NBA Power Rankings Update: Teams Are Settling in
As we kick off the month of December, NBA teams are shedding the early-season rust and striding towards midseason form. They are finally figuring out their best rotations and which players they can trust in clutch situations. We are already starting to see some teams settle into their respective place in the league.
The Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic, and Dallas Mavericks have all but been eliminated from the playoff picture as our algorithms give them a less than a 10 percent chance of making the postseason.
At the same time, the true title contenders have taken shape as the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers, and San Antonio Spurs are the only NBA teams we give a more than 10 percent chance to take home the Larry O'Brien trophy.
With so much going on over the past two weeks, we decided to take a closer look at six of the more notable team performances over the last half of November for this edition of the power rankings.
Our power rankings here at numberFire are not subjective or influenced by the latest hype; we put our faith and trust in the algorithms. Each week, we’ll list all 30 teams in the Association from worst to best based on our nERD metric, which is a predictive measure to help define what a team's winning percentage ultimately will be.
30. Philadelphia 76ers (nERD: 15.8, Record: 4-14, Last Week: 30)
29. Brooklyn Nets (nERD: 24.3, Record: 5-13, Last Week: 21)
28. Dallas Mavericks (nERD: 26.5, Record: 3-15, Last Week: 20)
27. Orlando Magic (nERD: 33.9, Record: 7-12, Last Week: 29)
26. Phoenix Suns (nERD: 37.6, Record: 6-13, Last Week: 24)
25. Los Angeles Lakers (nERD: 38.0, Record: 10-10, Last Week: 16)
After being one of the bright spots early on, the Los Angeles Lakers have gone south the last two weeks. The team's overall health has played a significant factor.
Emerging point guard D'Angelo Russell has played in only one game, Julius Randle has missed three contests, as well as Nick Young and Larry Nance Jr. sitting out a few games each. In the last eight games, the team is 3-5 and owns the third-worst net rating at -10.5.
Also not helping their cause has been the quality of opponents they've played. Los Angeles has dealt with the Warriors and Chicago Bulls twice, along with the Spurs, Atlanta Hawks, and Oklahoma City Thunder during their last eight games.
However, if they can play like they did on Wednesday night in the Windy City -- the second game of an exhausting road back-to-back -- they may stick around as a playoff contender. The Lakers beat the Bulls 96-90 while holding Chicago to 35.4% shooting and out-rebounding them 60-46. The upcoming schedule does not do them any favors either as Luke Walton's crew have three games in four nights starting with Toronto Raptors on Friday.
24. Sacramento Kings (nERD: 38.7, Record: 7-11, Last Week: 23)
23. Washington Wizards (nERD: 38.8, Record: 6-11, Last Week: 27)
22. New York Knicks (nERD: 40.1, Record: 9-9, Last Week: 25)
21. Denver Nuggets (nERD: 40.7, Record: 7-11, Last Week: 22)
20. Portland Trail Blazers (nERD: 41.0, Record: 10-10, Last Week: 19)
Over the past two weeks, the Portland Trail Blazers have been the NBA's hottest offensive team, dropping 117.4 points per game. Only the Warriors have averaged more since November 18.
In four of their seven games, the Blazers have scored 119 or more points, including a 131-point explosion versus the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday. During this stretch, Portland owns the best offensive rating in the Association at 116.3. Unfortunately, their defense has let them down, leading to only three wins despite the scoring frenzy.
Damian Lillard and company have been invisible on defense, allowing over 115 points per game with an abysmal 113.9 defensive rating. Piling up mountains of points is worthless when you allow opponents to make a league-high 43 percent of three-point attempts as the Blazers have in the past two weeks.
In a loss to the Houston Rockets, James Harden, and Eric Gordon combined for 64 points and 11 made threes. Then there was the embarrassment of the Kevin Love's 34-point and 8-for-10 three-pointer first quarter performance.
19. Indiana Pacers (nERD: 41.6, Record: 9-10, Last Week: 18)
18. Memphis Grizzlies (nERD: 44.2, Record: 12-8, Last Week: 28)
17. Minnesota Timberwolves (nERD: 46.9, Record: 5-13, Last Week: 10)
16. New Orleans Pelicans (nERD: 47.2, Record: 7-12, Last Week: 26)
After starting the season as cold as can be -- eight straight losses and only one win in their first 10 games -- the New Orleans Pelicans have found their groove and are starting to make noise in the Western Conference. We all see the monster stat lines put up by Anthony Davis on a nightly basis, but the real key to the team's turnaround has been the return of Jrue Holiday.
While The Brow was forced to carry the load most of the year, the Pels have gone 5-2 with a sidekick in hand. In the past seven games, they have been clicking with an average of 107.6 points per contest, 7.5 more points than in their first 12 games.
Holiday's addition has boosted what was a bottom-five offensive rating by over 9 points to a top-10 ranking at 108.1. In only 27 minutes per game, the point guard has averaged 17.1 points and 6.3 assists while posting a career-high 57.6 true shooting percentage.
15. Miami Heat (nERD: 49.8, Record: 9-12, Last Week: 17)
14. Milwaukee Bucks (nERD: 50.7, Record: 9-8, Last Week: 14)
13. Oklahoma City Thunder (nERD: 52.4, Record: 12-9, Last Week: 15)
As former teammate Kevin Durant has captured some of the NBA spotlight recently, all November Player of the Month winner Russell Westbrook has done is lead the Thunder to four straight wins while posting four consecutive triple-doubles.
Two overtime games have helped the club average 119.0 points, the second-most in the league over the past week. While no one will deny the team is largely a one-man Russ show, Westbrook has had one of his teammates step up and score 25 or more points in three of the last four games.
Against the New York Knicks on Monday, backup big man Enes Kanter dropped 27 points. More significantly, though, the other two times, Westbrook's backcourt partner Victor Oladipo has come through with 25-plus points.
During the four-game streak, the shooting guard is averaging 19.3 points while posting a 64.7 percent true shooting percentage. While no one will compare Dipo to KD, if he can continue to shoot like he has, the former Magic guard will ease the pain of losing a former MVP a bit.
12. Detroit Pistons (nERD: 54.4, Record: 10-10, Last Week: 12)
11. Boston Celtics (nERD: 55.1, Record: 10-8, Last Week: 11)
10. Houston Rockets (nERD: 55.9, Record: 12-7, Last Week: 13)
9. Atlanta Hawks (nERD: 58.8, Record: 10-9, Last Week: 2)
What a difference two weeks can make. On November 16, the Hawks were riding high on a six-game winning streak and were tied with the Cavs for first place in the East. They had the second-best defensive rating and net rating in the league. Atlanta was outscoring opponents by nearly 10 points per game and absolutely cruising. Since then, though, the tables have turned.
With seven losses in their last eight games, Atlanta is being outscored by nearly nine points per game. They are averaging only 93.6 points while owning the worst offensive rating in the league since November 17.
What's wrong with the unit? Everything. Assists are down. They have been incredibly sloppy, turning the ball over nearly 17 times per game. Most significantly, their shooting has been off the mark. While the failings have been a real team effort, the misfirings of Kent Bazemore typify the problems.
After shooting 44.1 percent last year, Bazemore has been tossing up bricks the last two weeks, making only 35.3 percent from the field and 27 percent from beyond the arc.
8. Charlotte Hornets (nERD: 62.6, Record: 11-8, Last Week: 3)
7. Chicago Bulls (nERD: 63.2, Record: 10-7, Last Week: 9)
6. San Antonio Spurs (nERD: 66.0, Record: 15-4, Last Week: 5)
5. Utah Jazz (nERD: 66.6, Record: 11-9, Last Week: 8)
4. Toronto Raptors (nERD: 67.0, Record: 12-6, Last Week: 7)
Holders of the longest current winning streak in the NBA (four games), the Raptors are the only team to not lose a game in the last nine days. Over the past four games, the Raptors have been crushing everyone, winning by an average of 15.3 points. Offensively, they are hitting on all cylinders, scoring 115.4 points per game and shooting over 50 percent from the field and three.
Their 123.0 offensive rating in that span is by far the best mark in the NBA. Even greater than vaunted Warriors.
After making only 33.7 percent of his three-point attempts the first 14 games, Kyle Lowry can't seem to miss right now. On two-point shots, the point guard is making a mere 50 percent, but step beyond the arc and Lowry has drained 16-of-26 attempts for a ridiculous 61.5 percent.
The two-time All-Star has picked the perfect time to get on a roll as the Raptors prepare for a big Eastern Conference showdown with the Cavs on Monday night.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (nERD: 69.5, Record: 13-4, Last Week: 4)
2. Los Angeles Clippers (nERD: 83.8, Record: 15-5, Last Week: 1)
1. Golden State Warriors (nERD: 83.9, Record: 16-3, Last Week: 6)