Our weekly NBA power ranking, from worst to first. Who would have imagined Yi Jianlian would be starting on a Top-10 team at any point this year?
30. Washington Wizards (2-12) — You might not have noticed in your Thanksgiving post-turkey and stuffing stupor, but the Wizards are awful.
29. Memphis Grizzlies (4-13) — Ten losses in their last 11 games, including dropping one to the Thunder in front of 93 faithful Memphis fans. Can they hook up some kind of exchange program with Coach Calipari, borrowing Tyreke Evans for a month while the Tigers get Mike Conley?
28. Oklahoma City Thunder (2-16) — Right now we can’t have them behind the Grizzlies, but fully expect OKC to be back at #30 sometime soon. In conjunction with the Lakers, we could be looking at a historic season with one team winning 70 games and another team losing 70 games.
27. Sacramento Kings (5-14) — Six losses in a row. As bad as their defense is, perhaps it’s time to let Shelden Williams out of the box. He’s got six fouls to give away and everything.
26. Golden State Warriors (5-12) — Did we say bad defense? The Warriors are getting reamed to the tune of 116 points a night during this current six-game skid.
25. Los Angeles Clippers (3-13) — It doesn’t bode well for Chris Kaman that the Clips look better without him, i.e. Saturday’s win over the Heat where Z-Bo dropped 27 and 13 and Camby had 12 boards and four blocks. Or maybe it does bode well, ’cause it means he’ll get traded to a better team.
24. Minnesota Timberwolves (4-11) — Things have been kind of looking up for the Wolves lately, which makes Corey Brewer’s season-ending ACL tear that much worse.
23. Charlotte Bobcats (5-11) — MJ made his mandatory once-a-month personal appearance for Saturday’s loss to the Celtics. But for all we know he was there merely to check in with Ray Allen, one of his Jordan Brand endorsers.
22. Milwaukee Bucks (7-12) — Not that anyone noticed, but Michael Redd is back. He scored 20 in a loss to the Cavs, the team’s fourth L in a row against four ’08 Eastern Conference playoff teams.
21. Philadelphia 76ers (7-10) — Four losses in a row, each one seemingly uglier than the last. And did you notice how this is the second consecutive week we’ve used “ugly” or one of its forms in the Sixers’ write-up?
20. Indiana Pacers (6-10) — Lost amongst Danny Granger’s All-Star bid and a frustrating string of narrow losses has been the play of Troy Murphy. He’s putting up 10.7 points and 10.9 boards, and notched back-to-back 21-point, 14-board lines against the Mavs and Rockets last week.
19. New York Knicks (8-8) — Jacking up 49 shots in his last two games, Al Harrington is probably loving the trade. Who cares if he’s going to the Lottery again?
18. Atlanta Hawks (10-6) — So much for that Joe Johnson “NBA’s Leading Scorer/MVP Candidate” campaign. Dude fell off the “visible superstar” map faster than MIMS.
17. Chicago Bulls (8-9) — There’s literally no reason to watch this team other than Derrick Rose.
16. Miami Heat (8-9) — If they are in fact looking to deal Shawn Marion, he’s got a few favorable showcase games coming up on the schedule. Golden State on Monday (run-and-gun), Utah on Wednesday (versus European doppleganger AK-47), and OKC on Saturday (terrible team itching for a vintage Marion night).
15. Detroit Pistons (10-6) — After what was supposed to be a statement win over the Cavs on Nov. 19, the Pistons have been getting worse. In the five games since, their only wins have come against the Knicks and Bucks.
14. Toronto Raptors (8-8) — They could be just as heavily represented at this year’s All-Star Weekend as they were last year: Bosh starting in the main event, Calderon in the Skills Competition, Kapono in the Three-Point Shootout … maybe we can get Anthony Parker, Tracy Murray and a Canadian-born WNBA player in that Shooting Stars thing.
13. San Antonio Spurs (9-7) — Parker’s back, Manu’s back, Duncan’s still Duncan. For Spurs fan, the season just started for real.
12. New Orleans Hornets (9-6) — Surprisingly inconsistent. As good as they looked against the Nuggets on Thanksgiving, they looked decidedly average/bad against the Blazers the next night.
11. Dallas Mavericks (8-8) — Let’s throw the L.A. game out the window, because seriously, who’s beating the Lakers at home these days? In that case the Mavs have won four straight and Jason Terry is starting to run away with Sixth Man of the Year, averaging 20.1 points a night and leading Dallas in scoring four of their last five games.
10. Utah Jazz (11-7) — Jerry Sloan is the Mike Shanahan of NBA coaches. He’s been with the same team forever, he always looks like he’s having a miserable day, and he is to power forwards what Shanahan is to running backs. To wit: In Carlos Boozer’s absence, Paul Millsap has posted 20-10 numbers in three of Utah’s last four games.
9. Portland Trail Blazers (12-6) — Unstoppable at home, sitting at 7-0 with respective 40-piecings of the Heat and Bulls under their belt. Greg Oden is settling into a nice 10-point, 12-board, 3-block rich man’s Tyson Chandler-type groove.
8. Phoenix Suns (11-7) — Dwyane Wade dropped 43 points on them Friday. Then Devin Harris went for 47 on Sunday. Looking at the schedule this week, Chris Paul, Jason Kidd/Jason Terry, and Deron Williams have to be licking their chops.
7. New Jersey Nets (9-7) — There’s no end in sight for the Devin Harris Buckets Brigade: Wizards, Wolves and Sixers on the slate this week, Knicks and Raptors next week. Who would argue with Devin being an All-Star right now? And by the way, Vince Carter is dropping just under 24 points a game, too.
6. Houston Rockets (11-7) — Between Yao’s endless list of critics, the people who watch T-Mac waiting for him to get hurt, the players who would secretly like to punch Ron Artest in the face, the rest of them who would secretly like to punch Shane Battier in the face, the bitter playground vets jealous of Skip, and the pencil-necked geeks at Joey Dorsey’s gym who hate him for hogging the mirror, does any team have more haters than the Rockets?
5. Denver Nuggets (12-6) — Notice how no one’s talking about Marcus Camby anymore. Nene (14.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and Kenyon Martin (13 ppg, 6.8 rpg) have done their share to compensate.
4. Orlando Magic (13-4) — Why is nobody talking about them? Orlando has won nine of its last 10 games, the last three without their starting point guard. Without looking it up, we’d confidently say no team in the NBA has a frontcourt trio as productive as Dwight Howard (21.8 ppg), Hedo Turkoglu (17.3 ppg) and Rashard Lewis (18.2 ppg).
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (14-3) — There won’t be as big of a media circus when the Knicks come to Cleveland on Wednesday, just a good ol’ beatdown. Subplot: Ben Wallace can watch David Lee grab 15 rebounds and wonder where the years went.
2. Boston Celtics (16-2) — Eight wins in a row, but they lose points for a close call against the Bobcats. And remind us, how exactly have the ‘Cats managed to get Boston’s number?
1. Los Angeles Lakers (14-1) — Still winning (seven in a row) and still making it look like practice. Kobe is sitting out fourth quarters left and right, Gasol and Bynum seem to have figured each other out, and Lamar’s not rocking the boat despite his contract year/sixth man situation. If only Trevor Ariza could shoot, Sasha Vujacic could defend, Vlad Radmanovic wasn’t insane and NBA TV would stop showing that Jordan Farmar tropical island yoga special, things would be perfect.