Skyhook NBA Power Rankings: Week 9

December 21, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Charlotte Bobcats shooting guard Gerald Henderson (9) reacts after an injury during the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena. The Warriors defeated the Bobcats 115-100. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless of sport, the Clippers remain the hottest team in the entire world right now… even fat Lamar Odom can’t screw this one up. Meanwhile the Spurs, Rockets, Blazers and Raptors are pushing for the title of December’s hottest team.

Several big names are still unimpressively hovering around (or even below) .500. Yes, we’re looking at you Nuggets, Lakers, Nets and Celtics.

And finally, the Wizards are happily unseated by the Bobcats for the wine cellar throne. It comes with the 18 straight loss territory.

Welcome back to The Skyhook’s NBA Power Rankings, where any given week, things can change faster than a James Harden trade.

Previous weeks:
| Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 7 | Week 8

Week 9 – December 31, 2012

Biggest jump: Bucks (+4) | Biggest drop: Magic (-3)

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com1. Los Angeles Clippers | 25-6 (W17) | Last week: 1

Like Will Ferrell’s character in Old School, the Clips are (still) going streaking, to the tune of 17 straight wins. Other than a couple of minor close calls, they’ve been blowing teams away (average margin of 15.2 points per game during the streak).

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com2. Oklahoma City Thunder | 23-6 (W2) | Last week: 2

How do the Thunder respond to getting beat down in Miami? With a grind-it-out win against the Mavs and then an absolute beat down against their old buddy James Harden in Houston. Serge Ibaka still playing insane basketball in the OKC shadows.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com3. San Antonio Spurs | 24-8 (W5) | Last week: 3

Popovich alert: Spurs have 3 games in the next 4 days. What will he do, what will he do? Meanwhile, the “old” guys keep killing teams. It’s too bad this team is so deep that Kawhi Leonard can rarely get over 30 minutes… so fun to watch.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com4. Memphis Grizzlies | 19-8 (W1) | Last week: 6

Still 19-8, the Grizzles now look like an average team (remember, they started 12-2). They lose at home to an underachieving Sixers team, then hold the Nuggets to 72 points. Go figure. Seems like they need to acquire a new toy near deadline time.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com5. New York Knicks | 21-9 (L1) | Last week: 4

A bit of a letdown week for the Knickerbockers as they lose a big game to the Lakers on Christmas Day, then James Johnson buries them at the buzzer on Friday night. Hope everyone’s ready for the return of STAT, it’s around the corner now.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com6. Miami Heat | 20-8 (L2) | Last week: 5

I want to rank the Heat higher for their win over the Thunder, but Pistons loss (and their defense in the Bucks loss) offsets that. Though, it might be a perfect example of how much Wade really does mean to this team.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com7. Golden State Warriors | 21-10 (W3) | Last week: 7

Warrior love continues to grow. First, they go into one of the hardest places to play in the league in Utah and impress, then they absolutely handle the Celtics by 18 at home. Whatever seed they grab, this will be a dangerous team come playoff time.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com8. Atlanta Hawks | 19-9 (W4) | Last week: 8

In an all-Central division week, the Hawks go 3-0 with a very nice win against a hot Pacers team. Looks like Larry Drew is doing some tinkering with the lineup by inserting Lou Williams in as a starter. Fortunately, Lou has totally responded.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com9. Chicago Bulls | 16-12 (W1) | Last week: 9

Nothing like a timely matchup with the Wizards to forget about getting pounded by the Hawks (17) and the Rockets (23). Boy has Taj Gibson taken a step backward this season. 6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game? Starting to look like a bogus contract extension.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com10. Indiana Pacers | 17-13 (L1) | Last week: 10

Burning question for a hot Pacers squad: Could David West (17.5 pts, 8.0 rebs) sneak into the All-Star Game? It’s too bad the Boxing Day showdown with the Bulls got postponed, that could have been a statement game. I guess they will get the chance.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com11. Los Angeles Lakers | 15-15 (W1) | Last week: 12

One could get picky, but the Lakers are 6-1 in their last 7 games and have battled back to .500. The inner city showdown with the Clippers on Friday should be a slugfest, especially if the “streak” is still alive. FYI – Kobe Bryant is 4th in the league in Minutes.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com12. Milwaukee Bucks | 16-13 (L1) | Last week: 16

The wins over the Heat and Nets get them a bump up, but how do you explain losses to the Cavs and Pistons? The Bucks are keeping their rivals close, as they’ve played 21 of their 29 games against their own conference, going 14-7.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com13. Denver Nuggets | 17-15 (L1) | Last week: 11

The Nugs survived Kobe’s 40 points on Wednesday and then used a terrific 39-point Gallinari night on Friday to take down the Mavs. But the inconsistency still remains. We can only rank the Nugs this high on “potential” for only so long.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com14. Brooklyn Nets | 16-14 (W2) | Last week: 14

So on queue, the Brooklyn mess results in Avery Johnson getting canned and drawing more (mostly negative) unnecessary attention to the franchise. Who will be the next coach? Is Phil coming? Is D-Will a coach killer?

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com15. Minnesota Timberwolves | 14-13 (W1) | Last week: 13

Pretty uneventful 2-game week for the Wolves, who split a pair against the Rockets (tough loss) and Suns (close win). They’ll have a very important all-division week coming up as they visit Utah and Denver and host an improved Portland team.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com16. Houston Rockets | 16-14 (L2) | Last week: 15

The Rockets had been hot (5 straight wins) before running into the Spurs/Thunder wall of death. January gets even more difficult as they play 17 games, 12 of which are on the road. Yikes!

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com17. Portland Trail Blazers | 15-14 (W1) | Last week: 19

The Blazers have found some winning ways of late, finishing with a 9-4 month of December. As one of my personal favorite teams to watch, I’d like to see J.J. Hickson (12.7 pts, 11.0 rebs, .568 FG%) get some mention for Most Improved.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com18. Boston Celtics | 14-16 (L3) | Last week: 18

If there’s a team needs to make a deadline deal, it’s the C’s. What in the blue hell happened last week? We know East teams going West is challenging, but they didn’t even SHOW UP in the losses to the Clippers (by 29), Warriors (by 18) and Kings (22).

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com19. Utah Jazz | 15-17 (L3) | Last week: 17

Not too much shame in the Utah Jekyll and Hydes losing to the Juggernaut Clippers and Warriors last week. I recommend you read further into the “Will they or won’t they trade Paul Millsap?” debate by checking out Skyhook newcomer Reece Hooker’s article here.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com20. Philadelphia 76ers | 14-17 (L2) | Last week: 20

Things have gone almost as bad as expected on Philly’s 8-game road trip (1-3 so far). The worse news? They’re only half way and have the Lakers, Thunder and Spurs left. Yuck. Hey, at least Spencer Hawes got a damn haircut.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com21. Toronto Raptors | 11-20 (W2) | Last week: 24

After a putrid 4-19 start, the Raps are suddenly winners of 7 out of 8 games. To capture the significance of their run, they now sit only 3.5 games out of a playoff spot in the East. Unfortunately for Andrea Bargnani (and his trade value), he’s been on the sideline for all the fun.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com22. Dallas Mavericks | 12-19 (L6) | Last week: 22

The only silver lining hidden in their 6-game slide is that they’ve just played the toughest 6-game stretch (MIA, @MEM, @SAN, @OKC, DEN, SAN) that will be seen in the entire league this season. Cuban’s trigger finger might be getting itchy.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com23. Phoenix Suns | 11-20 (L5) | Last week: 23

The Suns will be as excited to see 2013 arrive as anyone after they finished December with a 4-11 record (which looked like this: L5, W4, L6). With a squad full of average Joe’s, this team is in dire need of a superstar. Nash is sorely missed.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com24. Orlando Magic | 12-18 (L5) | Last week: 21

More significant Magic moment of the season so far: Beating the Lakers by 10 in Los Angeles or losing to the Raptors at home by 35? After dropping 5 straight, the next crack the Magic might have at a win comes January 14th at Washington.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com25. Sacramento Kings | 11-19 (W2) | Last week: 25

Solid week for the Kings as they’re probably still on a high from beating the Knicks at the buzzer and then ambush the Celtics behind DeMarcus Cousins triple double. And throw in ALL the irony of it being against the Celtics, a potential landing spot for Boogie.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com26. Detroit Pistons | 11-22 (W2) | Last week: 26

A really nice win against the Heat (*cough*without*Wade*), as they withstood 35 from LeBron. As little as he’s talked about, Jason Maxiell provides some of the nastier highlights in the league. Go YouTube some of his blocks and dunks. Do it.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com27. Cleveland Cavaliers | 7-25 (L2) | Last week: 27

Tristan Thompson is trying hard, but he’s no Varejao. They need him back to even compete and move past a 3-13 December. Cavs are likely looking forward to another high lottery pick come June. Two alarming Cavs stats: Alonzo Gee playing 33.6 minutes per game and Dion Waiters shooting .363% for the year.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com28. New Orleans Hornets | 7-23 (W1) | Last week: 29

Lots happening in NOLA this past week. The return of Eric Gordon (who dropped 24 in his season debut) and them winning an NBA basketball game without scoring a single fast break point were among the highlights. Also, this Hornets article by Skyhook newcomer J.P. Pelosi.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com29. Washington Wizards | 4-24 (L1) | Last week: 30

And they shall be set FREE! The Wiz climb out of the Rankings basement with a big home win over a (depleted) Magic team. NOT having an 18-game losing streak certainly has its perks. So in 17 games, Nene is rocking a very unnoticed +20 PER rating.

Photo courtesy: Yahoo.com30. Charlotte Bobcats | 7-23 (L18) | Last week: 28

Well, it’s not like we can say the B-Cats aren’t recently familiar with this dreaded losing streak territory. Am I the only one that giggles when I think about this team going from 7-5 to 7-23 in what seems like the blink of an eye? I didn’t think so. Just look at poor Gerald Henderson up there.