NBA Power Rankings Update: Nuggets on the Move
With fewer than three weeks left in the season, the battle for the eighth spot in the West is heating up.
Just one game separates the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers with only 11 games remaining. Both teams have ramped it up, too, as the Blazers have won four of five and Denver is coming off a huge win over the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
While Portland has crept up a spot in our ranks, the Nuggets are the biggest risers of the weeks, jumping up four places since we last updated our ranks.
This week, we will take a closer look at Denver and four other notable NBA teams.
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. Los Angeles Lakers (nERD: 26.2, Record: 20-51, Last Update: 29)
Over the last two weeks, there has been no team worse in the NBA than the Los Angeles Lakers. They are 0-6, with a 24-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, a 28-point loss to the Nuggets, and a shameful 39-point trouncing by the Houston Rockets.
In the loss to Houston, the Lakers allowed a season-high 139 points, including a 47-point fourth quarter to the Rockets' second-unit. During the six-game losing streak, the Lakers haven't been able to stop anyone, allowing 125 points or more four times. Their defensive rating is 120.9, and they own a -16.4 net rating.
One of the few bright spots was the performance of D'Angelo Russell in a five-point loss to the Cavs. The second-year guard scored a career-high 40 points as he went 14-for-22 from the field including 7-for-12 from three. Russell posted a 158.0 offensive rating and a 45.77 nERD rating.
29. Brooklyn Nets (nERD: 27.2, Record: 15-56, Last Update: 30)
28. Philadelphia 76ers (nERD: 31.6, Record: 26-45, Last Update: 28)
27. Orlando Magic (nERD: 32.2, Record: 26-46, Last Update: 27)
26. Phoenix Suns (nERD: 33.8, Record: 22-50, Last Update: 26)
25. Sacramento Kings (nERD: 36.8, Record: 27-44, Last Update: 25)
24. New York Knicks (nERD: 39.2, Record: 27-45, Last Update: 24)
The New York Knicks' fan base is counting the games until this nightmare of a season is over. Between all the off-court beefs (Phil Jackson-Carmelo Anthony, James Dolan-Charles Oakley) and the horrific play on the hardwood, they are in need of sweet relief.
Losers of four straight, the Knicks have just one win in their last eight games. Go back even further, and since Christmas Day, the Knickerbockers are 11-32, the third-worst record in the NBA. Only the Lakers and Brooklyn Nets have been worse.
In their last eight games, they rank 26th in points per game (99.4), 25th in offensive efficiency (102.0), and 26th in true shooting percentage (52.6). For as much trouble as they have had putting the ball in the basket, the Knicks' defense will not be outdone.
They sit in the bottom three of the NBA in defensive efficiency (111.8) and defensive rebound percentage (71.9%). It all adds up to being outscored by an average of 9.4 points per game, the fourth-worst mark in the league.
23. Dallas Mavericks (nERD: 43.2, Record: 31-40, Last Update: 21)
22. New Orleans Pelicans (nERD: 45.9, Record: 30-41, Last Update: 23)
21. Chicago Bulls (nERD: 46.4, Record: 34-38, Last Update: 19)
20. Portland Trail Blazers (nERD: 46.7, Record: 33-38, Last Update: 21)
19. Indiana Pacers (nERD: 47.6, Record: 36-35, Last Update: 18)
T-17. Atlanta Hawks (nERD: 48.0, Record: 37-34, Last Update: 16)
T-17. Minnesota Timberwolves (nERD: 48.0, Record: 28-42, Last Update: 15)
16. Denver Nuggets (nERD: 48.4, Record: 34-37, Last Update: 20)
It has been four seasons since the Denver Nuggets have tasted the postseason. However, in what was supposed to be another rebuilding year, coach Mike Malone has the team in eighth place in the Western Conference with just 11 games remaining.
In the last two weeks, they own a 5-2 record and have racked up some quality wins over playoff-bound teams. By knocking off the Boston Celtics, Clippers, and the Cavaliers, they proved they can put a scare in whoever wins the top seed in the West due to their explosive offense, the best in the NBA over the last two weeks.
The Nuggets own the best offensive rating (118.4) and true shooting percentage (61.4%) while scoring the most points per game (119.6) and dishing out the most assists (28.7). At the heart of the prolific offense has been super-sophomore Nikola Jokic. The big man is averaging 18.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game while posting a 61.9% field goal percentage.
15. Detroit Pistons (nERD: 49.4, Record: 34-38, Last Update: 14)
14. Memphis Grizzlies (nERD: 51.3, Record: 40-32, Last Update: 13)
13. Oklahoma City Thunder (nERD: 52.1, Record: 41-30, Last Update: 17)
12. Milwaukee Bucks (nERD: 52.3, Record: 36-35, Last Update: 11)
After the Jabari Parker injury in early-February, the Milwaukee Bucks were left for dead in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They were 22-29 and two full games behind the Detroit Pistons for the eighth and final spot in the postseason. In the 20 games since, they are 14-6 -- the second-best record in the NBA the last six weeks.
Jason Kidd's crew has climbed all the way to sixth in the East and find themselves one game away from the Atlanta Hawks and the 5 seed. They have slowed down the game and ground out wins, and the Bucks have played the third-slowest pace since Parker's departure, thanks to one of the most efficient offenses in the league.
The Bucks are seventh in offensive rating (109.5) and fourth in true shooting percentage (57.8%) in the last 20 games. The return of Khris Middleton -- coincidentally the same week Parker was injured -- has been a life saver. In the month of March, Middleton is averaging 18.0 points and 1.9 three-pointers per game while shooting 51.9% from the floor.
11. Charlotte Hornets (nERD: 54.0, Record: 32-39, Last Update: 12)
10. Washington Wizards (nERD: 54.1, Record: 43-28, Last Update: 9)
9. Miami Heat (nERD: 54.7, Record: 35-37, Last Update: 10)
8. Boston Celtics (nERD: 56.3 Record: 46-26, Last Update: 8)
7. Cleveland Cavaliers (nERD: 60.7, Record: 46-24, Last Update: 7)
6. Los Angeles Clippers (nERD: 61.9, Record: 43-30, Last Update: 6)
5. Utah Jazz (nERD: 62.8, Record: 44-28, Last Update: 5)
4. Toronto Raptors (nERD: 64.3, Record: 43-29, Last Update: 4)
3. Houston Rockets (nERD: 67.5, Record: 49-22, Last Update: 3)
After a .500 finish in 2015-16 and the hiring of Mike D'Antoni, no one knew what to expect from the Rockets this season. What they have done, though, is cement themselves as the third-best team in the NBA, secured their fifth-straight playoff appearance, and are on pace for the third-best record in franchise history. With potential-MVP James Harden running the high-paced D'Antoni offense, the Rockets are hitting their stride as the season comes to a close.
Over the last two weeks, the Rockets are 5-1 with a win over Eastern Conference leader, Cleveland. They are averaging the second-most points in the NBA during those six games with 119.5 points per game and own the fourth-best offensive rating (113.4). While the Rockets are racking up the wins, Harden has been dominating on the court.
The Beard has averaged 32.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 11.5 assists, 3.2 three-pointers, and 2.3 steals in his last six games. He amassed four triple-doubles, bringing his total to 19 on the season.
2. San Antonio Spurs (nERD: 73.9, Record: 55-16, Last Update: 2)
1. Golden State Warriors (nERD: 82.2, Record: 57-14, Last Update: 1)