NBA power rankings

By Sam Amico

Stellar team defense and the best all-around individual keep the Heat on top. But the Spurs, Thunder and Clippers showing the West is still best.

Also: Check out the week’s best performances.

1 Heat 47-14

They may have flaws, but LeBron James supersedes them. And Dwyane Wade is somewhat surprisingly as good as ever.

2 Spurs 49-15

Gregg Popovich is a basketball genius. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and a healthy Tony Parker help make that possible. Just don’t call them happy.

3 Thunder 47-17

Kevin Durant seems primed to win yet another scoring title. What’s even more amazing is he makes it look so easy.

4 Clippers 45-20

DeAndre Jordan threw down the dunk heard ’round the world, and that was indeed cool. But the Clippers’ depth and understanding of playoff-type basketball is why they’re a true threat.

5 Grizzlies 42-19

After all those trades, the Griz are proving it’s all about the system. Credit Lionel Hollins for turning them into league’s best defensive team.

6 Nuggets 43-22 +1

Won 29 of first 32 games at home, and not too shabby on road. Sometimes, teams just click. That’s today’s Nuggets.

7 Pacers 39-24 -1

Danny Granger’s bum knee is causing him to miss more time. Read: League’s most underrated bunch may have to march on without him. But it’s worked OK so far.

8 Nets 37-27 +2

OK, let’s just assume that when Deron Williams catches fire, the Nets can beat anyone. Can he do so at right time, though?

9 Celtics 34-28 +2

Somehow, they’re managing to stay near the top despite season-ending injury to Rajon Rondo. But figuring it out is a dangerous waste of time. The Celtics will just beat you while you try.

10 Knicks 38-23 -2

Carmelo Anthony goes down with a knee injury and the Knicks win big. He returns, and they score a measly 63 points. He’s not the problem, but what is?

11 Lakers 33-31 +2

Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard are loving life, and even getting along with each other. The Lakers will make the playoffs, and that’s a huge improvement over the beginning of this drama-filled year.

12 Bulls 35-28 -3

All anyone wants to talk about is whether or not Derrick Rose will return this season. Makes sense, since the Bulls aren’t really going anywhere without him.

13 Rockets 34-30 +1

A young team that possesses James Harden and tons of assets, and the Rockets are winning. Daryl Morey is making a lot of other GMs look bad.

14 Warriors 36-29 +1

With four rookies, we knew the Warriors would have to fade a little eventually. But Stephen Curry and David Lee are two big reasons to believe the postseason is still in their future.

15 Hawks 34-28 -3

Remember all those Josh Smith trade rumors? Now the guy looks like a long-term keeper and the Hawks a potential playoff sleeper.

16 Bucks 32-29 +1

Brandon Jennings has turned into an assist machine. The Bucks are considerably better for it. But will they be able to pay him when the time comes to handle such matters?

17 Jazz 33-31 -1

Of the three teams fighting for the West’s final playoff spot, the Jazz appear to own toughest road. So far, they haven’t exactly handled it well, either.

18 Mavericks 29-33 +1

They’ve been much better and much more organized since the All-Star break. But it may be too late for Dirk Nowitzki and the gang to salvage things.

19 Trail Blazers 29-33 -1

Well, it’s almost official. The Trail Blazers are lottery-bound yet again. Not necessarily bad news when you consider their last trip there resulted in Damian Lillard.

20 Raptors 25-39

They’re now watchable and finally have a guy who can go one-on-one at the end of games. Thank you, Rudy Gay.

21 Timberwolves 21-39 +2

Without Kevin Love, the Wolves look like a bunch of guys straight out of the St. Paul Beer League most nights. Failed experiments involving Brandon Roy and (to a lesser extent) Andrei Kirilenko don’t help matters.

22 76ers 24-39

Fair or not, injuries and illnesses can cost guys jobs. That’s why it’ll be a little bit of a surprise to see Doug Collins back on the bench next season. Thanks for nothing, Andrew Bynum.

23 Pistons 23-43 -2

Greg Monroe is calling out teammates for lack of dedication, so at least the passion is there. Well, from Monroe, anyway.

24 Suns 22-42 +1

Give the Suns their due for continuing to play hard. Apparently, they don’t know any better. Because most nights, they don’t stand a chance.

25 Hornets 22-42 +1

If the season started after the All-Star break, Anthony Davis might be Rookie of the Year. He still needs to get stronger if he hopes to soar when the Hornets become the Pelicans.

26 Kings 22-43 +1

DeMarcus Cousins too often looks like he’s playing out the string these days. Is it too late to sell high?

27 Wizards 20-41 +1

Won five of first nine following All-Star break. That’d be depressing in some cities. In Washington, it’s reason to rejoice.

28 Cavaliers 21-42 -4

Kyrie Irving can’t stay on the court. Neither can Anderson Varejao. Until they do, the Cavs have no chance at getting in the win column regularly.

29 Magic 18-46

At least Nikola Vucevic looks like a keeper. Everyone else looks like a question mark. That’s no way to go through a basketball season.

30 Bobcats 13-50

After last year, Bobcats fans figured there was nowhere to go but up. Guess again. Other than that, things are great.