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NBA Power Rankings: Suns are rising, Spurs climb too.

Mar 19, 2012, 2:27 PM EDT

John Lucas III, Carlos Boozer AP

Trade deadline moves aren’t changing the top of the rankings much, but we will see Portland and some other teams fall in the coming weeks. And we don’t know what the Nets are thinking either, so don’t ask.

1. Bulls (37-10, last week ranked number 1). They beat the Heat without Derrick Rose in the lineup, which was really more about how the Heat approached the game than a playoff preview. Still, the Bulls keep winning without Rose — getting guys like John Lucas III to step up — and you wonder what that will mean come May.

2. Heat (33-11, LW 2). Welcome to the dog days of the season, when the Heat have seemed to lose focus some nights. Bet they are up for their showdown with the Thunder next Sunday.

3. Spurs (29-14, LW 4). They slide ahead of the Thunder after beating them — in OKC — last Friday. But the Stephen Jackson trade was about cash savings down the line (particularly luxury tax savings) not winning now. Still not convinced that and a lack of size in the paint doesn’t come back to bite them come the playoffs.

4. Thunder (33-11, LW 3). They play like a young team — a couple good games then just a clunker thrown in every once in a while. Do they need a personality like Derek Fisher in the locker room to help them get over the hump? By the way, they really don’t want to see San Antonio in the playoffs, tough matchup for them.

5. Lakers (28-17, LW 6). Best home record in the league (even with the loss to the Jazz Sunday). They got a point guard in Ramon Session who is what they need — Mike Brown is bringing him along slowly but by the postseason Sessions will be the PG playing the key moments for this team. Would you be shocked to see them in the Western Conference Finals? Neither would I.

6. Magic (29-17, LW 5). They get to keep Dwight Howard through the playoffs, but when he doesn’t sign an extension this summer the same circus is coming back to town next year.

7. Grizzlies (25-18, LW 7). Zach Randolph is back, which is going to mean an adjustment period. But nobody wants these guys in the first round of the playoffs. Or the second.

8. Clippers (26-18 LW 9). They just went 3-3 on their homestand, which is not making them look like legit contenders yet. There are questions about how they perform at the ends of games, but with the ball in Chris Paul’s hands they are still dangerous.

9. Hawks (26-19, LW 10). Joe Johnson has been hot since returning from injury and as they keep the lineup in tact this is a pretty good team. Not better than any of the past few years, but a pretty good team.

10. Mavericks (26-20, LW 13). The won three in a row last week, including beating the Spurs, and they have gotten a nice little bump from Rodrigue Beaubois. But they feel like the Hawks — they don’t scare you in the playoffs.

11. 76ers (25-20, LW 8). Huge week for the 76ers — it looked like they had taken control of the Atlantic Division again a couple weeks ago, but their lead is down to 1 game and the Knicks and Celtics are on the schedule this week. You want to win the Atlantic and get the four seed to make sure you avoid Chicago and Miami in the first round.

12. Nuggets (25-20, LW 11). JaVale McGee watch is on — he’s got talent but now he has to play disciplined on the court and fit in a veteran locker room off it. Not sure if he can do it, not sure how George Karl will react to all this.

13. Suns (23-22, LW 18). Not sure there are many teams playing better than the Suns the last few weeks — they are just half a game out of the last playoff spot in the West. Consider it one last run with Steve Nash before he bolts town this summer.

14. Pacers (25-18, LW 12). They lost to the Knicks twice last week, but got a nice win over Philadelphia and beat up on Portland like everyone else. For them it all comes down to who is their first round playoff matchup (they get to avoid the Bulls and Heat, so they have a chance.

15. Celtics (23-21, LW 14). They decide to keep the Big Three together for one more playoff run — then the tired old legs showed and they got blown out by the Kings on the road. Nostalgia is nice but it doesn’t win.

16. Jazz (23-22, LW 17). They, the Rockets and Suns are in a fight for that last playoff spot in the West and are within half a game of each other. The Jazz just won two in a row without Al Jefferson, one of those against the Lakers on the road. That’s gritty.

17. Bucks (20-24, LW 19). They have won five straight, made a nice move to upgrade the offense at the deadline and they have a pretty soft schedule the rest of the way out. They are just half a game back of the Knicks for the last playoff spot in the East and the Knicks should be worried.

18. Knicks (21-24, LW 21). After three straight wins under Mike Woodson, I’m getting tweets from Knicks fans about how they can beat the Heat or Bulls in the first round. No, no you can’t. But expect some more wins as they have a pretty soft schedule for the next week.

19. Rockets (24-22, LW 15). They have that last playoff spot in the West as of this writing, but with the way the Suns and Jazz are playing it’s going to be hard to keep it.

20. Timberwolves (22-24, LW 16). They want to be in that last playoff spot in the West conversation, but they are going to have to get hot — and is that going to happen with Rubio out? Not likely.

21. Blazers (21-23, LW 20). They have not thrown in the towel on this season yet — eight of their next 10 are at the Rose Garden and they could put together a little run. Either way, I like what they did. If you have to rebuild on the fly, it should look a lot like that (except for finding someone to take Raymond Felton).

22. Warriors (18-24, LW 23). They are not going far this year and they have rolled the dice on the long-term health of Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry going forward. I don’t love those odds, and I don’t like that they added a lot of salary at the deadline either.

23. Pistons (16-29, LW 22). No moves at the deadline, not even shipping out Will Bynum somewhere. Well, at least there is Greg Monroe to build around, and Rodney Stuckey has played well of late.

24. Kings (16-29, LW 25). This team is going to play poorly most times out then every once in a while give you a fantastic game (like the blowout of the Celtics). That’s what they are now.

25. Cavaliers (16-26, LW 24). They have the soon to be Rookie of the Year in Kyrie Irving and a couple first round picks coming up. That’s how you rebuild, but there are some not pretty games mixed in.

26. Nets (15-31, LW 26). They should be better the rest of this season with Gerald Wallace. But when Wallace and Deron Williams leave this summer and they don’t have their first round pick it’s going to look a lot darker.

27. Raptors (15-30, LW 27). The may have Andrea Bargnani back, but they lost to the Nets and Bobcats last week. They are lucky to be this high.

28. Hornets (11-34, LW 28). They got a new lease deal in place for the arena, so they at least pick up a meaningful off the court win last week. Should have found a way to move Chris Kaman for assets at the deadline.

29. Wizards (10-34, LW 29). Getting Nene for JaVale McGee is a great move for this team in the locker room. Need to change the culture. Still, a long, long way to go here.

30. Bobcats (7-36, LW 30). Two wins last week? Sure, it’s the Nets and Raptors, but they still count as wins. They are close to getting out of the cellar in these standings.

  1. spellingcopfather - Mar 19, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    you are right (Kurt) about the Spurs size & at this point I would be happy if they sign any 7footer, even if its some guy that plays ball at the local YMCA!!!

    • LilTmac2003 - Mar 19, 2012 at 4:12 PM

      Honestly, I think it kills Kurt to put the Bulls at number one.

      I don’t know if he just loves the Heat or hates the Bulls, just look at the description for the Bulls.

      He just talks about how Miami’s lack of preparation is why they lost…to a Bulls team w/o D-Rose in almost EVERY analyst said Miami would own.

      • gmsingh - Mar 20, 2012 at 8:04 AM

        We’ll see if Kurt bothers to post anything about the Bulls crushing defeat of the Magic, too. Let’s see: the Heat beat the Magic in a close game at home, and the Bulls held the Magic to under 60 pts. on the road. The Bulls keep on saying “We just want to get better” and they clearly have.

  2. Mr. Wright 212 - Mar 19, 2012 at 2:39 PM

    Oh yes, YES the Knicks CAN beat the Heat (lack of depth) and Bulls (match up well with them minus ridiculous turnovers).

    They may not play at the torrid clip that they’ve been on since Woodson took over, but they have what it takes to beat those teams in a series.

    However, that isn’t the focus, as they can still win the division and would face this same Indiana team (most likely) that they just beat soundly in back to back games.

  3. zblott - Mar 19, 2012 at 2:46 PM

    Any mention of Z-Bo’s return to Memphis has to include that he is one of the worst chemistry killers of all time

    http://www.behindthebasket.com/btb/2012/3/19/behind-the-basket-power-rankings-22.html

    • boondocksaint224 - Mar 19, 2012 at 3:06 PM

      Your blog blows, and nobody cares about your craptastic power rankings.

      Go away.

      • zblott - Mar 19, 2012 at 3:58 PM

        My rankings that are often quite similar to the ones at this site – that’s the craptastic one? Sorry I don’t misuse the English language as regularly as you must like–let alone I actually fact check and don’t talk about the Lakers ad nauseum–but believe it or not, there’s a reason plenty of people check out my rankings each week on a site that isn’t committed to reaffirming and accepting what the NBA pushes on fans as money-driven storylines. It’s called noticing when what you’re supposed to believe (Z-Bo will add value to Memphis) and what is the truth (an entire career that refutes that) don’t line up, and it’s my site’s specialty. But don’t worry about it – there are plenty of blogs that all repeat each other with what’s supposed to be said.

      • eaglesandravens - Mar 19, 2012 at 3:59 PM

        amen, boondock

  4. rhetoric1 - Mar 19, 2012 at 2:50 PM

    Lakers 19-3 at home, Heat 19-2 at home. Therefore, yes, Lakers have best home record at 86% vs 90%.

    • zblott - Mar 19, 2012 at 7:52 PM

      Why are people giving a “thumbs up” to incorrect math? 19-2 is better than 19-3; LeBron hatred can’t change basic arithmetic.

  5. juanandonly24 - Mar 19, 2012 at 2:57 PM

    I’m glad the Spurs are ranked so high. I’m convinced their first round exit last year wasn’t a result of their team not being good in that playoffs as much as it was their matchup, since the Grizzlies are one of the few teams in the league with such prominent low-post scoring, which you noted was their weakness. That being said, they should avoid teams with prolific big men like the Lakers or the Grizzlies, or hell even the Rockets can give them a run for their money.

  6. md23rewlz - Mar 19, 2012 at 3:21 PM

    Think it’s a little premature to say that the Mavs are the Hawks of the West. Just before the All Star Break, they were up to fifth in these rankings. It’s still the same roster. They played horrible ball in that nine games/twelve nights stretch, but to discount them because of that stretch is short-sighted. That’s a brutal stretch for any team, let alone a veteran one. I think we’ll have a better picture of this Dallas team in two weeks. They play a bunch of tough teams in the next few weeks. How they come out of that stretch is going to dictate their seeding.

  7. mcallen3 - Mar 19, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    Here were the rankings at this time last year:

    1. Lakers (50-20, LW #3). Four wins in a row and just one loss since the All-Star break. They won Monday without Andrew Bynum and will have another game without him Tuesday, but with his ongoing knee pain missing a couple games and getting a little more rest is not a bad thing.

    2. Spurs (56-13, Last Week #1). They keep cruising along, their only two losses in March were to the Heat and the Lakers. If you see them lose a few more games from here on out, know that Popovich is resting his guys for the games that matter.

    3. Bulls (49-19, LW #2). …

    4. Celtics (49-19, LW #5). . . .

    5. Heat (48-22, LW #6). . . .

    6. Thunder (45-24, LW #7). . . .

    7. Mavericks (49-21, LW #4).

    How accurate was that? I forget.

    • comeonnowguys - Mar 19, 2012 at 4:22 PM

      Accurate compared to what? Do you realize what power rankings are, exactly?

      Stop living and dying by a subjective set of numbers.

  8. Zach - Mar 19, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    Lakers really dropped the ball on another chance to win a title this year, they’ll probably have to wait until next year. Probably helped out minnesota a lot, didn’t run their team into the ground.
    http://minnesporta.com/2012/03/19/the-reason-the-crawfordwolves-deal-died/

  9. muskyhunter2542 - Mar 19, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    Milwaukee will overtake The Knicks for that 8 spot. Maybe even catch that 7 seed because of that soft schedule.

  10. steelerfanforlife - Mar 19, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    Wow! You talk more about Miami in the Bulls description than actually about the Bulls! I really have no idea why I come to this site. You are a complete tool!

    • berbes - Mar 20, 2012 at 12:22 AM

      i stop by just to see kurt’s ‘expertise’ — and laboob man-love being displayed.every now & again.

      are there any qualifications besides liking the heat a lot to become a PBT writer?

  11. ezmagic - Mar 19, 2012 at 5:58 PM

    I agree with boondock. This writers opinion is a joke

  12. phx1311 - Mar 19, 2012 at 7:31 PM

    Suns at 13….i can live with that

  13. philtration - Mar 19, 2012 at 8:39 PM

    Which is your favorite LeBron Kurt?
    The one right out of high school or the one with the stupid Abe Lincoln beard to hide his growing jaw line, a headband to hide his receding hairline and ever expanding head size and the Acne problems?

    Giant head, hair loss, freakish change in his facial bone structure and acne breakouts would get you on the “test this guy for steroids” list in baseball.

  14. entropy13 - Mar 19, 2012 at 9:43 PM

    “But they feel like the Hawks — they don’t scare you in the playoffs.”

    lol yeah. Just like last season. The Blazers should “scare” us in the first round and cause the upset. Didn’t happen, so being the defending champs, the Lakers are a certain scare for us. They got swept, so OKC should “scare” us because they’re younger and would leave our old team biting the dust. Then suddenly after they didn’t win the “next best thing in the West” have “flaws”, which they apparently only had during the WCF. Then the Heat’s “Big 3″ should scare us as well. We know what happened with that. lol

  15. jolink653 - Mar 20, 2012 at 8:47 PM

    i don’t understand why the thunder get so little respect on this site…how are the spurs better than the thunder? thunder are easily the best team in the west and they can run circles around anyone when they get into rhythm…i can see an argument for the heat bulls and thunder for the top spot but the spurs? c’mon just because they won one game in okc? no

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