The NBA: Power Rankings: Week 12

The clash of the titans in the Western Conference took place on Tuesday night and the OKC Thunder remain alone at the top of the NBA with their win over the LA Clippers sans Chris Paul.

The Spurs have been chugging along, winners of 5 straight and now have the 2nd best record in the league. The Grizzlies unleashed a trade that depleted their already weak bench to avoid luxury tax problems. This trade could help them keep Rudy Gay for the future.

The Heat managed to salvage a 3-3 record in their road trip to stay atop the Eastern Conference while the Celtics have lost 4 straight with 3 of the losses coming from sub .500 teams. The Nets are gaining on the Knicks and it would be lovely if the two meet in the playoffs.

The Lakers are 17-24 and now sit 12th in the West and 4 games out of the playoffs. Trading Howard or Gasol is more of a story now than them making the playoffs.

The standings are current up to January 23, 2013. The rankings from last week refer to Week 11.
Blake Griffin could not lift the Clippers over the
OKC Thunder without superstar teammate Chris Paul
(Image by: Associated Press)

1. Oklahoma City Thunder | 33-9 | Last Week: 1 | Same
Kevin Durant has overtaken Kobe Bryant in the scoring race. KD appears to be headed to a 4th straight scoring title and quite possibly, his first MVP if the Thunder maintain their hold as the best team in the NBA for the second half of the season.

2. San Antonio Spurs | 33-11 | Last Week: 3 | +1
The Spurs have quietly won 5 straight but that streak is in jeopardy with Leonard and Duncan scheduled to miss a game or two to rest minor injuries. Manu Ginobili will be back to play so that's good news. Tony Parker is making a case for the West all-stars (21 & 9 in the last 5 games).

3. Los Angeles Clippers | 32-11 | Last Week: 2 | -1
The Clippers went 3-1 without Chris Paul. Blake Griffin tried his hardest to beat the Thunder but Durant and Westbrook were too good. The Clippers have lost 2 straight and now stand at 3rd in the West. Jamal Crawford has a slight chance of making the All-star team.

4. Miami Heat | 26-12 | Last Week: 5 | +1
The Heat salvaged the last 2 games of their road trip and won quality games over the Warriors and Lakers on a back-to-back. The rebounding problem is still there especially with Bosh averaging less than 5 boards in January. The addition of Chris Andersen might help if he gets to play.

5. Memphis Grizzlies | 26-14 | Last Week: 4 | -1
The Grizzlies traded Ellington, Speights and Selby to avoid luxury tax problems and in theory, keep Rudy Gay. That move weakened their bench significantly and could become a problem moving forward. Zach Randolph still leads the league in double-doubles and could make the all-star team.

6. New York Knicks | 25-14 | Last Week: 7 | +1
The Knicks are now 4-6 at MSG after starting 10-0 at home. They are now 4-5 in games that Amare has played and the Nets are just 1 game behind them in the division. The Battle of the Boroughs ended in a 2-2 tie and hopefully more games in the playoffs between them arise.

7. Golden State Warriors | 25-15 | Last Week: 6 | -1
Stephen Curry missed 2 games due to an ankle injury and the Warriors lost games to the Heat and Spurs. Curry played the last 2 games and the Warriors won both. Curry is averaging 20 and 7, both career-highs but can those propel him to his first all-star?

8. Indiana Pacers | 26-16 | Last Week: 8 | Same
The Pacers are had 2 nice wins over the Rockets and the Grizzlies. They remain the best defensive team in the NBA amid their scoring problems. Paul George is a shoo-in for the all-star team. He narrowly missed a triple-double in their win over the Grizzlies (12 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists).

9. Brooklyn Nets | 25-16 | Last Week: 10 | +1
The Nets are 11-2 under PJ Carlesimo and are threatening the Pacers and Knicks for the #2 seed in the East. Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson have both played better in the last 2 weeks while Deron Williams is starting to find his shooting stroke.

10. Denver Nuggets | 25-18 | Last Week: 9 | -1
The Nuggets badly lost to the Wizards at home for just their 3rd loss at the Pepsi Center (16-3) but they bounced back and beat the Thunder in overtime. Corey Brewer has been a nice surprise on offense this season. He scored 26 vs the Thunder and had 27 vs the Lakers a month ago, both wins.

11. Chicago Bulls | 24-16 | Last Week: 11 | Same
The Bulls played 3 straight OT games and won 2 of them. Carlos Boozer has been on fire with 21 & 13 in their last 5 games. Luol Deng has missed the last 2 games while Jimmy Butler and Marco Bellinelli have played good as his replacements.

12. Atlanta Hawks | 23-18 | Last Week: 13 | +1
The Hawks suffered a big blow to their team when they lost Lou Williams to an ACL injury and he is out for the season. Devin Harris has missed a bunch of games due to injury too. More Josh Smith trade rumors are on the news but how about Al Horford and Kyle Korver for Dwight Howard?

13. Utah Jazz | 22-19 | Last Week: 16 | +3
The Jazz have crept into the playoff picture. They are now in 7th spot even without Mo Williams who will be back in a month or so. The Jazz will be buyers by the trade deadline and look for them to improve their perimeter shooting by dangling one of their bigs.

14. Milwaukee Bucks | 22-18 | Last Week: 17 | +3
The Bucks have won 3 straight in large part due to Ersan Ilyasova having monster games in his last 2 games (27 points and 15 boards). Jennings was not too shabby either getting his 27 points and 8 assists while Monta Ellis has been passing the ball better than usual.

15. Houston Rockets | 22-21 | Last Week: 14 | -1
The Rockets are barely holding on to the last playoff spot in the West. They lost 7 straight before beating the Bobcats. Their offense is still great (#2) but the defense needs to improve drastically (last) if they want to separate themselves from the Blazers, Twolves and Mavs.

16. Boston Celtics | 20-21 | Last Week: 12 | -4
The Celtics have lost 4 straight (3 to sub .500 teams) and still sit at the 8th spot in the East. They lead the Sixers by 3.5 games. They have been underwhelming but luckily they play in the East so the playoffs is in range. How is it possible that fans voted for Garnett (15 & 7) to be a starter?

17. Portland Trailblazers | 20-21 | Last Week: 15 | -2
The Blazers have lost 6 straight and are now out of the playoff picture. There are still lots of games to play so they can easily make the climb back into contention. Damian Lillard has been very consistent as a rookie with his 18 points and 7 assists. The ROY is for his to lose.

18. Minnesota Timberwolves | 17-21 | Last Week: 19 | +1
The T'wolves cant catch a break with regards to injuries. Nic Pekovic has missed the last 2 games and could miss a few more with a thigh injury. Ricky Rubio has played 13 games and his recovery has gone slowly (4 points & 5 assists) in 22 minutes. Alexey Shved also has an ankle injury.

19. Dallas Mavericks | 18-24 | Last Week: 20 | +1
The Mavs have overtaken the Lakers for the 11th spot by winning 5 of their last 6 games. Mark Cuban has publicly noted that the Mavs are ready to listen for trade offers that would allow them to make a push for the playoffs. Dirk has seen his minutes go up to 32 a game for January.

20. Los Angeles Lakers | 17-24 | Last Week: 18 | -2
The Lakers have lost 3 straight with 3 more tough games coming up (Grizzlies, Jazz & Thunder). Howard and Gasol have all voiced their unhappiness with the coach and his system. Even Kobe is getting upset. Bryant has shot below 32% in their last 3 games (25-79).

21. Philadelphia 76ers | 17-25 | Last Week: 21 | Same
It's funny to see that the Sixers have almost the same record as the Lakers with Bynum not playing a second. Bynum will be expected to play around the all-star break. The Sixers also have a better shot of sneaking into the playoffs since they only need to overtake 1 team.

22. Detroit Pistons | 16-25 | Last Week: 23 | +1
Andre Drummond is quietly making a run at the ROY in his last 5 games. He has 2 double-doubles in the last week and getting 11 & 9 with 2 blocks. The Pistons have won 2 straight and will face tough games versus the Bulls and the Heat this week.

23. Toronto Raptors | 15-26 | Last Week: 22 | -1
The Raptors lost two OT games last week and those were games they should have won. They did win vs the Lakers with Landry Fields starting to play better offensively and Kyle Lowry has embraced his role coming from the bench. Terrence Ross should be included in the Slam Dunk Contest.

24. Sacramento Kings | 16-26 | Last Week: 24 | Same
The Kings impending sale and move to Seattle seems inevitable. Seattle fans will be thrilled to have DeMarcus Cousins play for them. DMC is currently the best center in the West if his mind is focused. He is averaging 23 and 13 in the last 5 games. The Kings are just 1.5 games behind the Lakers.

25. New Orleans Hornets | 14-27 | Last Week: 25 | Same
The Hornets will be known as Pelicans next season and they will be great to watch if Eric Gordon stays healthy and Anthony Davis stops rolling his ankle. The Hornets have won 7 of 10 since Gordon came back and Austin Rivers continues to struggle.

26. Washington Wizards | 9-30 | Last Week: 30 | +4
The Wizards are finally out of the basement in the Power Rankings. John Wall has made them more competitive and more watchable. The Wizards have gone 5-5 in their last 10 games which makes them "hotter" than the 4 teams below them.

27. Cleveland Cavaliers | 11-32 | Last Week: 29 | +2
Anderson Varejao will be out for the season. This assures the Cavs of another lottery pick, possibly a top 5 again. Kyrie Irving has been phenomenal including dropping 40 on the Celtics. Irving deserves his 1st all-star nod even if his team sucks so much.

28. Orlando Magic | 14-27 | Last Week: 26 | -2
Glen Davis is back playing but the Magic have lost 3 straight and have lost 8 of 10. Afflalo, Vucevic and Reddick are all having decent years but the team is struggling as a unit. If only they could play more often at Staples Center where they beat both the Clippers and Lakers.

29. Phoenix Suns | 13-28 | Last Week: 27 | -2
The Suns fired Alvin Gentry and the hiring of Lindsey Hunter as their new coach have already upset their assistant coaches who have left the team. It will be curious to watch if Hunter changes his rotations to give more minutes to Beasley, O'Neal and Wesley Johnson.

30. Charlotte Bobcats | 10-31 | Last Week: 28 | -2
The Bobcats have lost 15 straight games at home. That is quite unbelievable to accomplish. Their last home win was on November 21, 2012 versus the Raptors. That home losing streak could continue with games versus the Hawks and Twolves next.

Biggest Rise: Wizards +4
Biggest Fall: Celtics -4

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