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The Hoop Doctors

NBA Power Rankings: All Star Weekend Edition

The Hoop Doctors NBA Power Rankings

February 24, 2012 – Chip Patterson (Twitter – @cnpatterson3)

**For a week by week list of all our NBA Power Rankings this season, please visit this page.

NBA Power Rankings

1

Cleveland Cavaliers

Miami Heat (26-7)

When Miami runs the floor, there is no better team in the NBA. LeBron looks as sharp and comfortable as he’s been since his days in Cleveland, and arguably is a frontrunner for MVP at the All Star Break.  Tied for the best record in the league heading into Thursday’s showdown with the Knicks, Miami is looking as dangerous now as they have since the alignment of the three stars in South Beach.

2

Phoenix Suns

Oklahoma City Thunder (26-7)

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are playing better in tandem than arguably any duo in the league – only LeBron and D-Wade can compete in the argument.  The best record in the West is no fluke, and like the Heat, the Thunder are damn near impossible to stop when they are running in the open floor.

3

Phoenix Suns

Chicago Bulls (27-8)

Despite missing Luol Deng for a while, and reigning MVP Derrick Rose for a short stint; the Bulls are just one game one game away from the best record in the NBA.  The Bulls have all the weapons to challenge the Heat for the top spot in the East, and the injury bug appears to be the only obstacle between now and the playoffs.

4

Phoenix Suns

San Antonio Spurs (23-10)

The lockout was supposed to hurt older teams like the Spurs, but San Antonio has another system-specific roster playing perfectly together heading into the All Star Break.  Gregg Popovich is as good as any coach in the game at limiting his stars minutes to keep them healthy, and his team responds with inspired play from the bench and fresh legs for the vets.

5

Phoenix Suns

Dallas Mavericks (21-13)

It took some time to get on the same page (or in shape), but the Mavericks have moved back into contention as Western Conference contenders.  When healthy, the Mavericks proved they still one of the most dangerous teams in the conference by winning seven of nine games in a very tough stretch.  Any worries about Dirk have been curbed as well, with the Finals MVP averaging 24.9 points in his last ten games.

6

Dallas Mavericks

Los Angeles Clippers (20-11)

The Clippers still have plenty of defensive concerns, but instead of nitpicking let us revel at this organization having a division-leading team heading into the All Star break.  Chris Paul’s competitive fire rubs on the entire team late in games, helping the LA firm up a fourth quarter effort and execution.

7

Jazz

Orlando Magic (22-12)

The drama of Dwight Howard has been calmed, as the organization and city prepare to host the All Star festivities this weekend.  One thing that has helped calm the drama has been winning, with Orlando posting a 10-3 record in Februrary.  The defense has been strong as ever, while the offense continues to be carried by Howard and Ryan Anderson.

8

Orlando Magic

Los Angeles Lakers (20-13)

Pau Gasol’s improved play has both given the Lakers’ front office leverage to trade him and more reasons to keep him.  The Lakers have shown in the recent push that they may in fact have one more title run in them with this group.  But in the hyper-competitive West, the decision to trade or keep Gasol will likely end up being the difference.

9

Orlando Magic

Indiana Pacers (21-12)

The Pacers hot start was cooled briefly during a five-game slide, but a cushy schedule sends them into the All Star break on a four game winning streak.  This weekend will be a big one for center Roy Hibbert, earning his first career All Star nod thanks to a much-improved 2011-2012 season thus far.

10

Pistons

Houston Rockets (20-14)

Three quality wins over Utah, Memphis, and Philadelphia have the Rockets surging heading into the All Star Break.  Point guard Kyle Lowry continues to show NBA coaches what they missed by snubbing him from the All Star team, with 19.4 points and 7.6 assists over his last five games.  Lowry is the key to Houston’s success, and will need to continue that high level of play after the long weekend.

11

Sacramento Kings

Philadelphia 76ers (20-14)

The league’s best defensive team enters the All Star Break on a frightening five-game slide – their worst streak of the season.  The offense has struggled in the stretch, averaging just 83.2 points per game in the five losses.  Once at the top of the Eastern Conference standings, the Sixers are slowly being left in the dust by Miami and Chicago.

12

Warriors

Memphis Grizzlies (19-15)

A much improved week has but the Grizzlies back over .500, and keeps them relevant in the heated Soutwest Division.  Zach Randolph’s absence continues to be felt as the Grizzlies miss the consistency of Z-Bo’s presence down low.  But as long as the scoring is spread and the team is moving the ball, there are enough threats on the floor to create mismatches for most opponents.

13

New Jersey Nets

New York Knicks (17-17)

With the addition of J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony back in the lineup, the Knicks have begun to take the shape of a team ready to make a push in the East.  The question is how long can they keep up the excitement, and how high can they finish after the dismal start to the season?

14

Jazz

Portland Trailblazers

After a hot start, the Trailblazers have mediocre as of late.  They enter the All Star break with a 6-7 record in February, including a couple of embarrassing losses to Washington and Atlanta.  The Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton point guard switch helped both of their play for a night, but Nate McMillan might have to settle on a starter after the break.

15

Denver Nuggets

Atlanta Hawks (19-14)

There has been a huge offensive drop-off for the Hawks, who have been struggling all month.  Adding Joe Johnson to the injury list recently has not helped, and Atlanta enters the All Star Break with a 3-8 record in February.  As long as they stay North of .500 they should hold on to their playoff status, but things are not trending upwards for Larry Drew and Co.

16

Heat

Minnesota Timberwolves (17-17)

Thanks to wins in four of their last five games and a game-winner from Luke Ridnour, the Timberwolves enter the All Star break with a .500 record.  Ricky Rubio has been dazzling as ever, and even in off-nights Kevin Love puts up a double-double.  Both rising stars will be on display this weekend, the cornerstones of this new era in Minnesota.

17

Houston Rockets

Denver Nuggets (18-16)

Injuries have taken a lot of the momentum out of Denver’s hot start, and now the Nuggets find themselves right in the thick of the Western Conference standings.  The defense has suffered, and no longer forcing turnovers has slowed the wide-open game that benefited Denver early in the season.  The All Star break is welcome for a team who has only won 4 of their last 15, but reality sets in with Portland, Houston, and San Antonio after the weekend.

18

Heat

Boston Celtics (15-17)

The Celtics are sliding, having dropped seven of their last eight and five in a row.  The Big 3/Big 4 Boston era is not used to entering the All Star Break under .500, so we will see if this serves as a wake up call.  Instead of resting their stars to prepare for the playoffs, Doc Rivers is likely going to need everything he can get just to get them there.

19

New Jersey Nets

Utah Jazz (15-17)

The Jazz have a solid and reliable front line in Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, while the guard play with Devin Harris and Earl Watson has been less than stellar.  The result is the sub-par 15-17 record the Jazz take into the All Star break.  Some believe this team is one move away from playoff contention, but will they try to make a trade before the deadline?

20

Philadelphia 76ers

Golden State Warriors (13-17)

Heading into the All Star Break, head coach Mark Jackson’s promise of a playoff appearance does not look hopeful for Golden State.  Despite plenty of inspiring performances to hang their hat on, the Warriors are three games out of 8th place in the conference with plenty of competition.  It will take several road upsets and a late streak of good health to keep the Warriors in the playoff conversation this spring.

21

Pacers

Cleveland Cavaliers (13-18)

With Tristan Thompson back in the lineup alongside Kyrie Irving, Cavs fans can see the future of the franchise playing together once again.  Even at 13-18, Cleveland currently sits a few wins away from a playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.

22

Heat

Phoenix Suns (14-20)

The Suns lack depth and experience in comparison to most of their Western Conference foes, and that shows with the team’s inability to come back and/or close out in the fourth quarter.  Phoenix is competitive almost on a nightly basis, but the effort on the floor is not reflected in the standings.

23

Pacers

Milwaukee Bucks (13-20)

From Andrew Bogut’s injury to Stephen Jackson’s poor shooting, the Bucks have not had the kind of start they were hoping for heading into the shortened season.  However, just like their division rivals in Cleveland, the weakened Eastern Conference still keeps them alive to make a playoff push after the All Star Break.

24

Philadelphia 76ers

Sacramento Kings (11-22)

A shootout win over Washington on Wednesday night put an end to the six-game losing streak, but the Kings are still lacking the execution to match their high-powered offensive threats.  Lots of scorers, and very little organization make it tough to survive out West.  Sacramento is liable to shock anyone on a given night, but still lack the discipline and experience to hang with the big boys night in and night out.

25

Bucks

Detroit Pistons (11-24)

Brandon Knight has looked better as the season progresses, and Greg Monroe continues to carve out his niche as a solid big man in the league.  Despite still sitting last in the Central Division, the Pistons are 7-5 in Feburary.  If they can continue to steal quality wins (like two against Boston in a week) they might be able to make a push for a 7 or 8 seed.

26

Grizzlies

New Jersey Nets (10-25)

Deron Williams has been on a tear, averaging 29.0 points, 6.4 assists, and shooting 48.8% from deep in his last five games.  He’s healthy, and now the Nets are getting Brook Lopez worked back into the lineup.  It’s likely too late to make a push in a very tough division, but the Nets have pulled together enough convincing wins to possibly seem attractive to a free agent.

27

Boston Celtics

New Orleans Hornets (8-25)

For a team we left for dead two weeks ago, the Hornets have shown tremendous life since their eight game losing streak.  New Orleans has won four of their last six, including victories over New York and Utah, and have benefited from improved performance on the defensive side of the ball.

28

Philadelphia 76ers

Toronto Raptors (10-23)

The defense has been wildly inconsistent recently, but Dwayne Casey is still working to change the culture in Toronto.  As DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis continue to develop into NBA mainstays, there will be some growing pains.  Being the team to end Charlotte’s 16-game losing streak will be one of those pains.

29

Los Angeles Clippers

Washington Wizards (7-26)

John Wall seems to have played his way out of a funk, and is starting to look more and more like the Rookie of the Year that won the District’s heart a year ago.  The season may be out of hand, but this young team – with plenty of potential – can use the second half of the season to build towards eventually returning to the playoffs.

30

Los Angeles Clippers

Charlotte Bobcats (4-28)

The Bobcats welcome the All Star Break with open arms.  It should provide a chance for the team to take a breath and look for the positives left to be gained in 2012.  Rookie Kemba Walker has shown glimpses of high potential, and hopefully will not be discouraged by the overwhelming collection of losses.

Chip Patterson writes for CBSSports.com’s Eye on College Football and contributes at TheHoopDoctors.com.

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