Stay connected with SB Nation Follow @sbnation
Like us to subscribe
The San Antonio Spurs continue to pace the league, now approaching 50 wins as no other team has hit 40. The Boston Celtics took down the Miami Heat, and the L.A. Lakers took down to the Celtics, so you'd think the Lakers stood atop the heap of the Spurs' chasers. But the Charlotte Bobcats would like to cast their vote for Chaos, so alas, there is no clear-cut No. 2 in the NBA.
Our SBNation.com NBA Power Rankings try to sort out to carnage before the All-Star break and trade deadline through everything back into flux.
1. San Antonio Spurs (46-9, Previous: #1) -- Can the Spurs hit 50 wins before 10 losses? The next four opponents to round out February are the Bulls (this Thursday on TNT), Thunder, Nets and Grizzlies. San Antonio will be favored in each match-up, but Derrick Rose poses a serious challenge for Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
2. Miami Heat (39-15, Prev: #2) -- Last-second loss to the Celtics aside, Miami's margin of victory remains on par with that of San Antonio. When the Heat win, they win big. When they lose, they lose by just a little. (Excepting games in which LeBron James didn't play, the Heat haven't lost by more than six points since November.) Miami is +16 over the past week. Boston is -3.
3. Boston Celtics (39-14, Prev: #3) -- That said, Boston has a huge tiebreaker advantage over Miami and half-game lead after Sunday's win. The Celtics are 27-7 at home in the past three postseason. If a playoff series between the C's and Heat is played in Boston, Miami has a tough slog.
4. Los Angeles Lakers (38-18, Prev: #4) -- L.A.'s February road trip turned sour in a hurry with back-to-back blow-out losses in Orlando and Charlotte. Meanwhile, the Spurs continue to win and pull away, and even the Mavericks have catapulted over L.A. The West won't be the cakewalk it was last year.
5. Chicago Bulls (36-16, Prev: #6) -- Things really could gone wrong after consecutive losses to the Warriors and Blazers, but the Bulls handled the Jazz and Hornets with relative ease. A big showdown with the Spurs on Thursday looms. More important is whether this team really takes off when Joakim Noah returns, hopefully next week.
6. Orlando Magic (35-21, Prev: #8) -- Four key Magic players (Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson and Gilbert Arenas) are shooting worse than 40 percent over Orlando's last 10 games. They are helping making Dwight Howard's MVP case.
7. Dallas Mavericks (38-16, Prev: #5) -- The Mavericks might have had a nice win streak before Arron Afflalo's buzzer beater last Thursday, but look at the margins and the competition. A two-point win over the Cavs? A two-point win over the Kings? That's not impressing too many folks. The schedule remains soft until the second week of March. It pays to have frontloaded schedule.
8. New Orleans Hornets (33-23, Prev: #7) -- The Hornets are either the league's most erratic team, or it's currently playing like blech and just has Orlando's number. A win over the Magic salvaged an otherwise terrible week.
9. Denver Nuggets (31-25, Prev: #10) -- Denver has a one-game lead over the Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 8 spot. I know we talked about the potential for the Nuggets falling out of the playoff race if they were to trade Carmelo Anthony. But to keep him and miss the playoffs? Yeesh.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder (34-19, Prev: #9) -- The Thunder were a Tyreke Evans three-pointer from an 0-3 week against the Grizzlies, Kings and Warriors. After the break, OKC has a nice Orlando-San Antonio-Lakers gauntlet to run.
11. Memphis Grizzlies (30-26, Prev: #11) -- Will the Grizzlies make a significant move to improve at the deadline? They are in better position to make the playoffs this season as compared to last year; a year ago, they traded a first-round pick for Ronnie Brewer. Can they find some help at point guard on the trade market?
12. Philadelphia 76ers (26-28, Prev: #17) -- The Sixers have nearly the same point margin as the Hawks ... against a tougher schedule. Philadelphia might be more dangerous than the Hawks and Knicks in the first round.
13. Houston Rockets (26-30, Prev: #13) -- It's a shame that this weird, lovable Rockets team likely won't make the playoffs. If Yao Ming were playing even 25 minutes a game, Houston would be right in the mix with the Jazz, Blazers, Nuggets and Grizzlies. Alas ...
14. Atlanta Hawks (34-20, Prev: #12) -- Atlanta's soft record to date will come back to make the team look far less dangerous by the end of the season, unless the team can put together some consistent runs. That means no more 34-point losses to Philadelphia. (Hey, at least when the Hawks lose they lose in style.)
15. Portland Trail Blazers (31-24, Prev: #16) -- The Blazers have soared to a tie with the Jazz for the No. 6 spot in the West. But these easy opponents -- four of the five in the current winning streak were the Cavs, Raptors, Wolves and Pistons -- will dry up soon enough. Portland remains a team to watch at the deadline.
The New York Knicks continue to travel through the 2011 NBA season in a state of uncertainty. Is this what glory is supposed to be? When the world deemed Amar'e Stoudemire an MVP candidate, did they understand that the Knicks were no better than the Phoenix Suns he left? What do you mean Raymond Felton isn't a legit All-Star?! It's like cognitive dissonance punctuated again and again by reality.
But the trade deadline is less than 10 days away, which means that the Knicks and other teams in the bottom half of our SBNation.com NBA Power Rankings will have a blueprint soon.
16. New York Knicks (27-26, Prev: #14) -- That .500 basketball is such a Valhalla for Knicks fans tells you both how incredibly passionate Knicks fans are and how awful the previous decade had been. But that said, a 4-0 sweep out of the first round won't keep the warm-fuzzies around all offseason. Can Donnie Walsh deliver a promised second star?
17. Utah Jazz (31-24, Prev: #15) -- Other than the Knicks, the Jazz may be the team with the most invested in a Carmelo Anthony trade. If the Nuggets trade 'Melo, they will fall out of the playoff picture, allowing Utah to theoretically survive ... unless Phoenix comes charging.
18. Indiana Pacers (24-28, Prev: #18) -- We are all Frank Vogels.
19. Phoenix Suns (26-26, Prev: #19) -- The Suns' newly vaunted defense didn't stand up to the Sacramento Kings, who were missing DeMarcus Cousins. Of more serious concern is what will happen with players like Josh Childress at the deadline. Is Lon Babby going to get into the trade game?
20. Milwaukee Bucks (21-33, Prev: #20) -- Very soon, the Bucks will have to admit that this season is a complete wash -- there ain't no Packer run in the NBA, not in the top-heavy East. But can John Hammond actually move any of the pieces he signed or traded for last summer? Are the Bucks stuck with this roster?
21. Los Angeles Clippers (20-35, Prev: #22) -- As expected, the road has not been kind to the Clippers. Getting a win at Minnesota Wednesday is vital. If they don't, the Clippers might not win again until mid-March.
22. Golden State Warriors (24-29, Prev: #21) -- The Warriors need a defensive-minded big to help David Lee up front, and they could likely use a defensive-minded small forward in place of Dorell Wright, who, in fairness, has been incredible. Can't patience solve the issue though? Ekpe Udoh has looked solid, and he seems like a great fit next to Lee. Patience!
23. Charlotte Bobcats (24-31, Prev: #23) -- It breaks my heart that one of the Bobcats and Pacers will be left out of the playoffs ... until I remember the Bobcats' less-than-thrilling first-round appearance last season.
24. Detroit Pistons (20-36, Prev: #24) -- I think it goes without saying that John Kuester will not be retained as the Pistons' head coach next season. But will Joe Dumars survive Tom Gores' eventual takeover? Either way, it's a huge offseason in Detroit.
25. Sacramento Kings (13-38, Prev: #25) -- Speaking of huge offseasons, the Kings face one of their own. Sacramento's bet the farm on a big league victory over the union, and will look to capitalize with cheap pick-ups. As such, what should be one of the NBA's most active deadline teams (with expiring contracts like Samuel Dalembert and Carl Landry -- contracts attached to really useful players) will probably sit on the sidelines.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (13-42, Prev: #26) -- Can we keep talking about the trade deadline? Because I think David Kahn should get involved. And I'm not talking about a first-round pick for Anthony Randolph. Let's mix it up! How can the deadline not be more fun with Kahn involved?
27. Toronto Raptors (15-40, Prev: #27) -- Cleveland isn't the proper cautionary tale for the Nuggets, but 'Melo isn't anywhere near LeBron James. But the Raptors and Chris Bosh fit. Toronto wasn't competing for a championship in 2010 when it decided to keep Bosh. And look where it got them?
28. Washington Wizards (15-38, Prev: #28) -- The Wizards can finish the season strong. I don't believe that because I believe in the talent not named John Wall on this team. The Wizards are just better than they've performed all season, and I sense a bit of momentum stirring.
29. New Jersey Nets (17-39, Prev: #29) -- Oddly enough, despite the apparent fact that trade rumors damage the performance of young players, no one has suffered more this season than Brook Lopez, who was never mentioned seriously in 'Melo talks. Maybe they should talk about trading him, just to mess with his head and unlock something.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers (9-46, Prev: #30) -- The Cavaliers are champions! Long live the Cavs! (Serious question: do they have another 20+ streak in them? Probably not, as they've had the league's toughest schedule so far (meaning more Clippers-y teams are on the way).