NBA Power Rankings: 2/10/15
By: Alex Dittmar
Welcome to the first edition of the WPTS NBA Power Rankings. Each week I will list the top 30 teams in order from best to worst. I take into account overall record, recent performance and major injuries. With the All-Star break coming up this week, the top contenders have separated themselves from the rest, and there is a clear divide between the possible contenders and the rest of the NBA. So here it goes.
1. Atlanta Hawks (43-10)
After not losing at all in January, the Hawks have already lost twice in February. However they were both tough road losses against talented Western conference teams in Memphis and New Orleans. This team is still playing better basketball than anyone else, and beat the #2 team on this list just this past week, solidifying their place at the top.
2. Golden State Warriors (41-9)
With the Splash Bros leading the way, this could be the most dangerous team in the league. They lead the league in offensive and defensive efficiency and have the league’s highest winning percentage. But they lost to the Hawks, and therefore they have earned themselves the second spot.
3. Memphis Grizzlies (38-13)
This is one of the only teams that has beaten both the Hawks AND the Warriors this season, and some would argue that puts them at the top of the list. But they have more losses, including one last week to lowly Minnesota, and fewer wins, sitting at least 2.5 games back of each, so they sit at 3 for now.
4. Toronto Raptors (35-17)
And the top 5 continues to have a number of unexpected faces, as the Raptors have earned their place with wins against tough West teams in the Spurs and Clippers this past week. They may be playing only .500 ball since the start of 2015, but they look to be finding their stride, and they certainly have the talent.
5. Portland Trail Blazers (35-17)
Yes, the Trail Blazers have been struggling since their 30-8 start, but a lot of that was without Robin Lopez. With him back, they were able to get two big wins over the Suns and Rockets. And Damian Lillard can finally focus on basketball after finally being named to the all-star team, which should certainly help this team moving forward.
6. Houston Rockets (35-16)
Dwight Howard may be out for close to two months, but James Harden will ensure they are just fine when he gets back. They may have lost to the Blazers despite a 45-9-8 game by Harden, but that won’t happen very often.
7. Dallas Mavericks (35-19)
It’s good to be a basketball fan in Texas, apparently. These Mavs have continued to pile on the points, and even with recent acquisition Rajon Rondo out until after the all-star break, they were able to beat the Blazer, a quality win against a top 8 West team that they often struggle to get. Not bad for a weeks work.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (32-21)
You want to talk about a hot team, here you go. 13 wins in 14 games is about as hot as you can get. This has continued to be a very streaky team, but the Cleveland LeBron’s are finding a rhythm now and should continue to fight for home court in the East.
9. Chicago Bulls (32-20)
I know I know, they’re struggling. They’ve gone 7-10 in their last 17 and lost their defensive mentality that has been a staple since Thibs came to Chicago. But I’d like to quote a hated man in Chicago, Aaron Rodgers by saying this, R-E-L-A-X. They’ll be fine, they have great veteran leadership and Rose is getting stronger each game. They’re still a force to be reckoned with.
10. Los Angeles Clippers (34-19)
About two weeks ago they were a top 5 team… Then they lost 5 of 6 and have frankly been tough to watch. They’ve certainly played some good teams like OKC and Toronto, but they still don’t look to be the same team, plus they have a gauntlet of a schedule going forward that certainly won’t help. A win over Dallas however has propelled them into the top 10 for now
11. San Antonio Spurs (33-19)
Last night Pop secured his 1,000th career win, an amazing feat. Some thought early on that this Spurs team was not prepared to defend their title, yet they are still on pace for a 50+ win season. They continue to avoid father time and truck on to another postseason berth.
12. Milwaukee Bucks (29-23)
I have to throw a surprise in there somewhere. Yes, the Bucks are for real. They’ve won 7 of their last 8, including wins over the Trail Blazers and the Raptors on the road. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been on a tear recently, and their commitment to defense has been huge in getting them going. It’s time to start seriously talking about the Bucks.
13. Phoenix Suns (29-24)
They just can’t seem to catch a break. They’ve lost 4 games on buzzer beaters, tied for the record over the last decade. They’re always close, and they have a lot of offensive power. Now all they need to do is beat the West’s top tier teams and they will be moved into the serious contender category.
14. New Orleans Pelicans (27-25)
They aren’t at this spot if Anthony Davis is out for a long period of time, but it seems like he’ll only miss a few games, if that. Davis has had an incredible year, one of the best in NBA history, and he can will this team to a playoff spot, but without him they aren’t even in the top 20
15. Washington Wizards (33-20)
They have the record, but they have not played well recently, although they have picked up two wins to recover from a five-game skid. That being said, they haven’t beaten a quality opponent in nearly a month, when they beat the Bulls, otherwise it’s been mediocre competition that they have been unable to beat. That smells trouble.
16. Oklahoma City Thunder (26-25)
The top half is rounded out by the Thunder, who certainly have the talent with Westbrook and Durant but dug themselves a hole while those two sat out at the beginning of the season. If Westbrook keeps putting up video game numbers, they will probably find their way into the playoffs, but for now they sit on the outside looking in.
17. Charlotte Hornets (22-29)
No Kemba? No problem! This team represents a sharp drop off from the first 16, but they sit at #7 in the East thanks to the weakness of the conference. They’ve gone 12-3 in their last 15, putting them in playoff contention, thanks in large part to their strong defense.
18. Indiana Pacers (20-33)
They beat the Cavs and played tight against the Spurs, so they’re starting to find a rhythm. And according to some reports, Paul George may find his way onto the floor before the end of the season, so suddenly they have a chance to make the playoffs and make some noise.
19. Miami Heat (22-29)
The team holding the #8 spot right now, and with the emergence of Hassan Whiteside, they finally have the big center and rim protector they’ve been looking for since LeBron came to South Beach.
20. Detroit Pistons (20-32)
The run of East teams continues! The post-Josh Smith run has worn off, thanks in part to the loss of Brandon Jennings. But D.J. Augustin has picked up the slack and the Pistons are very much entrenched in the East playoff race, even 12 games below .500.
21. Boston Celtics (19-31)
They couldn’t seem to beat an East team, until they won three in a row this past week. They may be trading all their big pieces away, but they seem to be playing better now than before all the trades.
22. Brooklyn Nets (21-30)
They haven’t played particularly well, winning 6 times in the last month and a half, and now the Thunder will likely go back to looking at a trade for Brook Lopez with the injury of Steven Adams. So the Nets are in bad shape.
23. Utah Jazz (19-33)
Finally an end to the East teams. This team has some young talent, and Gordon Hayward has taken over and established himself as a top talent in this league. Give them a year or two and they’ll be ready to compete.
24. Sacramento Kings (18-32)
So they have Demarcus Cousins; that certainly helps. They also just beat the Suns, a big win thanks to a game winner by Cousins. And now talk is that George Karl will be brought on to coach this team. Things are starting to look up in Sacramento.
25. Denver Nuggets (19-33)
They’ve been losing. A lot. In fact 13 of their last 14. But they have a much better record than the bottom 5, so they stay up here for the time being.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (11-41)
This is a bad team, don’t get me wrong, but they have been playing much better recently. This is thanks in large part to getting healthy, with Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin in. Interesting fact from Marc Stein of ESPN, the Twolves are 7-9 with K-Mart in and 4-31 without him, so they are playing at their highest level right now.
27. Orlando Magic (16-39)
They have also lost a lot recently, but I do like the talent that they have, and the last time they won back-to-back games (about a month ago) was against the Bulls and Rockets, so that has to count for something, right?
28. Philadelphia 76ers (12-41)
They may not have the talent, but this team is sure fun to watch. They fight hard and play until the whistle blows, so all the credit in the world to them. And hey, they’ve won 8 games since the beginning of 2015, so they are playing much better.
29. Los Angeles Lakers (13-38)
Without Kobe, this team is pretty much hapless. This team has the worst record in franchise history after 50 games, and it will only continue to get worse from here.
30. New York Knicks (10-42)
This team is a hot mess, Melo is great, but he re-injured himself last night, and Amar’e is looking to bail. No team is worse than the Knicks this season.