Here we are in Week 13 of the NBA Power Rankings and things are still basically the same -- the San Antonio Spurs are still really good (they remain the only team with single-digit losses) and the Cleveland Cavaliers are still really bad (losers of 18 in a row and 28 of their last 29 games). There has been just a little teeny, tiny bit of movement below the top and above the bottom, however.
One surprising team creating a buzz (groan-inducing pun totally intended) is the New Orleans Hornets. Yes, they were good at the beginning of the season, but they went through a thoroughly mediocre stretch before putting together their current nine-game winning streak. A big part of the team's early and current success has been the above-average play of guys other than Chris Paul, David West and Emeka Okafor. Marcus Thornton has averaged 10.3 points and 3.6 rebounds over the streak while playing wildly inconsistent minutes, from as few as four to as many as 32 a game. Trevor Ariza continues to put up points on poor shooting percentages, but the Hornets have needed points and guys not afraid to shoot. Side note: the team also just found out they're locked into New Orleans for the next few years after staying above attendance numbers that would have voided their lease had they dipped below. Congrats, NOLA, on forcing the team to stay!
The Utah Jazz, who started the season strong behind the spectacular play of Paul Millsap, have now lost five in a row, including dropping games to the Washington Wizards, New Jersey Nets, and Philadelphia 76ers -- not exactly powerhouse teams. A portion of the team's struggles could be attributed to Al Jefferson, who continues to be inconsistent this season. Prior to his knee injury, Al-Jeff was a double-double machine, but with the Jazz, he's had trouble attaining that level of production. For a man who works mostly near the basket, his 45% field goal percentage over the losing streak isn't great and he's only gotten double-digit rebounds in two of those games. Also, the aforementioned Paul Millsap has averaged only 11.4 points and 6.6 boards, down from his season averages of 16.9 and 7.8.
The Portland Trail Blazers, despite half of their roster being injured and their star player being out indefinitely, continue to keep above .500 and in the playoff picture in a tough Western Conference. Wesley Matthews has filled in admirably in Brandon Roy's stead, essentially doubling his scoring average from last year -- he's at 18.6 points a game since moving into the starting lineup. LaMarcus Aldridge continues to play like an All-Star, averaging a career-high 21.1 points and 8.8 rebounds a game, with the offense going through him instead of Roy.
And in local news, all of the giddy goodness that the team's five-game winning streak generated is gone again after losing two in a row to the Detroit Pistons (the Suns blew a lead after going scoreless for a long stretch) and the 76ers (they were blown out before putting together a late, fruitless rally). The Phoenix Suns have been accused of many things in the Steve Nash era -- being unable to play defense, being unable to rebound, being a soft "finesse" team -- but they've never been accused of being boring. Sorry to say, but this year's team is boring and downright unwatchable most of the time. It's easily the biggest eyesore of all the Nash-led squads and that's made the losing that much yuckier. Though the idea of blowing it all up sounds gross to a lot of fun, watching the current team may be worse.
Anyway, on to the rankings:
SBNation.com | NBA Power Rankings: Hornets Fly High, Knicks Careen Toward Earth
The San Antonio Spurs finally lost a game, but remains the NBA's best team by a not-inconsequential margin. (A consequential margin?) Meanwhile, the team that beat them, the New Orleans Hornets, are smoking through tough competition, with the win over the Spurs a night after a 41-point win over the Hawks providing a certain air of invincibility. The Heat nor Celtics have proved invincible; that doesn't mean that both teams are not very, very good. (And thus completes the worst grammatical opening in NBA power ranking history.)
ESPN.com | Power Rankings: Spurs hold on to No. 1 spot
A heavy loss Saturday night in New Orleans wasn't enough to knock the San Antonio Spurs from atop their perch in ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings.
SI.com | Spurs ranked No. 1, Hornets jump to No. 6 in NBA Power Rankings
The Spurs sit atop the Power Rankings for the second week in a row, but the Hornets created the most noise by extending their winning streak to a season-high nine games in impressive fashion.
FOXSports.com | NBA Power Rankings - Top 30 NBA Basketball Teams
Heavy legs are a problem across the board as the season has moved past the halfway point. The streaking Hornets are playing like they did in early November and are certainly a team to watch. So, too, are the Heat -- but if Chris Bosh has the dreaded high ankle sprain, how much energy will LeBron have to exert playing extra minutes and playing in the post. A nod to the Sixers and Pistons for playing hard and getting things on track, but the real story in many places remains the countdown to the trade deadline.
ProBasketballTalk.com | NBA Power Rankings: Where the Spurs just keep on keeping it on
Our weekly NBA Power Rankings, not many changes at the top this week ... or on the bottom.
NBA.com | West continues to dominate, Spurs remain on top
When marquee free agents like Carlos Boozer and Amar'e Stoudemire went from the Western Conference to the East last summer, we thought it might bring more balance to the NBA landscape.
CBSSports.com | Power Rankings: Melo doesn't deserve All-Star consideration
This week's CBSSports.com NBA Power Rankings include a look at each team's All-Star candidate(s). The higher you are in the rankings, the more likely you'll get multiple invitations.