Though the cast of characters atop this week’s poll are the same as last, we’re starting to see a few new faces working their way into the league’s upper echelon.
Whatever it is they’re putting in the Lone Star State water, some other teams could certainly use a sip...
1. LA Lakers (Last Week: 1)
While we aren’t terribly concerned yet, it bears mention the Lake Show hasn’t scored over 98 points since Jan. 3.
2. Cleveland (LW: 2)
That this team can hold the No. 2 ranking with its No. 2 scorer Mo Williams in the midst of a terrible shooting slump (11-for-34 over the last three games) is a testament to how good the Cavs truly are.
3. Boston (LW: 3)
If the darn Atlanta Hawks never popped up on the Celtics’ schedule, Boston would be 29-7 and probably two slots higher on this list.
4. Dallas (LW: 5)
The nicked-up Mavs have brought Eduardo Najera back to the team. Of course, the move doesn’t hide Dallas’ pain of witnessing the Spurs’ ascension in the Southwest.
5. Orlando (LW: 4)
They’re saying Vince Carter has a mild shoulder separation. It’s good, then, that Dwight Howard has astounding games like Tuesday’s, where he puts the offensive (30 points, five assists) and defensive (16 boards) burden on his own back.
6. Atlanta (LW: 7)
Though he’s come off the bench every game this season, Jamal Crawford is still in the NBA’s top 15 in three-point attempts. That likely has something to do with him leading the Hawks in scoring 13 times too.
7. San Antonio (LW: 9)
Gregg Popovich would be the first to admit that some of his Spurs, especially Richard Jefferson, are taking their time settling into their new roles. Still, San Antonio seems perfect for the part of Dallas’ arch nemesis.
8. Denver (LW: 8)
This team went 3-2, including Friday’s impressive win over Cleveland, while Carmelo Anthony nursed a bruised knee. Just imagine how well the Nuggets would be hopping along had Melo not been on the sideline.
9. Portland (LW: 6)
So, the Blazers couldn’t do anything with LeBron James and the Cavs the other night. Who can? We don’t see a whole lot of folks stopping the Blazers’ Brandon Roy (66 points in last two contests) either.
10. Phoenix (LW: 10)
The Suns have four guys who can score 20 points any night: Steve Nash, Amar'e Stoudemire, Jason Richardson, and Grant Hill. It’s just too bad they don’t have four guys who can play defense right now.
11. Houston (LW: 11)
With all the maladies and the Tracy McGrady mess, it’s mind-boggling these Rockets are still within ear shot of the division lead. Kudos to head coach Rick Adelman and on-the-court coach Aaron Brooks for making do.
12. Oklahoma City (LW: 12)
13. Utah (LW: 13)
The Jazz are like Amtrak. The ride isn’t swift or super glamorous, yet it is dependable, stays on track, and passes through cities (big weekend win at Dallas) like a thief in the night.
14. New Orleans (LW: 17)
Chris Paul put up better numbers than Avatar last week, dishing at a ridiculous rate (46 assists over three games) and altogether orchestrating a Hornets comeback story James Cameron couldn’t have envisioned two months back.
15. Miami (LW: 14)
The West Coast has been brutal to the Heat in the standings (losses at the Clippers and Jazz) and the locker room (Dwyane Wade’s wrist injury).
16. Memphis (LW: 15)
About the only thing Zach Randolph hasn’t shown the ability to do this season is figure out a way to get his gritty Grizzlies from the basement of the highly competitive Southwest Division.
17. Toronto (LW: 16)
Chris Bosh has scored over 27 points in three straight. The do-everything forward may have to raise his bar some because the Raps still lost two of the games.
18. LA Clippers (LW: 20)
Quietly, Mike Dunleavy has the Clippers steadying in the West. Even more on the hush is center Chris Kaman’s last five games of 20-plus points and over eight boards.
19. Charlotte (LW: 19)
Unheralded Bobcats star Gerald Wallace has played 136 minutes over the last three games. Yep, it’s only a matter of time now before the masses realize just how good he is.
20. Sacramento (LW: 23)
The Kings have looked a royal mess in six of their last seven contests. That they were able to jump three spots in the ranking is us playing a cruel joke or a show of optimism for Kevin Martin’s pending return.
21. Chicago (LW: 18)
Once Joakim Noah figures out he’s got nearly as much offensive ingenuity as defensive skill in the paint, he’s going to be hard to handle. Wait, he’s scored 32 over the last two nights? We think he’s figuring it out.
22. New York (LW: 21)
Just when you thought the Knickerbockers had turned the proverbial corner in their season, they hit a pothole (tough weekend road swing) and end up right back in the thick of the East’s mediocrity traffic jam.
23. Milwaukee (LW: 22)
Don’t get us wrong. Losing a player of Michael Redd’s caliber for the year sucks. But if there’s one bright spot in the sadness, it’s that more attention can go Andrew Bogut’s way.
24. Golden State (LW: 27)
Yeah, the Warriors will miss Anthony Randolph’s scoring and rebounding for the next few months, but it might be the power forward’s shot-blocking ability Golden State struggles to make up for most.
25. Washington (LW: 24)
If you see a Wizards fan with his hands in the sky, don’t just assume he’s being held at gunpoint by Gilbert Arenas. He might actually be pleading with a higher power to get this nightmare of a season over.
26. Philadelphia (LW: 25)
I know Sixers fans are just wishing for the stretch of games where Allen Iverson, Elton Brand, and Andre Iguodala aren’t limping or complaining about stomach pains.
27. Indiana (LW: 28)
When he isn’t riddled with ankle pain, Troy Murphy is a double-double demon. When they are playing in sync, the Pacers are, well, still pretty painful to watch.
28. Detroit (LW: 26)
We don’t know what’s uglier—a 13-game losing streak, a 3-16 overall road mark, or Charlie Villanueva’s 8-of-23 shooting the past two games.
29. Minnesota (LW: 29)
If you’re only scoring 96 points and giving up a NBA-high 105 every time out, you’re going to be the Nets’ neighbor on this list for a long time.
30. New Jersey (LW: 30)
You know things are bad for a floundering franchise when it’s most valuable asset, center Brook Lopez, has a statistical week (a 12-point night and a 5-for-14 shooting disaster) uglier than the monsters in the Legion movie trailer.
The Bleacher Report NBA Power Rankings are done by averaging individual feature columnist's tallies. Weekly contributors are: Alex McVeigh (Dallas), Rich Kurtzman (Denver), Denton Ramsey (Houston Rockets), Jose Salviati (LA Clippers), Keith Schlosser (NY Knicks), Curtis Finchum (Oklahoma City), Brandon Ribak (Orlando Magic), Bryan Toporek (Philadelphia 76ers), Shaun Ahmad (Washington Wizards), and DeMarco Williams (NBA Lead).
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