Blakely's NBA Six Pack Power Rankings: Jan. 2

Blakely's NBA Six Pack Power Rankings: Jan. 2
January 2, 2014, 12:00 pm
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BOSTON — It's a new year and yet in some ways it's the same old, same-old with two-time NBA champion Miami Heat rolling along near the top of the standings and the San Antonio Spurs continuing to keep Father Time locked in the basement (or did he sneak out and head to Brooklyn?).

But there are a few new twists, like the surprising starts by teams out West (Phoenix and Portland come to mind), and the horrific play in the Atlantic Division which is still looking for a leader with a .500 record.

And of course, there are a handful of blossoming rivalries like Golden State and the Doc Rivers-led Los Angeles Clippers, to make things even more interesting in the Association this year.

With more than a third of the season complete, the NBA landscape is starting to take shape.

And to the surprise of many, teams that were expected to be in Tank-a-palooza mode this season like Boston, are making a strong case towards being in the postseason.

Of course there's still a lot of season left to be played, with no team totally out of the postseason hunt just yet (yes Sacramento, hope is alive).

That said, here's the first NBA power rankings of the season.

Flat Pack

30. Milwaukee - Even with Larry Sanders back, Bucks are still the league's worst team.

29. Utah - John Stockton ... or Karl Malone ... or even Greg Ostertag, isn't walking through that door, Jazz fans.

28. New York — Has there been a bigger disappointment in the NBA this season?

27. Brooklyn - Now that I think about it ...

26. Sacramento - Team scoring up (103.5 from 98.7) since Dec. 9 Rudy Gay trade.

25. Philadelphia — Giving up a league-worst 108.7 points per game.


BACK OF THE PACK

24, Los Angeles Lakers — With or without Kobe Bryant, this is lottery team.

23. Cleveland — The only appeal in trading for Andrew Bynum now is his contract, yet another sad but true NBA tale.

22. Orlando — One more lottery pick away from being a legit playoff contender.

21. Denver — Nuggets sinking fast, lost eight straight after 14-9 start.

20. Boston — No Rondo yet. Upcoming West coast trip. Things could get real ugly for the Green Team.

19. Detroit - The Mo Cheeks-Josh Smith situation is worth watching as they get deeper into the season.


MIDDLE OF THE PACK


18. Chicago — Luol Deng averaged 22.3 points in December. The problem? He only played in six games.

17. New Orleans - Besides Phoenix, the Pelicans may be the league's biggest surprise this season.

16. Minnesota — Kevin Love has the stats and the wins to make a legit run at the league's MVP award this season.

15. Charlotte — No. 3 in scoring defense (93.5) this season, Bobcats can realistically make the playoffs this season.

14. Washington — John Wall having career season scoring (20.2) and in assists (8.9).

13. Memphis — Marc Gasol's return is near, Grizzlies return to playoff contender status not far behind.

12. Toronto — Hottest team in the East with four straight wins, sit atop the Atlantic Division.

11. Atlanta — Averaged less than 23 3s per game with Al Horford. Since he underwent season-ending surgery,  they're launching 34.5 per game.


RUNNING WITH THE PACK

10. Dallas — Sleeper out West this year. Has won four of last five, all four wins on the road.

9. Phoenix — One of four teams ranked in the top 10 in 3-point attempts and 3-point percentage.

8. Golden State — Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have more made 3s (193) than three teams (Memphis, Charlotte and Chicago) this season.

7.  Houston — Dwight Howard's a beast, but this is still James Harden's team.

6. Los Angeles Clippers — DeAndre Jordan has to be on everyone's short list for now as the league's Defensive Player of the Year.

5. Portland — LaMarcus Aldridge or Damian Lilliard? Who's more valuable to the Blazers this year?


HEAD OF THE PACK

4. Oklahoma City — You have to wonder how many more years will the Thunder keep this core group together if they don't win it all this year.

3. Miami Heat — More injuries this year than in the past, but the Heat remain the team to beat.

2. San Antonio — They make more shots (40.8) than any team in the NBA, and commit (17.7) the second-fewest fouls per game. #spursbasketball

1. Indiana — Balanced scoring, across-the-board defense and depth. The Pacers are the team everyone's trying to keep up with this season.