NBA Power Rankings – Week 10

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, January 14th, 2017

san-antonio-spurs-t1
NBA.com
The trade season has begun, just not in the way most of us expected.
The Atlanta Hawks, the fourth place team in the East, traded
Kyle Korver, the eighth-best 3-point shooter in NBA history, to the
Cleveland Cavaliers, the first place team in the East.
The Hawks had their reasons for making the deal. Considering that
they lost Al Horford in free agency last summer, you can understand
why they would want to get something (and maybe nobody else was
sending them a first round pick) for their pending free agents before
it’s too late. But three things make the trade a little confusing …
1. The timing. The Hawks have won six straight games and have a
pretty favorable schedule over the next few weeks.
2. The team Korver was sent to. The Cavs, who already rank second
in 3-point percentage, eliminated the Hawks each of the last two
years.
3. The fact that the Hawks signed Dwight Howard to a three-year,
$71 million contract last summer.
The Hawks aren’t about to turn into the 2013-14 Philadelphia
76ers, but they’re clearly taking a step backward in a season in which
they have a decent shot to win a playoff series. The Sacramento Kings
haven’t won a playoff series in 13 years and would probably have loved
to be in the position the Hawks were in a few days ago.
But this is the first sign that all but a few other teams are
resigned to the fact that there’s no getting past the Cavs or the
Worriors this season or, probably, next
season.
Come April and May, that will probably be the case. This week,
two teams jumped over the defending conference champs in the Power
Rankings.
* Last week: Rockets rolling after hot December
* This time last year: Cavs hit their stride as big games loom —
The Nets fired both Billy King and Lionel Hollins, the Spurs remained
unbeaten at home when Jose Calderon missed a game-winner, and Damian
Lillard went nuts (hitting five threes in less than two minutes)
against the Thunder. Draymond Green had twice as many triple-doubles
(eight) as anyone else, DeMarre Carroll had knee surgery, and Kristaps
Porzingis was tip-dunking again and again.
* Plus-minus stud: Kawhi Leonard was a plus-66 in three games last week.
* Plus-minus dud: Wayne Ellington was a minus-52 in four games last week.
* Hero team of the week: Chicago (3-0) — The Bulls beat three of
the East’s top six teams (Charlotte, Cleveland and Toronto), making it
10 straight wins against the Raptors.
* Zero team of the week: Denver (0-4) — The Nuggets hung around
with the Warriors, but then lost an important game to the Kings and
weren’t as competitive against San Antonio or Oklahoma City, running
their losing streak to five games.
* East vs. West: The West is 113-98 (.536) against the East in
interconference games after the East went 13-11 (3-0 vs. New Orleans)
last week.
* Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. Dallas, 2. Brooklyn, 3. Toronto
* Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Indiana, 2. Golden State, 3. Chicago
* Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and
adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
* High jumps of the week: Lakers (+6), Chicago (+5), Detroit (+3),
Clippers (+3)
* Free falls of the week: Charlotte (-4), Minnesota (-4), Oklahoma City (-4)
* Team to watch this week: Memphis — After picking up big wins
against the Warriors and Jazz over the weekend, the Grizzlies play two
more West playoff teams, visiting the Thunder and Rockets and
Wednesday and Friday, before returning home to host the Bulls on
Sunday.

1. San Antonio Spurs (30-7)
Last week: 3
It was only five weeks ago that the Spurs ranked 13th in
defensive efficiency. They’ve been so good defensively since then,
they’re even stealing the ball from each other. Having allowed less
than a point per possession over their last 17 games (seven against
top-10 offenses, only five against bottom-10 offenses), they are back
in that No. 1 spot, where they were for the last 22 weeks of last
season. Their offense has been better too, they’ve led seven of their
last eight games by at least 20 points, and they’ve outscored their
opponents by a league-best 11.5 points per 100 possessions since
Thanksgiving.
This week: vs. MIL, vs. LAL, @ PHX

2. Houston Rockets (30-9)
Last week: 4
The Rockets still have the league’s best first-quarter offense,
but they had some ugly starts in Orlando (missing 20 of their first 26
3-point attempts) and Toronto (missing 19 of their first 22 threes)
over the weekend. Of course, their offense eventually got going both
nights and they’ve scored 117 points per 100 possessions over their
eight-game winning streak. They’re reportedly in the market for a big
man, but haven’t broken stride since Clint Capela broke his leg, with
Montrezl Harrell and Nene taking turns as the starter. Harrell’s two
biggest games, including 28 points on 12-for-13 shooting on Sunday,
have come off the bench.
This week: vs.CHA, @ MIN, vs.MEM,@ BKN

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (28-8)
Last week: 1
The Cavs’ 13-game, with-LeBron winning streak came to an end
against Chicago on Wednesday when they blew an early 13-point lead.
And that wasn’t the only big lead they let get away last week. They
had a 24-point lead cut to six in Brooklyn on Friday and had a
22-point lead erased completely in Phoenix on Sunday. They won both
games with 40 total fourth-quarter points from Kyrie Irving and LeBron
James, but wouldn’t have needed those guys on the floor if they had
able to keep their foot on the gas against two bad teams. The Cavs
know how to close, and adding Kyle Korver should only help with their
consistency.
This week: @ UTA, @ POR, @ SAC

4. Golden State Warriors (32.6)
Last week: 2
The Warriors’ fourth-quarter collapse against the Grizzlies on
Friday and Draymond Green’s mini-tantrum about Kevin Durant isolating
on a critical possession should only help them down the line. It’s
better for them to hash it out about late-game play-calling and have
Durant realize “who he play for” (not Oklahoma City anymore) in
January than in June. There will only be so many high-pressure
situations between now and when their season is on the line. This week
should be relatively easy (and they’ll have three full days off before
next Monday’s rematch against the Cavs), but they could use it to get
back on track defensively, having allowed 108 points per 100
possessions over their last eight games.
This week: vs. MIA, vs. DET

5. Boston Celtics (23-14)
Last week: 7
The Celtics are making the most of their home-heavy January
schedule. They’re 3-0 this month, holding a four-game winning streak
and a five-game home winning streak. They’ve made at least 17
3-pointers in each of their last four games, something they’d done
just three times prior in the history of the franchise. And the
onslaught really comes in the third and fourth quarters. Over their
last 10 games, they’ve scored 105 points per 100 possessions in the
first half and 124 in the second half, never scoring less than 57
points after halftime. At 16.0 ppg, Isaiah Thomas ranks second in
second half scoring.
This week: @ TOR, vs. WAS, @ ATL

6. Toronto Raptors (24-13)
Last week: 5
A rough stretch of schedule, combined with the absence of Patrick
Patterson for four games, has taken its toll on the Raptors, who have
lost five of their last seven games. Kyle Lowry has had a couple of
rough offensive nights in that stretch and they had a season-low eight
assists in San Antonio on Tuesday, but their defensive regression has
hurt as much as their reliance on their guards. They now rank as the
East’s fourth worst defense and would fall to third place in the
conference if they lose to the Celtics on Tuesday.
This week: vs. BOS, vs. BKN, vs. NYK

7. LA Clippers (26-14)
Last week: 10
Chris Paul returned on Friday, but the Clippers’ got their
four-game winning streak started before that, winning ugly against
Phoenix and then shooting 51 percent and getting to the line 45 times
against the Grizzlies’ second-ranked defense, with Austin Rivers
scoring a season-high 28 points. The offense has been good, but the
defense has been bad with Rivers, Paul and J.J. Redick playing
together, a look the Clippers went with in Paul’s return in
Sacramento. They’ve only used it for 127 minutes, but that’s already
more than it saw last season, and it may be a critical postseason
option if Luc Mbah a Moute is too much of a liability on offense.
This week: vs. ORL, vs. LAL

8. Memphis Grizzlies (24-16)
Last week: 8
Over the last few weeks, the Grizzlies somehow evolved from a
great defensive team to a great offensive team. But their defense hurt
them in post-Christmas losses in Orlando and Boston, and then again
last week in two losses in L.A. (with the Clippers missing Chris Paul
and Blake Griffin). They turned things back around in historic fashion
over the weekend, holding the Warriors to just 21 points in the fourth
quarter and overtime on Friday as they came back from a 24-point
deficit to pick up their second win against the conference champs. And
with fifth place in the West and the No. 2 spot in defensive
efficiency on the line against the Jazz on Sunday, they were the
better defensive team in a predictably ugly game. Chandler Parsons
made a few jumpers too.
This week: @ OKC, @ HOU, vs. CHI

9. Utah Jazz (23-16)
Last week: 9
The Jazz are 100 percent healthy, getting George Hill, Dante Exum
and Alec Burks (remember him?) back from injury last week. Hill is the
most important of the three by far and the Jazz were 8-0 with both him
and Gordon Hayward in the lineup until Sunday’s loss in Memphis.
Though Derrick Favors has started the last eight games, Quin Snyder
has staggered the minutes of Favors and Rudy Gobert so that the Jazz
have played a lot more minutes with just one of the two on the floor
than with both. But they were on the floor together down the stretch
of Saturday’s win in Minnesota and had Utah’s last four field goals,
with Favors hitting two big jumpers and Gobert getting the
game-winning tipin.
This week: vs. CLE, vs. DET, vs. ORL

10. Oklahoma City Thunder (22-16)
Last week: 6
The Thunder improved to 14-3 in Russell Westbrook’s
triple-double games with Saturday’s win over Denver, but they’ve lost
four straight on the road, getting outscored by 35 points per 100
possessions with Westbrook off the floor in the four games. Only the
Wizards, Sixers and Lakers have a worse bench NetRtg on the road than
the Thunder, who have a lot more road games to come this month. Maybe
the return of Cameron Payne, who made his season debut on Saturday,
can help the second unit. After shooting 7-for-35 from 3-point range
over his previous six games, Westbrook is 15-for-27 over the last two,
but he’s 3-for-17 on clutch shots this month after missing a contested
three for the win in Houston on Thursday.
This week: @ CHI, vs. MEM, @ MIN, @ SAC

11. Chicago Bulls (19-18)
Last week: 16
The Bulls have played eight of their last nine games against
teams that are currently at or above .500 and have won five of their
last seven, knocking off the Hornets, Cavs and Raptors last week. The
four games in which Rajon Rondo has been DNP’d have been the Bulls’
best four-game offensive stretch (112 points per 100 possessions)
since Games 2-5, with Jimmy Butler averaging 35.0 points and Doug
McDermott and Nikola Mirotic combining to shoot 41 percent from
3-point range. We’ll see if they can keep it up as they play four
back-to-backs in the next 17 days. They’ve scored less than a point
per possession in their eight games without rest thus far.
This week: vs. OKC, @ WAS, @ NYK,

12. Atlanta Hawks (21-16)
Last week: 12
It will be fascinating to see where the Korver trade (and assumed
Paul Millsap trade) leads and who remains a part of the long-term
plan. You only have to travel 400 miles south to find a team – Orlando
– that intentionally took a step backward by trading Howard five years
ago and still doesn’t have a clear path toward sustained success.
Right now, the Hawks have won six straight games, holding their
opponents to just 96 points per 100 possessions. Eleven of their next
12 games are either at home or against a team currently under .500.
This week: @ BKN, vs. BOS, vs. MIL

13. Milwaukee Bucks (18-18)
Last week: 13
Wednesday’s game-winner at Madison Square Garden was the
highlight of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s career, the result of a lot of
work put in on his post game, and gave the Bucks two straight wins in
close games. But a collapse against the Knicks on Friday and
Antetokounmpo’s absence against Washington on Sunday have them back at
.500. They’ve taken a step backward defensively and rank 22nd on that
end since Christmas.
This week: @ SAS, vs. MIA, @ ATL

14. Indiana Pacers (20-18)
Last week: 15
The Pacers are taking a five-game winning streak to London.
They’ve scored a league-best 119.6 points per 100 possessions over the
streak, shooting a season-high 58 percent in Tuesday’s win in Detroit,
committing a season-low six turnovers in Thursday’s win over Brooklyn,
and tying a season-high with 24 second-chance points in Saturday’s win
over New York. Monta Ellis has been inconsistent coming off the bench
since his return from injury, but the starting lineup has been pretty
darn good, outscoring its opponents by 61 points in 102 minutes over
the streak.
This week: @ DEN (London)

15. Charlotte Hornets (20-18)
Last week: 11
The Hornets won six of their first nine games on the road, but
have dropped eight of their last 10 away from the Spectrum Center
after losing in Chicago, Detroit (despite Marco Belinelli’s
creativity) and San Antonio last week. They still rank third in
defensive rebounding percentage for the season, but are 27th in
January after allowing 54 offensive rebounds (and 61 second-chance
points) in four games last week. They were good enough offensively –
with Nicolas Batum leading them on a big fourth quarter run – to beat
Oklahoma City on Wednesday and have won six of their last seven games
at home. But Batum is dealing with a knee injury and they don’t play
at home again until next Wednesday.
This week: @ HOU, @ PHI

16. Washington Wizards (18*18)
Last week: 14
The Wizards saw a couple of games (one loss, one win) turn
around in the fourth quarter last week and benefited from the flu bug
that’s been going around the league by picking up a rare road win and
sliding back into eighth place by outlasting the Antetokounmpo-less
Bucks on Sunday. Earlier in the week, they managed to lose in Dallas,
even though they were a plus-16 in six minutes with their super lineup
(Kelly Oubre with the starters) on the floor and outscored the Mavs
50-22 in the paint. They’re home for four of their next five, with a
big game against the seventh-place Bulls on Tuesday.
This week: vs. CHI, @ BOS, vs. PHI

17. Detroit Pistons (18-21)
Last week: 20
With Aron Baynes out, Boban Marjanovic got a shot at some
rotation minutes last week and was huge (both literally and
figuratively) in Thursday’s win over Charlotte, outrebounding the
Hornets, 19-18, in his 22 minutes on the floor and hitting nine of his
11 free throws when they could do nothing but foul him after he
cleaned up his teammates’ missed shots. Baynes was back on Sunday, but
only to provide six minutes of relief for Andre Drummond, who played
an NBA season-high 52 minutes (including the final 39:54) in the
Pistons’ double-OT win in Portland. Detroit has won two straight games
for the first time since Reggie Jackson made his season debut five
weeks ago.
This week: @ SAC, @ GSW, @ UTA, @ LAL

18. New York Knicks (17-20)
Last week: 17
The Knicks traded huge comebacks with the Bucks and got a big
shot (in Friday’s win in Milwaukee) and a lot of assists (22 in the
last three games) from Carmelo Anthony, but have still lost seven of
their last eight games, with Jeff Hornacek coming to the realization
that his team “might not be good defensively” and with Anthony dealing
with a shoulder injury. After Saturday’s loss in Indiana (which they
trailed by 29 points), they’re 0-7 in the second game of a
back-to-back and have three more in the next 11 days.
This week: vs. NOP, @ PHI, vs. CHI, @ TOR

19. Sacramento Kings (15-22)
Last week: 18
The Kings remain the league’s worst team in the first six
minutes of games and were down seven after the first six minutes
against the Heat on Wednesday. But they’ve generally been better in
the first quarter recently. Still they’re looking good for an 11th
straight season in the bottom 10 in defensive efficiency, having
allowed 115 points per 100 possessions as they’ve lost five of their
last six games. They’re still in a virtual tie for eighth in the West,
but might regret getting swept in their season series to Miami,
especially with the stretch they have coming up. After Tuesday’s game
against Detroit, 13 of their next 16 games are against teams currently
over .500.
This week: vs. DET, vs. CLE, vs. OKC

20. New Orleans Pelicans (14-24)
Last week: 19
Donatas Motiejunas had 11 points, five rebounds and four assists
in his debut on Saturday, but the Pelicans allowed the Celtics to
score 62 points in his 20 minutes on the floor. Offense was the issue
in losses to the Cavs and Hawks last week, with Buddy Hield, Langston
Galloway, Solomon Hill, E’Twaun Moore and Jrue Holiday somehow
combining to shoot 24-for-53 (45 percent) from 3-point range and
7-for-40 (18 percent) on 2-point shots. They’ve lost three straight
and need to get some road wins if they’re going to stay within
shouting distance of eighth place in the West.
This week: @ NYK, @ BKN, @ CHI

21. Portland Trail Blazers (16-23)
Last week: 22
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s 3-pointer in double-overtime kept the
Blazers from winning two straight games for the first time in more
than a month and gaining any kind of traction as they try to hold onto
eighth place. But after Thursday’s win over the Lakers (in which
Damian Lillard returned from a five-game absence), they’re 6-3 against
the four teams – Denver, L.A., New Orleans and Sacramento – chasing
them. Terry Stotts did draw up a pair of slick plays (or maybe it was
the same play just rotated 90 degrees) to get C.J. McCollum open
threes to twice tie the Detroit game. He now leads the league with 10
clutch 3-pointers.
This week: @ LAL, vs. CLE, vs. ORL

22. Los Angeles Lakers (15-26)
Last week: 28
The race for eighth place in the West seems to be going
backwards, because a 3-1 week has put the Lakers, who went 2-15 from
Dec. 2 – Jan. 1 and lost to the eighth-place Blazers on Thursday,
within two games of a playoff spot. And with another game against the
Blazers on Tuesday, things could get interesting. The Lakers had one
of their best offensive games of the season against the Griz defense
on Tuesday and then held both Miami and Orlando under a point per
possession over the weekend. They’re the first team to have played
half of its games, but are still in the middle of a stretch of seven
games in 11 days.
This week: vs. POR, @ SAS, @ LAC, vs. DET

23. Denver Nuggets (14-23)
Last week: 21
The Nuggets are taking a five-game losing streak to London,
having allowed 121 points per 100 possessions over the five games to
fall to No. 30 in defensive efficiency. Losses to the Thunder
Warriors, Spurs and Thunder last week dropped them to 4-14 against
teams that are currently at or above .500, and the only win against
that group since Thanksgiving was against a Clippers team missing
Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and Blake Griffin. They’ll have to figure out
those good teams if they want to make the playoffs because only one
West team – Philadelphia and Sacramento – has more games left against
them.
This week: vs. IND (London)

24. Orlando Magic (16-23)
Last week: 24
Elfrid Payton was moved back to the starting lineup on Wednesday
and the Magic lost. Evan Fournier was moved back into the starting
lineup on Friday and the Magic lost again. The starting lineup stayed
the same on Sunday and the Magic lost once more. After a December
dalliance with efficiency, they’re back to being a terrible offensive
team again, ranking in the bottom three in free throw rate for the
fourth time in the five seasons since they traded Dwight Howard. After
eight straight games in which they attempted no more than 16 free
throws, they got to the line 29 times against the Lakers on Sunday,
but shot 38 percent from the field and turned the ball over 18 times
against the league’s 28th-ranked defense.
This week: @ LAC, @ POR, @ UTA

25. Dallas Mavericks (11-26)
Last week: 25
There has been better health and small signs of progress over the
last few weeks. The Mavs are still just three games in the loss column
behind the eighth-place Blazers. But a home loss to Phoenix, in which
they allowed 18 offensive rebounds and 26 second-chance points, is
probably a sign that the Mavs’ aren’t climbing out of the West’s
bottom three, even though this week’s three games are against the
other two teams in that group. After coming off the bench the previous
two games, Andrew Bogut started alongside Dirk Nowitzki against
Atlanta on Saturday and, with a minus-7, the two fell to a minus-69 in
just 68 minutes together.
This week: @ MIN, @ PHX, vs. MIN

26. Phoenix Suns (12-26)
Last week: 27
Before almost coming back from 22 points down against the Cavs
on Sunday, the Suns won two straight games for the first time since
early November. And it might be noteworthy that they were two of their
three slowest paced games of the season. In fact, the Suns are 4-3 in
their seven slowest-paced games, and the three losses were to
Cleveland, San Antonio and Utah. Their 0-7 record in their seven
fastest-paced games includes losses to Brooklyn and Philadelphia, so
it might not be a good thing that they rank third in pace. Tyson
Chandler has grabbed 53 boards over the last three games and has
career-high marks in both defensive rebounding percentage (35.7
percent) and overall rebounding percentage (23.9 percent).
This week: vs. DAL, vs. SAS

27. Minnesota Timberwolves (11-26)
Last week: 23
The Wolves made a huge comeback on Tuesday, but that was after
trailing the Sixers by 26 points. And after Ricky Rubio tied the game
with a three, they gave up the game-winning lob. They had a great
third quarter in Washington on Friday, but then blew a late lead. And
they led the Jazz by 13 points on Saturday, but blew that game too.
The three losses dropped them to a league-worst 5-15 in games that
were within five points in the last five minutes. As they’ve lost six
of those games in a row, they’ve shot 9-for-34 (26 percent) in the
clutch. Considering that field goal percentage, it probably wasn’t
wise for Zach LaVine to take his time before shooting for the tie on
Saturday.
This week: vs. DAL, vs. HOU, vs. OKC, @ DAL

28. Philadelphia 76ers (10-25)
Last week: 29
The Sixers have won three of their last four games to become the
first team to match last season’s win total. They rank fifth
defensively over the last five weeks and have been at their best on
that side of the ball (allowing 100.7 points per 100 possessions) with
Nerlens Noel on the floor. He has pushed Jahlil Okafor (three DNPs in
the last four games) out of the rotation, which is probably the
preference of Sixers fans. Joel Embiid got a standing ovation for a
trip to the free throw line on Tuesday, because he and Noel passed the
ball to each other.
This week: vs. NYK, vs. CHA, @ WAS

29. Miami Heat (11-28)
Last week: 26
The Heat got Dion Waiters back from a 20-game absence last week,
but lost Justise Winslow (shoulder surgery) for the season, and that
swap probably isn’t in their favor. They haven’t gotten much offense
from anyone other than the usual suspects (Goran Dragic and Willie
Reed), but got a win in Sacramento on Wednesday with a crazy shot from
Tyler Johnson in the final minute. It’s hard to imagine their offense
being worse than it’s been over the last few weeks, but if they were
to trade Dragic…
This week: @ GSW, @ MIL

30. Brooklyn Nets (8-28)
Last week: 30
The Nets cemented their spot in the Eastern Conference and Power
Rankings basements with another loss to the Sixers on Sunday. And they
probably won’t have another chance to climb out of either until they
play the Heat twice in the last seven days of January. They’ve had
some decent defensive games of late (they held the Cavs to just 43
percent shooting and nine threes on Friday), but have scored less than
a point per possession as they’ve lost 11 of their last 12. Only three
of those 12 games were against teams that rank in the top 10
defensively, but five of their next eight (including two vs New
Orleans) will be.
This week: vs. ATL, vs. NOP, @ TOR, vs. HOU

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