Monday, February 10, 2014

How Would the NBA Look in Films? (Power Rankings, Week 15)

NBA Week 15, in films:
--LeBron and Blake as Space Jam
--The Lakers as Hoosiers
--Hedo Turkoglu as Dirty Dancing
--The Knicks as Dazed and Confused
--A tomahawking Quincy Acy as The Last of the Mohicans
--John Wall as Thief

In this week's power rankings, there are no changes in the top five -- Oklahoma City, Indiana, Miami, Houston, and the Clippers. Further down the list, the Bobcats and Magic both climbed a few spots and the snakebitten Nuggets dropped to No. 18.

Following the complete rankings, we'll take a deeper look at the surging Houston Rockets and the stumbling Atlanta Hawks.

Here are my Week 15 Power Rankings, with all records current through Sunday:
30. Milwaukee Bucks (9-41)
29. Philadelphia 76ers (15-37)
28. Cleveland Cavaliers (18-33)
27. Sacramento Kings (17-34)
26. Los Angeles Lakers (18-33)
25. Boston Celtics (18-34)
24. Utah Jazz (17-33)
23. Orlando Magic (16-37)
22. New York Knicks (20-31)
21. New Orleans Pelicans (22-28)
20. Detroit Pistons (21-29)
19. Charlotte Bobcats (22-29)
18. Denver Nuggets (24-25)
17. Atlanta Hawks (25-24)
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (24-27)
15. Chicago Bulls (25-25)
14. Toronto Raptors (26-24)
13. Washington Wizards (25-25)
12. Brooklyn Nets (23-26)
11. Memphis Grizzlies (27-23)
10. Dallas Mavericks (31-21)
9. Golden State Warriors (30-21)
8. Phoenix Suns (30-20)
7. Portland Trail Blazers (36-15)
6. San Antonio Spurs (37-14)
5. Los Angeles Clippers (36-18)
4. Houston Rockets (34-17)
3. Miami Heat (35-14)
2. Indiana Pacers (39-11)
1. Oklahoma City Thunder (41-12)

Houston Rockets

We've covered the Rockets a couple times already, but that's to be expected since the situation in Houston seems to be much more up-in-the-air than it is with most of the other West contenders. The Spurs are humming along to another win total in the mid-50s, the Durant-led Thunder head toward the All-Star break with the best record in the league, the Clippers are back at Lob City full-strength, and the Grizzlies, Mavs, and Warriors look very similar to the teams we've seen the last few seasons. That leaves the Blazers, Suns, and Rockets as the teams with the most questions surrounding them.

The Rockets have been a bit mysterious since landing Dwight Howard in the off-season, as questions have persisted about whether they can truly compete with the West elites. 

One of the Internet's favorite NBA topics a few months ago was the status of Omer Asik, who GM Daryl Morey said would be traded. Sure enough, Asik returned to Houston's lineup on Saturday, snagging five rebounds in 11 minutes. It remains to be seen whether he'll remain on the team for the stretch run. 

With or without Asik, the Rockets boast a formidable seven-man rotation. Dwight Howard and James Harden have obviously been the stars, but Terrence Jones recorded 36- and 50-point nights in the past three weeks. Jeremy Lin has been a sparkplug off the bench, averaging the best field goal percentage of his career in a sixth-man role that seems to suit him. 

Houston has won five straight, including victories over San Antonio, Dallas, and Phoenix. In the tight Western Conference playoff race, the Rockets are in solid shape heading into the break. Still, they won't have a chance to fully answer the questions surrounding them until playoff time. 

Atlanta Hawks

When Al Horford went down with a season-ending pectoral injury in late December, it looked like the Hawks would quickly drop out of their usual top-four Eastern Conference perch. Without its best scorer, some assumed that Atlanta would fall out of the postseason entirely.

Surprisingly, the Hawks played better than .500 for a while, with Paul Millsap picking up most of the slack. He scored over 17 points per game in January despite shouldering most of Atlanta's frontcourt load. With Millsap as the focal point of the offense, the Hawks score the third-most points per 100 possessions among East teams, and they record more assists per game than any other unit in the NBA.

However, the Hawks have struggled the last week, falling to the Grizzlies on Saturday for their third straight defeat. With the Nets coming together and the Raptors, Bulls, and Wizards all playing respectable basketball, Atlanta is in danger of falling down the standings and facing one of the East's Big Two in a first-round playoff series.


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