t improving…..

  1. stillbleedingblue - Jan 9, 2012 at 2:55 PM

    Thunder play Knicks in OKC on Saturday. Try fact checking. Every post…

    • The Baseball Gods - Jan 9, 2012 at 3:12 PM

      Agreed.

  2. The Baseball Gods - Jan 9, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    Finally a little 76ers recognition. Of course I still think they are ranked a little low considering they started their season on a 5 game road trip all over the country and are blowing teams out of the water. Their two losses were very tight games that they lost at the very end on the road. They have a +15.3 point differential which is by far the best in all of the NBA. The Heat are second with a +11.8. Also, their leading scorer is Lou Williams at 17.1 PPG even though he is not even a starter. It tells a lot about the depth they have on their team and how they are playing as a team.

    • borderline1988 - Jan 9, 2012 at 8:36 PM

      I think it’s a bit too early to be using point differential as a reliable measure of success.
      The 76ers have blown out the Raptors, Golden State and Detroit. They actually have yet to beat a winning team, let alone a quality winning team. The only good team they’ve played is Portland, and they lost that game.
      They’ve had probably the easiest schedule in the league so far, and with games coming up against Sacramento, NY, Washington X 2 and Milwaukee, they have a good chance at being 11-3 in 1.5 weeks. Then the schedule evens out and they’ll probably be playing .500 ball the rest of the way.

      I do like Philly though. They’re a hard-nosed, athletic team. They’ll be competitive for years although they will never be legitimate championship contenders. Look at Memphis – another collection of tough, athletic young players, with arguably more talent on their roster than Philly; yet no one really believes they will be vying for a championship anytime soon.
      It’s too bad but the reality of the NBA is that you need superstars/HOFs on your team to compete for a championship.

  3. passerby23 - Jan 9, 2012 at 3:14 PM

    Really early to start talking coach of the year, but if the Sixers keep up this play, Doug Collins has got to be considered. No real franchise player and these guys are playing great, like the Nuggets.

  4. zblott - Jan 9, 2012 at 3:28 PM

    Far too many rankings place the Pacers way too high simply because of their record – check out who they’ve played, and you’ll see why they’re much more average than they appear.

    http://www.behindthebasket.com/btb/2012/1/9/behind-the-basket-power-rankings-11.html

    • ejc003 - Jan 9, 2012 at 4:26 PM

      We’ll see the Pacers first big test taking on the Sixers on the road tonight. This should settle a lot of arguments. Personally, I see the Sixers winning by 8… but then again I’m a biased Philly fan.

      • Kurt Helin - Jan 9, 2012 at 7:18 PM

        Will be a good game, but word is Pacers are without Granger for the night.

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