I feel like a broken record having to say this once again but the league this year has been absolutely plagued with injuries. Well-established stars and rookies alike have seen their seasons come to an end in a single instance and this has shown no bias to players, teams or conferences. Nobody can catch a break and it has teams reaching out for help like Ricky Rubio!
Although this disease hasn’t shown bias to any particular teams, there are a few franchises that have been immune to it and in turn have been consistently on top. The Warriors had a brief absence of Bogut, but that was nowhere near enough to throw them off course with their other weapons, and don’t believe for a minute that Steph is actually hurt right now. Atlanta plays a style of ball that would succeed without some of their pieces but luckily for them that hasn’t presented itself yet. Lastly, the Grizzlies missed out on Z-Bo for a long stint early but since his return they have looked near perfection. Conley has been in an out a little bit, but even in their absence they stayed with the Warriors on top of the tough Western Conference. This resilience from these teams keeps them atop the power rankings once again as the only squads with 40-plus wins.
1) Golden State Warriors (43-10, 0)
One of the reasons for this teams ability to avoid injury this year is smart moves from Kerr such as his recent choice to sit Steph with his soreness. The team is opening up a six-game road trip and although they got their 10th loss they will surely have a better chance in the next five with a rested MVP candidate. Best record in the NBA despite the Hawks season-high win streak. That speaks volumes.
2) Memphis Grizzlies (41-14, 0)
They do say defense wins championships. A Western Conference finals between these top two teams could be one for the ages and remind us all of the recent Seahawks v. Broncos Super Bowl. We all know how that turned out. The Grizzlies won both their games in this short week including last nights close battle with the Clippers. Holding Lob City to under 90 points is something to be proud of.
3) Atlanta Hawks (44-12, 0)
Rounding out the top three for the second straight week is this Hawks squad who has definitely cooled off from that streak that I mentioned earlier. Just 4-4 in the month of February due to some offensive troubles has people questioning the teams depth and durability. This can’t be proven at the moment though, give them a chance to get out of the rut from the All-Star break.
4) Cleveland Cavaliers (35-22, +1)
This team is seriously starting to look scary. Really any move that they could’ve made before the trade deadline would’ve benefited them, besides maybe sending away LeBron, but now they truly look like a deep and talented enough team to make a run in their first year together. The chemistry is building and its only going to go up from here. Toronto and Chicago, your spots are no longer safe. Good luck.
5) Houston Rockets (38-18, -1)
Their one spot drop isn’t on their behalf by any means; the Cavs’ pickups were just too strong. I hate to move them down too, with James Harden playing like he is right now. The man is literally willing this team to every win and making a solid MVP case for himself along the way. Don’t forget this team (just Harden) is doing this all without Dwight Howard as well. When he gets back, the defense may be in good enough form to win a round or two.
6) Los Angeles Clippers (37-20, 0)
Tough loss to the mighty defense of the Grizzlies without star Blake Griffin, but a couple W’s before that helped the pursuit to a higher seed. If they can outlast this hack-a-DJ phase or if DeAndre can just learn to shoot them, then they should be able to move up at least a spot or two.
7) Dallas Mavericks (38-20, +2)
Amaré looked so good in his first minutes as a Maverick that I thought his jersey was orange and Nash was feeding him. This team has all the tools to compete and right now they could land anywhere between the 3rd and the 6th seeds and that’s not bad in the West but they will surely be playing some tough competition to start. They have a harsher schedule than most teams around their seeding ahead so home court advantage is going to take work.
8) Toronto Raptors (37-19, 0)
This new starting lineup looks as good as the hype is treating it, but a loss to an AD-less Pelicans team is a tough one to swallow for The North. They’re one of few teams that has under 20 losses but when you look at their division, which they have a 13-game advantage over, it isn’t hard to tell why.
9) San Antonio Spurs (34-22, -2)
Let’s just say that the last time I wrote this blog, this team had 34 wins… Taking losses from teams like the Jazz just isn’t going to cut and for once in this millennium, this mighty franchise may be showing some wear and tear. Kawhi isn’t providing the spark and the “Big 3″ is settling down. 5-5 in their last ten games took a toll on them as they hang on to the seventh seed currently.
10) Chicago Bulls (36-21, 0)
The defense just hasn’t been there this year and how could you expect it when you add an offensive player like Gasol and Butler comes out of his shell? The team gets to play quite a few games in a row at home this week which would be nice except that they have a better road record. The loss of D-Rose for the season is another setback for the team.
11) Portland Trailblazers (36-19, 0)
With a struggling Nick Batum, the Blazers made a breakthrough pickup in trading for an offensive Aaron Afflalo. This without a doubt makes them a scarier team than they already were but if L.A. can’t stay in the game, we’ll know for sure that the team should’ve shut him down at the first sight of that injury.
12) Oklahoma City Thunder (31-25, +2)
Holding on to the eighth seed will not be as difficult of a task with a nearly brand new team that emerged post trade-deadline. Depth was an issue with this team and now the frontcourt has more potential than ever. Russell Westbrook has forgotten KD’s absence and is making a case for himself as the league’s most valuable player. When’s the last time two separate guys on the same team won back-to-backs?
13) Milwaukee Bucks (31-25, +2)
Bringing the defending ROY to your squad can never really hurt but we will have to see if the young guard spoils the chemistry or not, Knight was a perfect piece to this team but building for the future is never a bad thing to do, ask any team that is dominant now. Jabari Parker was a favorite for ROY this year before injury, they could have had back-to-backs. When’s the last time that happened either?
14) Washington Wizards (33-23, -2)
A team riding a three game skid and has only won two games in the last ten. For those of you mathematicians out there, that means they have picked up over 33 percent of their losses just in those last 10 games alone. Playing without Beal has shown their soft spot and just like the Spurs, they have the same amount of wins as they did in last week’s rankings.
15) Phoenix Suns (29-28, -2)
Yet another team to go winless in the past week. Can’t exactly blame them when trying to implement an entire new lineup with so many moves on deadline day. A team that was once overloaded with guards may have found a good mix in the Knight-Bledsoe duo. If they can get cooking, then the Thunder may have to actually start worrying.
16) Detroit Pistons (23-33, +2)
The acquisition of Reggie Jackson undoubtedly adds a necessary depth to this team’s backcourt and with the playoff race as tight as it is, this team now has a legitimate chance. They have the talent and the coaching, they just need to put the two together.
17) New Orleans Pelicans (29-27, -1)
The third team in the battle for the West’s eight seed does not look like a heavy contender if AD can’t get his body right. He tried to deliver what looked like a hitstick and ironically destroyed himself in the process, which is never a good sign. He and Ryan Anderson will be out for quite a bit so Tyreke will get the green light.
18) Indiana Pacers (23-33, +2)
Still on the rise winning seven of their last ten and their last three straight. A mixture of Stuckey and Hill has been a recipe for an unstoppable offense as they have sparked Indiana to a playoff team once again. By playoff team, I of course just mean that they have a seed. I wouldn’t exactly call them a playoff team just because of that. They have too much left to prove after this season’s start. Paul George returns soon.
19) Boston Celtics (21-33, 0)
The acquisition of Isaiah Thomas was a big step forward and on the same day they took a big step back losing their best player Sully once again. Along with that, IT is showing his old Kings style of play getting thrown out of his first Celtics-Lakers rivalry game. The combo of Smart and Thomas could be enough to snag an eighth seed but they have some catching up to do and without Sullinger it won’t be easy. Impressive win over the Suns last night, but a loss to the Lakers? Really?
20) Charlotte Hornets (22-32, -3)
They and the Suns are tied for the biggest skid at the moment standing at five straight losses. Before hopping on this losing streak they held control of the seventh spot in the East and now have fallen to 11th behind Detroit and a hot Indiana. Mo Williams was supposed to be able to fill-in in Walker’s absence but this team can’t wait much longer for his return.
21) Brooklyn Nets (23-31, 0)
Maybe got a little confidence in their thrashing of the Nuggets last night but we will see how far that will carry them. They made a great move in swapping KG for Thad Young, which gives them a little more depth for the future. This team has been playing .500 basketball as of late but in the eighth spot, that may not cut it. Time for their many vets to get going.
22) Utah Jazz (21-34, 0)
An impressive running through over the defending champions last night that followed an even more impressive win over the Blazers. The dealing of Enes Kanter allowed for Gobert to take more minutes and the defense looks better than ever since the trade. Defense is really what they lacked in so this is the most positive sign they’ve seen all year. The West may be too brutal for any luck this year though.
23) Miami Heat (24-31, 0)
The acquisition of the Dragic boys was the talk of the trade deadline but that happened just following it with Chris Bosh, without a doubt has a bigger impact. I wish Bosh a speedy and efficient recovery but in the meantime, Dragic and Hassan better figure out a way to keep a playoff seed. This point guard may be the best that D-Wade has ever had, but his success seems to be independent of that in his career.
24) Sacramento Kings (19-35, 0)
Only snagging three out their last ten games isn’t going to impress future Hall of Famer George Karl. Since arriving Karl has flipped the pace of the offense, which has now happened to this team a total of three times on the season. Give them a chance to get into the flow of things and maybe next year they’ll have another hot start; maybe one that they can stay on.
25) Orlando Magic (19-39, +3)
A three game win streak says a lot about new interim head coach James Borrego and a 4-2 overall record is nothing to scoff at with the team he has adopted. Lets just try not to focus on the fact that they beat the Sixers, Lakers and Knicks and give him a round of applause.
26) Minnesota Timberwolves (12-43, -1)
Really? Kevin Garnett? Please don’t even try to lie and convince me that this was purely a basketball move, sending away a young kid with potential for the greatest player in that franchise’s history, who is older than some coaches and plays like it. I understand drawing fans and making money, but at least try to hide it better. I thought this was a building season.
27) Denver Nuggets (20-36, -1)
The most positive part about their trade deadline play was getting rid of some heavy contracts that frees up space for other players. The only question more interesting than what will happen to this team, is what will happen to our Gaucho Brian Shaw? L
28) Philadelphia 76ers (12-44, -1)
Here I am thinking that MCW was the guard that they waited so long to get, but I guess I thought the same about Nerlens and Embiid as well. MCW played one year, balled out and got shipped out for some pieces that put this team in an interesting place. With McDaniels leaving as well, they fall back into the category where dumb fans will ask if they can even beat Kentucky.
29) Los Angeles Lakers (14-41, +1)
An overtime victory over the rival Celtics is enough to pull you out of last place in my eyes, without bias. But the team better watch out and not grab too many victories or they may be losing their top, and really only draft pick this year. Oh and by the way, they are pretty close to a franchise worst record. It’d be for the best to get it though.
30) New York Knicks (10-45, -1)
Hey nobody is in single digits, that’s something to celebrate. That’s about all one can celebrate with Melo being shut down for the rest of the season. With this record, another upside is of course a possible first pick on the way to try and straighten out Melo’s team.