By Chris Mannix
December 21, 2009
NBA Power Rankings
21 Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 22
Remember Marcus Banks? The well-traveled point guard has been seeing more playing time with Jose Calderon down. And he's been taking advantage of it, scoring 14 points in a win over New Jersey and playing stifling defense on Chris Paul in a win over the Hornets. "The one thing Marcus can do is defend," Jay Triano said.
22 New York Knicks
Last Week: 23
The Knicks' recent momentum could be curbed by the looming distraction of Nate Robinson. Robinson's agent, Aaron Goodwin, said last week that Robinson wants to be traded. The Knicks are probably happy to oblige given that they've won six of their last eight since Robinson was benched Dec. 2.
23 Chicago Bulls
Last Week: 25
Chicago Bulls (10-15)
Vinny Del Negro Watch, Week 4: It was a good week for Del Negro. The Bulls rallied from a 17-point deficit to upend New York, and they survived Joe Johnson's 40-point onslaught to beat the Hawks. Del Negro can put some more distance between himself and the unemployment line this week, which opens with a back-to-back with the Kings and Knicks
24 Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 20
There might be some dissension brewing in Charlotte. After being called out by Gerald Wallace for a poor performance in a loss to Utah, Tyson Chandler blasted back, telling ESPN Wallace's words were "bull" and that the Bobcats weren't good enough to point fingers. He's got that right. Two of Charlotte's three losses last week came against Indiana and New York.
25 Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 28
The return of Lou Williams last week made the Sixers whole for one of the few times this season, and they capitalized with a gritty road win over the Celtics. Elton Brand may not like a reserve role, but he is certainly taking to it, scoring 23 points against Boston and averaging 15.5 points when coming off the bench.
26 Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 24
The jury is still out on Tyler Hansbrough. The uber-aggressive rookie has helped the Pacers average 10.8 offensive rebounds per game over the last eight games, but his offensive boards (2.0) nearly equal his defensive (2.6) and he has only cracked double figures in rebounding once this season. "He's a physical guy and he plays hard - that's one thing I like about him. He plays hard, but his skill level is not there for basketball," Stephen Jackson told of Hansbrough. "He's a bruiser. He needs to be playing rugby or something."
27 Washington Wizards
Last Week: 26
Apparently, Flip Saunders has seen enough. After a 1-3 road trip that ended with a blowout loss to the Suns -- a game in which Steve Nash had more assists (15) than the entire Wizards team (14) -- Saunders blasted his team for an "unacceptable" effort. Things could get really ugly if the Wizards close out the year poorly. They face Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Memphis and Oklahoma City.
28 Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 29
Signs of life in the Twin Cities? The T-Wolves picked up wins over Utah and Sacramento last week and seem to have found a comfortable balance between the triangle and pick-and-roll offense. It's showing early in games. Prior to Sunday's loss at Boston, Minnesota was averaging 29.5 points in the first quarter of their previous four games.
29 Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 27
"I wish we could play them every night," said a team executive of the Warriors, who rank at the bottom of the league in opponents scoring (111.6 points) and field-goal percentage (49.2 percent). Enough said.
30 New Jersey Nets
Last Week: 30
There's not much for the Nets to get excited about these days. The NBA's Hindenburg bottomed out in a 23-point loss to Toronto -- a game they trailed 70-33 at the half -- before returning home to get drilled by 19 by the Lakers. "There's no one to point the finger at," Chris Douglas-Roberts said. "It's us."
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