NBA power rankings: Western Conference shows its superiority
The Warriors are No. 1, but six Western Conference teams are close behind. Yes: the top seven teams are from the West.
1. Golden State Warriors (17-2, Last week: 1a)
The Warriors keep on winning, making it 12 straight after defeating the Bulls Saturday. Sure, there was a scare against the Orlando Magic, but Stephen Curry put that one to bed. Then, they demolished the New Orleans Pelicans and handled the Bulls. The last time Golden State lost: Nov. 11. They’re two wins away from making it an entire month without taking an L and are clearly the best team in the NBA through the first quarter of the season.
2. Houston Rockets (16-4, Last week: 6)
Alright, Rockets. If you want to be defiant and continue winning games even though Dwight Howard is out, you’ll get what you deserve, which is a rise up the power rankings. Houston has been playing great all season and has kept it rolling even without its franchise center anchoring the paint:
Their offense has been slightly better and the defense is slightly worse, but overall their profile is fairly similar without Howard. Credit to the Rockets for keeping things together.
3. Portland Trail Blazers (16-4, Last week: 4)
The Trail Blazers had a cupcake week, with games against the Nuggets, Pacers and Knicks. All three games were close, but Portland keeps rolling through the league. The Blazers have lost one game since Nov. 9 and seem to be the quiet giant in the West.
4. San Antonio Spurs (15-5, Last week: 3)
San Antonio dropped one to the Nets in overtime, but Tim Duncan’s triple-double performance in a win over the Memphis Grizzlies was enough to keep San Antonio in the top five comfortably. Now let’s talk about passes. Specifically, how they’re not all created equally:
San Antonio moves the ball with purpose. They’re the only team in the top five of passes per game with a top-10 offensive rating, mostly because their passes lead to shot opportunities. Amazingly, three of the teams represented here have bottom-10 offensive ratings.
5. Memphis Grizzlies (16-4, Last week: 1b)
It was not a great week for the Grizzlies, losing back-to-back games for the first time this season. That’s exacerbated by the fact they fell to a Rockets team without Howard. They’re still in the top five, but are no longer 1B to the excellent Warriors.
6. Dallas Mavericks (16-6, Last week: 5)
It was a good week to be Monta Ellis, who hit a go-ahead three in a great overtime game against the Bulls:
Then sunk his former team, the Bucks:
/insert have it all reference.
7. Los Angeles Clippers (14-5, Last week: 8)
Los Angeles went 3-0 last week, outscoring their opponents by an average of 24.7 points. Their schedule looks favorable, which should mean a continued climb up the Western Conference standings. Last week, I mentioned the Clippers’ three-point shooting suddenly spiked up. This week, I’ll just mention they currently lead the league in three-point shooting percentage at 39.1 percent despite their awful start.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (11-7, Last week: 11)
The Cavaliers are on a six-game winning streak, but the quality of wins isn’t high. There’s nothing too impressive aside from a convincing win against the Wizards. Still, gaining momentum is important for Cleveland. The Cavaiers have been a streaky time, but this is their largest streak in either direction this season.
9. Washington Wizards (13-6, Last week: 7)
Washington had no trouble against the Heat, Nuggets and Lakers but were drubbed by the Celtics. Don’t let the final score fool you: Boston went wire-to-wire and led by as many as 25 points. That kind of loss leaves a cloud above an otherwise solid week.
10. Chicago Bulls (12-8, Last week: 9)
Not a great week for Chicago, but they had two West powerhouses in the Mavericks and Warriors to deal with. Still, those losses aren’t going to sink this team too far in the power rankings. Yet.
11. Toronto Raptors (15-5, Last week: 12)
It’s hard to love the Raptors, even if they still lead the Eastern Conference. Things are going to be rough without DeMar DeRozan. Check back next week.
12. Atlanta Hawks (13-6, Last week: 14)
The Hawks have a six-game winning streak, are just 1.5 games behind first place and have a very soft schedule coming up. Atlanta may very well be the No. 1 seed in the East next power rankings after games with the Pacers, 76ers and a back-to-back against the the Magic next up.
Much of this is thanks to Kyle Korver, who is enjoying a career year and is one of the best catch-and-shoot artists in the NBA:
Korver has always been known as a shooting specialist, and his ability to stretch the floor has been one of the focal points in the Hawk’s offense. It’s no surprise Atlanta scores 10.8 points per 100 possessions less when Korver is on the bench, tied with Jeff Teague as the biggest on/off swing on offense for the Hawks.
13. Phoenix Suns (12-9, Last week: 13)
Phoenix is looking more and more like the Western Conference team that is going to swoop up the eighth seed if the Thunder can’t rally, especially while they thrive as DeMarcus Cousins misses time.
14. Milwaukee Bucks (11-11, Last week: 16)
OK Giannis Antetokounmpo, we get it. Antetokounmpo has such a ridiculous stride that he’s blurring the line between traveling violations and jaw-dropping moments. But this dunk on Chris Bosh?
No questions necessary. Wow.
15. Sacramento Kings (10-10, Last week: 15)
The Kings’ hot start is fizzling while DeMarcus Cousins sits with an illness. There’s still plenty of time for them to make up for lost ground, but the Western Conference waits for no one. They really need Boogie back.
16. Miami Heat (9-11, Last week: 10)
The Heat’s season started off promising, but stalled once Dwyane Wade started missing time. Wade’s back, but that’s amounted to one win and a fresh five-game losing streak. Three of those losses were to teams slated to make the Eastern Conference playoffs as of now, which isn’t a great sign for the Heat.
17. Boston Celtics (7-11, Last week: 22)
The Celtics rattled off a three-game winning streak, including an impressive win over the Wizards. Rajon Rondo leads the league in assists and put on a clinic against Los Angeles, dishing out more dimes (16) than the entire Lakers team (14).
18. New Orleans Pelicans (9-10, Last week: 18)
The Pelicans had a trip through California that didn’t go so hot, but closing it out with a game against the Lakers helped ease the pain a bit. New Orleans has a brutal week coming up, though, so this might not get any better any time soon.
19. Oklahoma City Thunder (7-13, Last week: 23)
20. Denver Nuggets (9-11, Last week: 17)
21. Brooklyn Nets (8-10, Last week: 20)
The Nets beat the Spurs in overtime but fell in the power rankings. Why? Simple: Boston’s been playing well and the Thunder finally have a whole team again. Sorry about that, Nets fans.
22. Orlando Magic (9-14, Last week: 21)
Orlando went 2-2, losing the games they should have (Clippers, Warriors) and winning the games they should have (Jazz, Cousins-less Kings). They’ve been consistent all season, but the mark their hitting is a below-average one.
23. Indiana Pacers (7-13, Last week: 19)
“The Pacers are hanging in there with a depleted roster, you say? BAM, how about now?!”
24. Los Angeles Lakers (5-16, Last week: 29)
The Lakers have clawed their way out of the bottom-five for the first time this season! As an aside, Kobe Bryant is a mere 62 points away from passing Michael Jordan on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. It’s coming.
25. Utah Jazz (5-15, Last week: 25)
The Jazz keep on tumbling down the Western Conference standings and barely miss falling into the bottom five this week. If there was a terrifying coach rankings, Quin Snyder would have them at the top by a mile:
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (4-15, Last week: 26)
Minnesota is on a five-game skid and were the first team to fall to the 76ers. The plus side? Flip Saunders is giving his young roster plenty of time on the court
27. Charlotte Hornets (5-15, Last week: 28)
The Hornets are still dealing with a severe hangover from last season, but Kemba Walker gave The Hive something to cheer about when he hit this game-winning layup against the Knicks:
28. New York Knicks (4-18, Last week: 24)
The Knicks are…. bad. Bad enough to let the Hornets break their 10-game losing streak against them. Maybe Carmelo Anthony should take his time with this sore back.
29. Philadelphia 76ers (2-18, Last week: 30)
Guys, guys, the 76ers aren’t last! Someone check on Sam Hinkie, because Philadelphia is suddenly creeping on Detroit and New York.
30. Detroit Pistons (3-18, Last week: 28)
The Pistons have the longest losing streak in the NBA now, up to 12, and lost games to both the 76ers and Lakers in the same week. This is the best thing that happened to fans in Detroit this week:
*All statistical data courtesy of NBA.com/stats