NBA power rankings

By Sam Amico

The defending champs back in a familiar spot, while the Grizzlies, Thunder and Spurs (and yes, Knicks) keep the pressure on.

Also: Check out the week’s top performances.

1 Heat 12-3 +1

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the gang proving to be same as they ever were: Can beat anyone when focused. Actually, can’t beat most anyone even when they’re not.

2 Grizzlies 12-3 -1

Griz holding opponents to league-low 90.7 ppg. With D like that, maybe they really are the potential Finals material they say they are.

3 Thunder 14-4 +1

Guess that James Harden trade worked out OK, after all. Question is, will Thunder use one of those first-round picks to get even more veteran help?

4 Spurs 14-4 -1

Gregg Popovich rests who he wants, when he wants. So far, the Spurs have only paid for it off the court. On the court, everything’s just swell.

5 Knicks 12-4 +1

Amar’e Stoudemire says he’s OK with coming off bench when he returns from injury, and Knicks have yet to show any warning signs of collapse. Perhaps it’s time to take them semi-seriously?

6 Nets 11-5 -1

Remember when everyone assumed Nets would trade half the team for Dwight Howard? Sometimes, best deals are ones you never get done.

7 Clippers 11-6 +2

Another strong week, but still hard to know what you’ll get from one game to next. Getting to point where Clips should be more reliable than that.

8 Hawks 9-5 -1

Josh Smith has been a model pro in the coach Larry Drew era, and Hawks have been mostly balanced and cohesive. This team can go places.

9 Warriors 10-7 +4

We knew there’d come a time when lineup featuring Stephen Curry, David Lee, Klay Thompson and others would climb the charts. Ladies and gentlemen, that time has arrived.

10 Celtics 9-8

Still uneven, but that’s not really a big deal. C’s don’t really worry about their record at this time of year. Not really until April and May, actually.

11 76ers 10-7 +1

Somehow managing to keep last season’s pace without key members from last year’s team (Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Lou Williams), and without key members of this year’s (Andrew Bynum). But one thing Sixers haven’t lost: Guts.

12 Lakers 8-9 -4

At some point, it will be all right to start wondering if Dwight Howard is really all he’s cracked up to be. Not yet, but that day is looming, basketball fans.

13 Bulls 8-7 +6

Doing what everyone said they needed to do until Derrick Rose comes back, by staying around .500. That’s great, assuming Rose can make it back this season.

14 Nuggets 9-9

Balanced and athletic, but played twice as many on road as home through first 18 games. That tends to make things seem worse than they really are.

15 Bucks 8-8 -4

Have looked completely ordinary for 7-10 days now, Lucky for Bucks, ordinary just might win you the Central Division.

16 Mavericks 8-9

Derek Fisher will act as coach and winner on floor for second unit. But Mavs need injured Dirk Nowitzki back with first unit to matter.

17 Timberwolves 7-8 +4

Strong start has been tempered in recent weeks. Don’t be surprised to see T-Wolves make deal before February trade deadline just to make real playoff push for which they long.

18 Pacers 8-9

Hard to believe injured Danny Granger was solely responsible for edge Pacers displayed all of last season. But more you see Pacers without him, more that seems to be the case.

19 Rockets 8-8 +1

James Harden got return to OKC out of way, and Rockets can now go back to handling everyday business. Half the time, they’re doing that pretty well.

20 Jazz 9-10 -5

Still not getting enough consistency from anyone outside of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Mo Williams. That’s especially been the case on the road. That needs to change if you want to be taken seriously, fellas.

21 Trail Blazers 8-10 +1

Damian Lillard scored 20 or more points 11 times through first 18 games. Puts him in company with names such as Kobe, LeBron and Durant. Blazers might have found the next Isiah Thomas.

22 Magic 7-10 +3

Beat Dwight Howard and his new star-studded team in first matchup, then topped Warriors on road very next night. Starting to look like determined Nuggets immediately after they traded Carmelo Anthony. Read: Magic doing it via pure hustle and resolve.

23 Bobcats 7-9 -6

Can still look really bad when they put their minds to it. But overall, much-improved and dare we say perhaps just a year away from the postseason? Hey, dare to dream.

24 Suns 7-11 -1

Another undermanned team that always plays hard. Proving the theory that if you beat non-playoff teams at home and steal a few on road, you’ve got a shot at relevancy.

25 Pistons 6-13 +3

Won six of 11 games after 0-8 start. Key move: Giving offensive-only-minded Charlie Villanueva a chance to fire away off the bench.

26 Hornets 5-11 -2

Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon can’t really help in street clothes. Until they start putting on a uniform, it’ll just be more of the same below-average results.

27 Cavaliers 4-14

Keeping games close while Anderson Varejao has career year at age of 30. Now all they need is for Kyrie Irving to get (and, for once, stay) injury-free.

28 Raptors 4-14 +1

Playing pretty well for 30-35 minutes a night, usually more when Kyle Lowry is at his best. But clearly, it’s gonna take a while for Raps to learn how to finish job.

29 Kings 4-12 -3

Could make a nice trading partner once they finally do right thing and gut the roster. Youth is nice, unless it doesn’t mesh. America, meet the Kings.

30 Wizards 1-13

Ball not moving nearly well enough without injured John Wall. But anymore, you have to wonder if even he can save the Wizards.