Our weekly NBA power ranking, from worst to first. No matter what city he’s in, Mr. Big Shot can’t seem to stay away from the top.
30. Oklahoma City Thunder (1-13) — What exactly did the front office expect from P.J. Carlesimo anyway? Whether or not Scott Brooks is given the rest of the season as the fill-in, we foresee Avery Johnson being Kevin Durant’s next coach.
29. Washington Wizards (1-10) — Why can’t they fire DeShawn Stevenson?
28. Los Angeles Clippers (2-11) — Things are actually looking up for the Clips. Two of last week’s losses (San Antonio and Philly) came down to the last shot, and the Zach Randolph trade gives them a real power forward.
27. Memphis Grizzlies (4-9) — In this space last week we wondered when Hamed Haddadi would get off the bench. Turns out he’ll get plenty of PT now that he’s been banished to the D-League Dakota Wizards.
26. Charlotte Bobcats (3-9) — Just like the Bucks with Luke Ridnour and Ramon Sessions, the ‘Cats are currently starting a small backcourt of Ray Felton and D.J. Augustin. Somebody’s gotta go to the bench once Jason Richardson returns, and although Larry Brown prefers veterans, Augustin is outplaying Felton.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (3-9) — Whatever Randy Foye had in Detroit (23 pts, 14 asts), the Wolves need him to bottle it and keep a supply for when Steve Nash, Russell Westbrook and Chauncey Billups come calling this week.
24. Golden State Warriors (5-8) — Anthony Morrow’s borrowed time is running out. After his brief explosion had everyone putting him on the All-Rookie Team, Morrow has combined for 13 points in his last two games, and Jamal Crawford joins the lineup tomorrow to take away more of his shots.
23. Sacramento Kings (5-10) — They can score (10th in the League at 98.3 ppg), but they’re soft and can’t guard anybody. A few more guys like Brad Miller and Francisco Garcia wouldn’t hurt.
22. Indiana Pacers (5-7) — Typical of a young team with two young point guards (Ford and Jack) and a young leader (Granger), the Pacers can’t close out games. Against the Sixers, Bulls, Magic and Heat in the last two weeks, Indy gave away winnable games in the late stages.
21. Chicago Bulls (6-8) — Climbing up (or down, however you see it) the rankings as one of the League’s worst defenses. The Bulls have given up 114 points per in the first four games of their six-game West Coast road trip.
20. New York Knicks (7-6) — It’s about to get bad. Very, very bad.
19. Milwaukee Bucks (7-8) — Let’s clear this up once and for all: Just because Andrew Bogut isn’t as good as Chris Paul and Deron Williams, that DOES NOT mean he’s a bust. BTW, Bogut has averaged 18 boards per in his last three games.
18. Toronto Raptors (6-7) — The defense that can never seem to get a stop when they really need one (see The Vince Carter Game) is only going to get worse if Jermaine O’Neal’s knee becomes a problem.
17. San Antonio Spurs (6-6) — Good news: Roger Mason and George Hill are starting to look like an actual NBA backcourt. Better news: Manu Ginobili is back.
16. Atlanta Hawks (8-5) — Josh Smith is supposed to be out another week or so. “I’m not going to risk injuring it again and being out longer, because it’s definitely boring,” he said recently. We agree about the boring part; the Hawks are tough to watch without J-Smoove.
15. Dallas Mavericks (6-7) — Bounced back from a five-game skid to take four in a row, including one at Houston. While the Jerry Stackhouse situation gets sorted out, what’s up with Shawne Williams? It’s like he’s back at Indiana all over again, getting 30 minutes one night and 10 minutes the next.
14. Philadelphia 76ers (7-6) — Winning ugly is still winning.
13. New Jersey Nets (6-6) — The next time Vince Carter comes to Toronto, the fans might wanna chill on the boos. It seems to turn him into The Hulk.
12. Miami Heat (7-6) — Did we say D-Wade’s ankle would slow him down last week? The ankle, nor the flu bug he caught over the weekend, didn’t stop Flash from dropping 40 points on the Raptors and 38 on the Pacers.
11. Portland Trail Blazers (8-6) — LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden still need to figure out how to play with each other, but Nate McMillan said he’s going to continue feeding LA in the post. Aldridge has never been a monster rebounder, but his numbers are only gonna go down with Oden in the middle.
10. Detroit Pistons (8-5) — Getting blown out by the Celtics in Boston is one thing. But the Wolves at home?
9. New Orleans Hornets (7-5) — While Chris Paul is creeping up on history, David West is playing like an All-Star, leading N.O. in scoring each of the last five games, highlighted by a 33-point effort against the Thunder over the weekend.
8. Utah Jazz (9-5) — The fact that they’ve been able to put up a good record despite all the injuries/absences just shows how much better Utah is in spots 4-through-12 than the Spurs. Deron Williams is expected back this Wednesday against the Grizzlies.
7. Orlando Magic (9-4) — A five-game win streak was snapped against the Rockets over the weekend. J.J. Redick is playing (kind of), which leaves Courtney Lee as the new first-round pick who can’t get off the bench.
6. Phoenix Suns (9-5) — Has Steve Nash fallen off (13.5 ppg, 7.6 apg), or is he just back to playing like he was in Dallas?
5. Houston Rockets (9-5) — The season’s first “Oh crap, everybody’s getting hurt” moment passed with the team relatively intact, as T-Mac, Yao and Artest were all back in the lineup by the weekend. And Shane Battier is on the way back.
4. Denver Nuggets (9-5) — Count us among those who assumed Carmelo would post some monster numbers following the Billups/Iverson deal. Not so much. ‘Melo is shooting 38% since the trade and averaging 19.6 points, but since Denver is 8-2 with Chauncey in the lineup, no one’s complaining.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (10-3) — After their eight-game win streak was snapped in Detroit in a game that slipped away from them, the Cavs responded like a real contender, smashing the Hawks their next time out. Tomorrow night The LeBron Show hits New York, where grown men could actually get hurt in the media crush.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (11-1) — While the Bulls, Suns, Nuggets and Kings don’t necessarily represent the NBA’s best as far as defense, L.A. was impressive in putting up 110 points per game in consecutive wins against the four. And keep in mind Kobe Bryant (24.7 ppg) has only hit the 30-point mark once this season, way back on November 1 in one of L.A.’s rare close wins.
1. Boston Celtics (13-2) — Five wins in a row, with the last three (Detroit, Minnesota, Toronto) by a 20-point margin of victory. Rajon Rondo has been killing since that stinker he put up in Milwaukee a couple weeks ago, bumping his averages to 9.3 points, 6.5 dimes and 2.2 steals. When Rondo gets out and runs full-speed while making the right decisions, the C’s are almost impossible to stop.