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NBA Power Rankings, 12/16

With all the injuries to the Celtics [1] as the NBA storms into the second quarter of its 82-game season, what better time than now to sort through the injury lists of the league’s 30 teams — ranked from first to worst?

One quick observation before delving into this week’s Power Rankings: Perhaps the Eastern Conference, from top to bottom, isn’t THAT much worse than the West. Just as the top five teams in the East could give anybody out West a run for their money, the bottom three teams in the Western Conference (the Kings, Clips & T-Wolves) are just as bad — if not worse — than their counterparts back East.

So, without further ado …

Delonte West [2] and Rajon Rondo [3]), the Celtics continue to pile up victories, as their 11-game winning streak is the best in the NBA. That’s the single scariest thing about this team: They haven’t even played their best basketball.

2 [4]. San Antonio (21-3): Unlike the Celtics, the Spurs are healthier than ever, as Manu Ginobili [5], Tony Parker [6], Richard Jefferson [7] and Tim Duncan [8] are all feeling fine. As a result, they’re all playing better, which is why they have the best record in the league. While its nothing major, Parker is listed as day-to-day with a splint on his right middle finger. Wonder how he got that.

[9]3. Dallas (20-5): The Mavericks aren’t really missing the immense production (2.0 personal fouls & 1.5 points per game) of the immortal Rodrigue Beaubois. The health of Tyson Chandler [10] might be the  biggest surprise — and biggest positive — for the Mavs, as he’s truly anchored their defense this season.

4. LA Lakers (19-7): A walking knee injury the past few seasons, Andrew Bynum [11] returned once again from a lengthy sabbatical, totaling seven points, four boards and two blocks in 17 minutes. His presence should help their recent .500 stretch. Now their injuries are limited to Theo Ratliff [12], who’s been listed since 1983.

5. Miami (19-8): The Heat haven’t skipped a beat since Udonis Haslem [13] suffered a potential season-ending injury on Nov. 20. Now, the only two guys outside of Miami Thrice who were supposed to contribute (the other one: Mike Miller [14] & his thumb) haven’t been a part of their current 10-game win streak. So, are they the team that was 9-8 through 17 games, or the 10-0 team from the last couple weeks?

6. Oklahoma City (18-8): The only player on the Thunder’s injury list is Nenad Krstic [15], who is day-to-day with a back injury. I know a lot of balding white guys who complain about their back, so that’s no shocker. Meanwhile, Serge Ibaka has picked up the minutes, and that’s something most OKC fans wanted anyway.

[16]7. Utah (18-8): There’s at least one positive to take from Jazz [17] center Mehmet Okur‘s extensive stretch on the injury list (Achilles tendon): He’s making awesome Turkish commercials [18]. Despite Okur’s absence and a groin injury that has cost starting guard Raja Bell [19] to miss three games, Utah continues to impress.

[20]8. Chicago (16-8): I’m feeling for Tom Thibodeau [21] on this one. Just as the Bulls were figuring it all out and (seamlessly) integrating Carlos Boozer into the fold (they’ve won seven straight), Joakim Noah [22] goes down for 8-10 weeks with a hand injury. Regardless of how you feel about about Noah, he’s been tremendous for them.

[23]9. Orlando (16-9): Bugs of the “injury,” “stomach” and “bad defense” varieties continue to bite the Magic. Last week, I think even team mascot “Stuff” suffered from the infamous “flu-like symptoms.” This week? Chris Duhon (back), Quentin Richardson [24] (elbow) and Mickael Pietrus [25] (knee) tweaked various body parts with increasing severity — and importance — to their team’s success.

[26] [27]10. New York (16-10): The Knicks [28] have gotten by just fine without a pair of guys who’ve been out indefenitely since the season’s start. Both might help in the long run, as Kelenna Azubuike (knee) could provide some much-needed depth to their rotation and Eddy Curry [29]‘s expiring contract could help land Carmelo Anthony.

[30]11. Atlanta (16-10): Of all the injuries to the Hawks [31], the one to Pape Sy‘s back has to be the biggest. Just kidding. Atlanta thrived in the first of many weeks without Joe Johnson [32] but have lost 2-of-3 since — including a 23-point loss to the Pistons (ouch). Adding injury to injury, Jamal Crawford [33]‘s back will keep him out of the lineup against the Celtics on Thursday night.

12. New Orleans (15-10): You might think a team that has lost 9-of-13 since starting the season with an 11-1 record has been hit hard by injuries. Think again. The Hornets are (surprisingly) healthy and still heading in the wrong direction. Bad sign.

Kenyon Martin [34] is out for three months with a knee injury. It’s no wonder the Nuggets haven’t taken off with Chris “The Birdman” Anderson battling back problems all year (thank you, thank you very much). And now Chauncey Billups [35] is out for a week with a sprained wrist. All of this while the ‘Melo trade rumors constantly swarm around Denver. Not good.

[31]14. Phoenix (12-12): The Suns returned Robin Lopez and his floppy hair after a 14-game absence for a knee injury. Somehow, Steve Nash [36] — a 36-year-old guy who suffers from chronic back pain — is still close to the top of his game, which brings to mind one question: Are Canadians superhuman? I know Alan Thicke [37] is.

15. Portland (12-14): Maybe the Trail Blazers should just change their name to the Portland Knee Injuries. When you hear words like “dislocated,” demolished,” “devastating” and “dehabilitating” when it comes to the knees of guys like Brandon Roy [38], Greg Oden [39], Joel Przybilla [40] and Elliott Williams, it doesn’t bode well.

[41]16. Memphis (12-14): The Grizzlies [42] are healthy, and they need to be to compete in that division. Even Tony Allen [43] has managed not to tear an ACL during a monster post-whistle dunk attempt. Maybe that explains their four-game win streak.

[44] [27]17. Houston (10-15): Alarmingly, Yao Ming [45] (leg) is out, which is like saying Russell Crowe got upset today. And Aaron Brooks (ankle) may miss their three-game road trip this week. Still, the Rockets creep toward .500 after an 0-5 start.

18. Indiana (11-13): Perhaps the most impressive part of the Pacers’ near-.500 start through 24 games is that they’ve done it without Danny Granger [46] (ankle) at full strength. In seven games, he’s averaged just 16.3 points this December.

[27] [27]

19. Milwaukee (10-14): The strangest injury-related news of the day: When Carlos Delfino returns from a concussion, he’ll be wearing a protective helmet. Can’t wait to see that one. Oh, and Michael Redd [36] (knee) has been out since 1972.

[47]20. Philadelphia (10-15): Tony Battie might have been nicknamed “Batman,” but he’s certainly no superhero. Still, he’s back from a knee injury, and somehow a team with Elton Brand on its roster is at full strength. In a related story, the 76ers have won 5-of-6 games.

21. Golden State (9-16): I keep waiting for the Warriors’ Big Three (Monta Ellis [48], David Lee [49] & Stephen Curry) to make noise, but they can’t stay on the court together. First, it was Lee’s elbow. Now, it’s Curry’s ankle. I guess I’ll keep waiting.

22. Charlotte (9-16): I’m still investigating a possible head injury to general manager Rod Higgins for letting Raymond Felton [50] escape town this offseason. Other than that, Gerald Wallace [51] (ankle), Tyrus Thomas [52] (calf) and Gerald Henderson [53] (knee) are all battling injuries. Good times all around.

23. Toronto (9-17): The Raptors’ injury list keeps on growing. Reggie Evans [54] and Jose Calderon‘s feet hurt. Andrea Bargnani and Peja Stojakovic‘s knees hurt. Sadly, those are four of Toronto’s best players.

24. Detroit (8-18): The Pistons have had their share of injuries — to Ben Wallace [55] (ankle), Jonas Jerebko (Achilles) and Terrico White (foot) — and it may have helped. They did beat the Hawks, right? It’s not like they could get much worse.

25. Cleveland (7-18): Right now, I see “no recent injuries” on the Cavaliers [56]‘ list. It should read: “Cleveland: Team out indefinitely (psyche).” Back-to-back losses to the Celtics and LeBron James [57]‘ Heat kickstarted an awful nine-game losing streak.

26. Minnesota (6-20): After the Metrodome’s roof collapsed and the Timberwolves [58] continued a 2-11 stretch, there’s actually some good news coming out of Minnesota: Martell Webster and Jonny Flynn both made their season debuts.

27. LA Clippers (5-21): For the Clippers, Chris Kaman [59] (ankle), Randy Foye (hamstring) and Baron Davis [60] (cheeseburger addiction) have missed a combined 48 games, which means they’re right on pace for a typical Clips season.

28. Washington (6-17): Injuries have probably cost the Wizards [61] more wins than any other team (and maybe even a playoff spot). Only two guys on their entire roster — Kirk Hinrich [62] and JaVale McGee — have played in all 23 games.

29. New Jersey (6-19): Nets forward Damion Jones is out six weeks with a broken right foot, which would mean something to me if I had any clue who Damion Jones was. Other than that, there are no injury excuses for this team’s poor play.

[63]30. Sacramento (5-18): The Kings are at full strength, which means there at about half strength of an average professional basketball team. Zing.