With most NBA teams reaching the 41-game point, we are hitting the half-way mark of the NBA Season. And what better way to celebrate surviving this long than an NBA Power Rankings post. With some help from Dr. Internet himself I present to you these rankings in a Bill Simmons-esqe tiered division format:
The as Bad as the Economy Division
30. Washington Wizards- This team is going no where, even bringing Arenas back won't save them. It’s a sad day when the most interesting thing I can say about them is that rookie Javale McGee is the first NBA player whose Mom played in the WNBA.
29. Sacramento Kings-This is a team that has yet to win a game vs the Eastern Conference. 0-15. A lot of work to be done here and all they are doing is filling Rookie Jason Thompson's car with popcorn.
28. LA Clippers-This team is the NBA version of Samuel L. Jackson's character from Unbreakable. The Clippers had just wrapped up a 12 game losing streak, but the good news is that Eric Gordon has been averaging 21+ points since Baron Davis went to the DL.
The Kwame Brown Memorial Division- All potential
27. Oklahoma City Thunder-Since the Thunder fired PJ Carlesimo, the team has played some more inspired ball. Kevin Durant has shot close to 49% on FGs and about 26 ppg since the change. Also, Russell Westbrook has been coming on strong as well averaging 15-5-5 in that same time span.
26. Memphis Grizzlies- A team with a payroll half the size of the New York Knicks, and their highest paid guy is Antoine Walker. Right now they have two guys who can put up 20+ points against you on any night.( Mayo and Gay) But do they really have anything else???
25. Minnesota T-Wolves- Kevin Mchale fired the old coach and put himself at them helm of this team in the midst of a 13-game losing streak. Since then they are 9-3 with Randy Foye averaging 20 points on 50% FG shooting during the month of January.
The NHL Division(They are interesting occasionally, but really they suck)
24. Golden State Warriors- The Good news: Monta Ellis just came out and said he wants to be a Warrior for life. The Bad news: at 6 years and and $66 million he may be the only one. Meanwhile, Jamal Crawford is averaging 26 ppg and 6 apg in the month January.
23. Indiana Pacers- This team really missed Mike Dunleavy Jr. Without his veteran play and scoring ability, Indiana has the most loses(9) in games decided by 3 points or less. Now that he is back he has brought his ability to do this back into the equation.
22. Charlotte Bobcats- A team that should be horrific but has been helped by the coaching of Larry Brown and the addition of Raja Bell and Boris Diaw. While they are scoring the fewest ppg as a team,(91.2) they are basically in the top 5 in ppg allowed(93.9)
21. Toronto Raptors- What a difference a year makes. This team was once thought to be on the verge of being an Eastern Conference powerhouse, but now with 2010 looming are we going to start hearing Chris Bosh's name in the trading block rumor mill?
Playoffs. Playoffs?!?! But, Hey we're in the East!
20. Chicago Bulls- This team has not had a 3 game win streak since April of 2007. That's a year and a half of basketball without a 3 game win streak. Good News: Coach Vinny Del Negro thinks Derek Rose is a lock for ROY. Bad News: Vinny Del Negro had a thought.....
19.New York Knicks- Despite playing inspired basketball 66% of the time (compared to 2% of the time under Isaiah "it was my daughter" Thomas), there really wont be much here to talk about until July of 2010. The most interesting things about this team will come out in the NY tabloids. My guess for whats next, Eddy Curry and Zeke wake up together in bed of the penthouse of the 4 seasons hotel amongst several paparazzi there to capture their undying love for each other. And then Curry for good measure soils a towel and makes Zeke rub it all over his face.
18. Milwaukee Bucks- Is Michael Redd ready to step up and earn the contract he signed and lead this team? My guess is no, and he will be nothing more than a glorified shooter in this league, much like Allan Houston. Team going nowhere until the offense runs through somebody other than Redd. Oh and can we please stop saying how Bogut is finally starting to earn his worth as a #1 overall pick. When 12 ppg and 8 rpg for a career is "earning your worth" as a #1 overall pick then I will start getting myself in shape and playing college ball as I still have 4 years of NCAA eligibility left.
17. NJ Nets- For a team that traded 2 of its 3 best players in the past year, the Nets are outperforming expectations. But imagine if this team wasn't an abysmal 9-14 at home! And by the way Brook Lopez could steal Rookie of the Year, just ask anyone who isn't Vinny Del Negro.
16. Philadelphia 76ers- This team is better without Elton Brand on the court, pure and simple. When he was out there, players such as Thaddeus Young and Louis Williams actually regressed in their development as they were too focused on how to make Brand the focal point of the offense. The success of this team in the long run will depend on Brand actually being able to defer the spotlight to other players and play more of the 76ers run-n-gun game.
The Any Chance we Can Pull an Arizona Cardinals? Division
15. Miami Heat- For a team whose record is supremely average they are among the Top 5 in a couple very important categories. Top 5 overall player(Wade), Top 5 rookie( Beasley) and Top 5 in Most Tradable contract(Marion). With other assets like Haslem, Chalmers and one of the more underrated Coaches in Eric Spoelstra this team could be making some noise in the not to distant future.
14. Dallas Mavericks- During his MVP season in 06-07 Dirk Nowitzki was putting up 25 points, 9 boards with getting a block and hitting one 3-pointer every game. This year: 26ppg, 9rpg, 1bpg and 1 3pg. Wow, imagine if he had Devin Harris' 26 ppg and 6.5 apg on his squad?
13. Detroit Pistons- They have so many talented scorers in their backcourt but only so many shots to go around. With the emergence of Rodney Stuckey(19-5-5 in the month of January) who is going to start being a role player???
12. Utah Jazz-Carlos Boozer who? In his absence Paul Millsap has averaged 18 ppg and 12 rpg. I don't know if the Jazz just keep falling into talented PFs or that Jerry Sloan can just flat out coach 'em. Either way we can all be sure that Boozer will be wearing a different jersey next season.
11. Portland Trailblazers- With a 15-4 home record the Blazers are actually living up to the all that preseason hype. As of today they sit at the 6th seed in the West, could they win a playoff series? Maybe not, but all that young talent is going to get some very valuable playoff experience.
10. Atlanta Hawks- This team has talent at every position and now its time for them to step up. Joe Johnson looks tired and may not be able to carry the weight of a team on his shoulders for an entire season. Keep your eyes open for a resurgence from Mike Bibby.
9. Phoenix Suns- On paper this team is as good as any of the top dogs in the NBA. But are they all on the same page? Nash is clearly not the same player he was just 2 years ago when he averaged 19 ppg and 12 asp, as of today he is at 14 and 9. The good news: the Suns were 13-10 before the Jason Richardson trade and 10-5 since.
The Reggie Miller, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone Division
8. Houston Rockets- What exactly has Ron Artest meant to this team? How bout absolutely nothing. Early in the season we saw lots of promise for a big three here but with T-Mac injured again(surprise surprise), that talk has quickly dissolved. Luckily for Houston they still have Yao(until he gets hurt), which seems to mean a solid 45-55 wins every season. But tell me this folks, do you honestly see this team getting out of the first round? Because I don't.
7. Denver Nuggets- Chauncey Billups has made all the difference in his return to Denver(27-13 since his arrival). Has it been Chauncey taking this team to the next level or was it more addition by subtraction by getting rid of Iverson. Clearly the AI/Melo experiment was a failure. We will find out more about this team in the next month when they will have to do it without their best player in Melo. Right now they are knocking on the door, can they knock it down?
6. San Antonio Spurs- Solid Team. Again. Expect anything different with the same roster since 1962? Well at least it feels that way. Ill have more to say about this team when I care to watch a game they play, which doesn't seem anytime soon because i estimate Ive already spent 150 hours watching this boring ass team that never changes. Mark em down for 50-60 wins easily. I hope they get eliminated from the playoffs early so I' not forced to watch them in the finals yet again.
5. New Orleans- - This team is evidence of how a great distributing point guard can simply make a career. Does anybody on this planet think that Tyson Chandler would be anything without Chris Paul? Take CP3 off this team and they are putrid. The fact that this team wouldn't win more than 20 games without Paul means, in my mind, that CP3 should be 1 or 2 in MVP voting every year that he is in the league. Besides him, LeBron and Wade are the two players just as important to his team. How much would I have to pay you to watch the Hornets minus Paul vs Cavs minus James. $100? $500???
4. Boston Celtics-- Despite a rough stretch 2 weeks ago this team has seemed to galvanize itself and hit its stride. I've said it before and ill say it again, this year, the key to this team is Rajon Rondo. If he continues to play at a high level this team is virtually unstoppable. I would even go as far as to say he is more important to this team other than the Big Ticket, Kevin Garnett. Oh and please, can we stop talking about how Doc Rivers is a good coach? Talk about somebody who was dealt a royal flush and just didn't fold his cards. The guy couldn't cut it in Orlando, and he had one of the worst seasons in history before KG, Ray, and Rondo got there. Danny Ainge deserves all the credit for maintain his relationship with Mchale and KG is practically the coach on the court. By the way, does anybody curse more than Kevin Garnett on the court?
3. Orlando Magic- This team is making real strides. Jameer Nelson is the leader for most improved player right now. Dwight Howard is a beast as usual. Rashard Lewis, perhaps the most underrated and unassuming star in the league, is playing at an extremely high level. Here is the problem though. No depth. JJ Reddick is getting playing time! Extremely weak bench. Will need huge growth from rookie Courtney lee in the second half to maintain their excellence. Look for this team to make an under the radar deadline deal to improve the bench. This could be their time.
2. LA Lakers-Kobe Kobe Kobe. As much as I hate Kobe as a fan, I have to give him props for carrying this team on his shoulders. Finger injury could pose a problem but I don't anticipate it being as big as a factor as some other people. One issue with this team is that they are extremely soft defensively and have no physicality. You would think a team that was this close to an NBA Championship would be playing with some fire and intensity, but they are going on talent alone. If this team goes into an offensive slump in the playoffs that could spell surprising doom for them early in the playoffs. Right now they are the favorite in the west but it remains to be seen if they have the toughness it takes to go all the way.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers-Right now, they are the clear cut favorites in the East. The road to the NBA Championship will go through Lebron James. However I do think it is more important to this team to get the #1 seed in the East than any other team because of their home dominance. Against elite teams such as Boston and LA, they have hit bumps on the road. Although their road record is really respectable as well, this team is simply unbeatable at home. If they get the #1 seed in the playoffs, watch out.