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The Hoop Doctors

NBA Power Rankings: Week 7

The Hoop Doctors NBA Power Rankings

February 8, 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

Chicago Bulls (21-6)

Just as Luol Deng is making his way back into the lineup, reigning MVP Derrick Rose leaves the game with back spasms.  But despite a frequently occupied injury report, the Bulls still have the best record in the league.  The current 9-game road trip will come to a close this weekend in Boston, then the ailing Bulls will be treated to a 2 week homestand that lasts through the All Star break.

2

Cleveland Cavaliers

Miami Heat (19-6)

One of the lesser-covered aspects to Miami’s strong run of late (11 wins in their last 13 games) has been the improved shooting and play of point guard Mario Chalmers.  Chalmers has been one of the best three-point shooters in the league this season, providing balance and a secondary scoring option if James, Bosh, or Wade are having an off night.

3

Phoenix Suns

Oklahoma City Thunder (20-5)

One of the true tests of an elite team is their ability to win tough road games when tested.  The Thunder not only have the best road record in the league (11-4), but have displayed a new toughness this week in back-to-back wins at Portland in overtime and at Golden State.  The turnovers are still concerning, but the young Thunder are growing up fast

4

Portland Trailblazers

Philadelphia 76ers (18-7)

The Sixers bounced back from an embarrassing 20-point home loss to Miami with wins over Atlanta and Los Angeles to move into a battle for second place in the East with the Heat.  The wear and tear of the season has not affected Philadelphia’s stifling defense, which has yet to allow an opponent to score 100 points in regulation since the season opener.

5

Phoenix Suns

San Antonio Spurs (17-9)

The Spurs’ defense is finally starting to look like the Popovich teams of old after receiving a call-out from their head coach.  In the last eight games, San Antonio has allowed more than 100 points only once (101-100 overtime loss at Dallas) and rolled off five wins in a row.  With more vintage Tim Duncan performances and Tony Parker lighting up the Thunder for 42 points, the Spurs have surged to third in the West.

6

Dallas Mavericks

Los Angeles Clippers (15-7)

If Chauncey Billups‘ achilles ends up being a season-ending injury, expect the Clippers to try and make a transaction to firm up their backcourt depth before the trade deadline.  The answer could be former Nuggets guard J.R. Smith, making his way back to the mainland after his stint in China.  With the best record in the Pacific, the Clippers will need someone to step up to avoid the predictable late season push from their Staples’ Center roommates.

7

Jazz

Indiana Pacers (17-7)

The Pacers’ defense has continued to be among the best in the league (allowing 98.7 points per 100 possessions), and now the offense has started to click recently as well.  Indiana has only scored 100+ points five times this season, but they are 5-0 when they do.  With four of those performances in the last two weeks, the Pacers are aiming to compete with Chicago and Philadelphia at the top of the East.

8

Houston Rockets

Denver Nuggets (15-10)

One of the aspects of the Nuggets that have made them so successful in this lockout-shortened season has been their depth.  It should come as no surprise, then, that the vicious bite from the injury bug has resulted in a three-game skid.  With four starters injured and Corey Brewer away from the team mourning the passing of his father, head coach George Karl will rely heavily on the remaining roster to carry the weight for at least another week.

9

Orlando Magic

Los Angeles Lakers (14-11)

Kobe passing Shaq on the on the all-time scoring list in his hometown was a bittersweet experience, considering it came on a night that included the second straight loss in three days for the Lakers.  The Lakers still have the best player in the game, but unfortunately the whole team is as unpredictable as Mike Brown right now.  Capable of knocking off the best or playing to the level of their competition.

10

Jazz

Portland Trail Blazers (14-11)

As good as the Blazers have looked this year, they continue to struggle offensively in close games down the stretch.  Despite being a Top 10 team in most statistical categories, Portland is just 1-8 in games decided by five points or less.  They are likely a playoff team, but will need to improve late-game execution if they plan on making a run.

11

Sacramento Kings

Boston Celtics (14-10)

The schedule has been a factor in Boston’s five-straight wins, but they are also getting healthier and finding their rhythm as a team.  While the Big 4 is still in tact, many of the supporting pieces on this team have changed and they appear to be gelling at the right time.  They will be tested though – with the Lakers, two games against Chicago, Dallas, and Oklahoma City on the schedule before the All Star Break.

12

Raptors

Orlando Magic (15-10)

Things have calmed down since four straight losses sent Orlando’s front office in DEFCON 1, thanks to three straight wins – including a tough battle with Indiana on the road.  The Dwight Howard decision will come to head soon, though, as the All Star weekend approaches and GM’s will ready to move if Otis Smith begins to inquire.

13

Pistons

Houston Rockets (14-11)

Luis Scola bounced back in a big way from the Kevin Love stomp by dropping 25 points and 8 rebounds in a big road win against the Nuggets.  Head coach Kevin McHale has utilized his deep front line to help keep competition high for playing time, benching Dalembert and Hill reportedly for a lack of “zip.”  The separation in the Western Conference standings is negligible, and Houston cannot afford anything less than maximum production to avoid quickly slipping in the Southwest.

14

Hornets

Dallas Mavericks (14-11)

Between Jason Kidd’s lingering calf issues and Dirk publicly saying he doesn’t believe he should be an All-Star, confidence does not seem to be in high supply for the defending champs.  On top of that, three straight losses have the Mavs tied with Houston in the Southwest standings while the surging Spurs pad their division lead.  The Mavs need inspired play from glue guys like Shawn Marion and Jason Terry to get back on track heading into the All Star break.

15

Denver Nuggets

Atlanta Hawks (16-9)

The Hawks previous flaws mostly included the inability to knock off the best teams in the East, but it has always been complimented with a solid record against inferior competition.  But in the last week, the Hawks’ offense has disappeared.  Three straight home games have resulted in losses, thanks to 42.1% shooting and just 84.7 points per game in that stretch.

16

Heat

Minnesota Timberwolves (13-12)

The face-smashing Kevin Love steps away, and the rest of theTimberwolves are able to show their hunger for the spotlight.  For the first time since the Kevin Garnett era, the Timberwolves are flirting with a .500 record around the All Star Break and are in the discussion to make a playoff push in the second half of the season.

17

Oklahoma City Thunder

Utah Jazz (13-11)

Paul Millsap is deserving of an All Star nod for his strong start to the season, but his accomplishments may be overlooked if the Jazz are not able to turn around their slide.  Utah has just one win in the month of February,  and has found themselves slipping in the hyper-competitive Western Conference.

18

Heat

Phoenix Suns (11-14)

Quietly, the Suns have won four of their last five games and are starting to look more comfortable offensively in the half court.  Steve Nash, now 38 years old, is averaging 17.8 points and 10.2 assists in February and playing some of his best ball of the season.  Still, the Suns have a long way to go to bounce back from the 6-12 start.

19

New Jersey Nets

New York Knicks (10-15)

Linsanity fever has caught on in the Big Apple thanks to two star performances from the Harvard graduate Jeremy Lin.  Carmelo’s absence has forced the Knicks to look other places for scoring, and the necessity has bred invention for D’Antoni’s squad.  Now the trick will be using this newfound enthusiasm to keep the team rolling when Melo returns

20

Warriors

Memphis Grizzlies (12-13)

While life without Zach Randolph started out okay for Memphis, head coach Lionel Hollins has found a short bench to be a major disadvantage over the last two weeks.  The Grizzlies have now lost seven of their last nine games and slipped below .500 for the first time since Jan. 14.  With no definite return for Z-Bo in sight, the Grizzlies needs some bench production soon before the hole in the competitive Western Conference gets too deep to overcome.

21

Pacers

Cleveland Cavaliers (9-14)

Kyrie Irving’s clutch performances against some of the best teams in the league, along with Anderson Varejao’s consistent double-double contribution have the Cavaliers flirting with outside playoff chances.  Irving is averaging 18.0 points and 6.3 assists in February, and continues to maintain his status as Rookie of the Year frontrunner.

22

Pacers

Milwaukee Bucks (10-14)

After a couple strong performances gave Bucks’ fans hope for life without Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee finds themselves in a three game slump and suddenly sinking below .500 again.  Brandon Jennings needs to be as aggressive in the easy wins as he is against the contenders.

23

Philadelphia 76ers

Golden State Warriors (8-14)

Monta Ellis‘ career-high 48-point performance against the Thunder was not enough to elevate the Warriors to their ninth win on Tuesday, but head coach Mark Jackson was able to see the potential in Golden State’s offense.  While Ellis dominated the show in the first half with 30 points, the Warriors moved the ball well and utilized David Lee on pick and rolls to pick apart OKC’s defense.  More offense like that will bring Golden State closer to .500 and thus closer to that guaranteed playoff berth.

24

Philadelphia 76ers

Toronto Raptors (8-18)

The key to the Raptors’ success this season not surprisingly coincides with the availability of Andrea Bargnani.  Toronto is just 2-11 with Bargnani out of the lineup, and unfortunately for head coach Dwayne Casey it doesn’t sound like he will be returning anytime soon.  They will need more contributions from Jerryd Bayless and Linas Kleiza to avoid continuing the slide.

25

Grizzlies

Sacramento Kings (9-16)

Sacramento sees promise in their young lineup, particularly with head coach Keith Smart able to inspire more consistent production from Demarcus Cousins.  But promise hasn’t transitioned into made shots, with the Kings ranking dead last in shooting percentage at .406.

25

Grizzlies

New Jersey Nets (8-18)

The Nets are fading away as a team in the running to make a big move before the trade deadline, which means the chances of making the postseason are fading as well.  Deron Williams has been filling stat sheets, averaging 23.8 points and 9.3 assists in his last 10 games.  But Williams can’t bear the entire offensive load, and the Nets need more instances like Anthony Morrow’s 42-point performance against Minnesota to move up in the East.

27

Bucks

Detroit Pistons (4-14)

Another episode of “making headlines for the wrong reasons” for Detroit.  The Pistons became the first team to lose all three games in a back-to-back-to-back this season thanks to their loss at New Jersey last Wednesday.  But they have bounced back since then with back-to-back wins against Milwaukee and New Orleans, so there’s that.

28

Boston Celtics

New Orleans Hornets (4-21)

Things are hard enough on the Hornets this season in arguably one of the toughest divisions in the league, but without Eric Gordon AND Jarrett Jack in the lineup the guard play is downgraded significantly.  With losses in 15 of their last 16 games – including six straight – Hornets fans can begin eyeing the top college talent with hopes of landing a star for 2012-2013.

29

Los Angeles Clippers

Washington Wizards (5-20)

The Wizards have come a long way from the being the worst team in the NBA, sitting comfortably at No. 29 for another week.  The Wizards, like the lowly Bobcats, will likely benefit from a lockout-shortened season in keeping their loss total from the franchise record books.

30

Los Angeles Clippers

Charlotte Bobcats (3-22)

Seven of the losses in the Bobcats’ current 11-game skid have been by 10 points or less.  But between the lack of talent and the lack of depth due to injury, Charlotte just doesn’t have the firepower to finish strong when it counts.

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

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