Ranking the NBA from worst to first…
30. Cleveland Cavaliers (7-17)
Last week — Lost at Philadelphia, lost to Chicago, lost at Houston, lost at Oklahoma City
They could snap this eight-game losing streak at Miami on Wednesday. And Brett Favre could go one week without appearing on SportsCenter, and Mel Gibson could actually respect people who aren’t like him.
29. Sacramento Kings (5-16)
Last week — Lost at L.A. Clippers, beat Washington, lost to Miami
At least longtime announcer Jerry Reynolds can keep himself occupied during the losses by coming up with new nicknames and wordplay for Sam Dalembert. The other night he broke out “Dalemblock” and “Sammy Slam.”
28. New Jersey Nets (6-18)
Last week — Lost at Atlanta, lost at Dallas, lost to L.A. Lakers
Terrence Williams is back from the D-League, and just trying to play his role and fit in as quietly as a heavily-tattooed guy who is the best athlete on the team can fit in.
27. Minnesota Timberwolves (6-18)
Last week — Lost at New York, lost to Oklahoma City, beat Detroit, lost at Chicago
Their West Coast road trip begins with the Warriors and Suns. Kevin Love might grab 40 rebounds. Per game.
26. Los Angeles Clippers (5-20)
Last week — Beat Sacramento, lost to L.A. Lakers, lost to Memphis, lost to Orlando
DeAndre Jordan should have somebody make him a DVD of Tyson Chandler. Jordan has a similar build and similar game to Chandler, but he still can learn little things like defensive positioning and making himself a big target that Chandler has learned over the years.
25. Washington Wizards (6-16)
Last week — Lost at L.A. Lakers, lost at Sacramento, lost to New York
Don’t count out Gilbert Arenas making an All-Star push over the next few weeks. The only locks among East guards are D-Wade, Rose and Rondo. That leaves two more spots, and Arenas is putting up 17.5 points, 5.2 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
24. Detroit Pistons (7-18)
Last week — Lost at Houston, lost at New Orleans, lost at Minnesota, lost to Toronto
Ben Wallace posted a career-high 23 points to go with 14 boards and 5 steals against the Raptors, but the Pistons blew a 25-point lead and lost the game.
23. Milwaukee Bucks (9-13)
Last week — Lost to Miami, beat Indiana, beat Houston
Slowly trying to climb out of this hole by winning three of their last four, but this week brings road games at Dallas and San Antonio, then back home for the Jazz.
22. Charlotte Bobcats (8-15)
Last week — Beat Denver, lost at Indiana, lost to Boston
After being held to 62 points and 33% shooting while turning the ball over 21 times against the Celtics, the Bobcats get a chance to rediscover their offense when the Raptors come to town Tuesday.
21. Golden State Warriors (8-15)
Last week — Lost at Dallas, lost at San Antonio, lost to Miami
Six losses in a row, in which opponents scored an average of 110 points per game. Did I miss something and they re-hired Don Nelson?
20. Toronto Raptors (9-15)
Last week — Lost at Indiana, lost to New York, lost to Denver, won at Detroit
With Jose Calderon (foot) out of the lineup, Jerryd Bayless choked in his first Raptors start, but then dropped 31 points, five boards and seven assists in his second.
19. Philadelphia 76ers (8-15)
Last week — Beat Cleveland, lost to Boston, beat New Orleans
In the last five games, Elton Brand is averaging 14.2 points and 11.2 rebounds.
18. Houston Rockets (9-14)
Last week — Beat Detroit, lost at Milwaukee, beat Cleveland
Aaron Brooks (ankle) has been upgraded to day-to-day and could return this week, when the Rockets have the Kings (twice), Thunder and Grizzlies on the schedule.
17. Memphis Grizzlies (10-14)
Last week — Lost at Utah, won at Phoenix, won at L.A. Clippers
As much grief as the Grizzlies got for Mike Conley’s $45 million extension, he’s been good for 15.3 points, 7.2 assists and 2.1 steals per game, and the team is only two games out of a playoff spot.
16. Indiana Pacers (11-11)
Last week — Beat Toronto, lost at Milwaukee, beat Charlotte, lost at Atlanta
Jim O’Brien’s improved defense has some tough tests ahead this week, facing Derrick Rose and the Bulls, Kobe and the Lakers, and Pierce and the Celtics.
15. Phoenix Suns (11-12)
Last week — Lost at Portland, lost to Memphis, lost to Portland
When was the last time the Suns went three games in a row failing to score 100 points? This current three-game skid has them finishing in the 90’s every night, and in a directly related story, Jason Richardson has averaged 6.0 points while shooting 21% from the field and going 0-for-12 beyond the arc.
14. Portland Trail Blazers (12-12)
Last week — Beat Phoenix, beat Orlando, won at Phoenix, lost at San Antonio
Four-game win streak was snapped by the Spurs.
13. New Orleans Hornets (14-9)
Last week — Beat Detroit, lost to Oklahoma City, lost at Philadelphia
Back on Nov. 5, the Hornets beat Miami in a game that seemed to confirm Chris Paul’s squad would be dangerous in the West this year. The rematch is on Monday, but it seems like two completely different teams will be on the court. The Hornets have lost eight of their last 11 games.
12. Denver Nuggets (14-9)
Last week — Lost at Charlotte, lost at Boston, won at Toronto, lost at New York
When he gets the time and opportunity, Ty Lawson proves he’s either Denver’s point guard of the future or a great trade chip in a few months.
11. Atlanta Hawks (16-9)
Last week — Won at Orlando, beat New Jersey, lost at San Antonio, beat Indiana
Making up for Joe Johnson’s absence, Jamal Crawford has scored 24.6 ppg in the last three.
10. Orlando Magic (16-8)
Last week — Lost to Atlanta, lost at Portland, lost at Utah, won at L.A. Clippers
The Clippers were the cure for the common slump. Dwight Howard scored 22 as Orlando snapped its four-game skid.
9. New York Knicks (16-9)
Last week — Beat Minnesota, beat Toronto, won at Washington, beat Denver
Is this the part where we start talking about how Amar’e Stoudemire actually made Steve Nash look All-World? Because Ray Felton (18.3 ppg, 8.4 apg, 2.1 spg) is making a solid All-Star bid, and the Knicks have won eight straight while Nash’s Suns are struggling.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder (17-8)
Last week — Lost at Chicago, won at Minnesota, won at New Orleans, beat Cleveland
Challenging week ahead for Thabo Sefolosha, who gets Kevin Martin, Tyreke Evans and Jason Richardson on the schedule. Three pure scorers, three different styles. Good thing Thabo doesn’t have to worry about playing offense.
7. Utah Jazz (17-8)
Last week — Beat Memphis, lost to Miami, beat Orlando, lost at Dallas
If I had to pick right now, Deron Williams (22.7 ppg, 9.8 apg) would be starting for the Western Conference All-Star team, edging out Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook.
6. Chicago Bulls (14-8)
Last week — Beat Oklahoma City, won at Cleveland, beat L.A. Lakers, beat Minnesota
And if I had to pick the other side, Derrick Rose (25.1 ppg, 8.1 apg) would be starting for the East. Meanwhile, nine months ago I wrote that D-Will and D-Rose would be the top two PG’s in the League in a short matter of time.
5. Los Angeles Lakers (17-7)
Last week — Beat Washington, won at L.A. Clippers, lost at Chicago, won at New Jersey
All the off-court quirks and admirable charity acts have almost covered up the fact that Ron Artest kinda stinks right now. He’s averaging a career-low 7.6 points on a career-low 37% shooting from the field.
4. Miami Heat (17-8)
Last week — Won at Milwaukee, won at Utah, won at Golden State, won at Sacramento
During Miami’s eight-game win streak, Dwyane Wade has averaged 26.6 points, 7.7 boards and 5.1 assists.
3. Boston Celtics (19-4)
Last week — Beat Denver, won at Philadelphia, won at Charlotte
Ray Allen is never going to get old. He’s been allegedly “slowing down” for about three years, yet is still averaging 16.6 points on a balanced offensive team and sticking 43% beyond the arc, his highest percentage since 2002.
2. San Antonio Spurs (20-3)
Last week — Beat Golden State, beat Atlanta, beat Portland
Tony Parker (17.0 ppg, 7.0 apg, 52% FG) is having a horrible year and he’s lucky George Hill doesn’t have his job. (Let’s see how many people miss the sarcasm this week.)
1. Dallas Mavericks (19-4)
Last week — Beat Golden State, beat New Jersey, beat Utah
Three more home games this week as they try to keep the win streak, now at 12, going. Not to get too far ahead of myself, but if the Mavs take care of the Bucks, Blazers and Suns, Dallas at Miami on Dec. 20 is going to be a barn-barner.