NBA power rankings

By Sam Amico

Riding a historic winning streak, the Heat are clearly the class of the league. But the Spurs, Thunder and Grizzlies are making a strong case that the West is still the best.

Also: Check out the week’s best performances.

1 Heat 52-14

Question is, can anyone actually expect to beat them four times in a playoff series? LeBron James is just so much better than everyone else.

2 Spurs 51-16

Cory Joseph and Gary Neal would go somewhere else and be non-factors. With the Spurs, they’ve filled in admirably for Tony Parker.

3 Thunder 50-17

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook continue to score with the greatest of ease. But thanks to the Heat streak, the Thunder have been ignored lately. That’s probably a mistake.

4 Grizzlies 45-21 +1

Mike Conley is never in the conversation of elite point guards, but he’s slowly gotten better each season. The Griz are reaping the rewards.

5 Clippers 46-21 -1

Still lead the league in alley-oops, and likely always will with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. But man, the Clippers have become so much more than that.

6 Nuggets 46-22

Tied a franchise record with 12 straight wins (and counting), and they’ve done it without a super-duper star. Can Nuggets win title without one? Yes, said George Karl. And he’s tired of the question.

7 Pacers 41-26

Paul George is the Pacers’ leading scorer, but this has been a team-wide effort in the truest sense. Might be the Heat’s most legit challenger in either conference.

8 Knicks 39-26 +2

The mystery surrounding Carmelo Anthony’s knee continues. Until that’s resolved, so will the mystery surrounding the Knicks’ fate.

9 Nets 39-28 -1

It’s sometimes difficult to envision the Nets getting past the second round of the playoffs. But if all those weapons start clicking at the same time, and at the right time, there’s still major promise here.

10 Celtics 36-30 -1

Watching old warriors Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce keep this team alive may be the story of the season. No matter what happens, it’s pretty obvious the Celtics cannot be counted out.

11 Warriors 39-30 +3

With Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, no one is a better example of living and dying with the perimeter shot. On the bright side, Warriors have been alive and well lately.

12 Hawks 37-30 +3

Nobody expected the Hawks to be this devoted for even half this long. Perhaps it’s time to start mentioning Larry Drew in Coach of the Year conversations.

13 Lakers 36-33 -2

Playing like a team that’s starting to come together – but not yet like a team loaded with big names. Now, the status of Kobe Bryant’s ankle could make or break the season.

14 Bulls 36-30 -2

Tom Thibodeau is getting a little cranky. Not having Derrick Rose will do that to a coach. But the Bulls always play hard and smart, and that could mean good things in the postseason.

15 Rockets 36-31 -2

Haven’t really skipped a beat since trading Patrick Patterson, despite the fact the Rockets have received little from Thomas Robinson. Guess James Harden is even more brilliant than we thought.

16 Bucks 33-32

GM John Hammond is still looking to make a splash with a move in the offseason. Until then, getting some playoff experience should be nice.

17 Mavericks 32-35 +1

Playing better than at any time this season; people seem to forget the Mavs are still in the postseason chase. If only Dirk Nowitzki had been healthy from the start.

18 Jazz 34-33 -1

Fading fast despite being right there with the Lakers in the race for the No. 8 seed. Either way, big decisions (read: Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap) await the Jazz in free agency.

19 Trail Blazers 31-35

The good news: Damian Lillard is highly likely this season’s Rookie of the Year. The bad: The Blazers still need to address the lack of bench scoring, and that won’t necessarily be a piece of cake.

20 Raptors 26-41

The Raptors have become considerably more watchable, and more of a threat, since trading for Rudy Gay. Next step: Actually winning more than they lose.

21 76ers 26-40 +1

Andrew Bynum is out for the season. We sort of knew that all along, right? What we don’t know is if he’ll ever play a game for the Sixers.

22 Timberwolves 23-42 -1

Jobs are likely on the line following another lost season. And the unfortunate hand injury to Kevin Love probably won’t be enough of an excuse to save whoever is the scapegoat.

23 Wizards 23-43 +4

John Wall is proving to be a winner in the face of a lot of doubters. If he can stay healthy, next season could result in a quick rise for the Wizards.

24 Pistons 23-46 -1

The wheels seem to be falling off a little lately, but there’s no need for utter panic. The Pistons merely have to figure out how to fill in around Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond.

25 Suns 23-45 -1

Luis Scola and Goran Dragic are a nice inside-out duo, but that’s about where the Suns’ hopes end. And those two are hardly All-Stars.

26 Kings 23-44

It’s too early to say for certain whether this is the Kings’ final season in Sacramento. Either way, it’s time to gut the team.

27 Hornets 22-46 -2

Anthony Davis has displayed loads of promise, and Ryan Anderson was a free-agent steal. Other than that, it’s probably time to clean house. And yes, that includes Eric Gordon.

28 Cavaliers 22-45

Without Kyrie Irving, the landslide has begun. And the grace period for the Cavs officially ends in April. Next comes the pressure to stop rebuilding and actually win games.

29 Magic 18-49

It’s easy to overlook the fact the Magic are relatively young with a pretty good center in Nikola Vucevic. For a team with the hangover that comes with losing a superstar, it actually could be worse.

30 Bobcats 15-52

The Bobcats are headed for another lottery where there’s no clear-cut choice for the No. 1 overall pick. Same as it ever was.