Eastern Conference Power Rankings
15) Orlando (14-34; Previous rank: 12)-Not that the Magic was going to be any sort of Eastern Conference power this season, but regardless of the team you root for it's difficult to see a team so decimated by injuries. The Magic has lost its last 10 games and it doesn't look like things are getting better. On the bright side, center Nikola Vucevic looks like he'll be more than serviceable at the 5 for the Magic in the future.
14) Charlotte (11-36; PVS: 13)-The Bobkitties have the league's worst point differential (-8.4) and also give up the second-most points per game (103 per contest). Charlotte was 7-6 when I wrote about them in this space before winter break; since then they've won four of their last 34 games. I'm not sure if I should feel bad for the hex I put on Charlotte or if I should feel impressed with myself. I'm leaning toward the latter.
13) Washington (12-35; PVS: 12)-Don't get too excited Wizards fans; you're only at 13 because Orlando and Charlotte are playing at unspeakably horrid levels right now. Two weeks ago I predicted that the Wiz wouldn't end up in the Eastern cellar because point guard John Wall would make a difference. In Wall's 14 games this season, D.C. is 7-7, including victories against Atlanta, Denver, Chicago and the playoff bound Los Angeles team. Although their teams are awful this season, I'm still going to tune in for Wall's duel with Cleveland's Kyrie Irving on Mar. 12 to see what the healthy Kentucky alum can do against everybody's favorite young point guard.
12) Cleveland (14-34; PVS: 15)-The Cavaliers have gone 4-2 since my original power rankings column which is because one of two things: a) Byron Scott gets a subscription to The Daily Campus and used it as a motivational tool for his young team or b) Irving has put the team on his back like Greg Jennings and is averaging 28.3 points per game over the last 14 days. Which pill do you choose, Neo?
11) Toronto (17-31; PVS: 11)-The Raptors acquired former Storrs standout Rudy Gay a week ago in an effort to grab a fringe all-star caliber player to build around. The real question lingers: Is Gay good enough to be considered a team's first option? If you take a peek at his numbers so far this season (.413 from the field, .314 from three and a 1-1 assist-to-turnover ratio), that answer is clearly no. Perhaps a change of scenery is what Gay needs to flourish.
10) Detroit (18-31; PVS: 10)--#FreeAndreDrummond. That is all.
9) Philadelphia (21-26; PVS: 9)-In typical Andrew Bynum fashion, the prize of Philly's offseason said "February is the target, I guess," for his 76ers debut. This does not sound like a man that wants to play this year. I envision Bynum giving a similar answer to his friends when they ask him what movie he wants to see from RedBox. "Andrew, you want to rent John Carter or Battleship?" "...Battleship is the movie, I guess."
8) Boston (24-23; PVS: 7)-Paul Pierce was quoted recently as saying he's like King Leonidas in the movie 300 because he wants to "go to war with what we got." I'm really hoping The Truth didn't watch the last 15 minutes of that film. I discussed blowing up the Celtics in my column last week, but I'd be remiss not to mention that landing Eric Bledsoe in any trade would induce an elated blackout.
7) Milwaukee (25-21; PVS: 8)-Ever since interim coach Jim Boylan took over the Bucks after Scott Skiles was fired, Milwaukee has played at an elevated level. Forward Ersan Ilyasova, who was only averaging about 10 points per game under Skiles, is now contributing about 16 points per contest under Boylan thanks to a bump in minutes since the coaching change. The Bucks are also one of only three Eastern Conference teams with a winning record both on the road and at home.
6) Atlanta (26-20; PVS: 6)-Atlanta has played in the most overtime games (four) in the NBA without a loss. I'm not sure what this means. If the Hawks can stay undefeated in overtime games, their fans will have a silver lining from yet another season where their team makes the playoffs and does nothing in them. Treading water seems to be ATL's favorite exercise.
5) Brooklyn (28-19; PVS: 3)-Nets fans finally got what they wanted, as center Brook Lopez was added to the Eastern Conference all-star roster after Rajon Rondo's knee had the quietest explosion in NBA history. BK's next three games are definitely winnable (home vs Bad Los Angeles, at Detroit and at Washington), but seven of their final eight games in February are against teams with winning records.
4) Chicago (29-19; PVS: 4)-Chicago guard Nate Robinson, who is filling in for Kirk Hinrich, won Eastern Conference Player of the Week last week. So at least something productive came out of the Isiah era, Knicks fans! It's comical to watch head coach Tom Thibodeau reluctantly place Robinson in the lineup, only to have the Lilliputian point guard go off. Even though the Bulls are only averaging 93 points per game, they're still in great shape to make a run in the playoffs-with or without Derrick Rose.
3) Indiana (29-19; PVS: 2)-For all of the love that teams like Oklahoma City, Utah, Miami and Denver get for home-court advantage, the Pacers have quietly put together an eye-opening 19-3 record at their Canseco Fieldhouse. Related: Indy plays 20 of its final 34 games in Indiana.
2) New York (31-15; PVS: 5)-Remarkably, the Knicks have steadfastly refused to falter this season. New York has only lost four games by 10 points or more in 2012-13, which is incredible considering the Knicks lost four games by 10 points or more in their five-game playoff appearance last season. I still think that Indy would defeat New York in a seven-game series if it started today, but nothing out of this team would surprise me at this point.
1) Miami (31-14; PVS: 1)-LeBron James is averaging 26.7 points per game to go along with 8.3 boards and 7 assists. James is also shooting .555 from the field, which is more than 65 points better than his career shooting percentage. Although Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony are both having incredible season, the MVP award is Bron's to lose at this point.
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