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NBA Power Rankings: Top spot now Thunderstruck

Jan 30, 2012, 2:14 PM EDT

Russell Westbrook, Kris Humphries AP

The top three teams remain the same, just trading places, because they are the three best teams in the league right now. But all three also have long road trips coming up, which should test them.

1. Thunder (16-3, last week ranked No. 3). They are “only” fifth in point-per-possession differential in the league, but yet they just keep on winning. That said it gets tough now with a series of road games coming up, starting with a fun one against the Clippers Monday night. Wednesday we’ll see if Dirk Nowitzki is scared of the Thunder after he plays them.

2. Heat (15-5, LW 4). They got Dwyane Wade back and they got a quality win over the Bulls on Sunday. Lots of road games against lesser teams coming up, do the Heat lose focus and drop a couple?

3. Bulls (17-5, LW 1). Close loss to the Heat and they were without Luol Deng. Their next two weeks are on the road, so expect some challenges (and if this season is any indication, an ugly loss or two, everybody gets them now).

4. 76ers (14-6, LW 5). So far this season they have played the weakest schedule (opponents have a 43.6 winning percentage) but this week sees the Magic, Bulls and Heat lined up. Now we find out how good the 76ers really are. But they will miss Spencer Hawes.

5. Clippers (11-6, LW 9). They fell to the Lakers, showing they still have issues with end-game execution. Like all young teams learning to win. But they got a good win in Denver Sunday. And so far this season they have played the toughest schedule in the league, things get easier. Well, after Monday when they play the Thunder.

6. Nuggets (14-6, LW 2). Kind of unfair to move them down four spots in a week where they continued a six-game winning streak until their loss Sunday to the Clippers. Life and rankings are harsh like that — they simply are not better than the teams above them.

7. Hawks (15-6, LW 8). They just keep winning, even if it takes a miracle play by Joe Johnson at the buzzer to top the Pistons. Interesting game against the 76ers this week, but getting Philly on the second night of a back-to-back after Miami bodes well for Atlanta.

8. Pacers (13-6, LW 6). The schedule got tough and while they got a nice win against the Bulls they fell to Boston and split with Orlando. Which sounds about right, capable of very good nights but mostly a 4-5-6 seed in the East.

9. Mavericks (13-8, LW 16). They got a good win over the Spurs and now they have Dirk Nowitzki back (even though he shot 5-14 Sunday). This team has found its footing and is good. But Nowitzki should be scared of the Thunder, who they face this week.

10. Spurs (12-9, LW 10). They need to rack up some wins this week (Saturday against the Thunder?) because next week looms the start of the rodeo road trip.

11. Rockets (12-8, LW 14). They have a depth of good role players and in this condensed season that wins them a lot of games. It may not be a system as suited to the playoffs, but they are at least on pace to make it in.

12. Magic (12-8, LW 7). Two ugly losses to the Celtics, scoring 56 one game and blowing a 27 point lead in the other. Then an ugly loss to the Pacers Sunday. You can say Dwight Howard should lead them out of this, but will the other players follow a guy with one foot out the door?

13. Blazers (12-8, LW 15). Fantastic at home (9-1) but pretty weak on the road. Good news is they have a string of games at home starting later in the week.

14. Lakers (12-9, LW 13). They are 2-8 on the road this season, which is bad news for them as the Grammys force them out of Staples Center the next couple of weeks. Their defense carried them early but it has been unimpressive the last few games, which you know is driving Mike Brown crazy.

15. Jazz (11-7, LW 11). If the playoffs started today, the Jazz would be in as the five seed. Sure, two games separate the three seed from the 10 seed in the West, but did anyone expect the Jazz to be in this position before the season?

16. Grizzlies (10-9, LW 12). We should drop them just for those horrid TAMS throwback uniforms, but we do it more for the three straight losses. Their offense is starting to show how much they miss Zach Randolph.

17. Celtics (9-10, LW 20). Won four in a row before running into the Cavs on Sunday, all with Rondo out and Paul Pierce playing the role of point guard and play maker. Apparently the Fountain of Youth was not located in Florida but rather outside the Union Oyster House in Faneuil Hall.

18. Timberwolves (9-11, LW 18). Good wins against the Spurs and Mavericks last week, but they are going to need much more of that to climb back into the Western Conference playoff race (they are currently 2.5 games out of the last spot).

19. Cavaliers (8-11, LW 22). Kyrie Irving is a stud. Make no mistake. But this team is young and can beat the Celtics one game and lose to the Wizards in another.

20. Bucks (8-11, LW 19). The Andrew Bogut injury is a setback for this team. They were in the mix for one of the last playoff spots in the East, but hoard to see them holding on to that now. That said, they went 2-2 against a brutal schedule last week.

21. Suns (7-12, LW 17). Surprisingly, it’s their offense that has been terrible, not just their defense.

22. Raptors (7-14, LW 29). They found a way to win without Andrea Bargnani — go small. It worked against the Nets Sunday, although that is the Nets so lets see what happens this week.

23. Nets (7-14, LW 25). They went 4-2 for a stretch, largely because Deron Williams has awoken his inner beast and took over. He almost beat the 76ers by himself Wednesday.

24. Knicks (7-13, LW 21). New York is 1-9 in its last 10 and that win came against the lowly Bobcats. No Baron Davis expected this week. Even when he comes back, asking him to turn this offense back together is asking too much.

25. Warriors (6-12, LW 24). With Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis they have a shooter’s chance every night to outscore opponents and get the win, but their defense is awful. Hence the record.

26. Kings (6-14, LW 23). You know things are rough for this team when Jimmer Fredette airballs a three in Utah with the game on the line.

27. Wizards (4-16, LW 28). They’re not good, but they are better than the Bobcats (beat them twice last week).

28. Hornets (4-16, LW 30). I don’t think the Chris Kaman trade talk is going to hurt this team one-tenth as much as just not having Eric Gordon in the lineup does.

29. Pistons (4-17, LW 26). A Lawrence Frank team that is terrible at defense (only the Nets give up more points per possession). You know that is eating a hole in his stomach. Soft schedule the next couple weeks, so maybe they can move up.

30. Bobcats (3-18, LW 27). Losers of eight in a row, they played and lost to the Wizards last week. Twice. And what might be worse is the Wizards were clear and away the better, more talented team in those contests. On the bright side, I like Kemba Walker’s play. But that’s the only bright side.

  1. zblott - Jan 30, 2012 at 3:09 PM

    Hornets are not getting the proper respect right now. Sure they’re losing, but 16 of 17 consecutive games are against winning clubs, and the other was vs 9-11 Minnesota. Absolutely killer schedule and they’re barely getting beat by many of the big dogs, and all without Eric Gordon. Very few teams outside of the top-10 would do better under those circumstances.

    http://www.behindthebasket.com/btb/2012/1/30/behind-the-basket-power-rankings-14.html

    • danielcp0303 - Jan 30, 2012 at 3:32 PM

      You’re right, the Hornets aren’t getting the proper amount of respect. There shouldn’t be any kind of respect

      • zblott - Jan 30, 2012 at 3:37 PM

        This is the problem we have when fans don’t look at the context of teams’ records.

      • danielcp0303 - Jan 30, 2012 at 7:32 PM

        No, the problem is when we have fans who try and create a certain context while none is there. They are 4-16. And even with Gordon are a bottom 10 team in the league. That is all

    • southbeachtalent - Jan 30, 2012 at 5:18 PM

      I will have to agree, the Hornets are not as bad as their record.

      As far as Gordon, maybe they would have 2-3 wins if he would have been active. Nothing more. It’s been more about their schedule thus far..brutal.

    • muskyhunter2542 - Jan 31, 2012 at 11:30 AM

      20. Bucks (8-11, LW 19). The Andrew Bogut injury is a setback for this team. They were in the mix for one of the last playoff spots in the East, but hoard to see them holding on to that now. That said, they went 2-2 against a brutal schedule last week

      “but hoard to see” Who does the proofing on this site

    • muskyhunter2542 - Jan 31, 2012 at 11:30 AM

      20. Bucks (8-11, LW 19). The Andrew Bogut injury is a setback for this team. They were in the mix for one of the last playoff spots in the East, but hoard to see them holding on to that now. That said, they went 2-2 against a brutal schedule last week

      “but hoard to see” Who does the proofing on this site?

  2. jimsjam33 - Jan 30, 2012 at 6:02 PM

    Expect the Clippers to reach the number one spot before seasons end . Why ? Rumors that Kenyon Martin is about to sign have LA fans salivating at the bit . Chauncey Billups is the go between . That gives LA a front line of DeAndre Jordan , Blake Griffin , and Caron Butler . Martin will be the first off the bench in the 4 and 5 positions . No talent drop off for the Clippers . By the way , the Hornets are shopping Kaman . Reduced rate trade for second rounders ?

  3. max20characters - Jan 30, 2012 at 6:31 PM

    There are 9 teams with more wins than the Clippers and they’re all ranked under them. Seemed like you hopped on the Banwagon too, Mr. Reporter. What a joke of a team. They play for highlights not wins. #Joke.

  4. ljl2 - Jan 30, 2012 at 10:51 PM

    A little dishonest to say that one night the Cavs could beat Boston and the next lose to Washington. When did they play Washington? Try not to work so hard to find faux negatives. I’m sure there are enough real ones you could address within reality.

  5. cisco03 - Jan 31, 2012 at 1:11 AM

    why should Dirk and the mavs fear the thunder? it took a buzzer beater 3 to beat the mavs in their first meeting. dallas whooped them in their second game

  6. mojowheelz - Jan 31, 2012 at 6:26 PM

    Would love to have seen what the rankings would have been if Ty Lawson had played and the Clippers lost to the Nuggets. The Thunder and Bulls are the only teams better than Denver right now.

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