NBA Power Rankings Update: The Halfway Point
As of January 19, all 30 NBA teams have played at least 41 games, exactly half of the regular season.
While there has not been much change at the top of the standings in the first half compared to the end of the 2015-16 season -- the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors dominate the East, while the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs still reign supreme out West -- there has been plenty of excitement in the Association so far.
The Utah Jazz and Milwaukee Bucks are riding the youth movement and find themselves thick in the playoff chase. The Houston Rockets have catapulted up the Western Conference standings, thanks to the MVP-esque play of James Harden. Even the Philadelphia 76ers have made some noise behind the dominant play of Rookie of the Year front-runner Joel Embiid.
So without further ado, let's take a look at five of the more headline-worthy teams in the NBA over the past week.
As always, 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. Brooklyn Nets (nERD: 21.8, Record: 8-33, Last Week: 30)
29. Philadelphia 76ers (nERD: 29.3, Record: 14-26, Last Week: 29)
28. Los Angeles Lakers (nERD: 29.8, Record: 15-31, Last Week: 28)
27. Phoenix Suns (nERD: 34.8, Record: 13-29, Last Week: 26)
26. Dallas Mavericks (nERD: 34.9, Record: 14-28, Last Week: 27)
25. Orlando Magic (nERD: 35.9, Record: 17-27, Last Week: 25)
24. Sacramento Kings (nERD: 38.6, Record: 16-25, Last Week: 24)
While they are only one game out of the 8 seed in the Western Conference, the Sacramento Kings seem to be doing all they can to avoid the playoffs. After a defeating the 76ers on December 26 and owning the 8 seed all to themselves, the Kings have lost eight of 10 games.
Even with their last seven games at home, they have managed only to pull out one victory, a 100-94 win over the equally slumping Detroit Pistons. During their home stand, they are allowing over 110 points per game. Just when it seemed things could not get worse, they did.
In Wednesday's loss to the Indiana Pacers, Rudy Gay suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon, knocking him out for the rest of the season. While his 19.4 points per game will surely be missed, his underrated defense may be the biggest blow. According to Basketball-Reference.com, opponents own a 107.1 offensive rating with Gay on the court, but a huge 114.7 mark with the forward on the bench.
23. New York Knicks (nERD: 41.6, Record: 19-25, Last Week: 22)
22. Portland Trail Blazers (nERD: 42.0, Record: 18-26, Last Week: 20)
21. Denver Nuggets (nERD: 42.4, Record: 17-24, Last Week: 23)
20. Miami Heat (nERD: 43.0, Record: 13-30, Last Week: 21)
19. Minnesota Timberwolves (nERD: 44.7, Record: 15-28, Last Week: 18)
18. New Orleans Pelicans (nERD: 46.3, Record: 17-26, Last Week: 19)
17. Indiana Pacers (nERD: 47.2, Record: 22-19, Last Week: 16)
16. Chicago Bulls (nERD: 48.2, Record: 21-22, Last Week: 14)
The Chicago Bulls can't seem to stay out of the headlines lately. First, there is the Rajon Rondo fiasco. After 29 games of dealing with his lousy play -- he ranks 440th out of 454 NBA players with a -3.3 nERD rating -- coach Fred Hoiberg benched the point guard for five games. Deciding they need to get something out of their $14 million offseason "prize," Rondo has returned to action recently, but as the team's backup point guard to Michael Carter-Williams.
Then there are the long-term questions about Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade's future in Chicago, which have distracted from the team's on-the-court play. They have won two of three and have climbed back into the 8 seed in the East.
One bit of positive news is that Butler was named an Eastern Conference All-Star starter for the first time in his career, a much-deserved honor for the swingman who is posting career-high scoring numbers (24.8 points per game) and owns the fourth-best nERD rating in the NBA.
15. Detroit Pistons (nERD: 48.6, Record: 20-24, Last Week: 15)
14. Washington Wizards (nERD: 49.6, Record: 23-19, Last Week: 17)
The hottest team in the NBA at the moment is the Washington Wizards. Winners of seven of their last eight games, the Wizards have gone from 16-18 and 10th place in the East on January 4 to sole possession of the 5 seed, only one game back of the Atlanta Hawks for fourth.
The Wizards love playing in D.C. and are riding a 13-game home winning streak, having gone over six weeks since their last defeat at the Verizon Center. During their home winning streak, they are averaging 110.2 points per game while shooting over 50% from the field and 43% from three.
In their last eight games, five different Wizards -- John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, and Kelly Oubre -- have averaged at least one three-pointer per game. Porter, in particular, has been hot from beyond the arc. Against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday, the fourth-year forward sank six three-pointers, a career-high. He is shooting 60% from deep in his last four games and ranks second in the NBA for the season with a 45.8% accuracy.
T-12. Memphis Grizzlies (nERD: 50.5, Record: 25-19, Last Week: 13)
T-12. Atlanta Hawks (nERD: 50.5, Record: 24-18, Last Week: 12)
11. Oklahoma City Thunder (nERD: 52.1, Record: 25-19, Last Week: 10)
With the NBA All-Star starters being announced on Thursday, the snub of Russell Westbrook to the Western Conference starting lineup is all the sports world can seem to talk about at the moment -- and rightfully so. The Oklahoma City Thunder superstar is the leading scorer in the association (30.7 points per game) and ranks second in assists per game (10.6). Just the mere fact he is averaging a triple-double over halfway through the season -- something only one other player has ever done -- is argument enough.
Lost in the ridiculousness of Westbrook not being named an All-Star starter is how bad the team has been playing lately. In the last week, the Thunder have started to slide down the standings, all the way down to seventh place, thanks to losing three of their last four games. The primary cause for concern is their road woes.
In their last 10 road games, they are 3-7. They own a 110.8 defensive rating, as teams have been running all over them, to the tune of 109.6 points per game during the 10-game stretch. The offense hasn't been much better, posting the second-worst offensive rating in the league (98.8) over their last four games.
10. Milwaukee Bucks (nERD: 55.3, Record: 20-21, Last Week: 8)
T-8. Boston Celtics (nERD: 55.9 Record: 26-16, Last Week: 9)
T-8. Charlotte Hornets (nERD: 55.9, Record: 21-21, Last Week: 11)
7. Cleveland Cavaliers (nERD: 61.9, Record: 30-11, Last Week: 7)
6. Utah Jazz (nERD: 65.7, Record: 27-16, Last Week: 6)
5. Houston Rockets (nERD: 67.9, Record: 33-12, Last Week: 5)
4. Los Angeles Clippers (nERD: 69.1, Record: 29-15, Last Week: 4)
The latest Chris Paul injury confirms it: the Los Angeles Clippers can't seem to catch a break. On Monday, Paul suffered what was initially thought to be a sprained thumb but ended up being a torn thumb ligament. The injury required surgery and will leave CP3 sidelined until early March. Without their floor general, the Clippers' net rating goes from a plus 15.0 to a -4.6, per Basketball-Reference.com.
The timing of the latest injury could not have been worse. The Clips had just start to trend upward again: Blake Griffin is coming back within the next week or two and the team was playing lights out since Paul returned from a hamstring injury, two weeks ago.
In the five games he played, the Clippers were 5-0 with an average margin of victory of 13.4 points per game. The defense owned the best defensive rating in the Association (95.8) while limiting teams to 95.0 points per game on 41.5% field goal shooting. Paul was a plus 74 while averaging 17.8 points and 12.3 assists in his first four games back. In that fifth game, however, disaster struck.
While the playoffs are still likely, they are only 4.0 games away from falling to the 7 seed and a likely first-round matchup with the Spurs.
3. Toronto Raptors (nERD: 72.7, Record: 28-14, Last Week: 3)
2. San Antonio Spurs (nERD: 76.8, Record: 33-9, Last Week: 2)
1. Golden State Warriors (nERD: 83.9, Record: 36-6, Last Week: 1)