Power Rankings: Lakers Finally Pulling It Together

15. New York Knicks (18): He’s not LeBron James, but he’s the guy who was drafted two spots after him – if that’s any consolation for the Knicks big whiff in free-agency this summer. Now, with Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony leading New York’s journey to return to basketball-relevancy, the Knicks are slowly on the rise, but will fail to rise amongst the elite as they still are trying to find the part in their playbook that tells them what defense to play.

14. Denver Nuggets (12): The MeloDrama is finally over (and the annoying puns, thank God), Anthony is finally in New York, and somehow, the Nuggets are still playing solid basketball. They knocked off Memphis and Boston with their new roster, and even came close to beating Portland, in Portland, which would have made them 3-0 in their post-Carmelo life. There’s a very good chance they slip out of the playoffs, but with a chip on their shoulder and a boatload of talent, they still have the potential to surprise a lot of people. I don’t think they will – but the potential is still there, nonetheless.

13. Philadelphia 76ers (14): I know that I predicted them to make the playoffs, but this team has shocked me this season, and for multiple reasons. 1) Andre Iguodala is still on the roster. I’m glad that he is, but I’m just surprised that he wasn’t shipped out despite the team’s solid play. 2) Elton Brand is not being referred to as “the corpse of Elton Brand,” as many people might have expected him to be this deep into his sickening contract. The Sixers are finally over .500 and it looks like, barring injury or a massive meltdown, that they will be the East’s seventh seed during the postseason. Kudos to General Manager Rod Thorn for letting Doug Collins and his young guns figure it out for an entire season before deciding whether or not to clean shop. The NBA’s other GMs (minus a select few): Please take notes.

12. Phoenix Suns (17): At 38, it’s pretty shocking to see Grant Hill put up 14 points a night and consistently guard the opposing team’s best player (and do so effectively). As shocking as it is to see such solid numbers for a player who is relatively a dinosaur at this point in his career – everyone fails to realize that Hill is not your normal 15-year veteran. Yeah, he’s been in the NBA since 1994, but if you remember, Hill suffered his first catastrophic injury in 2000, and for five seasons (or a possible 410 games) he only played in 145 of them. That means, over a five-year span, Hill only played in approximately 35% of his games. That’s not even two full seasons – so really, Hill really is missing over three years of basketball during his 15-year career. Basically, while his player card says he is in his 16th year in the league, his legs say he’s only in about his 13th year – which is a massive difference.

11. Memphis Grizzlies (9): Things got awkward when they tried to trade OJ Mayo to Indiana but they couldn’t get a deal done in time, keeping Mayo in Memphis. Regardless, they are five games over the .500 mark, and with every passing day, they look more and more like a legitimate playoff team; especially with the faltering of Utah, Denver and possibly New Orleans.

Next: 10-6

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