NBA Power Rankings: Blake Griffin Keeps Clippers Interesting, If Not Particularly Good

The Utah Jazz stopped their freefall, but continue to struggle to regain their pose as one of the West's best teams. (In other words, they don't belong in that conversation, or within a country mile of it.) Further down the West standings, Blake Griffin continues to make the L.A. Clippers an incredibly fun team to watch. Sadly, they still just aren't that good, especially with Eric Gordon out.

Meanwhile, the East's swamp continue to gurgle and boil, with Indiana taking the occasion to shake things up. What stirring will the trade deadline bring? Stay tuned. In the meantime, we present the bottom half of the NBA.

16. Utah Jazz (29-20, Prev: #12) -- Utah probably locked up a playoff spot long ago; Deron Williams is too talented to let a team with this large a lead slip all the way out. That said, the January slide sent Utah from "dangerous team" to "bleh" quickly. It's unclear whether any foe ought to be afraid of drawing the Jazz in the first round. Will the Utah front office try to shore things up at the deadline?

17. Phoenix Suns (22-24, Prev: #21) -- Consecutive wins over the Celtics and Hornets rates as this week's second most impressive Feat of Strength. But dag, Alvin Gentry, we didn't cheer when Josh Childress came home so we could watch him pick gnats off of Garrett Siler's head! Free Chills!

18. Philadelphia 76ers (21-26, Prev: #17) -- Philly went 8-6 in January to make modest improvement in the win-loss column and keep hold of the No. 7 spot. Color me surprised a team starring Jrue Holiday and Andre Iguodala is only No. 18 in turnover creation. This same squad was No. 9 last season.

19. Milwaukee Bucks (19-27, Prev: #18) -- The Bucks couldn't have been happy about the Pacers' coaching change; Milwaukee had an advantage on Indiana, and a spark for the Central rivals can only heat up the race for No. 8. Three straight wins helped the Bucks make up ground, but a rough loss to the Clippers will hurt.

20. Indiana Pacers (18-27, Prev: #19) -- Before you write off Frank Vogel, remember the great Tony DiLeo, who took over for an ousted Mo Cheeks in Philly in Dec. 2008 and rode the Sixers to a solid finish and a decent little six-game playoff series against the Magic. A new voice can work.

21. Los Angeles Clippers (19-28, Prev: #20) -- The Clippers have one more game at home (Bulls) before setting out on the road for the month. At least All-Star Weekend -- which Blake Griffin will figure heavily in -- is in L.A.; the Clippers' star will be able to spend a few nights in his own bed. (Bed of nails, that is. Too tough for Memory Foam, son.)

22. Golden State Warriors (20-27, Prev: #22) -- The Warriors were fixin' to threaten .500 before a four-game losing streak ended that noise for the rest of the season. The focus now shifts entirely to Monta Ellis, who -- two-point outing against Utah aside -- will fight for an All-Star bid. The hefty weight of the Bay Area Media Machine is behind him, but John Hollinger's right: no dice, Monta.

23. Charlotte Bobcats (20-27, Prev: #23) -- The 'Cats went 9-7 in January; as with the Sixers, this is modest improvement, but improvement nonetheless. Charlotte's offense, though, desperately needs some shooting help. Stephen Jackson shooting less would be a good first step.

24. Detroit Pistons (17-31, Prev: #24) -- The Pistons' siege on a playoff spot was always myth, especially with Rip Hamilton providing nothing. The question that remains is whether John Kuester can save his own job, or whether the team will can him and elevate Brian Hill in a babysitter role.

25. Minnesota Timberwolves (11-36, Prev: #26) -- The Wolves have been putting forth impressive effort with little to show in the win column. Michael Beasley has tailed off, though, and Jonny Flynn looks more like an undrafted rookie than a No. 6 pick.

26. Sacramento Kings (12-33, Prev: #28) -- A back-to-back at the Lakers and at home against the Hornets? Win and win, y'all. DeMarcus Cousins went nuts against the Western powers, and Tyreke Evans finally looks like the reigning Rookie of the Year.

27. Toronto Raptors (13-36, Prev: #25) -- The Raptors went 2-15 in January. Jay Triano still has a job. The Raptors still have the same roster (Peja Stojakovic and Alexis Ajinca aside). Bryan Colangelo might actually get an extension.

28. New Jersey Nets (15-34, Prev: #27) -- More anecdotal proof for the consideration that crowds aren't what cause home court advantage: The Nets are 12-11 at the sparsely attended Prudential Center, and 3-23 on the road.

29. Washington Wizards (13-34, Prev: #29) -- It's time to start thinking about whether the Wizards might luck out and win a second straight No. 1 overall pick. It's just as well, since Washginton needs everything but ... well, a point guard!

30. Cleveland Cavaliers (8-40, Prev: #30) -- Cleveland polished off a winless January, which means the team managed to actually get worse after a 1-14 December. Impressive.

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