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With two months left, NBA's power hierarchy clearer

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Goran Dragic (center) and the Phoenix Suns have been two of the NBA's biggest surprises this season.

The passing of All-Star Weekend means there are just two months remaining in the NBA's marathon of a regular season.

With the completion of almost 900 games, SI.com's NBA Power Rankings look pretty similar to my preseason edition, albeit with a few notable exceptions. Both lists share eight of 10 top-10 teams and have the 76ers last.

But several teams have deviated significantly from preseason expectations. Most glaring are the Suns, who began the season at No. 29 and with this vote of confidence from me: "[D]on't expect Jeff Hornacek to win much in his first season as coach." Oops. Also underrated significantly were the Blazers, who started at No. 16 but climbed to No. 1 and remain a top-10 squad.

On the other side of the spectrum are the Bulls (No. 5 to No. 13), who have been undermined by injuries again, and the Knicks (No. 11 to No. 27), who have had more problems than Saturday's Slam Dunk Contest.

With more than half the season in the books, we have a much better understanding of who is contending for a title and who is contending for lottery balls.

Here's where all 30 teams stand this week as we look ahead to the stretch run. (All statistics and records are through Feb. 17.)

SI Now: Suns, Blazers lead first half surprises
On Monday's SI Now, NBA producer Matt Dollinger recaps the first half of the NBA season in this week's power rankings.
NBA Power Rankings
 
1 Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 1
Since: 2-0
The NBA's best team has played more than half its games without its second-best player. With guards Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson benefiting from the extra minutes, the Thunder will be even better than before when Russell Westbrook returns from a knee injury -- perhaps as soon as Thursday against Miami.
 
2 Miami Heat
Last Week: 3
Since: 2-0
Miami Heat (37-14)
LeBron James' game-winning three-pointer against the Warriors to cap a 36-point, 13-rebound, nine-assist performance was a nice reminder that he shouldn't be overlooked in the MVP race even though many are claiming that Kevin Durant is set to be the runaway winner.
 
3 Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 2
Since: 0-1
We're going to assume the Pacers were already mentally on vacation when they scored a season-low 73 points against the Mavericks in their final game before the All-Star break. They can't afford too many slip-ups, though, if they want to stave off the Heat for the No. 1 seed.
 
4 Houston Rockets
Last Week: 4
Since: 2-0
The Rockets have won seven consecutive games to move into third place in the West. But they're 0-5 against the other teams in this top five. Tread lightly.
 
5 Los Angeles Clippers
Last Week: 6
Since: 1-0
The Clippers boast the NBA's best offense (113.6 points per 100 possessions) since New Year's Day despite having Chris Paul for only four games during that stretch. With Paul fully healed, expect Los Angeles to be even more lethal.
 
6 San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 5
Since: 1-1
The Spurs are a risky bet if you are considering buying tickets to see Tim Duncan and Co. in the second half, given coach Gregg Popovich's penchant for resting his stars. But they're a safe bet to end up near the top of the West. After all, they've finished first or second in their division for the past 16 years.
 
7 Dallas Mavericks
Last Week: 8
Since: 1-1
The NBA's new longest-tenured All-Star, Dirk Nowitzki, is averaging 24.2 points per 36 minutes, up from 19.9 last season. Dallas will be a tough out in the playoffs if the Nowitzki- and Monta Ellis-led attack continues to play at a top-five level in offensive efficiency.
 
8 Memphis Grizzlies
Last Week: 10
Since: 2-0
The Grizzlies have won 14 of their last 18 games to overcome a disappointing, injury-plagued start. But even after their turnaround they still sit 1½ games out of the playoffs in the west. No team would be more in favor of conference realignment than Memphis, which would have the third-best record in the East.
 
9 Portland Trail Blazers
Last Week: 7
Since: 0-2
The Blazers' body of work warrants a top-10 ranking, but their sluggish performance over the last month is tough to ignore. Portland is 5-8 in its last 13 games, a stretch during which its formidable offense has been just league average. If the Blazers aren't elite offensively, their ceiling is a lot lower.
 
10 Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 9
Since: 1-1
No player is more paramount to the Warriors' playoff hopes than Andre Iguodala. When you lead the team in offensive rating and defensive rating, you're pretty much indispensable.
 
11 Phoenix Suns
Last Week: 11
Since: 0-1
Phoenix Suns (30-21)
Eric Bledsoe is nearing his return from a knee injury, an exciting prospect for the playoff-hopeful Suns, who are 16-8 when he plays. Whether Phoenix -- which is 1½ games ahead of ninth-place Memphis -- can hang on to its playoff spot will be among the most intriguing second-half storylines to watch.
 
12 Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 13
Since: 2-0
The Raptors have the third-best record in the East, but four teams are within 3½ games. With six of its next eight games at home, Toronto has a chance to solidify its position behind Indiana and Miami.
 
13 Chicago Bulls
Last Week: 15
Since: 2-0
If the Bulls finish above .500, Tom Thibodeau deserves to be in the Coach of the Year discussion. We've come to expect defensive excellence from Thibodeau's teams, but he's also managed to build a respectable offense around the likes of Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and a cast-off point guard in D.J. Augustin.
 
14 Brooklyn Nets
Last Week: 12
Since: 1-1
After a 10-21 start, the Nets enter the stretch run as a playoff team with a reasonable shot at home-court advantage in the first round. They play their next six games on the road, where they are only 8-16.
 
15 Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 14
Since: 0-2
The Nuggets are in a state of crisis, losing their last four games by a combined 110 points. With a roster worth significantly less than the sum of its parts, it's hard to believe Denver won't be making a deal at the deadline or be very active in the offseason.
 
16 New Orleans Pelicans
Last Week: 17
Since: 1-1
Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans are reportedly on the block -- and for good reason. The team's two highest-paid players (combined $26.1 million this season) are third and fifth in Player Efficiency Rating, respectively.
 
17 Washington Wizards
Last Week: 16
Since: 0-2
John Wall raised his profile at All-Star Weekend, but he'll ultimately be measured by what the Wizards do in the playoffs (if they make it for the first time in his four-year career) more than his ability to dunk and make plays in the All-Star Game.
 
18 Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 19
Since: 1-1
The Bobcats could swing a deal before the deadline to try to cement just their second playoff berth in franchise history. Charlotte desperately needs some help to bolster an offense that ranks 25th in points per possession.
 
19 Atlanta Hawks
Last Week: 18
Since: 0-2
The All-Star break came at a good time for the Hawks, who needed to regroup after losing a season-worst five consecutive games to fall to fifth in the East. They are below .500 for the first time since Dec. 3.
 
20 Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 20
Since: 1-1
The reeling Wolves face a difficult post-All-Star break gauntlet, with a home game against the Pacers followed by a five-game trip against West teams. Minnesota's margin for error is small as it seeks its first playoff berth since 2004.
 
21 Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 21
Since: 1-1
Josh Smith is having his best month as a Piston, averaging 18.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists while shooting 45.4 percent in seven games. John Loyer's first task as head coach: Getting J-Smoove to abandon his side job as a three-point shooter (18.2 percent this month) for good.
 
22 Utah Jazz
Last Week: 23
Since: 2-0
Utah Jazz (19-33)
The Jazz won three straight before the break, improving to 16-9 when starting Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, Richard Jefferson, Marvin Williams and Derrick Favors. They play four of their next five at home before a six-game road trip.
 
23 Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Week: 28
Since: 2-0
Chris Grant was either secretly playing 20 minutes a night or his firing has been a dramatic wake-up call for the Cavaliers. Cleveland has won a season-best four straight since canning its general manager and is just three games out of the No. 8 spot in the East.
 
24 Orlando Magic
Last Week: 22
Since: 0-1
The Magic have a host of veterans (Arron Afflalo, Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis) about whom playoff-minded teams will be calling at the deadline. But don't expect Orlando to mess with its young core, which helped fuel upsets over the Pacers and Thunder before the break.
 
25 Boston Celtics
Last Week: 24
Since: 1-1
The Celtics have won four of six they are only 2-8 when Rajon Rondo plays in his return from ACL surgery. His last four games have been an improvement, though, as the point guard has averaged 14.5 points and 9.3 assists.
 
26 Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 26
Since: 1-1
The Kings have raised their offensive rating from 17th to 13th and improved marginally on defense since acquiring Rudy Gay from the Raptors in December. Their record has been better, too, but they're still only 12-17 with Gay in the lineup.
 
27 New York Knicks
Last Week: 25
Since: 0-1
Let's hope the Knicks got some rest over the All-Star break; they're going to need it. New York is 2 games out of the playoffs and begins the second half with eight of 10 games on the road, including four in a row this week.
 
28 Los Angeles Lakers
Last Week: 27
Since: 0-3
Best-case scenario for the Lakers: Kobe Bryant sits out the rest of the year and Nick Young tries to make a late push for the scoring title. Classic win-win.
 
29 Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 29
Since: 0-2
The Bucks hold a five-game lead for the worst record and will be without Larry Sanders for at least six weeks. But, hey, have you seen Giannis Antetokounmpo's hands?
 
30 Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 30
Since: 0-2
The 76ers are one of the teams to watch at the deadline because of the availability of Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes. GM Sam Hinkie is reportedly looking to stockpile more draft picks as part of his rebuild.
 
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