With the Memphis Grizzlies scoring a major win over the L.A. Clippers this past week and a few teams, including the Oklahoma City Thunder, enduring an early-season losing streak, the top half of this week’s NBA Power Rankings have a fair amount of movement.
Every Friday afternoon, Basketball Insiders drops our weekly power rankings. How is your favorite team stacking up against the competition?
30. Philadelphia 76ers (Overall: 2-10, Last Week: 30)
Judging by the way the Timberwolves pummeled the Sixers on Thursday night, we’ll go ahead and guess that TNT is going to opt out of putting Philly on national TV. In all fairness, though, these guys scored a nice win over the Wizards on Wednesday, even without Joel Embiid.
29. New Orleans Pelicans (Overall: 2-10, Last Week: 29)
It certainly didn’t take long for Anthony Davis to miss a game. We’re hopeful that he’ll quickly recover from the ailing back and quad contusion that caused him to miss Wednesday’s 89-82 loss at the Magic. And we sure hope he manages to play at least 70 games this season.
28. Dallas Mavericks (Overall: 2-8, Last Week: 28)
The Mavs got Deron Williams back for Wednesday’s contest at the Celtics, but it wasn’t enough. After losing to the Knicks on Monday night, they’re just 1-3 on their five-game trip and can’t wait for Dirk Nowitzki to return. The bright side? Harrison Barnes and the 27.6 points per game he’s averaging over the last five.
27. Phoenix Suns (Overall: 3-9, Last Week: 23)
Brandon Knight dropped 32 off the bench on Wednesday night in Denver, but it wasn’t enough for a win. Meanwhile, the biggest bright spot for Phoenix these days is Devin Booker. The 20-year-old is averaging 20.4 points per game and remains our favorite for the Most Improved Player award.
26. Washington Wizards (Overall: 3-8, Last Week: 25)
The 119-112 win that the Wizards scored over the Knicks stopped a three-game skid that included a Wednesday night loss to the lowly Sixers. The good news is that Otto Porter is coming into his own, but until Bradley Beal can stay on the floor, this team will remain a cellar-dweller.
25. Miami Heat (Overall: 3-8, Last Week: 26)
The six-game losing streak ended with Thursday’s 96-73 win over the Bucks, but it was Hassan Whiteside’s 19-point, 25-rebound line against Dwight Howard’s Hawks that caught our attention this past week. The Heat lost, 90-93, but certainly not because of Whiteside.
24. Sacramento Kings (Overall: 4-8, Last Week: 20)
The good news is that the Kings have four more games left on their five-game home stand. The bad news? They’re hosting the Clippers, Raptors, Thunder and Rockets. The current three-game skid could easily reach seven.
23. Minnesota Timberwolves (Overall: 4-7, Last Week: 27)
It’s safe to say that Karl-Anthony Towns got the best of Joel Embiid in their head-to-head matchup on Thursday night. Towns had 25 and 10 and also gave us this. Meanwhile, Andrew Wiggins scored 33.3 points per game over the past week.
22. Brooklyn Nets (Overall: 4-7, Last Week: 21)
The five-game road trip concludes with Friday’s visit to the Thunder and they’re 1-3. Sean Kilpatrick and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson have each had their fair share of high moments, but without Jeremy Lin, the Nets will be hard-pressed to win consistently.
21. Denver Nuggets (Overall: 4-7, Last Week: 24)
We said something similar last week, but it merits mention: the Nuggets have nine players averaging at least 8.5 points per game, and they are being led by the capable Danilo Gallinari (17.1 points).
20. Orlando Magic (Overall: 5-7, Last Week: 22)
You couldn’t help but to feel good for Serge Ibaka, who sank the game winner to score a W at the Thunder on Sunday. Wednesday’s win followed Monday’s loss to the Pacers, so we’ll look at the glass as half-full and say the Magic won two of their last three (even if the Pelicans didn’t have Anthony Davis).
19. Milwaukee Bucks (Overall: 5-6, Last Week: 16)
After beginning the season 4-2, the Bucks have since gone just 1-4. We thought they had a legitimate shot of returning at the playoffs, but they’re still inconsistent. Khris Middleton looks pretty irreplaceable at the moment, though his absence isn’t the cause of all their problems.
18. New York Knicks (Overall: 5-7, Last Week: 18)
Just when the Knicks seem to turn a corner (as they did in Wednesday night’s fiery win over the Pistons), they play down to the competition. Derrick Rose was the lone bright spot in Thursday’s 119-112 loss to the Wizards, but the Knicks trailed by 25 and never seriously threatened.
17. Indiana Pacers (Overall: 6-6, Last Week: 17)
We were expecting the Pacers to be much better than a .500 team after 12 games, but we can’t be surprised considering they’re giving up about 107 points per game. The worst part? We can’t even feel too good about Wednesday’s win over the Cavs considering LeBron James didn’t play. But we do like that four starters scored double-figures.
16. Detroit Pistons (Overall: 6-6, Last Week: 14)
A four-game home stand begins on Saturday, and the Pistons hope that they can make as much good noise as their head coach has since the presidential election. We admire Stan Van Gundy’s courage and candor. It’s part of what makes him an effective head coach.
15. Boston Celtics (Overall: 6-5, Last Week: 19)
The Celts have underwhelmed thus far, but until Al Horford is good to go, they’ll probably struggle to beat some of the better teams. As long as Isaiah Thomas is playing brilliantly, though (he’s averaging 27.2 points per game), all hope isn’t lost.
14. Portland Trail Blazers (Overall: 7-6, Last Week: 12)
Thursday night’s 126-109 loss at the Rockets began a five-game road trip for the Blazers. Just one game over .500, they need to go 3-2, but what’ll make it tough is that all five games occur in seven nights. The saving grace? They’ll see the Pelicans, Nets and Knicks before finishing at the Cavs on Wednesday.
13. Utah Jazz (Overall: 7-6, Last Week: 11)
Despite back-to-back losses to the Grizz and Bulls, the Jazz have most of the league talking—in a good way. Aside from their impressive depth and Trey Lyles appearing to figure things out, their 93.2 points allowed per game is tops in the league. They are tied with the Blazers for the eighth-best record out West.
12. Memphis Grizzlies (Overall: 6-5, Last Week: 15)
The only thing better than the Grizz rolling into Staples Center and handing the Clips just their second loss of the season on Wednesday night was the fact that Marc Gasol hit four three-pointers, including the game-clincher. Mike Conley pulled his weight, too. Maybe there’s still juice left in the old legs, after all.
11. Chicago Bulls (Overall: 8-4, Last Week: 13)
The only thing better than a four-game win streak and winning the first two games of a six-game road trip would be that the Bulls will get to spend a few nights in Los Angeles, as they’ll battle the Clips and Lakers before heading to Denver. Thursday night’s 85-77 win over the Jazz showed they can grind out a tough W. Our faith is temporarily restored.
10. Houston Rockets (Overall: 7-5, Last Week: 07)
James Harden turned in his third triple-double of the season in Thursday’s 126-109 win over the Blazers. His 26, 12 and 14 were miraculous, but the Rockets have also been getting good production from Eric Gordon, who’s averaging 16 points per game. After going 2-2 the past week, things could be better, but could also be worse.
9. Los Angeles Lakers (Overall: 7-5, Last Week: 10)
The Lakers haven’t been two games over .500 since March 2013! D’Angelo Russell looks like a stud, Julius Randle is playing efficiently and Nick Young is playing solid man defense. Is Luke Walton our Coach of the Year so far? Maybe. And it’ll become “definitely” if they can win two of their four games over the next week. They’ve got the Spurs, Bulls, Thunder and Warriors.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder (Overall: 7-5, Last Week: 05)
The four-game losing streak ended in glorious fashion, as the Thunder toppled the visiting Rockets on Wednesday. Westbrook’s 30, seven and nine was great, but Victor Oladipo’s 29, 10 and five (on just 18 shot attempts) was more noteworthy. If he can produce like that, they’ll remain our favorites to win the division.
7. Charlotte Hornets (Overall: 7-3, Last Week: 09)
The back-to-back losses they endured over the past week are forgivable considering they came at the hands of the Raptors and Cavs. Even still, these guys are 4-1 on the road and rank fifth in defensive efficiency – hallmarks of a good team.
6. Toronto Raptors (Overall: 7-4, Last Week: 04)
We can’t be too mad about back-to-back losses when they come at the hands of the Cavs and Warriors, but if the Raptors come back after their upcoming five-game road trip with less than three wins, the Celtics and Knicks (yes, the Knicks!) may be breathing down their necks.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers (Overall: 9-2, Last Week: 02)
Wednesday’s game at the Pacers was the third game in four nights, so we can understand LeBron taking the night off. The Cavs are head and shoulders above every other team in the East, so the only concern we have is whether King James can continue to play about 77 games per season, even as he turns 32 years old next month.
4. San Antonio Spurs (Overall: 9-3, Last Week: 08)
In Wednesday’s 110-105 win over the Kings (their fourth straight), Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol combined for 65 points. Even better? These guys are allowing just about 97 points per game, which is third-best in the league. With three very winnable games over the next week, we’re expecting a few more Ws.
3. Atlanta Hawks (Overall: 9-2, Last Week: 06)
Winners of six straight, the Hawks had to make do without Dwight Howard on Wednesday night, but they managed to outlast the Bucks, anyway. The quad contusion doesn’t sound serious, but his 15 points, 12 rebounds and 23.54 PER will be sorely missed if he’s out long. Pun intended. The Clips and Cavs lost while the Hawks continue to surge.
2. Golden State Warriors (Overall: 9-2, Last Week: 03)
Klay Thompson has scored 15 points or less in five of their first 11 games and is only hitting 31 percent of his shots from distance, but the Dubs seem to be figuring things out. The four-game trip got off to a good start with Wednesday’s 127-121 win at the Raptors. Winners of five straight, they are somehow flying under the radar.
1. Los Angeles Clippers (Overall: 10-2, Last Week: 01)
The Clips might be the top defensive team in the league, but they had major trouble guarding the three in Wednesday night’s home loss to the Grizz, who shot 15-for-26 from distance. They showed poise down the stretch, even if they still complain too much about the officiating. The Hawks are nipping at their heels, but the top defense and best record help them retain their status as the Association’s top dog.
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