NBA Power Rankings 01/28/2018 (Written By: Alex Golden; 2:30 PM)
Golden State Warriors- The Warriors rank 6th in Defensive Rating (103.3) and lead the league in Blocks, with 7.9 per game. They have the number one offense in the league scoring 116 points per game along with the highest Offensive Rating (113.8). The numbers speak for themselves. Golden State is 6th in defense and 1st in offense. When a team is this balanced and is the only team in the league with 40-wins, they are far and above the best team in the league. They will have four representatives in this years All-Star Game (Captain Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.
Houston Rockets- the stat that has become public knowledge to everyone is that the Rockets are undefeated when Clint Capella, James Harden and Chris Paul start. The Rockets have the 2nd highest Offensive Rating (112.3) and the 13th best Defensive Rating (105). Houston has beaten Golden State twice this season, giving them more confidence then before. Center Clint Capella stated, “The Rockets are better than the Warriors”. That’s a bold statement from the young center in Houston. The Warriors took note of his comments and I don’t expect them to forget it. However, you have to love the confidence that Capella has in this Rockets’ team.
Oklahoma City Thunder- OKC might be one of the hottest teams in the NBA at this moment. With the devastating news to Andre Roberson, this hurts the Thunder’s chances of reaching the Western Conference Finals. However, they still have a dynamic duo in Westbrook and George, complemented by a bruiser in Steven Adams (notice I didn’t call them a Big-3 with Carmelo). This team leads the league in steals (9.5) and has the 5th best Defensive Rating (103.1). They will more than likely look to fill the void of Roberson, who is out with a season-ending injury before the trade deadline.
Boston Celtics- The Celtics have not been playing the best basketball of late, but they’re still the best team in the Eastern Conference right now. Boston leads the NBA in Defensive Rating (100) but is the 18th best offensive team with an Offensive Rating of (104.4). In our recent podcast, Snottie Drippen aka James Holas from BBallBreakdown.com mentioned that the Celtics are dependent too often on Kyrie’s scoring abilities and that it might hurt them down the stretch in the Playoffs. Brad Stevens has found multiple ways this season to maximize his talent but when it comes to the Playoffs, rotations are slimmer and the game changes. Boston has several players that could be used as trade assets and it really makes you wonder if Danny Ainge has a trade or two up his sleeve to add another scoring punch to this team. Lou Williams to Boston anyone?
Toronto Raptors- Dwyane Casey might be the dark-horse for Coach of the Year. Casey has done a phenomenal job transforming the Raptors offense, but DeMar DeRozan also played a huge role in this offensive transition, by developing a credible three-point shot that makes him a threat from multiple areas on the floor. Toronto is 5th in Offensive Rating (109.4), 4th in Defensive Rating (102.7) and 3rd in Net Rating (6.7). While many will still pick Cleveland to win the Eastern Conference, Toronto might be the 2nd favorite.
New Orleans Pelicans- The Pelicans were clicking on all cylinders. DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis were defying the model form of how teams should be assembled in today’s NBA and had the Pelicans at 6th overall in the West. However, Friday evening, DeMarcus Cousins tore his left Achilles and will miss the remainder of the season. Cousins had been selected to the NBA All-Star Game as a starter and was averaging 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. Anthony Davis has had injury problems when playing a majority of the time at the center position but has willingly offered to play there in Cousins’ absence. The Pelicans will look to add another center before the trade deadline, but their roster is very unattractive when it comes to making a “splashy” move. New Orleans has been on a 4-game winning streak and has won 8 of their last 10-games.
Philadelphia 76ers- Although they’re 7th in the Eastern Conference, they are one of the hottest teams in the league currently. The 76ers have won 8 of their last 10-games, thanks to their top-3 Defensive Rating (97.5) and their ability to keep their opponents out of the paint (teams are only scoring 38.4 points in the paint over Philly the last 10-games). Offensively, Philadelphia has the 6th best Offensive Rating (110.1) and the league best Net Rating (12.6) in the last 10-games. The 76ers are a promising young team who is looking to be a threat come Playoff time. Pending the health of All-Star center, Joel Embiid, the 76ers could cause havoc amongst opposing teams in the Eastern Conference. (Meanwhile, Godspeed to Markelle Fultz broken jumper)
Minnesota Timberwolves-Minnesota has really started to take the league by storm here jumping to 4th in the Western Conference and only 0.5 games out of 3rd. Karl Anthony Townes has been playing solid defense and Jimmy Butler continues to be the leader of this team. With that being said, Minnesota is 0-3 against the Warriors this season and 0-1 against the Rockets. These are the two powerhouses of the Western Conference and if you can’t win against them, then you’re still ways away from being considered a legitimate threat. This team is headed in the right direction though and with so many young pieces on this team, they will be good for a long time.
San Antonio Spurs- The Spurs have the 2nd best Defensive Rating in the league (100.8) and the 2nd Slowest Pace (96.49) in the league. Without small forward Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge has been the go-to-guy for this team. With Tony Parker officially the backup point guard to Dejounte Murray, this gives the rotation balance and continuity. San Antonio will still be a threat to Houston and Golden State because they have the best coach in the NBA, Gregg Popovich, but they’re not a serious title contender without a healthy, Kawhi Leonard.
Miami Heat- Erik Spolstra has this All-Star less team rolling. Many of the NBA media members were praising the 2nd half of the season the Heat had but were skeptical of how that would translate into the new season. While Miami has struggled early on (like they did last year), they have found consistency in their rotation. Like San Antonio, Miami plays at the 3rd Slowest Pace (96.86) and is 7th in Defensive Rating (104.4). Statistically speaking, Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside have regressed from last year but, the Heat are winning games on the defensive end. The Heat rank 3rd in Opponents Points Per Game (101.3) and they do a solid job of keeping teams from beating them with the 3-point shot (3rd in attempts and 5th in made shots). This team will be a competitive opponent in the Eastern Conference Playoffs but adding another star level talent to this roster will be key for them advancing to the next level.
Indiana Pacers- When it comes to the Pacers, you cannot help but brag on Victor Oladipo. The Pacers are 7th (107.9) in Offensive Rating, 16th (106.3) in Defensive Rating and 9th (1.6) in Net Rating. The Pacers have done a terrific job protecting the basketball (4th in TO%) and 5th in assist to turnover ratio. I would like to see the Pacers become a better rebounding team. They’re 23rd (9.0) in Offensive Rebounds, 21st (32.8) in Defensive Rebounds and 23rd in Total Rebounds (41.8). I love the way that Indiana has overcome the loss of Paul George and has won 7 of their last 11-games and they’re just 2.5 games behind the Cavaliers in 3rd.
Portland Trailblazers- Winners of 6 of their last 10-games, the Blazers are starting to get a groove heading into the All-Star break. With the injury to Demarcus Cousins, the Western Conference is weaker and will give a team like Portland a chance to move up in the standings. It was reported earlier this week by Chris Haynes of ESPN, that Damian Lillard had a team meeting with Blazers owner Paul Allen about getting some talent on this roster. Lillard addressed his concerns because he wants to be competitive against the top-dogs of the Western Conference. Easier said then done, but it appears as if Lillard maybe growing tired of finishing in the bottom half of the West every season. While the Evan Turner contract seems near impossible to move, the Blazers still have other guys they could try and deal. This will be a team to keep an eye on in the latter half of the season.
Denver Nuggets- The Nuggets have played a majority of their season without All-Star Forward Paul Millsap and without a true point-guard. Murray and Harris have done an exceptional job in the backcourt, but Denver is a few moves away from being a legit contender in the Western Conference. Denver ranks around 12th in every offensive category in the NBA and their Offensive Rating of 106.7 is 12th in the NBA as well. They’re in the bottom half on the defensive side of things with a 106.6 Defensive Rating (19th). The absence of Millsap to me has hurt their defensive side of the ball, but he will be back around the time of the All-Star break. This will give the Nuggets a chance to make a late-season push heading into the Playoffs.
Washington Wizards- the Wizards are indeed a Playoff team in the Eastern Conference. Bradley Beal continues to showcase his abilities but the most impressive thing about Beal is that he has remained healthy for the last two seasons. Washington’s backcourt is set with Beal, Wall and Porter but they must improve their front court. Gortat has been underwhelming this season and the Wizards are paying Ian Mahinmi too much money to be riding the pine. It might be costly, but the Wizards will have to package Kelly Oubre in a deal with Gortat or Mahinmi to improve their power forward or center position(s). Washington allows the 2nd most 2nd Chance Points (13.9) in the league, but also forces the 3rd worst opponents 3-point shooting percentage (33.7). There is enough talent to upset a team in the 1st or 2nd round of the Playoffs, but I worry that their lack of depth hurts them in a 7-game series.
Cleveland Cavaliers- The Cavaliers have been the topic of discussion around the league for the month of January. They have surpassed the Kings and are currently 30th in Defensive Rating (109.8), 27th in Blocks Per Game, 20th in Steals Per Game and 18th in Opponents Points Off Turnovers. Their Offensive Rating is 4th in the league at 109.8, 2nd in 3-Pointers Made (11.9) and 5th in Points Per Game (109.7). So, what you have here in Cleveland is a team that is efficient scoring the basketball and hitting from long range, but a team that cannot guard anyone. During the month of January, Cleveland lost to Minnesota by 28-points, Toronto by 34-points, they had a 22-point lead on the Pacers and ended up losing that game by 2-points and then lost to the Thunder by 24-points giving up 148-points. Yikes. This team is in desperate need of a change and they’re hoping that a deal for George Hill helps improve their defense. I would suggest they trade Isaiah Thomas, the Nets Pick and JR Smith for a better wing player. Cleveland is still considered the favorite of the Eastern Conference because of LeBron James, but I am starting to have my doubts. There are still 2.5 months left of basketball for Cleveland to figure this out, but they won’t be able to change their defensive problems without a change in personal.
Milwaukee Bucks- with the firing of Jason Kidd I am not sure what this team will be for the rest of this season. Since then, Milwaukee has gone 2-0 with wins over Brooklyn and Phoenix. This is a small sample size, but probably why Milwaukee made the change when they did. The schedule is soft and there was two days off for the Bucks to practice with their new coach. The front office reportedly went to Giannis first about their decision before informing Kidd he was going to be relieved of his duties. This is a sign of ownership and management prioritizing Giannis and placing all their loyalty to him. With Jabari Parker returning soon, this team will reach its’ full potential. They are still thin at center, and you have to believe that they are looking at all options to improve their center position.
Los Angeles Clippers- The Clippers are now at .500 after winning 7 of their last 10-games. Lou Williams has been phenomenal averaging 23.6 points per game this season. With Griffin and Gallinari injured off and on all season long, the continuity of Lou Williams has been pivotal for the success of the Clippers team. In the last ten games, the Clippers rank 1st in Pace (103.98), 8th in Offensive Rating (109.6) and are 4th in EFG% at 55.5%. Give Doc Rivers credit for continuing to develop this team’ chemistry despite all the injuries they’ve had all season. The looming question going forward is ‘What will the Clippers front office do with DeAndre Jordan’. I think Jordan could bring back some young talent to this team and if the right deal is out there, you should take it.
Los Angeles Lakers- The Lakers are winners of 8 of their last 10-games. Over the last 10-games they are 4th in Defensive Rating (100.2), 5th in Assist Ratio (18.7) and 3rd in Net Rating (5.7). LA is 6.5 games out of the Playoffs, so it will be a tough hill to climb. The Lakers would love to shed Luol Deng’s contract so that is why names like Randle, Clarkson and Nance Jr., have been listed as available. If a team wants to take on one of these young talents to help their franchise, they might have to swallow the Deng contract. LA is expected to be a big-time player in the Free Agent market this summer, if they swing and miss, they will want to keep that cap space available for potential trades and cap space for the 2019 summer.
Utah Jazz- the Jazz haven’t been as bad as their record indicates the last 10-games, going 5-5 in respective games isn’t great, but it beats being under. 500. The Jazz are so frustrating to watch because they beat a team like Toronto but then lose to a team like Atlanta by double-digits. It appears that Favors and/or Hood will be moved before the trade deadline, and depending on what Utah can get back, I would be doing all I can to ship Ricky Rubio out with those two players in any deal. The Jazz play the 5th slowest pace in the NBA (97.15) hanging their hat on defense and half-court offense. Coach Snyder has done a terrific job with rookie Donovan Mitchell this season and with Gobert missing serious time this season, he has found ways for Favors to be productive in his absence.
Detroit Pistons- The Pistons have lost 7-games in a row. This is starting to get ugly for Pistons fans, especially those who expected them to make a leap with the addition of Avery Bradley. In the last 7-games, Detroit lost to Brooklyn by 1, Chicago by 2, Utah by 3, Toronto by 5, Washington by 10, Charlotte by 11 and Oklahoma City by 13-points. When you lose 4 of 7-games to sub .500 teams, that is not a good sign. I expect the Pistons to make some moves before the deadline because they are stuck in mediocrity.
Charlotte Hornets- the Hornets have made it known to other teams that they are willing to part ways with Kemba Walker in return for an All-Star level player. The Hornets might be asking too much for Walker, but Kemba does have the talent to put the ball in the basket. The Hornets lead the league in Free-Throw Attempts with (27.6). Whether it’s teams hacking Dwight Howard in the game late or not, this team is still hard to keep off the charity stripe. I would like to see the Hornets get a more defensive minded point-guard though if they do indeed trade Kemba Walker. Steve Clifford coached teams are predicated on defense and Kemba Walker is offensive driven. The Hornets are also paying average players a lot of money. Cody Zeller is at $12M, Nic Batum $22M, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist $13M and Marvin Williams $13.1M. I think Michael Jordan has to make some serious moves and shedding these large contracts for expiring deals might be his best bet. All 4 of these players are solid role players, but their contracts might be too large to maneuver for anything of significant value.
New York Knicks- the Knicks have been off and on all season long, but their starting front court of Porzingis and Kanter has been fun to watch. Today on Twitter though, Frank Isola from the New York Daily News stated this, “From what I'm told, Joakim Noah was fiery before leaving the team in Denver. (Can't confirm if it was during breakfast. Can confirm the Knicks desperately want this story to go away.)” It’s not the current Knicks front-office’s fault that Phil Jackson paid entirely too much for Joakim Noah. Noah can’t stay healthy, and even when he has been, he isn’t productive on the court anymore. New York might have no other choice but to buy him out. As far as the teams on court play, they’re 26th in Defensive Rating the last 10 games and 5th in Offensive Rating. While it is imperative that you are able to score points in the NBA, you have to be able to play defense. This is the reason that New York has struggled recently, and I don’t think they have the talent to right this ship.
Memphis Grizzlies- Memphis plays the slowest pace in the NBA (96.05) and the 4th worst EFG% (50.2). The Grizzlies have been a mess since the firing (actually before) of David Fizdale. Mike Conley Jr. is out with a heel injury for the remainder of the season and Marc Gasol has not been mentioned in the media since his blow up on David Fizdale. Memphis was trying to get away from their smash-mouth game by letting Randolph, Tony Allen and Vince Carter go. They brought in guys like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans to improve their bench, but Evans has been the only bright spot. I like the way Memphis remained true to their style of play over the last few seasons, but the number of coaches they go through makes you wonder about the management and ownership of this team.
Chicago Bulls- The Bulls have the 2nd worst Offensive Rating, 7th worst Defensive Rating and 3rd worst Net Rating. Chicago continues to be interested in Nikola Mirotic trade offers, because they are wanting to embrace a complete youth movement for this team. Robin Lopez is also on the trade block. I think both players could be nice additions for a playoff team, coming off the bench. Zach LaVine has played in 7-games this season and as he continues to develop, the Bulls will have an idea in which direction they want to go. Fred Hoiberg has done a much better job this season with a younger team that he can develop, and I hope Chicago is patient with this rebuild. The Bulls are multiple years away from being a contender for the East.
Brooklyn Nets- Brooklyn has been a lot of fun to watch this season. With no intentions to tank (no draft picks), the Nets have played extremely well and that is thanks to the surprise leap from Spencer Dinwiddie. Along with Dinwiddie, Caris LaVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson have improved this season as well. While Brooklyn has been fun to watch, they rank 26th in Offensive Rating and 20th in Defensive Rating. I am a believer in Kenny Atkinson, so once this team has the luxury of building through the draft, Sean Marks and the Nets will finally be able to move on from Bobby Marks and the Nets front office that mortgaged the team for Pierce, Garnett and Jason Terry.
Phoenix Suns- the Suns are the 4th (102.4) worst offense in the NBA and the 3rd (109.5) worst defense in the NBA. The only potential star on this team is Devin Booker. I am disappointed with the regression of Chriss and Bender. These are two Top-10 picks in the NBA Draft and the Suns have not developed them at all. So, is this a talent evaluation problem, or a talent development problem? Well the answer is, yes. The Suns are a team that needs an identity and a front office that will make logical sense of their decisions. The Suns once had Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas. They now have Tyler Ullis, Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight. That is horrific. What does that mean to Devin Booker? Can he believe in this front office to get him the surrounding pieces he needs, or will he demand a trade like others have been doing across the league so openly? I hope for Suns’ fans sake, that this is not the way Phoenix manages their talent going forward.
Dallas Mavericks- Dallas has a team full of veterans and a young point guard who is their future in Dennis Smith Jr. I am worried about the Mavericks pace being 4th worst in the NBA. Dennis Smith Jr. is the type of talent that likes to get out in the open court and run. We know Dirk is probably on his last or second to last season and once he is officially off the books, the Mavericks will be able to fully embrace a new type of offense. If Rick Carlisle is still their coach though, I have my doubts that he will embrace a young, fast-pace offense.
Sacramento Kings- De’Aaron Fox hit the game winner against the Miami Heat, one of the hottest teams in the league right now. Fox has taken over the starting role for Sacramento as the Kings have decided to not play the veterans as many minutes and have embraced a full youth movement. The Kings are 29th in Defensive Rating and 30th in Offensive Rating. The Kings had me fooled with their off-season moves and Draft selections. I thought that Sacramento would be better than they are, but they have really struggled all season long. Eventually, Sacramento will get back to being a competent team, it’s just a matter of when.
Orlando Magic- the Magic are more than likely going to rebuild from the bottom up. John Hamond took a depleted Milwaukee team and put them on the map with Giannis, Middleton and Parker. The Magic need a complete shake up, and unfortunately this means Frank Vogel will be out of a job. Frank Vogel has always been considered a good defensive coach, but the Magic are 27th in Defensive Rating (108.7), 22nd in Steals, 26th in Opponents 2nd Chance Points and a league worst 30th in Opponents Points in the Paint. This is why Orlando has been so bad, after starting off to a hot start in the first few weeks of the season. No player on the Magic roster is safe.
Atlanta Hawks- the Hawks are 23rd in Offensive Rating, 26th in Defensive Rating and 26th in Net Rating. The Hawks have openly admitted that Illyasova, Bellineli and Bazemore are open for trade discussions. John Collins has been a nice pick up for the Hawks this season, but this roster is extremely thin. The Hawks have been one of the most consistent Playoff teams in the Eastern Conference, so I am sure Hawks fans are disappointed their team will not be there this season. However, the Hawks are smart enough to realize that they didn’t have the pieces to get by LeBron James, so embracing a complete rebuild, waiting for LeBron to retire and then going all in, makes logical sense.