Sheridan’s Sunday Power Rankings

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One week ago, people around the NBA were debating who would be the runner-up to LeBron James in the MVP race.

A week later, and we’re wondering who he’ll throw the ball to next at the end of a tight game. Anybody got Joey Crawford in their office pool?

Seriously, the King needs to rule when it comes down to taking the last shot, but he looks like he wants to abdicate. I realize he is having his best season ever statistically, but has there ever been a time when so many people have been so down on a player putting up the kind of numbers James is putting up?

He goes against the Lakers this afternoon.

Please, oh please, let it be a one-point game entering the final minute.

RANK TEAM THE RUNDOWN LAST
1 BULLS
(30-8)
LAST WEEK: 3-0 THIS WEEK: 5 games KEY GAME: MON vs IND
Just think, if that no-show vs. the Nets hadn’t happened three Saturdays ago, we’d be talking about a team on an eight-game winning streak. Rip Hamilton is finally back, Derrick Rose has been healthy long enough to be called a mainstay again, and it’s only 10 more days — the night before the trading deadline — before we get to see how they measure up against the Heat.
4
2 HEAT
(28-8)
LAST WEEK: 1-1 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: SUN at LAL
Until LeBron James takes the last shot — doesn’t matter if he makes it or misses it — he is going to be considered a guy who doesn’t want the ball in his hands with the game on the line. Is that an unfair characterization? Last Sunday, a pass to Blake Griffin (wrong team). This past Friday, a pass to Udonis Haslem (when a drive through a weak double-team would have resulted in a layup or a foul. Since joining the Heat, James is 1-for-9 in the last 24 seconds of the 4th quarter or overtime with a chance to tie or take the lead.
1
3 THUNDER
(29-8)
LAST WEEK: 2-1 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: MON vs DAL
They are going to have letdown games here and there, as evidenced by what happened Saturday night in Atlanta after they posted quality road wins at Philly and Orlando (two of their losses have been to the Kings and the Wizards). Will play 10 of their next 12 at home, where they are a league-best 15-1. Next matchup with Spurs is two Fridays from now — the day after the trade deadline. Kendrick Perkins finally coming to life with double-figure boards in 4 of last 5.
2
4 SPURS
(25-11)
LAST WEEK: 1-1 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: FRI vs LAC
We gushed and gushed and gushed over them, and what have they been over the past dozen days? A .500 team — with one of the wins coming against the Bobcats. That is the worst thing we’ve had to say about them all year. Their 30-point win over Charlotte was Bobcats’ eighth 30-point loss of season. In Gregg Popovich’s 1,216 games with Spurs, it has happened only seven times (once this season). Richard Jefferson (76) has made more 3s than Ray Allen (70). Matt Bonner (69) is close.
3
5 PACERS
(23-12)
LAST WEEK: 3-0 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: MON at CHI
They have their first six-game winning streak in seven years, but it should carry an asterisk — two Ws vs ‘Cats, two vs. Hornets, one each over Nets and Warriors. But we’ll bump ‘em up where their record says they belong, then judge them more thoroughly after their next four against Bulls, Hawks, Heat and Magic. After watching Chris Kaman hold Roy Hibbert without a FG Saturday night, perhaps they’d surrender a first-round pick for him. They have cap space to absorb him.
8
6 MAGIC
(24-14)
LAST WEEK: 2-1 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: THU at CHI
In the last 22 days, they are 4-0 against the Bucks and 4-3 against everyone else. Still a second-echelon team, and Mr. DeVos has a big decision to make. Dump Dwight, or go with what he has and hope the 3-pointers keep falling. Dude working the bar at All-Star media hospitality suite, a season-ticket holder since team’s inception, believes they’ll trade him. “Can’t have another Shaq situation,” he opined.
6
7 GRIZZLIES
(22-15)
LAST WEEK: 2-0 THIS WEEK: 2 games KEY GAME: SAT at PHX
Scheduling quirk: One game over a seven-day stretch, and it is at home Wednesday vs. Golden State. Hard to put these guys above Lakers and Clippers when they are 0-1 against each of them, but they have won four straight and eight of nine. Play vs. Lakers on March 13. Memo to Easy Dave: I saw All-Star in Marc even when he was chubby kid at 2006 Worlds in Saitama. And in Lithuania last summer, Marc was best Gasol at Eurobasket. I know cuz I was there.
10
8 LAKERS
(22-14)
LAST WEEK: 2-0 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: SUN vs. MIA
Masked man Kobe Bryant goes for 31 and 38 in first two after getting nose broken. I wouldn’t bet against that guy — although some apparently would (Lakers are 3-point dogs today vs. Heat). As I’ve been saying for months, best move they can make is acquiring Kirk Hinrich into the Lamar Odom trade exception and leaving everything else alone. Metta? Yeah, I’d still want him to defend Durant or Ginobili in playoffs.
14
9 CLIPPERS
(21-13)
LAST WEEK: 1-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: FRI at SA
I have been warning Clips Nation that their cupcake early-season schedule would make them too fat and happy, and this current six-game trip features what should be only one certain win — at New Jersey on Wednesday. But Deron Williams manages to get stoked for about 3-4 games per season, and that will be one of them.
5
10 HAWKS
(22-15)
LAST WEEK: 2-1 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: WED at MIA
About to start a six-game zig-zag road trip with three games in four nights — at Indiana, at Miami, at Detroit. Victory over Thunder was impressive, and we’ll learn a lot about them by the time they finally return home again the day after the trade deadline. This much we already know: Josh Smith should have been an All-Star. Joe Johnson? The last time he shot above 50 percent was Jan. 31. Yes, really.
15
11 NUGGETS
(20-17)
LAST WEEK: 2-0 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: SUN at SA
They lead the league in scoring, they are second in assists, they get Danilo Gallinari back this week, and they might just add Wilson Chandler back into the mix now that Europe is his only other viable option. Don’t sleep on these guys. By the time all 66 games are said and done, I would not be surprised if they are above the Clippers.
17
12 SIXERS
(22-16)
LAST WEEK: 2-1 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: WED vs BOS
Their last victory over a quality opponent came way back on Feb. 6. If any team needs a shakeup at the trade deadline, it is these guys. And if anyone should keep an extra bag packed, it is Andres Nocioni — he of the expiring $6.65 million contract. He is second behind Kaman on Most Likely to be Traded List. Here’s an idea.
12
13 ROCKETS
(21-16)
LAST WEEK: 1-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: TUE at BOS
What happened to these guys over the break? Went into the weekend winners of three in a row, came back and got pounded by Jazz (scored 104) and Nuggets (scored 117). If they still have eyes for Pau Gasol, this trade makes sense if Rockets have faith that Johnny Flynn could be a capable backup to Kyle Lowry.
9
14 WOLVES
(19-19)
LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME:  FRI vs LAL
Talk about a key four-game homestand. This is the point where these guys are either going to move above .500 for good or show they are just a so-so team. No rookie wall yet for Rubio, who dropped 10 dimes in 1st quarter Saturday vs. Portland as K-Love was going for season-high 42. In midst of playing 19 in a row vs. West teams (14-10 in conference).
11
15 MAVERICKS
(22-16)
LAST WEEK: 1-3 THIS WEEK: 5 games KEY GAME: TUE vs. NYK
This week’s losers of the scheduling lottery: five games in six nights upcoming, including a back-to-back-to-back on the road at Phoenix, Sacramento and Golden State. Lost in the drama of the Lamar Odom saga was Dirk Nowitzki’s first 40-point game of the season in win vs. Utah.
7
16 KNICKS
(18-18)
LAST WEEK: 1-0 THIS WEEK: 4games KEY GAME: SUN at BOS
They can write off the first half of the season as the time when they put their team together. Now what can they do with it over the final 30 games? Should be quiet at deadline unless they can get bulky backup 4 for Toney Douglas. Steve Novak has been good, but doesn’t bang.
16
17 CELTICS
(18-18)
LAST WEEK: 3-0 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: SUN vs NY
You know why Ray Allen’s name is more prominent in trade rumors than Rajon Rondo’s? Because as high-maintenance as Rondo is, he produces. Allen? 26-for-69 on 3-pointers in February, dropping his percentage to .486. Mario Chalmers also has 70 makes from behind the arc in just 13 more attempts.
19
18 BLAZERS
(18-19)
LAST WEEK: 0-3 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: MON vs NO
Allowed 104, 107 and 122 coming out of the break. Nate McMillan, you didn’t think being in Paul Allen’s employment would last forever, did you? Such stability is illogical to Vulcans. Wes Mathews and Ray Felton have been devalued and could be cherry-picked by bargain hunters. Been a long time since that 40-point win over Spurs, eh?
13
19 JAZZ
(17-19)
LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: MON at CLE
If rebuilding 2.0 is going to happen, than it is going to have to include moving Al Jefferson and his $15 million contract for next season to make room for Enes Kanter. Hey, nobody predicted they’d lose Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams within a couple weeks around the trading deadline last year, right?
18
20 SUNS
(16-20)
LAST WEEK: 2-0 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: WED at OKC
Pair of quality wins coming out of the break, and next seven games (ending March 15) will show whether they have enough in the tank for a run at a playoff spot. Methinks not, but methinking is not always 100 percent on the money. If they trade Steve Nash, the taker will also have to take on Josh Childress to clear another $6.5 in cap room for the summer.
22
21 WARRIORS
(14-19)
LAST WEEK: 1-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: SAT vs DAL
OK, let’s say they win their final two upcoming Eastern road games against Toronto and Washington. That would put them three games below .500. You probably need to be four games over .500 to make the playoffs in the West. So if they got Dwight Howard, they’d need to finish 19-12. Not impossible.
21
22 BUCKS
(14-23)
LAST WEEK: 1-3 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: FRI vs NY
Well, at least they beat the Wizards (by one). Here’s the bad news: After seeing him four times in 22 days, they’ll see Dwight Howard twice more if he’s traded to the Nets.
24
23 CAVALIERS
(13-22)
LAST WEEK: 0-4 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: MON vs UTA
I know what you’re thinking: Why do I have them this high after the week they just had? I have no good answer.
20
24 KINGS
(12-24)
LAST WEEK: 1-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: WED vs NO
Glad they are staying. Not so glad that Commissioner Stern is opposed to North American expansion that would return hoops to Seattle and Vancouver.
25
25 NETS
(10-25)
LAST WEEK: 1-1 THIS WEEK: 5 games KEY GAME: WED vs LAC
Two road trips to Charlotte in a single week? There are NASCAR executives that don’t even do that.
26
26 RAPTORS
(11-25)
LAST WEEK: 1-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: WED vs HOU
All in all, they haven’t played an all-around bad game since losing to Charlotte on Feb. 17. That merits a two-spot rise in my book.
28
27 HORNETS
(9-28)
LAST WEEK: 1-3 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: TUE at CHI
Beat the Mavericks, which is great. But lost to Raptors, which isn’t. Hence, they stay at 27.
27
28 PISTONS
(12-26)
LAST WEEK: 1-2 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: TUE vs LAL
Beat the Bobcats, but lost their other two games by a combined 46. Charlie Villanueva’s return will not be a panacea.
23
29 WIZARDS
(8-28)
LAST WEEK: 1-2 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: SAT vs TOR
Everything you need to know about the demotions of JaVale McGee and Nick Young is in Chris Bernucca’s column.
29
30 BOBCATS
(4-30)
LAST WEEK: 0-2 THIS WEEK: 5 games KEY GAME: SAT at OKC
If you took last week’s advice, you make money. Lost against spread both times. Laying only 2.5 against Nets today.
30
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Comments

  1. I don’t get all this complaining about LeBron taking the last shot…at least in this most recent game (loss to the Jazz). The shot was WIDE OPEN for Haslem. It’s his damn fault for not draining it. There’s no guarantee LeBron can drive in there and draw a foul or anything like that, like suggested. LeBron has deserved a lot of the heat he’s taken for deferring at the end of the game, but not this time. And this comes from someone who despises LeBron.

  2. Knicks don’t need a bulky backup 4 that bangs at the deadline. Josh Harrellson is now back from injury and he is exactly that, a bulky backup 4 that bangs. He can also hit the 3 and will get better looks now with the penetration by Lin and Baron. He is a big body on D and is a solid rebounder.

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