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SoB NBA Power Rankings: All-Star Break Edition

Midway through the season, the Miami Heat are performing as expected: incredibly well. (Miami Heat // Getty Images)

We’ve made it. There was a period of time during the summer that I really didn’t know if there would even be a season this year, and here we are. All-Star weekend.

With most teams about halfway through their seasons, I’m going to do something a little different. Here is a quick guide:

Overachieving = the team is playing better than I thought they would before the season started

Achieving = the team is basically who I thought they were

Underachieving = the team is playing below their talent level

1)  Miami Heat (27-7) – Achieving – Everyone thought they would be the team to beat all year, and while OKC and Chicago have shared time in the #1 spot, there’s little doubt that the Heat are exactly who we thought they were, which is scary for every other team in the league.

2)  Oklahoma City Thunder (27-7) – Achieving – The Thunder come in at a close #2. They are clearly the best in the West and have been all year.

3)  Chicago Bulls (27-8) – Achieving – Chicago, Oklahoma City, and Miami have been somewhere in the top three from the get go. Exactly like it was supposed to be.

4)  San Antonio Spurs (24-10) – Overachieving – I can’t believe the Spurs have risen this far again. And this is without Manu Ginobili for a large portion of the season. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Gregg Popovich is the best.

5)  Los Angeles Clippers (20-11) –Achieving – The hype machine was in full force once the Clippers acquired Chris Paul, and it’s hard to say they aren’t living up to it. Third in the West is impressive.

6)  Orlando Magic (22-13) – Overachieving – I guess I shouldn’t be as surprised as I am. I know Dwight Howard is fantastic, but before the season started I wasn’t even sure if he’d be on the team by the All-Star break. Ryan Anderson has also been a pleasant surprise.

7)  Indiana Pacers (21-12) – Achieving – I thought Indiana would make a leap this season, and they have. Paul George is a keeper.

8)  Dallas Mavericks (21-13) – Achieving – Some would say that coming off an NBA Championship, being the fourth-seed in the West is below their talent level. I would disagree: this team didn’t really turn in on til the playoffs started last season, and it’s taken them a while to get going this year, but they have been fine.

9)  Los Angeles Lakers (20-14) – Underachieving – I’m somewhat hesitant to call the Lakers underachievers this season, but I don’t love the kind of stories coming out of L.A. Their record is fine, but I don’t like Mike Brown, and I don’t like how sensitive Pau Gasol is acting towards his trade rumors … this could blow up.

10)  Philadelphia 76ers (20-14) – Achieving – The 76ers were on the right course for the ‘overachieving’ tag before Spencer Hawes got injured. A five-game losing streak going into the All-Star Break also doesn’t help.

11)  Atlanta Hawks (20-14) – Overachieving – If Al Horford wasn’t injured and this was the Hawks’ record, I would have pegged them as playing at the level I thought they would play at. But I’m impressed with the way they’ve played this season without him.

12)  Houston Rockets (20-14) – Overachieving – Kyle Lowry made a huge leap this season, and thus the Rockets are 20-14. I thought they would be a decent team … somewhere around .500, but they are playing much better than that.

13)  Memphis Grizzlies (19-15) – Achieving – Before the season started I said that this team would be the hardest to predict. They had such a great playoff run last season, but I wasn’t sure if they could continue to play at that level. Plus Rudy Gay was coming back from injury … and then Zach Randolph went down. So I guess what I’m saying is I still have no idea what to expect, which is exactly what I was expecting.

14)  New York Knicks (17-18) – Underachieving – This has been one giant failure of a first half for the Knicks. With that being said, Jeremy Lin has been on an incredible run the past two weeks. Can he keep it up? Can he play with Carmelo Anthony? The Knicks have a lot of questions to answer before the playoffs start.

15)  Portland Trailblazers (18-16) – Underachieving – I bought a lot of Portland Trailblazers stock early in the year, and they let me down. They should be better than a fringe playoff team.

16)  Minnesota Timberwolves (17-17) – Overachieving – I admittedly thought they would be much better this season under new head coach Rick Adelman, but I didn’t think they would be this improved. They have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs in the West, and if I had to bet on it I would say they make it.

17)  Denver Nuggets (18-17) – Underachieving – I thought the Nuggets had the perfect ‘short season’ roster. They have a very deep bench and they play at a ridiculous pace, but their record just isn’t what it should be. To be fair though, they have dealt with a lot of injuries.

18)  Boston Celtics (15-17) – Underachieving – Aside from the Knicks (who have somewhat turned it around), the Boston Celtics have to be the most disappointing team this season. I never considered this version of the Boston Celtics as serious contenders. I also never thought that they would be two games below .500 at the All-Star break. Still, I disagree with Bill Simmons’ overly harsh critique of the moves this team has made. Danny Ainge’s inability to get anything out of any of his recent draft picks is my biggest complaint, but saying his last good move was signing PJ Brown is a bit of a stretch. Though smaller moves, signing Delonte West to a one-year deal was a good move. So was trading Glen Davis for Brandon Bass and extending Ray Allen two years ago. And most importantly, convincing Doc River to re-sign as head coach was a good move. The good news is that this year’s trading deadline should be very interesting… and that’s about all you have to look forward to if you’re a Celtics fan right now.

19)  Utah Jazz (15-17) – Achieving – The Jazz went through a period of time where they were underachieving, then overachieving … which balances out to a nice solid ‘achieving’.

20)  Cleveland Cavaliers (13-18) – Overachieving – I fully understand that a 13-18 record isn’t great, but I thought this team had ‘worst record in the NBA’ potential. They have been a pleasant surprise.

21)  Phoenix Suns (14-20) – Achieving – Trade Steve Nash.

22)  Milwaukee (13-20) – Underachieving – I thought the Bucks would be better. I thought they had an outside shot at a playoff spot in the East … it doesn’t look like that is going to happen.

23)  Detroit Pistons (11-24) – Achieving – The Pistons were also very close to ‘worst team in the league’ territory, but they have been playing pretty well lately.

24)  Golden State Warriors (13-17) – Achieving – The Warriors are still the Warriors, whatever that means. They’ll score some points; they’ll give up some points. Water is also wet.

25)  Sacramento Kings (11-22) – Achieving – I thought the Kings had an outside shot at a playoff run, but a really bad start destroyed that chance. Keith Smart has been light-years better than Paul Westphal on the coaching front, and DeMarcus Cousins has been superb.

26)  New Jersey Nets (10-25) – Underachieving – I didn’t expect a whole lot from the Nets, but if Deron Williams wants everyone to keep pretending he’s one of the best point guards in the league he’s going to have to start playing like it consistently. If you have a top two point guard you should have more than 10 wins.

27)  Toronto Raptors (10-23) – Achieving – I didn’t really have any expectations for the Raptors this season, and they are meeting those non-expectations.

28)  Washington Wizards (7-26) – Underachieving – Once again, I didn’t expect a whole lot from the Washington Wizards, but I did expect them to be better than they are. You have to win more than seven games in the East.

29)  New Orleans Hornets (8-15) – Achieving – after the chaos that was the Chris Paul trade, I expected and received a chaotic season from the Hornets. I wish Eric Gordon could get healthy.

30)  Charlotte Bobcats (4-28) – Achieving – What does it say about your basketball team when I can look at a 4-28 record and say to myself ‘Yea, that’s about right”.

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