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DUMPSTER HOOPS: THE ALMOST ONE MONTH LEFT IN THE SEASON NBA POWER RANKINGS

Editor’s Note: Today is March 14th. The NBA season ends April 17th. So yeah, there’s pretty much a month left. Here’s the official Dumpster NBA Power Rankings heading into the final stretch of the regular season.

THE HOTTEST OF THE HOT

Miami (49-14)
I hate them, you hate them, we all hate them. But they’ve won 20 games, they own the best record in the NBA, and they’ve already clinched a playoff berth. I can’t imagine a scenario where the Heat aren’t in the NBA Finals.

NOT QUITE AS SCORCHING HOT, BUT JUST AS DANGEROUS

San Antonio (49-16), Oklahoma City (48-17)
No doubt in my mind that at least one of these two teams will be playing in the Western Conference Finals. The Spurs certainly don’t excite your average fan, but they continue to win ballgames, regardless of their age and regardless of what you think. The Thunder, on the other hand, are David Stern’s golden child. They’re young, flashy, entertaining, and not hated by the general population! Long story short, they make the NBA a lot of money, so odds are they’ll be one of the last teams standing. Because that’s how this shit works.

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 WATCH OUT FOR THESE GUYS

Denver (44-22), Indiana (40-24)
Don’t look now, but the Denver Nuggets have won 10 in a row and are just 5 1/2 games behind the Spurs for first place. Simply put, if you don’t like watching this team play, you just aren’t a fan of the game. It is obvious that the Nuggets are having a blast right now. They boast an uptempo, run-n-gun offense, there’s no superstar, they’re 10 deep, everyone touches the ball, and they have Javale McGee for comic relief. What more could you ask for?

 The Pacers are the complete opposite of the Nuggets. They bring the pace of the game to a screeching halt. They grind out victories with defense and domination on the boards.  The biggest obstacle this team faced came early in the season, when Indy had to learn to play without Danny Granger. Judging by their 14-5 record over the last 19 games, it’s safe to say the Pacers are beyond that bump in the road. If there’s a team that can beat Miami in the East, this is it.

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I DON’T KNOW HOW THEY KEEP DOING IT, BUT I’M IMPRESSED

Memphis (44-19)
Wasn’t trading Rudy Gay supposed to be a death sentence for Memphis? Not so much. The cash-strapped Grizzlies shipped their best player (and his monster contract) to Toronto for role players and have not skipped a beat since. In fact, Memphis is 15-4 since dealing Gay, and own a ridiculous 14-1 record in its last 15 games. This team is loaded with flaws, but they continue to dominate defensively, and they continue to win…and that’s all that matters. Don’t be surprised if the Grizz make a surprise run to the Western Conference Finals.

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 I KNOW THEY KEEP WINNING, BUT I’M NOT IMPRESSED

Los Angeles Clippers (45-21)
I know they have Chris Paul…but something doesn’t seem right with the Clippers lately. As much as they’re capable of making a deep run in the playoffs, they’re just as capable of getting bounced in the first round. Maybe it’s the inconsistent defense, maybe it’s the lack of depth, but I’m not sold on Lob City just yet.

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 HEY GUYS, YOU’RE HEADING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION

New York (38-24), Atlanta (35-29), Chicago (35-29)
Carmelo Anthony is banged up with knee issues. Amare Stoudemire is gone for at least a month.  Tyson Chandler could be on the shelf indefinitely. THEY DON’T GUARD ANYONE. Cue New York’s inevitable free fall.

What about the Hawks? Not that any of us had grandiose plans for Atlanta this year, but after dropping six of their last eight and losing Josh Smith to yet another injury, I think it’s safe to say the Hawks are heading in the wrong direction too.

As for Chicago? Well, the Bulls have dropped 12 of their last 19, which included a 42-point drubbing at the hands of the SACRAMENTO KINGS last night, and it appears Derrick Rose will not be returning to the team any time in the immediate future. So yeah, Chicago isn’t going anywhere either.

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 QUIETLY CHUGGING ALONG

Boston (35-29), Brooklyn (38-27), Houston (35-30)
For starters, it’s amazing that Boston is even in this conversation after the rash injuries they’ve encountered this season. Are the Celtics going to win an NBA Championship? No. But much like Brooklyn and Houston, I absolutely would not want to face them in the first round of the playoffs.

These three teams, despite their obvious flaws, just keep doing what they do. For Boston, it’s riding the backs of two future Hall-of-Famers (Garnett & Pierce) and one future First Team All-NBA defender (Avery Bradley).  For Brooklyn, it’s resting on the hope that the inside/outside duo of Deron Williams and Brook Lopez can continue to dominate to its full potential. And for Houston, it’s throwing up a onslaught of three-point shots and praying James Harden drops 35 every night. Hey, whatever works, right?

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 STARTING TO FADE

Golden State (37-29), Utah (32-32)
The future is bright for both of these teams, but I highly doubt this is the year either team makes any noise. The Warriors can score with best of them thanks to a glut of talented guards, but have an obvious hole in the paint, where the likes of Festus Ezeli and Andris Biedrins can be found. As a result, Golden State is getting owned inside and has now dropped 12 of its last 19 games. The Jazz, on the other hand, might have the best frontcourt in the NBA, but possibly the worst backcourt in the league. Utah’s defense has gone into a tailspin and the team has recently dropped 10 of its last 15 games. Next year is probably better for both of these squads.

 DO WE REALLY HAVE TO TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY?

Milwaukee (32-31)

Ahhhhh, the Eastern Conference: where teams like Milwaukee have a chance to play in the postseason. Okay, I guess the Bucks aren’t that bad, and there is literally no one with striking distance of the Bucks for the eighth seed in the East, so I guess we do have to take them seriously for now. That is until they get man-handled by the Heat in the first round.

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THE ENIGMA

Los Angeles Lakers (34-32)
I mean, really, does anyone know what to expect from the Lakers down the stretch? They should be able to hold off Utah for the eighth seed in the West, at least. But then again, Kobe Bryant is out indefinitely after suffering an ugly ankle injury on Wednesday night. The Lakers could be much better without Kobe, or much worse. They could leap-frog Utah, Golden State, and Houston for the sixth seed in the West, or tumble out of contention altogether. Literally nothing would surprise me when it comes to this team. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

 ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

Dallas (30-33), Portland (29-34)
I’ll give both of these teams credit for hanging around as long as they did. Unfortunately, the Western Conference is really fucking good. Not sure where Dallas goes from here, but then again, they have tons of cap room and a guy named Mark Cuban handling their finances, so I’m sure they’ll be fine. I’m shocked to see Portland do as well as it did this season after gutting its roster a year ago. They have Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum, and LaMarcus Aldridge for a while, so they’ll be fine too. Maybe next year, boys.

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THERE’S STILL A GLIMMER OF HOPE

-Toronto (25-40), Philadelphia (24-40), Detroit (23-44)
At least I thought these three teams had a glimmer of hope about a month ago. Never have I been more wrong about anything in my life. 

 YOU SUCK, BUT IT COULD BE WORSE

Cleveland (22-42), Minnesota (22-40)
New Orleans (22-43), Washington (21-42)
Despite their awful records this season, all four of these teams have franchise player(s) to build around. Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Anthony Davis, John Wall, and maybe even Bradley Beal. Not a bad little group. So, as much as this season sucked, there are certainly greener pastures ahead for these four teams.

 YOU SUCK, AND IT’S NOT GETTING ANY BETTER

Phoenix (22-43), Sacramento (23-43)
Orlando (18-47), Charlotte (14-50)

The Suns are a mess. The Kings don’t know what city they’ll be playing in next year. The Magic are still trying to pick up the pieces post-Dwight Howard. And the Bobcats are the Bobcats. Sure, they’ll all head into June with lottery picks, but that might not be enough to save these wretched franchises.

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