NBA Power Rankings Update: Movers and Shakers
Happy New Year! Due to the holidays, it has been a few weeks since we last checked in on the NBA Power Rankings.
Since we last updated our ranks in article form, there has been plenty of movement. Some teams like the Houston Rockets and the Washington Wizards have risen significantly. The Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers, on the other hand, have fallen back from their once lofty spots for one reason or another.
This week, we will take a closer look at five of the most notable teams over the past few weeks in the NBA.
Our power rankings here at numberFire are not subjective or influenced by the latest hype; we put our faith and trust in our 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 the team's winning percentage ultimately will be.
30. Philadelphia 76ers (nERD: 24.6, Record: 9-24, Last Update: 30)
29. Brooklyn Nets (nERD: 25.0, Record: 8-26, Last Update: 29)
28. Los Angeles Lakers (nERD: 29.7, Record: 13-26, Last Update: 28)
27. Dallas Mavericks (nERD: 34.0, Record: 11-25, Last Update: 27)
The Dallas Mavericks started the year off on the wrong foot. The last time we checked in on our power rankings, they were 6-20, the worst record in the West. Saying Rick Carlisle's group was struggling to score would be putting it mildly. They were posting only 93.5 points per game, nearly four points fewer than the 29th-placed Memphis Grizzlies. While I wouldn't call what they have done over their last 10 games a dynamic turnaround, the Mavericks have righted the ship a bit, though, winning five games and scoring 101.1 points per game.
One of the keys has been the Mavs' success at hitting threes recently. They are averaging 11.7 threes per game, fourth-most in the NBA over the last three weeks. In a 113-105 win over the Wizards on January 3, the Mavericks sank 17 threes. Four of those three-pointers came from the hottest player on the team, Deron Williams.
Due to injuries, Williams missed eight games in November. Now fully healthy, the veteran point guard has been rolling, averaging 16.3 points, 7.1 assists, and 2.1 threes per game with a 40.9 assist percentage over the last 10 games.
26. Phoenix Suns (nERD: 34.6, Record: 12-25, Last Update: 26)
25. Orlando Magic (nERD: 38.8, Record: 16-21, Last Update: 24)
T-23. Sacramento Kings (nERD: 40.1, Record: 15-20, Last Update: 20)
T-23. Denver Nuggets (nERD: 40.1, Record: 14-22, Last Update: 25)
In their last 11, games -- not coincidentally since Nikola Jokic joined the starting lineup -- the Denver Nuggets have one of the most exciting offenses in the Association. They are averaging the third-most points (113.6) and own the third-best offensive rating (113.9). Not only are they shooting 48.9% from the floor, but they are also averaging 27.4 assists per game -- only the Golden State Warriors have more.
During those past three-plus weeks, Jokic is playing some of the finest ball of any big man in the league. He is averaging 17.0 points, 8.8 boards, and 5.5 assists per game all while shooting an astounding 64.8% from the field. All at 21-years-old mind you.
The hot offense has not all been Jokic either.
During the past 10 games, five other players are averaging double-digit points. Even the worst player in all of the NBA -- okay, second-worst, with a -5.0 nERD rating -- Emmanuel Mudiay has a 2.35 assist-to-turnover ratio and a 121.8 offensive rating, the best rating of any of the Nuggets' regular rotation players.
Now if they could just play some defense (124.5 points allowed in their last four games), the Nuggets could become viable contenders for the 8 seed out West.
22. New York Knicks (nERD: 40.3, Record: 16-19, Last Update: 19)
21. Portland Trail Blazers (nERD: 42.4, Record: 16-22, Last Update: 17)
20. Minnesota Timberwolves (nERD: 43.6, Record: 11-24, Last Update: 21)
19. New Orleans Pelicans (nERD: 43.8, Record: 14-23, Last Update: 22)
18. Miami Heat (nERD: 44.9, Record: 11-26, Last Update: 15)
17. Washington Wizards (nERD: 45.7, Record: 16-18, Last Update: 23)
Despite a poor start to the season, the Wizards have begun to hit their stride as they approach the halfway point. At 16-18, they sit one game behind the Bulls for the final spot in the playoffs. Over their last 11 games, they have surged, going 7-4. They have hard-fought wins over teams above them in the Eastern Conference standings: the Charlotte Hornets, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Bulls. While they haven't been lights out on either end of the floor, the Wizards do own a positive net rating (2.8) and rank in the top 13 of both offensive and defensive rating.
On the offensive end, the dynamic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal are averaging a combined 45.2 points per game in their last 11 games. While Wall was taking home December Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors, Beal was not too bad himself with 22.8 points and 2.8 threes per game while shooting over 45.4% from the field in the last three weeks.
While Beal and Wall get all the notoriety, the Wizards would not be on the cusp of returning to the playoffs without the contributions of Otto Porter. In his last six games, the fourth-year swingman is averaging 17.5 points per game while shooting 57.1% from the field and 50.0% from three.
16. Indiana Pacers (nERD: 47.3, Record: 19-18, Last Update: 18)
15. Atlanta Hawks (nERD: 48.5, Record: 20-16, Last Update: 16)
14. Chicago Bulls (nERD: 49.8, Record: 18-18, Last Update: 10)
13. Detroit Pistons (nERD: 50.1, Record: 17-21, Last Update: 9)
12. Memphis Grizzlies (nERD: 50.8, Record: 22-16, Last Update: 14)
11. Oklahoma City Thunder (nERD: 53.9, Record: 21-16, Last Update: 13)
10. Boston Celtics (nERD: 55.9 Record: 21-14, Last Update: 11)
This summer, talks swirled around the NBA about the Celtics being a team on the rise in the Eastern Conference. However, after their first 25 games, they were a frustrating 13-12. But in their last 10 games, coinciding with Isaiah Thomas returning from a four-game absence, the Celtics are 8-2.
In those 10 games, IT2 has been unreal. To everyone's amazement, he exploded last Friday, hanging 52 points on the Miami Heat. Since his return, the diminutive point guard is averaging 31.5 points, second to only Russell Westbrook. During the same stretch, the Celtics' offense has started clicking, averaging the fifth-most points per game (111.6) in the Association since December 16. They own a 112.2 offensive rating and have 25.7 assists on 39.5 made baskets per game, for a 65.1% rate, third-highest in the NBA.
It has not been all roses for Boston, though. In their most recent losses, against two of the better teams in the league in the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the defense has had trouble slowing their opponent down. They gave up 117 points to OKC and 124 to Cleveland. Both teams shot over 51% from the field, signaling one of the biggest causes for concern on the Celtics.
9. Charlotte Hornets (nERD: 58.5, Record: 20-17, Last Update: 8)
8. Milwaukee Bucks (nERD: 59.8, Record: 18-16, Last Update: 12)
7. Utah Jazz (nERD: 63.8, Record: 22-15, Last Update: 5)
6. Los Angeles Clippers (nERD: 66.1, Record: 24-14, Last Update: 2)
Over the past two-plus weeks, the Clippers have been decimated by injuries. First, it was Blake Griffin needing knee surgery. Then, Chris Paul has been shut down with a nagging hamstring injury, missing seven of the Clips' last eight games. Toss in J.J. Redick missing a pair of games into the mix and it becomes clear why the once best team in the league lost six straight games to close out 2016.
With CP3 sidelined, Austin Rivers has had to step up his game, and he has done just that. In his nine starts this season, Rivers is averaging 16.8 points and 3.8 assists per game. He stuffed the stat sheet with a 28-point, 4-rebound, 7-assist night in the Clippers victory over Memphis on Tuesday. While he has done his best to keep the offensive rolling, let's face it, he is no Paul.
In the last eight games, where CP3 played only one game, the team is 2-6 overall and has the fifth-worst assist-to-turnover ratio in the NBA (1.21) while scoring only 102.3 points per game. In their first 30 games, they owned a 1.79 assist-to-turnover ratio and 109.8 points per game. With Paul still considered doubtful to play on Friday, coach Doc Rivers must keep the ship afloat without their superstar for just a little bit longer.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers (nERD: 67.4, Record: 26-8, Last Update: 4)
4. Houston Rockets (nERD: 69.4, Record: 28-9, Last Update: 7)
3. Toronto Raptors (nERD: 72.4, Record: 24-11, Last Update: 3)
2. San Antonio Spurs (nERD: 74.1, Record: 29-7, Last Update: 6)
1. Golden State Warriors (nERD: 82.6, Record: 31-5, Last Update: 1)