By Chris Mannix
March 22, 2010
NBA Power Rankings
11 Portland Trail Blazers
Last Week: 10
It's hard to tell if the recent skirmish in the front office that led to assistant general manager Tom Penn's dismissal and rumors that GM Kevin Pritchard could be on his way out the door will have any effect on the team, but the last thing Portland needs is a distraction, not with a showdown with Dallas and a battle for seeding with Oklahoma City on the schedule this week.
12 Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 12
If I'm a GM, I'm making a play for Salmons at next year's trade deadline. A year after sparking Chicago's playoff run, Salmons is doing the same for Milwaukee, averaging 19.8 points on 45.4 percent shooting in 16 games. More important, the Bucks are an astonishing 14-2 with Salmons in the lineup.
13 San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 11
A local TV affiliate called the Spurs' upcoming schedule the "Stretch of Doom," and it's hard to argue with the label. After a tough overtime loss to Atlanta on Sunday, San Antonio's next four opponents are Oklahoma City, the Lakers, Cleveland and Boston. The good news: Manu Ginobili, who dropped 38 on the Hawks, is averaging 21.2 points this month, nearly five more than his season average.
14 Memphis Grizzlies
Last Week: 14
Since the All-Star break, the Grizz have lost only once on the road. Not bad for a team that was 8-17 away from home before the break. Which is great considering four of their next six games are not at FedEx Forum.
15 Houston Rockets
Last Week: 17
With the Rockets piecing things together -- they have won seven of their last 10 -- it's worth wondering how good this team could be with Yao Ming in the middle next season. Kevin Martin raining open jumpers off double teams? Luis Scola and Jordan Hill feasting on offensive boards? Aaron Brooks, Chase Budinger and Trevor Ariza racing out in transition? Not a bad mix.
16 Miami Heat
Last Week: 15
Miami Heat (36-34)
Coach Erik Spoelstra has recruited some help to try to get through to Michael Beasley: Alonzo Mourning. The uber-intense Mourning has tried to hammer the need to be more aggressive into Beasley's brain. "Zo, he just wants to see people get dunked on, especially when you're playing against shot-blockers," Beasley told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "Zo wants you to dunk on the Jolly Green Giant if he was out there."
17 Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 16
Back-to-back losses to Atlanta and Miami cooled off the 'Cats, but their remaining March schedule offers an easy opportunity to heat back up again. Charlotte closes the month with two games against Washington and dates with Minnesota, Toronto and Philadelphia.
18 Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 18
The Raps briefly broke out of their second-half slump with wins over Atlanta and New Jersey last week. But they have to be worried about Bargnani, whose offense has tailed off and who was easily outscored (18-5) and outrebounded (13-3) by the Nets' Brook Lopez. "We need him to focus," coach Jay Triano told Raptors reporters. "If he's not making shots, [he has to] do something else so we can keep him on the floor."
19 New Orleans Hornets
Last Week: 19
Here's an interesting stat for those who think the emergence of Darren Collison means it's time to trade Chris Paul: Collison is a minus-5.3 this season, the lowest plus/minus ratio on the Hornets' roster. Paul, on the other hand, is plus-2.2, tops among rotation players.
20 Chicago Bulls
Last Week: 20
Chicago Bulls (32-37)
The new Vinny Del Negro Watch, Week 2: The Bulls' win over Philadelphia last week snapped a 10-game losing streak, and Vinny has another cushy late-season schedule to help him keep his job. Eight of the Bulls' next 13 games are at home.
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