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NBA Power Rankings: Heat on top, Clippers climbing

Feb 6, 2012, 2:12 PM EDT

Miami Heat's James prepares to make a shot against Milwaukee Bucks during their NBA game in Milwaukee Reuters

Miami moves back into the top spot — but the Clippers have now cracked the top three, which had been the domain of the Heat, Bulls and Thunder for a while. Oh, and the Bobcats still suck.

1. Heat (18-6, last week ranked No. 2). They’ve had a few uninspired wins (like Sunday against the Raptors) but they keep winning. Also, they beat the Sixers Friday with a burst that reminded us just how good they can be converting defense to offense, and how hard they will be to beat in the playoffs. Unless they get the Bucks in the first round. Six game road trip starts Wednesday.

2. Bulls (20-6, LW 3). Luol Deng is back and they missed him — so Tom Thibodeau welcomed him back with 41 minutes. Chicago is out of the friendly confines of the United Center for a nine-game trip.

3. Clippers (14-7, LW 5). Beat the Thunder convincingly Monday, and while that may have been an off night for OKC the Clippers are starting to look like a threat to come out of the West. Especially with Kenyon Martin in the fold providing needed depth up front (sorry Brian Cook). Still a lot of questions come the playoffs, but right now they are hot.

4. Thunder (18-5, LW 1). They may still be the team to beat in the West, but here is some cause for concern — Chris Paul and Tony Parker abused their perimeter defense last week. We’ve got questions, other teams think the Thunder can be beat.

5. 76ers (17-7, LW 4). Lost to the Heat, but beat the Magic, Bulls and Hawks — they are getting tested and passing. More tests on the way this week with the Lakers, Clippers and Spurs all coming to town.

6. Pacers (16-7, LW 8). Paul George is emerging as a young star to watch, and not just for the dunks. Lots of quality wins for this team — road wins against the Lakers, Bulls, Mavericks and more. Tough games this week on the road at Atlanta and Memphis

7. Spurs (16-9, LW 10). Tony Parker has been tearing it up the last week and they expect to get Manu Ginobili back during the Rodeo road trip (which is underway).

8. Nuggets (15-9, LW 6). Beat the Clippers, lost to the Lakers and fell to the Trail Blazers on the third night of a back-to-back-to-back. Still one of the most fun teams to watch in the league.

9. Hawks (16-8, LW 7). The Hawks are crushing the teams they should beat (13-0 against teams below .500) and getting good defense from Josh Smith. Still, tough games ahead against teams over .500, so we reserve judgment.

10. Magic (15-9, LW 12). Split games against the two good teams on the schedule last week (lost to Philly, beat Indy). How they do the next month is about how good they are at ignoring the Dwight Howard rumors, as they will only get louder.

11. Lakers (14-10, LW 14). Split a tough back-to-back (Denver then Utah) to start the Grammy road trip that has them on the road for a couple weeks. Big games this week — at Philly, Boston and New York. Are the Lakers big three of Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol enough (because after that the drop off is steep)?

12. Celtics (13-10, LW 17). They have won eight of their last nine and now have gotten Rajon Rondo back. Suddenly they look like one of those teams the elite want to avoid in the East.

13. Blazers (14-10, LW 13). Beat Utah at home, lost to the Kings on the road. This is just a Jekyll and Hyde team inside or outside the Rose Garden — 11-1 at home, 3-9 on the road.

14. Mavericks (14-11, LW 9). Dirk Nowitzki may finally be finding his footing with a couple good games near the end of the week. Still, this is a hot and cold team that could beat or lose to anyone on any given night. Not consistent like last season.

15. Jazz (13-9, LW 15). Quality win against the Lakers Saturday night (even if the old legs of LA were on a back-to-back). Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson have made a formidable front line. They are on the road a lot leading up to the All-Star Game, we’ll see how they do with that test.

16. Timberwolves (12-12, LW 18). They are only 1.5 games out of the last playoff spot in the West, and they are playing well. But they will have to get by two games this week without Kevin Love, who used Luis Scola as a doormat.

17. Rockets (13-11, LW 11). A lot of road games against the teams ahead of them in the West between now and the All-Star game. This would be a good time to make a push and secure one of those spots, but instead they are slumping.

18. Grizzlies (12-12, LW 16). Held their own last week in a tough stretch of games. If they can just hold close to a playoff spot (1.5 games out) until Zach Randolph gets back they have a shot.

19. Bucks (10-13, LW 20). What they are hoping for is to grab the 7 or 8 seed and get the Heat in the first round (they beat Miami twice in recent weeks). Stephen Jackson was supposed to carry the offense, but they are +7.2 per 48 minutes when he sits. So he’s been sitting a lot.

20. Cavaliers (9-13, LW 19). Kyrie Irving is the story, but Anderson Varejao has been fantastic the past couple weeks. The phone will start ringing with trade offers for the Brazilian, but will the Cavs be listening? Maybe not.

21. Knicks (9-15, LW 24). That lost Friday against Boston hurt — New York had a healthy lead and let it get away when Boston tightened their defense in the second half. Jeremy Lin gets the start — he’s nobody’s savior but his style of play (attacking) is what New York needs at the point.

22. Suns (9-14, LW 21). Good to see Michael Redd back out on the court and playing well. That story will be overshadowed by the annual “will they trade Steve Nash” rumors that are ready to kick into high gear.

23. Warriors (8-13, LW 25). For a team with Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry this team is shockingly dull to watch.

24. Kings (8-15, LW 26). Marcus Thornton is back and playing well, and the Kings have looked relatively solid the past week. We’ll see if that holds up.

25. Raptors (8-17, LW 22). Sunday’s loss to the Heat showed how much this team misses Andrea Bargnani — they fought hard but lacked the offensive firepower to get a win.

26. Nets (8-17, LW 23). Their defense was torn apart by Jeremy Lin and Nikola Pekovic on back-to-back nights over the weekend. That should tell you everything you need to know.

27. Pistons (6-20, LW 29).
Winners of two and a row, so stand back. Still surprised to see a Lawrence Frank coached team 29th in the league in defensive efficiency.

28. Wizards (4-20, LW 27). Do they look any better than they did under Flip Saunders? And no, a couple wins over Charlotte don’t improve things.

29. Hornets (4-20, LW 28). Note to David Stern: You can drive a hard bargain when you are trading an asset like Chris Paul; Chris Kaman is another matter entirely.

30. Bobcats (3-21, LW 30). Losers of 11 straight, two of their losses last week were by more than 30. And now they enter one of their toughest weeks. Good luck!

  1. 1972wasalongtimeago - Feb 6, 2012 at 3:03 PM

    Let me just say it for you all……

    Doesn’t mean anything until June.
    And even then it won’t matter because they needed to join forces.
    And even if it’s okay that they joined forces, one championship means nothing.
    Michael Jordan has 6. Kobe has 5. Magic has 5. Barkley has…..oh wait. Never mind.

    Okay. You all can save your strength. Now go make fun of Brady and Belichick because they haven’t won “anything” since 2004 in order to feel better about yourselves.

    • zeedoubleyou - Feb 6, 2012 at 5:49 PM

      If you want to open that can of worms, Brady and Belichick haven’t won “anything” since Spygate, so I really don’t see an untainted Lombardi Trophy sitting over at Gillette.

      • 1972wasalongtimeago - Feb 6, 2012 at 10:27 PM

        Sheep. All of you.

    • david8726 - Feb 7, 2012 at 7:53 AM

      By the way your post ended, it sure sounds like you’re a butthurt Patriots fan.

      If only Eli didn’t own you guys so much….

  2. jjordannba - Feb 6, 2012 at 3:09 PM

    Lets get the Celtics a little bit higher next time, Especially since the Magic are above them

  3. zblott - Feb 6, 2012 at 4:33 PM

    Bulls haven’t beaten a winning team in over a month, need to move down:

    • pudgalvin - Feb 6, 2012 at 10:40 PM

      Tell some teams they’re playing to start winning some games. They got the best record in the league while playing the most ridiculous of all the ridiculous schedules with Deng out for a month, Rose for two weeks, and Rip for every game he doesn’t deem important. I’d say they’re in the right spot.

      • zblott - Feb 7, 2012 at 2:35 AM

        Why should the Bulls be ranked ahead of Philly, who absolutely blasted them this past week 98-82? Chicago can’t get past the big boys, and that “ridiculous” schedule may have a lot of games on it, but it ranks as one of the 5 easiest in the league when you actually consider who they’re facing. As of Wednesday, they’ll be the only team in the league to have played all 9 teams with single-digit win totals. Their schedule doesn’t actually get hard until Leap Day, at which point Chicago will still have a really bad record against teams over .500.

  4. andyreidisfat - Feb 6, 2012 at 10:56 PM

    Ok so the clippers are a flawed team that has a pg who has always had injury problems and a guy who dunks and rebounds but isn’t very good at anything else and a center who IMO could become one of the best but definetly isn’t there yet. And now they add a player who hasn’t mattered in 7 years. And they are ahead of the sixers ? Even though the sixers are better in everything and have a better record , that makes sense.

    The real top 5
    1. Heat- I still think they are a flawed playoff team due to having zero depth but you can argue with how they are playing right now.
    2. Sixers- best home team in the nba, best d in the nba, maybe one of the best benches ever. Also a flawed playoff team because of the lack of a closer, though Lou will looked good tonight.
    3. Bulls – only behind the sixers right now because the sixer laid a butt kicking on them last week so bad rose didn’t even play in the final quarter( I keep hearing how sick he was yet he dominated the very next night. So yeah he was sick, sick of iggy shutting him down)
    4. OKC- I love Durant. In fact I think he may be the best pure scorer ever. The problem with this team is that it’s not a team. They have a piece that just doesn’t fit and that’s the pg. deron williams for Westbrook IMO should happen by the trade deadline. Okc gets a real pg and the nets get a scorer to build the team around.
    5 Indiana- I know this is a bit shocking but if you watch them play, they are really good.

    To me Indiana and Philly are the stories this year. Real basketball teams with no “superstars” playing team ball and winning. Hopefully these teams make enough noise to turn the tide of the “big three” model and we start to get back to team ball and a much more unpredictable league

    • chrisppers - Feb 7, 2012 at 5:41 AM

      If you’re going to analyse a team then you might as well do it right:

      I’ll assume the clippers PG you’re talking about is CP3, yes he’s has knee surgery, but he appears 100% and unless you’re referring to someone of the likes of Greg Oden, talking about future injuries is a completely worthless point to an argument.

      1.Here’s a valid point, they currently have the best PG in the game.

      A guy who dunks and rebounds and isn’t good at anything else?
      Do you even watch the games?!

      2.Blake Griffin has developed a very well rounded game. Teams now have to respect his outside shot, he’s practically unstoppable 1-on-1 around the rim w/o having to dunk (his spins and bank shots are very consistently efficient), his passing for a PF may be second to none, his defense has dramatically improved (I believe he’s been avg 2+ blocks per game over the last 10 or something), and many intangibles that you don’t find in many players like hustle, durability, taking charges, maturity, decision making…

      3.DJ-also has come a long way, top 2 in blocks not to mention shot alterations(with him the clippers didn’t have to double dwight), very underrated offensive post moves and put backs

      4. Caron Butler-almost looking like the old Caron filling that scoring role at the SF position they’ve been lacking for ever so long

      5.Mo Williams – sixth man of the year (maybe not now if he starts if Billups is out the season)
      6.Reggie Evans – w/o question the best rebounder off the bench in the league bar none

      The Clippers were easy top 5 before the addition of Kmart, but with the addition of him, possibly the subtraction of Billups and maybe the addition of JR, they’re still easy top 5 and arguably top 3.

      OKC is Durant and Westbrook with the rest of them being mediocre and garbage; Harden is overrated. They don’t play like a team and Miami barely does either.

      • chrisppers - Feb 7, 2012 at 5:44 AM

        and we’ve yet to see what kind of punch off the bench Bledsoe may have to offer.

    • david8726 - Feb 7, 2012 at 8:01 AM

      I don’t see how you can say the Heat have zero depth. That was true last year, but their bench has actually become a strength this season.

      Miller and Haslem are both healthy, they’ve added Norris Cole, and they’ve got Battier now. All of those guys make strong contributions.

      The only area of their team that has bad depth is the center position. But even that weakess has hardly mattered. The Bosh / Haslem frontcourt has always produced some of their best results.

  5. chrisppers - Feb 7, 2012 at 5:47 AM

    btw, even though they haven’t played the most games, they’ve had one of if not the hardest schedule in the league going by opponent’s winning % which is the opposite of OKC.

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