NBA Power Rankings: Heat Take Top Spot, Knicks Fly Up The Charts

The Heat have captured the top spot in SBNation.com's NBA Power Rankings, with the usual suspects giving chase. Meanwhile, the Knicks vault up the list as a slew of teams scurry behind them in the shallow East.

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NBA Power Rankings: Heat Take Top Spot, Knicks Fly Up The Charts

The Miami Heat slipped past the Boston Celtics in the win-loss ledger, and in SBNation.com's Week 11 NBA Power Rankings, they've passed the San Antonio Spurs, too. Meanwhile, the Mavericks and Lakers try to keep pace while holding off charges from the Jazz, Magic and Bulls.

1. Miami Heat (30-9): The Heat officially took over the No. 1 seed in the East with Boston's loss Monday night. But the momentum has been building for weeks. With Miami defending as well as it is and an offensive attack featuring two of the five best scorers of this generation (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade) and a fantastic power forward (Chris Bosh) ... what are you supposed to do?

2. San Antonio Spurs (31-6): An unprecedented double-dip in the loss column left these Spurs ... yep, they still have the No. 1 record in the NBA and the league's top offense. But that defense was obliterated in the Knicks-Celtics back-to-back, leaving concern of what the Lakers could do to it in the playoffs.

3. Boston Celtics (28-9): The Celtics haven't had a full complement for more than a couple games since early December. As such, it's no surprise that Boston is struggling a bit. Once Kevin Garnett returns, this team will pull it all back together. (Right?) Don't forget that Kendrick Perkins is also prepping for his 2010-11 debut.

4. Dallas Mavericks (26-10): The Mavs look to get Dirk Nowitzki back this week, and not a moment too soon: Dallas is 2-5 with losses to the Raptors and Bucks without him. The Spurs loom on Friday. 

5. Los Angeles Lakers (27-11): When the Lakers lose, we always blame Kobe Bryant (for not sharing) or the supporting cast (for not stepping up). But what if the Lakers are just getting old?

6. Chicago Bulls (25-12): How serious is Derrick Rose's MVP candidacy? He's continuing to defy skeptics like myself; a recent hot shooting streak has gotten his scoring efficiency over the league average standard, and the fact that the Bulls are rolling is a big boon to his campaign. (It doesn't hurt that he's extraordinarily fun to watch.)

7. Orlando Magic (25-12): Whether the Magic's set of blockbuster trades in December were a success might be defined in the postseason. But don't forget how listless Orlando looked before the deals, and how powerful the team looks right now.

8. Utah Jazz (25-13): The Jazz's miracle stretch of comeback road wins was, well, miraculous. But don't forget that there was a reason they fell behind in all those games. Now, those early deficits are coming home to roost as Jerry Sloan tries to figure out how to fix the problem.

9. New Orleans Hornets (22-16): Defense continues to carry the Hornets, who continue to need a better scorer than Marco Belinelli at the two-guard spot. The Italian has shot plenty well, but he's basically a spot-up gunner. Chris Paul needs a creator not named Trevor Ariza to help out, and the Jarrett Jack acquisition isn't yet paying great dividends.

10. Oklahoma City Thunder (25-13): Despite a signature run like those the Lakers, Spurs and Mavericks have run off, the Thunder find themselves within striking range at the top of the conference. Pushed-up expectations might have dampened our warm-fuzzies about OKC; it's hard to forget that team was the No. 8 seed last season.

11. Atlanta Hawks (25-14): The Hawks have ripped off four straight, and Joe Johnson's return to form has been a big reason why. In his last 10 games, Johnson is shooting 46 percent from the floor and 40 percent on threes. He had been below 40 and 30 percent, respectively, on the season before this spurt.

12. Denver Nuggets (20-16): The uncertainty surrounding the Carmelo Anthony trade is killing this team, and never was it more evident than when the team laid down in front of the rampaging Sacramento Kings in crunch time last Thursday. The white flags are out, and the Nuggets need to kill the embarrassment and end the charade lest the city turns on them.

13. Portland Trail Blazers (20-18): The Blazers followed up a big home-and-home sweep of the Rockets last week with a win over the Wolves and a heartbreaking loss to LeBron James and the Heat. At least the team has settled into some sort of consistency without Brandon Roy: Portland is beating decent and bad teams, and losing to the elite.

14. New York Knickerbockers (21-15): The Knicks enter the top half of our Power Rankings after a big win over the Spurs. That rough loss to the then-flagging Lakers won't do any favors -- all New York's flaws were brought into focus. But not many teams in the East will have the cadre of big men L.A. does.

15. Memphis Grizzlies (17-21): When you rely on Zach Randolph, you're going to have cobweb games like Memphis' loss to the Bobcats on Monday. Three steps forward, three steps back.

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NBA Power Rankings: Pacers, 76ers And Bobcats Jockey For Playoff Spots In The Shallow East

In the bottom half of the SBNation.com Week 11 NBA Power Rankings, the slew of teams chasing the East's No. 7 and 8 spots begin to sort themselves out while teams hoping to capitalize on the Nuggets' apparent plans to rebuild jockey for position.

16. Houston Rockets (17-21): The Rockets became even more wounded when Kevin Martin went down with a wrist injury. Houston is always active at the trade deadline, but will the team have anyone healthy enough to trade?

17. Philadelphia 76ers (15-22): Andre Iguodala is nearing a return to the court, and the Sixers hope this is the last time this season that his tendinitis keeps him out. Philadelphia needs him on the court; Andres Nocioni isn't nearly the defender that Iguodala has been, and if this team wins, it's usually because of its defense.

18. Indiana Pacers (14-20): Roy Hibbert is trying to figure things out, but the damage may be done after the latest 1-6 stretch. Until a team zips away with the East's No. 7 and 8 spots, the Pacers will remain in the thick of the playoff chase. But it's fool's good. Indiana as presently constructed isn't ready.

19. Milwaukee Bucks (14-21): The Bucks continue to play 'til their hearts burst, with Ersan Ilyasova infamously picking up center duties last week when Andrew Bogut needed a game off. The schedule calls for a back-to-back with the Hawks and Spurs this week; fret not, though, as Milwaukee has played the league's most difficult schedule so far. It will get easier, and perhaps the Bucks will be the team that runs off with the No. 7 seed.

20. Phoenix Suns (15-20): That the Suns were in a contested home game with the Cavaliers is all you need to know. This team is toast, and not only should the team assess how many young prospects and picks it can get for Steve Nash, but it should try to pawn off its 2010 "haul" -- Channing Frye, Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick -- while it still can. There's no sense in carrying that type of payroll to win the No. 12 pick in the draft.

21. Los Angeles Clippers (12-24): The Clippers continue to impress; Blake Griffin even has Baron Davis excited about basketball again! Clips Nation is wondering if L.A. can get to 41 wins. It seems far-fetched, but ...

22. Golden State Warriors (15-22): Has David Lee been a failure? His numbers haven't been bad (15/10, basically), but the Warriors still can't rebound and still lag in paint scoring. That either speaks to Lee's production coming in a vacuum, or highlights just how deep and institutional Golden State's interior deficit was.

23. Toronto Raptors (13-24): The Raptors' offense is like a two-year-old kid starting a fire with flint. Just by dumb chance it occasionally sparks. Otherwise? Clank. Clank. Clank. (The Toronto defense, by the way, is more like a banana trying to build a model F-16 using toothpaste and napalm. What a mess.)

24. Detroit Pistons (12-25): That the Pistons can free up a modicum of cap space by losing Rip Hamilton is small consolation, because it is going to take a lot of cap space to fix this team. Do we know anything more about Rodney Stuckey than we did his rookie year?

25. New Jersey Nets (10-27): Like the Nuggets, the Nets can't do this dance much longer. The franchise's state of fugue has even made Avery Johnson, who has to rally troops that have their bags packed, sympathetic. (Solution for this misplaced sympathy: watch Johnson coach. I've seen amateur John Cage tributes more composed.)

26. Charlotte Bobcats (13-22): Tyrus Thomas has now had something like 14 NBA head coaches who won't (or can't) play him starters' minutes. But strangely, since it had been sneering Scott Skiles, Jim Boylan, Vinny Del Negro and Larry Brown, I had kept hope that it was just a personality clash. With Paul Silas? I don't see it.

27. Minnesota Timberwolves (9-29): You know, if Ricky Rubio does come over this summer (he's not, he's not, he's not), the Wolves might actually be decent. Kevin Love and Michael Beasley almost never get the ball in creative ways -- there's rarely an opening for unabated attack for the scorers, even with Luke Ridnour in place. Rubio, if nothing else, could change that.

28. Washington Wizards (9-26): This week sees one of Washington's three best remaining options for the team's first road win of the season: a visit to Minnesota on Thursday. If the 'Zards don't get on the board there, two games in Cleveland loom large.

29. Sacramento Kings (8-26): The Kings and Wizards meet up Tuesday night in what should be a preview of the 2016 NBA Finals. DeMarcus Cousins has continued to be a monster, and if John Wall isn't careful, his Kentucky teammate could move into the top spot in Rookie of the Year, Non-Blake Griffin Division voting.

30. Cleveland Cavaliers (8-29): Let's not pretend the loss of Anderson Varejao for the rest of the season actually means anything to the success of the Cavs -- they've lost 10 straight and 20 of 21. But if Varejao could have been a desirable trade asset at the deadline to help Cleveland free up more cap space or grab assets ... well then, yes, this is a blow.

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