Ranking the League from worst to first…
30. New Jersey Nets (3-40)
Last week: Lost at Phoenix; lost at Golden State; lost at Utah.
You know how some teams can play any style and win? The Nets have become adept at losing with any style. Last week they lost trying to run. They also lose in the halfcourt, lose when they go big, lose when they go small, lose with a youth movement, lose with vets, lose at home, lose on the road … their company softball team probably stinks, too.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves (9-36)
Last week: Lost to Oklahoma City; lost to New Orleans; lost at Milwaukee.
If you’re into moral victories, the Wolves can be proud of at least taking the Thunder and Hornets down to the wire. The talent and competitiveness is there; you just see the execution failures that come with a young team.
28. Golden State Warriors (13-29)
Last week: Lost to Denver; beat New Jersey; lost at Phoenix.
As Nellie continues to fill the gaps with D-League alums, we got an idea: Instead of having the traditional D-League All-Star Game, what about having the Warriors play a squad of the D-League’s best? You wouldn’t watch that?
27. Washington Wizards (14-29)
Last week: Lost to Dallas; lost to Miami; lost to L.A. Clippers.
With the Lakers in D.C. before Tuesday’s game against the Wizards, the defending champs visited the White House and gave President Obama his #1 purple-and-gold jersey. The Wizards also gave Obama a jersey a while back, but we hear it’s being used for the First Dog to sleep on.
26. Sacramento Kings (15-28)
Last week: Lost at Atlanta; lost at Orlando; lost at Miami.
Still looking for their first win since Kevin Martin’s return. The losing streak isn’t K-Mart’s fault, but the timing couldn’t have been worse for him. He didn’t need another reason for people to think his time as The Franchise is done.
25. Philadelphia 76ers (15-29)
Last week: Lost to Portland; beat Dallas; won at Indiana; lost to Indiana.
Ever since he was officially named an All-Star starter, Allen Iverson has at least been trying to justify it: He helped the Sixers upset the Mavs, then averaged 18.5 points in a home-and-home with Indiana.
24. New York Knicks (17-26)
Last week: Lost to L.A. Lakers; lost to Dallas.
Even if it was against the Mavs, a 50-point loss is almost worthy of earning you the 30th spot on the Hit List.
23. Indiana Pacers (16-29)
Last week: Lost at Orlando; won at Detroit; lost to Philadelphia; won at Philadelphia.
A lot of didn’t even think A.J. Price would make the Pacers roster, let alone steal T.J. Ford’s spot in the rotation.
22. Detroit Pistons (15-28)
Last week: Beat Boston; lost to Indiana; lost to Portland.
Charlie Villanueva summed it up best in a recent NBA TV interview: The Pistons are so banged-up, when they show up for morning shootaround, it’s like, “OK, who can play today?”
21. Milwaukee Bucks (18-24)
Last week: Beat Toronto; lost at Toronto; beat Minnesota.
David Lee is getting a late swell of All-Star support, but what about Andrew Bogut? He’s putting up 15.6 points, 10.2 boards and 2.2 blocks, his team is better than Lee’s, and you can’t say he’s just a product of the system.
20. Los Angeles Clippers (20-24)
Last week: Beat Chicago; lost at Denver; won at Washington; lost at Boston.
If Chris Kaman gets his All-Star nod this week, he’ll be the first Clipper to make the squad since Elton Brand (’02 and ’06). Before that? Danny Manning in ’93 and ’94. Before that? Marques Johnson in ’86.
19. Toronto Raptors (23-22)
Last week: Lost at Milwaukee; beat Milwaukee; beat L.A. Lakers.
For Hedo Turkoglu, beating the Lakers with last-second free throws had to hold a little extra weight after the ’09 Finals.
18. Charlotte Bobcats (21-22)
Last week: Beat Miami; lost at Atlanta; lost to Orlando; lost at Denver.
As good as they’ve been at home, they’re terrible on the road at just 3-17 away from their gym.
17. Chicago Bulls (21-22)
Last week: Lost at L.A. Clippers; won at Phoenix; won at Houston; won at San Antonio.
Is it safe to put Joakim Noah next to Derrick Rose on the “We’re building around this guy” side of the locker room?
16. Miami Heat (23-21)
Last week: Lost at Charlotte; won at Washington; beat Sacramento; lost to Cleveland.
When D-Wade drops 30 in the first half on the Cavs and predictably has the entire defense thrown at him in the second, that’s when Mike Beasley is supposed to step up. Until he can do that, he’s still a notch below where he should be as a player.
15. Houston Rockets (24-20)
Last week: Won at San Antonio; lost to Chicago; lost to Atlanta.
As the trade deadline approaches and Trevor Ariza remains inconsistent, you’ll see more and more rumored deals that have T-Mac leaving Houston and a wing player coming in. Andre Iguodala, maybe?
14. Oklahoma City Thunder (24-20)
Last week: Won at Minnesota; lost at Memphis; lost at Cleveland.
Some say Kevin Durant was fouled on his last-second drive against the Cavs that LeBron blocked to seal Cleveland’s win. Others say it was just another sign that KD needs to get stronger, as he shouldn’t have been fading away from the rim in the first place.
13. Memphis Grizzlies (24-19)
Last week: Lost at New Orleans; beat Oklahoma City; beat Orlando.
Rudy Gay is quietly climbing up the list of the League’s big-time clutch players. In the last week or so he’s been money in the fourth quarter, including a game-winner against OKC.
12. Portland Trail Blazers (27-19)
Last week: Won at Philadelphia; lost at Boston; won at Detroit; lost to New Orleans.
All the other injuries they can deal with; if Brandon Roy’s hamstring doesn’t hold up or something else with him goes wrong, the Blazers are in trouble.
11. New Orleans Hornets (24-20)
Last week: Beat Memphis; won at Minnesota; lost at Denver; won at Portland.
The fact that James Posey is prominently involved in the Hornets’ crunch-time offensive plays means Chris Paul either deserves more MVP talk, or Jeff Bower deserves more Coach of the Year talk.
10. Phoenix Suns (26-20)
Last week: Beat New Jersey; lost to Chicago; beat Golden State; lost at Utah.
Why doesn’t Amar’e Stoudemire average 20 rebounds a game? The dude is the biggest, best athlete on the court at all times, he plays in the paint, and he plays on a team that shoots lots of long jumpers. How is it possible that he’s only getting 8.5 boards a night?
9. Orlando Magic (29-16)
Last week: Beat Indiana; beat Sacramento; won at Charlotte; lost at Memphis.
So much has been made about Dwight Howard’s touches and Vince Carter’s jacking, but part of Orlando’s consistency issues should land at Rashard Lewis’ feet. His scoring (14.7 ppg) is down three full points from last season, and his rebounding and shooting percentages are down across the board.
8. San Antonio Spurs (25-18)
Last week: Lost to Utah; lost to Houston; lost to Chicago.
Just when you thought they’d gotten it together, a three-game home losing streak.
7. Utah Jazz (25-19)
Last week: Won at San Antonio; beat New Jersey; beat Phoenix.
Why isn’t Carlos Boozer getting any All-Star talk? He’s averaging 19.4 points and 10.8 rebounds. Not that he definitely should make it over guys like Z-Bo, Dirk, Durant or even Gasol, but he’s not even getting his name mentioned.
6. Boston Celtics (29-13)
Last week: Lost at Detroit; beat Portland; beat L.A. Clippers.
Kevin Garnett comes back, and the Boston defense immediately looks much better.
5. Denver Nuggets (30-14)
Last week: Won at Golden State; beat L.A. Clippers; beat New Orleans; beat Charlotte.
Arron Afflalo’s been playing like a first-round draft pick this month. He dropped 24 points and six threes on the Bobcats, 19 and five triples on the Hornets. In January he’s averaging 12.7 points and hitting 52% from deep, and is getting the job done as Denver’s defensive stopper.
4. Dallas Mavericks (29-15)
Last week: Won at Washington; lost at Philadelphia; won at New York.
Shawn Marion (11.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg) isn’t putting up the same numbers he did in Phoenix, but he’s quickly become just as crucial to the Mavs’ fortunes. He saved the win over the Wizards by blocking Caron Butler at the buzzer.
3. Atlanta Hawks (29-14)
Last week: Beat Sacramento; beat Charlotte; won at Houston.
Big day on Thursday, as the Hawks could find out they have three All-Stars, or realistically they could wind up with zero. Meanwhile, they’re in the middle of a tough schedule that has them playing the Rockets, Spurs, Celtics and Magic this week.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (33-11)
Last week: Lost at Cleveland; won at New York; lost at Toronto.
Of course, the most stubborn L.A. fans will blame the Cavs and Raptors losses on the refs. The real problem: Almost zero bench production.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (35-11)
Last week: Beat L.A. Lakers; beat Oklahoma City; won at Miami.
LeBron made it through the Kobe/Durant/Wade gauntlet unbeaten while averaging 35.3 points, 7.6 boards and 8.3 assists per game.