Posted: Friday January 30, 2009 4:13PM; Updated: Friday January 30, 2009 4:13PM

Professor Ulane: NBA Power Rankings

The top two teams swap places while Dwyane Wade carries the Miami Heat into the top ten.

Hello class. The Professor is choosing to remain positive this week. Rather than obsessing over the All-Star reserve snubs like Al Jefferson, Kevin Durant, and even Paul Millsap, I'd like to focus instead on the first-timers. Devin Harris, Jameer Nelson, and Danny Granger have been playing outstanding basketball all season and have been rewarded accordingly with a roster spot alongside the league's biggest stars. Harris and Granger are playing on struggling teams, but their individual brilliance cannot be discounted. It's great to see them get the recognition they deserve. Congratulation fellas. Keep up the good work and have fun in Phoenix.

And remember, if you don't agree with any of my rankings, scroll to the bottom of the page and write me an email.

(All stats are through Thursday, January 29.)

NBA Power Rankings, Week 14
1Boston Celtics
Last Week: 2
If you see Eddie House, don’t go near him unless you apply two layers of sun block. The man is HOT. While the C’s continue to rack up W’s with D, House has lost the ability to miss jump shots. In his last two games, he is 15-for-20 from three-point range.
 
2Los Angeles Lakers
Last Week: 1
The Lake Show went from knocking off the Cavs and the Spurs to falling at home to the Bobcats. L.A. better not show that type of boredom when it finishes off it’s upcoming six-game road trip with games at Boston and at Cleveland.
 
3San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 3
I hope the Spurs like McDonald’s, because it’s going to be a long time before they enjoy any home cooking again. The rodeo is making its annual trip to the SBC Center in San Antonio, sending the Spurs out on the road for nine straight games. I sure hope the rodeo clowns clean up after the cows before the Spurs return on February 24.
 
4Orlando Magic
Last Week: 4
This Magic team brings a scary combination to the court every night. They’ve made more 3s than any other team in the league while holding opponents to the seventh-fewest points per game in the league. Also, while we’re here, Jameer Nelson did a good job of backing up his All-Star selection on national TV with his 18-point, one-turnover performance in Orlando’s runaway win over Cleveland.
 
5Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Week: 5
It’s official: LeBron James is the only All-Star on the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. Sometimes, it shows. Cleveland lost to the Magic Thursday night because, when LeBron went cold, the rest of the team couldn’t pick up the slack on offense. Aside from LeBron, the rest of Cleveland’s starters combined to go 11-for-32 form the floor.
 
6New Orleans Hornets
Last Week: 6
It’s nearly impossible to avoid discussing Chris Paul in every Hornets write up. Still, this is more than just a one man team. New Orleans is allowing the fewest points in the Western Conference and is using its defense to tread water until they can get a healthy frontcourt back. David West’s back spasms have been treated and he’s expected to return soon, while Tyson Chandler will finally be lining up beside him again after the All-Star break.
 
7Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 7
For the second week in a row, I’m writing about Denver’s defense. With K-Mart, Nene, and even the Birdman, Chris Andersen, manning the paint, Denver is third in the league in blocks. Maybe that’s how the Nuggets went 6-4 without Carmelo Anthony in the lineup. Though, I doubt anyone’s complaining about his return, which is expected as early as this weekend.
 
8Portland Trail Blazers
Last Week: 8
The Greg Oden watch continues, and this time, we have some positive news to report. Oden has three double-doubles in his last six games, and the Blazers won all three of those. Don’t forget, since Oden didn’t play any games last year, he’s still eligible for the Rookie of the Year award. If he comes on strong for a solid playoff team in the second half of the season, he could snatch the award away from Derrick Rose.
 
9Houston Rockets
Last Week: 9
Can you guess who has the second-most points on the Rockets behind Yao Ming this season? Nope, not T-Mac. Ron Artest? Try again. It’s Luis Scola. Sure, injuries have limited Houston’s stars, but Scola is putting up an impressive 12.3 points per game while pulling down nearly eight boards a game.
 
10Miami Heat
Last Week: 14
He’s not lighting up the stat sheet, but how about we give rookie Mario Chalmers some love? He is effectively playing point guard on a playoff team (averaging 31 minutes a game) and leads all rookies in steals.
 
11Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 15
Don’t look now, but the Sixers are the second hottest team in the East. Philly has won eight of their last 10 games and will ride a seven-game homestand into the All-Star break.
 
12Atlanta Hawks
Last Week: 10
Out of the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference, they have the second-worst road winning percentage. With nine road games looming on their schedule in the next 12 games, the Hawks better get their road woes fixed if they want to stay in the race for homecourt advantage.
 
13Utah Jazz
Last Week: 11
They’ve given up more than 100 points in each of their last six games. They’ve lost five of those. The defensive lapses will likely continue now that Andrei Kirilenko is electing for surgery on his bum right foot. He will miss up to a month.
 
14Phoenix Suns
Last Week: 13
Two All-Stars for an underachieving eighth seed? I don’t see the logic. Shaq is a true center and has revitalized his career this year in the desert, so keep him in there. But with all the talented forwards out West, Amar’e Stoudemire isn’t a no-brainer. Both his scoring and rebounding averages are down from last year, and he continues to show a complete lack of interest on the defensive end.
 
15Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 12
Detroit still doesn’t seem to know how to use their only All-Star. Allen Iverson saw exactly one minute of total playing time in the fourth quarter over the course of two losses this week. The shaky shooting guard rotation might be why the Pistons haven’t put together a winning streak longer than two games in 2009.
 
16Dallas Mavericks
Last Week: 16
Dallas has turned losing big into an art form. In their last two defeats, the Mavericks lost by an average of 29 points. Sure, one of those was to the powerful Celtics. But the Bucks? I honestly don’t know if this team has what it takes to squeak into the playoffs.
 
17New York Knicks
Last Week: 18
The fact that we’re even talking playoffs this year after last season’s debacle is a minor miracle. Seeing players like Chris Duhon and David Lee put up career numbers is a major miracle—as well as a tribute to Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced offensive system. The Fantasy Wizard could probably average 15 points a night playing for D’Antoni.
 
18Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 21
The Bobcats are turning things around and it has started on the defensive end. Charlotte has jumped into the top 10 in both opponent’s field goal percentage (9th) and points allowed (5th).
 
19Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 24
Al Jefferson got snubbed, plain and simple. Jefferson is one of only three players (Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard are the others) averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. Minnesota has been the hottest team in the league since New Year’s, and yet Jefferson will be sitting in the stands on February 15.
 
20Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 26
OKC is playing its best basketball of the season. They’ve won five of their last seven contests and I think we all know why. I’m talking, of course, about Nenad Krstic. Since Krstic joined the Thunder after playing overseas for the first part of this season, the team is 6-5.
 
21Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 17
I have been admiring from afar all of the progress the Bucks have made this season, from the emergence of Charlie Villanueva to the steady rookie season of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. But without Michael Redd, who will miss the rest of the season after tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee, the Bucks will not make the playoffs.
 
22Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 23
The Raptors might be the most disappointing team in the league this season. With the acquisition of Jermaine O’Neal, Toronto was looking to go deep into the playoffs. Instead, they’re in last place in the Atlantic Division. The only positive thing to talk about is Jose Calderon’s remarkable free throw streak, which is still going strong at 83 makes in a row.
 
23New Jersey Nets
Last Week: 20
Welcome to your first All-Star game, Devin Harris. You’ve certainly earned it. Harris is averaging career highs in points, assists, and steals. Unfortunately, whereas earlier in the year Harris’s stellar play was leading the Nets on a surprising playoff run, a recent streak of seven losses in eight games has knocked New Jersey out of the top eight in the East.
 
24Chicago Bulls
Last Week: 19
Finally, Luol Deng is looking like the $71 million man the Bulls made him in the off-season. Since January 12, Deng is averaging 17.2 points per game on 50 percent shooting while also notching 1.9 steals per game. Just don’t pay attention to the Bulls’ record in those games (3-6), it’s not nearly as pleasant.
 
25Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 22
The first-time All-Star congratulations continue here in Indy’s spot. Danny Granger has single-handedly kept this team afloat amidst injury problems. Don’t just look at his huge numbers (25.8 points per game), look up his highlights and watch how many clutch shots he has hit for the Pacers.
 
26Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 25
Monta Ellis is back, but with mixed results. After exploding for 20 points in his first game of the season, Ellis has gone 6-for-22 and notched 17 points total in his last two games. We might not see Ellis completely up to speed until after the All-Star break.
 
27Washington Wizards
Last Week: 28
They’re fifth-lowest scoring team in the league, which doesn’t sound so bad until you realize they’re giving up more than 100 points a night. A lack of scoring punch combined with a lack of focus on the defensive end has led to the third-worst point differential in the league.
 
28Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 27
It’s not pretty in Sacramento, but let’s focus on the positives. John Salmons is at career highs in scoring, field goal percentage, and three point percentage. And since we’re focusing on the positive, we will refrain from discussing the Kings’ defense this week.
 
29Los Angeles Clippers
Last Week: 30
When you play on L.A.’s other team, it’s hard to get noticed. Such is the plight of developing rookie Eric Gordon. Gordon is averaging 21.4 points per game in January. Unfortunately, the Clips have only won two games this month.
 
30Memphis Grizzlies
Last Week: 29
How do you lose 11 games in a row? Well, Memphis did it by scoring fewer than 90 points in nine of those games. Then came the overtime breakdown against Oklahoma City, in which they managed only two points in the extra frame. When you have trouble putting the ball in the basket, you’re probably not going to win many basketball games.
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