NBA Power Rankings Update: Heating Up in South Beach
There is no team hotter in the NBA than the Miami Heat. Winners of 12 straight, Miami has gone from the second-worst record in the league to being just 2.0 games out of the playoffs.
While they have a long way to go before they come close to the franchise record of 27 consecutive victories, this year's Heat are equally impressive as they are the second team ever to compile a double-digit winning streak without a single All-Star on their roster.
This week, we will break down the Heat, and four other NBA teams who have made headlines in the past week.
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: 22.8, Record: 9-44, Last Week: 30)
29. Philadelphia 76ers (nERD: 28.1, Record: 19-34, Last Week: 28)
28. Los Angeles Lakers (nERD: 29.3, Record: 18-37, Last Week: 29)
27. Phoenix Suns (nERD: 32.9, Record: 16-37, Last Week: 26)
26. Orlando Magic (nERD: 33.6, Record: 20-35, Last Week: 27)
Before the season started, we gave the Orlando Magic respectable odds-- a 35.2% chance -- to return to the postseason for the first time since the Dwight Howard era. However, 55 games in, the Magic own the fourth-worst record in the NBA and are light years away from the playoff race.
The offense has nearly bottomed out, averaging 99.9 points per game with a 100.9 offensive rating, both ranking 29th out of 30 NBA teams.
Dealing for Serge Ibaka and hiring former Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel was supposed to bolster a defense trending upward, but instead, Orlando has regressed on that side of the floor as well. In the last two weeks, they allowed the Houston Rockets to have their way against them, losing 128-104. The Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics embarrassed them as well, beating them by 27 and 30 points, respectively.
25. Sacramento Kings (nERD: 39.4, Record: 21-32, Last Week: 25)
24. New York Knicks (nERD: 41.3, Record: 22-32, Last Week: 24)
23. Dallas Mavericks (nERD: 42.5, Record: 21-32, Last Week: 23)
22. New Orleans Pelicans (nERD: 43.1, Record: 20-33, Last Week: 21)
The promise and hope for the New Orleans Pelicans' season has seemed to fade as they have lost five of their last six games. While even at 13 games under .500, they are only 3.5 games out of the 8 seed in the Western Conference. However, the way the Pelicans have been playing -- the defense in particular -- during the last three weeks provides no hope for the final 29 games.
Over their last 10 games, the Pels rank 28th by allowing 115.3 points per game. Opponents have been shooting 50.6% from the floor and nearly 40% from three in their last seven losses. They also have allowed 48.0 rebounds per game since January 20, the most in the NBA. In their latest loss to the Utah Jazz, all their failings were on full display.
In a shameful defensive display, the Pelicans allowed the Jazz, a team that averages just over 100 points per game, to rack up season-high in points on their way to a 127-94 dismantling. They shot 54.5% from the floor, grabbed 11 offensive rebounds, and committed only 8 turnovers. They will look to bounce back on Friday as they play their next three games against teams with a combined record of 57-102.
21. Portland Trail Blazers (nERD: 44.3, Record: 23-31, Last Week: 21)
20. Denver Nuggets (nERD: 44.5, Record: 23-29, Last Week: 20)
19. Minnesota Timberwolves (nERD: 44.9, Record: 20-33, Last Week: 19)
18. Chicago Bulls (nERD: 49.0, Record: 26-27, Last Week: 13)
17. Indiana Pacers (nERD: 49.7, Record: 29-23, Last Week: 18)
T-15. Oklahoma City Thunder (nERD: 50.0, Record: 31-23, Last Week: 16)
T-15. Detroit Pistons (nERD: 50.0, Record: 25-28, Last Week: 15)
14. Atlanta Hawks (nERD: 50.1, Record: 31-22, Last Week: 14)
13. Miami Heat (nERD: 50.4, Record: 23-30, Last Week: 17)
In the first half of the season, the Heat went 11-30. Their offense was abysmal, scoring only 98.3 points per game, the second-worst mark in the league. The difference in the last 12 versus those first 41 games has been night and day.
Averaging 109.8 points per game during the streak, the Heat are shooting lights out from the field, dropping 49.4% of their field goal attempts, including over 42% of their threes. While the resurgence of Dion Waiters has caught most of the national attention, we would be remiss not to point out the exploits of point guard Goran Dragic.
During the streak, the veteran floor general owns a 66.6% true shooting percentage and an 114.3 offensive rating, while scoring a team-high 22.9 points per game. In a two-point victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, Dragic was unstoppable from beyond the arc draining 7 of 9 three-point attempts as he scored 33 points with 9 assists.
12. Milwaukee Bucks (nERD: 51.7, Record: 22-29, Last Week: 12)
11. Charlotte Hornets (nERD: 53.0, Record: 24-29, Last Week: 10)
10. Memphis Grizzlies (nERD: 54.8, Record: 33-22, Last Week: 11)
Winners of six of their last seven games, the Memphis Grizzlies have climbed up into a tie with the Los Angeles Clippers for the 5 seed in the West. Their past two games showed the rest of the West they will be a team to be reckoned with this postseason and that they have the capability of adapting.
On Monday, they used their stout defense to grind out an 89-74 win over a Kawhi Leonard-less San Antonio Spurs team. They held Gregg Popovich's crew to a season-low in points, field goal percentage (36.6%), and three-point shooting (21.1%). The Grizzlies showed their teeth by forcing 17 turnovers and allowing only 11 assists.
Against the Phoenix Suns two nights later, the offense was on full display as they romped 110-91. The Griz sank 14 of 24 three-point shots, something they have been doing a lot more of this season.
While their 9.2 made threes per game this season only ranks them 16th in the league, it is over 50% more than their 6.1 makes last season and 5.1 per game they hit on in 2014-15.
9. Washington Wizards (nERD: 55.5, Record: 31-21, Last Week: 9)
8. Boston Celtics (nERD: 56.7, Record: 34-19, Last Week: 8)
T-6. Los Angeles Clippers (nERD: 62.8, Record: 32-21, Last Week: 5)
T-6. Cleveland Cavaliers (nERD: 62.8, Record: 36-16, Last Week: 7)
5. Houston Rockets (nERD: 64.8, Record: 39-17, Last Week: 6)
4. Toronto Raptors (nERD: 66.1, Record: 32-22, Last Week: 3)
3. Utah Jazz (nERD: 66.6, Record: 34-20, Last Week: 4)
The typical Utah Jazz script allows their tenacious defense to carry them to victory. This year, though, has been a bit different. While they still rank first in points allowed (95.7) and third in defensive rating (101.6), the newfound explosiveness to their offense is the key to their fourth-place standing in the West, particularly in the last 10 days.
Since the start of February, the Jazz are 4-1 and had their two highest scoring games of the season, while scoring at least 104 points in all five games. Behind the 12 for 18 shooting and 30 points from All-Star Gordon Hayward, the Jazz tied their season-high with 120 points on 62.5% shooting against the Atlanta Hawks and their top five defensive rating.
Two days later, they re-wrote their season records with 127 points against the Pelicans. This time veteran guard Joe Johnson caught the hot hand, draining 6 three-pointers on his way to 27 points.
Barring a stunning collapse, the Jazz are poised to return to the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.
2. San Antonio Spurs (nERD: 75.3, Record: 40-12, Last Week: 2)
1. Golden State Warriors (nERD: 84.6, Record: 44-8, Last Week: 1)