NBA Power Rankings: Spurs Reign, But Mavericks Are Charging Hard

The Spurs maintain a comfortable lead on the rest of the league, but the Dallas Mavericks have won nine straight and are charging up the standings. Can San Antonio stay this hot through the end of the season? If so, does anyone in the West stand a chance? Who will look to help their chances in the trade market?

1. San Antonio Spurs (42-8, Previous: #1) -- Is there even a blueprint to beating the Spurs? If so, a high-scoring big man who can shoot a mid-range jumper seems to be the trick. Five of San Antonio's eight losses have come against teams with All-Star big men. The other three losses were to LaMarcus Aldridge's Blazers and David West's Hornets (twice).

2. Miami Heat (37-14, Prev: #2) -- Miami is now up to six straight, with two more victories probable heading into Sunday's showdown against the Celtics. In the Heat's last 10 games, LeBron James is averaging 29 points, eight assists and almost eight rebounds. This is what folks had in mind when they suggested a triple-double season as plausible.

3. Boston Celtics (38-13, Prev: #3) -- Marquis Daniels' frightening Sunday injury begat another injury concern for Doc Rivers; the Celtics called up Avery Bradley for insurance purposes. At some point, this team will get healthy, or at least more healthy than they've been. That's when opponents really ought to be scared.

4. Los Angeles Lakers (36-16, Prev: #5) -- Pau Gasol has been more aggressive since Kobe Bryant's now infamous Black Swan chatter last week, but will it last? Pau has a history of mean-mugging for a little while before settling back into his comfort zone. These Lakers might not be able to afford that.

5. Dallas Mavericks (36-15, Prev: #8) -- Heading into Monday's action, Dallas had five lineups that had played more than 100 minutes together this season. The best, unfortunately, featured Caron Butler. The next best unit has Shawn Marion at small forward. Instead of starting Marion at small forward, coach Rick Carlisle has used him off the bench in both forward spots since Dirk Nowitzki's return. Given how awful the starting small forward options have been (Sasha Pavlovic, then DeShawn Marion) and will be (Peja Stojakovic, we assume), is that smart?

6. Chicago Bulls (34-16, Prev: #4) -- Carlos Boozer was on the tip of a few tongues as an All-Star snub when reserves were announced, but Luol Deng's name has been absent. Deng's been a real defensive force for the team, though, one of the reasons (along with Boozer and, of course, Derrick Rose) the team's near the top of the East. No matter which big men are on the court with him, Deng has performed.

7. New Orleans Hornets (32-21, Prev: #7) -- How long have the Hornets needed a decent back-up center? It remains a problem during Emeka Okafor's injury. Suffice it to say that no contender in the West is as thin up front as New Orleans, who can't afford injuries to Okafor or David West in the stretch run.

8. Orlando Magic (32-20, Prev: #6) -- The Magic are only three games off their 2009-10 pace in the win-loss ledger. But the team is about 2.3 points per game worse in terms of scoring differential, and that's incredibly worrisome. Teams this far behind typically don't make Cinderella runs in the NBA.

9. Oklahoma City Thunder (33-17, Prev: #10) -- Aside from that national TV loss to the Heat a bit more than a week ago, the Thunder have been rampaging. The team's 20th-ranked shot defense in particular needs work, though. Oklahoma City allowed Utah, for example, to shoot 51 percent, but won thanks to a Russell Westbrook explosion. You can't expect that every night.

10. Denver Nuggets (30-22, Prev: #9) -- Carmelo Anthony's scoring has picked up; entering Monday's action, he'd averaged almost 26 points per game over his last 10. But his efficiency hasn't been this poor since 2004-05, his sophomore season. He needs to be better if the Nuggets are going to do anything, provided he remains in a Denver uniform.

11. Memphis Grizzlies (27-26, Prev: #12) -- Credit the Grizzlies for building a winning program in Memphis. There were joke, and there will be more jokes. But the Grizzlies would be fighting for the No. 6 in the East, with only the ridiculous depth in the West putting their playoff bid in serious question.

12. Atlanta Hawks (33-18, Prev: #11) -- The Hawks had a perfect week, but -- perspective, please -- it came against the Clippers, Raptors and Wizards. Atlanta's had the NBA's easiest schedule so far, according to Basketball-Reference, and the Hawks haven't exactly looked great against better teams. Atlanta may not hit 50 wins this year after getting 53 last season.

13. Houston Rockets (25-28, Prev: #13) -- No pending free agent has had a worse season than Aaron Brooks, who followed up an injury with a bad decision to sulk off the court after Rick Adelman pulled him in the fourth quarter Saturday against Memphis. Brooks is just passionate and felt cheated he wasn't on the court in crunch time. But teams would prefer that players know their place. It certainly can't help him come July.

14. New York Knicks (26-24, Prev: #14) -- The Knicks have five games before the NBA trade deadline. With Eddy Curry's expiring contract, a couple tradable assets and serious needs at several positions, it remains unlikely that the Knicks will finish February unchanged. But will Donnie Walsh make the right decision?

15. Utah Jazz (31-22, Prev: #16) -- The Jazz defense has really become pretty bad, and it's unfathomable that a team with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap and that usually plays Andrei Kirilenko at small forward would be this bad on the defensive glass. Deron Williams' brief absence sunk the offense temporarily; when that happens, there's nothing to see here.

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