Blog Entry

NBA Power Rankings: Breakdown, Takedown Vol. 7

Posted on: January 31, 2012 8:13 pm
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Posted by Royce Young and Ben Golliver

Not the best of weeks for Dwight Howard and the Magic. (Getty Images)

The 2011-2012 NBA season continues. Here's the seventh weekly installment of CBSSports.com's NBA Power Rankings by Eye On Basketball's Matt Moore.

What did he get right? What did he get wrong? We're here to break it down and take it down.

1. Too High: Atlanta Hawks at No. 9. Somehow, despite losing probably their best player, the Hawks aren't just keeping their head above water but soaring. They've won four of five games since the Al Horford injury. However, not exactly against marquee opponents -- New Orleans, Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee. It's a little hard to tell if the Hawks are actually going to overcome Horford's injury or if they're just getting by as a result of a soft spot in the schedule. I tend to think it's the latter and as the season drags on, we'll see the Hawks are mediocre at best and not a top 10 NBA team. -- RY

2. Too Low: Orlando Magic at No. 20. Last week, I had a little fun at Matt's expense when he dropped the Magic after their ugly loss to the Celtics. In hindsight, he was correct. But, unfortunately, he made the same mistake again! The Magic have had by far their worst stretch of the season -- pointing fingers at each other during a 4-game losing streak -- but they're still 12-9 and they're still safely in the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. By comparison, the Trail Blazers, who Orlando beat in Portland, are also 12-9, barely in the West playoffs, and ranked No. 11 in this week's Power Rankings. Where's the consistency? These guys shouldn't be below 15, despite how ugly things have gotten of late. -- BG

3. Most Overrated: Washington Wizards at No. 26. This one isn't a disaster but it's hard to really make a case that there are four worse teams than the 4-17 Wizards. Sacramento, for example, is 6-14 despite being in a 4-game losing streak. The Kings have three quality wins over the Lakers, Spurs, Pacers and a sort-of quality win over the Bucks. That's pretty bad for a team in the basement. Washington, meanwhile, had that one shocking, pretty fluky win over the Oklahoma City Thunder plus three wins against patsies (two against the Charlotte Bobcats, one against the Toronto Raptors). Their body of work just screams lower than No. 26. -- BG

4. Most Overlooked: Utah Jazz at No. 10. It's natural to just assume the Jazz are overachieving and will eventually come back to Earth. That's not a team built with any stars or big names, and yet in the toughest division in basketball, they're 12-7 and in the thick of the West. Their point differential and efficiency numbers aren't great. But they are winning consistently. Not that the Jazz should be higher than 10, but I think we're all quick to discount them for whatever reason. Much in the same way we all wanted to ignore last season's Nuggets, the Jazz could be for real. -- RY

5. Sure Thing: Miami Heat at No. 1. Sunday's showdown against the Chicago Bulls made it clear that these two teams, if healthy, are the clear, clear, clear favorites to repeat as Eastern Conference Finalists. That series will be a blood bath, too. Miami played very well at times but it was far from a flawless victory. With a few days to let it sink in, they're probably feeling pretty fortunate given Dwyane Wade's shooting struggles and LeBron James' predictable late-game free throw gaffes. The TV ratings for the potential Chicago vs. Miami East Finals are going to be absurd. -- BG

6. Wild Card:
Indiana Pacers at No. 8. It's not fair to say the Pacers aren't exceeding expectations and having a great season. They are. They just beat the Lakers, Magic and Bulls last week. But one thing that's unshakeable for me is their bad losses. For example, a loss Jan. 18 to the Kings and then a whipping by Orlando Jan. 24. The Pacers are a bit erratic with their play and while absolutely a good team, I'm not so sure they are in true contender territory, which is normally reserved for the top eight. They're good, but just how good? -- RY
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