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NBA power rankings: sixth edition

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NBA power rankings: sixth edition

Chris Warner

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In the sixth installment of our NBA Power Rankings we have one major move at the top of the rankings. Golden State is no longer No. 1 as San Antonio, winners of 10 straight, have taken over the pole position. Other major movers include the Grizzlies who moved up six spots into the number seven slot. The Miami Heat fell harder than any other team, dropping nine spots thanks to an underwhelming last two weeks.

Rank Team Record You Should Know

1 (+1)

200px-San_Antonio_Spurs.svg

38-6

A 13-game winning streak and a 24-game home winning streak have the Spurs in discussion to be ranked ahead of Golden State. The Spurs travel to Golden State tonight for arguably one of the most anticipated games of the season. Tim Duncan will not be active with knee soreness, but with Kawhi Leonard playing lights out and Aldridge finally dominating, the Spurs will be the Warriors’ toughest opponents to date. The week only gets tougher for San Antonio with a home game against the Rockets and a road game against Cleveland this week. We all know the Spurs are great, but how great? We will find out this week. (JH)

2 (-1)

Golden_State_Warriors_logo.svg

40-4

If the loss against the Pistons was a setback for Golden State, then what has happened since must be three steps forward. Monday night saw the annihilation of the Cleveland Cavaliers in what was David Blatt’s death sentence.  On Wednesday the Warriors strolled into Chicago and made it feel like they were still in Oakland.  But perhaps the biggest news to come out of the Warriors this past week was the return of Steve Kerr. After his team handled the Pacers in his first game back, all eyes are on Monday night’s showdown against San Antonio for bragging rights as the league’s best team. (CV)

3 (+2)

Oklahoma_City_Thunder.svg

33-13

Before tonight the Thunder were probably the hottest team in the NBA outside of San Antonio.  They had won seven straight by a margin of 13.1 points per game.  However, they had what seemed to be an easy game versus an injured Nets team and blew it. Durant and Westbrook put up their typical numbers but they allowed 116 points. Perhaps more alarming than a loss to the lowly Nets was seeing their best defender and starting shooting guard Andre Roberson go out with an injury. (CV)

4 (-1)

cle

30-12

The Cleveland LeBrons are in a relative tailspin – that is, as much as a tailspin as you can be in and still be an Eastern Conference favorite. The Cavs won’t fall out of the playoffs, but after firing Blatt because they appeared uninspired in a win over the Nets following a mollywhopping from the Warriors, the LeBrons fell short in another uninspired performance against the Bulls. New head coach Tyronn Lue got a three year deal, but that won’t keep him safe if the Cavs can’t figure out a way to be more competitive against top Western Conference teams. (CW)

5 (+3)

tor

29-15

The Raptors are rolling. Winners of their last eight, the Raptors are only two games back of the Cavaliers for the best record in the East and are playing with more continuity than Cleveland. Kyle Lowry was selected as an All-Star starter by the fans and backcourt mate DeMar DeRozan will likely join him as a reserve. Toronto doesn’t play a solid opponent until Feb. 19 against the Bulls. Don’t be surprised if they overtake the Cavs, a team dealing with a mid-season coach firing. (BC)

6 (-2)

i

28-16

After a ten game win streak, the Clippers have gone 2-3 in their last five games, including losses to the East’s top two teams in the Raptors and Cavs. Many were wondering if Los Angeles stacks up against the elite teams and besides a win against Miami, they haven’t proved any doubters wrong yet. Their defense has been struggling mightily in the last five games, allowing over 110 points to including an awful 132 points in a win against Houston. It seems like LA was better before the return of Blake Griffin. (JH)

7 (+6)

Memphis_Grizzlies.svg

25-20

It might sound like a broken record at this point, but the Memphis Grizzlies have to find offense other than Marc Gasol. Memphis has played barely above mediocre this season despite retaining the solid foundation of Conley, Gasol and Randolph. The mid-season acquisition of Mario Chalmers has been a good one, and the defense has returned to one of the top 10 in the league. Memphis must find an offense that isn’t reliant of Gasol pouring in 30 points because he just isn’t that type of player. (BC)

8 (-1)

Atlanta_Hawks_2015_Logo.svg

26-19

The Hawks currently sit in first place in the Southeast division despite dropping their last two games to sub .500 teams. Millsap and Horford have continued to play at an all-star level, while Jeff Teague has struggled to return to last season’s form. Teague is averaging his lowest point total since the 2011-12 season — his first as a starter. Teague has to turn it around for the Hawks to make it back to the Eastern Conference Finals. (BC)

9 (-3)

Chicago_Bulls_logo.svg

25-18

The Bulls were annihilated against the Warriors before pulling off a solid win in Cleveland a day after the Cavs fired coach David Blatt. Jimmy Butler is a bonafide superstar and should have been voted an All-Star starter. Pau Gasol is playing like there is no Father Time, and the Bulls are creeping up on the Cavs and Raptors in the East. Taj Gibson has regained some of his old form for Chicago and helping them lead the league in rebounds. (JH)

10 (-1)

Dallas_Mavericks_logo.svg

25-21

Chandler Parsons is heating up and Zaza Pachulia was almost an All-Star starter, but the Mavs can’t seem to get it all together at the same time. They’re a great five to eight seed in the West, evidenced by the fact that they consistently drop the games they’re expected to. This week it was Houston and Oklahoma City, last week it was the Spurs. The Mavs have to tighten up and get a marquee win. (CW)

11 (-)

Detroit_Pistons_logo.svg

23-21

Just five games ago, on the night that Ben Wallace’s number was raised in the rafters, Detroit shocked the world with a blowout win over the Warriors. Since then? One win and three losses — including losses against the Nuggets and Pelicans. Marred by inconsistency, the Pistons need one more player to make a real push in the East. The good news? The trade deadline is quickly approaching. (CW)

12 (+2)

200px-Houston_Rockets.svg

24-22

Josh Smith has returned to Houston. So far the trade appears to be a success and the momentum change the Rockets were desperately seeking. Josh Smith recorded 16 points off the bench in a win against the Mavericks in what could become a scary playoff team in the West. (BG)

13 (+3)

bos

24-21

Boston is finally starting to win consistently in the last week with solid wins against the Bulls and Wizards, and a tight game against the Raptors. It still doesn’t seem like the Celtics are ready to take that next step, but they are averaging the seventh most points in the league and are allowing 100.8 points per game, good for the 13th-best mark. Maybe now with New England out of the NFL playoffs, Beantown can begin to focus on these Celtics with the playoffs in sight. (JH)
14 (-2) Indiana_Pacers.svg

23-21

Indiana has only won one of their last six games on the road. The Pacers face the Clippers Tuesday night at home with hopes of this being the turning point of the team’s losing pattern. Paul George continues to play well but the Pacers are proving themselves to be just another average team. (BG)

15 (+5)

cha

21-23

Give me one good reason why Kemba Walker shouldn’t be an All-Star this year? You probably can’t. Walker has put the team on his back so far this season, especially in the month of January. Just this past week he set the Hornets’ franchise record for points in a game with 52 against the Utah Jazz. Walker is currently averaging 20.4 points a game and would be the first point guard in Charlotte history to average more than 20 points a game if he keeps it up. (LS)

16 (+3)

Washington_Wizards_Logo.svg

20-21

After demolishing the Miami Heat, the Wizards proved they can dismantle any team. The problem they continue to face is their lack of depth within their roster. The Wizards are still the John Wall and Marcin Gortat duo while the rest of the team fails again for another week to make a difference. (BG)
17 (+4) 200px-Sacramento_Kings.svg

20-23

I love this team and you should too. Rajon Rondo leads the league in assists with 11.6 a game. He’s the only point guard in the league who averages a double-double and he seems to get a triple-double at least once a week. Then you have Demarcus “Boogie” Cousins, possibly the most entertaining, enigmatic and talented frontcourt player in the NBA. Also, did I mention the Kings have won five straight and are currently holding down the Western Conference’s eight-seed? Rondo and Boogie can’t beat San Antonio or Golden State in a seven game series, but they would entertain us for at least four games. (LS)
18 (-1) nyk-logo

22-24

Injuries have really hurt the Knicks lately but they, along with nine other Eastern Conference teams, find themselves competing for five playoff spots, and with a little luck loses from the Bulls and Raptors would clear up seven potential playoff spots as seeds five through eight all have the exact same records. (CV)

19 (-9)

heat

23-21

After losing their last four games the Heat will have to face a confident Bulls squad on Monday. Miami has been trending down as of late due to a slew of injuries and continuity issues. Dwyane Wade was selected as an All-Star starter, but despite solid play from the veteran he has not been able to gel with back court mate Goran Dragic or Luol Deng. Both have been uncomfortable in their roles and it has shown toward the latter part of the first half of the season. Miami is still a talented team however, and if they can get healthy they can still compete in the East. (BC)
20(+2) Portland_Trail_Blazers.svg

20-26

Portland lost to the 76ers. I repeat, Portland lost to the 76ers. And not just lost, but did so by 25 in a throttling. 76ers have been much improved as of late, but it still needs to be acknowledged. Damian Lillard can’t do it all. (CW)
21 (-6) Orlando_magic_logo

20-22

The Magic have lost nine out of their last 10 games. The lack of scoring talent has dramatically hurt this team especially after the loss to the Hornets at their own home court. The Hornets were able to backtrack into the lead after being down 19 points. That alone describes the past week for Orlando and how the rest of their season is beginning to look. (BG)
22 (-4) uta 19-24 Even with Gobert back the Jazz still can’t figure out how to win consistently. With a .500 record since his return the Jazz have lost their playoff spot to a Sacramento team that has won five straight.  Without consistent effort night in and night out from the entire roster, the Jazz can’t expect to amount to much more than a middling team in the West. (CV)

23 (+2)

nop

16-27

This is a team that is very quietly, and very slowly, starting to turn their year around. Only five games out of the playoffs, Anthony Davis is starting to play like Anthony Davis again and the rest of the team doesn’t look like a group of D-League reserves for once. After winning their last three games, the Pelicans could be on the verge of making a midseason charge towards up the standings. (LS)

24 (-)

Milwaukee_Bucks_logo15

19-27

Do you like basketball teams that fail to live up to unwarranted preseason expectations? Yes? Then Milwaukee is the team for you. Let’s face it, the Bucks were never going to compete for a top-4 seed in the Eastern Conference, not with only one semi-capable shooter on offense. Offensive spacing is key in the NBA, and the only way you can achieve spacing is by having shooters that opposing teams need to respect. (LS)
25 (-2) Denver_Nuggets.svg

17-27

Mike Malone deserves most of the credit for the situation in Denver. Although the Nuggets are 17-27 this season they have have played resiliently night in and night out. A team that had a habit of laying down in adversity has played valiantly against the west’s top dogs like the Spurs, Thunder and Warriors — even winning a game against the reigning champions. Gallinari is playing well and Mudiay is developing at a good pace. If the Nuggets can develop a consistently healthy rotation they could be movers in the western conference. (BC)

26 (-)

Minnesota_Timberwolves.svg

14-31

There’s not much to see here, other than disappointment for anyone who thought this season was going to be anything more than another rebuilding year. The Timberwolves have a great young duo in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, but outside of that the team is a relative question mark. What the Timberwolves really need is a few more capable veteran role players and someone to replace the incompetence of Coach Sam Mitchell. (LS)
27 (-) 200px-Brooklyn_Nets_newlogo.svg

12-33

If you haven’t been paying attention, the Nets have dropped 10 of their last 12 games. Still no head coach, still no GM — things are bleak in Brooklyn. (CW)
28 (-) phx

14-31

Center Tyson Chandler has been found! Chandler, struggling all season, pulled in 27 rebounds and 13 points in the Suns last second thriller that include a game winner by Archie Goodwin. The Suns stayed close in a loss to Indiana this past week and with a game coming up in Philly, could Phoenix go on a little winning streak? With the Cardinals getting stomped by the Panthers, the folks out in the desert need something to cheer for. (JH)
29 (+1) Philadelphia_76ers_Logo

6-39

Things are looking better in Philly. The Sixers have won two of their past four games. Jahlil Okafor continues to prove his worth as a rookie and Ish Smith has proved to be the competent point guard this team needs to take them from a historically bad team to just an average bad team. (BG)
30 (-1) lal

9-37

So it was decided publicly that this season for the Lakers would be devoted to Kobe Bryant. With the main young core continuing to be disregarded, it’s safe to assume that the Lakers will make major changes this offseason.  It has been rumored that LA intends to offer Demar Derozan a max contract. With $65 million in cap space this summer, that leaves them plenty of room to offer Derozan the max as well as another big name, like Kevin Durant. (CV)

Contributions from: Chris Warner, Lee Sanderlin, Jason Huber, Cameron Vaughan, Ben Cogsdale

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NBA power rankings: sixth edition