NBA power rankings

By Sam Amico

Defending-champion Heat take over the top spot, but the Spurs, Thunder and Clippers remain worthy contenders. And let’s not forget the Grizzlies, who have stayed on course despite the roster upheaval.

Also, check out the week’s best performances.

1 Heat 40-14 +1

Nobody had a better February, and LeBron James looks like some sort of video-game creation of the ultimate player. Mostly, they might be league’s most in-tune bunch defensively.

2 Spurs 45-13 -1

Tony Parker for MVP? At the very least, he’s been the best player in the Western Conference on arguably its best team. That may be enough to get Spurs all the way through the West this time.

3 Thunder 41-15

Made an underrated acquisition at the trading deadline by landing swingman Ronnie Brewer from New York. Did the same after the deadline by signing veteran guard Derek Fisher.

4 Clippers 40-18

All those rumors about trading for Kevin Garnett didn’t come true. Instead, the Clippers will march forward with what they had. Why not? It’s worked pretty well so far.

5 Grizzlies 37-18

Time to start thinking about Lionel Hollins for Coach of the Year. Even after all the roster movement, the Grizzlies have barely missed a beat.

6 Pacers 35-21 +2

Danny Granger is back, and the Pacers were already pretty good without him. So it’s hard to envision them becoming anything but a bigger threat to Miami in the East.

7 Nuggets 36-22 -1

It’s more of the same as the Nuggets keep playing hard and together. And honestly, this might be coach George Karl’s best work yet.

8 Knicks 33-20 -1

Carmelo Anthony likely won’t go fishing after the first-round of the playoffs this year. But getting any further will depend on if the Knicks do the dirty work well.

9 Nets 33-24

Kris Humphries’ commercials are better than his game. If he or any of the other Nets’ reserves start offering real and consistent help, this team could go places.

10 Warriors 33-23 +1

Well, at least those new short-sleeved jerseys are pretty slick. The guys in them, however, have hit a little bit of a wall.

11 Celtics 30-27 +1

Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce remained after the trading deadline, and the old guys are up to their old tricks. Namely, they’re showing they know what it takes when it means the most.

12 Bulls 32-24 -2

The mystery surrounding Derrick Rose’s return suddenly seems like a distraction. So does the fact the Bulls suddenly can’t seem to put the ball in the basket.

13 Jazz 31-26

Everyone assumed the expiring contract of either Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap would be dealt at the deadline. Both remain in Utah. It’ll be interesting to see how the Jazz fare from here.

14 Hawks 32-23 +3

Not even Josh Smith can explain how he’s still on the team. But he is, and with the unknown of the trading deadline behind them, Smith and the Hawks can at least look to finish out the year on a high note.

15 Rockets 31-27 -1

No. 5 overall draft pick Thomas Robinson gets a chance to redeem himself after flopping in Sacramento. If he has even the slightest bit of success, the Rockets should be able to cling to their playoff position.

16 Lakers 28-30

Well, well. It’s beginning to look like Kobe Bryant has figured out to play with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Kobe mostly is just playing like Kobe.

17 Bucks 26-28 -2

Adding J.J. Redick to the bench gave the Bucks another backcourt scoring threat behind Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. But even moves that benefit the team take some time.

18 Mavericks 25-30 +1

Owner Mark Cuban said the Lakers should waive Kobe Bryant at season’s end via the amnesty clause. Good to see Cuban is still the same ornery owner. The Mavs, however, are quite different – and not for the better.

19 Trail Blazers 26-30 -1

The acquisition of point guard Eric Maynor from Oklahoma City won’t do much to improve the bench’s paltry point production. But Maynor is the type of steady hand who should only help the progress of rookie wonder Damian Lillard.

20 Raptors 23-34 +1

Imagine if Andrea Bargnani can rediscover his game. Chances are, he won’t, and Rudy Gay will take it from here. If you’re the Raptors, you could do worse.

21 76ers 22-32 -1

The trade for Andrew Bynum proved to be a disaster and probably makes Doug Collins want to consider heading back to the broadcast booth. Looks like what could have been a really cool thing might be coming to an end.

22 Timberwolves 20-33 +1

If we know pro sports, we know there’s a chance somebody could lose their job because of Kevin Love’s broken hand and Brandon Roy’s defective knees.

23 Pistons 22-37 -1

Things have fallen apart lately, and for all the talk of promising youngsters Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond (who’s been hurt), the Pistons are starting to look every bit as bad as last year.

24 Cavaliers 18-38 +3

Kyrie Irving and the kids are beginning to play the exciting brand of basketball everyone expected. The veteran bench, led by Marreese Speights, hasn’t hurt, either.

25 Hornets 20-37 -1

Key to the rest of the season is keeping Eric Gordon healthy. Key to the off-season is finding a way to trade him and his max contract. Good luck on both fronts.

26 Wizards 18-37 +2

Jordan Crawford wanted to be traded and the Wizards granted his wish by basically giving him to Boston. They’ve looked better ever since.

27 Kings 19-38 -1

Amazingly pulled a four-player deal with Houston despite the upcoming ownership change. Amazingly got the best player in that deal in Patrick Patterson. But it probably won’t mean much.

28 Suns 18-39 -3

Wanted to gut the roster at the trading deadline and failed. Should make this summer that much more interesting.

29 Magic 15-41

Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu are the only remaining members of the team that reached the Finals in 2009. That number could be wilted down to zero by next season.

30 Bobcats 13-43

Headed for another top-three draft pick. When your team is owned by Michael Jordan the basketball exec, that’s not always good news.