Monday, January 20, 2014
NBA Power Rankings: Week 12
By Marc Stein
There are two chief laments from the committee (of one) now that we're essentially halfway through Power Rankings season:
1. You've heard me complain about this before, but there aren't even 10 teams in the whole league playing what you could legitimately classify as upper-crust basketball. It's a sad reality slammed home every Monday when the committee finds itself forced to elevate the likes of Dallas, Phoenix or Toronto (or sometimes all three) into our top 10. All the injuries around the league to marquee players are unquestionably a factor here, but it's still a disappointment.
2. There isn't a top contender in the Western Conference that can seem to sustain two straight weeks of momentum, which -- when you think about it -- has to hearten the sluggish Miami Heat more than anyone else.
No slight to the Portland Trail Blazers, whose 31-9 start (and corresponding rise to No. 2 in our power poll) undeniably ranks as one of the best stories in North American sports, but the lack of a truly imposing assemblage in the West appears to have made Miami's path to a three-peat easier than it was supposed to be.
It doesn't look all that grind-y at the moment, frankly, no matter how much time we spend these days dissecting Miami's up-and-down motivation levels.
I came into the season picking Indiana to win it all largely because history tells us that making four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals is so daunting. The 1986-87 Boston Celtics, in fact, were the last team to pull that off.
But look at what's happened since Halloween. Season-ending injuries to Derrick Rose and Brook Lopez have thinned out the top of the East to the point that the two-time champs realistically have only one series to worry about to get back to the Finals.
And if you go ahead and assume that Miami finds a way to win that expected duel with Indiana in the East finals, then you still have to ask who in the West can beat the Heat four times in seven games.
Which isn't an easy question to answer when no team can seem to hang onto "Best in the West" status for more than one Monday in a row.
This week's rankings were compiled, as always, with the usual clutch 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.