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NBA Power Rankings, 2/17

02.17.11 at 6:24 pm ET
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1. San Antonio (46-9): According to the New York Post, citing a waitress at Tao on 58th Street in New York City, Tony Parker “celebrated Valentine’s Day, a win over the Nets — and his divorce — by canoodling with a brunette.” When this is the biggest news about the Spurs for the week, it’s pretty clear they’re still the NBA’s No. 1 (regular-season) team and (somehow) still underrated.

2. Dallas (39-16): The Mavericks are 37-9 with Dirk Nowitzki in the lineup — and 18-7 against teams above .500. That’s pretty good. Not surprisingly, owner Mark Cuban told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram his team has all the pieces in place for a title run. While they’re certainly playing better than the Lakers — and even the Celtics — right now, I’m still not buying them as contenders.

3. Boston (40-14): With Glen Davis as the sole healthy member of their projected second unit — and even he suffered a bruised noggin — the Celtics finished 2-2 against the Mavericks, Magic, Lakers and Heat in the span of nine days. The win over the Heat was truly significant; no matter who earns the East’s No. 1 seed the C’s cemented themselves as the clear favorites in the conference.

4. Miami (41-15): Sure, the Heat are 38-10 (.792 winning percentage) with Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all in the lineup. Still, even with all three of those guys on the floor, they’re only 11-8 (.579) against teams above the .500 mark. Oh, and they’re 0-4 against the two other teams vying for Eastern Conference supremacy. I’d say that’s a concern.

5. Chicago (37-16): Under Tom Thibodeau‘s tutelage, the Bulls have gone from 11th place in points allowed per 100 possessions last season to second place this year — without defensive stalwart Joakim Noah at center since Dec. 15. The booby prize for finishing second in the East is not only a Game 7 on the road in the conference finals but also a semifinals matchup with Chicago.

6. LA Lakers (38-19): Riding high after their victory against the Celtics in Boston, the Lakers capitalized on that momentum by losing to the Magic, Bobcats … and Cavaliers? Upon learning of that upset, former Lakers Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar particularly enjoyed the news. Said Vujacic, “Cleveland beat the Lakers? You’€™re kidding, right? I guess miracles do happen.”

7. Oklahoma City (35-19): The Thunder are shooting 82.7 percent from the free-throw line. Only the 1989-90 Celtics (83.2 percent) and 2002-03 Mavericks (82.9) have performed better over the course of a season. They also attempt more foul shots than anybody else, thanks to Kevin Durant‘s average of nine free throws per game. That alone will win them a handful of games.

8. Orlando (36-21): After winning nine straight, the Magic are 11-9 overall since Jan. 12 and 1-8 against teams over .500 in that span (the lone win came against the Lakers Sunday). A conference semifinals matchup with the Magic is the bonus prize for capturing the top seed in the East …

9. Atlanta (34-21): Although, that’s assuming the Magic get by the Hawks in the first round. We know center Al Horford doesn’t fear Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire — since he told ESPN.com “ain’t nobody scared of him” — so I’m assuming he doesn’t fear Dwight Howard either.

10. New Orleans (33-25): Based on these comments from Chris Paul to CBSSports.com, the Hornets should expect him to decline his player option in 2012: “There’s a lot of really good teams at the top, and you just want to put yourself in a good situation to give yourself longevity and things like that. Guys want to win multiple championships, if at all possible.” Multiple titles in New Orleans just aren’t happening, so once the Melo drama is over expect that focus to zoom in on Paul.

11. Portland (32-24): So, let me get this straight: According to The Bergen Record, the Trail Blazers want to trade Andre Miller, Rudy Fernandez and Joel Przybilla to the Nets for Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow and Travis Outlaw. Now tell me why exactly New Jersey would bite ont hat deal? Unless you’re telling me the Nets are looking to get older and worse, I’m not buying it.

12. Denver (32-25): An NBA executive told SI’s Chris Mannix that “once this ‘Melo deal goes down, there is going to be a fire sale in Denver.” Among the rumors surrounding the Nuggets is the potential buyout of Chauncy Billups, although I’m not sure I buy that, either. If they can’t find a trade suitor, why would they dump a productive hometown guy who puts a few more fans in the seats?

13. Memphis (31-26): Considering how well the Grizzlies had been playing, the fact that — according to MSNBC.com — Rudy Gay could miss “at least four weeks with a left shoulder injury” is a serious bummer for Memphis fans (although I’m skeptical of their existence). They were 17-8 in 2011, including wins over the Lakers, Thunder, Mavericks and Magic. There’s no way they can keep that up.

14. Utah (31-26): The Jazz are 0-3 since Jerry Sloan‘s resignation. What do you think Rajon Rondo would have to do in order to force Doc Rivers to leave the team midseason? He’d have to have Brett Favre-like blackmail photos, right? I’d love to know what Deron Williams said.

15. Phoenix (27-26): Since the Kevin Garnett Groin-gate episode in late January, the Suns have won 7-of-9 games as Channing Frye has averaged 14.4 points and 8.9 rebounds. Perhaps Garnett’s love tap helped the Suns big man grow a pair. … Too soon?

16. New York (28-26): According to the New York Daily News, Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni is worried about GM Donnie Walsh landing Carmelo Anthony because he knows if they do, “it’s not on Donnie anymore, it’s on him.” I don’t know about you, but I’d be awfully skeptical of a coach who’s worried about his ability to win with both Stoudemire and Anthony on his team.

17. Philadelphia (27-29): The 76ers have won 10-of-14 games since Jan. 22, including a 77-71 victory against the Spurs last week. At this point, they’re looking like a lock for the No. 7 seed in the East. That’s more bad news for the Celtics should they drop to the second seed by season’s end. While I wouldn’t expect them to win a series in Boston, they’ve proven they can play the C’s tough.

18. Houston (26-31): Chad Ford wrote, “A number of GMs have told ESPN.com that everyone on the Rockets’ roster is available right now — for the right price.” I’ve always loved the “for the right price” qualifier. I think that was John Gage’s principle in “Indecent Proposal.” The Heat would part ways with the Lebron for Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, but that doesn’t mean it’s happening.

19. Golden State (26-29): The Warriors have won 7-of-9 games — including victories over the Bulls, Nuggets, Thunder, Hornets and Jazz. It only took four months for my prediction to come to fruition! This roster is too talented not to win games. Except for Acie Law. He’s not talented.

20. Charlotte (24-32): Don’t ask me how, but the Bobcats have played better than .500 ball since Christmas, including wins against the Celtics and Lakers over the course of one week. Maybe Michael Jordan suiting up for practice has inspired them. Either that, or the East is top heavy.

21. Indiana (24-30): As TrueHoop points out, former Celtics wingman James Posey has played just four total minutes in games under new Pacers coach Frank Vogel. It’s too bad he’s on the hook for close to $7 million next season, but Posey would be the ideal target for the Celtics.

22. LA Clippers (21-35): Chris Kaman was nominated for best rock album at the Grammys, and Tom Petty is on the trading block. Or is the other way around? I get them confused.

23. Milwaukee (21-34): How much do you think I could get a “Fear the Deer” t-shirt this season? A dollar? Free? One moment while I check eBay … wait … $14?!?! I’m not sure I’d pay that much for Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings right now.

24. Detroit (21-36): Celtics president Danny Ainge: “I don’t suppose you’d want to buy out the rest of Tayshaun Prince‘s $11 million contract?” Pistons president Joe Dumars: “Are you kidding? He’s making more than General Motors.”

25. New Jersey (17-40): The Nets resumed trade talks for ‘Melo? What about the whole “if it dies, it dies” press conference that team owner Mikhail Prokhorov gave when he originally ended the discussion? Speaking of trade options, would you rather have Kris Humphries‘ talent with Kim Kardashian as your girlfriend or Lamar Odom‘s skills with Khloe Kardashian as your wife?

26. Washington (15-39): In an interview with The Washington Post, Rashard Lewis is holding out hope for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. One moment … Ahahahahahaha! Rashard, you’re no longer on the Magic; your team has 15 wins this season.

27. Sacramento (13-40): Is there less exciting breaking NBA news than “James Harden to replace Tyreke Evans in Rookie Challenge” this weekend? Next thing you know Derek Fisher will withdraw from the Skills Challenge and life as we know it will cease to exist.

28. Toronto (15-41): Raptors fans are so cute. They booed Chris Bosh in his return to Toronto — until he blew kisses to the crowd, the fans interpreted it as sincere … and cheered? I’m guessing Bosh was about as sincere as Charlie Sheen when he offered to help Lindsay Lohan.

29. Minnesota (13-43): Timberwolves general manager David Kahn told Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter Jerry Zgoda, “There is no more rebuilding. There are no more wholesale changes. I like a lot of players on the team.” I’m sure Kevin Love is ecstatic about that statement.

30. Cleveland (10-46): Apparently, Lebron stayed in Toronto’s visitors locker room to catch the end of the Cavaliers’ win over the Lakers on Wednesday. Afterwards, he told ESPN.com, “Good for the Cavs. … I’ve played with a few of those guys and they want to win.” A few of those guys? Dude, it’s not like you played in Cleveland 10 years ago; you played for them last season!

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