NBA Power Rankings (February 24-March 9)
(All stats through Saturday’s games)
(Last week’s rank and change are in parentheses; “NC” means there was no change in rank)
1. Indiana Pacers (2, +1): After falling out of the No. 1 spot in last week’s rankings, the Pacers have risen back to the top! The team traded for the Sixers’ Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen – getting rid of dead weight Danny Granger – making the NBA’s deepest team that much deeper.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (1, -1): Russell Westbrook is finally back! But the Thunder are 0-2 since his return. Uh-oh. As long as Westbrook remains healthy, he and Kevin Durant should get their mojo back in time for the playoffs. This team is too good not to.
3. Miami Heat (4, +1): The Heat are on a roll, winners of five in a row and eight of their last 10. LeBron James broke his nose in Thursday’s contest with the Thunder, but the Heat still managed to beat the Bulls on Sunday, holding them to 79 points on 35.8 percent shooting.
4. San Antonio Spurs (3, -1): I tell you, that Gregg Popovich has some sort of magic spell in his playbook. No matter who gets hurt for the Spurs, the team just keeps on winning. Kawhi Leonard is set to make his return in the next few games, but they’ll need Tony Parker healthy if they are going to have any shot at returning to the NBA Finals. Parker has missed four straight games with various nagging injuries.
5. Houston Rockets (7, +2): It may have taken a little bit, but the Rockets – and Dwight Howard – have finally taken off. Despite losing to the Warriors on Thursday, Houston is arguably the hottest team in the league, winning 11 of their last 14 games. During that streak, Howard is averaging 21.0 points (58.2 FG%), 13.0 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 2.1 blocks per game. He’s even hit one 3-pointer. When the Rockets are clicking, their offense is unstoppable.
6. Los Angeles Clippers (5, -1): Chris Paul finally made his long-awaited return from a separated shoulder that cost him 18 games. The Clippers got another scare when he sprained his thumb in Friday’s game vs. Memphis, but everything looks hunky dory. Paul dropped 18 points, 12 assists, and eight rebounds in the Clips’ win over OKC on Sunday.
7. Phoenix Suns (9, +2): Eric Bledsoe has now missed 23 games for Phoenix since undergoing surgery to repair his meniscus, but the Suns have managed to stay afloat, going 13-10 in that span. The 24-year-old point guard has been playing in 1-on-1 drills and is expected to begin practicing with the team next week. Look out for the Suns when he does!
8. Portland Trail Blazers (6, -2): Depth was a major issue for the Blazers last season and they improved on that significantly over the off-season, but that flaw is again rearing its head in Portland. LaMarcus Aldridge is suffering from a groin injury that has kept him out for the past three games, and he is expected to miss at least a couple more. Groins can be a touch-and-go thing and the last thing the Blazers want to do it jeopardize their playoff aspirations by aggravating it further. Portland is the fifth seed in the West, but hold a comfortable 2.5 game lead over the sixth-seed Suns and Mavericks.
9. Golden State Warriors (10, +1): After a rough patch, the Warriors are starting to get it together again. They’ve won seven of 10 and are doing so without their big man in the middle, Andrew Bogut. Draymond Green and Jermaine O’Neal (23 points, 13 rebounds on Saturday) have filled in admirably.
10. Dallas Mavericks (11, +1): The Mavs have won eight out of 10 and are on a role offensively, averaging 105.9 points per game over that span. Shawn Marion has scored 16.0 points over his last two games after averaging 7.1 over his previous 10.