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BDL's Most Interesting Power Rankings: The Warriors don't ever change, stay cool

Let's face it — the best and most powerful teams in the NBA don't really change from week to week. A handful of results in the middle of winter can only mean so much to a franchise's championship hopes. What does shift regularly, though, is how much interest a squad can hold over the course of a season. Every Monday, BDL's Most Interesting Power Rankings track the teams most worthy of your attention.

THE TOP 15

1. Golden State Warriors (22-0, last week: 2): Had the Warriors shocked the sports world and dropped three of four this week in working without Harrison Barnes, the defending champs would still have ascended. Watching the Spurs dominate, the Heat emerge, the Cavaliers figure it out and the Lakers’ wreck on the highway will always intrigue, but this is the greatest show in sports.

The team’s passing, shooting and joie de vivre is so intoxicating that even running out to a 30-18 lead in the opening moments against the Nets on Sunday feels like a letdown of sorts. A few more inches to the right or left, and it could have been 42-10.

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2. San Antonio Spurs (17-4, last week: 7): Not merely because they appear to be the most credible threat to take down the Warriors in the West (I say “take down,” not “take out,” Clippers), but because only Stephen Curry’s legendary year has stopped many of us from realizing just how brilliant Kawhi Leonard has been this season. Famously, he leads the NBA in 3-point shooting, hitting two of four tries on average per game, all while contributing 21.6 points and 7.6 rebounds with just 1.4 turnovers per game. His combined 3.1 steals/blocks say only half of what he brings defensively, as Kawhi is at absolute worst tied with Draymond Green as the game’s best defensive player, and at best a lock for back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards.

3. Miami Heat (12-6, last week: 6): Don’t look now, but even after a 2-1 week, the Heat have established the best winning percentage in the East. The schedule has been lax and, yes, the team has only played 18 games so far, and that’s what makes this squad so interesting. Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are hardly fluky types, and the team has earned that No. 2 defensive ranking, but can Hassan Whiteside, Gerald Green (starting in place of a gimpy Luol Deng) and defensive rookie sensation Justise Winslow keep it going now that they’ve gotten everyone’s attention?

4. Oklahoma City Thunder (12-8, last week: 3): The Thunder dropped two of three this week, falling on the road by a combined eight points to the Heat and Hawks prior to rebounding with a (too close, frankly) win over the Kings on Sunday. The defense may take an entire season to figure it out, especially if Enes Kanter keeps earning minutes with his stellar offensive play, but the star power (with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook both averaging more than 27 points per game) is too formidable to ignore, much less flip away from.

5. Los Angeles Clippers (11-9, last week: NR): In the same vein as OKC, the Clippers had an underwhelming week (beating the Trail Blazers and Magic, barely on the latter, at home; losing to Indiana at Staples Center), but that hardly takes away from the abject joy that Blake Griffin brings on most nights. The forward averages nearly 25 a game with 8.5 rebounds, five assists, and just 2.4 turnovers. Reserve guards Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford (!) can’t shoot and Paul Pierce looks done, but the lure of this team as the last game of the evening (or first in the morning) remains strong.

6. Cleveland Cavaliers (13-7, last week: 9): From Lee Jenkins’ feature on LeBron James from Sports Illustrated, released last week:

For the first time in nearly a decade, James’s transcendence is being matched by another’s. “I’m great,” he says, a crack that recalls his press conference after Game 5 of the Finals. “I’m the best player in the world,” he said then. He is asked if he ever needs to remind himself. “No,” he replies. “I don’t need to be reminded.”

Neither do we. The Cavs might be on every other national TV game this year, and James has played deep into a nationally televised June for four and a half years. Still, you can’t look away.

Paul George and unidentified teammate. (Getty Images)
Paul George and unidentified teammate. (Getty Images)

7. Indiana Pacers (12-7, last week: 5): If this were a straight power ranking list, the Pacers would have beef regarding a drop in placement – even coming off a 1-2 week. Despite Paul George’s brilliance, however, the group as a whole just doesn’t usually do it for me, and that’s not because of some aversion to small ball. Perhaps it’s the small ballers, individually, that I have to get used to. Still, Paul: 27.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists. And the team has played just eight home games thus far, prior to Tuesday’s bout with the undefeated Warriors.

8. Atlanta Hawks (13-9, last week: NR): The Hawks have fallen off defensively this season, but that can be pinned on a killer schedule of late that has featured games against the Cavaliers, Spurs, Grizzlies, Raptors, Thunder, Celtics and the improved Timberwolves (the team went 3-4 prior to a get-right win over the Lakers on Friday). The future isn’t any easier, as ATL will face the Mavs, Thunder, Spurs and Heat over the next seven days. One gets the feeling, however, that the NBA should try to get its licks in now.

9. Minnesota Timberwolves (8-11, last week: 10): The Wolves went oh-fer on the week, losing winnable games to the Trail Blazers, Magic, and Clippers, and while this would usually inspire a drop in the standings, perhaps this could serve as a bit of a ship-straightener. Minnesota probably won’t make the playoffs, but they can try, and they can realize that it’s a workable maneuver even with Shabazz Muhammad playing more minutes than Tayshaun Prince’s 20 a game. Or without continued force-fed minutes to a struggling Kevin Martin, at the expense of Zach LaVine’s time at his true shooting guard position.

Either way, Karl-Anthony Towns will keep us smiling.

10. Dallas Mavericks (12-9, last week: 11): Wesley Matthews, after going 1-for-9 from the floor in a winnable four-point loss to Houston on Friday:

"I'm tired of hurting the team," Matthews said after the loss. "I'm tired of missing shots. I put everything I have into this game -- I have since I started playing. I put everything I had into getting back and being ready. I'm just trying to keep the doubt out."

[…]

"I suck right now," he quietly told reporters. "Point blank."

That game dropped Matthews’ percentages on the season to 31 percent from the floor, and 34 percent overall. Matthews, who is coming off an Achilles tear, also misses more than his fair share of open shots.

Wesley Matthews, in a win over Washington on Sunday: 36 points, 10 3-pointers made, six rebounds, five assists, just one turnover.

I love this game.

11. Houston Rockets (10-11, last week: 15): The Rockets have won two in a row since Daryl Morey pointed out that his team wasn’t a trade or three from turning it all around (and, as we pointed out, the team might not even be able to make a trade or three). The team has won five of six, but two of those wins came by a combined seven points against the Sixers and Knicks, along with the Sucky Wesley Matthews Game as referenced above, and a home win over the Kings. The record has improved, but have the Rox?

12. Toronto Raptors (12-9, last week: NR): Toronto has lost three of four, but Kyle Lowry’s spectacular thunderball of a season has continued on apace. Just a few nights after going for 22 points in a much-needed win over the Hawks, Lowry dropped 41 in a loss to Golden State on Saturday. Lowry turned the ball over just once despite dominating the rock, inspiring his teammates (who had just five other turnovers) as the Raptors rallied from an early double-digit deficit to make a game out of things.

13. Orlando Magic (11-9, last week: NR): Your distaste for tuning into any Scott Skiles-led ballclub is quite understandable, but moving hybrid guard Victor Oladipo (the highest lottery prize of the post-Dwight Howard era) to the bench was a masterstroke. The Magic won five in a row with Victor acting as sixth man, prior to a close two-point road loss to the Clippers on Saturday. Oladipo (who might miss Orlando’s contest on Tuesday with a knee injury) tied a season-high with 24 points in the loss, and he’s averaging 16.8 points, 4.7 assists and six rebounds a contest as a reserve.

14. New Orleans Pelicans (5-15, last week: NR): It would take a wild, 36-26 run to end the season for the Pelicans merely just to enter playoff contention, but even after a rather despondent four-game slide last week (Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry sounded especially down, just 19 games into his career in New Orleans), the team rebounded with an overtime win over the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Friday. Tyreke Evans is back and the team’s walking wounded list is merely limited to Kendrick Perkins and Quincy Pondexter. Time for another chance?

15. Los Angeles Lakers (3-17, last week: 1): Kobe Bryant responded to his retirement announcement by missing 35 of his next 46 shots over two games, prior to “only” needing 24 shots to score 31 in a throwback win in Washington on Wednesday. Bryant then followed that up by shooting a team-high 34 times in the Lakers’ next two losses, making just six shots. The hubris is fascinating, as always.

At least the hair looks cool. (Getty Images)
At least the hair looks cool. (Getty Images)

THE BOTTOM FIVE

25. Chicago Bulls (11-6, last week: NR): This doesn’t mean I’ve stopped watching, it’s just hard to like what you see. Even though Chicago has played a league-low 17 games thus far.

The Bulls still mope and take possessions off, even on the defensive end (they’re ranked third in the NBA) of the court. Four of the team’s rotation members are shooting well, well below 40 percent from the field, and Derrick Rose (shooting 35 percent on the year) swears that when he gets back to full rhythm, his game will be “scary.”

I guess he’s ahead of schedule, for once.

26. Washington Wizards (8-10, last week: 13): With this rash of injuries (former starters Nene and Drew Gooden are out, as is current starter Kris Humphries) and Marcin Gortat tending to an unfortunate family matter in his home country of Poland, this isn’t entirely the fault of the Wizards. Still, the team is too rough to glean hope from, and even though he was pressed into service (alongside two other former small forwards in Otto Porter and Jared Dudley), starting Ryan Hollins in the pivot just seems like a very Wizards Thing to do.

27. Utah Jazz (9-9, last week: 8): Again, not the team’s fault, and it’s very possible that Gordon Hayward and (especially) Derrick Favors could show us some All-Star level stuff in the next few weeks. Hayward has rebounded after a slow start, and Favors has been brilliant.

Still, it’s hard to watch this team without last year’s dogged presence of Dante Exum, and the (relatively briefer, thankfully) absence of Rudy Gobert.

28. Milwaukee Bucks (8-13, last week: 27): The Plexiglas Principle was always going to be in play with this group, and if you’re a firm believer in that sort of thing an 8-13 record doesn’t seem all that awful in comparison to last year’s .500 run. Especially when you consider that a lot of these players were on a team that finished with the league’s worst record 20 months ago.

Couldn’t the Bucks be a little more entertaining, though?

29. Brooklyn Nets (5-15, last week: 30): Brooklyn’s week included two quality wins against Denver and Phoenix, and the team had every right to submit to a massive blowout against Golden State on Sunday before coming back to at least compete. These are still the Nets, however, just about unnoticeable.

30. Philadelphia 76ers (1-20, last week: 3): You win a game, you cease to be interesting. Simple as that. Call us back when you’re coming close to breaking another record.

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Kelly Dwyer

is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!