Since the All-Star break, the NBA’s top story has been one word: Injuries. With season (possibly career) ending injuries to two superstars in Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose, their respective teams have lost major pieces. All in all, this NBA season as a whole has been unlike any other because no one has reached/maintained their superstar status and completely dominated their games. Here are our power rankings for the top ten current teams.
This list includes the top ten teams that have performed the best throughout the season as of February 21, 2015, regardless of overall record. ESPN’s power rankings were referenced for this article, but they were altered to fit the reporter’s perspective.
30. New York Knicks
The Knicks are showing the beginning stages of full rebuild mode. They sent Amar’e Stoudemire away to Dallas, and Carmelo Anthony has announced that he will sit out for the remainder of the season. The Knicks have now lost four of their once starters (J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert were dealt away to Cleveland earlier in the year) in either trade or injury, and it does not appear that this team will make any deep run in the playoffs any time soon.
29. Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers sure were active at the trade deadline. Their 2014 rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams is now a Milwaukee Buck and standout second round 2014 draft pick K.J. McDaniels is being sent to Houston. The Sixers now have a potential of four first round picks in the 2015 draft, and with all of the talent in both college and overseas, they will be able to pick from a whole lot of potential stars this year.
28. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers, like the Knicks, have a roster filled with role players. With 36 year old Kobe Bryant out with another injury (torn Rotator Cuff), it will be difficult for the Lakers to get back on their feet. Their seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft Julius Randle also made an early exit with a broken leg in his NBA debut back in October. This team will need to rely on players like Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, and Jordan Hill to even have a shot at a bright future, but for now, things are not looking up for one of the most storied franchises in all of basketbal
27. Orlando Magic
Even though Victor Oladipo showed some impressive skills in this year’s dunk contest, the Orlando Magic have not had many bright spots in what has been an overall dull season. Like most teams near the bottom of the list, Orlando has many young players with major potential to be stars in this league, but they are simply too raw to lead a team. Nikola Vucevic can be argued to be an all star snub this year, averaging just under 20 points a game and 11 rebounds. Aaron Gordon, their fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft has been pretty disappointing this year, but it all comes with experience, and the Magic are looking to build these young players to future studs and someday be atop the league.
26. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets seem to be one of those teams who struggle to get any traction this season. They have been the harsh victims of the very strong Western Conference, losing a lot more games than they have won. Denver hasn’t even been plagued with many injuries this year, but the players they rely on have not brought much to the table. Rookie coach Brian Shaw is without a doubt disappointed in the way that his team has played thus far, and needs to figure out something that works for this struggling team.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves were lucky to get two stellar rookies this year. Andrew Wiggins, the first overall pick in 2014 is well on his way to winning the rookie of the year award, averaging 15 points and 4 rebounds a game, and Zach Lavine could be one of the more exciting players to watch this season, winning the dunk contest by a landslide. As good as these rookies are, however, they do need more experience in the league to make a difference. The loss of their star player Kevin Love for Wiggins has hurt them, for they relied on Love for just about everything on the court last season. Minnesota is one explosive team, getting to the rim with their young, athletic players, and that will turn to success in years to come.
24. Utah Jazz
The Jazz have to be impressed with second year center Rudy Gobert’s performance in the Rising Stars Challenge in New York, finishing with 18 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks. Their young backcourt of Trey Burke (22) and Dante Exum (19) has major potential to be a problem in this league, just not right now. For now, The Jazz need to focus on building those raw players to their full ability, and if they stick together, Utah will be a tough team to beat.
23. Sacramento Kings
The Kings have been in an unfortunate position for years now. They haven’t been good enough to make the playoffs, and when they do get somewhat of a high draft pick, it doesnt work out so well. It may be too early to tell, but players like Ben Mclemore and Nik Stauskas have not impressed during their time with The Kings. Demarcus Cousins on the other hand, has been excellent, making the all star by replacing an injured Kobe Bryant, and being an overall strong presence in the paint. If Cousins stays with The Kings, they can build a team around him and hopefully succeed in the future.
22. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets’ players are not aging very well. Deron Williams (30) and Joe Johnson (33) used to be star players in their day, but something went awry once they both joined the nets a few years ago. Center Brook lopez is a strong presence inside, but he will need more help from other teammates if they want to win any games. It is certainly tough to figure out what the Nets’ plan is in the future, but hopefully it will work out for the best.
21. Detroit Pistons
Even though the Pistons have done significantly better even since they gave Josh Smith away to Houston, they still struggle to find any kind of grip this season. They are currently fourth in the league in rebounds(45.2 a game), but they have major trouble scoring the basketball, scoring only 98.3 a game, 21st in the league. The Pistons’ two big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe have done well this year, and their rebounding numbers are off the charts, but Detroit must focus on their offence or else the Pistons could be sitting in a bad position for the remainder of the season.
20. Miami Heat
While angry Heat fans are still complaining about their loss of four time MVP LeBron James, Miami is surprisingly not the worst team in the league at the halfway point of the regular season. Miami was expected to flail without arguably the best player in the league, but Dwyane Wade has been doing all he can to keep his team up. It has been reported that Center Chris Bosh now has blood clots in his lungs, so he will most likely miss the rest of the season, something that no heat fan wants to hear. Thankfully, Miami did pick up Phoenix Suns’ guard Goran Dragic, which will be a huge help in the backcourt. The Heat brought in many small assets to the team in the offseason like Josh McRoberts from Charlotte and Danny Granger from Los Angeles, but a team can’t win with old stars and role players, so the Heat’s below .500 record at the all star break is not surprising to anyone.
19. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics are a mediocre basketball team to say the least. It is no doubt that they are looking to rebuild after they sent away star point guard to Dallas. They are now left with rookie point Marcus Smart and second year center Kelly Olynyk, which won’t seem so bad in a few years, but for now the Celtics have no one that they can continuously lean on for scoring. Boston’s rebuild process will be long and painful, but if it all works out in the future, they will do just fine.
18. Charlotte Hornets
The Hornet’s dismal record does not really show what kind of talent the team actually has. Point guard Kemba Walker from UConn and Power forward Al Jefferson are two of the league’s most underrated players, both averaging over 16 points per game. Lance Stephenson, however, has been quite disappointing. He is averaging only 9 points per game, and just hasn’t lived up to the hype that he had when he arrived at Charlotte at the beginning of the season. The Hornets are slowly on the rise, and one should not overlook them in the future.
17. Indiana Pacers
No team has been more upset than when the Indiana Pacers found out that star Paul George will most likely miss the entire season due to a freak leg injury while playing in the FIBA World Cup, and they’ve paid the price for it. The Pacers are looking out of sorts this year, and they have had to rely on Center Ray Hibbert and Point Guard George Hill to carry the team. That hasn’t really worked out. Both have had off years this year, and neither was even brought up in possibly being an all star. The Pacers are in a tough situation and hopefully they can get out quickly.
16. New Orleans Pelicans
Pelican’s forward Anthony Davis not once but twice injured his shoulder in less than two weeks, and his return is questionable. Anthony Davis is arguably the best power forward in the league, and he is only 21 years old. The rest of the team however, isn’t looking so hot. Players like point guards Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans are good players, but they have just not excelled in the way that the Pelicans play. The Pelicans need to figure things out quick, or they’ll be in big trouble.
15. Washington Wizards
The Wizards have made huge improvements in the past couple of years. They went from the second worst team in the league in 2011, to having a very strong, athletic point guard in John wall and a deadly outside shooting guard in Bradley Beal. They have some good veterans like big man Marcin Gortat and small forward Paul Pierce. The Wizards have all the pieces to be a very successful team in this league, and will definitely have a shot at making the playoffs this year.
14. Phoenix Suns
The Suns expectedly dealt Goran Dragic at the trade deadline, and he is now playing for the Miami Heat. The suns have so much young talent at their fingertips, like Point Guard Eric Bledsoe, who has averaged 15 points and 6 assists per game. Twins Marcus and Markieff Morris are both threats from the outside, and are both only 25 years old. This team is looking pretty good as the season rolls on, and they can only hope to improve when the playoffs arrive.
13. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder are an enigma. They have the league’s reigning MVP in Kevin Durant and the 2015 All Star MVP in point guard Russell Westbrook, but their record is still just over .500. They did, however, just receive 26 year old center Brook Lopez from Brooklyn, which will certainly help them with rebounding and defense. Hopefully Lopez is the answer to their problems, and if he is, they may be able to make a run in the post-season.
12. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks probably got the biggest name at the trade deadline, receiving the 2014 rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams from Philadelphia. Unfortunately, Carter-Williams cannot play with the 2015 second overall draft pick Jabari Parker, as he goes down with a torn ACL back in the fall. Next year, however, if all players stay with the Bucks, they will be a scary team to play. The young talent is staggering, and they will soon be a team that will be making a legit shot at the NBA title.
11. Dallas Mavericks
Just before the trade deadline, The Mavs got veteran big man Amar’e Stoudemire from the Knicks. Stoudemire can definitely help Dallas in many ways, and compliment star Dirk Nowitzki on the court. Dallas has a very scary starting lineup to other teams, consisting of Point Guard Rajon Rondo, Shooting Guard Monta Ellis, Forwards Chandler Parsons and Dirk Nowitzki, and Center Tyson Chandler manning the paint. Even in the tough Western Conference, this team is looking very good mid-season, and they will definitely be a dark horse contender come playoff time.
10. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers have to be concerned with Forward Blake Griffin’s Staph Infection in his right elbow. There currently is no timeline for his return, but it could be weeks. The Clippers do, however, have many assets that they can turn to, like All Star Point Guard Chris Paul and defensive superstar DeAndre Jordan. While Jordan has yet to be selected as an all star, he is leading the league in rebounds (13.8) and averaging 2.4 blocks per game. It is no doubt that the Clippers are a very good team, but they have not played up to their full potential this year. It is almost a given that they will make the playoffs this year, but is questionable if they even make it out of the first round. Los Angeles needs Griffin back and healthy as soon as possible so they can get back on track.
9. Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers have to be pleased that Forward LaMarcus Aldridge has decided to avoid surgery on his injured thumb and play through the pain. Aldridge is the backbone of this talented team, and with the help of 2013 rookie of the year Damian Lillard, they will be hard to stop for the rest of the year. Players like Nick Batum and Wesley Matthews will help from the both the three point arc and on the defensive end. It is hard to find any flaws in this tough squad, and there is no doubt that they deserve a top ten spot on this list.
8. Houston Rockets
There is no question that the rockets are a good team. James Harden has emerged as one of the top contenders for MVP of the league this year, scoring at will from anywhere he wants. His 27 points a game is a big reason as to why they’re in the position they are in, and no matter what anyone says, Dwight Howard is still a good player, averaging 16 points and 11 rebounds per game. Those two players, along with players like Patrick Beverley and Josh Smith have led Houston to a very good season so far.
7. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls have so many good players to hurt other teams from so many different angles. Derrick Rose is finally back and playing pretty good, but nothing like his 2011 MVP season. He is averaging 19 points per game, which by Rose’s standards isn’t enough. Luckily for them, players like Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah have really stepped up this year to bring this Bulls team to being one of the best teams in the East, and they should be exciting to watch for the remainder of the season.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers
Even though the Cavs got off to a rough start, they are now dominating with all players looking fresh and focused for the rest of the season. Additions like J.R Smith and Iman Shumpert have been huge helps to this team, and there is no doubt that they will do well for the rest of the season. Stars LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love have been doing very well this season, and at this point, there is no reason as to why they shouldn’t clinch a top spot in the Eastern Conference.
5. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors have spent most of their time in the air, dunking on almost every possession. While high flyers like Terrence Ross and Demar DeRozan focus on getting to the rim, All Star point guard Kyle Lowry orchestrates the offense with 18 points and 7 assists per game. Center Jonas Valanciunas has also done well in the paint, making 56 percent of the shots he takes. The Raptors are a dangerous team, and could cause some real problems for most teams in the playoffs.
4. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies are a weird team. They don’t have any superstars, yet they know how to win. Players like Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are very good players, but are not yet stars. Memphis is a genuinely good team and know how to win. It will be hard in the post-season, however, to defend against superstars like Harden or Griffin without one of their own. This team will definitely have their work cut out for them in the final half of the season, but they will most likely handle it like they have all year, well.
3. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs seem to be good every single year. They have made the playoffs every year since Tim Duncan was drafted in 1997. The Spurs organization definitely have things figured out, winning championships and dominating teams, and this year is no different. They would most likely be the number one team on this list if they other two haven’t been so outstanding all year. The Spurs are so good even in their old age, and they will continue to be one of the best teams in the league for the rest of the season.
2. Atlanta Hawks
It appears that the Hawks have cooled down after that crazy hot streak they had back in December, winning 19 games in a row, but they still play as good as any team in this league. It is hard to not excel with four all stars on a team (Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, Jeff Teague, and Al Horford) and the Hawks have easily been one of the biggest surprise teams this season. Never has the league seen an entire starting lineup win the player of the month award, and the Hawks did just that in December. They are great offensively inside, outside, and defensively, and there is no team more deserving to be atop the Eastern Conference
1. Golden State Warriors
There isn’t much to say about the Warriors that hasn’t already been said. They have the best record, and possibly the best shooting backcourt in a long time around the league. Both Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are deadly from the three point arc, and there is no doubt that Curry is in the running for MVP this season. This team is unbelievable, especially in a very talented Western Conference. This team will shoot lights out every game, and will continue to do so for the rest of the season, and as long as all players stay with Golden State, they will be a very good team for a very long time.