NBA Power Rankings Update: New Year's Resolutions
Every New Year's Eve, millions of Americans follow the tradition of making resolutions to lead a better life for the upcoming new year.
Resolutions can be dramatic life changes, like buying a house or changing careers. They can also be little personal improvements such as smiling more or taking the stairs. NBA teams have aspirations, big and small, much like everyone else.
In the spirit of the new year, we will be taking a look around the league at a few teams and what we think their resolutions for 2016 should be.
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: 11.6, Record: 3-31, Last Week: 30)
29. Los Angeles Lakers (nERD: 16.7, Record: 6-27, Last Week: 29)
2016 Resolution: Keep Their 2016 First-Round Draft Pick
As part of the Lakers' sign-and-trade for a 38-year-old Steve Nash before the 2012 season, Los Angeles potentially will lose their first-round pick in 2016 if it falls outside of the top three. Even with D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson, the Lakers need another infusion of young talent to replace the retiring Kobe Bryant and could ill-afford to lose their pick.
With the way the Lakers have been playing this year -- they own the league's worst defense and the 29th ranked offense and are on pace for 15 wins -- the odds are pretty high the pick will stay in Hollywood. Now, if coach Byron Scott can continue to let the Black Mamba and his sub-35 percent field goal shooting fire away at will, the team can hold on to their ticket in the Ben Simmons sweepstakes.
28. Milwaukee Bucks (nERD: 30.7, Record: 12-21, Last Week: 27)
27. Brooklyn Nets (nERD: 31.3, Record: 9-23, Last Week: 26)
26. New Orleans Pelicans (nERD: 34.1, Record: 10-21, Last Week: 28)
25. Denver Nuggets (nERD: 34.3, Record: 12-21, Last Week: 24)
2016 Resolution: Get Will Barton the Sixth Man of the Year Award
After a strong 6-5 start, the Nuggets came crashing hard back to Earth with an eight-game losing streak. With rookie Emmanuel Mudiay and leading scorer Danilo Gallinari both missing time due to injury, it appears to be a lost season in Denver. Despite all the gloom, the Nuggets still have a chance at taking down one of the most prestigious awards this season, Sixth Man of the Year.
Posting career-highs in virtually every category, Will Barton is second on the Nuggets with 16.3 points per game and leads them in threes and steals with 1.7 and 1.0 per game respectively. Coming off the bench in all but one game this year, Barton will be battling Jeremy Lin and Victor Oladipo for the Sixth Man crown.
24. Phoenix Suns (nERD: 37.0, Record: 12-22, Last Week: 19)
23. Sacramento Kings (nERD: 38.0, Record: 12-20, Last Week: 21)
22. Washington Wizards (nERD: 40.4, Record: 14-16, Last Week: 23)
2016 Resolution: Keep Optimus Dime Rolling
Since the calendar flipped to December, John Wall has been the best point guard in the Eastern Conference and arguably all of the NBA. After averaging a pedestrian 16.1 points and 7.6 assists on 39 percent shooting the first 14 games of the year, the Wizards' point guard has elevated his game to another stratosphere the final month of the year.
In the last 16 games, Wall is posting 22.6 points and 11.7 assists while shooting 46 percent from the field and 38 from three. The absence of Bradley Beal hasn't slowed Wall down either. Since Beal went down December 9, Wall is posting a league-leading 12.8 assists per game, including four 13-plus assist performances, all victories.
21. Memphis Grizzlies (nERD: 41.6, Record: 18-16, Last Week: 25)
20. New York Knicks (nERD: 42.1, Record: 15-18, Last Week: 20)
19. Minnesota Timberwolves (nERD: 42.8, Record: 12-20, Last Week: 18)
18. Portland Trailblazers (nERD: 44.1, Record: 14-20, Last Week: 17)
17. Houston Rockets (nERD: 44.7, Record: 16-17, Last Week: 22)
16. Utah Jazz (nERD: 46.7, Record: 13-17, Last Week: 16)
15. Chicago Bulls (nERD: 50.7, Record: 18-12, Last Week: 14)
2016 Resolution: #freebobbyportis
The Bulls have an absolute glut of big men on their roster. Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, and Joakim Noah rightfully take up all the minutes in the frontcourt, leaving rookie Bobby Portis riding a lot of pine. Fortunately for the former Razorback, Noah hurt his shoulder on December 22, opening up an opportunity for the freshman to show coach Fred Hoiberg what he can do.
When given his first chance of extended action, Portis came up with his first career double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds against the Knicks. Since December 19, the rookie has put up 10.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in only 20 minutes per night. With Portis quickly becoming a fan favorite, the Bulls front office should make the trade rumors about Gibson or Noah a reality to open up more time and #freebobbyportis.
14. Dallas Mavericks (nERD: 54.1, Record: 19-13, Last Week: 12)
13. Detroit Pistons (nERD: 54.2, Record: 17-15, Last Week: 11)
12. Orlando Magic (nERD: 54.6, Record: 19-13, Last Week: 15)
2016 Resolution: Return to the Playoffs
It hasn't been that long since Orlando has missed the playoffs; they last made it in 2011-12. However, the last three seasons have been an utter disaster, as the Magic failed to win games even as they stockpiled young talent. A coaching change to Scott Skiles may have been the final piece for the franchise to turn the corner.
Since November 25, the Magic have the fourth-best winning percentage in the NBA with a 13-5 record. They have turned around both the offense and defense, as the group ranks in the top seven in Offensive and Defensive Rating during their run. With five players averaging over 11 points per game, the Magic are well-balanced and well stocked to finish the season strong and remain in the playoff chase in the East.
11. Atlanta Hawks (nERD: 55.7, Record: 21-13, Last Week: 13)
10. Boston Celtics (nERD: 59.0, Record: 18-14, Last Week: 10)
9. Indiana Pacers (nERD: 59.3, Record: 18-13, Last Week: 9)
8. Charlotte Hornets (nERD: 59.9, Record: 17-14, Last Week: 4)
7. Miami Heat (nERD: 60.2, Record: 18-13, Last Week: 6)
2016 Resolution: Part Ways With Hassan Whiteside
As crazy as it seems, trading away the league's leading shot blocker may actually improve the Heat's defense. In the 900 minutes Hassan Whiteside has played this season, the Heat own a 102.8 Defensive Rating. With the center sitting on the bench, Miami's Defensive Rating plummets (i.e. improves) to 94.5 in just under 600 minutes.
Posting averages of 12.4 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 4.0 blocks per game, Whiteside is going to be due for a monster contract this summer as enters this offseason as an unrestricted free agent. If Miami is not going to invest heavily in the seven-footer as the future of the club, it would best to move on at the trade deadline and recoup as much as possible for the mercurial big man.
6. Toronto Raptors (nERD: 61.4, Record: 20-13, Last Week: 8)
5. Los Angeles Clippers (nERD: 61.9, Record: 20-13, Last Week: 7)
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (nERD: 62.7, Record: 21-9, Last Week: 5)
2016 Resolution: Win an NBA Title
Let's be honest, after the short-handed Cavs fought tooth and nail with the Warriors in the Finals last season, the goal for 2016 could not have been clearer. It is absolutely championship or bust in Cleveland. The re-signing of Kevin Love and healthy return of Kyrie Irving will give LeBron James the proper tools to try and take down any of the behemoths coming out of the Western Conference. Even with the hefty aspirations, the Cavs have plenty of kinks to work out before the postseason.
Cleveland has a bottom-five offense over the past month, as they are scoring only 95.2 points per game with a 99.6 Offensive Rating in their 13 December contests. While they fine tune and re-integrate Irving into the playbook, coach David Blatt has to balance giving his superstars, particularly James, rest down the stretch if they are going to have the energy to end the 50-plus-year championship drought in Cleveland.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (nERD: 74.5, Record: 22-10, Last Week: 3)
2. San Antonio Spurs (nERD: 88.2, Record: 28-6, Last Week: 2)
1. Golden State Warriors (nERD: 89.4, Record: 29-2, Last Week: 1)
2016 Resolution: Duplicate the Success of 2015
Sometimes when making resolutions, we make small goals that are achievable to give ourselves a sense of accomplishment. Other times we go big. For the Warriors to repeat the success of 2015 is massive. But if anyone could do it, it is Stephen Curry and company.
In the year of 2015, through December 30, the Warriors have played 83 regular season games and won 71 of them. They won the NBA title, dropping only five games in the process. Curry won MVP, and Golden State set the record for most consecutive wins to start a season. While the Warriors remain title favorites in 2016, the only way to top 2015 would be to finish off the impossible and end with 73 wins and the best regular season of all-time.