Dime NBA Power Rankings, Vol. V: Miami Takes Back The No. 1 Spot

Ranking the NBA from worst to first…

30. Charlotte Bobcats (3-19)
Last Week: 29, -1
The worst team in the league. Bar none. Nine straight losses. Their only bright spot in all of this is Kemba Walker. In his last five games, he’s averaging 15.2 points, seven rebounds and five assists a game and had the first triple-double in his rookie class. Your turn, Ricky and Kyrie.

29. New Orleans Hornets (4-17)
LW: 30, +1
How bad do the Hornets make Orlando look? New Orleans went 2-16 in January, and yet the Tragic couldn’t even break 70 against them. When fans are clamoring for Monty Williams to play Gustavo Ayon more than the 14 minutes a game he’s currently getting, you know things are worse than a day-long hangover. Remember when I said in the preseason that this would be the worst team in the league? Even when Eric Gordon comes back, they have a chance.

28. Detroit Pistons (4-19)
LW: 27, -1
The Pistons now have one win in their last 11 games, and then had the nerve to bring T-Pain in to do a halftime show during Miami’s visit to the Palace. How can you allow THAT to be the most exciting thing the fans have seen all year? Detroit’s schedule has been harder than steel, but without much to look forward to, it’ll be a long year in Michigan.

27. Washington Wizards (4-17)
LW: 28, +1
First the good news. Since hiring Randy Wittman, the Wiz are 2-2. They’ve also played Charlotte twice and were sent to the slaughterhouse on the road in Houston. Tonight, they get the Orlando Zombies and that knucklehead frontline gets another chance at Superman, who gave them 28 and 20 the last time they played.

26. Sacramento Kings (6-15)
LW: 26, —
Last night, I watched them get beat in the second half to a bunch of castoffs off Golden State’s bench. Someone should call William Wallace to come give them a halftime speech. They need something to get them to pick it up. Five straight losses only look worse when you realize they scored 95 or less in every game. For a team that plays less defense than the Patriots, if you can’t score, what can you do?

25. Phoenix Suns (7-13)
LW: 25, —
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: Marcin Gortat is a beast. Last month, he averaged over 16 points on 56 percent shooting, and nearly 11 rebounds and two blocks. I never thought I’d say this, but the Nash/Polish Hammer pick-n-roll isn’t too far off from Nash/STAT. The problem is everywhere else. Phoenix is still an embarrassing No. 23 in offensive efficiency (97.7), sitting just behind Cleveland, which has about as much talent as a Pac-12 team.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers (8-12)
LW: 22, -2
The aforementioned Cavs nearly pulled off back-to-back comeback wins against the Celtics. Kyrie Irving is the real deal, and as we wrote in Smack, no one at his age has ever scored like this. Nope. Not LeBron. Not Kobe. Not KD. That’s a little scary.

23. New Jersey Nets (7-15)
LW: 23, —
At first, I had New Jersey ahead of Toronto. But when I went back through the numbers, I recalled the spanking the Dinos put on Deron Williams and company just a few days ago. DeMar DeRozan (27 points) was the best player on the floor that day, but is D-Will not playing like the best point guard in the game lately? The lonely sad faces are slowly going away. He knows they still suck, but at least he’s putting up a fight. I can respect that.

22. Toronto Raptors (7-15)
LW: 21, -1
The Raptors couldn’t turn it around anymore and be any similar. We’ve grown used to seeing them as an offensive juggernaut that couldn’t stop a damn thing. Now, that offensive efficiency (94) is No. 27 in the league. The defense is much improved, the culture seems different, but the record isn’t changing.

21. Golden State Warriors (7-12)
LW: 20, -1
The Warriors should play more lineups revolving around Brandon Rush, Nate Robinson and Ekpe Udoh. Who saw that game against the Kings last night? Rush thought he was Ty Crane out there, dropping 15 points in crunch time.

20. New York Knicks (8-13)
LW: 24, +4
The Knicks are like that one halfway decent-looking girl in grad school. We’ll call her Rose. Rose has a nice body, a cute face and she’s not weird enough to make it awkward in social settings. She’s also a little bit of a nerd who is surrounded by some chicks you couldn’t even pay your boys to take out. So you throw Rose (the Knicks) up on a pedestal (moving up four spots) just because there really isn’t any other competition out there. Basically, New York is the best of the worst right now.

19. Orlando Magic (12-9)
LW: 9, -10
Tragic isn’t even a strong enough nickname. It’s not soft. Speaking of soft, Stan Van Gundy could start a lineup of Dwight Howard, Babyface, Brian McKnight and two members of Boyz II Men and they’d compete harder than these zombies. The offense has been so bad lately that they’ve scored less than 70 three times in basically a week. Their once-prolific shooting has dropped them all the way to No. 17 in offensive efficiency.

18. Memphis Grizzlies (11-10)
LW: 15, -3
Rudy Gay looks like Big L one night, and then the next looks like one of his 1,067 knockoffs. The Grizz lost four in a row recently after winning seven in a row. I don’t think people understand how big that O.J. Mayo three was last night. Lose that game to Denver and not only is it five losses in a row, but every one of them was against a playoff-caliber team. Memphis was dangerous close to pretender status.

17. Minnesota Timberwolves (10-11)
LW: 17, —
Every time I think Ricky Rubio is about to come back to Earth, he goes out and directs a quarter like the third frame of Minny’s win over Houston: 42 points. Rubio isn’t slowing down, and has his sights sets on the overall assist crown. His 37.6 assist rate is No. 6 in the entire NBA.

16. Boston Celtics (10-10)
LW: 18, +2
After suriving Barbara Walters giving them 20/20 last night, the Celtics are finally, finally, up to .500. It took them long enough. Now it’s about playoff positioning. With Orlando disintegrating like a Boba Fett victim, that leaves five legit Eastern playoff teams. If you’re Boston, getting the No. 6 seed would probably have you missing out on Miami and Chicago in the first round. Perfect.

15. Milwaukee Bucks (9-11)
LW: 19, +4
Quietly, the Bucks have strapped on the cold weather gear and weathered the storm. Even without Andrew Bogut, Drew Gooden is taking it back to his roots (in his last five: 17.2 points, 7.2 rebounds). Brandon Jennings finally actually plays like an All-Star, and in the last week or so, Milwaukee has wins in Miami and Houston and against the Lakers. If you would’ve told us before the year that Milwaukee would be playing like this without Bogut and with Stephen Jackson sitting in timeout, we would’ve said you had too much to drink.

14. Portland Trail Blazers (12-9)
LW: 14, —
Once again, I don’t feel like talking about them. They’ve been more disappointing than the ending of The Grey. Survival tactics? Liam Neeson would have his work cut out for him with the Blazers, who haven’t won three fights in a row since the opening week of the season. For now, the most interesting thing about them is arguing about LaMarcus Aldridge‘s All-Star status.

13. Houston Rockets (12-9)
LW: 16, +3
Would the Rockets trade for Chris Kaman? Honestly, they should. They’re still only one good post player away from making noise. When Luis Scola is your only offensive option inside, you’re destined to either miss the playoffs completely or bail out in five games in the first round. Kyle Lowry‘s Oscar-winning performance to start the year has begun to tail off, averaging 9.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists on 25 percent shooting in his last five games.

12. San Antonio Spurs (13-9)
LW: 7, -5
Reports are out saying Manu Ginobili is only a few weeks away from coming back after having surgery on his hand. The Spurs need him back; There are only so many nights they can rely on the bench to give them 51 consecutive points. San Antonio’s defense is still pathetically bad (among contenders, only the Clippers are worse), and if Ginobili can’t come back and at least come close to his early season play (35.17 PER), I’m not sure they’ll be able to get through the West.

11. Los Angeles Lakers (13-9)
LW: 10, -1
Kobe Bryant has settled down after surgically murdering everyone through the season’s first few weeks, and even as Andrew Bynum‘s numbers have dropped, Pau Gasol (16.3 points, 9.5 rebounds) is picking it up. With Steve Blake still out, all they need now is for someone to “accidently” hurt Derek Fisher and then they almost have to go after Ramon Sessions.

10. Utah Jazz (12-7)
LW: 12, +2
Nothing about the Jazz really stands out (outside of Jeremy Evans‘ dunks). But with Devin Harris FINALLY raising his averages up above “legally dead” levels, and Paul Millsap continuing his All-Star push, no one really wants to face this team in the playoffs. The other night against Portland, that Salt Lake (I refuse to call them “Swat Lake”) crowd was the loudest one I’ve heard all year.

9. Denver Nuggets (14-7)
LW: 3, -6
Okay so they blew a big lead in Memphis, and then lost in overtime because someone hypnotized them into thinking Andre Miller can make isolation jump shots. I guess they were due. Before that, they had won six games in a row. No one plays at a faster pace (98) and no one scores more points (105.4). And without any of the drama that killed their momentum last season, George Karl can focus on coaching and having fun rather than hoping the stress doesn’t kill him.

8. Indiana Pacers (14-6)
LW: 5, -3
The Pacers have everything you need to make moves in the regular season: depth, versatility and a defense strong enough (No. 6 in the league) to play against any style. But I’m still not convinced. Where will they go for buckets in the playoffs? Is this Danny Granger the real one, or will we get more of the guy who started off colder than the White Walkers? At the very least, at least they have a potential breakout candidate in Paul George (11.6 points and 5.4 rebounds a game).

7. Philadelphia 76ers (15-6)
LW: 6, -1
Finally, after a month of watching them do everyone like Spike in The Little Giants, winning by over 11 points a game, the Sixers have their largest test of the season. Their next six games are as follows: Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, the Lakers, San Antonio and the Clippers. Let’s see that No. 1 ranked defense stand up to that. Hopefully, they get Jodie Meeks some more shots. If he can reached 10 points a night (currently at 9.3), that’ll give this team eight players averaging double figures.

6. Dallas Mavericks (14-8)
LW: 11, +5
Taking away the clunker they spit out against Minnesota recently, the Mavs have lost two games since getting blown out on January 5 in San Antonio, and both of those losses came down to the final seconds (against the two Los Angeles teams). That 0-3 start seems like a distant memory now. They’re No. 6 in Hollinger’s ratings, and are winning by nearly seven points a game in their last 10. Despite being in worse shape than the average noon time racquetball player, Dirk says he isn’t afraid of anyone in the West. He shouldn’t be.

5. Atlanta Hawks (16-6)
LW: 8, +3
I had to laugh in Smack today. For YEARS, y’all have gotten on Dime about our “hatred” of the Hawks, and yet when we start showing Joe Johnson some love – and trust, he deserves it (averaging 21 on 47 percent shooting in his last five) – everyone is so ready to type “Yeah, just wait until the playoffs.” But for all JJ is doing, the key has been that defense. No. 3 in the league in defensive efficiency, and that’s without Al Horford. Imagine if he can get healthy?

4. Los Angeles Clippers (12-6)
LW: 13, +9
L.A.’s stepchild is coming off back-to-back wins against the former best team in the league (Oklahoma City), and Denver (in Denver). If there’s been a more impressive back-to-back series than that – and to think, the Clips pretty much destroyed the Thunder – than I haven’t seen it.

3. Chicago Bulls (18-5)
LW: 2, -1
The Bulls might’ve missed a golden opportunity to beat Miami on South Beach this weekend – Rose missing his first fourth-quarter free throws and the team missing close to double-digit layups – but Chicago fans couldn’t be happier right now even if the White Mamba started playing 30 minutes a night.

2. Oklahoma City (16-4)
LW: 1, -1
Blake Griffin…Blake Griffin…Blake Griffin… Kendrick Perkins will be dreaming about that dunk for awhile. Thankfully for him, he has Russell Westbrook (23.6 points in his last five) and Kevin Durant (28 and 11 in his last five), who are absolutely DOMINATING right now.

1. Miami Heat (16-5)
LW: 4, +3
LeBron has been fading in fourth quarters this year (Warriors, Clippers, Bulls), but that can’t quite stop me from showing him love. As for everyone else, expectations are so high that every time this team loses, it feels like the end of the world. D-Wade can have a slow start to the year (20.1 points a night on 44 percent shooting) and it still doesn’t really matter.

Did I get it right?

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