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Power Rankings: Who's more likely to be caught: worst or first?

by | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com
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Updated Feb. 8

One has lost just eight times all season. The other gets drubbed about that often every two weeks.

The Spurs and Cavaliers are so far apart in the NBA universe, it's hard to use them in the same sentence. But here goes ...

The top and bottom clubs in this week's CBSSports.com NBA Power Rankings are separated by such a great margin, it's hard to imagine the Spurs and Cavs not finishing as polar opposites in the ratings at regular season's end.

Manu and the Spurs are feeling it now, but a rough stretch awaits. (Getty Images)  
Manu and the Spurs are feeling it now, but a rough stretch awaits. (Getty Images)  
The question is: Which is most likely to move out of its current position?

That's a tough one, something that could very well be decided by two yet undetermined factors: injuries and trades.

No doubt, a key injury could prove to be the Spurs' eventual downfall. Heck, if LeBron James hadn't gotten hurt in the heart of a 1-5 slide last month, the Heat would be breathing down San Antonio's neck right now.

That said, even while losing just twice in the past month, the Spurs are starting to feel the heat. While San Antonio did little but rev its powerful engine last week, beating the Lakers on the road to offset a 13-point humbling at Portland, the Heat were extending their winning streak to six, a stretch that includes wins at Oklahoma City and Orlando.

If the Spurs are going to get caught, it just might happen between March 4 and March 18, a span during which they contest their annual home-and-home with the Heat while also mixing in the Lakers and red-hot Mavericks. A Miami sweep and even just one more San Antonio loss in that sequence could result in a change atop the rankings.

The Cavaliers, meanwhile, show no signs of getting caught in the slide into the head-of-the-class seat at the draft lottery. Twenty-five consecutive losses can do that for you.

That's not to say other teams have given up the chase. The Timberwolves, Wizards, Nets, Kings and Raptors combined to win two games last week -- one of which (Toronto over Minnesota) was within the group.

Alas, it's hard to make up ground when the "leader" is going 0-4.

That said, the Cavs showed signs of life in a narrow loss at Dallas on Monday night (in fact, none of their last four losses has been by more than seven points), and that kind of effort should be good enough to end the skid given the quality of the upcoming competition: Pistons, Clippers and Wizards.

The Cavs also will see the Rockets, Knicks and 76ers before month's end, which could produce just enough wins to allow some other free-falling team to sink within arm's length. And that could lead to a change at the bottom of the rankings by the time the Cavs face the Kings, Clippers and Nets in a friendly portion of the schedule from March 16-23.

Who's likely to make that charge at Cleveland? Any of the five aforementioned tumblers is capable of doing it. But probably the one most likely will be whomever deals away its most significant player for future considerations (expiring contracts and draft picks) at the trade deadline.

My guess is Toronto, a team headed in the same direction as Cleveland (for the same reason) and desperately in need of a blowup. Jose Calderon and Leandro Barbosa would be nice fits on contenders if/when the Raptors start shopping.

So who's most likely to lose its end-of-the-line spot? I trust the Heat to go on a run more than any of Cleveland's challengers to be consistently bad enough to slip below one of the NBA's worst teams of all-time. So be forewarned, Spurs.

Now that we've established the top and bottom of this week's CBSSports.com NBA Power Rankings, here's everything in between.

RANK TEAM MOVE (LW)
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