NBA power rankings: post All-Star break


Lee Sanderlin

The All-Star festivities are in the books and NBA competition resumes on Thursday, which also happens to be the league’s trade deadline. Golden State has continued their dominance, and even found a way to carry the headlines during All-Star weekend when the Splash Bros faced off in the 3-point contest. Oh, and Curry closed the All-Star game with a half-court shot. Casual. That said, basketball is almost back and it’s time to see where the teams shake out with half the season remaining.

Rank Team Record What They’re Saying
1 Golden_State_Warriors_logo.svg 48-4 The Warriors continue to do what they’ve been doing all year: prove the critics wrong. Sure, Saturday night’s victory wasn’t exactly as dominating a performance as when they played Cleveland or San Antonio, but the Thunder are the second best scoring team in the NBA and sport two of the NBA’s top 5 players. Nonetheless, it was as epic a finish as we’ve seen from the Warriors playing at this level. They now sport the league’s longest winning streak currently at nine games, making Steve Kerr undefeated since his return (10-0). (CV) 
2 200px-San_Antonio_Spurs.svg 45-8 Tim Duncan’s absence has noticeably hurt San Antonio’s defense, but after a bad last week with two losses, the Spurs are back to their winning ways. San Antonio has continued their home dominance with a 28-0 record, but now head on to their annual “Rodeo Road Trip.” With eight straight road games over the next month, this will be the Spurs toughest test of the season. (JH)
3 Oklahoma_City_Thunder.svg 40-14 The Thunder had their grand stage matchup with Golden State last Saturday, and before that game had won their last five games. As far as competition, the Warriors led by 20 only to see that lead dwindle away behind huge performances from Westbrook and Durant.  They were capable of tying the game late but a couple of possessions and big shots from the reigning MVP put a halt to any chance the Thunder had of winning. Out of the big games the Warriors have played this season, as of now Oklahoma City has proven that they are the biggest threat to these record-setting Warriors. This past week the Warriors became the third team in the NBA to meet the 40-win mark, with the other two teams being Oklahoma City and San Antonio. (CV)
4 tor 35-17 The All-Star host team has looked like the second best team in the East for some time now. Their All-Star tandem of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan has been the main factor in the Raptors’ success, but their ninth-ranked defense has been an added bonus. If Toronto avoids deja vu of their second half collapse last season, the Raptors are poised to meet Cleveland in the conference finals. (BC)
5 cle 38-14 The Cavs won eight of their last 10 games heading into the All-Star break, including three straight wins before the weekend. That success, however, hasn’t stopped Kevin Love trade rumors from circulating across the NBA as the Thursday trade deadline quickly approaches. It’s reported that the Cavs are hoping for a star swap for Love, but Boston appears to be the only suitor. The Raptors’ success, coupled with the obvious disparity between the top teams in the East compared to the West, has to be scaring the Cavs. (CW)
6 i 35-18 Los Angeles is now a stunning 18-4 without Blake Griffin this season. They still don’t seem to be dominant, with some close games against the lowly Sixers and a loss to the Wolves, but they are managing to stay in the top 4 of the top-heavy Western Conference. The Clippers would benefit with a trade deadline deal to help improve the defense. (JH)
7 bos 32-23 Where did this come from? The Celtics are now third in the Eastern Conference with a 9-1 stretch and are a legitimate threat to the east. With all the offseason talk about not having a true star on the roster, Isaiah Thomas has silenced that and proven he is a bonafide star who just won Eastern Conference player of the week. You have to remember, he was the LAST pick in the 2011 draft and is only 5 feet 9 inches tall. (JH)
8 Atlanta_Hawks_2015_Logo.svg 31-24 The Atlanta Hawks continue to confuse NBA viewers. They can be very good at times, beating the Mavericks and Pacers. But they can also be bad, losing two games in a row to the Magic. Many teams suffer puzzling losses to subpar teams, but the Hawks have started to make a habit of it. Rumors have surfaced that Al Horford and Jeff Teague could be on the trade block. If they remain, especially Horford, the Hawks are a still a good team in the Eastern Conference. (BC)
9 heat 29-24 The Clash lyrics, “Should I stay or should I go” are a fitting mantra for the Miami Heat organization who is experiencing a clash of their own. Should Hassan Whiteside stay or should he go? The polarizing big man is a force on the court without a doubt, but do his questionable actions turn him into a bargaining chip for more reliable assets via trade? Miami is still a threat to the Cavaliers, but they must decide how Whiteside can help them more: in a Heat jersey or another team’s jersey. (BC)
10 Memphis_Grizzlies.svg 31-22 Cue the curtain call for the Memphis “grind house” Grizzlies. The unfortunate injury to Marc Gasol leave the Grizz no choice but to revamp their identity. The Big Spaniard’s injury, coupled with an aging Zach Randolph and Tony Allen has Memphis in uncharted territory. They likely have no chance at competing in the Western Conference, and Mike Conley’s impending free agency is looming like a dark cloud. We can only hope that during their plummet down the rankings, the Grizzlies front office will be plotting a new look Memphis for the 2016-17 season. (BC)
11 Dallas_Mavericks_logo.svg 29-26 Dallas had an extremely tough stretch prior to the All-Star break, which included losses against San Antonio, Miami and Atlanta. Chandler Parsons’ 12.6 points per game isn’t enough for this team to do any real damage in the West and Dirk still leads the team in scoring per game by almost four points. A move at the trade deadline, however, could revive these Mavs, whose roster boasts a wealth of experience from top to bottom. (CW)
12 Indiana_Pacers.svg 28-25 The Pacers are sitting at sixth in the Eastern standings and are on pace to hold their current seed. Indiana holds a diverse roster with over 12 players receiving double digit minutes per game. Paul George continues to stand out from the rest, averaging 23.3 points per game, while the rest of the Pacers’ roster blends into the background. Indiana will be able to ride out the rest of the season earning a playoff berth with ease, but the real question is how big of a threat is this team when it comes playoff time? (BG)
13 Detroit_Pistons_logo.svg 27-27 Detroit is struggling right now. They’re currently on the outside looking in for the Eastern playoff race with a .500 record. To make the playoffs, Marcus Morris, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the newly-acquired Tobias Harris need to step it up big time. (CW)
14 200px-Houston_Rockets.svg 27-28 This team is going downhill fast. Houston currently holds the ninth spot in the Western standings, with every game being crucial to their playoff future. Dwight Howard is averaging almost 15 rebounds per game in February shooting the ball at 65 percent, while James Harden continues to average 29 points per game, shooting 42 percent. The statistics appear fine at first glance, but if you look at Howard’s field goal attempts per game you can figure out the problem in Houston’s lack of success. Dwight Howard is shooting only eight shots per game, resulting in low points per game. If Houston wants to succeed they need to get Howard more shots to bring him back to his original form in previous seasons. (BG)
15 cha 27-26 Just when things were looking up in the Queen City, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist injured his right shoulder again and will now miss the remainder of the season. The Hornets looked primed for a playoff run, but now look primed for a disappointing end to a year that started so well, unless they can make some noise at the trade deadline. (LS)
16 uta 26-26 After some inconsistent play during the first half of the season, the Jazz have finally found their groove and happen to be one of the hottest teams in the NBA. They are currently on a six game winning streak and just 1.5 games back of taking over sixth in the Western Conference standings. (CV)
17 Chicago_Bulls_logo.svg 27-25 It seems official that the Bulls title window has all but closed. Since Chicago’s big win against Cleveland, they have gone 2-6 in their last eight games and have lost 11 of their last 16. Now they should just be worried about making the playoffs. Jimmy Butler’s absence is a big loss, but the team seems to be lost even with him in the lineup. Chicago needs to make some moves at the trade deadline, fast. (JH)
18 Portland_Trail_Blazers.svg 27-27 What a surprise Portland has become this season. Perhaps no team has overachieved like the Trailblazers this season when you really look at their roster. Winners of nine of their last 11 games, this team, and specifically the duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, is hot. In a relative down year for the Western Conference, Portland may find themselves in the playoffs despite an atrocious start to the season. (CW)
19 200px-Sacramento_Kings.svg 22-31 Coming out of the All-Star break, Boogie Cousins and company need to get their act together in order to make a serious push for the eighth seed in the west. The team has to pick things up on defense if they are to have any chance of turning this season around, something head coach George Karl has acknowledged. (LS)
20 Washington_Wizards_Logo.svg 23-28 Washington is 3-7 in their last 10 games, falling to the 10th spot in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards continue to fail due to their lack of depth within their roster. The Wizards are thriving off John Wall, Marcin Gortat and Bradley Beal, while the rest of the team is failing to add to the mix. It isn’t looking good for the Wizards. They need to gather some wins fast if they hope to see the playoffs this year. (BG)
21 Denver_Nuggets.svg 22-32 The fledgling Nuggets are starting to figure it out. Danilo Gallinari is consistently pouring in 20 points a night, but its the role players that have helped Denver turn a corner. Will Barton and Kenneth Faried have been contributing well for the Nuggets and Nikola Jokic has gone from a nobody to a member of the Rising Stars World Team. Head coach Mike Malone has this young nucleus of players on the up and up. (BC)
22 nyk-logo 23-32 With the Carmelo injury occurring, the Knicks really took a step back, losing nine of their last 10 games. And right before the All-Star break, Phil Jackson made the decision to fire head coach Derek Fisher. Playoff chances are slowing dwindling with current playoff teams all sporting over .500 records in the Eastern Conference. (CV)
23 nop 20-33 Tyreke Evans is out for the season, 3-point gunner Ryan Anderson is on the trading block and yet this team is still improving from their early season woes. Anthony Davis is beginning to look like the Anthony Davis everyone was ready to anoint as MVP during the pre-season and the rest of the roster, outside of Evans, is getting healthy. (LS)
24 Orlando_magic_logo 23-29 Orlando is 11th in the Eastern Conference at the moment and they are failing to make anything work. The Magic have made major improvements compared to prior seasons, but still fail to put together a playoff-contending team. Orlando has the fourth youngest team in the NBA so it’s only up from here, but I think it’s safe to say this isn’t a playoff year for Orlando. (BG)
25 Minnesota_Timberwolves.svg 17-37 Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach Lavine all shined during All-Star weekend’s Rising Stars game, giving everyone a reminder of just how good this team may be in a few years. (LS)
26 Milwaukee_Bucks_logo15 22-32 Jason Kidd made a big change in the lineup before the All-Star break, removing Greg Monroe and Michael Carter-Williams from the starting lineup for O.J. Mayo and Miles Plumlee. Monroe and MCW thrived coming off the bench and should the lineup change continue to be effective, this is a Bucks team that is capable of making some late season noise. (LS)
27 200px-Brooklyn_Nets_newlogo.svg 14-40 Oh the Nets. Still no general manager. Still a bottom dweller in the East. Word is that Joe Johnson may be traded, or even bought out, which would effectively rid the team of its last tie to the dreaded experiment that included the mega price tags of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Deron Williams. Oh, the Nets. (CW) 
28 Philadelphia_76ers_Logo 8-45 The 76ers have no chance, obviously, of making the playoffs, but we’ve seen tremendous improvement within this young team. Jahlil Okafor continues to have a great rookie year which is one of the few positives for Sixer fans. Philadelphia won’t be a competitive team until they can find more pieces to fill their puzzle. For starters, the return of Joel Embiid would help. (BG)
29 lal 11-44 The farewell tour hits one of its peak moments as NBA All Star weekend came and saw the fans of the Toronto area give Kobe Bryant one of the most memorable All-Star weekends of his career. (CV)
30 phx 14-40 Phoenix has gone to complete rebuild mode. Firing their coach and possibly being sellers at the trade deadline, the Suns are ready to clean house. After a 7-5 start to the season, the Suns have gone a dismal 7-34 since with two wins in their last 24 games. They are allowing the second-most points in the league and are averaging the 20th most points. (JH)

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