2011 NBA Power Rankings

With the dawn of a new year, a new decade, and a new Knicks team that actually occasionally wins, I thought it’d be a nice time to rank all the teams in the league.  I last did it in the preseason, so those are the Previous Ranks that you see in parentheses next to the current rank.  So I’ll repeat my same explanation of the rankings from then:   This isn’t who will be strongest at the end of the season or who will have the best regular season.  This measures how strong each team is right NOW.  If a team engaged in a seven game series today with any of the teams listed below them, I’m saying they’d win.  So yeah, injuries count big time.  And chemistry.  And like, how good they are.

Rk(Prv) Team Comments
1 (3) Boston
Celtics
After beating the Spurs without KG or Kendrick Perkins, and with
Rondo and Jermaine O’Neal only barely back from injuries, these
guys are the ones to beat
2 (4) Miami
Heat
They’ve won 19 out of 20 and there’s a good argument to be
made that they should have the top spot.
3 (7) San Antonio
Spurs
They’ve still got the best record in the league, but after being
embarrassed by the Knicks & then the Celtics, suddenly the
Spurs new offense-focus approach no longer looks as scary as
the old defense-focus days.
4 (2) Orlando
Magic
Since the new arrivals started gellin’ on offense, they haven’t stopped
winnin’. Once Stan Van gets ‘em all on the same page defensively,
they may now have a legit shot at turning the East’s Big Two back into
a Big Three.
5 (1) Los Angeles
Lakers
Not sure these guys shouldn’t be further down because for the
past month they’ve played like stinky buttocks. However, if these
rankings are based on how teams would do if the playoffs started
today, ya gotta believe the defending champs would instantly become
more focused. And more deadly.
6 (8) Dallas
Mavericks
Okay, I’m going back on what I said ‘cuz obviously if the playoffs
started today while Dirk is still out, the Mavs’d be toast. Then again,
they’re keeping him out precisely because this isn’t the playoffs. If it
started tomorrow, the Big German’d be playing. And if Caron Butler
were still healthy, Dallas would be top 4.
7 (12) Chicago
Bulls
Yeah, they lost last night to the lowly Nets, but these guys have the
6th best record in the league even though both Boozer & Noah have
only been healthy at the same time for 5 seconds. And DRose always
kicks it up a notch or seven in the playoffs.
8 (9) Utah
Jazz
Mehmet Okur got injured again like two games after he finally came
back. Al Jefferson’s still figuring out the system and the team has
established a disturbing trend of falling behind by large margins
before focusing. But with DWill, you’d be silly to discount them. And
hmm, maybe that fantasy commercial is right that DRose (&thus DWill)
shouldn’t really be considered nicknames ‘cuz, c’mon, we can do better.
9 (6) OKC
Thunder
Everyone (myself included) thought these guys would take it to the
next level after their impressive showing in the playoffs and Durant
going nutz at Worlds. In my pre-season evaluation I said it would be
Westbrook who actually pushes them to contender status, and he
hasn’t let me down. But Jeff Green and Serge Ibaka? Yeesh.
10 (16) Denver
Nuggets
It’s hard to rank these guys ‘cuz we all know Melo will be dealt before
the Feb. 24th trading deadline, turning these guys into also-rans.
Heck, even if the Nugs roll the dice and don’t trade Melo, he could do
a half-show like Bosh & LeBron did last season.
11 (11) Atlanta
Hawks
Their motto should be, “We totally whup the bad teams.” However,
until they make some changes to a roster that for the last two years
has folded against the top guns, I’m thinking they’ll be hard pressed to
move much higher in the rankings.
12 (20) Yer New York
Knicks
If the playoffs started today, the Knicks’d play Chicago, who they’re
2-0 against. They’d be the bottom half team that none of the top 4
would want to play ‘cuz they all know we can catch fire anytime.
Then again, we can catch cold just as quickly. We’re still finding our
identity and rhythm, so I’ve no idea where we’ll end up. Even if we
don’t get Melo.
13 (17) New Orleans
Hornets
After the first two weeks they looked like they’d be contenders when
they started 8-0. Since then they’ve gone 13-15. Hmm, maybe they
should be even lower. If Shinn was still the owner, CP3 would still be
screaming for a trade this summer, but with the NBA owning the team,
they may actually be willing to spend $ to keep this group competitive.
14 (5) Portland
Trail Blazers
Okay, I was way off with my pre-season prediction here, but in
fairness I did say “with Brandon Roy now healthy” as well as “if
Oden returns and stays healthy, watch out. Those ain’t happened.
But I also did give props for adding Wes Matthews, and the truth is
that even with 2 of their top 3 talented players out due to injury,
they’re still over .500. Does anyone coach injured teams better than
Nate McMillan?
15 (13) Houston
Rockets
This time I correctly predicted the injury concerns and early season
woes of the Rockets in the pre-season: “with Yao coming in and out
and only playing 24 minutes, it could be really hard for them to get
into a consistent rhythm.” That was true. Also true? Like in years
past, now that they know Yao ain’t walkin’ in that door, they’ve been
playing over .500 ball.
16 (21) Los Angeles
Clippers
Am I crazy putting them here? After all, only 5 teams have worse
records than them. Then again, of the remaining teams, they’re the
only ones with a winning record over their last 10 games. Not only
has Blake Griffin has turned the woeful Clips into Must See TV, but
his buddy DeAndre Jordan has also turned into a dunking demon, all
of which has brought Baron Davis back from the dead, and due to all
the alley-oops, has turned him into, gasp, a guy who loves to pass
first.
17 (10) Memphis
Grizzlies
They shouldn’t be this low. Rudy Gay has been phenomenal, but
the benching of OJ Mayo has left him disgruntled (see his recent
fisticuffs with Tony Allen) and Gasol The Younger hasn’t seemed as
dominant as last year. The chemistry just ain’t there this year for
whatever reason. But that could change. Maybe.
18 (15) Phoenix
Suns
They haven’t been great, but slowly yet surely Nash has been
learning how to play with newly acquired big man, Gortat. Don’t
sleep on the Big Pole because whenever Dwight Howard was out,
you could pencil in the Marcin for a double-double. Unless Vince
Carter calls it quits on the season due to injury, these guys will
get it together.
19 (19) Golden State
Warriors
Serious injuries to not only three of their starters (Curry, Lee &
Biedrins) but also early on to strong eventual bench contributors
(Udoh and Amundson) has left them scrambling to get by on
Monta’s brilliance. With the gang all playing for the first time last
night (although Lee & Biedrins are still not fully healthy), they could
surprise teams in the second half.
20 (23) Indiana
Pacers
After whupping the Lakers early on, people thought this could be a
sneaky good team. Now we know it was that the Lakers have been
sneaky bad. Hibbert, who was such an integral part of their early
success, now is playing minimal minutes and isn’t even starting.
Throw in Coach O’Brien limiting young prospect Darren Collison’s
time for TJ Ford, and they’re going the wrong direction.
21 (14) Milwaukee
Bucks
With Brandon Jennings and Drew Gooden still out due to injury,
maybe they shouldn’t even be this high. But if those guys can
return fully healthy (or at least, say, 90%?), they’ll start to rise up
the charts. A bit.
22 (25) Philadelphia
Sixers
On one hand, they’ve actually been playing pretty solidly even with
their best player (Iguodala) injured and top draft pick Evan Turner
giving them nada. On the other hand, Iggy’s shown no signs of
feeling healthier and Turner’s shown no signs of getting it.
23 (22) Charlotte
Bobcats
On the one hand, the team’s really responded to new coach Paul
Silas’ freedom, going 3-2 since he’s been there. On the other
hand, they start Kwame Browne and their two best players
(Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace) are out with injuries.
24 (30) Toronto
Raptors
On the one hand, they’re not the worst team in the league like I
thought they’d be. On the other hand, they’re still pretty bad.
But others are worse.
25 (28) Minnesota
Timberwolves
Kevin Love’s insane rebounding abilities can keep them in any game.
Kurt Rambis’ inconsistent rotations can keep them from winning
any of ‘em.
26 (24) Washington
Wizards
When healthy, John Wall has proven to be even better than
advertised. The key word is “when.” At least he hasn’t been alone,
as Josh Howard’s been as injury-prone as ever, and even Captain
Kirk recently went down. Um, but Rashard Lewis is playing much
better than he did in Orlando.
27 (29) Detroit
Pistons
Their recent success has been due to relying on TMac. Never a good
formula, so don’t expect that to last. None of the players seem to like
their coach or want to be there. Word is, even though Detroit signed
him two summers ago, Ben Gordon still hasn’t arrived yet.
28 (26) New Jersey
Nets
No shocker that big free agent acquisition Travis Outlaw hasn’t done
much here since, well, beforehand he hadn’t done much elsewhere
either. Brook Lopez has gone from untouchable, up-and-coming
big into a disappointing seven-footer who will never average 10
rebounds a game. Ouch. …Yet maybe true.
29 (27) Sacramento
Kings
DeMarcus Cousins is slowly starting to get it, but Tyreke’s injury woes
and inconsistent play (is he gonna dominate the ball tonight or not?),
mixed with Coach Westphal’s Flavor-O’-The-Day approach to picking
his starting lineup, will keep them on the bottom of the standings.
30 (18) Cleveland
Cavaliers
Talk about missing the mark: I actually thought that thanks to their time
with LeBron that this group had learned to win (kinda like how the
Bulls were still good the year MJ went off to play baseball) and had
a shot at the playoffs. My bad. The Cavs actually started the season
decently, even with Mo out, going 7-10 until LeBron returned. After
being embarrassed by Miami, they seem to have lost all confidence
and gone 1-17. Let’s not talk about who that one win was against…

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