Monday, February 24, 2014

Consensus NBA Power Rankings, Week 18

Entering the 2013-14, the LeBron James-led Miami Heat were clearly the favorites to emerge out of the Eastern Conference in the playoffs.

Along with the Pacers (and the Nets to a lesser degree), the Bulls were one of the teams that seemed most likely to pose a threat to the Heat's potential opportunity for a three-peat.

Perception changed earlier in the season when Derrick Rose went down with another knee injury.

Via Sam Smith with the team's website, here are comments from Rose about the possibility of returning at any point this season for the Bulls and playing for team USA in the summer:

“For sure, if my leg is feeling healthy I’m all in,” Rose said about the USA Basketball invite for this summer’s pre World Cup tournament. ”Of course I want to play for that team. Playing for that team, I think, helped the year I won MVP, just getting in a groove. I’m excited if I am able to play in it.

“I haven’t even had a chance to think about it, to tell you truth,” Rose said about holding open the possibility of a return this season or in the playoffs. “I’m just worrying about my next stage in this process and that’s running. Right now I’m not. I’m on the Alter G (anti gravity treadmill) right now, running on that and hopefully I’ll be running without it pretty soon.

“I haven’t even asked; we haven’t even talked about it (a return schedule),” said Rose. “I just come every day, six days a week and try to do all my work and see how far it’s going to take me when I step back on the court.”
On Sunday, the LeBron-less Heat beat the Bulls by 14 points, but the Bulls aren't a team that should necessarily be counted out.

Even though they rank last in the NBA in scoring offense (92.5 points per game), only the Pacers (90.9 PPG allowed) have a stingier defense than the Bulls (92.3 PPG).

One of the league's most underrated players is Joakim Noah, who has been playing great lately.

Since January, Noah has averaged 13.54 points, 13.08 rebounds, 5.96 assists, 1.92 blocks and 0.88 steals per game. In his past seven games, he has double-digit assists in three of them and even had a triple-double earlier this month.

Compared to our power rankings last week, the Bulls have moved up from 13.00 to 10.50, which is just outside the top 10 in our power rankings. The Suns are currently 10th with an average ranking of 10.25.

- See our full 2013-14 NBA Power Rankings

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