Blakely's NBA Power Rankings: Warriors stay on top
BLAKELY'S NBA POWER RANKINGS: DEC. 23, 2014
ORLANDO, Fla. — It's that time of year when everyone seems to be in a charitable, giving mood - especially the teams at the bottom of the NBA standings.
Philadelphia has led the way in being bad, with the Detroit Pistons closing in quickly. Minnesota has youth and lots of injuries which have sabotaged any hopes they had of being a surprise team out West.
But it brings them all just that much closer to having one of the top picks in the upcoming draft.
However, there are far more teams who see the path to an NBA title this season more wide open than usual.
That's why the Dallas Mavericks didn't hesitate in giving up a first-round pick to Boston for Rajon Rondo.
It remains to be seen how it'll play out for them this season, but one thing we do know . . .
The latest power rankings are ready to roll!
BACK OF THE PACK
30. Detroit (Record: 5-23. Last week 28) - Eating Josh Smith's contract with $26 million remaining shows just how badly they wanted him out of town.
29. Philadelphia (Record: 3-23. Last week 30) - Sixers becoming more competitive, years away from being relevant.
28. Minnesota (Record: 5-21. Last week 29) - Lost in the struggles by the Timberpups has been the play of Shabazz Muhammad.
27. New York (Record: 5-25. Last week 25) - If the Knicks continue to struggle, look for Carmelo Anthony (knee) to shut it down soon.
26. Los Angeles Lakers (Record: 8-19. Last week 26) - This team can't stop anybody from scoring, evident by them giving up a league-high 109.2 points per game.
25. Orlando (Record: 10-20. Last week 22) - Magic have been at their worst to start the second half of games, averaging just 21.7 points in the third quarter which ranks 29th in the NBA.
TRAILING THE PACK
24. Charlotte (Record: 9-19. Last week 24) - Takers will be few and far between for Lance Stephenson, even with a team-friendly contract.
23. Utah (Record: 9-20. Last week 27) - Jazz are playing some of their best basketball, wins in three of the last four games.
22. Sacramento (Record: 12-16. Last week 17) - Losers in six of their last seven games, a season that began with such promise is fading quickly.
21. Indiana (Record: 9-19. Last week 23) - Have remained competitive because of their defense which is ranked No. 3 in the league while giving up 96.5 points per game.
20. Brooklyn (Record: 11-15. Last week 21) - Injuries. Father Time. And we're not just talking about Kevin Garnett, either.
19. Denver (Record: 12-16. Last week 18) - Put-backs is what the Nuggets excel at, averaging 12.6 offensive rebounds per game which is the second-best mark in the NBA.
MIDDLE OF THE PACK
18. Boston (Record: 10-15. Last week 20) - The Marcus Smart reign is near, but not quite there just yet.
17. Oklahoma City (Record: 13-15. Last week 11) - Challenging stretch coming up with three of next four against Portland, San Antonio and Dallas.
16. Miami (Record: 13-15. Last week 19) - Big win on Sunday over Celtics which snapped a five-game losing skid at home.
15. Phoenix (Record: 15-14. Last week 15) - Three game winning streak has brought the Suns within a virtual tie for the eighth and final playoff spot with New Orleans.
14. New Orleans (Record: 14-13. Last week 16) - Tyreke Evans (16.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game) has quietly gone about having a solid season for the Pelicans.
13. Milwaukee (14-14. Last week 13) - Look for Khris Middleton to help ease the loss of Jabari Parker to a season-ending torn ACL injury.
RUNNING WITH THE PACK
12. San Antonio (Record: 18-11. Last week 5) - Losses in four of last five games, the Spurs are doing what they do every year. Lull you into a false sense that they're done. #dontbelievethatfolks
11. Chicago (Record: 18-9. Last week 13) - Winning at Memphis and at home against Toronto should provide a huge confidence boost for the Bulls.
10. Cleveland (Record: 16-10. Last week 12) - Sweet part of the schedule coming up with the Cavs' next four games against teams that each have a sub-.500 record.
9. Los Angeles Clippers (Record: 19-9. Last week 7) - Will learn a lot about where they are with upcoming games against Atlanta, Golden State and Toronto.
8. Dallas (Record: 20-9. Last week 10) - Rajon Rondo makes the Mavs a lot better offensively, but they'll soon find out he's no longer an elite defender on the perimeter.
7. Washington (Record: 19-7. Last week 3) - Won six of last seven, have shot 48.7 percent from the field during that span which is the second-best mark in the NBA.
LEADERS OF THE PACK
6. Memphis (Record: 21-7. Last week 2) - Three straight losses highlight the biggest concern with the Grizzlies - scoring.
5. Toronto (Record 22-7. Last week 6) - Great scoring balance throughout games, ranking no worst than fifth in the league in points scored in any of the four quarters of play.
4. Atlanta (Record: 20-7. Last week 9) - Considered a playoff bubble team at the start of the season, Hawks are legit contenders for the top spot in the East. Crazy, huh?
3. Portland (Record: 22-7. Last week 8) - They're 5-2 in games decided by five or less, and give up the second-fewest points (23) in the fourth quarter.
2. Houston (Record: 20-7. Last week 4) - If they're serious about winning a title, their reported interest in Josh Smith better be a smoke screen.
1. Golden State (Record: 23-3. Last week 1) - Warriors showing no signs of letting up as the team everyone's chasing.