NBA power rankings: John Wall has the Wizards soaring

The West is still dominant, but John Wall has the Wizards climbing into the top five of our power rankings.

1. Golden State Warriors (21-2, Last week: 1)

Golden State has won a franchise-best 16 games in a row and are now keeping the streak alive without Andrew Bogut. Yes, there’s cause for concern that Bogut is missing time, but as long as the wins keep rolling in, they’ll remain clear No. 1 team in our power rankings.

2. Houston Rockets (18-5, Last week: 2)

The Rockets have Dwight Howard back to take some of the load off James Harden. Sure, Houston lost to the Warriors, but so has everyone. They survived time without Dwight Howard and are now in a great position to cover some ground and take control of the No. 2 seed out West.

3. Memphis Grizzlies (19-4, Last week: 5)

The Grizzlies flipped the switch on for a quick four-game winning streak, but there was only one quality opponent during the stretch (Dallas Mavericks). Memphis has been chugging along all season

4. Washington Wizards (17-6, Last week: 9)

The Wizards got a big boost from a big John Wall week. Wall has been fantastic all season, playing the best all-around basketball of his career:

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The Wizards are primed to snatch the top spot in the Eastern Conference from the Toronto Raptors. They wiggle into the top-five because of a quality win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

5. Portland Trail Blazers (18-6, Last week: 3)

The Trail Blazers have been the NBA’s quiet giant in the Pacific Northwest, making big improvements on defense over last season:

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When you only include their starting lineup, that defensive rating improves even further. The starters are holding opponents to 97 points per 100 possessions.

6. Chicago Bulls (15-8, Last week: 10)

The Bulls are starting to ramp things up as their players actually play more games together, and that turned into a solid week with a quality win over the Trail Blazers. It’s still concerning that their defense (allowing 101.5 points per possession) has slipped over their usual mark, but their offense is also much better this season (scoring 105.8 points per 100 possessions). This is a very different Bulls team, which should have been expected with the signing of Pau Gasol and return of Derrick Rose.

7. Dallas Mavericks (17-8, Last week: 6)

It was a tough week for the Mavericks, who had a stacked three-game schedule. Losses to the Grizzlies and Warriors hurt, but both are quality opponents. Surviving 31 points from Anthony Davis? The saving grace of their week. Dallas has been great by the metrics, but it’s been an up-and-down season.

8. San Antonio Spurs (17-7, Last week: 4)

It was a disastrous week for the Spurs. They dropped games to both the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers and fell out of the top five for it. Someone just give Pop’ a break:

9. Atlanta Hawks (16-7, Last week: 12)

The Hawks have gone 9-1 over their last 10 games, surging up the Eastern Conference rankings. They were seconds away from being 10-0 in that same stretch, but a buzzer-beater from Tobias Harris sapped their great streak.

10. Los Angeles Clippers (16-7, Last week: 7)

The Clippers won 10 straight, then burned out in back-to-back games against the Wizards and Bucks. Doc Rivers has Los Angeles playing great offensively (110.1 points scored per 100 possessions, up from last season’s NBA-best 109.4), but the defense has slipped a bit.

11. Toronto Raptors (18-6, Last week: 11)

The Raptors are leaning on their depth to keep afloat, particularly a rejuvenated Lou Williams. He’s putting up the best per-36 minutes of his career, making for a serious Sixth Man of the Year campaign. His player efficiency rating is also a career-high:

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12. Cleveland Cavaliers (13-9, Last week: 8)

It’s unfortunate LeBron James sat out of the Cavaliers’ game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, which led to their big winning streak to ending. But following it up with a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans — who lost Anthony Davis early on — was ugly. Back to the grindstone for the Cavaliers.

13. Oklahoma City Thunder (11-13, Last week: 19)

The Thunder are rallying back and are just a half-game out from the eighth seed in the Western Conference. I guess having Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant back makes a difference. Who knew?!

14. Milwaukee Bucks (12-12, Last week: 14)

FEAR THE DEER. The Bucks are in the rare position of competing on a nightly basis while they play their young core regularly. Jabari Parker is struggling to find his NBA three-point shot, but is shooting 49 percent overall. That’s a great mark for any “perimeter” player, especially a rookie.

15. Phoenix Suns (12-13, Last week: 13)

Yuck, Suns. They’re on a five-game skid — the longest of their season — and surely feel their playoff spot slipping away as the Thunder surge back up with their star players returned to the lineup. The seven West teams ahead of Phoenix in the standings are clearly on another level, which is a bad sign for Phoenix as they try to get back to contending.

16. New Orleans Pelicans (11-12, Last week: 18)

Anthony Davis is missing time with a chest injury, but the Pelicans aren’t throwing in the towel. They went on to beat the Cavaliers and pushed the Warriors to overtime before finally folding. Tyreke Evans has been huge in both games, accumulating 35 points and 18 assists.

17. Miami Heat (11-13, Last week: 16)

It’s clear the Heat aren’t an elite team anymore. It’s not easy to recover from a talent like LeBron James leaving and they’ve done a lot better than the Cavaliers, but there’s only so much you could have expected from Miami.

18. Brooklyn Nets (10-12, Last week: 21)

Weak week for Brooklyn, which beat up on two bottom feeders (Hornets, 76ers) while getting blown out by actual Eastern Conference contenders (Bulls, Cavaliers). They’re in serious danger of missing the playoffs, so it’s no wonder the front office is ready to make drastic changes.

19. Denver Nuggets (10-14, Last week: 20)

Ty Lawson’s been relentlessly attacking the rim, but it’s been a hit-and-miss experience. Yes, he leads the league in drives per game, but he’s also shooting just 39.1 percent when he does:

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Meanwhile, Tony Parker, everybody.

20. Sacramento Kings (11-13, Last week: 15)

Firing Michael Malone for not reaching “expectations” while DeMarcus Cousins recovers from viral meningitis is not a smart decision.

21. Orlando Magic (10-16, Last week: 22)

Orlando is flirting with the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, trailing the Nets by just two games. Tobias Harris is having a career season while putting on late-game heroics. There’s a chance the Magic jump over Brooklyn for a trip to the playoffs.

22. Boston Celtics (7-14, Last week: 17)

The Celtics tripped over the rug at the top of the stairs and tumbled all the way to the bottom. They lost three games this past week, including ugly losses to the Hornets and Knicks.

23. Los Angeles Lakers (8-16, Last week: 24)

As the Lakers move up in the win column and power rankings, they move further away from retaining their draft pick. At least they got to celebrate Kobe Bryant passing Michael Jordan on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, though:

24. Indiana Pacers (7-17, Last week 23)

And just like that, the Pacers are 1-9 over their last 10 games and can no longer rely on Chris Copeland and Donald Sloan to carry them to wins.

25. Utah Jazz (6-18, Last week: 25)

The bottom of the NBA is a depressing place and the Jazz haven’t been able to climb out of it even with Dante Exum on board and Quin Snyder bringing a new coaching philosophy. It’s been a disappointing season for the Jazz, who should be showing growth as a team. Instead, it’s more of the same.

26. Charlotte Hornets (6-17, Last week: 27)

Things have gone horribly wrong for the Hornets and the front office is ready to travel back in time to a place without Lance Stephenson.

27. Detroit Pistons (5-19, Last week: 30)

The Pistons ended the NBA’s longest losing streak with back-to-back wins over the Suns and Kings. They’re still very bad, and Stan Van Gundy is at a wall with this team — as constructed — already.

28. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-18, Last week: 26)

Minnesota finds itself at the bottom of the Western Conference as they try to scuttle along without key players. Panic? Nah. Their 2015 first-round pick is top-12 protected, which means they’re on track to add another premium player with their young core. Shifting into a full-on rebuild while being afforded a chance to develop the future of their franchise one game at a time isn’t that bad

29. New York Knicks (5-21, Last week: 28)

One and 11. That’s the Knicks over their last 12 games. The first dip into the Triangle era hasn’t been pretty and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel right now.

30. Philadelphia 76ers (2-21, Last week, 29)

Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again.

*All data courtesy of NBA.com/stats

December 15, 2014 by : Posted in Uncategorized No Comments

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