NBA power rankings: fourth edition

NBA+power+rankings%3A+fourth+edition

Chris Warner

We are edging closer to the All-Star break with Kobe Bryant leading the league in votes. Golden State figured out a way to continue trucking with a big win over the Cavaliers on Christmas, while the Spurs fell to the Rockets in unusual fashion. Our biggest movers this edition are the Hawks, who’ve jumped from No. 12 to No. 5, while the Jazz fall nine spots from No. 16 to No. 25.

Rank

Team Record Comments

1 (-)

Golden_State_Warriors_logo.svg

 28-1

Ah, the Christmas Day matchup most NBA fans were looking forward to, a NBA finals rematch between Golden State and Cleveland — and what a defensive struggle it was.  The Cavs elected to go the route that best suited their team, going big.  The Warriors, however, kept it small ball style and the champs reeled off victory number 28 of the season. Something to keep an eye on is the return of Harrison Barnes along with coach Steve Kerr.  The more concerning thing for the Warriors to keep an eye on is Curry’s right calf injury. (CV)

2 (-)

200px-San_Antonio_Spurs.svg

26-6

The Spurs loss against the Rockets on Christmas Day was their first since a Nov. 30 loss to the Bulls and only the third time all season that San Antonio was held to under 90 points. The loss ended a seven-game winning streak for the Spurs but they still stand only 3.5 games from the league-leading Warriors. San Antonio bounced back and continued to roll at home against the Nuggets on Saturday as they continued a franchise best 26-game home winning streak. (JH)

3 (+1)

Oklahoma_City_Thunder.svg

 

21-10

The Thunder keep mowing through the competition, sweeping a three-game matchup versus the Lakers (twice) and Clippers. They fell on Christmas Day to a Bulls team that’s pretty offensively challenged — ranked just 18.  The Thunder still carry the league’s third-best point differential at 8.2 points per game, along with the second ranked offense. (CV)

4 (-1)

cle

19-9

The Cavs performance on Christmas Eve had to be a pleasant surprise. Sure, they didn’t win. But a six-point loss in a game where the team shot 31.6 percent from the floor and 16.7 percent from 3-point land? That’s a nice silver lining in a loss, and the team is finally healthy. If this team is going to give Golden State, or potentially San Antonio, a fight in an NBA Finals series, LeBron James must improve his shooting percentages across the board, but most importantly in the free throw department, or The King will be going home empty handed once again. (CW)

5 (+7)

Atlanta_Hawks_2015_Logo.svg

20-12

The Atlanta Hawks are one of the biggest movers in the NBA. After a mediocre start, the Hawks seem to have found their 2014-15 form and have reeled off six-straight victories. The two-headed monster of Paul Millsap and Al Horford continue to rear their ugly head. While Horford continues to show why he’s the most underrated center in the game, Millsap is quietly leading the team in points and rebounds. (BC)

6 (+1)

heat  

 18-11

 

Was it naïve to think the Heat would take more than a couple years to recuperate after the departure of LeBron James? Yes, because the Heat have one of the most talented and dangerous rosters in the Eastern Conference. Thirty-four-year-old Dwyane Wade is playing like Flash again, and arguably no center is playing better than Hassan Whiteside, besides maybe Cousins or Drummond. With Chris Bosh healthy and playing effectively again, no team poses a bigger threat to the Cavs in the East. (BC)

7(+3)

i

18-13

Are the Clippers a good team but not a great team? Los Angeles has finally seemed to stay consistent but they can’t seem to be able to figure out some of the Western Conference’s top teams. LA blew a tight game to San Antonio, were annihilated against the Rockets and then lost another tight game to the Thunder. Blake Griffin is now out for at least two weeks with a partially torn quad after a win on Saturday. Role players need to step up or it can get ugly quick. (JH)

8 (-3)

tor

 19-12

The Raptors currently sit at fourth in the Eastern Conference standings and they have shown no indication of sliding out of the top five in the East. While budding Eastern Conference teams like the Bucks and Wizards have taken a step backward so far, the Raptors continue to improve. The offseason acquisition of DeMarre Caroll has helped tighten up Toronto’s defense. The Raptors are one of the top three teams in the East if he can stay healthy. (BC)

9 (+2)

bos

18-13

Here we go again. The Celtics once again look like one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference as they are rolling with a four-game win streak. Boston continues their rollercoaster-like season, but players said after a win against the Knicks on Sunday that this time they would continue to win. With the next three games coming against the Lakers and Nets, there’s no reason this win streak shouldn’t continue. (JH)

10 (-4)

Indiana_Pacers.svg

17-12

The Pacers finally righted the ship to snap a three-game losing streak that included a 14-point beat down by San Antonio. That said, Paul George is still having an incredible comeback season, averaging 24.8 points per game along with roughly eight boards and four assists. Pacers trail the Cavs by only two-and-a-half games in the Central. (CW)

11 (-2)

Chicago_Bulls_logo.svg

16-12

Can it be Christmas every day in Chicago? The Bulls won their third straight Christmas Day game against the Thunder with a well-rounded offensive and defensive game led by Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol. The win came after a three-game losing streak. Derrick Rose seems to be playing better but struggled with turnovers down the stretch against the Mavericks on Saturday night. (JH)

12 (-4)

cha

16-13

Finally, big Al Jefferson, mayor of the left block, returned from his calf injury and subsequent five-game suspension for an illegal substance. Coincidentally, the Hornets won in his return snapping a three-game losing streak. (LS)

13 (+4)

Orlando_magic_logo

17-13

Orlando is definitely in the running for most improved category as a team this season. They’re only eight wins away from matching last year’s season total. More impressively, they rank in the top 10 in the NBA in assists per game and points allowed, and eleventh in rebounds per game. They’re on the rise but lack a superstar in today’s star-driven league. (CW)

14 (-1)

200px-Houston_Rockets.svg

16-16

Houston finally found the recipe for success this season and it goes entirely against the small-ball mantra of general manager Daryl Morey. With starting rookie big-man Clint Capela and Dwight Howard together, Houston is 10-2. The frontcourt duo grabs 62 percent of all available rebounds when they share the floor together. (LS)

15 (-)

Dallas_Mavericks_logo.svg  

17-13

 

Dallas has to be excited as Chandler Parsons finally appears to be getting healthy after knee surgery and will be in the starting lineup against the Bucks tonight. In his last two games, Parsons averaged 15.5 points, six rebounds and 6.5 assists. Dirk can’t do it all and Parsons will relieve some of the scoring load. (CW)

16 (-2)

Detroit_Pistons_logo.svg  

17-14

 

On Saturday Andre Drummond recorded his fifth 20-point, 20-rebound performance of the season, the first in Piston’s history since Bob Lanier in 1973-74. Bottom line: Drummond is a man among boys in the paint in an era of basketball where few big men possess both the strength and explosiveness he does. That said, the Pistons just aren’t there yet. Reggie Jackson has been great, but they need another bonafide scorer for this team to make noise in a much-improved Eastern Conference. (CW)

17 (+1)

Memphis_Grizzlies.svg

17-16

The Grindhouse is slowly starting to diminish as the Grizzlies are showing signs of conforming to the times. The offense has gone away from working through Marc Gasol and Zac Randolph and is starting to push the ball and play smaller lineups. Although Gasol and Randolph are still posting solid numbers, the Grizz will have to solidify a new identity before they can compete in the talent saturated West. (BC)

18 (+1)

Washington_Wizards_Logo.svg

14-14

Don’t look now, but the Wizards have reeled off four straight wins and won five of their last seven.  We all knew they weren’t as bad as they appeared to start the season and Marcin Gortat has started to turn his season around.  Washington can be a playoff team but a lot of work still has to be done. (CW)

19 (+2)

nyk-logo

14-18

The Knicks in the past few seasons would be in the playoffs of the Eastern Conference by this point. The only thing is 10 teams have a winning record right now so this team is on the outside looking in. Porzingis seems to be the leader for Rookie of the Year.  This year .500 ball won’t make the Eastern Conference playoffs. (CV)

20 (+4)

200px-Sacramento_Kings.svg

12-18

DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo might be the most entertaining two-man combination in the NBA. These guys are awesome to watch, if only it would translate to more wins. The Kings are 5-5 in their last 10 games, about where they should be for the rest of the year unless George Karl can finally get through to his team. (LS)
21 (+4) nop

10-20

Beware the Pelicans. They’re only 5-5 in their last 10, but they’re getting healthier and starting to resemble the team everyone thought they would be in the preseason. As Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans can play more minutes, the Pels should rack up more wins. (LS)

22 (+1)

Portland_Trail_Blazers.svg

13-20

Portland stunk their way to the tune of five straight losses as Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum missed time with injuries until Cleveland came to town. A lineup without Lillard crushed the Cavs 105-76 and then C.J. McCollum exploded against the Kings with 35 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists to lead the Trailblazers to a 4-point win. Portland is rebuilding with the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge, but the decision to build around Lillard and McCollum looks to be a nice foundation. (CW)

23 (-1)

Milwaukee_Bucks_logo15

12-19

This team is lost and there appears to be no chance of getting found in the near future. The Bucks lack an identity this season. They envision themselves to be an ultra-aggressive defensive team that can switch all five players on to any opposing player at a given moment. While on paper they have the length to do so, one must just look at the standings to see it isn’t working. (LS)

24 (+2)

Denver_Nuggets.svg

12-19

Although the Denver Nuggets have lost five of their last six, the future is still looking bright in the Mile High City. Emmanuel Mudiay is developing into a solid point guard in his rookie year, and with the help of Kobe Bryant taking away touches in LA, is well ahead of D’angelo Russell thus far. The best thing for the Nuggets is to continue to develop the core group of Mudiay, Faried, and Gallinari. (BC)

25 (-9)

uta

12-16

Somehow the Jazz have continued to hold their position in the playoff standings, fending off teams like Denver, Minnesota and New Orleans from snagging that final spot. The Jazz are just 4-8 since the loss of center Rudy Gobert. Their defense is allowing a whopping 102.5 points per game. (CV)

26 (+1)

Minnesota_Timberwolves.svg

11-19

This team has all the pieces to be really, really good … next year. Karl Anthony Towns will probably win Rookie of the Year and Andrew Wiggins is just flat out special. But both players, as well as the rest of the roster, need one more year to really put it together, and probably one or two more pieces in the offseason to become truly competitive. (LS)

27 (-7)

phx

12-20

Things are looking awful for Phoenix. After giving the league-worse 76ers only their second win of the season, leading scorer Eric Bledsoe was diagnosed with a torn meniscus and has no timetable for a return. Coach Jeff Hornacek could be fired any day after losing 15 of their last 20 games. Nothing is looking up with the next three games coming against Cleveland, San Antonio and Oklahoma City. (JH)

28 (-)

200px-Brooklyn_Nets_newlogo.svg

8-22

Brooklyn would be lower if the Lakers and 76ers weren’t so tragically abysmal. The Nets have lost seven of their last eight and face off against the resurgent Heat tonight. Even worse? They don’t own their first-round pick to help their rebuilding effort. Sorry Nets fans, but the pain isn’t going away anytime soon. (CW)

29 (-)

lal

5-26

Well the Christmas holiday came and Kobe played on that day for the last time. It’s definitely a farewell tour year for the Lakers with Kobe Bryant. The goal now is to lose and keep hold of that first round pick. (CV)

30 (-)

Philadelphia_76ers_Logo

2-30

Win streak alert! The Sixers are 1-0 when Mike Dantoni is on the bench, and 1-1 when veteran Carl Landry plays. They were also the only team to double their win total in the past week. (LS)