The Celtics are surging: NBA Power Rankings – Week Six
Welcome back to another week of NBA Power Rankings. The Boston Celtics are winners of 16-staight games. Does that make them worthy of the number one spot? The Cavaliers are finding their footing. Who are the top movers and shakers this week? Read on to find out all this and much more in our week six NBA Power Rankings.
- Golden State Warriors (13-4) (Last week’s ranking: 1) – The Warriors have won nine of their last 10 games. The regular season is largely a formality but they have a good chance to be the top seed. They are rounding into form behind their fearsome foursome and look to have a stranglehold on the number one spot in these rankings.
- Houston Rockets (13-4) (Last week’s ranking: 2) – The return of Chris Paul culminated in a 90 point half against the Suns and then a blowout of the Grizzlies. If Paul can help the Rockets move up a level from last season, it could lead to a huge showdown with the Warriors. Circle January 4th on your calendars as that will be the next time these two teams play.
- Boston Celtics (16-2) (Last week’s ranking: 3) – Another week has gone by, and the Celtics are still on fire. Shutting down the Warriors in Boston was one of their best wins of the young season. Monday’s OT win over the struggling Mavericks makes it 16-straight victories and counting. Kyrie Irving is hitting shots from just about everywhere on the floor, and the young talent around him is thriving. If they continue to play at this level, the top spot on our rankings will soon be theirs.
- San Antonio Spurs (11-6) (Last week’s ranking: 5) – Credit the Spurs veterans for continuing to keep the Spurs afloat without Kawhi Leonard. LaMarcus Aldridge has picked up the slack by averaging over 20 points a game but Pau Gasol, Kyle Anderson, Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, Rudy Gay, and Danny Green have all stepped up. They have helped keep the Spurs in the race and when Leonard returns, they could have a chance to pass one of the teams ahead of them.
- Cleveland Cavaliers (10-7) (Last week’s ranking: 9) – Hey, don’t look now, but the Cavaliers are streaking. Monday’s victory over the Pistons was their fifth in a row. The biggest concern in Cleveland right now is whether or not LeBron James is playing too many minutes. Will it affect his performance later in the season? Time will tell, but remember how foolish it is to bet against the King.
- Toronto Raptors (11-5) (Last week’s ranking: 12) – The Raptors are continuing to get the job done. They are currently riding a four-game win streak and are doing it with efficiency. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan look like All-Stars yet again. Nobody is really talking about them much, but the Raptors will be serious players in the Eastern Conference come playoff time.
- Washington Wizards (10-7) (Last week’s ranking: 4) – Watching John Wall and company battle some of the better teams in the East over the past week has been a lot of fun. Bradley Beal became the youngest player to make 700 three-pointers. This team is far from a finished product, but it is a fun one to watch.
- Minnesota Timberwolves (10-7) (Last week’s ranking: 7) – Minnesota continues to struggle defensively and it is starting to cost them games. They managed to win their close games in the beginning of the season but have watched games against the Hornets and Pistons slip their their fingers. Allowing 118 points to the Hornets must drive Coach Tom Thibodeau nuts. Meanwhile, offensively, there are still some growing pains. Karl Anthony-Towns is the only Timberwolf who is averaging over 20 points a game and the rest of the team has not been particularly efficient in reduced roles. While it is heartening that Minnesota has remained near the top of the conference to start the season, there is a lot to work out if they want to remain there.
- Denver Nuggets (10-7) (Last week’s ranking: 6) – There were a lot of questions coming into the season for Denver and very few have been answered. The log jams in the front court remain an issue and it is still unclear who the true point guard of this team is. Maybe Nikola Jokic will simply run the offense and it will not matter but the Nuggets will need to figure out their defense and their rotation with so many teams hanging around the playoff race in the Western Conference. Losing Paul Millsap for an indefinite time period due to left wrist surgery also really hurts their playoff chances.
- Portland Trail Blazers (10-7) (Last week’s ranking: 15) – Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum make this team go. Lillard deserves credit for both his play and his leadership. His playmaking and shooting help make all the players on the roster better. Portland also found their stopper in Al-Farouq Aminu who has been locking down opposing threats to start the season. They (like a lot of teams) are one wing short. Losing Allen Crabbe hurts. His shooting ability would be a perfect complement for the Trail Blazers and give their impressive unit of Jusuf Nurkic, Lillard, McCollum, and Aminu an extra jolt.
- Detroit Pistons (11-6) (Last week’s ranking: 10) – The comeback kids have done it time and time again. The Pistons have an NBA-high six victories after trailing by double digit points this season. For a team that was ready to push head coach Stan Van Gundy out the door, they sure are playing hard for him.
- Philadelphia 76ers (9-7) (Last week’s ranking: 11) – Did we witness a future NBA Finals preview this past weekend? The Sixers and Warriors played an intense game, with Philly blowing a huge lead and letting the defending champs come back to beat them. The Sixers are proving that they can be a playoff team for many years to come, but they just have to close out games against top competition.
- New York Knicks (9-7) (Last week’s ranking: 16) – The Knicks are unstoppable at home so far this season. A tough loss in Toronto last Friday set them back a bit, but they righted the ship with a convincing win over the lowly Clippers on Monday night. Are the Knicks for real? We are about to find out the answer as the schedule gets way tougher heading into December.
- New Orleans Pelicans (9-8) (Last week’s ranking: 17) – The Pelicans seemed the most exposed to injury risk given their past injury luck and their lack of depth. Instead, injuries have derailed much of their competition. Subsequently, the Pelicans find themselves in the driver’s seat for a playoff berth. Their lack of depth and complete lack of playable wings lower their ceiling but Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins look primed to bring New Orleans back to the playoffs.
- Milwaukee Bucks (8-8) (Last week’s ranking: 18) – Eric Bledsoe’s shooting struggles continue to plague the Bucks. They need some more time practicing together in order for them to develop chemistry. Games at Utah and Phoenix this week should help set things back on track for Milwaukee.
- Indiana Pacers (10-8) (Last week’s ranking: 22 – The Pacers are like a rollercoaster this season. They win some games, before dropping back below .500. A season-high fourth straight win currently has the arrow trending upward. Victor Oladipo is playing like an All-Star and making Pacers fans forget all about Paul George.
- Oklahoma City Thunder (7-9) (Last week’s ranking: 14) – Yes, the advanced stats do indicate that OKC is better than their record shows. No, it is not time to panic yet. However, the Thunder need to start winning games. They are already falling behind in the playoff race and a lower seed means facing one of the juggernauts in the first round and probably all three in order to make it to the NBA finals. If this team is serious about winning a championship they need to figure out an offensive balance and claw their way back into the hunt for a top five seed in the Western Conference.
- Orlando Magic (8-9) (Last week’s ranking: 13) – The Magic are slowly falling back to earth. Five straight losses has them below .500 for the first time this season. They are the prime example of a market correction. Their hot start may not have been more than a mirage of what they really are as a team.
- Memphis Grizzlies (7-9) (Last week’s ranking: 8) – Losing Mike Conley is devastating on so many levels for the Grizzlies. He is their best scorer, playmaker, and one of their best shooters. He is one of the most underrated players in the NBA and his partnership with Marc Gasol has been the oil to fuel the Grizzlies. Without him, the playoffs are a longshot for the Grizzlies.
- Utah Jazz (7-11) (Last week’s ranking: 19) – Losing Gobert for any amount of time is a major blow to Utah’s playoff chances. He means a lot to their team. He is their best defender and rim protector by far. He is also their best roll man in the pick and roll, best rebounder, and one of their most efficient scorers. He opens the floor for other players as opposing teams have to keep a body on him. Moreover, the Jazz simply lack the offensive punch to fill his shoes. Utah’s wings will need to step up in his absence in order to keep the Jazz in the playoff hunt.
- Miami Heat (7-9) (Last week’s ranking: 20) – The Heat continue to tread water in the East. They have tough games against the Celtics and Timberwolves this week before playing a favorable road game in Chicago. Can Dion Waiters bust out of his shooting slump and make some plays for Miami?
- Charlotte Hornets (7-9) (Last week’s ranking: 23) – Kemba Walker exploded for a 47-point outing in a loss to the Bulls, but the Hornets have been on the wrong end of several close losses this season. Their upcoming week does not get any easier with games against the Wizards, Cavaliers and Spurs.
- Los Angeles Lakers (7-10) (Last week’s ranking: 24) – Who could have predicted that the Lakers would be ahead of the Clippers so early in the season? The Lakers are probably not going to make the playoffs but their young players have been instrumental in their success so far and that bodes well for the team’s future. Lonzo Ball has been inconsistent but his playmaking and rebounding raise his floor quite a bit. Meanwhile, Kyle Kuzma has been a revelation as a rookie and Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle have all stepped up their play.
- Los Angeles Clippers (5-11) (Last week’s ranking: 21) – This was the worst case scenario for the Clippers. The pieces do not fit. They are shooting 44 percent as a team with two of their top five scorers below 40 percent. None of their top five are above 45 percent. The defense has somehow been worse, which has led the Clippers into the basement of the Western Conference. This disaster has been despite a mostly healthy start to the season. With Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari both locked up to long deals, the Clippers have their hands tied in terms of team building. Jerry West joined the front office and looks to have his hands full already.
- Brooklyn Nets (6-10) (Last week’s ranking: 25) – The Nets received more bad injury news when it was revealed that D’Angelo Russell underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and will be sidelined indefinitely. Brooklyn is now down its two best players and the schedule only gets harder from here. The Nets play extremely hard, but they will be the least talented squad on the floor against most opponents.
- Phoenix Suns (7-11) (Last week’s ranking: 26) – TJ Warren is showing he belongs. In spite of shooting below 10 percent on threes, Warren has maintained his efficient scoring by nailing mid range shots and scoring off cuts and creative finishes around the basket. Can Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender develop into quality NBA players? The jury is still out. The Suns are hoping rookies Mike James and Josh Jackson can make that question irrelevant. At the center of all of it is Devin Booker who remains the most likely to transcend to superstar status with his elite level of scoring and shooting.
- Chicago Bulls (3-11) (Last week’s ranking: 27) – The Bulls are still waiting for their first winning streak of the season, but they at least topped 100 points in consecutive games for the first time. Baby steps for the rebuilding Bulls, because they do not have much else to play for.
- Sacramento Kings (4-13) (Last week’s ranking: 28) – The only exciting thing about the Kings right now is that De’Aaron Fox and Lonzo Ball are about to square off for the first time as pros. That game will be on Wednesday night in Sacramento. Get your popcorn ready.
- Atlanta Hawks (3-14) (Last week’s ranking: 29) – The Hawks are a scrappy bunch, beating the Kings by 46 points last week. It was their largest win in franchise history. They may not win many games, but they will be in most of them.
- Dallas Mavericks (3-15) (Last week’s ranking: 30) – The Mavericks are slowly starting to improve, holding the Bucks to 79 points in one game. They also took the hottest team in the league, the Celtics to OT. I’d like to see the Mavericks string a few more victories together before anyone starts to take them seriously.
Biggest Mover: Toronto Raptors/Indiana Pacers (6)
Biggest Flop: Memphis Grizzlies (11)
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