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Monday, December 30, 2013
Stein Power Rankings: Week 9

By Marc Stein

This isn't a nice thing to say about a year that served up such a delicious NBA Finals.

However …

I can't say I'm going to miss 2013.

There were too many injuries in the NBA. Or to be more precise: too many major injuries (and reinjuries). Seeing Russell Westbrook and Al Horford go down again last week -- with Derrick Rose, Brook Lopez and Kobe Bryant also having suffered repeat injuries of varying degrees during the opening third of the regular season -- really makes it tough for the hoop lover to enjoy the holidays.

Late December is supposed to be a happy time, but how can it be when so many big names are missing? We haven't even mentioned Rajon Rondo or Marc Gasol yet. Or Steve Nash. Or Danilo Gallinari.

Because of all the front-line players involved, injuries hung over everything in the league over the past 12 months. So here's one man's hopeful (but admittedly futile) plea that a calendar change finally ushers in some good health.

Yet when it comes to ESPN.com's Human NBA Power Rankings, as our old friend John Hollinger famously dubbed them years ago, there's no avoiding the issue. The committee (of one) has always factored injuries into each team's weekly equation and couldn't bring itself to leave Oklahoma City at No. 1 when the Thunder's ceiling for the season -- and beyond -- has quite possibly changed.

Maybe Westbrook returns after the All-Star break and quickly regains top form. Maybe surgery No. 3 on his right knee in the space of eight-plus months will finally fix the problem. But because those are only maybes at this juncture -- big maybes -- OKC had to drop at least one slot on this Power Rankings Monday.

Indiana thus moves up to reclaim the No. 1 spot in 2013's final batch of rankings. Credit to the Thunder, though, for winning their first two games without Westbrook in sufficiently convincing fashion to make it the shortest of tumbles down to No. 2.

The latest rankings, as always, were compiled by the committee with Chris Paul-esque dishing from ESPN Stats & Information and the Elias Sports Bureau. You can click here to rank the teams yourself until we return next Monday with a fresh 1-to-30 pulse take of the league.