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Brian’s basketball rankings

Post-tradepocalypse edition

Published: March 11, 2011
Section: Sports


1. Lakers (45-19): The Lakers are 7-0 since the all-star break and while they have shown symptoms of malaise throughout the season, they are the two-time defending champions. The Lakers have proven that when they care about a game, they are nearly impossible to beat. Until someone pries the Larry O’Brien trophy out of Kobe Bryant’s cold hands, the Lakers are still the favorite to win again.

2. Celtics (46-15): After shocking the world with his trade of Kendrick Perkins, Danny Ainge’s vision is beginning to become clear. Ainge traded away five players, four of whom were injured and will miss considerable time. In return he received five healthy players who can all contribute. The Celtics have a two-week period of scrubs during which they can figure out their new additions before they face any real competition. One just hopes Ainge included some knee braces in his trade with the Thunder.

3. Bulls (44-18): The Bulls have quietly passed the Heat for the second seed in the East and sit just two and a half games back of Boston for the first seed. The Bulls have replaced the Heat as the team with the best chance of unseating the Celtics in the east and, if you got Doc Rivers alone in a room, he would probably admit that he’s more afraid of the Bulls than the Heat.

4. Spurs (51-12): After a 30-point drubbing of the Heat, the Spurs went on to get crushed at home by the Lakers. Furthermore, the injury bug has finally hit the Spurs with Tony Parker, who is out with an injury. Even though he was only out for a week before returning against the Heat, the Spurs are playing with fire by allowing Parker to return so early from an injury.

5. Mavericks (46-17): The Mavericks have won 19 of their past 21 games. With Caron Butler expected to return for the start of the playoffs from his surgery, the Mavericks are the sleeper team in the West.

6. Magic (40-24): Dwight Howard has already gotten a 16-tech suspension, and when your name is not Rasheed Wallace, that is cause for alarm. Howard is the heart and soul of this team and he has to keep a calmer head if the Magic are to go anywhere.

7. Thunder (39-23): With their acquisition of Kendrick Perkins from Boston, the Thunder have added the last piece to make them a serious threat in the West. However, Perkins has not played a game for the Thunder because he is recuperating from a knee injury he suffered before the trade. One can’t help but wonder if Perkins will be healthy enough to contribute to the Thunder’s playoff run.

8. Grizzlies (36-29): Though the Grizzlies are currently the eighth seed in the West, they sit just one and a half games back of the fifth seed. The Grizzlies are playing with confidence and have a myriad of quality wins, including those against the Heat, Spurs and Thunder. If the playoffs started today, the Grizzlies would possibly be the most dangerous eighth seed in recent memory.

9. Heat (43-20): Yes, even with a record of 43-20 the Heat are sporting the ninth spot in the power rankings. The Heat are 1-16 in shot attempts to tie or take the lead in games during the last 10 seconds of regulation, and that one success was a Lebron dunk that was negated by a Rudy Gay buzzer beater ultimately to give the Grizzlies the win. I’m tired of all the stat-geeks saying the Heat’s struggles against elite teams don’t matter: THEY DO MATTER.

10. Nuggets (37-27): Good news and bad news for the Nuggets. Since trading Carmelo Anthony, Denver is 5-2 and had the opportunity to win all of them. On the other hand, the Nuggets are tied with the abysmal Kings for the league lead in losses (12) after having a double-digit lead.

11. Trail Blazers (36-27): Brandon Roy has returned from injury and the Blazers have indicated that his minutes will begin to increase and that he will be able to play back-to-back games. Behind the breakout play of LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers are quickly forgetting the debacle named Greg Oden (well maybe not forgetting, but at least easing the pain).

12. Hawks (37-26): It was a tale of two games for the Hawks. After a miraculous 20-point comeback win against the streaking Bulls, the Hawks were exuding a feel-good mood. However, the mood didn’t last long after the Hawks became just the third team to fail to score at least 80 points against Mike D’Antoni’s Knicks.

13. 76ers (32-30): Lebron James, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and Andre Iguodala. What do these players have in common? They have all had at least three triple-doubles this year. It’s always good news when you’re mentioned with the likes of James, Westbrook and Rondo. And Iguodala’s play has given the 76ers optimism for many years to come.

14. Suns (32-29): In the much-hyped rematch against the Celtics, Channing Frye was absolutely dominated and abused by Kevin Garnett. Adding insult to injury, Frye injured his shoulder in an overtime loss to the Thunder and is expected to be out for at least two weeks.

15. Hornets (37-29): The Hornets playoff hopes nearly evaporated before their eyes when Chris Paul ran into Ramon Sessions during their recent game against the hapless Cavaliers and had to be carted off the court in a stretcher. Already maligned by perpetual knee problems, Paul can ill-afford to develop a concussion.

16. Rockets (32-32): The Rockets haven’t spent a day above .500 throughout the entire season; however, they sit just three games out of the eighth spot in the West. With the rising play of Kevin Martin, a surging defense and a home-heavy schedule down the stretch, the Rockets have a solid chance of passing the fading Jazz and Hornets and grabbing the last playoff spot.

17. Knicks (33-29): With the additions of Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, the buzz has once again returned to Madison Square Garden. But one is left wondering how the Knicks consisted of 25 percent of the Cavaliers 12 wins this season and have failed to establish an offensive consistency. Still, the Knicks are a potent threat to any possible first round match-up with their prolific scoring ability.

18. Jazz (33-31): The Jazz are nearly unrecognizable aside from their jerseys. Not only was coaching legend Jerry Sloan forced out of Utah by Deron Williams, but the Jazz also subsequently traded their all-star point guard to the Nets. Jazz fans are left wondering how they lost both their coach and franchise player.

19. Pacers (27-35): The Pacers were three minutes away from reshaping their roster for a playoff run with the addition of O.J. Mayo at the trade deadline. However, the Pacers and Grizzlies failed to meet the 3 p.m. deadline. After getting blasted by a combined 49 points in the past three losses, things are looking gloomy for the Pacers.

20. Warriors (27-35): If they played in the east, the Warriors would be in play for the eighth seed. But in the top-heavy west, the Warriors sit seven and a half games out of the playoffs. The Warriors will need a miracle to make the playoffs after going 12-10 during a home-heavy schedule.

21. Clippers (24-40): While the dreams of playoffs for this young Clippers team are gone this year, the Clippers are relevant for the first time in years and have a solid base to make a playoff run next year. The goal for the rest of the season should be Blake Griffin getting 16 more