NBA Power Rankings Update, Presented By Knightfall: The Wizards Find Their Footing
Things, as they say, are getting real in the Association.
Despite last Thursday's road loss to the Boston Celtics, the Evil Empire, er, the Golden State Warriors are getting all jugger-naughty, winning nine of their last 10 while leading the league in offensive efficiency and holding down the five-spot in defensive efficiency. Pity to Oklahoma City, Chicago, and New Orleans, their Thanksgiving week opponents, especially the Bulls, who average 95.5 points a night as compared to the Evil Empire's, er, the Warriors' league-leading 117.9.
The San Antonio Spurs are doing their best impression of the San Antonio Spurs, winning six of their last eight and jumping four spots in our nERD power rankings. nERD is our in-house efficiency metric that ranks teams on a scale from 0-100, with 50 as the league average. This ranking is predictive of the team's ultimate winning percentage. If/when Kawhi Leonard finally makes it back onto the court, the sky is the limit. Actually, not the sky -- the Evil Empire is the limit. Them Dubs are purty good.
Chris Paul returned to the Houston Rockets lineup, and in the two games in which CP-3 has played, the Rockets outscored their opponents by a total of 48 points. Granted, one of those opponents was the nERD-deficient Phoenix Suns, but that's some scary stuff nonetheless.
What else did nERD have to say about the previous week of NBA action?
Teams Ranked 30th to 21st
There was a whole lot of movement in the top two-thirds of this week's rankings, but down on the bottom, the bad remained bad.
|21||Los Angeles Lakers||7-10||42.2||23||+2|
Sacramento, Chicago, and Dallas are still neck-and-neck-and-neck for the lead in the Luca Doncic sweepstakes. The astounding lack of efficiency the Kings have demonstrated since opening night is reflected in a nERD score lower than any posted to date this season -- but that's to be expected from a team that ranks dead last in offensive efficiency and 28th in defensive efficiency.
After kicking off the season with a 5-2 record, the Brooklyn Nets have reverted to their pretty darn lousy selves, dropping eight of their last 11. With upcoming tilts against Cleveland, Portland, Memphis, and Houston, you can expect the downslide to continue. The fact that D'Angelo Russell isn't expected back until who-knows-when doesn't help matters.
The Hawks -- who have lost 13 of 15 -- are bad at basketball, but nERD doesn't hate them as much as one would suspect, putting Atlanta a full two points ahead of a Suns team that's won three of their last five, which includes a victory over the toasty-hot Minnesota Timberwolves. But like the heart, nERD wants what nERD wants.
For all of their mercurial inconsistency, the Los Angeles Lakers are super-efficient on the defensive side of the floor, ranking fourth in defensive efficiency. If Luke Walton's young'uns figure things out on the offensive end of the floor -- they currently rank 28th in offensive efficiency -- they might crack the nERD top-20. Baby steps.
Despite winning five of their last six outings, the Cavs still find themselves down in the nERD dumps -- but that'll happen when you allow 112.2 points a night, third-most in the league. The problem is, there's no defensive stopper coming to save them. For that matter, when anti-ball-hawks Isaiah Thomas and/or Derrick Rose find their respective ways back onto the court, the Cleveland D could get even worse. #Cringe.
Teams Ranked 20th to 11th
There was a whole bunch of shuffling in the middle of the league, with the majority being of the downward variety. Clippers fans, avert your eyes.
|15||New Orleans Pelicans||8-8||46.4||19||-3|
|17||New York Knicks||8-7||45||17||Even|
|14||Los Angeles Clippers||5-10||51.8||7||-7|
Over the last 10 games, everybody in the league has a better record than the Clippers. (Every-freakin'-body. Even the freakin' Bulls.) After losing eight in a row and 10 of their last 11, Blake Griffin et al are lucky they only dropped seven spots in our rankings. But change could be a-comin', as five of their next six games are against teams who rank in the bottom-third of the league in nERD. Even better, the banged-up duo of Danilo Gallinari and Patrick Beverley could return to the court sooner rather than later. Not that Wesley Johnson isn't a perfectly swell fill-in, but, well, you know.
Seems like Jimmy Butler is finally acclimated with the Minnesota offense, and nERD is digging it. The Wolves have won eight of 11, and Butler has topped 21 points in four of his last five outings. Schedule-wise, Minny has a relatively easy rest of 2017 and doesn't face a legitimately scary team until their January 6th meeting with the Evil Empire, er, the Warriors. They're currently tied with the Spurs for the Western Conference's three-spot, but don't be surprised if San Antonio is somewhere in their rearview mirror by mid-December.
The Indiana Pacers are quietly having themselves a nice little season. They're tied for the eight-seed in the East, they have a +1.2 point differential -- in the East, that's nothing to sneeze at -- and they rank a respectable fifth in offensive efficiency. Once Myles Turner gets into game shape, they could make some noise in the mess known as the Eastern Conference. Then again, their upcoming schedule -- which includes games against Orlando, Houston, and Boston, as well a meeting with the Raptors -- is brutal, and Indy could (temporarily?) be out of the playoff picture by Christmas.
Teams Ranked 10th to 1st
The creme de la creme was exceptionally creamy last week. Only one of our top 10 teams dropped in the rankings, while the others moved up or stayed right where they were. The current list looks just about right, so expect to see these folks close to where they are for the foreseeable future.
|10||San Antonio Spurs||10-6||54.8||14||+4|
|7||Portland Trail Blazers||9-7||60.4||8||+1|
|4||Oklahoma City Thunder||7-8||66.8||3||-1|
|1||Golden State Warriors||13-4||83.0||1||Even|
The Evil Empire, er, the Warriors are nERD deities. The Celtics and the Rockets are getting damn close. Watch this space.
Considering their consistently lofty position in our rankings, one has to wonder if the OKC franchise has kompromat on nERD. After all, the Thunder, for the third week in a row, remain in the top five despite their sub-.500 record. They've dropped five of their last eight, one of which came at the hands of (ugh) the Kings. Let's see what nERD thinks about the whole thing on Wednesday night, when Westy et al tussle with the Evil Empire, er, the Warriors.
The Washington Wizards have been outside of the nERD top-10 in each edition of our power rankings to date, but no more! After winning five of their last eight -- one of which was a nifty road beatdown of the Raptors -- the nine-win Wiz find themselves ahead of Detroit, San Antonio, and Minnesota, all of whom have racked up double digits in wins. They're one of only three teams in the Association ranked top-10 in both defensive and offensive efficiency, the other two being the Pistons and -- say it with me now -- the Evil Empire, er, the Warriors.