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Power Rankings: Six teams likely looking at a happy new year

by | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

Updated Jan. 4

Happy New Year. Or is it?

Here are six teams that should be happy about their prospects for the rest of the NBA season and beyond.

Miami Heat. The Heat had a surprisingly high number of haters at predictions time back in October. No doubt, that number has dwindled significantly since the Christmas Day slaying of the Lakers.

But as good as Miami was that day -- and pretty much every game in its near-perfect flurry that dates back to November -- you have to remember a key weapon (Mike Miller) is only now being added to the arsenal. When one of the league's best long-range marksmen starts getting a majority of the wide-open shots James Jones, Mario Chalmers, Eddie House and Jerry Stackhouse have bricked at an alarming rate, even the Lakers won't be looking forward to the March 10 rematch.

Landing Amar'e Stoudemire is just one of the Knicks' smart moves headed into 2011. (Getty Images)  
Landing Amar'e Stoudemire is just one of the Knicks' smart moves headed into 2011. (Getty Images)  
Chicago Bulls. Interestingly, the Bulls have yet to face the Heat. They will meet three times over the next three months. Even with Joakim Noah likely to miss two of the three, it's going to be interesting to see how each team combats the other's strengths.

Given the fact they didn't get LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh, Bulls management did a brilliant job molding a team last summer. They're strong where the Heat are weak -- at the power positions and point guard -- and with Derrick Rose leading the way for the next decade or so, they're as likely as anyone to be Miami's dynasty-buster.

New York Knicks. The most amazing thing about the Knicks is they're actually winning games as they prepare for a redo in free agency next summer. Imagine the possibilities when they fill in around Amar'e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton and Danilo Gallinari over the next seven months.

Landing squarely on their feet following the LeBron fiasco, the Knicks have stockpiled upward of $20 million in expiring contracts to throw after Chris Paul, with still oodles of leftover cap-friendly funds to hand-deliver Carmelo Anthony in the offseason. Assuming there is no lockout, the NBA is about to get really interesting.

Philadelphia 76ers. When the Eastern powers begin jockeying for playoff position, it'll be no surprise if the Knicks are a targeted Round 1 foe. That's because they figure to go down a lot easier than the fast-rising 76ers.

Once again, Doug Collins is working his first-year magic in Philly, even if we're just beginning to see the results. Recent wins over the Magic, Nuggets and Suns have brought to light two things: 1) Jrue Holliday is awfully good; and 2) this athletically gifted bunch will be a handful once Andre Iguodala returns to the lineup.

Golden State Warriors. The last time the Warriors were even remotely healthy, in 2007-08, they won 48 games. They still haven't shaken the injury bug, but nonetheless were good enough to lead the Heat and Magic by a combined 125-102 at halftime of their recent road meetings.

The biggest benefactor of the Heat's spending binge over the summer was Golden State, which was able to snatch Dorell Wright in free agency. He's given Keith Smart the type of traditional small forward (a tall, slender, long-range shooter) Don Nelson would have played at center.

Los Angeles Clippers. Yes, the Clippers. Very much under the radar, they won five of six late last month at a time their down-the-hall housemates were, well, looking like the Clippers.

In Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin, the Clippers actually have two draft choices who have panned out big-time. Imagine that.

Yeah, the Spurs are happy campers these days, too. But their fans? You've got to know they would feel a whole lot better about themselves if this week's new No. 1 in the CBSSports.com NBA Power Rankings could start the playoffs today, rather than have to grow another four months older.


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