NBA Power Rankings Update: March Madness Hits the Association
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.
There's always the one month out of the year where one sport can bring excite even the non-sports people: March. We all want to have the bragging rights among family, friends, co-workers and even Twitter for nailing our March Madness brackets or picking the entire Final Four and champion correctly.
But we can't forget about the NBA. Even though we're only halfway through the month of March, let's see how some teams are doing so far -- some have been lucky as a leprechaun while other team's results have been maddening.
#30 Philadelphia 76ers (nERD: 19.6, Record: 15-52, last week: 30)
#29 New York Knicks (nERD: 20.9, Record: 13-53, last week: 29)
#28 Minnesota Timberwolves (nERD: 23.4, Record: 14-52, last week: 28)
#27 Orlando Magic (nERD: 30.9, Record: 21-47, last week: 27)
#26 Los Angeles Lakers (nERD: 33.9, Record: 17-49, last week: 26)
#25 Sacramento Kings (nERD: 35.5, Record: 22-44, last week: 25)
#24 Brooklyn Nets (nERD: 38.8, Record: 27-38, last week: 24)
#23 Denver Nuggets (nERD: 40.5, Record: 26-42, last week: 23)
The Denver Nuggets started March with yet another loss, the last of Brian Shaw's coaching career with the Nuggets. On March 3rd, Melvin Hunt took over as interim coach and won in his debut against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Nuggets went on to win their next game against the Timberwolves as well, their second straight win for only the third time this season. The Nuggets have gone 6-3 overall since Hunt took over.
The Nuggets are scoring in bunches under Hunt as well. They have scored at least 100 points in 8 of the 9 games with Hunt at the helm, including games against the Rockets and Spurs. The Nuggets are in no man's land in the Western Conference, but at least they're leaving something to build on for next year.
#22 Miami Heat (nERD: 43.5, Record: 30-36, last week: 22)
The Miami Heat are still in the thick of the playoff race thanks to Dwyane Wade. Wade is the third-highest scorer for the month of March, averaging 26.9 points per game in 7 games this month. The Heat had a 50% shot at the playoffs at the beginning of the month and have only dipped slightly to a 44.6% chance to make the playoffs currently, according to our numbers. A big win over the Cavaliers, and former teammate LeBron James, proves the Heat won't go quietly into the night.
#21 Detroit Pistons (nERD: 43.8, Record: 23-43, last week: 21)
The Pistons have not looked good in the month of March -- in fact, you could say they may be the worst team in the month of March as they have lost all seven of their games. Even the Lakers, Knicks, and 76ers have at least one win this month.
Going back to February 23rd, the Pistons had a shot at the playoffs, sitting in the 8 seed and only one game behind the Heat for the 7 seed. Since then, they've lost 10 games in a row, seen their playoff chances plummet from 24.6% to 0.3% and have the seventh-worst record in the NBA.
#20 Boston Celtics (nERD: 47.1, Record: 30-36, last week: 20)
#19 Charlotte Hornets (nERD: 47.5, Record: 29-36, last week: 18)
#18 Indiana Pacers (nERD: 49, Record: 30-36, last week: 16)
#17 Milwaukee Bucks (nERD: 49.4, Record: 34-32, last week: 15)
#16 Utah Jazz (nERD: 49.7, Record: 30-36, last week: 19)
We just can't get enough of Rudy Gobert at numberFire and this March has proved why with the second-year center. He has grabbed at least 20 rebounds in three of the eight games he's played in this month, helping to form one of the best frontcourts in the league and proving why the Jazz were comfortable enough letting Enes Kanter go to the Thunder.
The Jazz also have the best winning percentage of the month so far, winning seven of their eight games. It's a shame they are in the Western Conference as their record would put them in the thick of things for the 8 seed in the East.
#15 Phoenix Suns (nERD: 50.6, Record: 35-33, last week: 17)
#14 New Orleans Pelicans (nERD: 52.1, Record: 36-30, last week: 14)
#13 Chicago Bulls (nERD: 55.1, Record: 40-28, last week: 12)
The Bulls must really really miss Jimmy Butler this March. They have won only three of their nine games and have seen a massive shift in many advanced metrics. Offensively, they are the seventh worst with an Offensive Rating of just 98.9; before March, the Bulls had the ninth best Offensive Rating of 105.2. Their defense isn't doing much to help either. They are in the bottom 12 in Defensive Rating at 104.0. The Bulls are still a lock for the playoffs, but if their recent slide continues, they'll likely miss out on homecourt advantage for the first round.
#12 Oklahoma City Thunder (nERD: 56.4, Record: 37-30, last week: 11)
#11 Washington Wizards (nERD: 56.6, Record: 39-28, last week: 13)
#10 Toronto Raptors (nERD: 57.8, Record: 40-27, last week: 10)
#9 Houston Rockets (nERD: 58.7, Record: 44-22, last week: 9)
#8 Memphis Grizzlies (nERD: 59.5, Record: 47-20, last week: 6)
#7 Cleveland Cavaliers (nERD: 59.7, Record: 43-26, last week: 8)
#6 Portland Trail Blazers (nERD: 61.9, Record: 44-21, last week: 5)
#5 San Antonio Spurs (nERD: 62.2, Record: 41-24, last week: 7)
Watch out for the San Antonio Spurs. Despite a rough time on their annual "Rodeo Trip," they have won seven of their last 10 and five of their six games in March. Tony Parker has found his way yet again, averaging 23.3 points per game, the 11th best mark this March. Kawhi Leonard is right there putting up 21.5 points per game. With Parker back in control and Leonard morphing back into NBA Finals MVP form, the Spurs could rise back to the top in the West.
Since February 25th, the Spurs have risen six spots in our rankings and seen their championship chances nearly double, going from 2.20% to 4.20%. Now only two and a half games behind Houston and five behind the Grizzlies in the division, they are kicking it into high gear at just the right time.
#4 Dallas Mavericks (nERD: 64.1, Record: 43-25, last week: 4)
#3 Atlanta Hawks (nERD: 66.9, Record: 53-14, last week: 3)
#2 Los Angeles Clippers (nERD: 69, Record: 42-25, last week: 2)
#1 Golden State Warriors (nERD: 80.1, Record: 53-13, last week: 1)