NBA Power Rankings: Pre All-Star Break Edition

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NBA Power Rankings (February 10-February 23)

(All stats through Friday’s games)

(Last week’s rank and change are in parentheses; “NC” means there was no change in rank)

1. Oklahoma City Thunder (2, +1): By losing at the buzzer to the Magic on Friday night, the Thunder suffered the biggest upset of the NBA season up to this point.  Since January 16 the Thunder are 12-2 and should get star point guard Russell Westbrook back shortly after the All-Star Break, so that one terrible loss hasn’t stopped me from moving them into the top spot for the first time all year.  It is also the first time any team other than the Pacers have occupied the No. 1 spot since the Heat were first in my preseason rankings.

Feb 5, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (9) dribbles the ball against the Washington Wizards during the first half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

2. Indiana Pacers (1, -1): The Pacers are still the beasts of the East, but that simply wasn’t enough to keep the title of “best team on the planet” – for now.  An impressive overtime win over Portland on Friday has their opponents shaking in their boots, especially since they were able to do so without Lance StephensonGeorge Hill had a career-high 37 points (12-19 FG) to help lead the way.

3. San Antonio Spurs (4, +1): Injuries keep threatening to knock the Spurs down, but so far they’ve been resilient.  They’ve lost Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili to long-term injuries and Tony Parker, Marco Belinelli and Tiago Splitter are all ailing, but one thing has been constant through it all – Tim Duncan.  The 37-year-old is averaging 17.4 points, 11.1 boards, and 2.4 blocked shots since January 1, and he’s only missed three games all season.

4. Miami Heat (6, +2):  With Dwyane Wade playing the Heat are a much scarier team.  Since sitting out from January 18-23 in order to rest his bum knees, Wade has now played in five consecutive games.  In those games he’s scoring 17.8 points and shooting an incredible 61.3 percent from the floor.  Most importantly, Miami is 4-1 in those contests.

5. Los Angeles Clippers (5, NC): The return of Chris Paul will make the Clippers even more dominant than they’ve been of late, which is pretty damn scary.  In the 18 games Paul has been out, the Clippers have managed to win 12 games.  A couple moves at the trade deadline could vault L.A. into title contention.

6. Portland Trail Blazers (3, -3): Portland is finally hitting the wall.  They’ve lost four of their last five games and six of their last 10.  In doing so, the Blazers have seen the Thunder take a four-game lead in the Northwest Division.  It may be too late for them to catch OKC, but a shot at home-court for the first couple of rounds is still in play.

7. Houston Rockets (8, +1): The Rockets are one of the hottest teams in the NBA, winning 10 of their last 13 games.  The only two teams they’ve lost to during that span are the Thunder and the Grizzlies – twice.  They’re up to 105.4 points per game and it’s going to be tough for teams to outscore them.  It will be interesting to see if they deal Omer Asik at the trade deadline.

8. Memphis Grizzlies (9, +1): Break up the Grizzlies!  After a very disappointing first couple of months, the Grizzlies are finally showing why they made it to the Western Conference Finals last season.  Since the beginning of the year they are 14-5, and since Marc Gasol made his return from a sprained MCL, they are 10-3.  It’s all about the defense in Memphis.  They’ve allowed just one team (Dallas) to score more than 100 points against them over their last 13 games and are limiting opposing offenses to a meager 87.6 points per game over that span.

9. Phoenix Suns (14, +5): If you told me in November that the Phoenix Suns would be buyers at the trade deadline, I probably would’ve asked you to get your head checked.  But it’s February, and the Suns have made it known that they are willing to make deals for a potential playoff push.  The Suns have four first-round playoff picks in the upcoming draft, and they’ve dangled them to teams with the hopes of acquiring stars like Pau Gasol and Zach Randolph.  It will be very interesting to see how this plays out, especially if Eric Bledsoe can return from his recent knee surgery.

10. Golden State Warriors (7, -3): David Lee and Andrew Bogut are hurt and have missed the last two games, but the Warriors will need them to be healthy if they want to contend in the West.  All-Star Stephen Curry is averaging 29.0 points, 8.0 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 3.8 3-pointers over his last 13 games, but that hasn’t stopped the Warriors from losing seven of those contests.  The Warriors need a major regroup during the All-Star Break in order to get back on track.