Each week we will keep you in tune with the pulse of the NBA, ranking all 30 teams based on how we see it.Efficiency rankings courtesy of Hoopdata.com. Last week’s ranking in parentheses
1(1) San Antonio Spurs (14-2) - Went 2-1 last week and are doing more, with Tim Duncan playing less time. Duncan is averaging 14 ppg in 30 mins per game, allowing DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter, Matt Bonner and Antonio McDyess more burn – and more contributions. The Spurs are 3rd in offensive efficiency in the league, as Ginobli(21ppg) , Parker (17ppg) and Jefferson(15ppg) are balling out.
2(6) Utah Jazz (14-5) - Won 6 straight including 4 in a row last week. Jerry Sloan is on the same page with D-Will like he was with Stockton, Milsap continues to play like an All-Star and Kirilenko has been Mr.Intangible defensively. C.J. Miles(11ppg) is having a solid season, and the platoon of Earl Watson and Ronnie Price at PG has allowed D-Will and his taper to attack from the shooting guard position. No team has passed more tests this season than the Jazz, coming back several times from 15+down to win games. The Jazz have defeated LAL, MIA, ORL, OKC, SAS, NOR and the ATL this season.
3(9) Dallas Mavericks (13-4) - Since dropping back-to-back games vs CHI + NOR a week ago, the Mavs have won 5 straight contests. Beat OKC, SAS and MIA last week, and are top 10 in both offensive(9) and defensive efficiency(8). Western Conference Player of the Week Dirk Nowitski is balling like he did in 06′, but Tyson Chandler has solidified the Mavs interior defense and glass-eating, making life much easier for Dirk. The Mavs ended the Spurs 12 winning streak last week.
4(4) Boston Celtics (12-4) - With Rajon Rondo slowed by injury, Boston has won their last 3 games. Shaq had two double-doubles last week, and is averaging 12ppg/7rebs in 22 mins. The Big 3 has been solid all season, and the Celtic bench has answered the call when injuries hit. The C’s rank 2nd in the league in defensive efficiency while Kendrick Perkins has been out. Impressive.
5(7) Oklahoma City (12-6) – Russell Westbrook dropped 43/8/8 on Darren Collison and the Pacers, solidifying his place as the top UCLA point guard in the NBA. Both Kevin Durant and Jeff Green returned from injury, going 3-2 last week. Durant is quietly averaging 27/7/3 this season. Statistically the Thunder aren’t elite but are 12-6, the only stat that truly matters.
Teams 6-30 after the jump…
6(8) Orlando Magic (12-4) – Eastern Conference Player of the Week Dwight Howard is finally playing like an MVP, averaging nearly 23 ppg and 12 rebs. But quiet as kept, the Magic are leading the NBA in defensive efficiency(97.8) and are holding opponents to a 47% eFG mark. Jameer Nelson has been steady and clutch, shooting 50% from the field and 40% from the trey in his last 10 games. Quentin Richardson has quietly been huge for the Magic, beasting smaller guards in the post, but Rashard Lewis is averaging 12 points in 31 minutes. Not sold on the illusionists.
7(15) Denver Nuggets (10-6) – Have won 4 in a row and rank 4th in the league in offensive efficiency. Ty Lawson played well last week and got buckets, and J.R. Smith dropped a 30 piece on the Suns. Carmelo Anthony is still the subject of several trade rumors, but continues to be a professional on the floor – he dropped 39 on the Warriors last week.
8(3) Los Angeles Lakers (13-4) - Dropped two straight for the second time this season, including a huge shocker to the Pacers at the Staples Center. As clutch as Kobe has been in the past, he blew 4 attempts in the past 2 games to tie or win the game for the “Lake-Show”, as Laker apologists start leaning on Andrew Bynum’s absence as an excuse. L.A. leads the league in offensive efficiency but rank 11th on the defensive side. Eleven rings or not, Coach Phil Jackson probably should spend less time worrying about Miami and the Van Gundy situation, and focus his comments on his squad’s defensive issues, Pau’s playing time, shot-clock malfunctions, Steve Blake’s recent struggles or Ron Artest’s timeout issue last game. Just a hunch.
9(2) New Orleans Hornets (12-5) - Dropped 4 of 5 after winning 8 straight to start the season. Rank 4th in defensive efficiency, but Belinelli is a weak link on that side of the ball. Lost badly to the Spurs, and dropped one against the Clippers they had no business losing. Trading Peja and Bayless not working out very well as of right now, Jarrett Jack apparently isn’t the answer to their backup PG needs. But with Chris Paul, anything is possible.
10(5) Miami Heat (10-8) - Lost to Indiana, Orlando and Dallas last week, as the nation continues to revel in every Heat failure and misstep. Spoelstra and Lebron are at odds, and D-Wade just finished driving the bus over his coaches ankles. And while Spoeltra may not be Dwyane’s “guy”, he is holding James and co accountable – something allegedly not done during the King’s tenure in Cleveland. The Heat will be fine haters.
11(17) Indiana Pacers (8-7) - Won 3 of 4, beating the two-time defending world champion Lakers at the Staples Center and the newly formed Miami Heat in the same week. After losing by 4 to Orlando last week, I said this team was playoff caliber. Hibbert is a low/high post threat and dramatically improved his passing this season. But it’s the Pacers length defensively that continues to cause problems. Granger and Rush are bothersome, while Dunleavy, Hansbrough and Solomon Jones add quality to their front-court depth. T.J. Ford and Darren Collison is a quality point guard tandem, and Josh McRoberts is an underrated matchup. Rank 6th in the league in defensive efficiency.
12(10) Chicago Bulls (9-6) - 2-2 last week, but finished 4-3 on that tough November road trip everyone though they’d tank. I like Rose and Noah, but curious to see how Thib’s rotation changes once Boozer comes back. The Bulls still need a shooting guard/scorer they can count on nightly, but Taj Gibson has developed into a high-caliber NBA player. Chicago is 5th in the NBA in defensive efficiency.
13(12) Atlanta Hawks (11-7) – Won 3 straight vs the Knicks, Toronto and Washington, and rank 5th in offensive efficiency. Josh Smith had a triple-double on the Raptors, and Marvin Williams is steadily improving. The Hawks face a challenging portion of their schedule in the next week, with games against Miami, San Antonio and Orlando.
14(16) New York Knicks (9-9) – The Knicks went 3-1 last week, albeit vs LAC, CHAR and DET. Still, STATS is playing at a high level and Raymond Felton has been splendid. Some rumblings around the league about Wilson Chandler being a Sixth Man candidate, and Landry Fields has been a pleasant surprise on the wing. D’Antoni has the Knicks ranked 7th in offensive efficiency, which is pretty good. Defensively they are ranked 20th, which is not very good.
15(13) Phoenix Suns (8-9) – The Suns have lost 5 of 7, including 1-2 last week. Offensively the Suns have been great – ranking 2nd in the league in efficiency. Jason Richardson is having a standout season, while trade rumblings continue to dog Steve Nash. Defensively – no surprise here – the Suns are ranked 30th in the league.
16(19) Cleveland Cavaliers (7-9) – Byron Scott has done a great job with this roster, and getting the most out of J.J. Hickson, Varejao and Jamison in the front-court. They play the Celtics tonight(Tues) and have a huge match-up with the Heat on Thursday. I’ve seen several tasteless, offensive and derogatory campaigns to diss Lebron in the works, and it is such a shame that the national media encourages this stuff. Hopefully Lebron and his family remain safe during the game and during his trip. So sad how people are acting, seriously.
17(11) Portland Trailblazers (8-8) – Lost 3 straight including one to the NETS with Kim Kardashian looking on, how embarrassing. All jokes aside, the Blazers have had terrible luck with injuries and have to deal with the harsh reality that Brandon Roy will never be 100% ever again in his career. LaMarcus Aldridge is averaging 18ppg and 8rebs and Nic Batum is one of my favorite young forwards in the NBA.
18(14) Golden State Warriors (8-9) – GS snapped a 5 game skid by beating slump-busters Minnesota, but went 1-7 with David Lee out of the lineup. Steph Curry is balling, averaging 20/6/2, and Dorrell Wright set a franchise record for 3′s by draining 9 against the Wolves. The Warriors have some tough sledding ahead, facing San Antonio (twice), Phoenix, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Miami, and Utah over their next seven.
19(21) Memphis Grizzlies (7-10) – 2-1 last week after getting lucky vs the Heat. O.J. Mayo continues to struggle, and is only averaging 14 ppg. Rudy Gay has been delightful at 21ppg, but what’s up with Marc Gasol? Dude grabbed a total of 16 rebounds last week in 98 minutes. Conley quietly earning his deal, averaging 14/7 this season.
20(18) Milwaukee Bucks (6-11) – The league’s worst offensive unit continues to struggle scoring points, managing less than 90 points five times in their past six games. Defensively they are great, ranking 3rd in the league in efficiency. Although defense wins championships, offense wins the games that help you get into the playoffs.
21(23) Detroit Pistons (6-11) – Played Dallas and the Knicks close, but got rocked by 21 vs Memphis. T-Mac making more news in the papers than on the floor, but Kuester has the Pistons competing. Still nasty though.
22(22) Charlotte Bobcats (6-11) – Lost 3 of last 4 and are 0-8 vs teams with a .500 record or better. Jackson, Wallace and Augustin are having good years, but the Cats have nothing on the interior. MJ can’t be pleased and should be more careful when making facial expressions while Kwame Brown is shooting free throws.
23(24) Houston Rockets (5-12) – Their record doesn’t show it, but the Rockets are better than this. Beat OKC behind Kevin Martin, who is having a very good year avg 23ppg. Luis Scola is killing this year at nearly 21 and 9 per game. Waiting on Yao and Aaron Brooks. *twiddles thumbs*
24(20) Toronto Raptors (6-11) – Lost their last 2, getting blown out by the Hawks. Some think Peja Stojakovic will help the team, but I think Bayless will contribute. Have beaten Boston and Orlando this season as Reggie Evans is killing on the glass and Andrea Bargnani is averaging a cool 20.6 ppg on the year.
25(27) New Jersey Nets (6-11) – Aside from Kris Humphries loving on dudes sloppy seconds, the NETS are actually on a 1 game winning streak. Brook Lopez has been solid this season, as has Devin Harris. New Jersey is now halfway to meeting last season’s win total of 12. Avery Johnson is not playing around this year either, sending highly regarded guard Terence Williams to the D-League because of sub-par professionalism.
26(29) Los Angeles Clippers (3-15) – One of the better 3-15 teams in recent memory, the Clippers continue to compete night in and night out, without two All-Star caliber players. Blake Griffin has been absolutely phenomenal and is this generations “Human Highlight Film”. Griffin is averaging 20ppg and 11.6 rebs, and is a shoe-in for ROY. Eric Gordon has been solid, though he’s struggled with his jumper as of late. Al-Faroq Aminu and DeAndre Jordan have impressed, and Del Negro is getting the most out of this young, talented rotation. The return of Kaman and Davis could make the Clippers respectable by the break.
27(28) Washington Wizards (5-11) – Almost beat the Magic last week, but have lost 3 in a row – including Monday night vs the Heat. Sensational rookie John Wall(18 ppg 9 assists 2.6 steals) has played in 10 of 15 games for the Wiz. Gilbert Arenas had 31 on the Magic, but missed the game-winner at the buzzer. Flip Saunders looks like he’s about to have stroke on the sidelines whenever Andray Blatche takes a fallaway 24 footer.
28(25) Philadelphia 76ers (4-13) – Lost 3 of 4, but Doug Collins has them competing. Sometimes it’s all you can ask given their talent level. Jrue Holiday making a case for most improved and time will tell if Iggy will finish the season there. Elton Brand is undergoing a career re-birth, kinda sorta.
29(26) Minnesota Timberwolves (4-13) – Darko Milicic had a string of quality games, including a 23 point, 16 rebound, 6 assists effort vs the Lakers. Kevin Love and Michael Beasley have been outstanding, but the Wolves continue to languish near the bottom of the NBA.
30(30) Sacramento Kings (4-11) – I told you last week the Clippers would beat the Kings, who have lost 4 straight. Paul Westphal is butting heads with DeMarcus Cousins, whom he tossed out of practice recently. Nothing against Westphal, but Sacramento needs to consider a change.