Culture of Hoops

Week 15 NBA Power Rankings from the Bassline

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Including Kevin Durant, only six players in NBA history have averaged 31-plus points with seven or more rebounds and five or more assists: Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Michael Jordan and LeBron James. While the Oklahoma City Thunder’s season isn’t short of historic, Durant is certainly placing all the opposition in his rear-view.

1. Oklahoma City Thunder (41-12 and first in the Western Conference). OKC is the first team to 40 wins this season, and has gone 8-2 in their last 10 games. When Russell Westbrook returns, watch out.

2. Indiana Pacers (39-11 and first in the Eastern Conference). Lance Stephenson is the current NBA leader in triple-doubles, with four on the season, and is the top rebounding guard in the league. Meanwhile the Pacers are rolling on, going 6-4 in their last 10 games.

3. Los Angeles Clippers (36-18 and fourth in the Western Conference). The Clippers have had multiple chances to push the Portland Trail Blazers out of that number three spot in the West, and took another step towards it with a 45-point smack down against the Philadelphia 76ers in Chris Paul’s triumphant return.

4. Miami Heat (35-14 and second in the Eastern Conference). With confidence that they can win at home or on the road in the postseason, the Heat are in cruise control. Erik Spoelstra has taken a page out of Gregg Popovich’s winning formula by resting Dwyane Wade and other starters in many games this season. The Heat will “flip the switch” immediately after the All-Star break.

5. Portland Trail Blazers (36-15 and third in the Western Conference). Portland has a tough week ahead of them, facing OKC on Monday and the Clippers Wednesday. A make-or-break week for Terry Stotts’ crew.

6. San Antonio Spurs (37-14 and second in the Western Conference). It seems that the Spurs keep finding diamonds in the rough, or quite possibly Gregg Popovich is a genius at custom-fitting his offense for new free-agent additions year after year. With Patty Mills’ 32 points against the Bobcats, the Spurs just found more depth the league didn’t know they had.

7. Phoenix Suns (30-20 and sixth in the Western Conference). Goran Dragic should’ve replaced Kobe Bryant in the All-Star game. So says his career-high 34 points against the Golden State Warriors, moving the Suns past the Dubs in the Western Conference standings.

8. Memphis Grizzlies (27-23 and eighth in the Western Conference). The Grizz are 7-3 in their last 10 games, but are only 2-11 in division contests. They’re stronger with a healthy club, but need to make a bigger statement.

9. Houston Rockets (34-17 and fifth in the Western Conference). The Rockets have gone 8-2 in their last 10 games, including winning five straight. Shot selection has been the key for winning as the Rockets have shot only 203 jumpers from 15 to 19 feet, fewer than four per game. Only 12.7 percent of their shots come from outside 15 feet in comparison to 35 percent by the rest of the league. It’s safe to say head coach Kevin McHale prefers to dominate the paint.

10. Dallas Mavericks (31-21 and seventh in the Western Conference). The Mavs bench has been hoopin’ lately, led by Devin Harris, Vince Carter, and big man Brandan Wright. The Mavericks reserves have averaged 44 points in nine games since Devin Harris’ debut, with only the Brooklyn Nets having a higher scoring bench in that time span.

11. Golden State Warriors (30-21 and eighth in the Western Conference). By forcing teams to shoot an average of 43.4 percent from the field, the Warriors are third in opponent field goal percentage, while putting up 103 points per game led by first-time All Star Stephen Curry.

12. Toronto Raptors (26-24 and third in the Eastern Conference). The Raptors have given up 100-plus points in four of their last five road games. Conversely, prior to their recent road trip it took a stretch of 14 games for them to give up 100. Dwane Casey’s group seems tired.

13. Atlanta Hawks (25-24 and fourth in the Eastern Conference). The Hawks have played surprisingly well after losing Al Horford for the season. With word that DeMarre Carroll could be acquiring a Boston address in exchange for Jeff Green, the Hawks could look pretty tough in the second stretch of the season.

14. Washington Wizards (25-25 and fifth in the Eastern Conference). The Wizards can’t seem to escape the clasp of sitting right at the .500 marker. February 3rd marked the first date in first-time All-Star point guard John Wall’s Wizards career that the team had a winning record.

15. Chicago Bulls (25-25 and sixth in the Eastern Conference). Joakim Noah is having the best season of his career, averaging 11.5 points, 11.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game despite key losses to the team. That’s the Bulls way of turning lemons into lemonade.

16. Brooklyn Nets (23-26 and seventh in the Eastern Conference). The Nets have won only eight road games on the year, however with Kevin Garnett shooting 60.4 percent since January, Brooklyn’s gaining toughness in areas the league forgot was still there.

17. Denver Nuggets (24-25 and tenth in the Western Conference). The Nuggets have been hit by the injury bug hard, and with Ty Lawson being the latest of Brian Shaw’s prized possessions to show various ailments, will they take Andre Miller off the trading block?

18. Minnesota Timberwolves (24-27 and 10th in the Western Conference). The Timberwolves have lost three straight. After losing guard Kevin Martin to a broken thumb, things will only get worse.

19. Charlotte Bobcats (22-29 and eighth in the Eastern Conference). Head coach Steve Clifford should be a Coach of the Year candidate for transforming the Bobcats from one of the league’s worst defensive teams into the fourth-best team in points per game allowed at 97.1. However with the Bobcats only scoring 94.5 points per game, they’ll most likely look to improve their offensive production via trade.

20. Detroit Pistons (21-29 and ninth in the Eastern Conference). The Maurice Cheeks era in Philadelphia is over, as John Loyer has been appointed to the interim head coach position. Tough break for Cheeks after the Pistons have won four of their last six with the youngest starting backcourt in the league.

21. New York Knicks (20-31 and 10th in the Eastern Conference). Depending on how the Knicks close out their last week before All-Star break, Mike Woodson will most likely be relieved of his duties. Fortunately for the Knicks and Woodson, they have a light week, as they’ll only face the Sacramento Kings at home.

22. Philadelphia 76ers (15-37 and 15th in the Eastern Conference). The 76ers lost by 45 points to the Clippers on Sunday. Let us bow our heads in silence for that beatdown.

23. Cleveland Cavaliers (18-33 and 11th in the Eastern Conference). This is a franchise week for Cleveland. After firing general manager Chris Grant, they have the option to either blow up the team or keep it in tact for a possible playoff appearance. For a team that’s 15 games under .500, but defeated the Memphis Grizzlies in convincing fashion, another 20 games in favorable conditions might be just what the doctor ordered.

24. Orlando Magic (16-37 and 13th in the Eastern Conference). Orlando has won three straight, but still can’t find ways to win on the road—with only three away victories this season.

25. Boston Celtics (15-33 and 13th in the Eastern Conference). In their recent loss to the Mavericks, the Cs gave up 35 fourth-quarter points in the loss. Undoubtedly a wake up call for a team who doesn’t know if it wants to compete or tank.

26. New Orleans Pelicans (22-28 and 12th in the Western Conference). Anthony Davis didn’t get snubbed after all, making it into the All-Star Game on the heels of Kobe Bryant’s knee and achilles. Word is they’re looking to improve their offense by trading Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans.

27. Utah Jazz (17-33 and 14th in the Western Conference). The Jazz currently rank 28th in points per game, 24th in rebounds, 27th in assists and 26th in opponent field-goal percentage. There isn’t much this squad does right, and it’s time for a coaching change.

28. Milwaukee Bucks (9-41 and the 15th in the Eastern Conference). The Bucks have more trouble afoot than just their abysmal league-worst record. Fan attendance is at an all-time low, and for a small-market NBA city, that’s never a good thing.

29. Los Angeles Lakers (18-33 and 13th in the Western Conference). The Lakers are 2-8 in their last 10 games. They got Steve Nash back for one game against the Timberwolves and then lost him again to injury. More of the same for the purple and gold.

30. Sacramento Kings (17-34 and 15th in the Western Conference). At the bottom of the Western Conference, head coach Mike Malone hasn’t seemed to warm up yet to guard Isaiah Thomas, as the Kings are looking to trade for a point guard by the trade deadline.

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