Happy Holidays to all plus NBA Power Rankings

Posted: 01/01/2013 by levcohen in Basketball
Tags:

Just wanted to wish everyone a happy New Year from Sportslines. This is the one year anniversary of the blog, and in that time span we’ve published 200 posts (and have countless of unfinished drafts). You can always find our archives on the left side of the home page, near the bottom. Also, over the next few days we are going to do a lot of NFL wrap up stuff, including our second annual review of every team in the league, going by divisions (you can see last year’s in the January Archives on the second page). We’ll also be going deep into the NFL playoffs. For now though, I’m going to do a limited top 5 version of the power rankings, because, frankly, I don’t feel like writing on New Years Day.

1. Los Angeles Clippers (25-6): Duh! The team on a 17 game winning streak is the #1 team on this power rankings list. This team has been spectacular, and perhaps too much so, according to an anonymous front office or coaching source who said that blowing so many teams out is a disadvantage, as they don’t get the advantage of playing out close games. In my opinion, they should just keep doing what they are doing. After a perfect December, the Clippers have certainly passed the eye test. 13 wins of their last 17 have come by double digits. I’ve watched the Clippers, and it’s amazing how deep this team is. From top tier players such as Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to bench players like top 6th man of the year candidate Jamal Crawford, Eric Bledsoe and and Matt Barnes, it’s amazing how many players this team has had preforming at an incredibly high level. With the team clicking on all cylinders, it’s easy to forget that two top bench players (really, they need two more?) are hurt. Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill were supposed to be top contributors off the bench, and now, with both aging former stars injured, they are forgotten.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder (24-6): The Clips and Thunders are the clear top 2 teams in the NBA right now, and I could see myself flip-flopping between the two in the upcoming weeks. The Clippers are on the flashy winning streak, and the Thunder traded James Harden in the offseason, so Oklahoma City has been flying on the radar. Half a game behind LA, OKC runs a high octane offense while seamlessly transitioning to defense. The key to their tremendous success is the ability of their top players to get to the free throw line. It is pretty difficult to lose when players such as Kevin Durant, Kevin Martin and Russell Westbrook, all great free throw shooters, get to the line 20 times per game, more so than an entire team like my own, the 76ers, usually get, and make 17 of them. Heck, even big man Serge “Iblocka” Ibaka is hitting 82% of his free throws.

3. San Antonio Spurs (25-8): The Spurs are the third straight team from the Western Conference. While many would argue that a flashy team such as the Miami Heat or New York Knicks should be next, I think the Spurs have looked much better. I point to their last win, over the Brooklyn Nets, for proof. San Antonio cruised to a 31 point win against a supposedly playoff team in the Nets, but the eye opening part of the game was the third quarter. In that period, the Spurs obliterated the Nets 30-5. They held Nets not named Deron Williams to zero points in the third, but even D-Will went 2 of 6 with a few turnovers in the horrible quarter for Brooklyn. The defense played by San Antonio was just incredible. I couldn’t imagine that an offense could look so bad, or a defense so good, in an NBA game. For football junkies, they looked like the basketball version of the ’85 Bears. The Spurs didn’t play the Clippers or Thunder or Heat or Knicks that game, but that night (and recently, as they’ve won 4 out of their last 5 by 20+), they could have beaten any team in the league.

4. Memphis Grizzlies (19-9): Memphis is a very good basketball team. While they are definitely a step behind the top 3, they haven’t fallen much since their stupendous start. The twin towers of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph couldn’t be more different, but they work well together. Gasol is a finesse player, a good shooter and passer who can play a little defense. Randolph is a banger, averaging 13 rebounds and scoring a lot of tough points. It would be nice if they got some of their younger players going, such as Tony Wroten. I liked Wroten going into the draft, thinking he was an explosive player, but he hasn’t gotten much of a chance, with eight minutes played on the season. Still, when Conley is distributing the ball and hitting his threes, Allen is hounding the opposing teams’ best player, Gay is creating his shot and getting to the line, and the twin towers are doing what they do, the team looks great.

5. Miami Heat (21-8): I hate the Heat, but at some point I have to stop. Honestly, I could see them losing to almost any team on any given night, because something they are on snooze. According to teamrankings.com they have had the 8th toughest strength of schedule, and they have been solid but not great against teams I consider are of top 10 material, with a 7-5 record against those teams. The big 3 is the big 3. LeBron James has been the best player in the league again (sorry KD, I really want to say it’s you), but the Heat really haven’t been that good this year. It’s a testament to our expectations of Miami that, even with their “poor” start, they are ranked in my top 5, and, quite honestly, I don’t like them very much, although I try to keep all biases out (you would’ve seen that if I did a whole power rankings. I’d have my own Sixers in the bottom 8).

In the mix:
Knicks, Warriors, Nuggets

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