Power Rankings, Week 9
POSTED: Dec 30, 2013 1:06 PM ET
Kevin Durant and the Thunder haven't missed a beat since Russell Westbrook's injury.
Another week, two more major injuries.
Russell Westbrook is out until after the All-Star break after undergoing another knee surgery. Al Horford is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Add them to the list that already includes Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, Brook Lopez, Marc Gasol, Rajon Rondo, Danilo Gallinari, J.J. Redick, Emeka Okafor and Steve Nash. It's a list that has included Tyson Chandler, Deron Williams, Andre Iguodala, Danny Granger and Larry Sanders for significant chunks of the season.
Injuries provide opportunities for players to step into new roles and for teams to rise in the standings, but this is just crazy. It seems like the rest of this season is going to be about who's healthy, rather than who's playing well. And right now, Gregg Popovich looks like more of a genius than we already thought he was. If "selfie" was the word of 2013, "maintenance" should be an early contender for 2014.
Proceed with caution.
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• Last week: East teams emerging from their slumber?
• This time last year: East is ugly from top to bottom -- The Clippers had won 17 straight games and the Bobcats had lost 18 straight. The Nets got their butts kicked at home on Christmas and then fired Avery Johnson three days later. The Nuggets had played 22 of their 32 games on the road and Amar'e Stoudemire was set to play his first game of the season.
• Plus-minus Stud: Kevin Durant (OKC) was a plus-50 in three games last week.
• Plus-minus Dud: J.R. Smith (NYK) was a minus-56 in four games last week.
• Hero Team of the Week: Golden State (4-0) -- The Dubs beat the Nuggets, Clippers and Suns last week and are 6-1 since Andre Iguodala's return.
• Zero Team of the Week: L.A. Lakers (0-4) -- The Lakers capped off a winless week by losing at home to a team that had lost 13 straight games on the road and 18 straight decided in regulation.
• High jumps of the week: Chicago (+3), Golden State (+3), BOS, CHA, MEM (+2)
• Free falls of the week: Denver (-4), L.A. Lakers (-4), Cleveland (-3)
• East vs. West: The West is 100-46 (.685) against the East in inter-conference games (9-0 against the Knicks) and was 9-3 last week.
• Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. Utah, 2. Sacramento, 3. L.A. Lakers
• Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Miami, 2. Atlanta, 3. Charlotte
Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
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Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank) - Click here
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank) - Click here
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank) - Click here
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank) - Click here
The league is averaging 96.6 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 102.4 points scored per 100 possessions.
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1. Oklahoma City (Last Week: No. 2) -- Pace: 99.1 (5), OffRtg: 106.8 (4), DefRtg: 97.4 (2), NetRtg: +9.5 (2)
You might not have noticed Westbrook's absence with the Thunder beating Houston by 31 points on Sunday, with Reggie Jackson dishing out eight assists, with Jeremy Lamb scoring 22 points, with Kendrick Perkins keeping Dwight Howard in check, and with Kevin Durant dunking on James Harden. The thought of Westbrook having long-term knee issues is scary, but right now, OKC is still No. 1.
This week: vs. POR, vs. BKN, @ MIN, vs. BOS
2. Miami Heat (Last Week: No. 3) -- Pace: 95.8 (18), OffRtg: 109.1 (2), DefRtg: 100.7 (8), NetRtg: +8.4 (3)
It was a strange week for the Heat. Michael Beasley's defense on Paul Millsap was critical in their win over the Hawks. Nick Young got swaggy on LeBron James. They lost in Sacramento with James and won in Portland without him. Chris Bosh has now shot 42-for-59 (9-for-13 from 3-point range) in clutch time (last five minutes, score differential of five points or less) over the last two seasons.
This week: @ DEN, vs. GSW, @ ORL, vs. TOR
3. Indiana Pacers (Last Week: No. 4) -- Pace: 95.3 (23), OffRtg: 103.2 (13), DefRtg: 93.6 (1), NetRtg: +9.6 (1)
Whether it's because they're his hometown team or because they have one of the worst defenses in the league, it's clear that Lance Stephenson likes playing against the Nets. He's shot 62 percent and averaged 21.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in three games against Brooklyn this season. The Pacers' soft schedule is allowing Danny Granger to work his way back with little pressure.
This week: vs. CLE, @ TOR, vs. NOP, @ CLE
4. Portland Trail Blazers (Last Week: No. 2) -- Pace: 97.2 (13), OffRtg: 110.4 (1), DefRtg: 104.7 (22), NetRtg: +5.7 (6)
The Blazers had the league's best 3-point defense through Nov. 30, but rank 26th in defending the arc in December. So maybe Chris Bosh knew what he was doing when he told Erik Spoelstra that he wanted to go for the win on Saturday. Portland has held just one of its last 16 opponents under a point per possession and both teams have scored 100-plus in their last eight games.
This week: @ NOP, @ OKC, vs. CHA, vs. PHI
5. San Antonio Spurs (Last Week: No. 6) -- Pace: 97.6 (10), OffRtg: 106.5 (5), DefRtg: 98.8 (5), NetRtg: +7.7 (4)
Westbrook's injury, the Blazers' bad defense, and a home-heavy schedule over the next few weeks should allow the Spurs to take back the top spot in the West. Manu Ginobili continues to look fantastic (especially considering how he played in June) and had his best game of the season against the Kings on Sunday, scoring 28 points, hitting four threes, and leading a fourth-quarter comeback.
This week: vs. BKN, vs. NYK, vs. LAC
6. Golden State Warriors (Last Week: No. 9) -- Pace: 99.2 (4), OffRtg: 103.3 (12), DefRtg: 98.5 (4), NetRtg: +4.8 (8)
The Warriors trailed after three quarters in three of their four games last week, but they have a five-game winning streak because they held the Nuggets, Clippers and Cavs to less than 33 percent shooting in the fourth quarter and overtime. Their offense hasn't been very good, but they have the league's second-best defense and third-best point differential since Andre Iguodala's return.
This week: @ ORL, @ MIA, @ ATL, @ WAS
7. Los Angeles Clippers (Last Week: No. 5) -- Pace: 98.0 (8), OffRtg: 106.3 (6), DefRtg: 100.3 (7), NetRtg: +6.0 (5)
Blake Griffin has averaged 28.4 points and 11.4 rebounds over his last seven games and has scored 30-plus in the last three games that he hasn't been wrongly ejected from. His perimeter shooting hasn't been consistent, but he has shot 37.2 percent from outside the paint for the season, a mark which is just below the league average (37.6) and up from 33.8 percent last season.
This week: vs. PHX, vs. CHA, @ DAL, @ SAS
8. Phoenix Suns (Last Week: No. 7) -- Pace: 98.0 (9), OffRtg: 105.6 (9), DefRtg: 102.4 (12), NetRtg: +3.2 (9)
The Suns have won nine of their last 11 games and there was a whole lot of Plumdoggin' going on last week. Miles Plumlee had 17 points and a career-high 20 rebounds in Monday's win over the Lakers, and then a career-high 22 points and 13 boards in Saturday's win over Philly. And there were plenty of highlights (like this dunk and this dunk and this dunk) to go along with those numbers.
This week: @ LAC, vs. MEM, vs. MIL
9. Houston Rockets (Last WeeK: No. 8) -- Pace: 98.2 (7), OffRtg: 107.4 (3), DefRtg: 102.4 (13), NetRtg: +5.0 (7)
The Rockets just played seven games in five cities over the last 10 days, a stretch that featured Christmas' best performance (a comfortable win in San Antonio) and ended with a serious thumping in OKC. Now they get a well-deserved break and a chance to enjoy those Christmas presents they got from Dwight Howard, with only home games against the Kings, Knicks and Lakers over the next 11 days.
This week: vs. SAC, vs. NYK
10. Dallas Mavericks (Last Week: No. 11) -- Pace: 97.6 (11), OffRtg: 106.1 (7), DefRtg: 104.4 (20), NetRtg: +1.6 (12)
The Mavs got a big win in Houston on Monday and have the league's second-best offense over the last two weeks, but are mostly treading water, because their defense has been pretty bad against teams that aren't horrible offensively. There's still plenty of season left, but Monday's game in Minnesota is a big matchup between teams that currently stand eighth and ninth in the West standings.
This week: @ MIN, @ WAS, vs. LAC, vs. NYK
11. Atlanta Hawks (Last Week: No. 10) -- Pace: 97.4 (12), OffRtg: 104.7 (10), DefRtg: 102.6 (16), NetRtg: +2.0 (11)
The Hawks have been the most improved team from November to December, making Al Horford's injury a little more painful. They may be able to survive offensively, especially if Pero Antic can hit some more ridiculous shots. But, as we saw when the Magic scored 30 points in two different quarters on Sunday, they're going to struggle to get stops without their anchor. The 3 seed is up for grabs.
This week: @ BOS, vs. GSW, @ CHI
12. Minnesota Timberwolves (Last Week: No. 13) -- Pace: 100.1 (2), OffRtg: 104.6 (11), DefRtg: 102.3 (11), NetRtg: +2.2 (10)
The Wolves have been one of the worst fourth-quarter teams in the league this season. They've won the period in just 10 of their 30 games and their fourth-quarter shooting numbers are ugly. So it was good that they had double-digit leads entering the fourth in their two games last week. They play five of their next six at home, a stretch that includes big games against the Mavs, Pelicans and Suns.
This week: vs. DAL, vs. NOP, vs. OKC
13. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: No. 14) -- Pace: 95.4 (20), OffRtg: 102.8 (14), DefRtg: 101.6 (9), NetRtg: +1.2 (13)
The Raptors are 7-3 with the league's ninth best point differential since the Rudy Gay trade. Terrence Ross (averaging 19.0 points over the last three games) is taking to his new starting role and has shot much better with Kyle Lowry as his point guard. This is looking more and more like the best team in the Atlantic, but the division's toughest schedule so far stays tough over the next couple of weeks.
This week: @ CHI, vs. IND, @ WAS, @ MIA
14. Washington Wizards (Last Week: No. 15) -- Pace: 95.3 (21), OffRtg: 101.5 (20), DefRtg: 103.0 (17), NetRtg: -1.5 (16)
Bringing Nene off the bench over the last four games has given the Wizards some needed depth. Their offense continues to click, with Trevor Ariza, Bradley Beal and Martell Webster all shooting better than 50 percent from 3-point range (on 20-plus attempts) over the last five games. Ariza leads the league in corner threes and has hit one in 14 straight games (and in 20 of the 22 he's played).
This week: @ DET, vs. DAL, vs. TOR, vs. GSW
15. New Orleans Pelicans (Last Week: No. 16) -- Pace: 95.8 (19), OffRtg: 105.8 (8), DefRtg: 105.2 (24), NetRtg: +0.6 (14)
The Pelicans had the league's best first-quarter defense until Anthony Davis got hurt. Since then, they've had the league's fifth worst first-quarter D. Putting Jason Smith, who missed three games after Davis came back, back in the starting lineup would help the starts. They've allowed just 94.7 points per 100 possessions in 194 minutes with Davis, Smith and Al-Farouq Aminu on the floor together.
This week: vs. POR, @ MIN, @ BOS, @ IND
16. Denver Nuggets (Last Week: No. 12) -- Pace: 98.2 (6), OffRtg: 102.1 (17), DefRtg: 102.6 (15), NetRtg: -0.5 (15)
The Nuggets' six-game losing streak has taken them from the middle of the West playoff picture to outside it. They broke out offensively on Saturday, but also allowed one of the league's worst offenses to score 120 points. They play six of their next seven games at home, but are 1-4 at the Pepsi Center in December. That's more home losses in one month than they had all of last season.
This week: vs. MIA, vs. PHI, vs. MEM, @ LAL
17. Boston Celtics (Last Week: No. 19) -- Pace: 95.3 (22), OffRtg: 99.6 (24), DefRtg: 102.1 (10), NetRtg: -2.6 (20)
The Celtics have been a decent team over their last 16 games, going 9-7 with a top-seven defense in that time. The offense has been the difference, though. They've scored 103.1 points per 100 possessions over the 16 games, a big jump from the 95.6 they scored over their first 14. But their schedule is about to get real. Sunday's visit to Oklahoma City begins a tough five-game trip through the West.
This week: vs. ATL, @ CHI, vs. NOP, @ OKC
18. Charlotte Bobcats (Last Week: No. 20) -- Pace: 95.0 (24), OffRtg: 96.6 (28), DefRtg: 98.3 (3), NetRtg: -1.8 (17)
Ten of the Bobcats' last 11 games have been within five points in the last five minutes and they lead the league with 20 such games this season. Though they've been playing both good and bad teams close, they're 1-7 in close games and 1-10 overall against teams currently over .500. That's not good, but taking care of business against bad teams is good enough to make the playoffs in the East.
This week: @ UTA, @ LAC, @ POR, @ SAC
19. Detroit Pistons (Last Week: No. 18) Pace: 96.7 (15), OffRtg: 102.3 (16), DefRtg: 104.6 (21), NetRtg: -2.3 (18)
The Pistons have lost eight of their last 12 games, with the league's second-worst defense in that time. And now their coach is calling out their best defensive player for not playing hard. The numbers back up the theory that Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond is a bad mix. Detroit has been much better with just two of the three on the floor, calling for Mo Cheeks to stagger their minutes more.
This week: vs. WAS, vs. MEM
20. Memphis Grizzlies (Last Week: No. 22) -- Pace: 91.9 (30), OffRtg: 101.8 (19), DefRtg: 105.7 (25), NetRtg: -3.9 (23)
James Johnson wasn't on an NBA roster 15 days ago, but he's given the Grizzlies' offense a boost. He had 14 points, seven rebounds and six assists in just 23 minutes in Saturday's win over Denver, he already has more 3-pointers than Tony Allen or Tayshaun Prince, and the Grizz have scored over 111 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor. He also did this on Thursday.
This week: vs. CHI, @ PHX, @ DEN, @ DET
21. Los Angeles Lakers (Last Week: No. 17) -- Pace: 99.4 (3), OffRtg: 100.6 (22), DefRtg: 103.9 (19), NetRtg: -3.4 (22)
The Lakers are 1-5 post-Kobe after going 2-4 with Kobe and 10-9 pre-Kobe. It seems like they hit their nadir with Sunday's loss to the Sixers, but they host the Bucks and Jazz this week and their injury situation is only getting worse, with Xavier Henry suffering a strained knee on Sunday. They were this far out of a playoff spot in January last season, but don't have nearly as much hope this time.
This week: vs. MIL, vs. UTA, vs. DEN
22. Chicago Bulls (Last Week: No. 25) -- Pace: 93.2 (28), OffRtg: 96.4 (29), DefRtg: 98.8 (6), NetRtg: -2.4 (19)
Luol Deng is out and Jimmy Butler is banged up. Yet Tony Snell is back to a reduced role and the Bulls won't use the last two spots on their roster. Butler played 46 minutes in Saturday's loss to Dallas and Joakim Noah played 20 fourth-quarter minutes with the Bulls ahead or behind by 16 or more points in their two games last week. It might be time for Tom Thibodeau to step away from the gas pedal.
This week: @ MEM, vs. TOR, vs. BOS, vs. ATL
23. Brooklyn Nets (Last Week: No. 23) -- Pace: 94.6 (25), OffRtg: 102.1 (18), DefRtg: 106.2 (27), NetRtg: -4.1 (25)
The Nets showed a little more heart after Jason Kidd called them out (they didn't quite let go of the rope in their second game against the Pacers) last week, but their porous defense, inconsistent offense, tough schedule and constant lineup changes are keeping them from truly getting on track. Since his 10-for-14 game two weeks ago, Joe Johnson has shot 5-for-23 from 3-point range.
This week: @ SAS, @ OKC, vs. CLE
24. Cleveland Cavaliers (Last Week: No. 21) -- Pace: 96.6 (16), OffRtg: 97.9 (26), DefRtg: 103.9 (18), NetRtg: -6.1 (27)
The Cavs were pretty awful (especially offensively) with Andrew Bynum on the floor, so they haven't lost much by sending him home while they shop him. It was a bit silly to have their best player -- Anderson Varejao -- coming off the bench anyway. If they can get some perimeter defense and/or shooting for Bynum, they could be a playoff team. But they can also save some money by waiving him by Jan. 10.
This week: @ IND, vs. ORL, @ BKN, vs. IND
25. New York Knicks (Last Week: No. 24) -- Pace: 92.7 (29), OffRtg: 101.1 (21), DefRtg: 105.8 (26), NetRtg: -4.7 (26)
The Knicks didn't exactly respond well to James Dolan's pep talk, losing twice to the Raptors by double-figures over the weekend. Carmelo Anthony's injury hasn't helped, though the defense has been a bigger problem than the offense in his absence. They have four days off to get healthy before their trip through the Texas Triangle, but need to get organized more than they need to get healthy.
This week: @ SAS, @ HOU, @ DAL
26. Utah Jazz (Last Week: No. 26) -- Pace: 93.9 (27), OffRtg: 97.8 (27), DefRtg: 108.2 (30), NetRtg: -10.5 (30)
The Jazz's other young players have shown progress, but Enes Kanter has been a disappointment in his third season. The Kanter-Derrick Favors starting tandem was awful, Kanter has shot just 41 percent off the bench, and the Jazz have been outscored by 18.9 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor. That's easily the worst on-court NetRtg among players who've logged at least 500 minutes.
This week: vs. CHA, vs. MIL, @ LAL
27. Orlando Magic (Last Week: No. 28) -- Pace: 97.0 (14), OffRtg: 99.6 (23), DefRtg: 102.5 (14), NetRtg: -2.9 (21)
Having started the last five games, Tobias Harris is finding a rhythm offensively. The Magic's new starting lineup has been excellent on that end in 69 minutes together. And with Victor Oladipo totaling 19 assists off the bench, Orlando has scored 109 points in each of their last two games. So Tuesday's matchup with the Warriors -- who are playing their best defense of the season -- could be a good one.
This week: vs. GSW, @ CLE, vs. MIA
28. Sacramento Kings (Last Week: No. 27) -- Pace: 96.5 (17), OffRtg: 102.6 (15), DefRtg: 106.5 (28), NetRtg: -3.9 (24)
Friday's win over the Heat was a display of the Kings' potential. DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay had productive and efficient games, Isaiah Thomas ran the show, and their defense wasn't absolutely horrible. Success like that has typically been fleeting, but the Kings can put something together with a five-game homestand starting Thursday that includes four games against East teams under .500.
This week: @ HOU, vs. PHI, vs. CHA
29. Philadelphia 76ers (Last Week: No. 30) -- Pace: 102.1 (1), OffRtg: 98.0 (25), DefRtg: 106.8 (29), NetRtg: -8.8 (28)
It had been 51 days since the Sixers' last win in regulation and 58 days since their last win on the road, so you can understand why Evan Turner was a little excited in the closing seconds in L.A. on Sunday. Thaddeus Young seems excited to have Michael Carter-Williams back, averaging 27.5 points on 55 percent shooting (11-for-17 from 3-point range) in the four games since the point guard's return.
This week: @ DEN, @ SAC, @ POR
30. Milwaukee Bucks (Last Week: No. 29) -- Pace: 94.2 (26), OffRtg: 95.7 (30), DefRtg: 104.8 (23), NetRtg: -9.1 (29)
In Larry Sanders' first two games back, the Bucks allowed 102 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and 128 with him on the bench. It will be interesting to see how well they defend with both Sanders and John Henson on the floor. Henson is now dealing with an injury and the pair has played just four minutes together this season. Keep your feet behind the line, Khris Middleton.
This week: @ LAL, @ UTA, @ PHX
NBA.com's Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man's opinion. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via twitter.
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