Suns fall one spot in latest FOX Sports Power Rankings
FEB 05, 2014 9:29p ET
Oh hey there, NFL fans. Glad to see you've finally turned your head toward the NBA now that the Super Bowl is over. Congrats to the Seahawks (though we know Seattle isn't paying attention to the NBA anyway).
Now that you're here, let's catch you up: Half the superstars you've heard of are hurt, including Kobe Bryant twice. One of those injured superstars is Russell Westbrook, but the Thunder is still the league's hottest team because Kevin Durant is the current MVP. The Blazers were great but are now just good. Indy and Miami are the only relevant teams in the East. The Suns, Mavericks and Raptors are all nice surprises. Got it? Here's more to study:
Note: NBA rankings are updated each week before Wednesday's games.
Follow the NBA season through the lens of Jimmy Spencer on Twitter.
1 Thunder 39-11
Kevin Durant's scoring is filthier than a Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin text conversation. But that's not what has the Thunder still on top of these rankings. Oklahoma City ranks third in defensive rating at 99 points allowed per 100 possessions, behind only the Pacers and Bulls.
2 Pacers 38-10
There are two ways to look at the Andrew Bynum signing. (One) he's an apparent troublemaker who could damage the Pacers' delicate formula and he's an injury risk. But (two) he provides incredibly valuable frontcourt depth, as he averaged 8.4 points on 55.7 percent shooting and 5.3 rebounds in 20 mpg with the Cavs.
3 Rockets 32-17 +3
Houston deserves some time in the top three for the way they've been playing. Remove those back-to-back losses to Memphis, and Houston is really cruising right now. These Rockets have won six of their last eight games, or 11 of their last 14, whichever impresses you more.
4 Heat 34-13 -1
It's always odd how the best team is so often both the most popular and the most hated. The Heat have filled that role of hero/villain since LeBron James joined back in 2010. But as the two-time defending champs slip away from invincibility, might casual fans find them easier to root for? Nah. That's because no one sees them as truly having slipped yet. There can still be seen as regular-season hiccups.
5 Clippers 34-17
The Clippers stumbled last postseason when they faced the interior toughness of the Grizzlies. Now that Doc Rivers is in charge though, those types of issues were supposed to vanish. Not the case. Los Angeles allowed 17 offensive rebounds in the loss to Denver. The Clippers allow opponents to collect 12.3 offensive rebounds per game this season, third worst in the league.
6 Trail Blazers 34-14 -2
When you try to win predominantly with your offense and forget about defense, you're going to hit cold slides. That's what we're seeing right now with the Blazers. Portland has lost five of its last eight games, allowing 105.5 points and 46.9 percent shooting during that stretch. Portland ranks 22nd in the league this season with a defensive rating of 105.4 points per 100 possessions.
7 Spurs 35-13
The Spurs have hit a bit of a rough skid, but it's only a "skid" by San Antonio measures. Don't be fooled though. They're dealing with injuries that will likely disappear by spring, and you know they will be ready by the postseason. Sound familiar? This roster isn't too different than last season's team that galloped to a near title.
8 Grizzlies 26-21 +1
The Grizzlies look like themselves again since the return of Marc Gasol. Of course, it just wouldn't be right if the Grizzlies season-long story of injuries didn't include even a short chapter on Mike Conley. The star point guard will miss at least a week with a right ankle sprain. The relief here is that it looks to be only a short-term injury.
9 Suns 29-19 -1
The home loss to the Bulls hurt their spot in the rankings, but the Suns are still a top-10 team. Goran Dragic is an All-Star -- though only in our hearts. The Phoenix point guard continues to stroll through competition despite being snubbed for the All-Star Game. The consolation prize is a Western Conference Player of the Week honor this past week for leading Phoenix to a 4-0 record while averaging 26.8 points and 6.0 assists.
10 Raptors 26-22 +1
For a guy who was snubbed by coaches, Kyle Lowry certainly is doing a good impression of an All-Star point guard. Like many other elite guards this season, Lowry is the latest to suffer a knee injury. Lowry did say, however, that it "wasn't serious."
11 Mavericks 28-21 +1
This past week has been a reminder of the days when Dirk Nowitzki was a legitimate superstar. He's just two seasons removed from beating the Heat for a title, remember. Nowitzki is averaging 30.8 points on 59.7 percent shooting and 9.8 rebounds. If he keeps playing like this, Dallas certainly holds onto a playoff spot -- even if they can't play defense.
12 Warriors 29-20 -2
The Warriors have no complaints about the healthy play of Andrew Bogut this season. The center is perhaps the second most valuable player on Golden State next to Stephen Curry. But the second unit has missed a consistent big for most of the first half following the offseason departure of Carl Landry and injuries to Jermaine O'Neal and Festus Ezeli. Help is here though, as O'Neal has returned early from wrist surgery.
13 Wizards 24-23 +1
Whoever had their money on the Wizards getting above .500 at some point during Barack Obama's second term has cashed in. The Wizards are above the even mark for the first time in four years and thus for the first time in John Wall's career.
14 Hawks 25-22 +2
15 Timberwolves 24-24
If you had to bet a month's salary on whether or not the Timberwolves would crack the postseason, the smart money says no. Minnesota is just 4.0 games behind the current eight-seed Mavs, but there are too many teams between them and the postseason. The field for the bottom three spots also includes the Suns, Warriors, Mavericks, Grizzlies and Nuggets. Already behind, it's hard to imagine the Wolves will be one of the top three teams out of that group.
16 Bobcats 22-28 +5
These Bobcats are evolving, and there's no better proof than the defensive shutdown of the Warriors on Tuesday to cap a winning West Coast trip. Charlotte won three of four against the superior conference, including wins against the Nuggets, Lakers and Warriors. In those wins, Al Jefferson averaged 35 points per game.
17 Nets 21-25 -4
Joe Johnson is dealing with right knee tendinitis and may need to rest the injury here and there. Maybe he should take it easy and sit out the All-Star game. In doing so, he'd allow a much more deserving All-Star like Kyle Lowry to play.
18 Nuggets 23-23 -1
This is about the time Broncos fans would like to clear their heads of that orange fog from the Super Bowl loss and pay some attention to their Nuggets. If that's the case, Denver, please just stop reading. The news just gets worse, as Nate Robinson joins Danilo Gallinari on the list of disappointing season-ending injuries. Well, at least Randy Foye's 30-foot game winner against the Clippers was a slight lift.
19 Bulls 24-24
The Bulls won't accomplish much this season. But hey, give Joakim Noah the award for tirade of the year. It's not often you see a grown man go vulgar 2-year-old mode on refs. The cap for "F- Yous" in the NBA is usually set at just one to two, Joakim. Meanwhile, maybe this is how Carlos Boozer can get some more playing time.
20 Knicks 19-29 -2
It would be a mistake for the Knicks to try and trade Carmelo Anthony before the deadline. The Nuggets experiment worked for regular-season wins, but it's meant nothing in the postseason. To win, you need a superstar, and New York needs to hold on to the offseason hope of keeping Anthony with a greater hope of adding better, or at least different, talent around him.
21 Pelicans 20-27 -1
Anthony Davis deserved the All-Star game, even if it's tough to say who he'd replace. Davis is the guy not named LeBron or Durant who wins the, "if you could start a franchise today, what player would you want?" debate. He's been phenomenal in his sophomore season.
22 Pistons 19-28
Greg Monroe's trade value moving toward the deadline is too low. He's playing out of position and his numbers have regressed. But that's not the real Monroe, who should be seen as a top young big in the league. Instead, Detroit should stay patient with Monroe's pairing next to Andre Drummond and move pieces around him instead -- like Josh Smith, if possible.
23 Kings 16-32 +1
The return of DeMarcus Cousins also meant the return of winning. The Kings' "closest thing in many years to an All-Star" had 25 and 16 as Sacramento snapped a seven-game losing streak on Monday. However, all anyone really wants to talk about in Sacramento is the proposed downtown arena.
24 Jazz 16-32 -1
Just when it looked like the youthful Jazz were waking up a bit, two of their brightest young talents have fallen asleep. Trey Burke and Gordon Hayward are shooting a combined 27.5 percent (6.6 of 24 per game) in their last five games. Utah has lost three of those five and five of their last seven.
25 Celtics 16-33 +1
The beauty of the East is that going 2-15 in January is cause to start talking playoffs. And why not? The Celtics are only 5.5 games out and Rajon Rondo is talking about just how winnable the month of February will be. If you're a Celtics fan, you don't want your superstar captain thinking any differently.
26 76ers 15-34 +2
Evan Turner has been one of the few bright spots for the 76ers this season. He's been asked to be the man in Philly, and he's averaging 17.9 points and 6.0 rebounds. He'll be a restricted free agent this summer, however, so expect his name to be tossed around plenty before the trade deadline.
27 Cavaliers 16-32 -2
Sound that bell. The youngest of the Cavs, first overall pick and thus-far bust Anthony Bennett, scored in double digits again. Boom. That's only happened twice this season, though twice in the last four games. Of course, no one in Cleveland has been found celebrating; Bennett is averaging just 3.0 points per game.
28 Lakers 16-32 -1
The Lakers are headed to the lottery, and even a wild, super-hero return of Kobe Bryant won't be enough to change that. So you can expect to hear enough Pau Gasol trade rumors to make even TMZ or the Kardashians blush. Speaking of blushing, have you seen Steve Nash's mustache?
29 Magic 13-37
Let's talk Victor Oladipo. There were somewhat lofty expectations for Orlando's rookie, as many dubbed him the favorite to win Rookie of the Year. Though Michael Carter-Williams is still the frontrunner for the award, don't overlook Oladipo. He's averaging 15.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists in January and asserting himself as a great all-around player. He's also having his best shooting month at 43.2 percent.
30 Bucks 9-39
There's a heartbeat. Barely, even for the tanking front-runners. All wins are noteworthy for Milwaukee this season, and they've got another highlight, this time against the Knicks. Those down-on-their-luck Bucks snapped a six-game losing streak and a string of 14 losses in 15 games with the home win.