Jason Jones: Ranking the League
12/28/2013 7:12 PM
12/29/2013 3:10 PM
(All stats and records through Friday’s games)
Kevin Durant will have to carry Oklahoma City again. His right-hand man, Russell Westbrook, is out until after the All-Star Break after arthroscopic knee surgery to deal with swelling in his right knee. It’s the same knee Westbrook injured in April that knocked him out the playoffs and his third procedure on that knee. The Thunder looks like the favorite to win the Western Conference when healthy, but Westbrook’s health is a major concern.
• 1. Oklahoma City Thunder (24-5, Last week 1): Point guard Russell Westbrook is out until at least mid February.
• 2. Portland Trail Blazers (23-5, LW 2): The Blazers defend well late in close games.
• 3. Indiana Pacers (23-5, LW 4): Focused on having the best record in the Eastern Conference.
• 4. Miami Heat (22-7, LW 3): Add LeBron James (groin, ankle) to the list of players nursing injuries.
• 5. San Antonio Spurs (23-7, LW 5): Manu Ginobili is playing better after last season’s disappointing showing in the NBA Finals.
• 6. Houston Rockets (20-11, LW 7): Jeremy Lin’s return offsets losing Patrick Beverley to injury.
• 7. Los Angeles Clippers (20-11, LW 6): It’s hard to win on the road when Blake Griffin is wrongly ejected in a close game.
• 8. Phoenix Suns (17-11, LW 8): Miles Plumlee is averaging 10.1 rebounds over his last 10 games.
• 9. Golden State Warriors (18-13, LW 12): Have found their early-season stride during their four-game winning streak.
• 10. Dallas Mavericks (16-13, LW 9): Still sorting out minutes at center between Samuel Dalembert, DeJuan Blair and Brandon Wright.
• 11. Atlanta Hawks (16-13, LW 10): Losing Al Horford to a torn pectoral could lead to the Hawks joining the majority of the Eastern Conference with a losing record.
• 12. Minnesota Timberwolves (14-15, LW 14): Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic form one of the league’s best power forward/center combinations.
• 13. Denver Nuggets (14-14, LW 11): Found their groove, then dropped their last five games.
• 14. Charlotte Bobcats: (14-16, LW 15): Charlotte’s scoring differential is minus-1.2 this season and they lost another close game Friday to Oklahoma City.
• 15. New Orleans Pelicans (13-14, LW 18): Bounced back from a four-game losing streak with back-to-back wins.
• 16. Washington Wizards (12-14, LW 19): Have the talent to emerge as the third-best team in the East.
• 17. Detroit Pistons (14-17, LW 16): Andre Drummond is second in the NBA, shooting 61.3 percent.
• 18. Los Angeles Lakers (13-17, LW 13): Jordan Farmar is back from injury, but now Pau Gasol has been in an out.
• 19. Toronto Raptors (12-15, LW 20): It was assumed they were tanking to try to land Canada native Andrew Wiggins in the draft.
• 20. Memphis Grizzlies (12-16, LW 22): Mike Conley still one of the league’s best point guards.
• 21. Boston Celtics (12-17, LW 17): Celtics lost their hold on the Atlantic Division lead with their three-game losing streak.
• 22. Chicago Bulls (11-16, LW 23): Bulls have found a boost off the bench from D.J. Augustin.
• 23. Cleveland Cavaliers (10-18, LW 21): Center Andrew Bynum is suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team.
• 24. Brooklyn Nets: (10-19, LW 24): Coach Jason Kidd questions whether team has accepted losing.
• 25. Kings (9-19, LW 28): Isaiah Thomas is proving he is not just a backup point guard in the NBA.
• 26. Utah Jazz (9-23, LW 29): Young nucleus continues to show signs of improvement.
• 27. New York Knicks (9-20, LW 25): More injuries, more drama, more losing.
• 28. Orlando Magic (9-20, LW 26): Trade rumors involving Arron Afflalo will continue.
• 29. Philadelphia 76ers (8-20, LW 27): Thaddeus Young’s name continues to surface in trade rumors.
• 30. Milwaukee Bucks (6-23, LW 30): Larry Sanders is back from a hand injury suffered in a fight at a nightclub.
About This BlogJason Jones, who joined The Sacramento Bee in 2002, has covered the Kings since 2008. Jones, a UC Berkeley graduate, also has covered high school sports, the Oakland Raiders and the Sacramento Monarchs for The Bee. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @mr_jasonjones
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