NBA Power Rankings – Week 13

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, February 4th, 2017

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors
NBA.com

The mid-winter malaise has hit.
Every game, whether it takes place in October, January or April,
counts the same. In regard to the standings, playoff seeding and
home-court advantage, a loss this week hurts as much as one in
late-March. But that doesn’t mean that the stretch between Christmas
and the All-Star break can be a slog. And the result is some bad
stretches from good teams.
In the Eastern Conference, the Cavaliers have lost six of their
last 10 games and the Raptors have lost six of their last seven. The
bottom has seemingly fallen out of the playoff picture, as Charlotte,
Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee have combined to go 14-27 over the last
three weeks.
In the West, the Rockets have lost seven of their last 11 games
and the Spurs have let some games slip away, while nobody seems to
want the 8 seed. The top 10 teams in last week’s Power Rankings went
19-20 over the last seven days.
Of course, with good teams not playing well, teams lower in the
standings can take advantage. The Mavericks, Heat and 76ers, three
teams who seemed like Lottery locks a few weeks ago, have gone on
eye-opening runs to remain relevant.
And with a bunch of good teams losing games and a bunch of bad
teams winning games, sorting them out can be difficult. Houston hasn’t
dropped in the rankings, because nobody behind them has really earned
that No. 3 spot. And some teams in the bottom 10 that have played
decently of late are having a hard time moving up, because other teams
around them have been similarly improved.
One thing is for sure: the team with the league’s No. 1 offense
and No. 1 defense has the No. 1 ranking for a third straight week.
Last week: Warriors take strong hold of top spot
This time last year: Warriors make a big statement — The
Warriors beat the Spurs by 30 points in their first meeting of the
season, but needed Harrison Barnes’ game-winner to beat the Sixers
after blowing a 24-point lead. The Suns fired Jeff Hornacek and Blake
Griffin broke his hand when he punched the Clippers’ equipment
manager. Dwight Howard got ejected from two straight games, Troy
Daniels beat the Kings with a three after an uncalled travel, and Jrue
Holiday beat the Nets with a fadeaway.
Plus-minus stud: Willie Reed (MIA) was a plus-70 in four games last week.
Plus-minus dud:Justin Hamilton(BKN) was a minus-52 in four games
last week.
Hero team of the week: Washington (4-0) — The Wizards seem
bound for a top-four seed in the East after a week in which they
knocked off the second-place Celtics and fourth-place Hawks.
Zero team of the week: Charlotte (0-4) — Remember when the
Hornets were good? They’re 4-11 since Dec. 31 and lost to the Knicks
and Kings last week.
East vs. West: The West is 151-124 (.549) against the East in
interconference games after going 12-9 last week.
Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. Phoenix, 2. Brooklyn, 3. Portland
Easiest schedules through Sunday:
1. Indiana, 2. Chicago, 3. Golden State
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: Miami (+6), Washington (+6), Denver (+4), Sac (+4)
Free falls of the week: Milwaukee (-9), Five teams (-3)
Team to watch this week: Oklahoma City — Before they finally go
home for an extended stay and a big game against the Grizzlies on
Friday, the Thunder visit San Antonio on Tuesday for their first of
three games against the Spurs.

1. Golden State Warriors (41-7)
Last week: 1
We often talk about the Death Lineup (which has outscored
opponents by 25.3 points per 100 possessions in 182 minutes), but the
Warriors’ starting lineup has been nearly as dominant – plus-23.0 in
508 minutes, the league’s best mark among lineups that have played at
least 200 minutes . The group has been outscored in only one of its
last 22 games together -this past Wednesday in Charlotte, when
small-ball came to the rescue in the fourth quarter. Maybe the fans
knew what they were doing and Zaza Pachulia should have been an
All-Star with the other four guys.
This week: vs. CHA, @ LAC, @ SAC

2. San Antonio Spurs (36-11)
Last week: 2
The Spurs are 4-0 without Kawhi Leonard, but lost two games upon
his return this weekend because they went from being the league’s best
second-half team (through Thursday) to getting outscored 127-88 by the
Pelicans and Mavs (allowing them to shoot 58 percent) after halftime.
Since Pau Gasol broke his hand, David Lee (four games), Dewayne Dedmon
(one game) and Davis Bertans (one game) have all had the chance to
start next to LaMarcus Aldridge, who has shot just 31 percent from
outside the restricted area over the six games.
This week: vs. OKC, vs. PHI, vs. DEN

3. Houston Rockets (35-16)
Last week: 3
The Rockets can be an elite team with a mediocre defense when
their offense is sharp. But they’ve ranked 14th offensively as they’ve
gone 4-7 over the last 2 1/2 weeks. Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson have
each missed games in that stretch, but the Rockets have also just gone
cold from 3-point range, with Gordon, James Harden and Trevor Ariza
combining to shoot just 31 percent from beyond the arc in the 11
games. The schedule has been a little tough and they now play eight of
their next 10 games at home, with eight of the next nine against teams
with losing records.
This week: vs. SAC, vs. ATL, vs. CHI

4. Cleveland Cavaliers (32-14)
Last week: 4
LeBron James has played 39 or more minutes in more than half
(9/17) of his games since Christmas, including three straight losses
before the Cavs picked up a couple of wins over the weekend. He now
leads the league at 37.5 minutes per game (though he ranks 18th in
total minutes) and while his get-us-another-player comments have been
directed at the front office and ownership, you would think that
Tyronn Lue could extend his rotation a bit to cut down on his star’s
minutes. With a four-game lead over the Celtics in the loss column,
this team can afford to take its foot off the gas (even more than it
already has over the last month).
This week: @ DAL, vs. MIN, @ NYK

5. Washington Wizards (27-20)
Last week: 11
With double-digit road wins in Atlanta, Charlotte and New Orleans
last week and having backed up their all-black silliness against the
Celtics on Tuesday, the Wizards have graduated from “really good home
team” to “really good team.” They have the league’s second best
record, sixth best offense and eighth best defense over the last month
and a half and, with three games against below-average offenses this
week, could soon be the only East team in the top 10 on both ends of
the floor for the season. They’ve won 14 straight games at home, where
they’ll be for 10 of their next 14.
This week: vs. NYK, vs. LAL, vs. NOP

5. Boston Celtics (29-18)
Last week: 7
The Celtics got their first win over what had been the top six
teams (in regard to winning percentage) by keeping Houston’s top-three
offense in check on Wednesday. Then, without Al Horford (groin strain)
over the weekend (and with Kelly Olynyk shooting 14-for-19), they held
two straight opponents under a point per possession for the first time
since mid-December to supplant Toronto in the top six. They’re a half
game ahead of the Raptors for second place in the East, they host them
(with Toronto playing the second game of a back-to-back) on Wednesday,
and the team with the better record through next Sunday will send its
coaching staff to All-Star Weekend.
This week: vs.DET, vs.TOR, vs.LAL,vs. LAC

6. Boston Celtics (29-18)
Last week: 7
The Celtics got their first win over what had been the top six
teams (in regard to winning percentage) by keeping Houston’s top-three
offense in check on Wednesday. Then, without Al Horford (groin strain)
over the weekend, they held two straight opponents under a point per
possession for the first time since mid-December to supplant Toronto
in the top six. They’re a half game ahead of the Raptors for second
place in the East, they host them (with Toronto playing game two of a
back-to-back) on Wednesday, and the team with the better record
through next Sunday will send its coaching staff toAll-Star Weekend.
This week: vs.DET, vs.TOR, vs.LAL,vs. LAC

7. Oklahoma City Thunder (28-20)
Last week: 9
Enes Kanter was playing pretty well and the Thunder picked up a
couple of good road wins in Utah (on Russell Westbrook’s game-winner)
and New Orleans before Kanter punched a chair and broke his arm on
Thursday. His absence means more minutes for Joffrey Lauvergne and
maybe more rebounds for Westbrook, who picked up triple-double No. 24
in Cleveland on Sunday and who has shot less than 40 percent in seven
of his last nine games. Only Dwyane Wade has a lower effective field
goal percentage on at least 200 shots in January. After spending most
of the month on the road and finishing it off in San Antonio on
Tuesday, the Thunder will play nine of their 11 February games at
home.
This week:@ SAS, vs.CHI, vs.MEM, vs. POR

8. Utah Jazz (30-19)
Last week: 5
Rodney Hood is healthy again and Alec Burks is starting to look
like himself, scoring in double-figures off the bench in five straight
games (shooting 15-for-20 in the paint over that stretch). But with
Saturday’s loss at home to Memphis, the Jazz have dropped five
straight games against fellow West playoff teams and are 6-11 against
the group overall. The good news is that they have just one more game
against the group before the All-Star break and that’s against the
CP3-less Clippers. So, with just two games (against struggling East
teams) in eight days, they’re still in prime position to grab a
top-four seed.
This week: vs. MIL, vs. CHA

9. Toronto Raptors (29-19)
Last week: 6
The Raptors have lost six of their last seven games, but went
down to the wire without DeMar DeRozan against two good Western
Conference teams – San Antonio and Memphis – last week and broke out
of their offensive slump with DeRozan’s return in Sunday’s loss to
Orlando. They have lost their last five games that were within five
points in the last five minutes, going for two when they needed three
in the final seconds against the Spurs on Tuesday and missing three
threes for the lead in the final minute in Memphis on Wednesday (when
maybe they should have gone for two).
This week: vs.NOP, @ BOS, @ ORL,@ BKN

10. LA Clippers (30-18)
Last week: 8
Blake Griffin returned from an 18-game absence on Tuesday, but
the Clippers fell to 3-9 without Chris Paul with a loss to the
Embiid-less Sixers and a thrashing at the hands of the Warriors (to
whom they’ve lost eight straight games). The bigger difference between
the Clippers with and without Paul has been on defense, where they
held their opponent under a point per possession in each of the last
four games he played, and where they’ve allowed 121 per 100 in the
five games since (though the Golden State skews that number a bit).
This week: @ PHX, vs. GSW, @ BOS

11. Memphis Grizzlies (28-21)
Last week: 12
The Grizzlies have been treading water against a tough schedule
over the last month and a half, going 12-13 in a stretch where 17 of
the 25 games were against teams that are currently over .500. They’re
just two games into a six-game trip, but they got a big win in Utah on
Saturday (with Zach Randolph taking Rudy Gobert and the Jazz to
school) and their schedule is about to get easier. Nine of their next
13 games are against teams under .500, a stretch that includes three
games against Phoenix and two against Denver.
This week: @ PHX,@ DEN, @ OKC,@ MIN

12. Indiana Pacers (25-22)
Last week: 14
The Pacers have followed a three-game losing streak (in which
they scored 99 points per 100 possessions) with a three-game winning
streak (in which they scored 115) to stay above the teams struggling
to hold onto a playoff spot. The offense has been at its best with
Paul George on the floor with C.J. Miles, who was moved into to the
starting lineup on Monday and hit six threes (for the third time this
season) in Friday’s overtime win over Sacramento. They have a legit
chance to extend the winning streak to six games before the schedule
gets tougher.
This week: @ ORL, @ BKN, vs. DET

13. Atlanta Hawks (28-20)
Last week: 10
The Hawks needed four overtimes against the Knicks on Sunday to
hold onto fourth place in the East after getting thumped by the
fifth-place Wizards two days earlier. They still have one of the
better benches in the league (with an aggregate bench NetRtg of
plus-2.7 in January), but, with Thabo Sefolosha out, only eight guys
played more than 10 minutes in what was a 68-minute game on Sunday.
Fortunately, they have two full days off before a Miami-Houston
back-to-back this week. They’ve swept their last three back-to-backs
and are 13-7 (6-4 in the first game, 7-3 in the second game) on
back-to-backs thus far.
This week: @ MIA, @ HOU, vs. ORL

14. Denver Nuggets (21-25)
Last week: 18
The Nuggets were able to hold onto eighth place and win for the
seventh time in nine games despite Nikola Jokic’s absence in Phoenix
on Saturday. The difference between the Nuggets’ offense that ranked
18th through Dec. 14 and the one that has led the league since Dec. 15
(when Jokic was moved back into the starting lineup) has been better
shooting from every area on the floor, but also an ability to cut down
on turnovers while increasing their assist rate. That No. 1 offense of
the last 6 1/2 weeks will face a couple of top five defenses –
Grizzlies and Spurs – this week.
This week:@ LAL, vs MEM, vs. MIL,@ SAS

15. Chicago Bulls (24-25)
Last week: 15
It really was an amazing week in Chicago. Jimmy Butler and Dwyane
Wade called out their teammates and Rajon Rondo blasted them both (“If
anything is questionable, it’s the leadership.”) on Instagram. They
all seemed to put it behind them a day later, but had what Fred
Hoiberg called “the worst game we played all year” against Miami on
Friday. Still, they came back two days later and Rondo was rather
productive (10 assists, plus-14) off the bench in Sunday’s win over
Philadelphia. Now it’s time for some real bonding over a six-game,
12-day trip that starts Wednesday in Oklahoma City.
This week: @ OKC, @ HOU

16. Charlotte Hornets (23-25)
Last week: 13
With a three-game trip coming this week, the Hornets have lost
seven straight games on the road, allowing 112.6 points per 100
possessions in the seven games. Some home cooking would still have
them in a comfortable position in the playoff picture, but they’ve
lost three straight at the Spectrum Center for the first time in
almost two years. Fourth quarters did them in against against the
Warriors and Knicks before Frank Kaminsky came up a foot short on the
potential game-winner against Sacramento on Saturday. They’ve been
pretty good (plus-18.9 points per 100 possessions) with Roy Hibbert on
the floor over the last two weeks, but even with Cody Zeller out the
last three games, Hibbert has played just 47 total minutes.
This week: @ POR, @ GSW, @ UTA

17. Sacramento Kings (19-28)
Last week: 21
Each of the Kings’ last five games have been within five points
in the last five minutes. DeMarcus Cousins has taken 31 of their 57
clutch-time shots in that stretch and had big buckets against the
Pistons, Cavs and Hornets last week, as well as the game-winning
assist in Cleveland. If he was only able to control the last-second
lob in Indiana on Friday, the Kings would be on a four-game winning
streak and just a game out of eighth place. They’re hanging in the
playoff race while getting longer looks at Willie Cauley-Stein and
rookie Malachi Richardson (who has bumped Ben McLemore out of the
rotation).
This week:@ PHI,@ HOU,vs. PHX, vs. GSW

18. Miami Heat (18-30)
Last week: 24
They’re 48 games into the season and the Heat still don’t have a
lineup that’s played 100 minutes together. But Erik Spoelstra has
crafted a seven-game winning streak (which includes wins over the
Rockets and Warriors) out of whatever he’s had available to him from
day to day. Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters (22.1 and 4.1) have carried
the offensive load, Waiters (along with a guy named Okaro White) has
hit big shots, and the Heat have been the league’s second best
defensive team over the course of the streak.
This week: vs. BKN, vs. ATL, vs. PHI

19. Portland Trail Blazers (21-28)
Last week: 20
After registering a plus-27 in its first four games (as a
starting unit), the Blazers’ new lineup got off to a slow start
against the league’s best starting lineup on Sunday. But Portland
still had a chance to upset the Warriors and extend their winning
streak to four games when Kevin Durant lost his balance and Evan
Turner had a wide-open three for the win. Turner missed (but not as
bad as Frank Kaminsky) and the Blazers dropped to three games in the
loss column behind Denver for eighth place in the West. They’ve
outscored their opponents by 26.3 points per 100 possessions in 117
minutes with Turner, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum on the floor
together since Turner moved into the starting lineup.
This week: vs. CHA, vs. DAL, @ OKC

20. Detroit Pistons (21-26)
Last week: 17
The Pistons ranked seventh defensively through December, but
have been a bottom-five team on that end of the floor in January,
having allowed the Kings and Heat to score 118 points per 100
possessions last week. Andre Drummond seemingly has all the tools, but
hasn’t taken the necessary step as a defensive anchor. He doesn’t rank
well as a rim protector and can have lazy feet when trying to defend
the perimeter. The Pistons have been 8.7 points per 100 possessions
better defensively (and even a better defensive rebounding team) with
Drummond off the floor than they’ve been with him on the floor.
This week: @ BOS, vs. NOP, vs.MIN, @ IND

21. Philadelphia 76ers (17-29)
Last week: 19
Nerlens Noel is either getting showcased or showing the Sixers
that they need to keep him. With Joel Embiid dealing with a knee
contustion, Noel got his first three starts of the season last week,
filled the boxscore in the three games, and hit a big jumper in the
final minute of Wednesday’s win in Milwaukee. But Noel hasn’t been
able to hold the defense together in Embiid’s absence and Sunday’s
loss in Chicago put a damper on the Sixers’ playoff hopes.
This week: vs.SAC, @ DAL, @ SAS, @ MIA

22. New Orleans Pelicans (19-29)
Last week: 22
The Pelicans beat the Cavs on Monday without Anthony Davis and
beat the Spurs, who had been the league’s best second-half team, with
a 71-46 second half on Friday. But they went just 3-3 on their
homestand and failed to move up in the standings because they’ve been
remarkably inconsistent, from game to game and quarter to quarter.
Davis and Donatas Motiejunas played 20 minutes together in Sunday’s
loss to Washington after playing just 22 minutes together in
Motiejunas’ first 10 games with the Pels. The pair was a minus-7 on
Sunday (the Wizards scored 54 in the 20 minutes), but Motiejunas has
scored in double-figures in four straight games, getting buckets on
the move and in the post.
This week: @ TOR, @ DET, @ WAS

23. Dallas Mavericks (17-30)
Last week: 26
The Mavs’ offensive success with Seth Curry in the starting
lineup has continued, even with Yogi Ferrell (the rookie on a 10-day
contract) starting for Deron Williams on the road against the league’s
third best defense (Spurs) on Sunday. Curry has averaged 15.1 points
and has shot 23-for-46 from 3-point range over the nine January games
he’s started. The Mavs have won the last three that Dirk has played in
and have allowed less than 90 points per 100 possessions with Nowitzki
on the floor (at center) in those three games.
This week: vs. CLE, vs. PHI, @ POR
24. Minnesota Timberwolves (18-29)
Last week: 23
Andrew Wiggins hit the game-winner in Phoenix on Tuesday and
Karl-Anthony Towns has averaged 31.4 points on 63 percent shooting as
the Wolves have won four of their last five games to hang around in
the West playoff picture. The Wolves’ starting lineup – the most-used
lineup in the league – has been pretty mediocre for most of the
season, but has outscored its opponents by more than 14 points per 100
possessions in 124 minutes over the last three weeks, showing greater
improvement on defense, where the Wolves are a top-10 team over that
timeframe.
This week: vs.ORL,@CLE, @DET, vs. MEM

25. Milwaukee Bucks (21-26)
Last week: 16
The Bucks’ offense is about attacking the paint and the Bucks’
defense is about protecting it. That’s why only two teams (Memphis and
Sacramento) have allowed their opponents to take a greater percentage
of their shots from 3-point range. And as they’ve lost eight of their
last nine games, the Bucks have been outscored by almost 15 points per
game from beyond the arc. Amazingly, their only win in that stretch
was Monday’s against the historically three-happy Rockets. They’ve
generally been at their best in the first quarter, but lost their
last two first quarters by a total of 32 points, despite a lineup
change and some flashes of potential from Thon Maker on Saturday.
This week: @ UTA, @ DEN, @ PHX

26. New York Knicks (21-28)
Last week: 25
The Knicks have now had six straight games go down to the wire, a
chance for Carmelo Anthony to show off his clutchness as Phil Jackson
shops him around the league (though the Clippers may be the only
potential destination). Anthong is 11-for-23 on clutch-time shots over
the six games, hitting the game-winner in Indiana on Monday, the
dagger against Charlotte on Friday, and a couple of shots (one, two)
to extend Sunday’s four-OT loss in Atlanta. The drive at the end of
regulation produced a rare shot at the basket. Anthony has taken less
than 15 percent of his shots from the restricted area this season,
down from 23 percent last season.
This week: @ WAS, @ BKN, vs. CLE

27. Orlando Magic (19-30)
Last week: 27
Even with Evan Fournier and Jodie Meeks out, Mario Hezonja (the
No. 5 pick in the 2015 Draft) can’t get much playing time. In
Tuesday’s loss to Chicago, Frank Vogel started Jeff Green at the two,
using Hezonja for just 13 minutes. And in two games over the weekend,
Vogel went with two point guards for extended minutes, DNP’ing Hezonja
in Sunday’s win in Toronto. The Magic have been awful, outscored by
15.0 points per 100 possessions, with Hezonja on the floor this
season, but you have to wonder if he’ll ever get a real chance to
improve on that.
This week: @ MIN, vs. IND, vs.TOR, @ ATL

28. Phoenix Suns (15-32)
Last week: 28
Eric Bledsoe set new career highs (40 and 41) twice in the last
four games and is putting up career-best numbers in points, assists,
free throw attempts and free throw percentage. The Suns have scored
113.2 points per 100 possessions with Bledsoe on the floor in January,
in part because Devin Booker’s smoth jumper has finally resulted in an
above-average effective field goal percentage (54.3 percent) this
month. But the Suns rank 27th on the other end of floor in January.
Tyson Chandler has been dominating the glass, but has been unable to
lift up the defense.
This week: vs. MEM, vs. LAC, @ SAC, vs. MIL

29. Los Angeles Lakers
Last week: 29
As the Lakers have lost eight of their last nine games, they’ve
matched their league-worst defense with anemic offense, scoring just
97 points per 100 possessions over that stretch. Progress from their
young stars has been minimal. D’Angelo Russell has shot 39 percent
since Christmas, has missed the last three games with calf and knee
injuries, and is somehow still hearing criticism from Byron Scott.
Julius Randle has scored in double-figures in just one of his last six
games and is dealing with pneumonia, while Brandon Ingram has shot
2-for-23 over the last three. The 1-8 stretch has taken them from the
league’s seventh worst record to the third worst, which matters a lot,
because they don’t have to send their first round pick to Philly if it
lands in the top three.
This week: vs. DEN, @ WAS, @ BOS

30. Brooklyn Nets (9-38)
Last week: 30
The Nets are running away with the worst record in the league,
having gone 5-33 since starting the season 4-5. One bright spot has
been rookie Caris LeVert (the guy they traded Thaddeus Young for), who
has averaged 16.7 points and 4.3 assists per 36 minutes, shooting 53
percent (20-for-23 in the restricted area), over his last 11 games.
The Nets haven’t been so bad (minus-2.3 points per 100 possessions)
with him on the floor in that stretch and are a plus-4.8 points per
100 possessions in 255 minutes with LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
on the floor together this season.
This week: @ MIA, vs. NYK, vs. IND, vs. TOR

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