Kamenetzky Bros. Power Rankings: Who is East’s Sleeper Team?

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RANK TEAM THE RUNDOWN LAST
1 PACERS
(22-5)
After losing two straight — including a disappointing loss in Miami — The Pacers made a statement blowing out Houston on Friday, before beating Boston on Sunday. Should cruise to 2014 (2 vs. BKN, vs. CLE). 1
2 THUNDER(22-5) Coming hard in Indy’s rear view mirror. Sunday’s loss (to Raptors!?!) was just their second since Nov. 14, and over that 16-2 stretch only four of the wins were by fewer than five points. 4
3 BLAZERS
(23-5)
Won four of five in an eight-day stretch but had to scratch and claw to do it. Legitimacy tested over the rest of the month with home games vs. Clips and Heat, then roadies against New Orleans and Oklahoma City. 2
4 HEAT
(20-6)
Won’t crank it up like they did in the second half vs. Indy every night, but don’t need to, either. Begin the week with a four straight wins. Is this the one that grows to 27? Update on second-rounder James Ennis, playing in Australia. 5
5 SPURS
(21-6)
Playing without Kawhi Leonard, they were dominated on the glass, torched by Westbrook/Jackson combo in Saturday’s loss to OKC. Nice to have reminders of how indispensable he is. 3
6 CLIPPERS
(20-9)
Perfect week at home. Four games, four wins. DeAndre Jordan has two single-digit rebounding games in his last 20. Crawford averaging about 20 as a starter but under 40 percent from the floor. 7
7 ROCKETS
(18-10)
Dwight’s getting comfy in Texas, the splits say: 16.7 points, 11.7 rebounds, 1.9 blocks in November vs. 21.2/14.5/2.0 this month. Non-deal of Asik adds a little awkwardness. 6
8 SUNS
(16-10)
Went 3-1 vs. GSW, SA, Denver and Dallas. Middle of the pack defensively but outstanding in transition (4th in points per play against, via Synergy) and the O is knocking on the top five. 8
9 HAWKS
(15-12)
NBA’s worst transition team (.98 points per play) ought to slow down. Hawks are tops in assists and very efficient in halfcourt, behind only Heat and Blazers in points per possession. 12
10 MAVERICKS
(15-12)
In four games since return to lineup, Brandan Wright averaging 13.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.8 blocks while shooting 71 percent. Probably time to drop DeJuan Blair from your fantasy team. 9
11 WARRIORS
(15-13)
Blew out shorthanded Lakers on Saturday to stave off Armageddon, but 2-9 against teams .500 or above is a red flag of epic proportions. 11
12 NUGGETS
(14-12)
Took an oh-fer in games vs. Oklahoma City, Phoenix and LA Clippers. With upcoming games vs. Golden State, Memphis and New Orleans – all targeting bottom ladder playoff spots in West – they can’t afford the same this week. 10
13 WOLVES
(13-15)
Basketball Reference’s expected record for this crew, with a plus-2.9 point differential and top 10 efficiencies on both sides of the ball, is 17-11. At some point, things will even out. 15
14 WIZARDS
(12-13)
After four straight losses – two in OT and third by a point – Wiz have won three in a row, all with Bradley Beal in the lineup. Our nation’s capital has reason for cautious optimism — especially with John Wall’s improving jump shot. 20
15 PISTONS
(13-16)
Talent (and total lack of viable alternatives) will get them to postseason. But their best players can’t play defense together, so making any noise (other than whimpering) will be tough. 18
16 LAKERS
(13-14)
Only healthy PG on the roster is Kendall Marshall, who had four TOs in six minutes Saturday in Lakers debut. They play hard every night, but with Kobe’s comeback postponed another six weeks, it won’t matter. 14
17 PELICANS
(11-14)
Lost six of eight and slipping in West. Anthony Davis averaged 22.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and a block in first two games back. With lineup intact, Pelicans need to rally. 13
18 CELTICS
(12-17)
Held onto first in Atlantic until Sunday. Mock that if you want, but it’s not their fault everyone else sucks. Jared Sullinger (16.7/7.0/2.4 in December) is coming along. What will they do with Rondo? Check out Peter May’s column. 17
19 BOBCATS
(13-15)
Losing Jeff Taylor, filling in for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, hurts literally and figuratively. At least we know they’ll be better dressed next season, now that the Hornets logo has been unveiled. 24
20 GRIZZLIES
(11-15)
Quincy Pondexter is out indefinitely after foot surgery. Marc Gasol just shed his crutches. Z-Bo is aging fast. Basketball Reference gives them 1 percent chance of rallying for playoffs. Appropriate stuff for a city dedicated to blues. 16
21 RAPTORS
(11-14)
Heading into Sunday’s upset W in OKC, Amir Johnson was averaging 16.1 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks on 68 percent shooting in 32 minutes over nine December games. Worth noting, even if the team isn’t. 25
22 BULLS
(10-16)
D.J. Augustin has gone for 13.7/8.0 in three games as starter. In other news, Bulls are starting D.J. Augustin, which helps explain their record. 19
23 CAVALIERS
(10-16)
It’s probably overreacting to say the Cavs could be playing Kyrie Irving onto the FA market in a couple years. But that won’t stop panic-conditioned Clevelanders from worrying about it. 21
24 KINGS
(8-18)
Can’t just blame playing in the West for their lousy record. Revamped roster is 2-5 against the East, too. 27
25 JAZZ
(8-22)
Utah 1-11 without Trey Burke in the lineup, 7-11 with him, including 4-3 over their last seven. Not exactly world-beating – unless you’re comparing to the teams underneath them. 29
26 MAGIC
(8-19)
Victor Oladipo’s shooting percentages have tanked this month. Seven of his 11 games under 40 percent, including 22.9 percent from downtown. 26
27 KNICKS
(8-18)
5-6 in December, representing a tiny and depressing form of progress. More depression: On D, they’re NBA’s worst in transition, and opponents shoot over 62 percent inside 5 feet. 23
28 NETS
(9-17)
Losing Lopez basically cooks any shot they have, even in the Atlantic. But it’s not like they’re in win-now mode, right? Maybe they make a run at Asik? 22
29 SIXERS
(8-21)
The Tanking Train is back on track! 4-18 after that unexpected 4-2 start. The vultures will circle for their appealing players (Thad Young, Spencer Hawes) near the deadline. Bright spot: Tony Wroten, as you can read here. 28
30 BUCKS
(6-21)
Let’s take a moment to point out the coolness of their double-M court design! Much, much cooler than the team playing on it. 30

OTHER RANKINGS: MVP | Rookies | Most Improved | Sixth Man

Brian Kamenetsky is a frequent contributor to SheridanHoops.com. Follow him and his brother, Andy, on Twitter.

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