Hope everyone had a nice Christmas yesterday! The Sacramento Kings are one of the major surprises of the NBA season so far and may…gulp…even contend for a playoff berth. The Jewish Jordan, Omri Casspi, and ROY front runner Tyreke Evans are two big reasons why the future is rosy for the hard luck Kings.
I’ve been ranking all 30 NBA teams on a monthly basis over at Sir Charles In Charge, but have decided to do so for the remainder of the season here at Pacman Jonesin’. Please note that the prior month’s rank is in parenthesis. Away we go…
1) Boston Celtics (1) – Both Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are hurting right now, but the Celtics just keep rolling. Kendrick Perkins has been rock solid in the middle the entire season.
2) Cleveland Cavaliers (3) – Mo Williams is heating up and the Cavs made the listless Lakers look like chumps yesterday. If GM Danny Ferry can add another piece or two, the Cavs could be the team to beat in the East.
3) Orlando Magic (2) – Still the deepest team in the league, but Stan Van Gundy’s Magic squad failed to show up yesterday against the Pierce-less Celtics.
4) Atlanta Hawks (5) – A 20-8 record is certainly stellar and the Hawks have now made it the Big 4 in the East. Although they’re athletic as any team in the league, Atlanta still needs another big body to contend with Boston, Cleveland and Orlando.
5) Miami Heat (8) – Michael Beasley has been the second banana most nights, but Dwyane Wade is still forced to carry too much of the load. Pat Riley needs to bring in a couple more players or the Heat won’t have any hope of winning a playoff series.
6) Toronto Raptors (4) - One of the biggest disappointments to date. Bryan Colangelo made a lot of changes in the off season and I expected the Raptors to win 50 games. Clearly that isn’t going to happen.
7) Washington Wizards (7) – At this point, the Wizards are on the outside of the playoffs looking in. However, there is simply too much talent on the roster to keep playing at a .370 pace. I expect Arenas, Jamison and Butler to regain their prior magic and go on a long winning streak very soon.
8) Milwaukee Bucks (13) – At the start of the season I thought the Bucks and Nets would be the worst teams in the conference. Turns out I was half right. At 12-15, the Bucks are currently a playoff team and Brandon Jennings is definitely the catalyst. Only time will tell if the Bucks can continue their winning ways, but there is no doubt that Young Money will be a force in the NBA for another fifteen years.
9) Charlotte Bobcats (12) – Gerald Wallace has been sensational, but he’ll need a lot more help during the remaining 2/3 of the season.
10) Detroit Pistons (10) – When a 2nd round draft pick named Jonas Jerebko has been one of the biggest bright spots, you know it has been a long year.
11) New York Knicks (14) – Mike D’Antoni would rather wage petty personal battles with players (e.g. Nate Robinson) than win games.
12) Chicago Bulls (6) – If Vinny Del Negro is the head coach on Valentine’s Day it will be a miracle.
13) Indiana Pacers (11) – Danny Granger can’t return soon enough for a team stuck in quicksand.
14) Philadelphia 76ers (9) – It has been a dreadful season in the City of Brotherly Love and Allen Iverson certainly won’t be saving the sinking ship.
15) New Jersey Nets (15) – Lawrence Frank or no Lawrence Frank, the Nyets are abysmal.
1) Los Angeles Lakers (1) - 23-5 is the best record in basketball, but complacency better not set in or the defending champs won’t repeat.
2) Dallas Mavericks (3) – Erick Dampier continues to be a beast and the Mavs have a very talented roster.
3) Denver Nuggets (4) – Chauncey Billups needs to be healthy for the Nuggets to have any chance of making it back to the Western Conference championship.
4) Portland Trailblazers (5) – The injuries are piling up faster than you can say, “Greg Oden looks like a 48-year old man.” However, it doesn’t matter who plays (see Grandpa Juwan Howard) as the wins keep coming.
5) San Antonio Spurs (2) - Cohesion and chemistry have been lacking as the Spurs possess a mediocre 15-11 record. Despite this slow start, Greg Popovich should have his troops ready well in advance of the playoffs five months from now.
6) Phoenix Suns (8) – After losing two straight at home, the Suns slaughtered the Clippers yesterday and continue to be one of the big early season surprises. However, Channing Frye and Amar’e Stoudemire provide very little resistance in the paint and bigger teams will always be tough to beat unless Phoenix shoots lights out from the perimeter.
7) Houston Rockets (9) – Trevor Ariza and Aaron Brooks have led the undersized Rockets to a 17-12 record and it appears as though Houston is locked into a 7th or 8th seed.
8) Utah Jazz (6) – The names and faces are the same, but Utah has really strumbled out of the gate this season. Unless a trade or two are made, Deron Williams and Co. may have a lot of free time in June.
9) Oklahoma City Thunder (11) - Things are really coming together for the Thunder as they possess a very respectable 14-14 record. Even if they come up a little short this season, Oklahoma City will be a major factor in the playoffs for the next decade in the West.
10) New Orleans Hornets (7) – Byron Scott is already gone and the Hornets are nothing more than a sub .500 team.
11) Sacramento Kings (12) – The Kings have played very well with leading scorer Kevin Martin sidelined…and they might be a better team without him. Rookie sensation Tyreke Evans and the Jewish Jordan have brought hope to a moribund franchise that has an outside chance at a playoff berth. I didn’t think this team had a prayer of winning 25 games, but there is a lot of young talent on the roster and the future looks very bright.
12) Memphis Grizzlies (13) – I was very high on the Grizzlies prior to the start of the year and they have lived up to my expectations. Zach Randolph is playing at an all-star level and Memphis will be a formidable foe for every team in the conference other than the Lakers.
13) Los Angeles Clippers (10) – While Vinny Del Negro will likely be the next coach to go, Mike Dunleavy isn’t far behind.
14) Golden State Warriors (14) – The Warriors will always be Team Turmoil until Nellie decides to call it a career.
15) Minnesota Timberwolves (15) – Al Jefferson, Kevin Love and Jonny Flynn form a nice foundation, but the rest of the roster needs a major overhaul.
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