NBA Roundtable

Power Rankings

In General NBA on February 28, 2010 at 6:50 am

The power rankings on this site will be made at five different points in the season – Preseason, First Quarter, Halfway, Third Quarter, prior to the Playoffs.

Teams under these Power Rankings are being judged when at full capacity (reasonably healthy + when in form). Teams do not slide down the standings due to poor recent form (say losing five straight despite being a 60 win team) or because their star player is out injured (Yao Ming). The idea behind that is to take a longer view on the capabilities of the roster in terms of current ability. Also, it’s the reason why they are only quarterly reports (smaller variance).

We’re nearing the final twenty or so games of the regular season. I thought it was time for a check up to see where teams stand.

Eastern Conference

#1 Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers had opened up a slight advantage over the rest of the field prior to the trade deadline.

The addition of Antawn Jamison has turned that small advantage into a large one.

The Cavs are the strong favourites to win the East.

#2 Boston Celtics

It looked like Kevin Garnett was back at his early season form during games against the Lakers and Blazers but he has fallen off since. Paul Pierce continues to struggle with recovery from an earlier injury too.

A lot of injury related question marks + consequently issues with their form and cohesiveness as a unit.

Still, I consider the Celtics the second best team in the East and third best in the NBA if they can get KG + Pierce back to their early season form and enter the playoffs in good shape.

#3 Orlando Magic

Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson continue to stutter and with that Orlando’s chances of winning a title continue to decline.

All eyes on Vince + Nelson.

#4 Atlanta Hawks

A lack of consistent defensive play + a lack of quality second scoring option = lack the talent required to be a true contender.

Atlanta need to move up the 2nd/3rd spot in the playoff seedings to have a chance of making the Conference Finals.

#5 Charlotte Bobcats

The Bobcats are the best team amongst the lower seeds. They are capable of beating two of the top four while giving the other two a hard go at it.

Dangerous squad … the team you want to avoid in the first round of the playoffs.

#6 Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks addition of John Salmons has put them right back in the middle of the playoff race. I like their chances of making it and their chances of being a very difficult opponent for somebody in the first round of the playoffs. They won’t win a series but they’ll fight and be a tough out.

Milwaukee has some interesting possibilities ahead of them over the next 18 months. Another GM that is about to be tested strongly.

#7 Toronto Raptors

I’m struggling to make sense of the Raptors strong play over the past couple of months. I don’t know whether these performances are sustainable or not.

A lot of unanswered questions regarding the Raps true quality but we’ll find out a lot of answers over the next few weeks.

At this point, I would consider the Raps the second or third best lower seed in the East behind Charlotte. I choose to put Milwaukee ahead of the Raps because I think the Bucks strong defensive play will be more difficult to play against come playoff time but they’re neck and neck with the Bucks for that spot. The next few weeks will decide whether they deserve to be ahead or behind Milwaukee.

Update: This addition comes about a week later after losses to the Thunder and Rockets on the road. The Raptors are about a 45-48 win team given the career years they’ve gotten out of Chris Bosh and Jarrett Jack and the solid improvement we’ve seen from Bargnani.

In terms of W-L records they are the fifth best team in the East outright. In terms of playoff success? I’m still keeping them below Milwaukee and Charlotte because I think their strong defensive foundation will be more successful come playoff time.

#8 Miami Heat

Clinging onto a playoff spot with their outstretched fingers.

Not a threat to do anything there if they manage to hang on.

#10 Chicago Bulls

The Bulls lost Tyrus Thomas and John Salmons at the trade deadline. Those two losses and Brad Miller’s indifferent form this season have been a major blow to the squad.

This was a team that was heavily dependent on their quality in depth one-through-seven for results. They no longer have that depth and now their lack of talent at the top of the roster has become a much larger issue.

Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng will all need to perform at an All-Star level for the rest of the season just to keep this team in the playoff picture. It’s doubtful whether they can manage that.

#10 Philadelphia 76ers

A somewhat talented roster that has been abused by a bad Head Coach.

A lot of personnel decisions for Ed Stefanksi in the summer. It will be interesting to see how he handles himself. I’m not optimistic. I think he’s lost, I don’t think he has a plan, or an idea of how to fix this team. How to get the best out of his talent, out of his young players, out of his trade assets.

#11 Detroit Pistons

The misfiring Pistons …

When will Joe Dumars rediscover the way forward? Will John Kuester be given time to develop his intriguing ability as a coach? Will their best player return for one final season?

Nothing is going to happen with the Pistons this season but they are a mediocre team and capable of a lot better than they’ve shown this season. Injuries hurt them but difficulties in finding their best rotation where just as important.

#12 New York Knicks

The T-Mac era … for all of two months. Nice.

I don’t see the McGrady acquisition changing the Knicks’ chances of making a postseason run. They’re still a comparable team to the one before the trade. They just look different.

#13 Indiana Pacers

The Pacers are a discombobulated team. They’re all over the place. They have no understanding of what they’re trying to do. Of how they win games. Of what their best team looks like.

Indiana desperately needs the season to end so it can begin to regroup.

#14 Washington Wizards

It’s moving day for the Wizards. They’ve officially began rebuilding and given up on the possibility for their somewhat talented roster coming together.

It was a good decision and the Wizards future is starting to improve.

#15 New Jersey Nets


Western Conference

#1 Los Angeles Lakers

The team to beat. In the West and for the Title.

Their advantage over the rest of the field is large. Difficult to see LA losing a seven game series if healthy + in reasonable form.

#2 Portland Trailblazers

Are the Blazers in pole position to win the West next season?

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself for the last 4-6 weeks. I think they might be. Once Oden and Przybilla get back healthy, the Blazers will be able to duel the Lakers in the paint + have high quality defenders to throw at Kobe Bryant + enough offensive ability to cause a lot of trouble for LA on the other end of the floor.

I would feel a lot better about the Blazers chances if Andre Miller was replaced by a point guard who is a superior fit for that roster once healthy though.

#3 Dallas Mavericks

The Dallas Mavericks are the team best equipped to beating the Lakers in a seven game series. Their size and length inside will negate a lot of the Lakers strengths in the post and Shawn Marion is able to defend Kobe Bryant at a high level.

I don’t think they have enough offensive firepower to take down LA outright but their defensive ability, their ability to squeeze the Lakers offense, will make things interesting.

#4 Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets have been playing very well. They’ve probably been the best team in the league against quality opponents. The only reason their W-L record isn’t better is their middling play against sub .500 teams.

I think Denver has underperformed all season defensively and if they can change that in time for the playoffs, they’ll be able to make another playoff run.

#5 Houston Rockets

The Rockets will have a very good roster once Yao Ming gets back on the court.

Until that happens, however, and for the remainder of this season, the Rockets will be a slightly below average squad that suffers from inconsistent form due to their over-reliance on scoring + lack of quality big men once you go past Scola and Hayes + decline in defensive performance.

Houston will not make the playoffs this season.

#6 San Antonio Spurs

Manu Ginobili has been playing better lately. That will give the Spurs a good one-two punch with Duncan.

Tony Parker and Richard Jefferson continue to disappoint and the Spurs defense continues to be MIA.

They are not a threat for a title. Dangerous. Capable of beating anyone due to their quality + experience. But incapable of maintaining that performance throughout the playoffs.

#7 Oklahoma City Thunder

I’m sitting here wondering if Oklahoma will be the toughest team to beat in the West outside of the Lakers.

Their combination of defensive ability + strength in transition + Durant’s go-to scoring + mismatch potential with Green and Westbrook + good depth is a frightening package.

Oklahoma will be the single most uncomfortable team to play against come playoff time due to the first three characteristics I mentioned above.

All of this makes me wonder if I’m doing them an injustice by having them as low 7th. I thought about putting them as high as 3rd or th. Let’s just say the gap between them and the team’s directly above them is a small one.

#8 Utah Jazz

Demolition day? Will Utah blow up this team over the next two seasons?

They have plenty of flexibility and trade assets. They could take this squad in just about any direction they choose.

I look forward to seeing what decisions management makes because they are the ones that turn this team into a true contender or not. So far, management has been passive in it’s approach and it’s cost the team four seasons of potential chances at contending for a title.

Have they learned from their mistakes? I doubt it … but they might get where to want to go anyway. If aggressive in personnel changes over the summer.

Not a threat for the title. Too poor defensively. Too poor on the wings.

#9 Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies starting five continues to perform well while the bench continues to stutter.

I can’t for the life of me understand why Hasheem Thabeet was sent down to the D-League. He has been their best bench player this season. Why weaken it further?

Once Ronnie Brewer gets back on the court, this team will be ready to take off and finish the season strongly.

#10 Phoenix Suns

Making up the numbers …

Teetering along playing solid-to-good basketball with no hope for the present or the future.

I would hate to be a Suns fan right now. This team would drive me nuts. The lack of hope for the present and for the future would kill me.

#11 Los Angeles Clippers

No Camby. No adequate starting small forward. A decent but uninspiring bench who’s two best players are likely to leave the club in the summer. Short term, these flaws hurt the Clippers substantially.

Long term, it doesn’t matter a damn. They managed to keep Baron + Kaman + Griffin + Gordon and have enough cap space to add a maximum contract player. That foundation offers great hope for the Clippers in the summer.

#12 New Orleans Hornets

Darren Collison is a good player. Hopefully the Hornets will be able to trade him and fill another position.

A couple of their bad contracts (Peja, Mo Pete) will become expiring contracts at the end of the season. New Orleans will have opportunities to upgrade their roster once this season ends.

#13 Sacramento Kings

I like Carl Landry a great deal but I’m not sure he has much of an impact in Sacramento in the immediate future. Down the road, though, they’ll be very happy to have him.

It will be very interesting to watch Tyreke Evans over the close of the season and monitor how successful he is when two big men are on the court alongside him reducing the team’s ability to space the floor optimally for him.

#14 Golden State Warriors

Indecision is destroying this team’s chances of having a bright future.

It’s right there. They just need to grab it.

Their management sorely needs to give this club some direction.

#15 Minnesota Timberwolves

It would be nice to see Al Jefferson get some help one of these years.


Western Conference Landscape

  • Two elite teams – Lakers and Blazers
  • Six very good teams –  Mavs, Nuggets, Thunder, Spurs, Rockets and Jazz (?)
  • One good teams — Suns
  • Three mediocre team – Grizzlies, Clippers and Hornets
  • Two poor teams — Warriors and Kings
  • One very poor team — Wolves
  • Two teams decimated by injuries — Rockets + Portland — so only one elite team + five very good teams for the remainder of this season.

Eastern Conference Landscape

  • Three elite teams – Celtics, Cavs and Magic
  • One very good team — Hawks
  • Three solid teamsBobcats, Sixers and Pistons — Pistons and Sixers here for talent rather than performance. Deserve to be in poor-to-decent categories respectively based on performance.
  • Four decent-to-mediocre teams Bucks, Raptors (?), Heat and Bulls
  • Two poor-to-decent teams – Pacers, Knicks
  • Two very poor teams – Nets and Wizards

Power Rankings Archive

2008/09 Season

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