NBA Power Rankings Update: Who's Been the Best Since the All-Star Break?
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.
We measure the season in stages, whether by different quarters of the season or by establishing a difference for teams before and after the All-Star break. This week, we'll be taking a quick look at various teams that fall under the "best" label since the All-Star break, as most teams have gotten in nine to 10 games since the break.
#30 Philadelphia 76ers (nERD: 18.8, Record: 14-49, last week: 30)
While being labeled a thief isn't usually a good thing, the 76ers have been really good at stealing since the All-Star break, averaging 9.8 steals per game. That is only 0.3 steals per game fewer than the Warriors, but we'll talk about them later. This is all without Michael Carter-Williams, too, who was traded to Milwaukee within a couple days of the break. Where are the steals coming from?
We actually don't have to go far down the list in league leaders with steals to see who is giving the 76ers such a boost in that category: it's Nerlens Noel. Noel is 10th in the league with 105 steals, averaging 1.8 per game. With 19 games left, he just may exceed Carter-Williams' 130 steals from last year, giving the 76ers at least a little silver lining on the season.
#29 New York Knicks (nERD: 20.7, Record: 12-51, last week: 29)
#28 Minnesota Timberwolves (nERD: 24.7, Record: 14-48, last week: 28)
#27 Orlando Magic (nERD: 31.4, Record: 21-44, last week: 27)
#26 Los Angeles Lakers (nERD: 34, Record: 17-46, last week: 26)
#25 Sacramento Kings (nERD: 35.9, Record: 21-41, last week: 24)
#24 Brooklyn Nets (nERD: 37.6, Record: 25-37, last week: 23)
#23 Denver Nuggets (nERD: 37.9, Record: 23-41, last week: 25)
#22 Miami Heat (nERD: 42.9, Record: 28-35, last week: 22)
#21 Detroit Pistons (nERD: 45.2, Record: 23-40, last week: 18)
#20 Boston Celtics (nERD: 45.4, Record: 26-36, last week: 21)
The Celtics haven't done much right this year, though shipping out Rajon Rondo did help the team. They have been playing closer to .500 ball (17-22) since the trade after winning only eight games with him. Thanks to moving Rondo, the team has also been turning the ball over less frequently, as Rondo was averaging 3.4 turnovers a game. This has helped the Celtics to stay in the top-10 in fewest turnovers on the year while leading to the fewest turnovers per game (11.8) since the All-Star break.
#19 Utah Jazz (nERD: 47, Record: 27-36, last week: 19)
The Jazz have been one of the best teams since the break. They are one of eight teams to notch at least seven wins in the last three weeks. They have also had the best defense in the league with an 89.6 Defensive Rating and are tied for the most blocked shots (6.4) per game with the Rockets since the All-Star game. Leading the way in blocked shots has been Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors -- they have combined for 236 blocks and are the only set of teammates in the top-20 on the season in blocks.
#18 Charlotte Hornets (nERD: 48.2, Record: 28-34, last week: 17)
#17 Phoenix Suns (nERD: 49.5, Record: 33-32, last week: 16)
#16 Indiana Pacers (nERD: 49.9, Record: 29-34, last week: 20)
At the beginning of the season, our algorithms placed the Pacers in the playoffs at the 8 seed. With Paul George having to sit out and Lance Stephenson being shipped out, the Pacers didn't look like they had much left to compete. But now, they have balance according to our own Russell Peddle, as they have channeled their inner-Spurs tactics.
This has allowed the Pacers to lead the league in Net Rating since the break with a 13.1 point swing between their Offensive and Defensive Ratings, thanks to a top-10 offense and the second best defense since the break. Frank Vogel has kept his team fresh and has the team set on the playoffs for the fifth straight season.
#15 Milwaukee Bucks (nERD: 50.3, Record: 33-30, last week: 15)
#14 New Orleans Pelicans (nERD: 51.6, Record: 36-29, last week: 14)
Which team is shooting the best? According to each team's Effective Field Goal percentage and True Shooting percentage (TS%), it's been the Pelicans since the All-Star break.
The Pelicans, thanks to Anthony Davis' Effective Field Goal percentage of 54.5% and True Shooting of 60.1%, the Pelicans have been shooting 0.1% better than the Cavaliers in True Shooting and 0.4% better than the Cavaliers in Effective Field Goal percentage. Their defense needs work (they rank 19th in Defensive Rating since the break), but when the Pelicans are hitting from all over the floor, they are tough to beat as they have the most wins (9) since the break too.
#13 Washington Wizards (nERD: 54.4, Record: 36-28, last week: 13)
#12 Chicago Bulls (nERD: 55.3, Record: 39-26, last week: 11)
#11 Oklahoma City Thunder (nERD: 57.1, Record: 35-28, last week: 12)
#10 Toronto Raptors (nERD: 58, Record: 38-26, last week: 8)
#9 Houston Rockets (nERD: 58.9, Record: 43-20, last week: 9)
#8 Cleveland Cavaliers (nERD: 60.8, Record: 41-25, last week: 7)
The Cavaliers have the best offense in the league since the All-Star break, and it's not even close. Their Offensive Rating is 110.1 since the All-Star game and is three points higher than the next team, the San Antonio Spurs. This offense was on full display last night against the Mavericks, too, as the starting five combined for 108 points, the second-highest total from the starting five this season. It's the fifth time the Cavs' starting five has scored a combined 100 or more points -- it's only happened nine other times in the rest of the league.
#7 San Antonio Spurs (nERD: 60.9, Record: 40-23, last week: 10)
#6 Memphis Grizzlies (nERD: 61.5, Record: 45-18, last week: 6)
#5 Portland Trail Blazers (nERD: 61.6, Record: 41-20, last week: 5)
#4 Dallas Mavericks (nERD: 63, Record: 41-25, last week: 4)
#3 Atlanta Hawks (nERD: 67.8, Record: 50-13, last week: 3)
#2 Los Angeles Clippers (nERD: 69.8, Record: 41-23, last week: 2)
#1 Golden State Warriors (nERD: 81.3, Record: 50-12, last week: 1)
The Warriors have been the top team in our rankings since the All-Star break, the beginning of 2015, and, actually, since the beginning of the December. Yeah, they're that good. They may not boast the best defense since the break, but it's in the top five and only the Cavs have a better offense. And they're still doing what the do best -- shooting lights out from downtown with a 42.5% mark since the break, 4.7% higher than the second-place Pelicans.
They also have MVP-candidate Stephen Curry, Defensive Player of the Year candidate Draymond Green, and one of the best three-point shooters in Klay Thompson. Can anyone stop the Warriors? Our power rankings don't seem to think so, as they have a 36.7% chance to win the NBA Finals, by far the highest odds in the NBA.