NBA power rankings: Grizzlies can’t close gap with Warriors
The Warriors’ winning streak was snapped by the Grizzlies, but Memphis couldn’t capitalize on an opportunity to take the top spot.
1. Golden State Warriors (22-3, Last week: 1)
Golden State’s 16-game winning streak was snapped, but the Warriors are still the top team in the NBA. They simply have the best body of work all season. It’s even more impressive that Golden State has been able to keep it together without Andrew Bogut. Another week, another top ranking for Stephen Curry and the Dubs.
2. Portland Trail Blazers (22-6, Last week: 5)
It was a statement week for the Trail Blazers, picking up two victories over the San Antonio Spurs. Their triple-overtime win against the Spurs on Friday was one of the best games of the season thanks to some Damian Lillard heroics in crunch-time. This team is just hitting its stride.
3. Memphis Grizzlies (21-6, Last week: 3)
The Grizzlies beat the Warriors and the Spurs in triple-overtime, so how are they No. 3, ranked below Golden State? An ugly loss to the Chicago Bulls and getting waxed by the Cleveland Cavaliers in back-to-back L’s stopped the Grizzlies’ progress toward taking the crown. This could have been the week the Warriors finally fell behind the Grizzlies, but alas.
4. Houston Rockets (19-7, Last week: 2)
It wasn’t a great week for Houston, but it’s still been a great season. Back-to-back losses to the New Orleans Pelicans and Atlanta Hawks are troubling, especially for a team that was on such a nice roll even without Dwight Howard. Still, Howard has been one of the best rim protectors in the NBA this season, getting back his defensive prowess:
Opponents may not be afraid of going inside against Dwight, but they should be.
5. Dallas Mavericks (20-8, Last week: 7)
The Mavericks made a huge move when they traded for Rajon Rondo, sweeping him away from a rebuilding project to a team with championship aspirations. It’s hard to judge how he’ll fit with the rest of the team, but Rick Carlisle has the chops to find different ways to make this experiment work. The Western Conference just got even more interesting, somehow.
6. Atlanta Hawks (19-7, Last week: 9)
The Hawks are looking like the real deal, winning 12 of their last 13 and having a fantastic week despite a tough schedule. Wins over the Chicago Bulls, followed by road victories over the Cleveland Cavaliers and Houston Rockets, makes for a great week of Hawks hoop.
7. Washington Wizards (19-7, Last week: 4)
The Wizards have been bouncing around the power rankings all season, this week dropping to seven following a loss to the Phoenix Suns. It was nice to see Washington’s fourth-quarter rally against the Miami Heat on the road, though.
8. Toronto Raptors (22-6, Last week: 11)
The Raptors are doing what good teams do while they try to bide time without key starters: They’re winning the games they’re supposed to. Toronto is on a six-game winning streak, stacking wins against a soft schedule. The Pacers, Knicks (x2), Magic, Nets and Pistons made for solid wins for the Raptors while they await DeMar DeRozan’s return.
Now if this were new logo power rankings? Bottom-10.
9. Chicago Bulls (17-9, Last week: 6)
Nikola Mirotic nailed six threes, Jimmy Butler went off for 31 points, and Chicago’s offense was thriving despite Pau Gasol scoring just six points on 2-of-7 shooting. Butler’s come up big in a pair high-quality wins, scoring 66 points over the Bulls’ last two games.
It’s been a great year for Jimmy, who is banking on using this season as a vaulting point into contract negotiations this summer. So far, so good. He’s one of five players scoring a minimum of 20 points per game with at least a 60-percent true shooting percentage.
10. Los Angeles Clippers (19-8, Last week: 10)
Los Angeles hasn’t been able to find the stride it hit through the end of Nov. and into Dec. Doc Rivers’ team has split the last six games while picking up low-quality wins. Things aren’t getting any easier, with games against the Hawks, Spurs, Warriors and Raptors all on tap through the holiday week.
11. Cleveland Cavaliers (16-10, Last week: 12)
The Cavaliers continue to be hot and cold, but a win over the Grizzlies undeniably makes a statement. It’s surprising the Cavaliers haven’t really taken off this season, but it’s still early in the process for a team that underwent such a drastic transformation over the summer.
12. San Antonio Spurs (17-11, Last week: 8)
What a brutal week for San Antonio. They lost a triple-overtime game to the Grizzlies, another triple-overtime game to the Trail Blazers, then waved a white flag against the new-look Mavericks. Four losses, four games, and WAY more minutes than this Spurs team is used to. Seriously, that was like four seasons worth of playing time in Popovich years.
13. New Orleans Pelicans (14-13, Last week: 16)
Anthony Davis returned from his chest contusion and went off for at least 30 points in his last four games. It’s been a great season for the Brow, and the Pelicans are now back in control of the eighth seed out West. Will it hold? It’s hard to tell, especially with the Thunder nipping at their heels. New Orleans’ victory over Oklahoma City was huge with or without Durant.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder (13-15, Last week: 13)
The Thunder really need Kevin Durant to get back and stay back, but Russell Westbrook has been lighting the league ablaze while setting new career-highs:
15. Phoenix Suns (15-14, Last week: 15)
The Suns seven-game skid came to an end, turning into a three-game winning streak. Phoenix needed to beat up on both the Hornets and Knicks, but a win over the Wizards was a good way to round out the road trip.
16. Milwaukee Bucks (14-14, Last week: 14)
Losing Jabari Parker for the year is a big blow for the Bucks, but it’s something they can survive in the Eastern Conference. Let’s just put it out there: The Bucks weren’t en route to winning the NBA title. They will continue to grow under a head coach in Jason Kidd who’s still learning on the job, and still should make the playoffs. It just won’t be with Jabari. This season.
17. Miami Heat (13-15, Last week: 17)
The Heat may have averted a full-on Cleveland crisis, but the hot start they began with is a distant memory today. Injuries have hampered Miami’s season, and this team hanging on by a thread in the Eastern Conference. Will they keep their playoff spot? Probably, but mostly by virtue of having even worse-off teams below them out East.
18. Brooklyn Nets (11-15, Last week: 18)
It’s hard to tell where the Nets are headed. This team is ready to be broken up and shipped across the NBA at any moment, with point guard Deron Williams looking like the “prized” asset teams may try to swindle away. Unfortunately he just isn’t the same guy who was wow’ing the league in Utah and has been steadily declining over the last few years.
19. Orlando Magic (10-20, Last week: 21)
Piggybacking on the Nets’ situation, the Magic are still on the cusp of basking in the warmth of the playoffs. It’s been a fairly quick swing of the pendulum since Dwight Howard’s departure, and they still have a LOT of work to do, but they’re fighting. They may not even need Brooklyn pulling the trigger and picking the team apart to make the playoff leap, but it sure wouldn’t hurt.
20. Denver Nuggets (12-15, Last week: 19)
Danilo Gallinari is out, again, with a serious knee injury. It’s unfortunate he hasn’t been able to get back to himself since tearing his ACL. This is a big blow for Denver, but Gallo was but a shadow of his former self through 24 games this season.
21. Sacramento Kings (12-15, Last week: 20)
This week in “What Are the Kings Doing”: trying to trade for Deron Williams! It’s weird that a team that seemed like it had such a good thing going is ready to go in a different direction, but owner Vivek Ranadive has proven he’s never satisfied.
22. Boston Celtics (10-15, Last week: 22)
It’s still hard to believe the Rajon Rondo “era” in Boston is over. It was a great run for Rondo, but the final piece of the “Big Three” era has been cut loose. It’s a brave new world.
23. Indiana Pacers (9-19, Last week: 24)
24. Charlotte Hornets (8-19, Last week: 26)
The Hornets’ schedule lightened up, and wins over the Jazz and 76ers are a good way to get out of the bottom-five of the power rankings. Charlotte’s six points per 100 possessions worse than they were last season, when it was near the .500 mark with a 13-14 record through 27 games.
25. Utah Jazz (8-20, Last week: 25)
Utah is in the middle of a long road trip and finally caught some harsh backlash from it. After picking up two wins, the Jazz went into Charlotte on the second half of a back-to-back. The result? An 18-point loss to one of the worst teams in the league right now. Yuck.
26. Los Angeles Lakers (8-19, Last week: 23)
Call it recency bias, but Kobe Bryant putting up 8-for-30 nights, with nine turnovers to boot, is probably not a good thing for the Lakers. Good luck on sitting Kobe to “rest” him though, Byron.
27. Detroit Pistons (5-23, Last week: 27)
Four games, four losses, and another week in the books for the Pistons. Everything seemed to be fitting status quo until Stan Van Gundy decided it was time to outright release Josh Smith. One more look at his shot chart this season for the road:
28. New York Knicks (5-25, Last week: 29)
The Knicks are in bad shape but get to rest up until Christmas day. Their gift? A game against the Washington Wizards, followed by a tough West coast road trip that includes games against the Kings, Trail Blazers and Clippers. Ho ho ho.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-21, Last week: 28)
The jig is up in Minnesota, it seems, as Corey Brewer has been sent off to Houston in exchange for Troy Daniels. Does it matter? Not really, but Brewer was having a solid season for the T-Wolves.
30. Philadelphia 76ers (3-23, Last week: 30)
More surprising: That the 76ers beat the Magic, or that they forced an overtime game against the Grizzlies?
*All data courtesy of NBA.com/stats unless otherwise noted