Dubs back on top: NBA Power Rankings – Week Seven
Welcome to the post-Thanksgiving edition of the DGS NBA Power Rankings, . The Boston Celtics finally lost a game, and a familiar team is back on top. Who are the top movers and shakers this week? Read on to find out all this and much more in our week seven NBA Power Rankings.
- Golden State Warriors (15-6) (Last week’s ranking: 1) – The Warriors have proven that they are a dominant team with or without Kevin Durant on the floor. They had won 19-straight games, including the playoffs when Durant doesn’t play until the Sacramento Kings came into Oracle on Monday night and shocked the Dubs. Keep in mind that Steph Curry was also sitting out, so this loss doesn’t hold much stock.
- Houston Rockets (16-4) (Last week’s ranking: 2) – Chris Paul is settling nicely next to James Harden in Houston’s offense. The Rockets are now 6-0 with the two stars in the lineup. The Rockets just aren’t winning games, they are dismantling opponents with Paul and Harden on the floor. With both Durant and Curry nursing various injuries, Houston could contend for the best record in the NBA and potentially the top spot in these rankings.
- Boston Celtics (18-4) (Last week’s ranking: 3) – The Celtics have two losses in their last four games with a tough stretch looming, including a game against Philly and road games against Detroit and San Antonio. Then again, the Celtics have the best record in the NBA and Kyrie Irving is generating MVP buzz without even playing his best basketball. His three point and free throw shooting are both down from a season ago. If he turns it on, the rest of the league will be in trouble.On defense, Boston remains number one with Al Horford, Marcus Smart, and Jaylen Brown making life miserable for opponents. The defense might regress but those three are All-Defense caliber players and make the Celtics a nightmare to face on any given night.
- Cleveland Cavaliers (13-7) (Last week’s ranking: 5) – Apparently all the Cavaliers needed was for DGS to slide them down the power rankings. Cleveland is showing that the supporting cast might not matter as long as they have the best player in the league. Kevin Love has been a capable complement to LeBron James but it is all about the king. For November, LeBron is averaging nearly 31 points a game to go with over a block and steal a game, and over eight assists and rebounds a game. He is doing all that while shooting over 57 percent from the field and about 43 percent from deep. In his 15th season, LeBron has a PER over 30 and has propelled the Cavaliers to wins in 10 of their last 11 games.
- San Antonio Spurs (13-7) (Last week’s ranking: 4) – Tony Parker is back. Much to the delight of Spurs fans, their future Hall-of-Fame point guard made his season debut during Monday’s win over the Dallas Mavericks. After not playing basketball in seven months due to a ruptured left quadriceps muscle, Parker chipped in six points and four assists in the win. With both LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol playing well, the Spurs are looking like a real force out West, getting healthy while the rest of the conference is marred with injuries.
- Detroit Pistons (13-6) (Last week’s ranking: 11) – How about DEEE-TROIT-BASKETBALL? With a win against the Celtics, the Pistons have proved they are for real. Tobias Harris and Andre Drummond have elevated their games this season. Drummond is still above 60 percent from the free throw line. Good for him. The mental difficulties that professional basketball players face are well above what the average person can imagine so kudos to Drummond for working hard to improve his free throws from both a physical and mental aspect. The improved free throws have correspondingly led to added aggression on offense. He went to down against Al Horford against Boston both facing up and on the block. He continues to be a rebounding monster and his success has fueled the Pistons.One stat to continue watching for this team is their bench production. Despite the strong play of their starters, the Pistons have played so well largely because their bench has been running opposing teams off the floor. It will be interesting to see if they can continue to dominate opposing reserves as the season continues.
- Toronto Raptors (12-7) (Last week’s ranking: 6) – This has been a classic Toronto season. They remain on the fringes of NBA discussion even as they figure to be a top four or five playoff seed. There is still a lot of intrigue here. Can they continue to adjust to the new style of play Coach Dwane Casey has installed? What will they do at the trade deadline? What should we make of all the young talent here? Is Brunco Caboclo ever going to be anything other than an article about his potential and a short video clip? The Raptors look boring to a casual fan but the swirling eddy of questions make them a fascinating team to watch.
- Minnesota Timberwolves (12-8) (Last week’s ranking: 8) – Minnesota has played extremely well at home this season, going 7-3 at Target Center. They start this next week wrapping up a four-game homestand against a Wizards team who will be without All-Star point guard John Wall. Afterwards, they have tough contests against the Pelicans, Thunder and Clippers, so they would be wise to take advantage of some home cooking on Tuesday.
- Portland Trail Blazers (13-8) (Last week’s ranking: 10) – The Trail Blazers finished up a five-game road trip with an impressive 4-1 record. They came back to beat both the Brooklyn Nets and Washington Wizards before running the New York Knicks out of their own gym. If they keep this level of play up, there’s no way Damian Lillard will be an All-Star snub this season.
- Philadelphia 76ers (11-8) (Last week’s ranking: 12) – The loss to the Cavaliers on Monday showed the 76ers still have a ways to come but that should not stop us from appreciating how far they have already come. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid should be the foundation of prolonged success. Both could become top 10 players in the league. The major question mark remains Markelle Fultz. There is still no timetable for his exact return but his presence would dramatically improve the team and could be the final piece of the puzzle for Philly.In other news, free Jah! Jahlil Okafor’s trade value continues to wilt as he remains chained to the bench. Okafor has shown enough to be on an NBA team, particularly given his age. If the 76ers can not find a trade partner, they need to play him or release him.
- Indiana Pacers (12-9) (Last week’s ranking: 16) – The Pacers have earned this. The rankings committee has been skeptical but Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis have been making everyone believers. The haul for Paul George is looking better by the day as George struggles and the Pacers worm their way into the playoff hunt. Oladipo has played like an all-star. He is their best offensive player and has the best defensive rating on the team. If he keeps playing like this, it might be enough to get Indiana into the postseason.
- Washington Wizards (10-9) (Last week’s ranking: 7) – The Wizards are 5-5 in their last 10 games and now face the loss of John Wall. Wall will apparently miss just two weeks but the Wizards would be better served being cautious with his return. If Wall is not 100 percent, the Wizards stand no chance at winning the Eastern Conference. All eyes will be on Bradley Beal and Otto Porter to see if they can step up without their star point guard. The next two weeks will be very telling. If Beal, Porter, and the rest of the squad can weather the storm and keep the Wizards afloat then they can retain their status as a contender. If not, the Wizards’ ceiling might be the second round of the playoffs.
- Denver Nuggets (11-8) (Last week’s ranking: 9) – Paul Millsap’s injury has given Kenneth Faried a renewed purpose in Denver’s lineup. He fits nicely next to Nikola Jokic, with Mason Plumlee giving quality minutes off the bench. Here’s an interesting stat: The Nuggets are among the league leaders in deflections per game, getting almost 15 per night. Active hands are leading to transition baskets, which are leading to wins. Credit coach Michael Malone and his staff for keeping spirits high amid injuries to some of the better players on the team.
- New Orleans Pelicans (11-9) (Last week’s ranking: 14) – The Pelicans begun using a three guard lineup to start games, starting E’Twaun Moore next to Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday. The results have been mixed, but New Orleans has been a much faster team with the three guards on the floor next to DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis. The Pelicans face the Timberwolves this week in a matchup pitting two of the young up-and-coming teams in the West against one another.
- Miami Heat (10-9) (Last week’s ranking: 21) – Many surprise Eastern Conference teams have fallen backwards but Miami has begun to surge. They are 6-4 in their last 10 games with three in a row including wins against Boston and Minnesota. They play Cleveland tonight in a great matchup. The key to their success has been Dion Waiters. He played well against both Minnesota and Boston. His play is a barometer for their success as a team. It is a scary thought but Miami will likely only go as far as Waiters can take them.
- Oklahoma City Thunder (8-11) (Last week’s ranking: 17) – The Thunder are reeling. After a promising start to the season, Oklahoma City’s lack of depth is beginning to show on the court. They beat the Warriors at home to start the week, but followed that up with consecutive losses against the surprising Pistons and dreadful Mavericks. The good news is, there’s plenty of season left for them to figure things out and make a serious playoff push.
- New York Knicks (10-10) (Last week’s ranking: 13) – The Knicks are starting to fall back to earth and that might be for the best. New York had a nice start but does not have the horses to compete at this point. The Knicks should gladly take a higher lottery pick rather than becoming roadkill in the first round of the playoffs. Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway, and Frank Ntilikina form a fearsome troika already. Add another piece through the draft and maybe another through free agency and the Knicks could contend sooner rather than later.
- Milwaukee Bucks (9-9) (Last week’s ranking: 15) – What else can you say about this team? The Bucks are Giannis Antetokounmpo and spare parts. Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton are nice players but neither is moving the needle in Milwaukee. The poor defense borders on coaching malpractice at this point. The Bucks need to find their coach of the future because it is not Jason Kidd. It is incomprehensible that a team with so many strong defenders could be 22nd in defense. With two coaches already out the door, the Bucks might want to make it three if they want to salvage their season.
- Utah Jazz (9-11) (Last week’s ranking: 20) – The Jazz are one of the many injury-ravaged teams in the Western Conference. If they are able to tread water until Rudy Gobert returns, that will bode really well for their playoff chances. Donovan Mitchell is making his case for ROY, but he probably won’t do enough to win it. Even still, the Jazz have definitely found a keeper in the youngester out of Louisville.
- Charlotte Hornets (8-11) (Last week’s ranking: 22) – Charlotte’s success this season will come down to its bench. The starters for the Hornets all have positive net ratings. Jeremy Lamb, Dwight Howard, and Kemba Walker have all played exceptionally well. Meanwhile, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has the best net rating on the team. They are taking care of business while the bench has been squandering those leads. Hopefully, the return of Batum will start to help the bench but the Hornets need players like Frank Kaminsky, Cody Zeller, and Malik Monk to step up if they hope to make the playoffs.
- Orlando Magic (8-13) (Last week’s ranking: 18) – No one is a believer anymore. The Magic have fallen back to earth with a thud. They have lost nine in a row to fall well below .500 and possibly out of the playoff race. The shooting that propelled them to a great start has abandoned them. It is hard to ignore that the Magic are 3-10 in games that Elfrid Payton plays. Those three wins were against Phoenix, New York, and Miami. If the Magic want to move forward, they might need to do it without Payton.
- Memphis Grizzlies (7-12) (Last week’s ranking: 19) – All it took was a loss to the Nets for it to be the final straw for head coach David Fizdale. The team fired Fizdale after just 19 games. The Grizzlies are quickly falling in the standings and ownership must have wanted a scapegoat. I don’t agree with the move, but let’s see if it ignites a spark on Beale street or leads to a total rebuild. Chandler Parsons is also having difficulty staying healthy. He needs to be out there if the team has any chance of winning.
- Los Angeles Lakers (8-12) (Last week’s ranking: 23) – Kyle Kuzma is one of the steals of the draft. Lonzo Ball is still finding his footing. Brandon Ingram has made major strides in his second season and Brook Lopez has been a solid veteran contributor. The return of Larry Nance this week should help set things back on track. The Lakers may be losing, but they are definitely fun to watch.
- Los Angeles Clippers (8-11) (Last week’s ranking: 24) – Another year, another Blake Griffin injury. He injured his MCL during Monday’s win over the Lakers and could miss significant time. Griffin is a bonafide All-Star when healthy, but he can’t stay on the court the past few seasons. The Clippers have been marred by injuries this season and cannot afford to lose Griffin for any extended time period. DeAndre Jordan could be the only opening night starter left on the court the next time the Clippers play.
- Brooklyn Nets (7-13) (Last week’s ranking: 25) – There are dark clouds settling over Brooklyn. The Nets have been besieged by injuries but the silver lining has been the play of their replacements. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has been a revelation and should be a major keeper. Meanwhile, Spencer Dinwiddie came to the Nets from the Bulls and has gone from third string point guard to budding star. The run-and-gun Nets have been plugging and playing their young players to great success and Coach Kenny Atkinson deserves some serious credit.
- Phoenix Suns (7-14) (Last week’s ranking: 26) – When the biggest story of your week is Alex Len’s frustration about lack of playing time, you know you’re in trouble. The Suns are competitive but they don’t have a long-term rebuilding plan at the moment. The good news for Phoenix is that they play the Chicago Bulls this week. Someone has to win, right?
- Sacramento Kings (6-14) (Last week’s ranking: 28) – Break up the Kings! They went into Oracle Arena and defeated the Warriors, who were without both Kevin Durant and Steph Curry. That could wind up being the signature win of the season for the lowly Kings. Vince Carter has proven he can still play. Hopefully the Kings can work out a buyout with him, allowing him to make one more postseason run with a contender.
- Dallas Mavericks (5-16) (Last week’s ranking: 30) – The Mavericks have made small strides since their dreadful start, winning two games in a row. They are showing signs of life, but in the Western Conference it might already be too little, too late. The only reason to watch them right now is to see the great Dirk Nowitzki before he retires.
- Atlanta Hawks (4-16) (Last week’s ranking: 29) – The Good News: Dennis Schroeder and John Collins are keepers. Both players look like they could be starters on a good team. Kent Bazemore is a bit overpaid but him and Taurean Prince have shown they can be role players.The Bad News: Miles Plumlee is on a dreadful contract while Dwight Howard has thrived in Charlotte. Plumlee has played a grand total of nine minutes all year and is under contract until 2020 with a cap hit of $12.4 million each year. As the Hawks rebuild, they need to find a way to get out from under that contract.
- Chicago Bulls (3-15) (Last week’s ranking: 27) – Well, Bulls fans, that time has come. Chicago is officially the worst team in the NBA. The Bulls feature the most inept offense in the NBA at under 95 points a game. Lauri Markkanen was the lone bright spot but has struggled recently. He is shooting 25 percent from the floor in his past four games. One silver lining has been his rebounding, which has been significantly improved from his lone year at Arizona.
Biggest Mover: Miami Heat (6)
Biggest Flop: Washington Wizards (5)