The NBA: Power Rankings: Week 8

Happy Holidays from Hoop Nut! The NBA keeps on going even during the holidays (did you enjoy that 5-game Christmas Special?) and the Power Rankings are right there with the Association.

The LA Clippers are undefeated in December with 3 games to go before the New Year. They are the best team in the NBA and their 14 straight wins make it no argument. The next longest win streak is at 5 games (Heat, Lakers, Raptors).

The Lakers are starting to show signs of playing decent basketball. The return of Steve Nash has made them watchable and Kobe Bryant continues to score in the 30s. Pau Gasol is at his best when making passes at the high post and shooting down low.

The Heat won their Finals rematch with the Thunder but things could be different come playoffs. The Nets are reeling and have lost 7 of their last 10. The Bulls were a no-show versus the Rockets.

Dirk Nowitzki is back with the Mavs while Amare is projected to make his season debut sooner rather than later. Andrew Bynum and John Wall still have no time tables on their return. The bottom of the standings and rankings have been consistent in the last 2 weeks with very minimal movement.

The standings are current up to December 26. The rankings from last week refer to Week 7.

Chris Paul and the Clippers have blown by their opponents in
14 straight games. How long can they keep this up?
(Image by: Associated Press)

1. Los Angeles Clippers | 22-6 | Last Week: 2 | +1
The Clippers have the longest winning streak at 14 games and they have the largest winning margin. The Clips won 10 of the 14 games by double digits. They are 2nd in assists and 3rd in team defense. Their bench has been superb and a perfect example: Clippers are 19-1 when Matt Barnes scores at least 10 points. Wow.

2. Miami Heat | 19-6 | Last Week: 4 | +2
The Heat has beaten the Thunder in 5 straight games going into last season. Their defense has held opposition below 100 in their last 8 games. LBJ was named Eastern Player of the Week for the 3rd time. Their 5-game win streak could easily turn to 8 with the next 3 games: Bobcats, Pistons and Magic. The Big 3 are all shooting over 51% from the floor.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder | 21-6 | Last Week: 2 | -1
They still cant beat the Heat and now they have their first losing streak of the season. Kevin Durant is still a close 2nd to LBJ in PER and in MVP positioning. Russell Westbrook has a career-high 8+ assists per game but he is shooting only 40% and also taking more shots than KD. Kevin Martin has been scoring but his defensive rotations need work.

4. San Antonio Spurs | 21-8 | Last Week: 7 | +3
The Spurs have Kawhi Leonard back and they have won 2 straight since his return. Manu Ginobili is also back on the floor and a healthy Spurs team will always be among the best in the West. Tim Duncan is a legitimate candidate for DPOY with his 10 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game at his advance age of 36.

5. New York Knicks | 20-8 | Last Week: 3 | -2
The Knicks lost their rematch with the Lakers on Christmas and they are 2-3 in their last 5 games, all without Sheed. Who would have thought that Rasheed Wallace being out for 3 weeks could impact the winning ways of the Knicks? Amare will be back soon and projected to come off the bench. Melo continues to shoot well from downtown, a career-high 43%.

6. Memphis Grizzlies | 18-7 | Last Week: 5 | -1
The Grizzlies have nobody shooting over 50% from the floor. They are lacking in shooting but their team defense makes up for that, being the 2nd best in the league. Zach Randolph continues to pour on the double-doubles and he still leads the NBA. He deserves to be an all-star.

7. Golden State Warriors | 18-10 | Last Week: 6 | -1
The Warriors are 2-2 after their successful 7-game road trip. Both losses were in close games with the loss versus the Lakers stinging more since the Warriors were up 14 in the 4th quarter. David Lee continues to impress after he got a triple-double last week to go along with his 18 double-doubles (2nd in NBA).

8. Atlanta Hawks | 16-9 | Last Week: 8 | Same
The Hawks lost big to the Thunder and Sixers but they recovered by pounding the Bulls. The Pistons and and Cavs are next so maybe 2 more convincing wins are coming. Lou Williams is making a case again for the Sixth Man award (unless they keep starting him) after averaging 16 in his last 5 games.

9. Houston Rockets | 15-12 | Last Week: 16 | +7
The Rockets are leading the NBA in scoring and they hammered the Bulls in Chicago for their 4th straight win. Omer Asik was a beast with 20 points, 18 rebounds and 3 blocks. The Bulls must be shaking their heads in deciding to keep Taj Gibson (9 points, 4 boards) instead of Asik. Jeremy Lin has played superb in his last 2 games: 17.5 points and 11 assists.

10. Indiana Pacers | 16-12 | Last Week: 14 | +4
The Pacers are 1st in rebounds and 1st in team defense. Paul George continues to make strides in his game: 15.6 points, 9 rebounds and 4.4 assists in the last 5 games. David West has been steady and better than last year as he leads them in points and tied in rebounds per game.

11. Milwaukee Bucks | 14-12 | Last Week: 12 | +1
Larry Sanders loves playing against the Celtics and his idol growing up, Kevin Garnett. The Bucks are 3-1 versus the Celtics and Sanders is averaging 14 points, 14 boards and 2.5 blocks against Garnett. Sanders still leads the NBA in blocks per game (3.1). Too bad the Bucks wont play the Celtics in the regular season anymore.

12. Chicago Bulls | 15-12 | Last Week: 9 | -3
The Bulls have been no-shows in their last 2 games, both blow out losses. Luol Deng is hurt but is still playing since the Bulls are without Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton. The Bulls cant afford to have Deng sit since he is the focus of their offense.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves | 13-12 | Last Week: 15 | +2
Great win versus the Thunder on prime-time TV and they almost beat the Knicks on Sunday after leading in the 4th quarter without Kevin Love. Rubio is recovering slowly from his injury while the tandem of Barea and Shved have been shining in their last 2 games (30 points and 12 assists combined).

14. Los Angeles Lakers | 14-14 | Last Week: 20 | +6
Steve Nash has been the difference in their last 2 wins. He is averaging 14 points and 10 assists in the 2 games that he played, both wins against playoff teams. Ron Artest continues to produce even when coming off the bench. Kobe keeps scoring in the 30s and Howard has slightly done better at the foul line (69% in the last 5 games, all wins).

15. Denver Nuggets | 15-14 | Last Week: 10 | -5
Their 3 best players: Gallinari, Iguodala and Lawson are all shooting below 45% from the floor. Good thing that the Nuggets are 3rd best in rebounding and 1st in offensive rebounds. They have 6 players averaging more than 10 points a game which is the most in the NBA.

16. Utah Jazz | 15-14 | Last Week: 11 | -5
The Jazz could have a dilemma on their hands regarding the future of their Bigs. Favors and Kanter have played well in less minutes and they need more to improve and develop. Millsap and Jefferson could be on their way out if the Jazz continue to hover around .500 or miss the playoffs.

17. Boston Celtics | 14-13 | Last Week: 17 | Same
Tough win by the Celtics over the Nets on Christmas. That was a much needed win as the Celtics play 3 of their next 4 games against the top teams in the West (Clippers, Warriors & Grizzlies). A match-up to watch will be the battle between Garnett and DeMarcus Cousins on Sunday. Will Cousins dominate on the floor or will KG dominate the trash talking?

18. Brooklyn Nets | 14-13 | Last Week: 13 | -5
The Nets have 3 wins in their last 10 games. They have a chance to get some easy wins versus the Cavs and Bobcats before they play the Spurs and Thunder on the road. Deron Williams continues to struggle shooting at below 40% and his 3-point rate at below 30%, both career-lows.

19. Portland Trailblazers | 13-13 | Last Week: 19 | Same
Damian Lillard is the only starter to play all their 26 games. Meyers Leonard, another rookie is their 2nd player to appear in all their games. How long before the rookies hit the proverbial "rookie wall", making the Blazers weaker in their rotations? No other rotation player averages more than 5 points and 17 minutes for them.

20. Dallas Mavericks | 12-16 | Last Week: 18 | -2
The Mavs have lost 3 straight all by double digits and they are 28th in team defense. Derek Fisher has been waived on his request while OJ Mayo has struggled in his last 3 games: 8 ppg on 9-33 shooting. Dirk Nowitzki is finally back on the court but the Mavs got trampled by the Spurs by 38 points. The Mavs could miss the playoffs after winning it all 2 seasons ago.

21. Philadelphia 76ers | 13-15 | Last Week: 21 | Same
The Sixers have won 1 game in their last 6. They have a 6-game road trip remaining ahead in the West coast that features games versus the Warriors, Grizzlies, Lakers and Thunder. They have a 4-8 road record. Yikes. On the good news: Andrew Bynum is progressing in his rehab but no time table yet on his return.

22. Orlando Magic | 12-15 | Last Week: 22 | Same

The loss of Glen Davis for 4-6 weeks is huge for the Magic. They were forced to rotate Andrew Nicholson and Gustavo Ayon at power forward. Hedo Turkoglu is expected to be back from his hand injury in a game or two. Nikola Vucevic and JJ Redick continue to provide decent numbers in their new roles.

23. Phoenix Suns | 11-17 | Last Week: 23 | Same
The Suns could trade Michael Beasley soon after making him their best free agent signing last summer. Beasley has seen limited minutes in their last 7 games and his numbers have dropped. Luis Scola is back on the starting lineup but he has not helped in the scoring or rebounding department. The Suns are 27th in boards and 26th in defense.

24. Toronto Raptors | 9-19 | Last Week: 24 | Same
The Raptors have a 5-game win streak that have them tied with the Heat and Lakers on that distinction. They have done that without Lowry and Bargnani. That streak could possibly end with the Raptors playing the Spurs next. Rookie Jonas Valanciunas could miss 3 games or more with an injury. Alan Anderson and Terrence Ross have played well in their extended minutes.

25. Sacramento Kings | 9-18 | Last Week: 25 | Same
The Kings won a game without Cousins who was suspended indefinitely. Then they brought him back only after one missed game. It might be time to admit that Cousins needs to be moved to another environment. He has been suspended 3 times already in different league and team violations. The Kings are giving him another chance. Let's hope Cousins does not blow this again.

26. Detroit Pistons | 9-21 | Last Week: 26 | Same 
The Pistons won 2 games last week, both coming from the Wizards. Andre Drummond had strong rebounding games in those (25 total boards). Kyle Singler has struggled in his last 5 games: scoring 8 points in 31 minutes of action. He could lose his starting gig soon and a drop in minutes could happen.

27. Cleveland Cavaliers | 6-23 | Last Week: 27 | Same
The Cavs won a game without Andy Varejao versus the Bucks. That snapped their 6-game losing streak. They could win a 2nd straight versus the Wizards but Varejao is expected to miss a few more games. The Cavs cant expect to compete without him. Varejao has missed the last 3 games and no return date has been announced.

28. New Orleans Hornets | 5-22 | Last Week: 28 | Same
The bad news: Hornets have lost 11 straight, they are 29th in scoring and Austin Rivers continues struggle. But there are a couple of good news: Anthony Davis is playing well with 14 and 9 plus Eric Gordon is expected to play in their next game or at least after that. Can we expect a win though? Probably not.

29. Charlotte Bobcats | 7-20 | Last Week: 29 | Same
The Bobcats followed up their tough defeat to the Lakers last week by losing 3 more games all in blow outs. They have lost 15 straight with no end in sight (Heat and Nets next). Still there is some hope since they will play the Hornets on Saturday.

30. Washington Wizards | 3-22 | Last Week: 30 | Same
The Wizards have lost 7 straight and they are on pace to win 10 games or less if John Wall does not come back soon. Wall is weeks behind his expected recovery. Their team has been ravaged by injuries: Wall, Ariza, Nene, Price and Booker.

Biggest Rise: Houston Rockets +7
Biggest Fall: Nets, Nuggets & Jazz -5

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