Rice's Power Rankings: January 31st
By Mike Rice
Above is how the standings look without taking into account who has played the most difficult part of their schedule.
Oklahoma City and Denver have earned the right to be #1 and #2 in the Rice Power Rankings.
The Power Rankings take into account who might be coming back from injuries and which teams won’t survive because of late-season chemistry problems or late-season scheduling problems.
As mentioned before, Oklahoma City has shown when Harden shows up as the third scorer for the Thunder that they are difficult to beat home or away, and they have the best record in all of basketball to prove it.
The Trail Blazers play the Thunder on Monday, Feb. 6 – both teams will have Sunday off before the game. It will be a major test for the Trail Blazers and their ability to win at home.
Denver is #2 in my power rankings. The Trail Blazers play Denver on Saturday, Feb. 4 in Portland. If the Trail Blazers can beat both Denver on Saturday and the Thunder on Monday they won’t have to worry as much about winning on the road to make the playoffs.
I am going with Dallas as my #3 in the power rankings. They have the confidence to win on the road and they rested Dirk Nowitzki when they needed to.
I will put the Clippers at #4, but they have only played six games on the road as of this writing and have only won twice away from Staples Center.
Next at #5 will be San Antonio. They get Manu Ginobili back in two weeks, and that will be before the nine-game rodeo road trip. They have developed a bench and have already played 11 games on the road.
Then next at #6 will be the Trail Blazers. They are 3-8 on the road, but their strong home court advantage is better than the teams below them. You would think the road woes will get a little better but not that much if you look at the schedule.
#7 might be a surprise pick. I am going to put the Timberwolves at #7. They are 5-4 on the road and have Michael Beasley back. So their home record that is below .500 will get better with a full lineup.
The Lakers come in at #8. With Steve Blake out and Derek Fisher not getting any younger as the season goes along, they need to find another point guard. Kobe is scoring at a high rate, but they seem to be slow at getting balanced scoring, especially inside scoring.
The #9 pick will be Memphis. Even without Zach Randolph, their defense should carry them to being close to making the playoffs. Without any injury to Randolph they would be a solid #6 pick – without him they might not make the playoffs.
My #10 pick is Utah. Their record is fool’s gold. They are very good at home, but they have only played six road games, and I think when they get to playing Western Conference teams on the road things will crumble.
#11 will be the Rockets. If they were in the East they would make the playoffs, but they’re not and they won’t be in the playoffs this year.