Thank you Fanhouse! You’ve given me the inspiration to do some power rankings. I couldn’t believe what their power rankings looked like, I mean really!?! I’m as big of a Laker hater there is out there, but putting the Mavs at numero uno over the Cavs and the Lake show is a little bold!! I’m not sure what Brett over at Fanhouse is smoking, but I need to get some! Anyways, here’s how I see the top 16 teams in the league at this point in the season.
#1 Los Angeles Lakers – They don’t have the best record in the league, but having Kobe sit out for a little will help them. Not missing a beat in the win column keeps them atop these rankings. They will most likely cruise to the Western Conference finals before they are truly tested. John Canzano at the Oregonian might have convinced me that they could be tested by the Blazers in the first round, but I won’t get my hopes up at this point of an early Lake Show exit.
#2 Cleveland Cavaliers – Best record in the league, and a very close 2nd to the champs. Is it a big deal that Shaq is out? No, but in case anyone forgot, they have Lebron. You could put him on the Bucks right now, and get through the first couple playoff rounds, so I’m not buying that the loss of the Diesel is that big of a deal at this point. If he ends up missing more time than expected, that might be another story. Lebron is playing in a different league than everyone else, he doesn’t need Shaq.
#3 Orlando Magic – Vince looks like he finally is fitting in, and the Magic are playing their best basketball of the year. If they keep playing like they have, they could be just as scary as Cleveland in the Eastern Conference. Stan Van Gundy reminds me of Rex Ryan in the NFL. He’s a little unpredictable and unstable, but if you were caught in a fight you would gladly take them on your side.
#4.5 Denver Nuggets – So what, they lost back to back games, they bounced back to beat down the young Durantula’s. I still believe they are still the biggest threat to the Lakers in the west. They have as much talent as anyone, but sometimes it seems like they play down to their competition. Hopefully they aren’t looking too far ahead, and mistakenly get the fourth seed meeting the Lakers in the 2nd round instead of the Conference Finals. Actually, I’m kind of rooting for that come to think of it!
#4.5 Dallas Mavericks – A scorching hot team. The trade deadline additions have impacted the Mavs quicker than even I expected. Haywood has brought them a brand of toughness that they’ve been missing since the Cowboys were winning Super Bowls. Caron seems to be fitting in nicely, and hasn’t complicated the offense at all. They even won their 9th straight game with Kidd getting the night off.
#6 Phoenix Suns – I’m not sure what’s happened to Amare, does he drink Sprite?!? Is this one of the biggest contract pushes of all time or is he back to 2005 Amare!?! My theory is as soon as I traded him away from my fantasy team, he’s exploded into the player we always knew he was. I don’t think they will make any noise in the playoffs, but the way they’ve looked lately, it’s going to be hard to keep them out. 13-3 is the best record in the league over the last 16.
#7 Atlanta Hawks – For a little while there I was convinced they were a top tier team, but they flat out don’t show up every night. They have a habit of letting bad teams stay close, and end up losing to teams like my Warriors. I really want to believe in them, but I just can’t see them as championship caliber…
#8 Utah Jazz – Just like the Hawks, you’re not really sure what you will get from this team each night. D-Will is amazing, and will only go as far as he and Boozer can carry them. Dropping a couple to the Clippers and Kings isn’t making me a believer. Hopefully trading away Brewer didn’t upset the team, I mean, Willams, too much.
#9 Seattle Supersonics – Durant and Westbrook could be the best duo in the league. It sucks they play for a team I will never support or root for. Maybe when they play in the 2012 Summer Games they will make a pact to leave Seattle, oh yeah, OKC. If there’s one team that nobody will want to face in the first round of the playoffs it might be them. A young team with nothing to fear/lose.
#10 San Antonio Spurs – The Jefferson project is finally taking a foothold. Or maybe the Spurs never really start playing until the second half of the season. I see the window closing on them being a contender as Duncan is catching up with KG on mileage. If they don’t do it this year, will they ever with this roster? I won’t count them out, but I don’t like their chances at this point.
#11 Portland Trailblazers – Roy is back. Camby is holding down the paint. The Blazers have won 5 of their last 6. I don’t know what has to happen for this team to fade into the background, but they’ve survived a bunch of blows to the roster and keep on being focused. With Roy and Aldridge playing at full strength they have a shot!
#12 Boston Celtics – Talks around the team all year have been that they are getting old. I agree with the theory. Doc Rivers seems to think this team just turns it on and off when they want to. Not a good thing if you ask me, and I’m not confident they can turn it on whenever they want. Rondo is their best player now, and he can only give them 3 good quarters a night. Might be time to get a new coach, Doc seems to have lost this team.
#13 Milwaukee Bucks – Who would’ve thought that Salmons would’ve made a huge impact on a playoff team!?! Not me! They’ve won 7 of their last 8, and are slowly building some confidence since the trade. Salmons is averaging 20 ppg over 8 games as a Buck. Jennings may be out of the ROY race, but at least his team looks like it will make the playoffs.
#14 Chicago Bulls – The loss of their toughness (Noah) pushes them down in the rankings. Adding Deng to that hobbled list is making them even less appealing to me. I don’t think that Warrick and Flip Murray were the additions they needed. I feel like most of their trade deadline moves hurt them more than help them, especially when it looked like they were gelling right before the deadline.
#15 Houston Rockets – As long as Adelman is at the helm, I won’t count the Rockets out of the playoff race. I thought they were overachieving, but they’ve kept it up for so long I believed in them. They might be slowly fading, but Brooks and Martin in the backcourt looks promising going into the future. They’ll need to make a convincing push to keep themselves from having ping pong balls.
#16 Miami Heat – Not sure this squad is worthy of a playoff spot or #16 either. Might have been better to put New Orleans here, but I would like to profess my endorsement for D-Wade making his way into the 8th seed. I would love to see Wade vs. Lebron in the first round. I can already see myself counting how many “did you see that” plays are in each game. Cmon Miami get that 8th spot!