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NBA Power Rankings: Suns, Jazz Fighting For Playoff Lives

The Phoenix Suns have Steve Nash back, and playoff hopes are alive. The same cannot be said for Utah Jazz, who find their dreams fading. The Bucks, Pacers and Bobcats continue to quarrel over the right to get smacked in the first round; that's a quarrel worth having, certainly.

16. Phoenix Suns (35-33, Prev: 17) -- The Suns' season could very well come down to a single game, and there are plenty of losses Phoenix will surely kick themselves about. Either way, the next step for this franchise and what role Steve Nash plays in it remains the most important question. You can't survive off of terminal playoff runs forever.

17. Atlanta Hawks (40-30, Prev: 16) -- The worst good team ever, the Hawks continue to twiddle their thumbs and wait for the Magic in the first round of the East playoffs. Oh, for the days when the Hawks were an upstart squad of fun crashing the Celtics' coronation.

18. Utah Jazz (36-35, Prev: 19) -- The Jazz are almost assuredly out of the playoffs in the West, and Devin Harris' injury won't help. But no team will have a more interesting -- and possible active -- offseason than Utah, with two lottery picks and at least one veteran frontcourt player to shuffle off.

19. Milwaukee Bucks (28-41, Prev: 18) -- Milwaukee swept the New York teams over the weekend, and have a great shot of slipping into the No. 8 slippers. But would any of the East's powers be afraid? Andrew Bogut is the only Buck who can truly intimidate, and his offense is still suffering.


20. Indiana Pacers (31-40, Prev: 20) -- One step forward, one step back for the Pacers. The schedule remains rather light, so that should either help the Pacers look more respectable as a No. 8 seed, or it should provide final embarrassment to a team that has done nothing to show it can make an elite team sweat in the first round.


21. Los Angeles Clippers (27-44, Prev: 22) -- I'm not saying Blake Griffin has crashed into the rookie wall with great force, but 43 percent shooting over the last 10 games and far less frequent double-doubles might be an indication the long season is wearing on the presumptive Rookie of the Year.

22. Golden State Warriors (30-41, Prev: 21) -- Keith Smart's job is increasingly in doubt, as the post-Nellie Warriors still refuse to defend. A greater concern is how David Lee does or does not make a difference; I'd like to see more time next to Ekpe Udoh before making a determination.


23. Charlotte Bobcats (28-41, Prev: 23) -- The Bobcats clearly gave up once Gerald Wallace was traded. Do you blame them? Had the Bobcats not made that trade, there's a case to be made that they'd be pulling away in the race for No. 8

24. Detroit Pistons (25-45, Prev: 24) -- The Pistons have two games against the Pacers and one each against the Bobcats and Bucks. Spoilers for mediocre teams trying to grab a No. 8 seed isn't quite what the Pistons had in mind at season's start, though.


25. Sacramento Kings (17-52, Prev: 27) -- Silver lining of the Kings' awful run over the past month: no one doubts how important Tyreke Evans is any longer. DeMarcus Cousins' turnover numbers have been ghastly -- he has 47 over the last 10 games. Forty-seven.

26. Toronto Raptors (20-50, Prev: 28) -- The Raptors clearly are not tanking. They just stink.


27. New Jersey Nets (22-47, Prev: 26) -- With Deron Williams, the Nets were a team causing suffering fans to hypnotically dream of a ragin' run to the playoffs. With Deron Williams on the shelf, the Nets are ... well, the Nets we came to know and despise before the trade.

28. Washington Wizards (17-51, Prev: 29) -- Don't get too excited about Jordan Crawford's play of late. Sure, he's scoring quite a bit (14 per game over the last 10). But his shooting has been rather awful. His True Shooting percentage as a Wizard: .466.


29. Minnesota Timberwolves (17-54, Prev: 25) -- The Wolves lost by 32 to the Kings on Sunday. The Kings lost by 40 to the Bulls on Monday. Does that mean the Bulls would beat the Wolves by 72? (On a more serious note, the Wolves might be done for the season. Just one of the team's final 11 opponents -- the Nets -- has a losing record.)

30. Cleveland Cavaliers (13-56, Prev: 30) -- J.J. Hickson has come around, though the expectations have been so devastated by the Cavs' devastatingly bad season that I'm not sure whether this is a mirage.