With a third of the season over it is time to do a weekly power ranking. Along with Alec Walt (@alecwalt) and myself, Alfonso De Falco (@fonzydefalco), we decided to rank each team based on their performances this year. Some teams, like the Warriors, Trail Blazers, Spurs and Raptors are showing success early on in the season and are poised for a championship run. While some teams, for example the Charlotte Hornets, had so much promise in the offseason but once they hit the court, there has been signs of a bad year. Both Alec and I agreed on the rankings but Alec wrote the explanations for teams ranked 1 through 15, while I wrote for teams 16 throughout 30.
1. Golden State Warriors (24-5): The Golden State Warriors have the best record in basketball at 24-5. Steve Kerr has done a fantastic job spacing the floor scoring 107.4 points per game and lead the league in assists. The defense has tightened up giving up less then 100 points per game and sixth in the league in rebounds with 45.2 per game. Warriors are for real this season.
2: Portland Trail Blazers (25-7): With the second best record in the NBA, one could argue that this years Blazers team is even better than last years which started 18-4. It all starts with defense. The Trail Blazers have rebounded the most in the league while only giving up 96.5 points per game which is the third best in the league. Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge are playing like the best 1-2 punch in the league. Someone must have told Aldridge he is due for a big payday at the end of the season.
3. Atlanta Hawks (22-8): The Hawks are the hottest team in the NBA. Since November 28th, the Hawks own a record of 15-2. They pass the ball smoothly averaging 25.7 assists per game which is second in the league. Mike Budenholzer is my early season Coach of the Year.
4. Houston Rockets (21-8): I know it has only been two games, but I am a strong believer in the Josh Smith project working out in Houston. In his first game, he scored 21 points with 8 rebounds. With James Harden playing at the top of his game with a healthy Dwight Howard, the Rockets are a threat in the Western Conference.
5. Memphis Grizzlies (22-8): Marc Gasol has played out of his mind this season. Gasol throughout his career has averaged around 13 points per game, but this season it is over 20. They have dropped in my original rankings because they have lost four of the last five games. Look for the Grizzlies to be active in acquiring three point shooting as the deadline nears.
6. Toronto Raptors (24-7): Kyle Lowry is arguably the leagues MVP through the first trimester of the season. Lowry is averaging 20.5 points per game to go along with 7.7 rebounds with DeMar Derozan out for a majority of the season. Derozan will travel with the team and is expected to return soon. Expect a big scoring boost when he returns to the team, which is second in the league.
7. Dallas Mavericks (22-10): The Mavericks score the most points in the NBA. Since the addition of Rajon Rondo the Mavs are 3-2. Rondo is scoring 13.2 points per game with 8.8 assists. When this team develops chemistry and picks up the pace, expect a jump in the power rankings.
8. Washington Wizards (21-8): John Wall is a human highlight reel. Wall averages 17.8 points per game with 10.3 assists per game and leads the league in double-doubles. In the month of December, the Wizards went 12-3. Paul Pierce’s experience will help this young team play consistent as the season goes on.
9. Chicago Bulls (21-9): Derrick Rose is finally healthy……. for now. Jimmy Butler is playing like an All-Star and Nikola Mirotic is playing like a rookie of the year candidate. Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah make up the best front-court in the NBA. If Rose can stay healthy, my question to you is who will the Bulls be playing in the NBA finals.
10. Los Angeles Clippers (20-11): The Clippers are very efficient on offense scoring 106.3 points with 24.4 assists per game. They do struggle on the defensive end giving up 101.1 points per game and one of the worst rebounding teams in the league. The Clippers have lost three of the last four games. If this team doesn’t acquire a scorer before the trade deadline expect another first round loss.
11. San Antonio Spurs (19-13): Who would’ve expected the Spurs to be this far back one third into the season. Tony Parker is out with no timetable to return while Kawhi Leonard is still out with a hand injury. Gregg Popovich always has his players ready for every game no matter who is playing. The Spurs may look in trouble but never count them out.
12: Phoenix Suns (18-14): In the last six games, the Suns have won all of them. This team has been consistent all season scoring points with 105.7 points per game. The Suns currently sit in the eight seed in the West ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans by two games. If they want to keep in the playoff hunt they need to tighten up their defense. The Suns have given up 103.7 points per game which is 25th in the league.
13. Cleveland Cavaliers (18-12): We are only one third through this NBA season and we are already hearing rumors about Doug Blatt’s future. LeBron James told reporters that the Cavaliers are “Not a very good team.” This is not the Cavaliers team everyone expected to see at the start of the season and they do not look like the favorite in the East anymore.
14: Oklahoma City Thunder (15-17): As the Thunder start to look back into groove, then Kevin Durant goes down again with an ankle injury. Russell Westbrook is playing at an MVP level scoring 28 points per game upon his return from injury. The Thunder are currently the ten seed in the West and need a healthy Durant for the rest of the season if they are going to compete in the playoffs.
15. New Orleans Pelicans (15-15): Anthony Davis has morphed from one of the best young players to one of the best in the game. At the age of 21, Davis is the games best rim protector with a league leading 3.03 blocks per game. In any other division the Pelicans would thrive, but to this point, the rest of the team hasn’t shown the necessary consistency to help Davis compete at the highest level.
16: Miami Heat (14-17): Before he got hurt, Chris Bosh was playing like his old days in Toronto. However, despite his absence, the Heat have been keeping pace for one of the lower seeds in the playoffs. Dwayne Wade has also looked like his old self, scoring 23, 31, and 25 points in the Heat’s last three games. With McRoberts out for the season and missing their chance to sign Josh Smith, they need to find another defensive presence in the paint if they want to compete later on in the season.
17. Milwaukee Bucks (15-16): In my opinion, one of the surprising teams right now in the East. Losing Jabari Parker hurts, but it did not matter when they beat the red hot Atlanta Hawks 107-77, with the help of Jared Dudley’s 10 for 10 shooting performance (No this is not a typo). Despite losing Parker and the lack of experience on the team, they still have a shot at the playoffs because of how weak the Eastern Conference is.
18. Sacramento Kings (13-17): Things have been going south for the Kings since their 5-1 start in the beginning of the season. DeMarcus Cousins is putting up crazy stats with 24.7 points and 12.3 rebounds right now. The also made a huge commitment in Rudy Gay signing him to a 3-year $40 Million contract during the season, but he is also putting up great numbers (21 PPG). With the firing of Mike Malone, they need to find an experienced coach fast if they want to make a playoff run this year.
19. Denver Nuggets (13-18): They made a commitment with Kennith Faried by signing him to a $50 Million extension. But the question is can he be that guy, that franchise piece that the team has been looking for ever since they traded Carmelo Anthony away. Another thing to look at to is where are they going to trade Wilson Chandler? and what will they get in return? Also will Gallinari ever be fully healthy in a Nuggets uniform. There is a lot of questions with this deep Denver team.
20. Indiana Pacers (11-20): Many people, including myself, expected the Pacers to be in the bottom of league since they lost Lance Stephenson to free agency and Paul George to a gruesome leg injury. Still, they are finding ways to win with David West leading the way. Imagine if Indiana had PG-13 right now……
21. Brooklyn Nets (13-16): Lionel Hollins is handling the Nets way better than Jason Kidd did. However they are 1-13 versus teams that are above .500. Also Hollins made a change at the PG spot with Jarrett Jack starting over Deron Williams. This is a clear sign that it is the end of the Williams era in Brooklyn so look for him to get traded if not this season, then during the offseason. Also factor in that Brook Lopez is hurt…again, however Mason Plumlee has been stepping up in his absence. It would be interesting to see if they not only trade Williams, but also Lopez and even Joe Johnson.
22. Utah Jazz (10-20): Yes the Jazz are 10-20 and are probably not in playoff contention but we did expect that to happen this season. With Gordon Hayward leading the team, along with Trey Burke, Dante Exum, Alec Burks and Derrick Favors, this will be a fun team to watch in the long run. The future is bright in Utah.
23. Orlando Magic (12-21): Much like the Jazz, the future is bright in Orlando. With a now healthy Victor Oladipo running the team, a bunch of other young players, along with Tobias Harris telling off the King about him flopping, the Magic will come into every game giving it 100% effort and not going down without a fight.
24. Charlotte Hornets (10-21): On paper, this team looks to compete well in the East but in reality, not so much. Al Jefferson is having an All Star type year and Kemba Walker is also having a great year, but besides those two, no one else has stepped up. Everyone expected Lance Stephenson be that guy this year but with locker room troubles and rumors of possibly being traded, Lance’s stay in Charlotte could be shorter than expected.
25. Boston Celtics (10-18): This is a rebuilding year for the C’s and the Rajon Rondo trade to Dallas was another sign of rebuilding. With so many players coming and going this past year for them, everyone in Boston could be on the trading block and I can see a lot of moves being made by them the rest of the season.
26. Los Angeles Lakers (9-22): Losing Julius Randle the first game of the season is a big blow for them as far as their development goes. Byron Scott is doing a good job with the team despite not having Kobe Bryant in the lineup recently. Bryant, the 3rd leading score in the NBA with 24.1 PPG has missed the last couple of games with an ankle injury. We do not know whats in store for them in the offseason, but they will definitely be one of the top free agent markets this summer.
27. Philadelphia 76ers (4-25): Not shocked with how the 76ers are doing this year, but this could be really exciting future big three with Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid when he gets healthy. One other guy to watch out for but is never talked is Tony Wroten. He leads the team in scoring with 16.7 PPG right now.
28. Detroit Pistons (7-23): The release of Josh Smith came as a surprise, mainly because he had two years left in his deal, but it was clear that starting Smith, Monroe and Drummond did not work so one of them had to go. They are 2-0 since releasing Smith, including a 103-80 win over the Cavaliers, which cause LeBron is come out and say, “We are not a very good team.”
29. New York Knicks (5-28): I knew the Knicks would struggle under first year coach Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson running the helm, but I did not know it could be this bad. They have only won five game this year so far and going 1-14 in the month of December so far. With those 14 losses however, only once did they lose by more than 10, so that is one positive Knicks fan can look at.
30. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-24): Just like the 76ers you knew that the Wolves would be struggling with so many rookies and 2nd year players on their roster. The only difference is that the Wolves have much better talent. The only way to go for Wiggins and company is up.