Ranking the NBA from worst to first…
30. New Jersey Nets (6-53) — Mad Dog Carter and the rest of the ’73 Sixers might have to cancel that champagne-popping party. The Nets are 2-5 since the All-Star break, recording wins over the Celtics and the (maybe) playoff-bound Bobcats.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves (14-47) — A disappointing season gets worse for Al Jefferson, suspended for this week’s games against Dallas and Houston after a DWI arrest. On a less serious note, Al’s team has dropped nine of its last 10 games.
28. Golden State Warriors (17-42) — It seems like every night now, somebody e-mails us with, “Who is [Player X] and why is he getting crunch-time minutes on the Warriors?”
27. New York Knicks (20-39) — The Tracy McGrady honeymoon is over. Not that he’s been bad, averaging 12.7 points and 4.0 dimes in six games, but the Knicks are 1-5 since his arrival.
26. Indiana Pacers (20-40) — After a month on the bench, T.J. Ford has worked his way back into the rotation, putting up 13.6 points and only 2.2 turnovers per game in February. Dude is like Freddy Krueger; he can’t be killed off.
25. Philadelphia 76ers (22-37) — Barring some feel-good moments here and there, the Allen Iverson project has to go down as a failure. And it wasn’t even fun while it lasted.
24. Sacramento Kings (20-40) — Carl Landry hardly missed a beat since coming over from Houston. He’s averaging 16 points and 6.2 boards with the Kings.
23. Detroit Pistons (21-39) — Veteran group still gets up for the big games, beating the Spurs and losing close contests to the Nuggets and Celtics recently. On Friday the Pistons visit the Cavs on national TV.
22. Washington Wizards (21-36) — The Wizards always knew they had a hidden beast in Andray Blatche, it just took this long for everybody else to see it. In the seven games since the Jamison trade, Blatche has been good for 26.5 points and 11.7 rebounds a night.
21. Los Angeles Clippers (25-35) — Eric Gordon is getting stronger as the season goes on. Since the All-Star break he’s scoring 19.2 points per game and knocking down 46 percent of his threes.
20. Charlotte Bobcats (28-30) — Rather than having David Stern and Billy Hunter engaged in a months-long stare down, a lockout in 2011 could be avoided if the NBA owners somehow get Michael Jordan to represent them in a room full of influential players. Most guys in the League are in such reverence of MJ, they’d do whatever he said even if it cost them money.
19. Miami Heat (30-31) — Just a half-game up on the Bobcats for the 8th playoff seed, missing the postseason would be murder to Miami’s chances of re-signing Dwyane Wade.
18. Memphis Grizzlies (30-30) — If they can somehow snatch that 8th playoff seed from Portland, a first-round series with the Lakers would be more competitive than you think. Maybe the first time ever when a GM (Chris Wallace) would be the main guy with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove.
17. Toronto Raptors (31-28) — Surprisingly, the Raps kind of stink when they don’t have Chris Bosh.
16. New Orleans Hornets (31-30) — Surprisingly, the Hornets don’t really stink that much when they don’t have Chris Paul.
15. Milwaukee Bucks (30-29) — An overtime loss in Atlanta snapped a six-game win streak. John Salmons scored 32 in the loss, and has provided a spark as the primary perimeter scorer since being traded from Chicago.
14. Houston Rockets (30-29) –Kevin Martin has averaged 31 points over the last three games. Yeah, we’d say he’s fitting in nicely.
13. Chicago Bulls (31-29) — If Derrick Rose can keep his knees out of harm’s way, we like the Bulls as a 6th-seed that can put a scare into Atlanta or Boston (again).
12. Portland Trail Blazers (36-27) –Still not quite at 100 percent from his hamstring injury, Brandon Roy has nonetheless dropped 20-plus points in five of his last six games as Portland clings to the last playoff spot in the West.
11. Boston Celtics (37-21) — Can we all stop with the “Rajon Rondo only gets assists because he has three Hall of Fame teammates” thing? While the Big Three are all going through down seasons and injuries, Rondo is still handing out 10 dimes a night. He creates plays.
10. San Antonio Spurs (34-24) — Richard Jefferson has been more productive since moving to the bench, but we’re not sure if that warranted the Spurs waiving Mike Finley.
9. Oklahoma City (36-23) — Apparently Kevin Durant would be able score 30 against the Secret Service if President Obama were standing under the basket.
8. Utah Jazz (38-22) — After bricking two huge free throws in the final seconds of a loss to the Clippers on Monday, we have a feeling Deron Williams will rain terror on L.A. in the rematch this Saturday.
7. Atlanta Hawks (38-21) — Pretty easy stretch of schedule coming up: Philly, Golden State, at Miami, at New York, at Washington, Detroit, at New Jersey. The Hawks could conceivably overtake Orlando for second-place in the East by the middle of this month.
6. Denver Nuggets (39-21) — During a loss to Phoenix on Monday, the Suns announcer said Nene “has the size of a center with the quickness of a small forward.” We wouldn’t say Nene is that quick, but he does have the physical tools to be an All-Star someday.
5. Phoenix Suns (38-24) — If Jason Richardson makes a simple one-hand breakaway dunk in San Antonio, the Suns could be riding a seven-game win streak right now.
4. Orlando Magic (41-20) — Now would be a good time to find an offensive rhythm. After hanging 126 points on the Sixers, the Magic have the Warriors and Nets up on the schedule before a big matchup with the Lakers on Sunday.
3. Dallas Mavericks (40-21) — During this current eight-game win streak, Dirk Nowitzki is dropping 29.1 points per. Why isn’t he getting more MVP consideration?
2. Los Angeles Lakers (46-15) — After storming back into the lineup with 32 points and a game-winner in Memphis, Kobe has struggled, scoring 19.2 points in the four games since while shooting 34 percent from the floor. His team has only lost one of those games, however.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (47-14) — It’s never a convenient time for Shaq to go down with an injury, but this gives Leon Powe a chance to work his way back into basketball shape with some real minutes. Against the Knicks on Monday, it took Powe about two minutes to endear himself to the Cleveland crowd in his first home game of the season. His numbers aren’t anything worth noting, but the guy’s like a hungry grizzly bear under the basket.