GT’s Top 20 NBA Teams

March 19, 2002 9:18 AM
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Editors Note: The top eight teams in the Eastern and Western Conference qualify for the NBA playoffs in April. The GT poll will rank the 20 best teams, including the four that are on the outside looking in.

(1)        LA Lakers (46-18): The Lakers were on a four-game win streak and Shaq was considering acupuncture for his big toe problem. Los Angeles is heading for the league’s best record again and another ring for Aristotle’s finger.

(2)        Dallas (46-19): The Mavs have been a scoring machine since Nick Van Exel and Raef LaFrentz joined the team from Denver. Dallas has an awesome attack, but little defense. Najera is a bull off the bench and needs more minutes.

(3)        Sacramento (42-18): The Kings are the equal to Dallas. The difference is a poor 16-15 mark on the road. Chris Webber bluntly said the Kings must win the West and gain home court advantage or they won’t win the NBA title.

(4)        Portland (40-25): The Blazers have had a great month of March, winning nine of their last 10 games. Bonzi Wells has become a consistently solid player and Rasheed Wallace has been behaving. The Blazers are deep and good.

(5)        San Antonio (45-21): The Spurs, as usual, just quietly rack up the victories. Lately, David Robinson seems to have found a second wind and why San Antonio has won nine in a row. Robinson is vital for a run at the title.

(6)        New Jersey (41-24): The Nets are 3-7 in their last 10 games and in a fight with the Celtics, Pistons and Bucks for the best record in the East. It may not be a bad idea to rest Jason Kidd more and calm down Kenyon Martin.

(7)        Boston (38-28): The Celtics are hot, winning in seven of their last 10 contests, Boston will begin the week within four games of New Jersey. Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker give the Celts the best 1-2 punch in the conference.

(8)        Minnesota (40-25): The wheels are coming off. Minnesota has dropped six in a row and the defense has disappeared. Kevin Garnett has slumped a bit and Wally Szczerbiak can’t carry the load himself. There’s still time to regroup, though.

(9)        Philadelphia (34-30): The Sixers are steadily rising in the East as superstar Allen Iverson has willed this team back from a brutal start. Derrick Coleman is a big addition to the Sixers, but the team misses Aaron McKie.

(10)      Detroit (37-27): The Pistons are 6-4 in their last 10 games and continue to defy the experts. Ben Wallace and reserve guard Jon Barry have brought defense and intensity back,  which allows Jerry Stackhouse to shoot all he wants.

(11)      Milwaukee (36-28): The Bucks, like Minnesota, have also had their problems of late. Milwaukee seems out of sync both on and off the court. This may be the most puzzling franchise in the NBA. George Karl has his hands full.

(12)      Seattle (37-30): The Sonics have done well against the East (19-10), but must improve their mark against division teams. Rashard Lewis is having a big year, but the Sonics still ride upon the guard play of Gary Payton.

(13)      Orlando (35-30): The Magic are on a four-game run, which means Tracy McGrady is on fire again. Doc Rivers has somehow managed to keep Orlando in the playoff hunt without Grant Hill. Mike Miller has become a solid player.

(14)      LA Clippers (34-33): The talent on the Clippers is scary. The Clips again showed the champion Lakers how far they have come in the past year. If center Michael Olowokandi can develop more consistency on offense, watch out.

(15)      Utah (35-30): The Jazz are 6-12 in the Midwest Division and just 4-6 in their last 10 games. Dare we say that the key to the Jazz is not Stockton and Malone, but unsung forward Andrei Kirilenko who had 27 against Detroit.

(16)      Indiana (33-32): The Pacers have won three straight and were 6-4 for the week. Point guard Jamaal Tinsley has been outstanding at the point and the trade of guard Jalen Rose to Chicago for center Brad Miller has helped both teams.

(17)      Charlotte (32-33): The Hornets have won two straight and could be peaking come playoff time. Jamal Mashburn is finally back in the lineup and is perimeter game has helped point guard Baron Davis raise his game to a new level.

(18)      Miami (30-34): The Heat are making a run at nothing a playoff berth, which two months ago looked impossible. Pat Riley has managed to energize Eddie Jones and Jim Jackson, which has Alonzo Mourning interested again.

(19)      Toronto (30-36): The Raptors are 1-9 in their  last 10 games and playing the worst ball in the NBA. Injuries has Lenny Wilkens wondering which lineup he can use. Keon Clark has been great at center, but his minutes have been cut.

(20)      Phoenix (30-37): The Suns edge out Washington for the final spot, but neither squad is in good shape. Phoenix does not play good team ball and misses Jason Kidd. If Jordan returns to the Wizards, we switch back.