Ranking the NBA from worst to first…
30. Sacramento Kings (4-14)
Last week — Lost to Indiana, lost at L.A. Lakers, lost to Dallas
It’s not exactly ideal when, during the last two minutes of a close game against one of the NBA’s elite teams, your announcer says something like “Beno Udrih wants the basketball,” and it’s supposed to be a reason for optimism. The losing streak is at seven.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-15)
Last week — Lost at Dallas, lost at San Antonio, beat Cleveland
Before you pencil Kevin Love (19.4 ppg, 15.3 rpg) into the All-Star Game, remember we had this same conversation about Al Jefferson a couple years ago. It’s tough to crack the ASG roster when your team is losing.
28. New Jersey Nets (6-15)
Last week — Lost at New York, lost to Oklahoma City, lost at Charlotte, lost to Boston
Devin Harris’ return from injury didn’t do much for the offense, as the Nets were held to 75 points by the Celtics.
27. Los Angeles Clippers (4-17)
Last week — Beat San Antonio, lost at Denver, lost at Portland
As a Seattle native I don’t want to co-sign on the Blake Griffin comparisons to Shawn Kemp, but it’s getting harder to deny with every statement dunk. Somebody ask Alton Lister for his opinion.
26. Milwaukee Bucks (7-12)
Last week — Lost at Utah, lost at Denver, beat Orlando
They need some kind of offensive flow beyond the Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut pick-and-roll. The Bucks rank 30th in the NBA in scoring and 30th in assists.
25. Charlotte Bobcats (7-13)
Last week — Lost at New Orleans, beat New Jersey, lost at Philadelphia
It’s OK, nobody in North Carolina is paying attention anyway; the Tar Heels beat Kentucky and Duke is ranked No. 1 in the country.
24. Philadelphia 76ers (6-14)
Last week — Beat Portland, lost at Atlanta, beat Charlotte
The same week Evan Turner gets benched, Jodie Meeks drops 20 points and 6 threes in the first half against the Bobcats as the starter. Doug Collins is looking for anything that works, so he may roll with that lineup for a while.
23. Cleveland Cavaliers (7-13)
Last week — Lost to Boston, lost to Miami, lost at Minnesota, lost at Detroit
I figured the Cavs/Heat game would be a turning point for Miami, but it may have been the same in the opposite direction for Cleveland. They’ve been terrible since (and during) the Battle of Little ‘Bron-horn.
22. Detroit Pistons (7-14)
Last week — Lost at Orlando, lost at Miami, lost to Orlando, beat Cleveland
“It’s tough to get into a rhythm sometimes when you are playing 17 minutes a game one night and 35 the next time.” Rip Hamilton said it following Sunday’s win over the Cavs, but that could be anybody on the Pistons roster right now.
21. Washington Wizards (6-13)
Last week — Lost at Miami, lost at Toronto, beat Portland, lost at Phoenix
Can you name five alley-oop combos better than John Wall and JaVale McGee?
20. Houston Rockets (7-13)
Last week — Lost at Dallas, beat L.A. Lakers, won at Memphis, lost at Chicago
Yao Ming is expected to return Tuesday against the Pistons, and if not then, Friday against Milwaukee. Why am I worried that a random elbow from Ben Wallace or Andrew Bogut will put him right back on the inactive list?
19. Golden State Warriors (8-12)
Last week — Lost to San Antonio, lost to Phoenix, lost at Oklahoma City
This week’s schedule brings the Mavs, Spurs and Heat. All three should be entertaining, and the Warriors will probably lose.
18. Memphis Grizzlies (8-13)
Last week — Beat L.A. Lakers, lost at Atlanta, lost to Houston, lost at Denver
Rudy Gay is posting career-high numbers in scoring, rebounding, assists, blocks, field-goal shooting, three-point shooting and free-throw shooting. The Grizzlies paid him like a franchise star and he’s doing his job.
17. Portland Trail Blazers (9-11)
Last week — Lost at Philadelphia, lost at Boston, lost at Washington, beat L.A. Clippers
After an 0-4 East Coast road trip, the Blazers returned home to the gift of the Clippers on the schedule. With that win out of the way, now Brandon Roy and Co. have the Suns (twice), Magic and Spurs in front of them this week.
16. Toronto Raptors (8-12)
Last week — Beat Washington, beat Oklahoma City, lost to New York
Jose Calderon is just never going to be comfortable is he? First it’s T.J. Ford, then Jarrett Jack, and now Jerryd Bayless is in the picture. Bayless put up 23 points, 7 boards and 6 assists against the Knicks while splitting time with Calderon.
15. Indiana Pacers (9-9)
Last week — Won at Sacramento, lost at Utah, lost at Phoenix
Lance Stephenson, who has yet to play in a game this year, reportedly won’t be sent to the D-League any time soon. Indiana’s coaches think he’ll be better off practicing with the team and learning the system rather than running up and down with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
14. New York Knicks (12-9)
Last week — Beat New Jersey, won at New Orleans, won at Toronto
They’re 9-4 on the road, but just 3-5 at home. I hear Mike D’Antoni has considered making every player move into a hotel in New York City.
13. Phoenix Suns (11-9)
Last week — Won at Golden State, beat Indiana, beat Washington
Eddie Johnson said Jason Richardson “is a lock” for the All-Star Game. I wouldn’t go that far, but J-Rich (21.2 ppg, 48% 3PA) is the X-factor that may determine whether Phoenix can make another playoff run.
12. Chicago Bulls (10-8)
Last week — Lost to Orlando, lost at Boston, beat Houston
It took a couple of games, but the Rockets game showed what Carlos Boozer gives the Bulls: A legit scoring option in the low and high post, plus another offensive rebounding threat (next to Noah) to clean up whatever Derrick Rose doesn’t convert.
11. New Orleans Hornets (13-7)
Last week — Lost at Oklahoma City, beat Charlotte, lost to New York, lost at San Antonio
David West has only had two double-digit rebounding games this season, the last one on Nov. 22. The Hornets don’t need him to be Dennis Rodman, but they wouldn’t mind if he’d get a little more Larry Johnson in his game.
10. Denver Nuggets (13-6)
Last week — Beat Milwaukee, beat L.A. Clippers, beat Memphis
In their current seven-game win streak, the Nuggets have topped 100 points all but once (when they scored 98), and have done it when Carmelo Anthony was out for one game and off for more than one.
9. Atlanta Hawks (13-8)
Last week — Beat Memphis, beat Philadelphia, lost at Miami
Joe Johnson is out 4-6 weeks with a right elbow injury, which he admitted has been bothering him all season and explains his low scoring (17.1 ppg) and shooting (25% 3PA) numbers.
8. Miami Heat (13-8)
Last week — Beat Washington, beat Detroit, won at Cleveland, beat Atlanta
The fan says LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh have found their rhythm, seeing as they’ve won four in a row by an average of 19 points a night. The critic says those W’s were against the Little Sisters of the Poor and a Hawks team missing its best player.
7. Oklahoma City Thunder (14-7)
Last week — Beat New Orleans, won at New Jersey, lost at Toronto, beat Golden State
Russell Westbrook puts up crazy numbers when Kevin Durant is out, but let’s settle down on debating whether he’s more valuable to the team than KD. When Westbrook has to be The Man, OKC’s offense becomes too reliant on one person.
6. Los Angeles Lakers (14-6)
Last week — Lost at Memphis, lost at Houston, beat Sacramento
Fourth place in the West? Only one game ahead of the Heat? Where are the panic-button pressers and rumors of Phil Jackson getting fired?
5. Utah Jazz (15-6)
Last week — Beat Milwaukee, beat Indiana, lost to Dallas
The Mavs rolled into town and snapped Utah’s seven-game win streak, and Deron Williams’ five-game streak of scoring at least 20 points.
4. Orlando Magic (15-5)
Last week — Beat Detroit, won at Chicago, won at Detroit, lost at Milwaukee
A rampant stomach virus swept through the team and put Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick and Mickael Pietrus out of action. Marcin Gortat didn’t get sick, but he made Stan Van Gundy want to puke with his defense against Andrew Bogut (31 pts, 18 rebs) on Saturday.
3. Boston Celtics (16-4)
Last week — Beat Cleveland, beat Portland, beat Chicago, won at New Jersey
Don’t forget, Kevin Garnett once led the NBA in rebounding four years in a row. He’s pulled down double-digit boards in four of his last five games and is averaging 9.6 for the season.
2. San Antonio Spurs (17-3)
Last week — Won at Golden State, lost at L.A. Clippers, beat Minnesota, beat New Orleans
Imagine how much better they’ll be when Tiago Splitter comes over from Brazil and joins the team.
1. Dallas Mavericks (16-4)
Last week — Beat Houston, beat Minnesota, won at Utah, won at Sacramento
Defense and Dirk. While Nowitzki (24.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg) puts together another MVP-caliber season, the Mavs are shutting down some potent offenses and getting critical stops in crunch time. They’ve won nine in a row.