|Connelly’s Top Ten: RIP Cecil the Lion||David Krejci: The Most Interesting Man on the Bruins||Pedro Martinez Number Retired, Fenway Celebrates||(David) Price is Wrong for Red Sox|
You should know how this goes by now, so lets get right into it…
1) Chicago Bulls (13-3) – Despite getting somewhat blown out by the Grizzlies this week, the Bulls retain their number one spot in our NBA Power Rankings. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: this team works. Every player’s role is clearly defined, and all of them are doing their job at a high level right now. Oh, and they haven’t lost a game at home yet.
2) Oklahoma City Thunder (12-3) – Like Chicago, OKC is also coming off a weird loss against the Wizards, but they still get to keep their spot at #2. In related news, it appears as though Russell Westbrook just signed a five-year, $80 million dollar contract extension to stay with the Thunder. Yup, these guys are going to be a problem for every team in the league for a long time.
3) Los Angeles Lakers (10-6) – As a fan of both the Boston Celtics and Sacramento Kings, I don’t think I could dislike the Lakers more. With that being said, I really like how they are playing right now. Kobe Bryant has to be the leading MVP candidate at this point.
4) Atlanta Hawks (11-4) – I am not ashamed of the lack of respect I give the Atlanta Hawks. I don’t view them as contenders, but they went 4-0 this week without Al Horford, and have the third best record in the NBA. I owe them this one.
5) Denver Nuggets (10-5) – Coming off an impressive pair of wins against the Bucks and 76ers, the Nuggets come in at #5. It was also recently announced the Denver would be this season’s team on “The Association” (The NBA’s version of “24/7″ or “Hard Knocks”). The first episode will air on Wednesday, Jan. 25, at 6 p.m. Set your DVRs.
6) Miami Heat (10-4) – The Heat actually lost three games in a row before an impressive 22-point victory over the Spurs Tuesday night. Dwyane Wade is already playing through an injury, which is definitely something to keep an eye on.
7) San Antonio Spurs (10-5) – Aside from the blowout they suffered in Miami, the Spurs have been playing surprisingly well without Manu Ginobili.
8) Orlando Magic (10-4) – So it appears as though Ryan Anderson being awesome wasn’t a fluke. Go figure! He has to be the odds on favorite for “Most Improved Player” at this point. He is a huge reason why that team is playing so well right now.
9) Los Angeles Clippers (8-4) – I’m putting them in the “I’d like to see more” category right now. I want to jump on the bandwagon, but I’m a little hesitant with Vinny Del Negro still running the show. Just watching him coach, I never get the sense that he really knows what he is doing.
10) Philadelphia 76ers (10-4) – After going back over their wins this season, its hard to find more than two or so quality wins for this team. To their credit, they have taken care of business and beaten teams they are supposed to beat, but I’d like to see them take down a good team here soon. They’ll have a chance this Saturday against the Miami Heat.
11) Utah Jazz (9-5) – How bout those Jazz! They are seriously playing well right now, rising all the way to the #2 spot in the Western Conference. I don’t think they are THAT good, but they are good.
12) Indiana Pacers (9-4) – The Pacers had three days to rest up for a game against the Sacramento Kings Wednesday night, and they held a double digit lead in the third quarter … Then the Kings went small and played zone defense and held the Pacers to eight points in the fourth quarter. EIGHT POINTS. Needless to say, the Pacers blew that game and should be seeing a lot more zone defense from this point on. We’ll have to wait and see how they handle it.
13) Portland Trailblazer (8-6) – Portland has certainly hit a bit of a rough patch recently, but I’m still a believer. They’ll be o.k.
14) Memphis Grizzlies (7-6) – Winners of four straight games, Memphis has played themselves back into the top 15. Recently acquired Marreese Speights is giving them solid minutes while they wait for Zach Randolph to get healthy.
15) Dallas Mavericks (9-7) – Just out of the playoff picture at this point, but I’m fairly confident they’ll be back towards the top of the Western Conference soon. They are playing better than their record suggests.
16) Houston Rockets (8-7) – Houston is rolling right now. The Western conference playoff race is going to be absolutely brutal this year.
17) New York Knicks (6-8) – The Knicks, the Knicks, the Knicks… Aside from the Celtics, they have easily been the most disappointing team this season. I’m telling you guys, if the Knicks lose a few more games here Mike D’Antoni is a goner.
18) Cleveland Cavaliers (6-7) – I don’t know how they are doing it, but this team is hanging in there. However, I can’t help but feel they are just holding this playoff spot until the Celtics get their act together.
19) Boston Celtics (5-8) – Oh boy. I’m sorry, but I can’t get all excited about a win over the Toronto Raptors who are playing without their best player. This team is in trouble. The combined record of the teams we have beat this season is 14-46. Ouch. To make matters worse, Rajon Rondo is injured and listed as ‘doubtful’ for the game against Phoenix on Friday. The one positive is that Mickael Pietrus has been giving us a much-needed lift off the bench since his return to action. I’m not saying the Celtics won’t make the playoffs, but I don’t consider them as contenders for the title his season whatsoever.
20) Minnesota Timberwolves (6-8) – I told you they weren’t horrible! I ♥ Ricky Rubio.
21) Phoenix Suns (5-9) – Look at how well the Nuggets and Jazz are playing because of the haul they got back from dealing their star players. Now look at Toronto, who stubbornly kept Chris Bosh only to watch him leave for Miami for nothing in return. Trade Steve Nash while he still has value.
22) Golden State Warriors (5-9) – The Warriors are a weird team. I am never surprised when they beat a good team. They might be sneaky good.
23) Sacramento Kings (5-10) – If the Warriors are a weird team, then the Sacramento Kings are a really weird team. They lost by 39 points to the Mavericks last Saturday, yet somehow beat the Pacers Wednesday night 92-88 after grabbing 30 offensive rebounds. Yes, 30.
24) Milwaukee Bucks (4-9) – The Bucks disappoint me. I don’t think they are a 4-9 team. Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings alone should be able to put this team around .500 in a bad Eastern Conference.
25) Toronto Raptors (4-11) – They are bad, but they are missing their best scorer … I guess they get points for that.
26) New Jersey Nets (4-11) – You would think Deron Williams would be enough to get you more than four wins at this point. Remember when he used to be awesome? Remember when a lot of smart people thought he was better than Chris Paul? I don’t know man, I don’t know.
27) New Orleans Hornets (3-12) – Again, they have enough talent to win more than three games.
28) Charlotte Bobcats (3-12) – They start Kemba Walker now. I like that.
29) Washington Wizards (2-12) – They somehow managed to beat Oklahoma City last night. I also really like their new jerseys.
30) Detroit Pistons (3-12) – They start Brandon Knight now. I like that.