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Power Rankings

For movers, shakers, this is the week

By John Schuhmann,
Posted Mar 12 2012 11:08AM

It's Deadline Week in the NBA. Who can focus on work when there will be rumors flying all over the twitterverse?

The Lakers need a point guard and Pau Gasol needs an answer. The Celtics need to see what they can get for their expiring contracts, and with a good deal of cap space, the Pacers have the opportunity to upgrade their roster. The Blazers need a shake-up. And you know the Rockets are always ready to deal.

Oh yeah, the Orlando Magic could change the landscape of the whole league if they finally pull the trigger on a Dwight Howard trade.

The drama goes beyond the deadline, too, because we have some marquee matchups this week. On Wednesday, ESPN has the top two teams in the East facing each other for the second time this season. And on Friday, they have the top two teams in the West meeting for the third time.

All of the above could shake up the rankings as much as last week's action did. Over the last seven days, 28 of the 30 teams won at least one game and 28 of the 30 lost at least one game. Last week's top went 10 19-18, while the bottom 10 went 20-18.

• Last week: Bulls take back No. 1 spot

• This time last year: Playoff picture coming into focus - The Spurs were 54-12, the Celtics led the East, Steve Nash was dealing with "pelvic instability," Kevin Love's double-double streak came to an end, and the Warriors and Magic combined to hit a record 36 threes in a game.

Hero Team of the Week: Cleveland (3-1) - The Cavs' week began with home loss to the Jazz, but they responded with impressive road wins in Denver and Oklahoma City. Then they came home to beat the Rockets.
Zero Team of the Week: New York (0-4) - The Knicks and Pacers were the only teams without a win last week. Both played tough schedules with three of their four games on the road, but the Pacers didn't give up 119 points to the Bucks.

Plus-minus Stud: James Harden (OKC) was a plus-49 in four games last week.
Plus-minus Dud: Carmelo Anthony (NYK) was a minus-50 in four games last week.

High jumps of the week: Atlanta (+4), Memphis (+3), Philadelphia (+3), Phoenix (+3)
Free falls of the week: New York (-6), Dallas (-5), Indiana (-4)

East vs. West: The West is 110-84 (.567) against the East in inter-conference games this season, but the East was 12-9 last week.

Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
Off: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
Def: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
The league is averaging 93.9 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 101.0 points scored per 100 possessions.'s Power Rankings are just one man's opinion and are released every Monday during the season. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail. You can also contact him via twitter.

1 Chicago (34-9)
Pace: 92.6 (21), Off: 105.9 (3), Def: 95.7 (2)
The Bulls host three East playoff teams in the next six days, including the Heat in Wednesday's game of the week. So it's not a good time to be going through some defensive regression or for Luol Deng to be ailing. Those three East teams they play each has an All-Star at small forward.
Previous: 1

2 Miami (31-9)
Pace: 94.4 (12), Off: 107.7 (1), Def: 97.1 (4)
First, LeBron James hit big shots in regulation and overtime. Then, he deferred to Dwyane Wade on the final possession. What are we supposed to make of that? Do we praise him or criticize him when he makes two different late-game decisions in the same game? Next time, he needs to think about the narrative!
Previous: 3

3 Oklahoma City (32-9)
Pace: 96.0 (5), Off: 106.6 (2), Def: 99.4 (12)
Overall, the Thunder have more issues defensively, but their offense has been the problem in their last three defeats, including Friday's loss to the Cavs, when they struggled from deep and from the line. Two days after Bulls-Heat, we get Thunder-Spurs from OKC. Both matchups trump any amateur hoops this week.
Previous: 2

4 San Antonio (26-13)
Pace: 94.1 (14), Off: 104.6 (6), Def: 101.0 (15)
The Spurs played just two games last week. They benefited from Tyson Chandler's absence on Wednesday, and apparently suffered from Tony Parker's absence on Friday. But offense wasn't really the problem against the Clippers. Some assemblage of defense will be needed Friday in Oklahoma City.
Previous: 5

5 L.A. Lakers (25-16)
Pace: 92.5 (22), Off: 101.6 (13), Def: 98.5 (9)
After Andrew Bynum came up big in the post at the end of Sunday's win over Boston, Kobe Bryant said it was "was the first time we've ever trusted him in that situation." Well, Bynum is now 24-for-28 (86 percent) in clutch-time this season, which is pretty ridiculous. Bryant is 23-for-76 (30 percent), which is pretty bad.
Previous: 4

6 Memphis (24-16)
Pace: 94.1 (15), Off: 99.6 (19), Def: 97.8 (7)
It's unclear how a team manages to get outrebounded by 17 by the Suns, but that's what the Grizzlies did on Saturday. A night later, they managed to shut down a Denver offense that had been on fire. As far as individual matchups go, there aren't many much better than Kobe Bryant vs. Tony Allen, which we get Tuesday.
Previous: 9

7 Orlando (27-15)
Pace: 91.6 (28), Off: 102.2 (12), Def: 99.3 (11)
Well, here we are. It's finally time for the Magic to make the decision that will determine the future of their franchise. Parting with Dwight Howard is obviously tough to do, especially when you're third in the conference. But all signs indicate that the Magic will get nothing for him if they don't pull the trigger now.
Previous: 8

8 Philadelphia (25-17)
Pace: 92.3 (24), Off: 102.7 (9), Def: 93.8 (1)
Evan Turner, who's in the starting lineup for good, is a big X-factor in the Eastern Conference. He's averaged 22.0 points and 12.0 rebounds in helping the Sixers win three straight, including big division wins over Boston and New York. The new lineup gets tested more this week, facing the Pacers, Heat and Bulls.
Previous: 11

9 L.A. Clippers (23-16)
Pace: 92.4 (23), Off: 104.7 (5), Def: 103.2 (22)
In his time in New Orleans, Chris Paul led the Hornets to a disproportionately good record in close games. But this season, he's made more news with his late-game miscues, including a missed free throw in Minnesota on Monday and a failure to recover on Jordan Farmar's game-winner on Wednesday.
Previous: 7

10 Indiana (23-16)
Pace: 93.7 (17), Off: 100.7 (15), Def: 98.0 (8)
The Pacers are a volatile bunch. They followed a five-game losing streak with a six-game winning streak, and have now lost four straight again. Further, they've lost seven straight against the other teams in the top six of the Eastern Conference. They can end that streak with a win over the Sixers on Wednesday.
Previous: 6

11 Boston (21-19)
Pace: 92.3 (25), Off: 98.2 (25), Def: 96.3 (3)
Does the Big Three era end this week or does it last until May? The answer to that probably depends on what other teams are willing to give the Celtics to rent Ray Allen for six weeks. Danny Ainge doesn't need to rush into a rebuild, because if he just stands pat, he'll get to go shopping this summer.
Previous: 13

12 Atlanta (24-17)
Pace: 92.7 (20), Off: 99.4 (20), Def: 97.2 (5)
Joe Johnson is owed, like, a gazillion dollars over the next four years. And you know what? The Hawks are pretty much the same team whether he's in the lineup or not. They went 4-2 without him over the last few weeks, struggling a bit offensively, but still playing top-five defense. They're 17-13 without Al Horford.
Previous: 16

13 Houston (22-20)
Pace: 94.5 (11), Off: 102.6 (10), Def: 101.7 (17)
With Ricky Rubio out, you would think that the playoff door is wide open for the Rockets. But they're missing Kyle Lowry for 2-4 weeks with a bacterial infection, they needed a wrong-basket tip-in to get their only win in their last seven games, and they can't defend a lick. Don't go printing those playoff tickets just yet.
Previous: 12

14 Denver (23-19)
Pace: 97.2 (1), Off: 105.1 (4), Def: 102.2 (19)
The Nuggets have two losses since the break, and both came on the final possession. So those questions about winning without a go-to guy might just linger a bit. Danilo Gallinari could be that guy, but he's shot just 5-for-25 in his four games back from his ankle injury. And now Ty Lawson is hurt again.
Previous: 15

15 Dallas (23-20)
Pace: 94.1 (16), Off: 99.1 (22), Def: 97.4 (6)
Not surprisingly, the Mavs didn't hold up well playing nine games in the first 12 days after the break. They have the league's fourth-worst offense since the break, even though six of their nine opponents have been below-average defensive teams. They get some rest and play three more at home this week.
Previous: 10

16 Phoenix (19-21)
Pace: 94.5 (10), Off: 100.6 (17), Def: 101.9 (18)
The Suns are 5-1, with the league's fifth-best defense since the break. They have a chance to get back in the playoff picture if they can handle this week's back-to-back-to-back set better than they did their first one (they lost all three). If they do, Sunday's game against Houston may be the biggest of their season.
Previous: 19

17 Minnesota (21-21)
Pace: 95.7 (6), Off: 101.5 (14), Def: 100.7 (14)
It's hard to imagine the Wolves staying in the playoff picture without Ricky Rubio, especially with nine of their next 10 games on the road, and with J.J. Barea also banged up. But they should see what they can get before the deadline, because there's no benefit to falling in the standings. The Hornets have their pick.
Previous: 17

18 Portland (20-21)
Pace: 94.2 (13), Off: 102.8 (8), Def: 99.7 (13)
The Blazers desperately needed Saturday's win in Washington, their second-best offensive game of the season. But can they win two straight for the first time since Jan. 24? On Tuesday, they visit the Pacers, who have dropped four straight. Then they visit the Knicks, who have lost five in a row.
Previous: 18

19 Golden State (17-21)
Pace: 94.6 (9), Off: 103.5 (7), Def: 104.0 (24)
The Warriors aren't in playoff contention quite yet. They earned some relevance with big wins over the Clippers (twice), Hawks and Mavs over the last couple of weeks. They've started to play a little defense, and they have a relatively easy schedule for the remainder of March. Keep an eye on this team.
Previous: 21

20 New York (18-23)
Pace: 96.9 (2), Off: 98.8 (24), Def: 98.8 (10)
Well, if it wasn't clear before, this week made it obvious that the Knicks are pretty terrible defensively without Tyson Chandler. Of course, they had Chandler back on Sunday and still gave up 106 points to the Sixers. With five straight losses, New York is now closer to last place in the Atlantic Division than it is to first.
Previous: 14

21 Utah (19-21)
Pace: 93.5 (19), Off: 102.3 (11), Def: 104.2 (25)
If the Jazz have any hopes of making a run at the eighth spot in the West, it would help if they could defend every once in a while. They've held just one opponent under a point per possession in their last 13 games. And that's just not going to get it done when you're so inconsistent offensively.
Previous: 20

22 Cleveland (16-23)
Pace: 95.0 (8), Off: 99.3 (21), Def: 103.1 (21)
Suddenly, the Cavs are tied with the eighth-place Knicks in the loss column, with four very winnable games over the next eight days. They've won three straight over three Western Conference playoff teams, even though Kyrie Irving wasn't all that sharp until late in Sunday's win over Houston.
Previous: 23

23 Detroit (15-26)
Pace: 91.2 (29), Off: 96.4 (29), Def: 104.9 (26)
If Rodney Stuckey continues to play as well he has lately, he's going to have a much more lucrative offseason than he did in December. He has shot 48 percent as the Pistons have gone 11-6 over their last 17 games, and he's a minus-28 for a team that has been outscored by 239 points overall.
Previous: 22

24 Milwaukee (17-24)
Pace: 95.4 (7), Off: 100.7 (16), Def: 103.2 (23)
Somehow, the Bucks have become an offensive juggernaut, scoring 115 points per 100 possessions in their last three games. Ersan Ilyasova has averaged 20.0 points and 10.9 rebounds over the last 13 games and is 34-for-47 (72 percent) in his last three. Start printing those Ersanity t-shirts.
Previous: 24

25 New Jersey (14-28)
Pace: 91.8 (27), Off: 100.5 (18), Def: 108.2 (30)
Gerald Green went trending because of this ridiculousness, and deservedly so. But Green scored 26 points, his most in an NBA game in almost five years, because he can shoot. As they've waited for one dunk champ (the one in Orlando), the Nets have given another a second chance at an NBA career.
Previous: 25

26 Sacramento (14-27)
Pace: 96.4 (3), Off: 98.8 (23), Def: 106.0 (27)
From 60th pick to starting point guard, Rookie of the Month, and ... community activist! On Tuesday, rookie Isaiah Thomas showed up at Sacramento's City Council meeting, where the financing plan for the Kings' new arena was approved. If he wasn't a fan favorite already, that move had to clinch it.
Previous: 27

27 Toronto (13-28)
Pace: 92.2 (26), Off: 97.3 (26), Def: 101.1 (16)
Andrea Bargnani returned after a 20-game absence over the weekend. And because he showed improvement early in the season and still has to get back in shape, we'll just say it was a coincidence that the Raptors had two of their worst defensive games of the season against the Pistons and Bucks.
Previous: 26

28 New Orleans (10-31)
Pace: 91.0 (30), Off: 96.8 (27), Def: 102.8 (20)
Jarrett Jack has been back in the starting lineup for the last six games and has shot 23-for-38 in the last three. But the numbers show that the Hornets have been better on both ends with Greivis Vasquez running the point. The West's worst meets the East's worst on Monday at the Hive.
Previous: 28

29 Washington (9-30)
Pace: 96.2 (4), Off: 96.6 (28), Def: 106.3 (28)
Of course it was the Wizards who, on Wednesday, gave the Lakers a lesson in scoring balance (seven guys in double-figures) and late-game execution (8-2 run to close the game). Washington now has home wins over Oklahoma City and L.A., two teams who are obviously hoping the Wizards don't make The Finals.
Previous: 29

30 Charlotte (5-34)
Pace: 93.7 (18), Off: 92.6 (30), Def: 107.5 (29)
The Bobcats said goodbye to Boris Diaw and hello to the head coaching career of Stephen Silas, who took over after his dad got ejected on Tuesday and led the Cats to a win over the Magic. The younger Silas was then handed the reins in Friday's game against the Nets, and nobody scored 57 points this time.
Previous: 30

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