Ranking the NBA from worst to first…
30. New Jersey Nets (3-34)
Last week: Lost to Milwaukee; lost at Atlanta; lost at New Orleans; lost at San Antonio.
There’s no good reason to bury Terrence Williams on the bench right now. T-Will’s minutes began declining sharply in mid-December, and this month he’s been clocking only five minutes a night. The Nets aren’t going anywhere anytime soon; forget Trenton Hassell and Jarvis Hayes and get the rookie some experience.
29. Detroit Pistons (11-25)
Last week: Lost at Dallas; lost at San Antonio; lost to Philadelphia; lost at Chicago.
The 13-game losing streak is clearly making the Pistons’ announcers go crazy. During Monday’s loss to the Bulls, Greg Kelser described a basic one-hander by Chris Wilcox as “dunking history.”
28. Minnesota Timberwolves (8-31)
Last week: Lost to Golden State; beat Indiana; lost at Chicago; lost at Denver.
It took him a while, but Al Jefferson is rounding into top form. Through the first six games of the new year he’s putting up 20.3 points and 10.8 boards, his highest production of the season.
27. Indiana Pacers (12-25)
Last week: Beat Orlando; lost at Minnesota; lost at Oklahoma City; beat Toronto.
Danny Granger and Troy Murphy are back. Too bad everybody else is still there.
26. Washington Wizards (12-23)
Last week: Won at Philadelphia; lost at Cleveland; beat Orlando; lost to New Orleans.
The organization has done its best to act like Gilbert Arenas doesn’t exist. Is the next move making his $111 million contract disappear from the books?
25. Golden State Warriors (11-25)
Last week: Lost at Denver; won at Minnesota; beat Sacramento; lost to Cleveland.
If there was an end-of-season award for the best starter who should be a sixth man, Corey Maggette would be a front-runner. He’s averaging 28 points per game this month.
24. Philadelphia 76ers (12-25)
Last week: Lost to Washington; lost to Toronto; won at Detroit; beat New Orleans.
Dwight Howard wishes he had the game Sam Dalembert had against the Hornets on Monday. The Dalembeast posted 12 boards and four blocks in the first half, and in the final minute of the fourth quarter, hit a hook shot that proved to be the game-winner. Dwight never sees the ball like that in crunch time.
23. Chicago Bulls (16-20)
Last week: Lost at Charlotte; lost at Milwaukee; beat Minnesota; beat Detroit.
Tyrus Thomas is back, just in time to be showcased for a deadline trade.
22. Milwaukee Bucks (15-20)
Last week: Won at New Jersey; beat Chicago; lost at L.A. Lakers; lost at Phoenix.
Tough week for the Bucks, as they lost Michael Redd for the season with another ACL tear, and Scott Skiles had to miss Monday’s game at Phoenix while hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat.
21. Sacramento Kings (15-21)
Last week: Lost to Phoenix; lost at Golden State; beat Denver.
While they’re sitting on the bench together, at least Sean May and brand-new acquisition Hilton Armstrong can talk about their glory days in college and compare national title rings.
20. New York Knicks (15-22)
Last week: Beat Charlotte; lost at Houston; lost at Oklahoma City.
They’ve been in an offensive slump, especially for a Mike D’Antoni-coached team. In the last three games, NY is putting up just 93 points per.
19. Charlotte Bobcats (16-19)
Last week: Beat Chicago; lost at New York; beat Memphis.
On ESPN the other night they said LeBron is the NBA’s best at those catch-from-behind blocks, like it wasn’t even worth arguing. But did you see what Gerald Wallace did to O.J. Mayo over the weekend?
18. Los Angeles Clippers (17-18)
Last week: Beat L.A. Lakers; beat Miami.
Winners of five of their last six, including W’s over the Celtics, Lakers, Blazers and Heat.
17. Memphis Grizzlies (18-18)
Last week: Won at Portland; lost at Utah; beat Utah; lost at Charlotte.
Going into the season, how many people had Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol pegged as one of the most consistently potent big-man combos in the League?
16. Miami Heat (18-18)
Last week: Lost to Boston; won at Phoenix; lost at L.A. Clippers; lost at Utah.
Rafer Alston came in and immediately jacked Mario Chalmers’ crunch-time minutes, not to mention vaulting Mario and Carlos Arroyo into the starting lineup.
15. Toronto Raptors (19-20)
Last week: Won at Orlando; won at Philadelphia; lost to Boston; lost at Indiana.
They had been red-hot, winning eight out of nine games, until back-to-back losses to the Celtics and Pacers. The old problems have been resurfacing: giving up 114 points to the Celts, and blowing a 23-point lead to Indy.
14. Utah Jazz (21-17)
Last week: Beat Memphis; lost at Memphis; won at Dallas; beat Miami.
Knocking off the Mavs on the road was a big hurdle for this team. The Jazz have generally been owned in Dirk’s building; the last time they were there, Nowitzki dropped 29 on them in the fourth quarter alone.
13. Oklahoma City Thunder (21-16)
Last week: Lost to New Orleans; beat Indiana; beat New York.
Breaking news: Kevin Durant is a scoring machine. In his last 11 games, he’s dropped 30-plus points nine times.
12. New Orleans Hornets (19-17)
Last week: Won at Oklahoma City; beat New Jersey; won at Washington; lost at Philadelphia.
Monday’s loss to the Sixers snapped a six-game win streak, during which Chris Paul averaged 18.1 points and 12 dimes.
11. Houston Rockets (21-16)
Last week: Lost at L.A. Lakers; lost at Phoenix; beat New York.
With the Bobcats, Wolves, Heat and Bucks on the next week’s schedule, the Rockets are in good position to put together a winning streak.
10. Orlando Magic (25-12)
Last week: Lost at Indiana; lost to Toronto; lost at Washington; beat Atlanta.
Four losses in a row, then they go and wax the Hawks by almost 30 without Vince Carter (shoulder) in the lineup. You figure it out. This week begins a four-game West Coast road trip where they’ll see the Kings, Nuggets, Blazers and Lakers.
9. Denver Nuggets (24-14)
Last week: Beat Golden State; beat Cleveland; lost at Sacramento; beat Minnesota.
So much attention has been paid to ‘Melo and Chauncey’s injuries, nobody is noticing that Kenyon Martin has been a beast. K-Mart has averaged 19 points and 11.2 boards in January.
8. San Antonio Spurs (22-13)
Last week: Beat Detroit; lost to Dallas; beat New Jersey.
If the up-and-down Spurs ever needed a statement win in January, Tuesday’s matchup with the Lakers is it. Duncan, Manu and Parker are all healthy, too, so no excuses.
7. Portland Trail Blazers (23-16)
Last week: Lost to Memphis; beat L.A. Lakers; lost to Cleveland.
Given all their injuries in the frontcourt and the recent beef between Andre Miller and Nate McMillan, that Paul Millsap offseason tease is becoming a gigantic One That Got Away.
6. Boston Celtics (26-10)
Last week: Won at Miami; lost at Atlanta; won at Toronto; lost to Atlanta.
Kevin Garnett (knee) is reportedly going to miss another two weeks or so. Still not sure how this will play out come playoff time, but odds are KG will skip the All-Star Game, requiring at least one alternate in the East. Open spot for Josh Smith or Gerald Wallace?
5. Phoenix Suns (24-14)
Last week: Won at Sacramento; beat Houston; lost to Miami; beat Milwaukee.
It hasn’t exactly been the monster season some of us predicted for Leandro Barbosa (10.7 ppg). But if the Suns are still winning while he’s struggling, they’re gonna be extra dangerous when he regains his rhythm.
4. Dallas Mavericks (25-12)
Last week: Beat Detroit; won at San Antonio; lost to Utah.
Erick Dampier and Drew Gooden have been nothing but solid as a center tandem, but we’re still a little scared to trust them to keep it up.
3. Atlanta Hawks (24-13)
Last week: Beat New Jersey; beat Boston; lost at Orlando; won at Boston.
If you haven’t been taking the Hawks seriously, it’s time to catch up. Monday’s road win over the Celtics ran ATL’s record to 3-0 against Boston.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (28-9)
Last week: Beat Houston; lost at L.A. Clippers; lost at Portland; beat Milwaukee.
Did you see the episode of “NUMB3RS” where Pau Gasol and Jordan Farmar are ringers for a college team, and help them come back from a 30-point deficit in like four minutes? That’s kind of what it was like watching the Lakers smash the Bucks the other night.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (30-10)
Last week: Beat Washington; lost at Denver; won at Portland; won at Golden State.
Sunday’s win at Portland was one of those games where you see what the League is in store for if LeBron gets his jumper to drop consistently. Sticking J’s from every angle to set up his drives, LBJ hung 41 points on the Blazers in a decisive win.