Blakely's NBA Power Rankings: Chasing the Warriors
Blakely's NBA Power Rankings
BOSTON — The NBA trade deadline is less than two months away, with teams already stocking up on talent to make what they hope will be a deep postseason run.
Certainly the biggest deal to date involved the Boston Celtics sending Rajon Rondo to Dallas in exchange for a pair of draft picks along with three rotation-ready players in Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson and Jae Crowder.
Christmas came a bit late for the Houston Rockets in landing ex-Detroit forward Josh Smith literally for pennies on the dollar.
After Detroit waived him while eating the $26 million he's still owed, the Rockets add him for the veteran's minimum to a roster that even before his arrival was among the better clubs in the league.
There will continue to be deals made as teams look at ways to bolster their roster, while others become more resigned to the fact that they'll be back in the lottery in hopes of striking gold on draft night.
Here's a look at this week's power rankings:
BACK OF THE PACK
30. Minnesota (Record: 5-24. Last week 28) - If they land the top pick, the Timberpups will have the No. 1 overall pick from three straight drafts.
29. Philadelphia (Record: 4-25. Last week 29) - They're becoming more competitive, but are still years away from being relevant beyond a punch line for bad basketball.
28. New York (Record: 5-28. Last week 27) - Currently on an eight-game losing streak, the longest current skid in the Eastern Conference.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (Record: 9-22. Last week 26) - With (8-20) or without (1-2) Kobe Bryant this year, the Lakers are firmly entrenched as one of the league's worst teams.
26. Detroit (Record: 7-23. Last week 30) - So far, addition (team chemistry) by subtraction (Josh Smith) has worked out well for the Pistons.
25. Utah (Record: 10-21. Last week 23) - Streaky team, need to shore up interior defense which allows 47.4 points in the paint which is the second-worst average in the NBA.
TRAILING THE PACK
24. Charlotte (Record: 10-22. Last week 24) - Hornets still open to takes for Lance Stephenson and his team-friendly two-year, $18 million contract.
23. Denver (Record: 13-18. Last week 19) - Too many early holes are killing the Nuggets, giving up the second-highest amount of points (27) per game in the first quarter.
22. Sacramento (Record: 13-18. Last week 22) - Cousins has 16 double-doubles this season, and 12 in the last 13 games he has played.
21. Indiana (Record: 11-21. Last week 21) - David West lost his cool when Kevin Garnett was blowing into his ear. He should really get upset about the Pacers' woeful offense this season.
20. Boston (Record: 10-18. Last week 18) - You can add a lack of physicality to the growing list of problems facing the Celtics these days.
19. Miami (Record: 14-18. Last week 16) - Rough times on the horizon for Miami with eight of the next 10 games on the road.
MIDDLE OF THE PACK
18. Orlando (Record: 13-21. Last week 25) - Winners in three of last four games, fueled by defense that has limited opponents to 36.5 points in the paint per game during that span.
17. New Orleans (Record: 15-15. Last week 14) - Still hovering around .500, record should be better considering the amount of talent on this roster.
16. Brooklyn (Record: 14-16. Last week 20) - Kevin Garnett catching lob dunk. That's surprising. The Nets winning four of last five, all against teams with a losing record? No shocker, there.
15. Oklahoma City (Record: 15-17. Last week 17) - Nobody said this climb up would be easy for the Thunder who are three games behind Phoenix for the eighth and final playoff slot.
14. Milwaukee (Record: 16-16. Last week 13) - Bench has been strong defensively, evident by them giving up a league-low 23 points per game in the second quarter.
13. Cleveland (Record: 18-12. Last week 10) - Defense remains the greatest concern with Cleveland which lost 103-80 to a Detroit team that had a franchise-record 17 made 3-pointers.
RUNNING WITH THE PACK
12. San Antonio (Record: 19-13. Last week 12) - Look for the Spurs to make a move at the trade deadline.
11. Phoenix (Record: 18-14. Last week 15) - Eric Bledsoe is averaging 18.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.5 assists during Suns' six-game winning streak.
10. Los Angeles Clippers (Record: 21-11. Last week 9) - Nine-game homestand got off to a good start with 100-86 win over Golden State.
9. Chicago (Record: 22-9. Last week 11) - Transition defense has helped fuel seven-game winning streak, limiting opponents to 9.6 fast-break points - fourth-best mark in that span.
8. Dallas (Record: 22-10. Last week 8) - The Rajon Rondo reunion tour starts with Washington (former teammate Paul Pierce) and continues back to Boston which traded him to Dallas on Dec. 18.
7. Memphis (Record: 22-8. Last week 6) - Rarely do they beat themselves, Grizzlies' 12.2 turnovers per game is the third-lowest mark in the league.
RUNNING WITH THE PACK
6. Washington (Record: 22-8. Last week 7) - Truth time for the Wizards with road games at Dallas, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and New Orleans.
5. Houston (Record: 21-9. Last week 2) - The addition of Josh Smith makes the Rockets deeper. But are they really better now than before?
4. Portland (Record: 25-7. Last week 3) - Talk about balance. Blazers have the sixth-highest scoring average (104 points per game) and third-best scoring defense (96.5 points allowed).
3. Atlanta (Record: 22-8. Last week 4) - December was good for the Hawks, winners in 13 of their 15 games month with one remaining.
2. Toronto (Record: 24-7. Last week 5) - The Raptors remain an explosive team offensively, second in the league in scoring with a 108.5 points per game scoring average.
1. Golden State (Record: 24-5. Last week 1) - They continue to be the team everyone is chasing, blending great shooting, solid defense and focus into a winning formula.