NBA Power Rankings Update: The Injury Effect
At some point in the season, all teams experience the occasional bumps and bruises, some more severe than others. How a team handles the adversity has a prominent effect in their place in the standings.
One of the teams struggling through a litany of injuries early this year is the New Orleans Pelicans. We broke down how their injury problems are holding them back this season. Now, to make matters worse, they have to play without Anthony Davis for a few games.
Eastern Conference risers Orlando and Milwaukee have seen a vital member of their starting lineup miss multiple games, Nikola Vucevic and Michael Carter-Williams respectively, but have found a way to keep on winning. Same goes for title contenders Cleveland and Golden State, who have managed to stay on top without Kyrie Irving and Andrew Bogut.
For this second edition of the NBA Power Rankings, we take a closer look at some of the teams whose stock has dropped in the past week due, in some part to injury concerns.
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. Philadelphia 76ers (nERD: 14.0, Record: 0-8, Last Week: 30)
And then there was one. The 76ers have the dubious honor of being the last remaining winless team in the NBA as they have lost all eight of their games this year and 18 straight going back to last season. Even with the addition of top pick Jahlil Okafor and his team-leading 19.9 points per game it has not been enough for the 76ers to get their offense rolling.
After averaging 92 points per game last year, this year's version of the 76ers are not doing much better at 92.9 points per game. It does not help that the two players who amassed the most points for Philly last year, Robert Covington and Nerlens Noel, have missed a total of nine games already. Add in the fact of another year without Joel Embiid and the disappointing shooting start for Nik Stauskas (34.5 percent from the field, 28.5 from three), and we have to start wondering if Philly will even come close to reaching the 18 wins they had last season.
No one player is to blame. The lack of offense is a combined effort from the entire 76ers roster, no matter how depleted of talent it is. Ranking in the bottom four of field goal and free throw shooting, turnovers and Offensive Rating, the question remains, when will the 76ers ever be good again?
29. Brooklyn Nets (nERD: 18.0, Record: 1-7, Last Week: 29)
28. New Orleans Pelicans (nERD: 23.3, Record: 1-7, Last Week: 27)
27. Memphis Grizzlies (nERD: 24.3, Record: 3-6, Last Week: 18)
26. Los Angeles Lakers (nERD: 26.8, Record: 1-7, Last Week: 28)
25. Houston Rockets (nERD: 31.8, Record: 4-4, Last Week: 19)
The season has a new low for the Rockets. After being the only team in NBA history to start the season with three consecutive 20-point losses, Houston just blew a fourth quarter lead on their home-court to the previously winless Nets, giving them their first victory of the season. It wasn't supposed to be this way.
The Western Conference runner-up last season, Houston was expected to remain one of the best teams in the NBA. But through eight games, injuries to Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones, Patrick Beverley, and Donatas Motiejunas have left their depth shaky and thin, forcing coach Kevin McHale to play his starters heavy minutes.
Taking on the biggest load and the most minutes has been James Harden. While playing nearly 40 minutes per game, Harden's performance has largely decided if the Rockets were going to win or lose. In the Rockets' four wins, Harden is averaging 38.5 points and 3.8 three-pointers per game on 46 percent shooting. In the losses, the Beard has been off the mark hitting 26 percent from the field. His 6-for-42 performance from three has left him averaging only 19.3 points per game in the losses.
If the Rockets are going to get back on track, they need a healthy bench and frontcourt to alleviate some of the pressure off of Harden.
24. Sacramento Kings (nERD: 33.5, Record: 2-7, Last Week: 21)
23. Milwaukee Bucks (nERD: 37.1, Record: 4-5, Last Week: 25)
22. Denver Nuggets (nERD: 37.5, Record: 4-4, Last Week: 22)
21. Indiana Pacers (nERD: 41.1, Record: 5-4, Last Week: 24)
20. Washington Wizards (nERD: 41.8, Record: 3-4, Last Week: 12)
Entering the season, we saw the Wizards as the fifth-best team in the East. After seven games and a 3-4 start, Washington sits in last place in the Southeast division. A top-10 defense in 2014-15, the squad can look at their leaky defense for their poor start, as they rank 28th in points allowed (110.4 per game) and 25th in efficiency (108.4 Defensive Rating).
The main reason for the struggles is a philosophy change by coach Randy Wittman. Last year the Wizards were 18th in pace, but this year the newly implemented up-tempo system leaves them as the fastest team in the NBA regarding pace.
The primary beneficiary of the "shoot first, ask questions later" style of play has been Bradley Beal. The fourth-year guard has been firing and making shots at will so far this year. His 17.8 attempts per game are more than 4.3 more than last year. A 42 percent shooter entering this season, Beal has been knocking down shots at a 48.6 percent clip resulting in 22.7 points per game, good for the team lead.
Against Atlanta on November 7, Beal suffered a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the Wizards game versus the Thunder and possibly more. If Washington is going to break out of their three-game losing streak, where they have lost by an average of nearly 20 points per game, they need a healthy Beal back.
19. Phoenix Suns (nERD: 42.7, Record: 3-4, Last Week: 16)
18. Orlando Magic (nERD: 43.6, Record: 4-5, Last Week: 26)
17. New York Knicks (nERD: 46.4, Record: 4-5, Last Week: 23)
16. Chicago Bulls (nERD: 49.6, Record: 5-3, Last Week: 11)
15. Minnesota Timberwolves (nERD: 52.2, Record: 4-3, Last Week: 20)
14. Boston Celtics (nERD: 52.3, Record: 3-4, Last Week: 15)
13. Charlotte Hornets (nERD: 52.9, Record: 4-4, Last Week: 17)
12. Dallas Mavericks (nERD: 53.7, Record: 4-4, Last Week: 8)
As we kicked off the 2015-16 season, there was no team more banged up than the Dallas Mavericks. Three of their projected starters (Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, Chandler Parsons) missed all or most of the preseason. While two of the three have slowly gotten back to health, Williams and Matthews, their starting small forward Parsons has only played five of eight games and no more than 17 minutes in any of the contests.
In Parsons' absences from the starting lineup, Raymond Felton, and his -6.7 nERD rating have filled in for Dallas. Never the most efficient player, a career 14.3 PER and -6.0 Net Rating, Felton has been remarkably bad this year. His 7.2 PER and -18.0 Net Rating while playing the third-most minutes on the team has undoubtedly dragged the Mavericks down. In the four losses, all by double-digits by the way, Felton has totaled more turnovers than assists, 10 to 7. He is shooting less than 30 percent from the field in the defeats as well. Even with Felton's poor play it has not been all negatives in North Texas without Parsons.
In the organization's most anticipated game of the early season, the DeAndre Jordan return to Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki continued his rejuvenated start by dropping 31 on the Clippers and leading Dallas to victory. The 37-year-old's 18.9 points per game lead the Mavs in scoring, and his 9.3 nERD has him in the top 20 of the NBA. If he continues his lights out shooting (55 percent on field goals, 51 percent on threes and 91 percent on the line), not only would he re-join the exclusive 50-40-90 club, he would become the inaugural member of the 50-50-90 club.
11. Portland Trail Blazers (nERD: 53.8, Record: 4-5, Last Week: 14)
10. Detroit Pistons (nERD: 57.0, Record: 5-3, Last Week: 13)
9. Atlanta Hawks (nERD: 62.7, Record: 8-2, Last Week: 9)
8. Miami Heat (nERD: 65.1, Record: 5-3, Last Week: 10)
7. Oklahoma City Thunder (nERD: 65.7, Record: 5-3, Last Week: 6)
The big news with the Thunder is the bad hamstring of Kevin Durant that will leave him out of action for at least the next week and a half. In the 27 games they had Durant to pair with Russell Westbrook last year, they dominated going 18-9. However with the soon-to-be free agent on the sidelines, the Thunder struggled to a 27-28 record.
With Durant out, Westbrook will have to jump back into the alpha dog role where he averaged 30.7 points per game and an outrageous 40.4 Usage Rate last year. This season, Westbrook has shined, admittedly more as a distributor than a scorer. His 10.9 assists per game lead the NBA, and his Usage Rate dropped back to a more modest 33.7. If the Thunder are going to maintain their standing in the top three of the West, they can ill afford another lengthy absence from KD.
Lucky for them, over the next 10 days, four of their five games are at home and against teams with a sub-.500 record. Philly, Boston, Memphis, New Orleans, and New York are a combined 11-30 so far this year.
6. Toronto Raptors (nERD: 65.8, Record: 6-3, Last Week: 5)
5. San Antonio Spurs (nERD: 69.4, Record: 6-2, Last Week: 4)
4. Utah Jazz (nERD: 69.6, Record: 4-3, Last Week: 7)
3. Los Angeles Clippers (nERD: 71.3, Record: 5-3, Last Week: 3)
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (nERD: 75.6, Record: 7-1, Last Week: 2)
1. Golden State Warriors (nERD: 99.0, Record: 9-0, Last Week: 1)