Tuesday, December 23, 2008

NBA Power Rankings

To go along with Boyd’s post about the L, I decided to hop on the NBA bandwagon this week. How could I not, with the Lakers-Celtics on Christmas day? I don’t watch the league as much as PlayBoyd does, but here are my power rankings for the NBA for Christmas week (I’m only going with the top half of the league). Am I the only one who thinks that the East might be better than the West top to bottom? The West has been so dominant for the last several years that it’s strange to see so many crappy teams in the West.

1. Boston Celtics
The Celtics certainly appear hungry to repeat. As long as they stay healthy, it seems that there are only be two realistic threats to a repeat. Well, maybe three if they have to face Atlanta in the playoffs (second round matchup perhaps?). Rondo is playing out of his mind and the defense continues to be impressive.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James has been ridiculous this year. I’ve been a proponent of Kobe Bryant as the best player in the league for the last few years, but LBJ has me rethinking this. He’s playing at a different level this year and it shows in Cleveland’s record. Cleveland is really putting opponents away in the second half this season, outscoring opponents by a wide margin. They look legit.

3. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers haven’t looked as impressive in the past few weeks (just suffered their first back-to-back defeats of the season) but are still the class of the West. Bynum and Gasol are meshing well together so far, but Kobe has not been as dominant as he was last season. The offense doesn’t seem to be as precise as it was last year from what I’ve seen, and the injury to Farmar could be big. With all those questions, the Lakers are still the best team in the West and have the potential to win the NBA Championship.

4. Orlando Magic
I picked Atlanta to get the upset and win the Southeast division over Orlando. While it could still happen, Orlando has looked really freaking good so far this season. They just had a three game winning streak, beating Portland, San Antonio, and the Lakers. Impressive. Dwight Howard is an absolute beast, as evidenced by the way he destroyed Greg Oden last week. That was awesome—welcome to the league, rookie.

5. New Orleans Hornets
The Hornets have won 11 of their last 13 and Chris Paul is being Chris Paul. New Orleans doesn’t look that great on paper but the pieces they have just fit so well together. I’m interested to see what happens in the NO-LAL game tonight.

6. Houston Rockets
The Rockets look good for not having been all that healthy so far. If Houston is healthy come playoff time they will be dangerous for the Lakers. Artest plays Kobe as well as anyone in the league.

7. San Antonio Spurs
Tony Parker is playing at a high level this year (see his 55 and 10 game earlier this season) and Tim Duncan is taking care of business as usual. Ginobili has been pretty solid since coming back from injury and we can expect him to only get better. I still hate him, but when he is on offensively he is as close to unstoppable as anyone in the league.

8. Denver Nuggets
Chauncey Billups has transformed this team. Denver is playing defense better than they have in forever. Well, they were until they gave up over 105 in their last three games. If the MVP goes to the most valuable player and not the best player, Billups deserves some consideration if the Nuggets continue like this.

9. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks could contend with Portland as the team of the future. Horford, Johnson, Williams, and Smith are all 27 years old or younger and Bibby can bring it when he needs to. This team can be dangerous in the future, and maybe sooner.

10. Portland Trail Blazers
The other trendy pick as team of the future is better than I thought they would be this year. Brandon Roy is going to the next level and becoming a star. He dropped 52 the other night and he does a little bit of everything. Aldridge is underrated, Outlaw is awesome off the bench, and Oden and Fernandez are getting better. Blake is playing well at the point, and Martell Webster is coming back from injury. The future looks very promising for the Blazers.

11. Phoenix Suns
Amare’s pimp hand is way strong and Nash continues to put up good numbers. Shaq hasn’t been great this year but he hasn’t sucked either. The addition of Jason Richardson could be big for this team (he’s averaged 18 a game since the trade).

12. Utah Jazz
The Jazz have been decimated by injuries but still have a decent record. If the Jazz can ever get and stay healthy they’ll move way up this list.

13. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs trading Devin Harris was a stupid move, as Devin’s 41 points against Dallas last week proved. Jason Terry is going for 21 per game off the bench and Dirk is playing well so far. Dallas is currently sitting in 9th place and would miss the playoffs if things stay put. I, for one, would love to see the Mavericks stay home.

14. Miami Heat
Dwyane Wade has been a monster and he outplayed Kobe last week in their head-to-head matchup. Beasley has been good so far, but I expected more after what he did in college last year. The Heat have 14 wins right now, only one less than their total from last season.

15. New Jersey Nets
Devin Harris is becoming a star. I found an impressive stat yesterday: Harris has gone for 30+ in 8 of 23 games this year. In the first four years of his career he had zero 30-point games. Also, Brook Lopez went for 22, 13 and 5 blocks against the Heat last week, the first Nets player to go for 20-10-5 since Derrick Coleman. Vince is playing like the champ I know he is and the Nets look good.