NBA power rankings

By Sam Amico

Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and the Clippers take over top spot yet again, with the Thunder, Heat and (still) Knicks showing they’re worthy contenders.

Also: Check out the week’s top performances.

1 Clippers 21-6 +1

Remember when everyone said the Clippers needed to fire coach Vinny Del Negro? Now everyone probably wonders what it’d take for LA’s more-illustrious team to pry him away.

2 Thunder 21-5 -1

No Finals hangover here, kids. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and gang look better than ever — and like a team everyone could be chasing for the next five or six years.

3 Heat 18-6 +1

How good are the Heat? Well, good enough to rank next-to-last in league in rebounding and still dominate.

4 Knicks 20-7 -1

Not enough can be said about early season of Carmelo Anthony. Continues to score at will, only now seems to understand how to win the really big ones, too.

5 Spurs 21-8

Upon retirement, Tim Duncan should market whatever it is that’s keeping him ageless. That is, assuming he retires someday.

6 Grizzlies 18-7

Not quite as fabulous as last month, but that was a pretty doggone good month. And the hungry, balanced Grizz are still pretty doggone good.

7 Warriors 18-10

With a healthy Stephen Curry, we just knew they’d be better. But did we really expect this? No longer just fun to watch. Nowadays, you have to take Warriors seriously, too.

8 Hawks 16-9

The Hawks are one of early season’s best stories, and no one seems to be paying attention. No one probably will unless they keep doing what they’re doing for at least another month, probably more.

9 Bulls 15-11 +2

Slowly starting to figure out things, mostly thanks to Joakim Noah’s increased overall production. With or without Derrick Rose, Bulls are officially frightening again.

10 Lakers 13-14 +6

Uh-oh. Could be starting to pull it together, folks. Pau Gasol is healthy, Steve Nash is back, and Kobe Bryant is likely ticked off after suggestions he could be the problem.

11 Pacers 16-12 +1

Playing worse than a .500 team on most nights. Or so it seems. Truth is, the Pacers are doing just enough to stay above .500 without Danny Granger. Will likely be even more dangerous upon his return.

12 Nets 14-13 +1

Not nearly as formidable as a team with this talent should be. But still too early to write them off as something less than a threat.

13 Nuggets 15-13 +2

Just nine of first 28 games were at home, and the Nuggets stayed above .500. So don’t be tricked. This isn’t just another run-of-the-mill team.

14 Timberwolves 13-12 -5

Savvy passers, effective shooters and a rebounding brute in Kevin Love. The Timberwolves only need to learn how to close games now. When they do, they can be top-10 team on regular basis.

15 Celtics 14-13 -5

Content with coasting and breaking in the new guys. At some point, that needs to end, or it’ll be time to start worrying. Not yet, though. Not yet.

16 Jazz 15-14 +2

Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are wonderful candidates for a trade, because they’d bring so much in return. Hard to envision where Jazz would be without them, though.

17 Rockets 14-12 +2

A little less of James Harden and a little more of the other guys is starting to make Rockets look like a real threat. Let’s see if they can keep it up.

18 Bucks 14-12 -4

They play hard, with two excellent scorers in Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. That might get you into the playoffs.

19 Trail Blazers 13-13 +1

Missing in the draft (Greg Oden) can set you back a way. Hitting in the draft (Damian Lillard) can speed things up. That’s where the fun-lovin’ Blazers are today.

20 76ers 13-15 -3

So much excitement surrounded this team after the trade for Andrew Bynum. Now, it’s the basketball blahs. It probably won’t change unless Bynum suddenly gets healthy, either.

21 Magic 12-15

Not quite as good as when they had Dwight Howard. But not even close to as bad as people predicted. A playoff appearance would be among season’s best stories.

22 Mavericks 12-16

Dirk Nowitzki is back, and that could fix things. It still doesn’t make sense, however, that a team with O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison, Chris Kaman and others doesn’t win more.

23 Suns 11-17

They sure can look bad, can’t they? Sure can look … well, decent, too. But let’s face it. Steve Nash left. This season’s a wash.

24 Raptors 9-19 +5

Honestly? Probably had a better week than anyone this side of the Clippers and Thunder. The Raps are playing hard, playing smart, and Jose Calderon has been marvelous. Let’s give them (and coach Dwane Casey) some credit.

25 Kings 9-18 +3

If DeMarcus Cousins can’t get along with easy-going coach Keith Smart, you have to wonder if Cousins will even be in the league in five years. If he is, he’s likely to be very good. He just needs to decide.

26 Pistons 9-21 -1

The main players are young and the older ones are just kind of in the way. Either need a trade or another draft (or two) before there’s much to care about here.

27 Bobcats 7-20 -3

Lost 15 in a row heading into Christmas break. But they’re better than last season with some youth and moveable assets. Gotta give it time. Like, maybe four or five years.

28 Cavaliers 6-23 -2

Young and maddeningly inconsistent. It’s not unusual for those two descriptions to be used in the same sentence. Unfortunately for the Cavs, it’s likely to be this way for the rest of the season.

29 Hornets 5-22 -2

Well, at least they’re getting a lot from Eric Gordon. Oh, wait. But with Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson, there’s something with which to work. No word on why it’s not working at all anymore.

30 Wizards 3-22

Somebody has to be bad, but did we ever envision the Wizards turning into this year’s Bobcats? Here comes another year of hitting the reset button.