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Brian’s basketball rankings: It’s not easy being green

Published: April 1, 2011
Section: Sports


1. Bulls (53-20): The Bulls haven’t looked quite as sharp this week with a double-digit loss to the 76ers and close games against the Bucks and Grizzlies. Nevertheless, they still hold a two-game lead on the Celtics for the top seed in the East and have a tiebreaker advantage over the Lakers if they happen to meet in the Finals.

2. Lakers (53-20): The Lakers are 15-1 since the All-Star Break with the sole loss coming against the Heat in Miami. The Lakers now sit just three and a half games behind the Spurs for the one seed in the West and with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker all injured for the Spurs, the Lakers have a decent shot at overtaking the Spurs.

3. Spurs (57-17): The Spurs are currently on a season-worst four-game losing streak and their stranglehold on the top seed in the West is loosening. With Duncan, Ginobili and Parker all injured at the moment, the Spurs desperately need to get them healthy if they have any chance of making a deep playoff run.

4. Thunder (49-24): The Thunder are currently 13-2 in the month of March. With the addition of Kendrick Perkins at Center, the Thunder now have the ability to play James Harden at his more natural role as a Power Forward. With Perkins now starting at Center, the Thunder have a real shot at dethroning the Lakers.

5. Heat (51-23): I was going to put the Heat at No. 3 but then they went and lost to the lowly Cavaliers. I usually don’t like to put too much into +/- statistics but in this game, Chris Bosh was a -24 while Ryan Hollins was a +33. Throughout the season, the Heat have shown that when one of their Big Three has a bad night, they will probably lose and this will come to hurt them dramatically in the playoffs with their lack of depth.

6. Mavericks (52-21): The Mavericks now trail the Lakers by one game for the second seed in the West with a decisive game coming up on Thursday with huge implications for the second seed. If the Mavericks can’t beat the Lakers, they really have no chance in the playoffs.

7. Celtics (51-22): The Celtics have now lost seven of their last 12 games. Only two weeks ago the Celtics had a two and a half game lead on the Bulls for the one seed in the East, but now the Celtics trail the Bulls by two games. Last year the Celtics showed they can flip the switch come playoff time, but the Celtics don’t want to tempt the basketball gods.

8. Nuggets (44-29): The Nuggets are now 12-4 since trading Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks. They have systematically been demolishing opponents since the trade and now (gasp) are playing some pretty good defense. While the Nuggets are pretty much locked into the fifth seed, they will be very dangerous in the playoffs.

9. Magic (47-27): Since the All-Star Break, the Magic are playing the best basketball in the East second only to the Bulls. With the veteran experience the Magic have, I would bet money that they would manage an upset against the Bulls if they meet in the playoffs.

10. Grizzlies (41-33): To all those saying the balance of power in the NBA has shifted from the West to the East, I give you this statistic. The Grizzlies are 10-6 against the top four seeds in the West and just completed a road trip against the Bulls, Celtics and Spurs at 2-1. Yet they are barely hanging on to the eighth seed in the West.

11. Trailblazers (43-31): This was a big week for the Trailblazers as they beat the Western Conference-leading Spurs twice in the same week. This team is playing with confidence right now, and truly believes they can hang with the best.

12. Rockets (39-35): Once again, an example of how strong the Western Conference is: the Rockets have the league’s third-best record since the All-Star Break at 12-4. Yet they are still out of the playoffs requiring a near perfect stretch-run and a Hornets fold after losing David West for the season.

13. 76ers (38-36): The 76ers now have the sixth seed in the East on lockdown as the Knicks stumble into the playoffs. Only problem, if the playoff seeding holds as it currently is, the 76ers would face the Heat in the first round. Why is that bad news? Lebron James and Dwayne Wade torched the 76ers for a combined 71 points in their last meeting.

14. Hornets (42-32): The Hornets started off the season with a good deal of hope for this year. However, with the season-ending injury to David West, the Hornets are now looking like first-round fodder if they are even able to hold onto their playoff spot.

15. Hawks (42-32): The Hawks have a losing record since the All-Star Break. The only reason the Hawks aren’t in danger of losing the fifth spot to the 76ers is some sloppy play by the 76ers in close games. Once again, Hawk fans will be subjected to being first-round fodder to the Orlando Magic.

16. Suns (36-37): Steve Nash has quietly surpassed Rajon Rondo for highest APG (assists per game), but even the valiant efforts of Nash will not be enough to get this team into the playoffs. The Suns should put Nash on lockdown for the rest of the season so he doesn’t get injured.

17. Pacers (33-42): Tyler Hansbrough has had a breakout month when his team needed it the most as they are stuck in a dogfight with the Bucks and Bobcats for the final playoff spot in the East.

18. Bobcats (31-42): A week ago the Bobcats were dead in the water with no chance at making the playoffs. Now after back-to-back wins against both the Celtics and Knicks, the Bobcats sit just a game back of the Pacers for the final playoff spot in the East.

19. Bucks (29-44): The Bucks were in the thick of things for the final playoff spot in the East just a week ago. Now with back-to-back losses, the Bucks are quickly fading out of contention for a playoff spot in a season filled with lofty expectations.

20. Warriors (32-43): The Warriors’ inability to win on the road killed whatever chance they had at making the playoffs. The Warriors’ road woes are probably centered on this statistic: Monta Ellis averages 27.8 ppg at home but only 20.8 ppg on the road. The largest discrepancy in the NBA.

21. Knicks (36-38): The Knicks find themselves at only two games under .500 overall and currently have an under .500 record since acquiring Carmelo Anthony. The most the Knicks can hope for this year is to push a first-round series to five or six games. The ultimate test of this trade will come next year after Anthony and Amare Stoudemire have the time to mesh their games.

22. Clippers (29-45): The Clippers are now officially, mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. However, the future for this team is bright if their owner, Donald Sterling, can finally get out of the team’s way.

23. Kings (21-52): With the Kings having been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for weeks, they are now relishing the role of spoilers with back-to-back-to-back wins against the Bucks, Pacers and 76ers.

24. Jazz (36-39): The Jazz have dropped like a rock since Jerry Sloan quit and the trade of Deron Williams. The Jazz have no shot at the playoffs and their future does not look much brighter.

25. Pistons (26-47): The Pistons are mired in the beginning of a rebuilding process. The process will be long and painful and as such the Pistons will likely not make the playoffs for many years to come.

26. Cavaliers (15-58): The Cavaliers effectively won their Game 7 of the NBA finals Tuesday night with a 12-point victory against the streaking Miami Heat and Lebron James. In a season filled with misery, this game is one bright spot that the Cavaliers and their fans can look to.

27. Nets (23-50): The Nets acquired Deron Williams in a risky move to rebuild the franchise. If the Nets can use Williams to lure Dwight Howard to the team in 2012, the Nets will have an opportunity to supplant the Knicks as New York’s team.

28. Timberwolves (17-57): About the only good thing that has happened during Minnesota’s current seven-game losing streak is that they battled back from 25 points down against the Celtics and only lost by three points.

29. Raptors (20-53): After a stunning overtime victory against the Thunder, the Raptors are currently on a four-game losing streak. Are you surprised? I’m not.

30. Wizards (18-55): Pop out the champagne! The Wizards avoided tying the road futility mark after an overtime victory against the Jazz.

Editors’ note: The records are as of the end of gameplay March 29.