Here’s a look at my latest NBA Power Rankings.
(All stats through Saturday’s games)
(Last week’s rank and change are in parentheses)
1. Indiana Pacers (1, NC): The Pacers are cruising right now with a league-leading defense that’s only allowing 89.5 points per game. Their only two losses during this calendar month have come to third-ranked Portland and fourth-ranked OKC. The Pacers are one of only two teams — the other being the Thunder — who are still undefeated at home (11-0).
2. San Antonio Spurs (2, NC): Old-timers Duncan (17 points, 12.7 rebounds, 1.3 blocks) and Ginobili (12 points, 5.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.8 threes) have come alive in December, giving the Spurs a 6-1 mark during the month.
3. Portland Trailblazers (5, +2): No longer a mirage, the Blazers have proven to be the real deal. They hit 21 three-pointers in Saturday’s win over Philly, breaking the franchise record for most treys in a single game. LaMarcus Aldridge (23.4 points, 10.8 rebounds) is a legitimate MVP candidate.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (4, NC): Like Indiana, the Thunder have been dominating at home (11-0), and are just pasting their opponents, going 13-1 in their last 14 games. Reggie Jackson (15.8 ppg on 48.4 FG% in the last 5 games) and Jeremy Lamb (9.5 ppg this season) have more than adequately replaced Kevin Martin.
5. Miami Heat (3, -2): The Heat have the luxury of being in the East, making it easy to sit Dwyane Wade so he can rest his ailing knees. The journey to the playoffs should be a smooth ride for the two-time defending champs, but trouble may await them there. News flash: Miami just isn’t that scary anymore.
6. Los Angeles Clippers (6, NC): Since winning four in a row from Nov. 23th to the 29th, the Clippers have gone 4-4 and looked very beatable in embarrassing losses to the Hawks, Cavs and Nets. Chris Paul (28.32 PER) has done everything in his power to ensure the Clips come out on top, but the J.J. Redick injury seems to really be affecting them. For the Clippers to be title contenders they need to acquire another solid defender to help out Griffin and Jordan down low.
7. Houston Rockets (7, NC): Dwight Howard has hit his stride, averaging 21.4 points and 17.2 rebounds in his last five games. He’s even making 68% of his free throws during that span. The Rockets won’t even sniff a championship, though, if they don’t improve on defense. Only five teams are worse than the 102 ppg the Rockets are allowing to their opponents.
8. Denver Nuggets (13, +5): Like almost every year in the past, the Nuggets aren’t good enough on the road to be legit contenders. Playing .750-ball outside of the Pepsi Center, as opposed to their current 7-6 record, would be the difference between the 7-seed and the 4-seed in the Western Conference.
9. Golden State Warriors (9, NC): The Warriors have begun relying on the three-point shot too much. Stephen Curry is 15-for-44 (34.1%) from beyond the arc in his last five games, including an ungodly 5-for-16 performance vs. the Bobcats last Monday. The Warriors have lost 8 of their last 13 games and have fallen a game out of the Western Conference playoff picture.
10. Dallas Mavericks (11, +1): While hardly earth-shattering, Brandan Wright’s return from a shoulder injury is very important to Dallas. He’ll add youth, length and energy to a team previously lacking those characteristics. His first game back was a success, totaling 19 points and 6 rebounds in the Mavs’ win over the Bucks.