NBA Power Rankings: Who's the West's Second Best?
Each week, we'll be translating numberFire's NBA power rankings into words. The rankings are driven by our nERD metric, which is a predictive statistic to help define what the team's winning percentage ultimately will be.
With the All-Star break out of the way and the trade deadline seeing 37 players change hands, we're on to the stretch run. The Bulls will be an interesting team to watch with the injury to Derrick Rose. Can they hold on without him?
And in the West, the heavyweights continue to show their strengths. No one may be able to challenge the Warriors -- especially if the battle for the 2 seed drains some of the teams. But it's a race worth keeping our eye on, and we have the current number-two team in the West below with the rest of our rankings!
#30 Philadelphia 76ers (nERD: 17.7, Record: 12-44, last week: 30)
#29 New York Knicks (nERD: 21.5, Record: 10-45, last week: 28)
#28 Minnesota Timberwolves (nERD: 22.4, Record: 12-43, last week: 29)
#27 Los Angeles Lakers (nERD: 31.8, Record: 14-41, last week: 26)
#26 Orlando Magic (nERD: 31.9, Record: 19-39, last week: 27)
#25 Sacramento Kings (nERD: 36.5, Record: 19-35, last week: 24)
#24 Denver Nuggets (nERD: 38.1, Record: 20-36, last week: 23)
#23 Brooklyn Nets (nERD: 38.2, Record: 23-31, last week: 25)
#22 Miami Heat (nERD: 41.2, Record: 24-31, last week: 22)
#21 Utah Jazz (nERD: 43, Record: 21-34, last week: 21)
#20 Indiana Pacers (nERD: 43.8, Record: 23-34, last week: 20)
#19 Boston Celtics (nERD: 44, Record: 21-33, last week: 18)
#18 Charlotte Hornets (nERD: 46.2, Record: 22-32, last week: 17)
When you think of teams that have done well defensively since the calendar flipped to the new year, you likely imagine the Hawks, Warriors, Spurs, and Blazers. While those teams are all in the top 10 in Defensive Rating, none of them have had the best defense in the league for the first two months of 2015. That distinction belongs to the Hornets and their 94.9 rating, 1.1 points higher than the Milwaukee Bucks.
Since January 1st, the Hornets have also averaged the second-most rebounds (46.6) and third-most blocks (6.6) per game while winning 12 of 21 games. The Hornets won't scare anyone, but by allowing the fifth-fewest points per game (97.0) and securing a Defensive Rating of 103.1, they might be able to secure the 8 seed in the East. Currently, they have a 38.9% chance to make the playoffs while the Pacers (36.5%), Nets (35.2%) and Pistons (24.6%) are right on their heels.
#17 Detroit Pistons (nERD: 46.4, Record: 23-34, last week: 19)
#16 New Orleans Pelicans (nERD: 51.1, Record: 29-27, last week: 16)
#15 Phoenix Suns (nERD: 52.1, Record: 29-28, last week: 14)
#14 Milwaukee Bucks (nERD: 52.3, Record: 31-25, last week: 15)
#13 Washington Wizards (nERD: 55, Record: 33-24, last week: 10)
#12 Oklahoma City Thunder (nERD: 57.6, Record: 32-25, last week: 13)
#11 San Antonio Spurs (nERD: 57.6, Record: 34-22, last week: 9)
#10 Chicago Bulls (nERD: 59, Record: 36-21, last week: 11)
#9 Cleveland Cavaliers (nERD: 59, Record: 36-22, last week: 12)
#8 Houston Rockets (nERD: 60.1, Record: 38-18, last week: 8)
#7 Portland Trail Blazers (nERD: 60.5, Record: 36-19, last week: 7)
#6 Toronto Raptors (nERD: 61.5, Record: 37-20, last week: 6)
#5 Memphis Grizzlies (nERD: 64.3, Record: 41-14, last week: 5)
Even with all the noise at the trade deadline, the Jeff Green trade may go down as the most important one all season. The Grizzlies are 15-3 since they traded for him. And it's not as though the Grizzlies were bad before he joined the team: they were 26-11 and 10th in our power rankings. But since January 14th, we've seen the Grizzlies go from a top-10 team to a top-5 team, beating the Clippers, Hawks, Mavericks, and Blazers (twice) in that 18-game stretch.
The Grizzlies currently own the third-best Defensive Rating rating in the NBA (102.1), ranking behind only the Bucks (101.9) and Warriors (100.8). Since January 14, their Defensive Rating has been an outstanding 95.7, the second-best mark in the league. The Grizzlies have always been recognized for their defense of late, and this is their fourth-best in franchise history.
#4 Atlanta Hawks (nERD: 67.1, Record: 44-12, last week: 2)
#3 Dallas Mavericks (nERD: 68.2, Record: 39-20, last week: 3)
#2 Los Angeles Clippers (nERD: 70.3, Record: 37-20, last week: 4)
How do the Clippers lose to the Grizzlies and still rise in our power rankings? Before the loss to Memphis (their second of the season), the Clippers were on a four-game winning streak, and it was an impressive one. They scored at least 110 points in each game and beat three different teams in our top 11 -- the Mavericks, Rockets, and Spurs -- and destroyed the Kings by 27.
The Clippers haven't lost their touch on offense and recently surpassed the Warriors as the most efficient offense in the league. The Clippers now boast an Offensive Rating of 113.0. The Warriors' Offensive Rating is 111.4. The Clippers are still the second-best team in the NBA according to our power rankings. They hope to keep that up thanks to the help of one of the best big men in the league playing well at both ends.
DeAndre Jordan leads the league in rebounds (795) and is tied for the lead in blocks (135). Jordan's true shooting percentage (65.8%) ranks third in the NBA, and his effective field goal percentage (72.0%) is tops in the league. And that's all before getting to his 129.9 Offensive Rating (first) and 99.7 Defensive Rating (eighth). Throw in 8.7 Win Shares and a 13.5 nERD (both sixth-best in the league), and Clippers have an offense that is hitting on all cylinders, even without Blake Griffin in the lineup.
#1 Golden State Warriors (nERD: 81.8, Record: 44-10, last week: 1)