With NBA in full swing, some teams have surprised as contenders and other have been exposed as pretenders. We’ve seen scoring, defense, injuries and surprising starts. MVP candidates have emerged and preseason picks have not been what they seemed. Here are my NBA Power Rankings for the Week of January 25.
1. Golden State Warriors 35-6
Is there any NBA team that could stop the hot handed Warriors? With both Klay Thompson and Steph Curry playing out of their minds, it would take the NBA removing the 3-point line to put down this team.
2. Atlanta Hawks 36-8
This is the result of team basketball at its finest. Mike Budenholzer has turned a superstar-less team into a serious contender by incorporating a team first mentality. This is the same mentality Budenholzer’s mentor, Gregg Popovich, used to win 5 NBA Championships.
Follow us after the jump for the rest of our power rankings
3. Dallas Mavericks 30-14
This unbelievably stacked roster put together by Mark Cuban is beginning to click with newly added point guard Rajon Rondo. With threats on both the outside and inside in Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler, I expect for the Mavs to continue to climb the Western Conference after a somewhat slow start.
4. Los Angeles Clippers 29-14
Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are being used very efficiently by Doc Rivers, resulting in a 3 game win streak and a 7-3 record over the last 10. Add these two stars along with a stacked bench and a new NBA owner with passion for this team, and an NBA Championship can be in the Clippers near future.
5. San Antonio Spurs 28-17
I don’t think anyone should be surprised with this. San Antonio always finds a way to win by playing as a team and using 3-point shooting to their advantage. If everyone can continue to produce and stay healthy, the Spurs will not be a team anyone wants to meet in the postseason.
6. Portland Trailblazers 32-13
A big win against the Wizards has the Trailblazers up to 32 wins now, and Damian Lillard is continuing to play well from his Rookie of the Year campaign last season. But with a big injury for LaMarcus Aldridge, the Trailblazers have to figure out a way to make up for him and fast.
7. Memphis Grizzlies 31-12
The Grizzlies are playing great defensive basketball, and with the addition of Jeff Green coming over from the Celtics, they are also beginning to score the ball as well. Marc Gasol is a starting All-Star center for the first time in his career. If they continue to play like this, the Grizzlies might overtake the West and end up in the Finals.
8. Houston Rockets 30-14
The Rockets are getting great numbers out of James Harden whose leading the NBA in scoring currently. Unfortunately, the defense is just not there and if someone can’t put up big numbers on offense, the Rockets seem to fall to teams that are not as talented as them. That being said, I do not believe the Rockets are ready for a Finals run just yet. It may take a coaching change before they can get there.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers 25-20
If I were to tell you on opening day of the NBA season that in late January the Cavs were only the 9th best team in the NBA you would probably laugh in my face. LeBron has seemed disinterested, Kevin Love can’t put the ball in the hoop some nights and is atrocious on defense and Kyrie Irving feels like he has to be the scoring option, taking poor shots and passing less. But with a win streak of 5, including a big victory against the Thunder tonight, the Big Three for Cleveland seems like they are starting to figure out how to play with each other. I just don’t think the Kevin Love deal was the right one for the Cavs.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder 22-22
The Thunder fell into a hole that they just cannot seem to escape when both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant missed time. When they play well, I believe there is not team in the NBA that can keep up with them. The problem is they just haven’t been playing the well lately, dropping games to both Cleveland and Atlanta. Hopefully Scott Brooks can get them back on track and finals bound.
11. Washington Wizards
As I have said before, the Wizards may have the best starting five other than the Warriors or the Cavaliers on paper. When both Nene and Marcin Gortat are feeling good, this Wizards team is dominant. Add the shooting ability of John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Paul Pierce and you have one deadly team. Don’t sleep on the Wizards come the second half of the season and the postseason.
12. Phoenix Suns 26-19
The Suns seem to be hitting their stride after a slow start in the beginning of the season. The trio of Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas are averaging a combined 48.7 points per game. Add that with the Suns making the wise trade market move time and time again and it is easy to see why the Suns will continue to be successful and get better for the next couple of seasons to come and even beyond.
13. Chicago Bulls 26-17
The Bulls have a great team that is playing a little inconsistent as of right now. The addition of Pau Gasol was a wise one, evident by his recent selection as an All-Star starter out of the East. But the mind boggling loss to the Miami Heat tonight and the horrible offensive play of Joakim Noah has me scratching my head on where to place this team. I thought for sure the Bulls were contenders, having a healthy Derrick Rose and Gasol, along with an emerging star in Jimmy Butler and a very deep bench unit. However, they may in fact be pretenders if they cannot pull their act together.
14. New Orleans Pelicans 22-21
The Pelicans have made tremendous strides forward following last years disappointing campaign. Anthony Davis is the starting center in the All-Star game coming out of the West and is playing like an MVP candidate. However, I do not think the Pelicans are there yet in terms of making the next tremendous leap forward. However, a healthy Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon will help a lot and with Davis continuing to improve, the sky is the limit for the young man. The Pelicans will be a great team for years to come.
15. Toronto Raptors 28-15
The Raptors are a tricky one in my mind. On one hand, All-Star Kyle Lowry is showing why he deserved his pay raise from last season, averaging 19.8 points per game. But other than scoring, the Raptors rank in the bottom 15 for the other three major categories: rebounding, assists and points allowed. They have some great wins against playoff teams and some head scratching losses against teams in the bottom half of the NBA. I don’t know how far the Raptors will get in the playoffs, but I don’t think they are quite ready for a Finals run just yet.
16. Milwaukee Bucks 22-21
The Bucks are the feel good team of the year. Jason Kidd has lead his squad to 6th place in the East despite a devastating season-ending injury to 2nd pick overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, Jabrari Parker. Brandon Knight has come out as the player the Pistons thought they were drafting under the tutelage of Bucks second year head coach Kidd.
17. Miami Heat 20-24
The Heat currently sit in 7th place in the East with their 20 wins, but have also dropped some bad games earlier in the season, including losses to Indian, Orlando and Philadelphia. The Heat rank in the bottom five in points per game, rebounds per game, and assists per game, but are 5th in points allowed per game. But the good news for the Heat is the emergence of Hassan Whiteside, who has an incredible 26.05 PER this season. Hopefully the have found a defensive team identity and continue to climb the ranks.
18. Utah Jazz 16-28
I don’t think the Jazz’s record is any indication of the talent on their team. Trey Burke has been playing well in the Jazz’s 2 game win streak and Gordon Hayward is averaging career highs across the board, playing up to the big 4 year deal he signed with Utah in the offseason. I believe the Jazz will start winning more games and begin to find their identity as a team.
19. Detroit Pistons 17-27
What a blow the Brandon Jennings injury is for the Detroit Pistons. The player who seemed to benefit the most after Detroit waived Josh Smith may be out for the season with a torn achilles tendon. He was leading the team in points per game and assists per game. Now it is up to Andre Drummond to continue to play at high levels of intensity if the Pistons wish to continue winning games.
20. Charlotte Hornets 19-27
I never thought the Hornets would regress as much as they did. They seemed to get better, taking Lance Stephenson away for the Indiana Pacers to add to the roster that made the playoffs last season. At the moment the Hornets sit in 8th place in the Eastern Conference and are 8-2 over the last 10 games. However, they can’t seem to score consistently and are already looking to moving Stephenson in the near future. They are just a mess right now.
21. Boston Celtics 15-26
The Celtics are only thinking about their future. They continue to move any decent players at a whim as long as draft picks are flowing back in. They traded the last key player from the Big Three Championship team after sending Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks. The only hope for Celtics fans is to look forward to your future. And it is a bright one. Head Coach Brad Stevens continues to beat teams much more talented with his sub-par roster, and Marcus Smart made the Rondo trade that much easier. Hang in there Celtics fans.
22. Denver Nuggets 18-25
The Nuggets will also have to wait for the future. Although they have a very good cornerstone in Kenneth Faried, the just don’t have a scorer to place next the the high energy 4 to make this team competitive. Add on top of that Ty Lawson’s recent DUI arrest and the Nuggets 5 game losing streak can get a lot longer if something isn’t done to wake this team up.
23. Sacramento Kings 16-27
The Kings have lost 6 in a row, including allowing Klay Thompson to go off for 37 points in the third quarter during a blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors. The offense is there but the defense has just not been good enough for the Kings to win many games. Demarcus Cousins is playing very well, averaging a team high 24.2 points per game and 12.2 rebounds per game, but the talent around his has not been consistent enough to make the Kings a playoff team just yet.
24. Indiana Pacers 15-30
The Pacers have lost 7 straight and there isn’t much hope for them this season. The injury to Paul George was a devastating one, taking a team with Finals hopes to the bottom of their conference. Not much they can do either to stop the losing.
25. Orlando Magic 15-31
The Magic have a very young team that needs time to develop before they can ever hope to become a contender. The Magic are in the bottom 10 in points per game, rebounds, assists and points allowed per game. The good news? Elfrid Peyton and Nikola Vucevic are both playing very well together and could be a great 1,2 guard center combo a few years down the road.
26. Brooklyn Nets 18-26
The fact that the Nets are trying to get rid of all their aging and overpaid stars should be indication enough that this team is a sinking ship. There in no consistent effort and it shows in blowout losses to several teams this season. And unfortunately for the Nets, the pick swap they have this year with the Atlanta Hawks from the Joe Johnson trade will hurt their chances of adding premier talent in the upcoming draft.
27. New York Knicks 8-37
Carmelo Anthony is actually beginning to play like his old self and has the Knicks winning a few games here and there. Known locker room distraction J.R. Smith has been shipped away, albeit at the cost of Iman Shumpert. Just close your eyes and wait for the draft Knick fans. Salvation may be on its way in the form of one very talented Duke center.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves 7-35
The ample number of injuries to the Wolves have crippled them from being competitive. Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic have all missed ample amounts of time. However, the Kevin Love trade is now beginning to look like the T-Wolves have gotten a steal in Andrew Wiggins, who is looking like the Rookie of the Year by a long shot. I see the Wolves winning more in the future as their assets return, but I do not see the playoffs happening for the Timberwolves this season.
29. Los Angeles Lakers 12-32
Good news! It looks like the Lakers are on a great pace to keep their first round protected pick. The bad news? In order to do so, the Lakers must have a top five pick which means they are losing and losing a lot. And the loss of Kobe Bryant could spell death for the season of 2014-2015 for one half of the basketball fans in L.A.
30. Philadelphia 76ers 8-36
I don’t understand the 76ers are even tanking at this point. Unless the plan to sell big on one of their past draft picks. The Sixers have Joel Embid and Nerlens Noel. Why they would need a Jahil Okafor, who is most likely going number one in the 2015 NBA Draft, is beyond me. At this point, part of me questions if them losing is actually on purpose or if everyone in Philadelphia is clueless.