The NBA: Power Rankings: Week 9

Happy New Year basketball fans! Welcome to the last edition of the Power Rankings for 2013.

Lots of developments took place last week that involved major injuries to important players (Westbrook, Horford) and a suspension to Andrew Bynum.

Trade speculations between Brook Lopez for Pau Gasol or Gasol for Andrew Bynum have started to circulate.

Meanwhile, teams that are supposed to tank like the Suns, Celtics and Raptors are still playing decent ball and within close range of a playoff spot. Phoenix is playing exceptional and is just 1/2 game behind the Clippers for the division lead.

The Knicks and Nets still suck and that will probably NOT change for 2014.

Hero team of the week: OKC won 3 straight and 2 of those games did not include Russell Westbrook.

Sucky team of the week: The Nuggets have lost 7 straight and they already have 7 home losses after going 38-3 at home last season.

The standings are current up to December 31, 2013 and the rankings from Last Week refer to Week 8.

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Eric Bledsoe is making sure that the Phoenix Suns are not tanking this season
(Image from: USA Today Sports)
1. Indiana Pacers | 24-5 | Last Week: 1 | Same
Lance Stephenson is playing amazing ball over the last 5 games: 18 ppg, 8 rpg, 6 apg. On the other hand, Danny Granger has been ineffective in his first 4 games back from injury. The Pacers will have an easy schedule over the next 2 weeks with just 1 out of 9 games against a +0.500 team.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder | 25-5 | Last Week: 2 | Same
Russell Westbrook will be missed for the next 6 weeks or more but OKC has enough talent to compensate for his absence. Kevin Durant was named Western Player of the Week again after winning 2 games without Westbrook while averaging 33 points, 12 boards and 5 assists.

3. Miami Heat | 24-7 | Last Week: 5 | +2
Chris Bosh played spectacular in their crucial win vs the Blazers. He made the winning shot and finished with his 3rd double-double of the season. Bosh won the East Player of the Week award for the 1st time as a Heat. Chris Andersen and Dwyane Wade are battling back problems.

4. San Antonio Spurs | 24-7 | Last Week: 4 | Same
The Spurs have the best road record at 13-3 while being 4th on team defense and 2nd in team assists. Manu Ginobili is quietly having a solid season and making himself a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year again. Tim Duncan had a splendid December where he recorded 10 double-doubles in 13 games.

5. Portland Trailblazers | 24-7 | Last Week: 3 | -2
The Blazers last 2 losses were a combined 3 points after being the best team in the clutch. They were 19-0 in games that they led going into the 4th quarter. Their first loss was against the Heat. Wesley Matthews started the season very hot but cooled down a little. He is still shooting career-highs from the field and the 3PT arc

6. Phoenix Suns | 19-11 | Last Week: 7 | +1
The Suns pummeled the Clippers by 19 points in Staples Center during Eric Bledsoe's first game against his former team. Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe are having spectacular seasons and both guys have similar numbers: 18 points, 6 assists and 49% shooting.

7. Houston Rockets | 21-12 | Last Week: 8 | +1
The Rockets walloped the Spurs on Christmas Day with James Harden erupting in the 4th quarter. They won 3 of their last 4 games which included a blowout loss to the Thunder who played without Westbrook. Dwight Howard is shooting a passable 58% from FTs after being at 49% over the last 2 years.

8. Golden State Warriors | 19-13 | Last Week: 10 | +2
The Dubs have won 5 straight including quality wins over playoff teams (Suns, Clippers). They are currently 1-0 in their 7-game Eastern road trip that only features one tough game vs Miami. Andre Iguodala has not been that good in his past 7 games back from an injury: 7 ppg, 4 rpg and 3 apg.

9. Los Angeles Clippers | 21-12 | Last Week: 6 | -3
The Clips have lost 3 of their past 5 with back-to-back losses to the Warriors and Blazers. Blake Griffin has been a major force for the Clips. He has 23 double-doubles (3rd in NBA) and is on pace to break his career-high of 63 during his rookie season.

10. Dallas Mavericks | 18-13 | Last Week: 9 | -1
The Mavs escaped in a win vs the T'wolves when Shawn Marion got away with a foul on Kevin Love. The Matrix played his best game of the year with 32 points on 14-19 FG shooting and 4-6 from threes. Dirk Nowitzki is having an efficient season (10th in PER) but he probably won't be an All-Star.

11. Atlanta Hawks | 17-14 | Last Week: 11 | Same
Tough break for the Hawks and Al Horford who went down with a chest injury that will probably rule him out for the season. Pero Antic and Gustavo Ayon will get extended minutes to replace Horford's minutes. Kyle Korver leads the NBA in adjusted FG% shooting.

12. Washington Wizards | 14-14 | Last Week: 13 | +1
The Wizards are at .500 and pushing for the playoffs. They got lucky that Bradley Beal narrowly missed getting a major knee injury last Friday. Beal is okay and playing. John Wall should be the starting PG for the East All-Stars. Wall is tied with Jeff Teague with the most double-doubles by a PG in the East.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves | 15-16 | Last Week: 15 | +2
Kevin Love is flirting with season averages of 25-15-5 (his current numbers are 26-14-4) which was only done once before by the legendary Wilt Chamberlain. The T'wolves are 2nd in team scoring and 3rd in rebounding but are 23rd in team defense.

14. New Orleans Pelicans | 14-15 | Last Week: 17 | +3
Nice win by the Pelicans over the Blazers as Jrue Holiday posted 31 points, 13 assists and 7 rebounds. In six games after his latest setback, Anthony Davis is averaging the same numbers (19-10-3 blocks) just like before his hand injury. The Pellies are a decent 3-3 in that span.

15. Toronto Raptors | 13-15 | Last Week: 20 | +5
The Raptors are 7-3 since Rudy Gay got traded and Kyle Lowry is playing his best ball with the Raps. For the month of December, Lowry is averaging 19 points, 8 assists and 4 boards while the Raps have gone 7-6. Jonas Valanciunas is averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds in December too.

16. Denver Nuggets | 14-16 | Last Week: 12 | -4
The Nuggets have lost 7 straight and are now slipping out of a playoff spot. They are 3.5 games behind the 8th spot. In 6 of their last 7 losses, the leading scorer of the game has belonged to their opponents. Ty Lawson is just averaging 14 points in December after going for 20 points in November.

17. Charlotte Bobcats | 14-18 | Last Week: 14 | +4
Al Jefferson had a chance to send the game to OT in his first game back in Utah as a member of the Bobcats but he missed. The 'Cats have lost 3 straight and are 1-4 since an important part of their rotation, Jeff Taylor went down with a season-ending injury.

18. Memphis Grizzlies | 13-17 | Last Week: 18 | Same
James Johnson started to get playing time 7 games ago. He is getting 9 points and 5 rebounds plus he reached double figures in 3 straight games. Mike Miller has not been a major factor to the outside shooting of the Grizzlies. They rank 29th in threes.

19. Boston Celtics | 13-17 | Last Week: 21 | +2
Rookie Kelly Olynyk is not getting the same minutes and production after he came back from injury. Before his injury, Olynyk was posting 8 points and 6 rebounds in 23 minutes. After his injury, Olynyk is playing 13 minutes and getting 3 points and 3 boards. Brad Stevens should play him more again.

20. Detroit Pistons | 14-19 | Last Week: 16 | -4
Josh Smith was benched again by Coach Cheeks in a loss to the Wizards. This is at least the 2nd time that Smith was benched this season. The Drummond-Monroe-Smith combo has not worked well lately with Greg Monroe having the worst plus/minus on the team.

21. Chicago Bulls | 12-17 | Last Week: 22 | +1
The Bulls have won 3 of their past 4 even with Luol Deng missing 5 straight games with an Achilles tendon injury. Jimmy Butler and Carlos Boozer have increased their scoring production in that span. DJ Augustin has been impressive since joining the Bulls. He scored double digits in 5 straight games off the bench.

22. Los Angeles Lakers | 13-18 | Last Week: 19 | -3
The Lakers lost 5 straight games with Pau Gasol missing 3 of them due to a cold. Some of his teammates already questioned his desire to play and compete. More injury problems for the Lakers as key reserve and backup guard Xavier Henry will miss at least two weeks with a knee problem.

23. Orlando Magic | 10-20 | Last Week: 28 | +5
Tobias Harris has scored in double digits in his last 5 games including getting 2 double-doubles. Glen Davis has been a solid contributor with his 14 points and 7 boards in December. Jameer Nelson is once again in trade rumors because the Magic wants to play Victor Oladipo more as a PG.

24. Utah Jazz | 10-24 | Last Week: 29 | +5
The Jazz won 3 of their past 5 games and they are 7-9 in December which is a stark improvement from their 3-15 start. Derrick Favors made a dunk as time expired in a win vs the Lakers. His numbers are up this year in points and rebounds with the additional minutes.

25. Sacramento Kings | 9-20 | Last Week: 26 | +1
Rudy Gay helped them win their best game of the year with an upset of Miami last weekend. Gay hit some big shots and played terrific defense on LeBron James. Meanwhile, DeMarcus Cousins is a beast and should be an All-Star. DMC is averaging 24 and 12 in December.

26. Brooklyn Nets | 10-20 | Last Week: 25 | -1
The Nets finally won a game versus the worst team in the NBA then lost to the Pacers on their next game. They will play the Spurs and OKC next. Deron Williams has been a major disappointment so far. His 13 points and 7 assists per game are both career-lows except for his rookie year.

27. New York Knicks | 9-21 | Last Week: 24 | -3
Carmelo Anthony missed 3 games with a sprained ankle and the Knicks lost 3 straight, all by double digits. They need him back with 4 of their next 5 games against playoff teams (Spurs, Mavs, Rockets, Heat). JR Smith has struggled all season with his shot. JR is an abysmal 35% from the field.

28. Philadelphia 76ers | 9-21 | Last Week: 27 | -1
The Sixers snapped a 13-game losing streak on the road after they beat the Lakers. They are 2-13 on the road. Thad Young exploded with 4 straight games of at least 25 points and 6 boards. He had back-to-back games of 30 and 10 but both games were losses.

29. Cleveland Cavaliers | 10-20 | Last Week: 23 | -6
The Cavs added more drama to a disjointed locker room after they suspended Andrew Bynum who was sulking and a distraction to the team. Kyrie Irving is scoring a bunch of points but there are rumblings that he is a ball hog although the Cavs are 5-2 when Kyrie scores at least 30 points.

30. Milwaukee Bucks | 6-24 | Last Week: 30 | Same
The Bucks continue to lose and one of their best players this year, John Henson will miss some games due to a sprained ankle. Larry Sanders has been okay in his first 2 games back from injury with 9 points and 8 rebounds but his shot blocks are not there yet.

Biggest Jump of the Week: Three Teams at +5
Biggest Drop of the Week: Cavaliers -6

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