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March 24, 2008 6:00 AM

NBA Power Rankings

Posted by Percy Allen

Each week we take a look at the NBA and rank the teams in order every Monday morning. Last week's ranking in parenthesis.

Rank

Team (Previous rank)

Comment

1.

Boston (2):

First team to successfully navigate the Texas Triangle in seven years. Sam Cassell may not replace Rajon Rondo in the starting lineup, but he's finishing games.

2.

New Orleans (4):

If they win the West, Chris Paul gets my MVP vote and Byron Scott gets my Coach of the year vote. CP3 is bidding to become the first player in 15 years and just the sixth in NBA history to average at least 20 points and 10 assists (joining Oscar Robertson, Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, Tim Hardaway and Tiny Archibald). The Hornets have surpassed last year's win total (39), have the best road record (20-11) in the West and the most wins against the Western Conference (30).

3.

Lakers (6):

Kobe Bryant bolstered his MVP candidacy with wins at Dallas and Utah while the Lakers were without Pau Gasol, who should return this week. Center Andrew Bynum is also expected back in a few weeks. They lost last night at home to Golden State, which sets up a big game tonight in the Bay Area particularly because both teams could meet in the first round of the playoffs.

4.

Utah (5):

Thursday's loss against the Lakers snapped their 19-game home winning streak, which tied a team record and was the second longest in the league in the last six seasons. They're 30-4 home record is the best in the NBA. Coach Jerry Sloan celebrates his 66th birthday Friday.

5.

San Antonio (8):

Manu Ginobili thrived as a starter where he averaged 22.4 points in 22 games, but he's back on the bench for good and Michael Finley returns to the starting lineup. Kurt Thomas also moved back to the bench. The Spurs have never lost more than five games in March since 1998. This year they have six losses. Still, they're riding a three-game winning streak and they have a soft schedule before the playoffs begin.

6.

Phoenix (13):

Raja Bell still hasn't returned since landing on Kevin Durant's foot and spraining his right ankle last Wednesday. With or without him, the Suns' league-leading seven-game winning streak will likely end tonight in Detroit. Amare Stoudemire on the MVP race: "I hear everybody's name mentioned as far as the top players in the league. My name is never up there. It definitely hurts because I put in the work and the time and the effort to be an elite player."

7.

Washington (15):

Gilbert who? The Wiz are playing their best basketball of the season. Since their 1-10 stretch in February, they're 11-4, which includes winning six of the last seven games. Antiwan Jamison is averaging 25.5 in the last 11 games. They're fifth in the playoff standings, just a game ahead of Toronto and Philadelphia, and begin a critcal five-game West coast trip Tuesday at Portland.

8.

Detroit (3):

Rasheed Wallace collected his 11th technical foul on Sunday. He's second in the NBA behind Kobe Bryant's 12. Five more for Wallace and he'll receive a one-game suspension. The Pistons are just 10-7 in their last 17 games and they lost key games to Cleveland and Washington last week.

9

Houston (1):

So much for the 22-game winning streak. They've lost three of the past four games and dropped from first to ninth in the standings. Losing Carl Landry (sore right knee) has been huge. He practices nearly every other day, but complains of swelling and is unable to play. They worked out Dale Davis and is eyeing Loren Woods who is playing in Turkey.

10.

Orlando (7):

They're close to securing just the fourth division title in team history. Dwight Howard leads the league in FT attempts because he's shooting 59.8 percent from the line, which encourages teams to foul when he gets the ball close to the basket.

11.

Philadelphia (11):

Samuel Dalembert is one of 11 players among the qualifiers who average double figures in scoring (10.7) and rebounds (10.2). He has more double doubles (23) than he did last year. Dalembert has also blocked at least five shots in the past three games.

12.

Golden State (10):

Chris Webber isn't likely to return this season, but Baron Davis is a rock. Remember when he was in New Orleans and folks worried that his bad knee made him a medical liability. Well, he's the only Warrior - and I mean that in every sense of the word - to play in every game this season.

13.

Denver (12):

The best news they've received was learning Dirk Nowitzki is out for at least two weeks. Still on pace to finish 49-33 and theyre still out of playoff position and could tie the 1971-72 Phoenix (49-33) as the team with the best record, which missed the playoffs. Nene, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer, could return this season. He's been practicing with the team the past two weeks.

14:

Cleveland (14):

Move over Brad Daugherty, LeBron James becomes the team's all-time leading scorer. James is just 23, which says a lot about how great he is, but it also says that the Cavs obviously didn't have big scorers in their history. James has the longest current streak in the NBA with 48 consecutive games with 20 or more points. Wilt Chamberlain has the record with 126 games.

15.

Dallas (9):

Big test for Josh Howard who must carry the scoring load because Nowitzki (lower left leg injury) is expected to miss at least two weeks. Five of their next seven games are against teams in the Western Conference playoff race. Just 9-8 since Jason Kidd arrived and they haven't beaten a team with a winning record. Avery Johnson's post-game spat with owner Mark Cuban could be harbinger of his demise if they miss the playoffs.

16.

Portland (16):

They took their first major step toward last week to sever ties with injured Darius Miles when they filed a request with the league office to have an independent physician examine the 26-year-old small forward to determine whether his right knee injury is career ending. Releasing Miles gives the team $9 million in salary cap space and opens a roster spot to sign last year's first round pick Rudy Fernandez.

17.

Atlanta (18):

In the last 11 games, Joe Johnson is averaging 28.0 points, 6.8 assists and he's shooting .502 from the field and .543 on three-pointers. They play just two winning teams in their last 13 games so they'll likely beat out New Jersey for the final playoff seed..

18.

Indiana (22):

Jamaal Tinsley and Marquis Daniels began their court trial last week for battery and disorderly conduct during a bar fight. If convicted, Tinsley could serve four years in jail and Daniels may get a one-year sentence. Larry Bird may be unsure if he'll return as GM next season, but Jermaine O'Neal knows he wants to leave.

19.

Minnesota (26):

I know they're not this good, but they've won six of their past nine games, which is their best stretch this season. But no one is talking about that after owner Glen Taylor popped off last week and said Kevin Garnett "tanked it" last year when he missed the last five games of the season with a leg injury.

20.

Toronto (19):

Chris Bosh is back, but the losing continues. After Sunday's loss to Denver, he blows up in the locker room and says "The thing that bothers me in the end of the games is (we're) just too hesitant." He's talking about teammates, but he should be talking about himself. The Raptors need a go-to guy in the final minutes and it's not the All-Star forward.

21.

Sacramento (20):

product Spencer Hawes made his first NBA start on Saturday and finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds against Memphis. Kuodos to the Maloof brothers who appeared Sunday on "Oprah's Big Give" show.

22.

New Jersey (17):

Devin Harris continues to play despite an injured right ankle because the Nets are 1/2 games behind Atlanta for eighth place in the playoffs. In past years, Harris' must-wins were against Phoenix and San Antonio. Now it's Chicago and Atlanta. "That's the difference between the East and the West. You gotta love it," he said.

23.

Milwaukee (27):

Retired Brian Winters' No. 32 jersey on Tuesday and on Wednesday they fired general manager Larry Harris, who picked a bad time to ask for a vote of confidence. The Buck had a 162-233 record with Harris as GM.

24.

Memphis (28):

The the only NBA team with seven players 25 years old or younger logging at least 14 minutes per game. Just one game off from last season's pace record-wise, but owner Michael Heisley is hoping his customers understand there is a method to the madness. To attract new customers, the Griz will offer 6,000 Terrace Level season tickets at $10 per game and 500 at $5.

25.

Chicago (21):

Rick Carlisle rumored as the next coach. Wonder if Ben Gordon regrets turning down a five-year, $50 million contract offer last summer. He's averaging 19.5 points, which is about two points fewer than last season.

26.

Charlotte (23):

Heading on the road for a four-game West Coast trip to make room for the North Carolina Tar Heels who take over Bobcats Arena and host Sweet 16 and quarterfinal NCAA games.

27.

Miami (30):

Dwyane Wade (knee surgery), Udonis Haslem (foot surgery) will miss the final month and Shawn Marion (back spasms) is out indefinitely. When Jason Williams and Ricky Davis are your best players and Pat Riley is off scouting the NCAA Tourney then that explains a 54-point outing against Charlotte. The 54 points is the third-lowest scoring game since the NBA adopted the 24-second shot clock in 1954-55.

28.

New York (25):

The Logo "Jerry West" and native New Yorker Donnie Walsh reportedly are the leading candidates to replace Isiah Thomas as general manager.

29.

LA Clippers (24):

The only thing worse than a seven-game losing streak is ...

30.

Seattle (29):

... an 11-game losing streak. If they don't win a game this week, they'll likely lose the rest and tie the NBA record of 23 consecutive losses.

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