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NBA Power Poll: Sorting out the roster moves

Source:SportingNews.com Author:Stan McNeal Date:03/25/14 Click:

A week has passed since the trade deadline, and it's clear that some teams are going to take longer than others to show consistent improvement after all the wild roster altering. Some teams may not show improvement at all (worried, Phoenix?).

Then there are the Lakers. They have been nothing but better since trading for Pau Gasol. Anyone who has seen them lately should agree: This is the best team in the league right now, and that's with Andrew Bynum (knee) sidelined. After Mike D'Antoni's Suns were embarrassed by the Pistons on national TV last Sunday, the coach said his team would need considerable time to adjust to its new center. He was asked, "How long does it take a team to adjust to a big trade?"

"Well," he said, "It didn't take the Lakers very long."

How true. The Lakers have lost once since Gasol started wearing purple and gold. Their February included a 10-1 road record and a 10-game winning streak. Of course, the Lakers only had to break in one new player, and he's a much better player than the one he replaced.

D'Antoni's Suns only have one new player, too, but he's a much different player than what they had before. The Mavericks are breaking in just one guy, too, but he's their point guard and may be more important to Dallas than Shaq is to Phoenix.

The Cavaliers, meanwhile, are working in four newcomers, including two starters: Ben Wallace and Delonte West. Then almost as soon as they made their big deal -- in which six Cavs became former Cavs -- sharpshooter Daniel Gibson sprained an ankle so badly that he'll be out until April.

After taking last week off, the Power Poll has had to work overtime to adjust its rankings because of all of the roster moves. Determining the No. 1 team, however, did not take very long. Onto the rankings (previous ranking in parenthesis).

1. Lakers (3). The longer Andrew Bynum is out, the more time he will need to return to his pre-surgery form.

2. Pistons (2). They came out flat after the break but quickly rolled back into form by winning at Phoenix and Denver on consecutive nights.

3. Spurs (6). Don't look now, but they're almost at full strength. If they stay healthy, they'll be riding high into the playoffs -- just like you knew they would.

4. Jazz (4). Need a big effort at New Orleans Friday night for a little peace of mind. The Jazz have lost three of their last four road games, all to sub .500 teams.

5. Celtics (2). Humbled out West, they're rolling again (four straight wins). More importantly, K.G. is back to playing like K.G.

6. Rockets (7). A Chinese sports daily blames Yao's injury on the Rockets for not having a reliable backup. Dikembe Mutombo, are you listening? Perhaps he is. He blocked four shots in season-high 23 minutes in first start.

7. Hornets (5). Well, we know they can beat the Suns, finishing 4-0 for the season series, including a blowout on Wednesday night.

8. Mavericks (10). Right now, the Poll likes the Kidd trade better than the Shaq trade. But what's up with sitting him at the end of the Spurs game?

9. Warriors (8). With Andris Biedrins (appendectomy) out, the Warriors need something from Chris Webber. So far, they haven't gotten much (14.3 minutes, 3.7 points, 3.4 rebounds).

10. Suns (9). There's not enough reason to give up on Shaq just yet. Is there?

11. Nuggets (11). You're not going to get into the West playoffs losing on back-to-back nights at Milwaukee and Chicago.

12. Magic (13). Hedo Turkoglu gives them a nice 1-2 punch along with Dwight Howard. Can Rashard Lewis make it a consistent threesome?

13. Cavaliers (12). LeBron isn't doing anything to lose the MVP, it's just that Kobe is doing so much to win it.

14. Raptors (14). Hard to get too excited about their 8-3 February when they beat only one winning team.

15. Sixers (15). An impressive 12-8 over their past 20. Actually, that's very impressive when talking about teams in the bottom 16 of the Poll.

16. Blazers (16). Split a back-to-back at Staples Center earlier this week. Guess which L.A. team they beat? That's right, not the Lakers.

17. Kings (17). After a day off in South Beach, they went out and lost by 21 to the lowly Heat. A coincidence? The Poll thinks not.

18. Hawks (18). Mike Bibby will help, if he can stay healthy.

19. Nets (21). Devin Harris has arrived. Jason who?

20. Wizards (19). Turns out Gilbert Arenas was teasing us with that March 2 return date. Too bad, because the Wizards could use him.

21. Bulls (25). Hey, maybe Jo Noah can be a starting center.

22. Bucks (28). Good feelings after victories over the Nuggets and Cavaliers dissipate quickly with a loss at New Jersey.

23. Pacers (20). As the season slips away, O'Neal and Tinsley continue to nurse their injuries. Of course, that's pretty much business as usual in Indy.

24. Clippers (23). Well, they won't have Sam Cassell to kick around anymore.

25. Knicks (29). Some things never seem to change: Eddy Curry is not happy and -- can you believe this? -- rumors about job security dog Isiah Thomas.

26. Timberwolves (26). Randy Foye may be finding a groove. Over the past two games, he shot 15 of 26 and averaged 19 points.

27. Bobcats (22). Take your time, Gerald Wallace. No matter how bad your team is, there's never reason to rush a return from a concussion.

28. Sonics (24). Outscored by a combined 68 points in three losses this week.

29. Heat (30). A win! A win! Down in this part of the Poll, a win is enough to lift you out of the cellar.

30. Grizzlies (27). Like the Heat, the Grizzlies' only February win came against the Kings. The difference: The Grizzlies' came two weeks ago.

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

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