NBA Power Rankings Update: Down the Stretch
While it seems like the NBA season tipped off just yesterday, in reality, we have just under six weeks to go until the postseason.
Over the next 20 or so games, there may not be much movement in our power rankings, but the actual standings may see quite a bit of shuffle -- especially when you factor the injuries that have hit the league's two powerhouses.
With both Kevin Love and Kevin Durant sidelined for the foreseeable future, the teams chasing the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors have new hope. The once seemingly unreachable leaders have seen their leads slip to three games or less in their respective conferences.
This week, we will take a closer look at both the Cavs and Dubs -- and how they have played without one of their All-Stars -- plus three other teams who have made noise in the Association the past two weeks.
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: 22.9, Record: 10-49, Last Update: 30)
With an unspectacular 109-100 win over the Sacramento Kings, the Brooklyn Nets found sweet relief as they snapped a 16-game losing streak, two games short of their franchise-worst 18-game streak set in 2009-10. It was only their second win in 2017 as they have lost 26 of their last 28 games.
During the losing streak, the offense has been abysmal, scoring just 103.0 points while committing 17.1 turnovers per game. Even playing at a quick pace -- 102.9 possessions per 48 minutes -- didn't help to pile up the points, thanks to their 29th-ranked offensive efficiency (99.2 points per 100 possessions). The defense wasn't doing them any favors either.
In the five-plus-week winless stretch, opponents have been raining buckets on the Nets, taking advantage of the fast play by averaging 113.1 points per game, the second-worst mark in the league. With only 10 wins in 59 games, the Nets need to win three more contests to avoid the dubious distinction of owning the worst record in team history. That honor currently sits with the 2009-10 team, who went 12-70.
29. Los Angeles Lakers (nERD: 27.7, Record: 19-42, Last Update: 29)
28. Philadelphia 76ers (nERD: 29.7, Record: 22-38, Last Update: 28)
27. Orlando Magic (nERD: 33.1, Record: 22-39, Last Update: 27)
26. Phoenix Suns (nERD: 35.1, Record: 19-42, Last Update: 26)
25. Sacramento Kings (nERD: 38.2, Record: 25-36, Last Update: 25)
24. New York Knicks (nERD: 41.2, Record: 25-36, Last Update: 24)
23. Dallas Mavericks (nERD: 43.3, Record: 24-36, Last Update: 22)
22. Portland Trail Blazers (nERD: 43.4, Record: 25-35, Last Update: 23)
21. New Orleans Pelicans (nERD: 43.5, Record: 24-37, Last Update: 20)
In the four games the New Orleans Pelicans have played since the blockbuster trade that brought them DeMarcus Cousins, the team has not had the kind of success many envisioned. With just one win since the deal -- and that came with Cousins sidelined with a suspension -- New Orleans has fallen to 13th place in the Western Conference, four full games behind the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff spot.
In the three games with Cousins, the offense hasn't found their groove yet, averaging just 97.3 points per game. The group as a whole shot just 42.2% from the field and 25.0% from three. The problem has not been Anthony Davis -- 35.3 points per game on 48.2% shooting -- or even Cousins -- 23.3 points per game -- but everyone else on the roster.
Envisioned as the third head of a mighty trio, Jrue Holiday has not gotten in sync with Boogie and Brow. He has scored just 10.0 points per game on 28.9% shooting while committing 16 turnovers compared to 18 assists.
20. Denver Nuggets (nERD: 45.8, Record: 28-33, Last Update: 21)
19. Indiana Pacers (nERD: 47.2, Record: 31-30, Last Update: 18)
18. Chicago Bulls (nERD: 48.3, Record: 31-30, Last Update: 17)
17. Minnesota Timberwolves (nERD: 49.1, Record: 25-36, Last Update: 19)
16. Detroit Pistons (nERD: 49.3, Record: 29-32, Last Update: 15)
15. Atlanta Hawks (nERD: 49.5, Record: 34-26, Last Update: 14)
14. Oklahoma City Thunder (nERD: 49.6, Record: 35-26, Last Update: 16)
The Western Conference playoff race is about to get exciting. While the San Antonio Spurs and Warriors vie for the top seed and the Denver Nuggets tighten their grip on the 8 seed, the battle in the middle of the pack will be one to keep your eye on. The current 7 seed, the Oklahoma City Thunder, are just three games behind the Utah Jazz -- with 21 games to go -- for the 4 seed and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
In their four games since the All-Star break, the Thunder have stepped up their offensive game, scoring 111.5 points per game, the fourth-most in the league. The key has been their success from beyond the arc as the team has gone from second-worst in three-point shooting accuracy (32.1%) to the best in the NBA since the break (43.8%). With Victor Oladipo sidelined all four games, rookie Alex Abrines has stepped up big time, sinking 13-of-23 long distance attempts as he assumed Dipo's starting spot. Russell Westbrook hasn't been too bad either, draining 15-of-38 (40%) tries, a sharp increase from his pre-break rate of 33.8%.
13. Milwaukee Bucks (nERD: 51.4, Record: 26-33, Last Update: 11)
12. Charlotte Hornets (nERD: 51.8, Record: 26-35, Last Update: 12)
11. Miami Heat (nERD: 52.3, Record: 28-33, Last Update: 13)
10. Memphis Grizzlies (nERD: 54.0, Record: 36-25, Last Update: 10)
9. Washington Wizards (nERD: 56.1, Record: 36-23, Last Update: 9)
8. Boston Celtics (nERD: 56.4 Record: 39-22, Last Update: 8)
7. Los Angeles Clippers (nERD: 61.6, Record: 36-24, Last Update: 7)
6. Cleveland Cavaliers (nERD: 62.9, Record: 41-18, Last Update: 6)
A few days before the All-Star Break, the Cavs announced Kevin Love would miss six weeks after undergoing a scope on his left knee. There was legitimate cause for concern, as Cleveland has struggled without their power forward this season. Love had missed seven games due to various injuries with the Cavs going 4-3.
According to NBAWowy.com, without Love on the floor, the Cavaliers offense has scored just 1.116 points per possession -- equal to an 111.6 offensive rating, still around 3 points per 100 possessions better than the league average. When the big man has played, however, Cleveland posts an impressive 118.0 offensive rating, which would be highest in the NBA as a standalone team.
In the six games since, Cleveland has had mixed results. While they own a 4-2 record, their four wins came against teams with a combined record of 107-135. They were blown out by a mediocre Chicago Bulls squad -- albeit without LeBron James -- and lost a crucial matchup to their closest competitor in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics. In their last three games, they have averaged just 100.0 points per game as their offensive rating dipped to just 104.3.
5. Utah Jazz (nERD: 63.6, Record: 37-24, Last Update: 4)
4. Toronto Raptors (nERD: 64.6, Record: 36-25, Last Update: 5)
3. Houston Rockets (nERD: 66.5, Record: 43-19, Last Update: 3)
2. San Antonio Spurs (nERD: 75.3, Record: 46-13, Last Update: 2)
1. Golden State Warriors (nERD: 83.5, Record: 50-11, Last Update: 1)
The news of Kevin Durant's injury and subsequent recovery timeline has sent shockwaves through the NBA. Without KD on the floor, the Warriors don't look like the unbeatable juggernauts they were over the first four months of the season. His absence has already been felt by the bay, even after just two games.
Versus the Washington Wizards -- the game during which Durant left after playing just two minutes -- the Dubs' offense sputtered, committing 19 turnovers while Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson went 5-for-22 (22.7%) from three. The real concern came two days later as the Warriors lost to the Bulls 94-87, snapping a 146-game streak of not losing consecutive games. While it may have come at the hands of the #TNTBulls, the offensive performance on Thursday was embarrassing.
The 87 points was a season-low while, again, the Splash Brothers struggled, going 15-of-49 from the floor and 3-for-22 from three. The team as a whole posted an 84.3 offensive rating, a far cry from the 118.2 points per game and 114.1 offensive rating they had owned before KD went down.