Blakely's NBA Power Rankings: Rondo gives Mavs a boost
Blakely's NBA Power Rankings
BOSTON — The halfway point of the season is just about here with teams settling into their respective positions within the NBA pecking order.
It seems like it was so long ago that the Sacramento Kings looked like a playoff team, Oklahoma City seemed destined for the NBA lottery and Memphis' Marc Gasol was leading the way for this league's MVP award.
While all those scenarios remain possible, the league has a different look about it than say, two or three weeks ago.
The Dallas Mavericks looked like a playoff team that is now in the title hunt after trading for former Boston Celtic Rajon Rondo.
And the Houston Rockets added more depth with Josh Smith, but you have to wonder why the teams he left behind - Atlanta and Detroit - have fared better after his departure?
That will serve as one of the many mysteries left to be solved as we embark on the second half of the season.
For now, here are the latest power rankings.
BACK OF THE PACK
30. New York (Record: 5-32. Last week 28) - Three-way trade with Oklahoma City and Cleveland gives them assets, disposable talent and improves their chances to land the No. 1 overall pick in June's NBA draft.
29. Minnesota (Record: 5-28. Last week 30) - They move up because the Knicks are an even bigger train wreck than the Timberpups.
28. Philadelphia (Record: 5-28. Last week 29) - Well on their way to another top-5 pick, convincing free agents this summer to come in and babysit this crew? #goodluckwiththat
27. Los Angeles Lakers (Record: 11-24. Last week 27) - Four of next five games at home so the Lakers have a chance to ... nah, who we trying to kid? They'll struggle like they've done all year, home or away.
26. Boston (Record: 11-21. Last week 20) - Glad to see Jared Sullinger call out himself and his teammates for playing "Hero Ball" which is a nice way of saying guys are playing too selfiish.
25. Charlotte (Record: 12-24. Last week 24) - Kemba Walker has been more than up to the challenge of carrying the Hornets with Al Jefferson (groin) out.
MIDDLE OF THE PACK
18. Miami (Record: 15-20. Last week 19) - Losers in four of last five games. Up next? Trip out West. #badtiming.
17. New Orleans (Record: 17-17. Last week 17) - With their length up front, their scoring defense (101 points per game) should be better than 20th in the league.
16. Brooklyn (Record: 16-18. Last week 16) - Kevin Garnett and his "strategic rest" days makes predicting what the Nets will do this season even more difficult to gauge.
15. Oklahoma City (Record: 17-18. Last week 15) - I'm in the minority, but I suspect Dion Waiters will be a good addition to this Thunder roster.
14. Cleveland (Record: 19-16. Last week 13) - LeBron James. J.R. Smith. Iman Shumpert. Yeah, that'll work ... if you're planning to squeak into the playoffs.
13. Milwaukee (Record: 18-18. Last week 14) - Larry Sanders reportedly wanting to not play anymore (multiple sources said that's not true) would be a sad chapter in this fairy tale of a season for the Bucks.
RUNNING WITH THE PACK
12. Phoenix (Record: 21-16. Last week 11) - The Suns' second quarter unit - usually backups - has had its problems this season, giving up a league-high 27.2 points in the second quarter.
11. San Antonio Spurs (Record: 21-15. Last week 12) - You get the feeling the Spurs are about to go on one of those "remember us, the champs" kind of winning streaks.
10. Los Angeles Clippers (Record: 23-12. Last week 10) - If only Doc Rivers could bottle up those halftime speeches as the Clippers average a league-best 27.9 points to start the third quarter.
9. Houston (Record 23-11. Last week 5) - Sources indicate there's already some rumblings in the Rockets locker room following addition of Josh Smith.
8. Memphis (Record: 25-9. Last week 7) - Arguably the league's most physical team, Grizzlies commit just 19.4 fouls per game which is the seventh-lowest average in the NBA.
7. Toronto (Record: 24-10. Last week 2) - Give the Raptors credit; to stay among the elite without their best scorer DeMar DeRozan for this long speaks to their quality depth.
LEADERS OF THE PACK
6. Washington (Record: 23-11. Last week 6) - Can close to gap in the East a bit with games against Atlanta and Chicago this week.
5. Dallas (Record: 26-10. Last week 8) - Mavericks have won six straight and seven of nine since acquiring Rajon Rondo from Boston.
4. Portland (Record: 27-8. Last week 4) - Damian Lillard covers 2.6 miles per game which is the second-best mark in distance traveled per game in the NBA.
3. Chicago (Record: 25-10. Last week 9) - Nobody is playing both ends of the floor as well as the Bulls are now, winners in 10 of their last 11 games.
2. Atlanta (Record: 26-8. Last week 3) - Winning at Portland and Los Angeles (Clippers) only helped cement their place as not just a good team in the East, but a potential title contender.
1. Golden State (Record: 27-5. Last week 1) - Stephen Curry can do more than just splash you with the 3-ball. His 2.2 steals per game is tied for No. 2 in the NBA, along with former Celtic Tony Allen.