SAN ANTONIO TX - DECEMBER 28: Forward DeJuan Blair #45 of the San Antonio Spurs reacts during play against the Los Angeles Lakers at AT&T Center on December 28 2010 in San Antonio Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photograph user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

NBA Power Rankings: Spurs On Record Pace; Knicks Fall To Bottom Feeder

The Spurs are working hard to fight off the surging Heat. Meanwhile, the New York Knicks land in the bottom half.

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NBA Power Rankings: Spurs On Record Pace, Heat Chasing Hard

The San Antonio Spurs continued to maintain a pristine pace to start the season, sitting currently at 29-4. Right now, the Spurs are on pace to go 72-10. Given that everyone debated whether the new-look Miami Heat could do that before the season began, that San Antonio is in the conversation is nothing short of amazing.

Elsewhere, the other West powers jockey for the No. 2 spot while the Heat and Celtics race for No. 1 in the East with the Magic and Bulls hot on their tails.

1. San Antonio Spurs: Record -  29-4 | SB Nation Blog: Pounding The Rock

The good: San Antonio has been a model of health, with none of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan or Richard Jefferson missing a single game.

The bad: The weighted age of the team is 29 years old, and Duncan and Ginobili are 34 and 33, respectively, meaning the odds of a perfectly health season are similar to those of Glen Davis winning the three-point shoot-out at All-Star Weekend.

The extraordinary: The Spurs have the No. 1 offense in basketball. The Spurs!

2. Miami Heat: Record - 27-9 | SB Nation Blog: Peninsula Is Mightier

The good: The Heat are now 7-7 against teams with a record above .500, if you're into that sort of thing.

The bad: Mike Miller has played just 41 minutes since returning two weeks ago, and is 1-12 from the floor.

The weird: The stat lines of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, if you ignore assists and three-point shooting, are ridiculously similar.

3. Boston Celtics: Record - 26-7 | SB Nation Blog: Celticsblog

The good: Paul Pierce is an actual threat to join the ultra-exclusive 50-40-90 club (that's 50 percent from the floor, 40 percent from three, 90 percent from the line).

The bad: Should Kevin Garnett be out longer than the Celtics have announced, Boston will suffer, as KG has the league's second-best adjusted plus-minus.

The audacious: Nate Robinson is taking just one fewer three per game than Ray Allen ... in just more than half Allen's minutes.

4. Dallas Mavericks: Record - 25-8 | SB Nation Blog: Mavs Moneyball

The good: Dirk Nowitzki has never missed more than six games in a season. He's expected back from a knee injury this week.

The bad: The rest of his team, particularly Caron Butler, has not been as fortunate.

The fortuitous: If there was any team in the NBA that could withstand a serious injury to anyone but its Alpha star and maintain quality, it was the Mavericks. 

5. Chicago Bulls: Record - 22-10 | SB Nation Blog: Blog-A-Bull

The good: It took exactly zero hours and zero minutes for Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer to get comfortable with each other. The Bulls went 12-4 in December, with Boozer averaging better than 20 a game on 54 percent shooting.

The bad: The Bulls turn the ball over too much; Rose's 3.6 per game separate him from the true top tier of the NBA's point guards.

The frightening: Chicago is No. 2 in the NBA in defense (as of Monday) ... with Joakim Noah on the shelf for the past month!

6. Los Angeles Lakers: Record - 23-11 | SB Nation Blog: Silver Screen And Roll

The good: Despite the Kobe Bryant-Pau Gasol-Phil Jackson drama, the Lakers have the league's No. 4 offense.

The bad: The Lakers' defense, No. 4 in the league last year, has fallen to No. 12. And no one seems to know why.

The interesting way of putting it: In response to the Lakers' embarrassing loss to the Grizzlies Sunday night, SS&R went with: "Joe Smith's Debut Is Forever Tarnished." Well yes, that's true.

7. Orlando Magic: Record - 22-12 | SB Nation Blog: Orlando Pinstriped Post

The good: Hedo Turkoglu has been pretty good so far in his return to Orlando, averaging 13/5/5.

The bad: Brandon Bass' potentially nagging injury could be a huge blow to the Magic's already queasy frontcourt rotation.

The nice bonus: Marcin Gortat is not making friends or wins in Phoenix, and as it turns out may never develop into a stud! (Whew.)

8. Utah Jazz: Record - 24-11 | SB Nation Blog: SLC Dunk

The good: The Jazz are 11-1 against the East, with most of their toughest games already done.

The bad: Like clockwork, the Jazz are among the league's most likely to foul an opponent (No. 2 in foul rate). Why, Sloan, why?

The amazing: The Jazz have taken to yelling "Too Big Yo" at Gordon Hayward from the bench when the rookie makes a nice play or two.

9. Denver Nuggets: Record: - 20-13 | SB Nation Blog: Denver Stiffs

The good: Nene is poised to win the NBA's True Shooting percentage crown for the third straight season. It really is an accomplishment.

The bad: Carmelo Anthony is not poised to win the NBA's True Shooting percentage crown.

The good effort: I poked fun at Chris "The Birdman" Andersen for the sequence of strong dunks the Kings expressed on his face Saturday, but hey. At least he challenged them.

10. New Orleans Hornets: Record - 21-14 | SB Nation Blog: At The Hive

The good: Chris Paul is currently No. 3 in NBA history in assists per game average. Behind Magic Johnson and John Stockton. !

The bad: The Hornets have the NBA's No. 22 offense, which one could argue is because ...

The ugly: Among the 79 players who through Sunday's action had taken at least 100 threes this season, Trevor Ariza had the worst conversion rate at 25.6 percent.

11. Oklahoma City Thunder: Record - 23-12 | SB Nation Blog: Welcome To Loud City

The good: Despite the Thunder's slow start, the team is one game out of the No. 3 seed in the West, and just a half-game behind the Lakers.

The bad: OKC's margin of victory is poor, which means they are due to lose some close games. So spaketh the God of Regression to the Mean.

The somewhat alarming: It's January, and OKC's defense still hasn't picked back up to its 2009-10 standard. With every week, you wonder how much the loss of assistant coach (and defensive coordinator) Ron Adams meant.

12. Atlanta Hawks: Record - 22-14 | SB Nation Blog: Peachtree Hoops

The good: Al Horford continues to lay it down, and is currently No. 6 in the NBA in Win Shares.

The bad: Joe Johnson is shooting 39.9 percent on the season, and 26.6 percent on three-pointers. He is by far the most frequent shooter on the Hawks.

The platoon: I have long-term doubts about whether Larry Drew's platoon with Jason Collins starting games against teams with good centers can work. Are you really going to start Collins in a playoff series against the Magic?

13. Portland Trailblazers: Record - 18-16 | SB Nation Blog: Blazers Edge

The good: The weird veteran-youth mix of the Blazers has Portland looking at a fight for a playoff bid.

The bad: Brandon Roy is considering an unprecedented (for active players) surgery to repair his knee. Gulp.

The liberté: You won't find a Frenchman more beloved by Americans than Nicolas Batum. Ever. (And I'm including Serge Gainsbourg.)

14. Houston Rockets: Record - 16-18 | SB Nation Blog: The Dream Shake

The good: Kevin Martin is having an epic shooting season, and might even be the most valuable two-guard in the Western Conference behind Manu Ginobili.

The bad: Jordan Hill hasn't been able to take a stand during the injury absence of Chuck Hayes.

The desperate need: As such, the Rockets really need some help at center. Will the Knicks' 2012 pick come into play at the deadline?

15. Memphis Grizzlies: Record - 15-19 | SB Nation Blog: Straight Outta Vancouver

The good: Rudy Gay has overachieved this season, which is saying a lot considering he signed an $80 million contract in July.

The bad: It's not apparent that Hasheem Thabeet is or will ever be much better than Hamed Haddadi. Hamed. Haddadi.

The hope that doesn't come back to bite you: Memphis' dramatic loss in Sacramento last week could loom large at season's end as the Grizzlies push for a playoff bid. How awful would that be?


NBA Power Rankings: Knicks' Carriage Is A Pumpkin, Clippers Rising

The bottom half of this week's NBA Power Rankings features a few teams looking to make the playoffs, including the New York Knicks, who despite their record have some serious issues and a real chance of deflation. Out west, the Clippers soar above the mire. Meanwhile, the East's mid-level teams duke it out for the coveted No. 8 seed.

16. New York Knicks: Record - 19-14 | SB Nation Blog: Posting And Toasting

The good: Amar'e Stoudemire is still the best scoring big man, even without Steve Nash.

The bad: Amar'e Stoudemire is still an awful defender, without the Phoenix Suns.

The rude awakening: At some point, New York's bad points margin is going to catch up with the team's solid win-loss record. And Knicks fans aren't going to like it one bit.

17. Philadelphia 76ers: Record - 13-21 | SB Nation Blog: Liberty Ballers

The good: Despite the brief loss of Andre Iguodala, the 76ers are still showing some defensive mettle consistently.

The bad: Jodie Meeks is the only Philly guard (Iguodala and Evan Turner included) with a True Shooting percentage better than league average.

The nice to see: Spencer Hawes is finally rebounding like a center ought to be, with a 23 percent defensive rebound rate.

18. Indiana Pacers: Record - 14-18 |SB Nation Blog: Indy Cornrows

The good: Darren Collison has begun to provide a glimpse of why everyone was so excited for his move to Indiana this summer.

The bad: Roy Hibbert's offense fell off the table in December. The Pacers need him to be what he was back in November.

The surprise of the year: As athlete Twitter connoisseur Eric Freeman has noted, the Pacers have the funniest tweeters in the league.

19. Milwaukee Bucks: Record - 13-18 | SB Nation Blog: Brew Hoop

The good: Anchored by Andrew Bogut, the Bucks continue to have one of the league's top defenses. Bogut has been excellent at protecting the rim and convincing opponents to take jumpers.

The bad: The offense is absolutely dreadful, worst in the league. Worse than the Nets!

The vomit-worthy: The Bucks' offseason decisions -- re-sign John Salmons, sign Drew Gooden, trade for Corey Maggette -- currently look like the worst collection of choices of the summer.

20. Phoenix Suns: Record - 14-18 | SB Nation Blog: Bright Side Of The Sun

The good: Like Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash is pretty close to the vaunted 50-40-90 standard. Of course, Nash has gotten there in four of the past five seasons (or all five, if you round 89.9 percent up to 90 in 2006-07).

The bad: New defensive-minded big man Marcin Gortat gave up 13 points in the fourth quarter to a 20-year-old rookie (DeMarcus Cousins) on Sunday.

The "what is he doing?": Josh Childress has fallen back to the bottom of Alvin Gentry's rotation. I was not aware Alvin Gentry had the luxury of too many good players.

21. Los Angeles Clippers: Record - 10-24 | SB Nation Blog: Clips Nation

The good: DeAndre Jordan's given first name is Hyland. Also, he has a block rate of 5.1 percent, good for No. 10 in the NBA.

The bad: Blake Griffin seems to be on track to follow Shaq and Tim Duncan in the pantheon of awesome big men who'd be even better if they could hit a damned free throw. Griffin is at 58.8 percent from the line this season.

The totally believable unbelievable fact: Blake Griffin has 21 straight double-doubles. He also has a streak of 10 straight 20-10 games going.

22. Golden State Warriors: Record - 13-21 | SB Nation Blog: Golden State Of Mind

The good: Monta Ellis is a legitimate All-Star candidate out West; he has basically been Kobe Bryant's equal on offense this season, and that's not hyperbole.

The bad: Despite signing a legit big man (David Lee) and playing "normal" line-ups (Dan Gadzuric even got some minutes!), the Warriors are No. 29 in defense and a shocking No. 30 in defensive rebounding.

The yo-yo: Jeremy Lin was recalled from the D-League a few days after being sent down. Expect that to happen two more times in the next couple months. And have fun on I-80, J-Lin!

23. Toronto Raptors: Record - 11-22 | SB Nation Blog: Raptors HQ

The good: DeMar DeRozan averaged 16 points on 48 percent shooting in December, good progress for a good young player.

The bad: The Raptors are on pace for a second straight bottom-five finish in defense.

The still weird: Amir Johnson's unmasking and fat(tish) contract in Toronto still haven't taught us anything about Amir Johnson, except that we know nothing about Amir Johnson.

24. Detroit Pistons: Record - 11-23 | SB Nation Blog: Detroit Bad Boys

The good: Tracy McGrady has seven or more assists in three of his last six games. He's remade himself as a point guard!

The bad: Coach John Kuester had to remind players to not complain about him publicly.

The trade bait: Detroit should figure to be prime candidates in the January-February trade market, with Tayshaun Prince the most desirable Piston thanks to a smart game and an expiring contract.

25. Charlotte Bobcats: Record - 11-21 | SB Nation Blog: Rufus On Fire

The good: The Bobcats are 2-2 since Paul Silas took over, and sanity has forced Gerald Henderson and Tyrus Thomas into the rotation in heavy doses.

The bad: As Rufus On Fire notes, T-Time is taking way too many long jumpers, something Silas might not have the will to force change with.

The resigned nod: Stephen Jackson's awful three to end the Bobcats' New Year's Eve loss to the Warriors -- a shot of which no video proof apparently exists -- pretty much explained why a playoff run will be a tough task for Charlotte: Jackson is not dialed in.

26. New Jersey Nets: Record - 9-25 | SB Nation Blog: Nets Daily

The good: Derrick Favors' play has been comparable to that of Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard ... when those dudes were 19 years old.

The bad: Troy Murphy, who averaged 14 and 10 in each of the last two seasons, is playing 16 minutes a game, ensuring that an army of middle-aged Notre Dame faithful will declare war on Avery Johnson within the next few weeks.

The regrettable: The Nets have the league's second lowest home attendance percentage, ensuring that Newark will not be in the NBA's relocation plans once the team moves to Brooklyn.

27. Minnesota Timberwolves: Record - 9-26 | SB Nation Blog: Canis Hoopus

The good: Kevin Love has six 20-rebound games this season. The only players who have hit 10 this millennium are Ben Wallace and Dwight Howard.

The bad: No team fouls more frequently than the Wolves. Not even the Jazz, who have been near the top of this list since the mid-80s.

The conundrum:  As Canis Hoopus lays out perfectly, you can't really take real issue with many of the Wolves' individual moves ... but it's impossible to ignore that, on the whole, the roster is a huge mess.

28. Washington Wizards: Record - 8-24 | SB Nation Blog: Bullets Forever

The good: The Wizards have maintained some semblance of home court advantage at the Verizon Center, currently 8-8.

The bad: The Wizards are 0-16 on the road. The worst road record for any team since 1986-87 was the Kings' 1-40 season in 1990-91. The 'Zards aren't that bad, are they?

The unfortunate: It took just two months for Andray Blatche to fall out of favor with the Wizards management that drafted him, re-sign him and give him a contract extension before he reached free agency. That's how you know how much of a dolt (both on and off the court) Blatche has been this year.

29. Sacramento Kings: Record - 7-24 | SB Nation Blog: Sactown Royalty

The good: The Kings have finally won two straight at home for the first time all season.

The bad: The Kings just won two straight home for the first time all season. It's January.

The shining beacon of hope: DeMarcus Cousins is back in Paul Westphal's good graces (for now), and averaged 21.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists in his last three games. 

30. Cleveland Cavaliers: Record - 8-26 | SB Nation Blog: Fear The Sword

The good: Among all players with 100 three-point attempts this season, Daniel Gibson is No. 2 in conversion rate at 43.8 percent.

The bad: That 43.8 percent is really strong. So is the 41.7 percent Cavs opponents are shooting from behind the arc.

The sweet mercy: The season is almost halfway over. Almost.

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