Six of the top 10 teams in the West have made trades in the last month. The Dallas Mavericks got Rajon Rondo, the Houston Rockets added Corey Brewer and Josh Smith, the Memphis Grizzlies have added Jeff Green, the New Orleans Pelicans got Quincy Pondexter, the Oklahoma City Thunder are taking a chance with Dion Waiters, and the Phoenix Suns brought in Brandan Wright.
The Portland Trail Blazers could use another wing and the Los Angeles Clippers' bench is downright awful. So those teams might not be far behind. And if their injury issues don't get better soon, the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs might have to go shopping as well.
The road to The Finals out of the West will be brutal, but the right move (targeted for the right playoff matchup) could be what puts a team over the top.
Of course, two of the teams who have already made a deal are probably going to miss the playoffs. And another four teams out of the top 10 won't get out of the first round. Them's the breaks in the West, of course. The odds usually aren't with you when you try to shoot the moon.
* * *
• Last week: In the new year, Hawks fly to the top of the list
• This time last year: San Antonio surviving the grind to rise back to No. 1 -- The Pelicans lost Jrue Holiday for the season five days after losing Ryan Anderson. The Bulls were the only unbeaten team in the new year and traded Luol Deng to the Cavs for Andrew Bynum and picks. Stephen Curry hit a game-winner against the Celtics, the Wolves were 0-9 in chances to get over .500, and Victor Oladipo met Damian Lillard at the rim.
• Plus-minus stud: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (CHA) was a plus-70 in four games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: Jose Calderon (NYK) was a minus-96 in four games last week.
• Hero Team of the Week: Atlanta (4-0) -- We typically don't have a repeat winner in this space, but there's no denying a team that won three games against teams with winning records and also knocked off the red-hot Pistons.
• Zero Team of the Week: Cleveland (0-4) -- Losing to the Sixers wasn't the Cavs' worst loss of the week. They weren't even competitive in Sacramento on Sunday.
• High jumps of the week: Charlotte (+5), Denver (+5), Sacramento (+4)
• Free falls of the week: Brooklyn (-7), Cleveland (-6), Indiana (-3)
• East vs. West: The West is 135-82 (0.622) against the East in interconference games, and was 13-10 (3-0 against both Cleveland and Orlando) last week.
• Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. L.A. Lakers, 2. New York, 3. New Orleans
• Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Portland, 2. Washington, 3. Brooklyn
Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
* * *
Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)
The league has averaged 96.2 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.2 points scored per 100 possessions through Sunday.
* * *
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.
Pace: 96.5 (13), OffRtg: 106.2 (6), DefRtg: 100.1 (5), NetRtg: +6.1 (5)
The Hawks probably could have lost a game last week and still kept the No. 1 spot. Wednesday's home game against Memphis, which took place less than 48 hours after they played in L.A., screamed "schedule loss." But there's just no stopping them right now, though this week's back-to-back in Toronto and Chicago will be another interesting challenge.
This week: @ PHI, @ BOS, @ TOR, @ CHI
(30-8) Pace: 96.6 (12), OffRtg: 105.8 (8), DefRtg: 98.7 (3), NetRtg: +7.1 (3)
The Blazers continue to roll on without Robin Lopez (and Joel Freeland). They're 13-2 and have the league's second best defense
over the last month. But only three of those 13 wins have been against teams currently over .500. One was against the Spurs playing without their big three, and the other two came in overtime. The schedule gets harder this week. This week:
vs. LAC, @ SAS, @ MEM
(29-5) Pace: 100.8 (1), OffRtg: 109.1 (4), DefRtg: 96.2 (1), NetRtg: +12.9 (1)
Andrew Bogut is back and the Warriors are 20-2 in games he's played. His biggest impact is on D, but the Dubs have been playing their best offense of the season, scoring over 120 points per 100 possessions in their last five games
. That stretch has included games against two top-10 defenses, though Stephen Curry made the OKC defense look silly
. This week:
@ UTA, vs. MIA, @ OKC, @ HOU
San Antonio (23-15)
Pace: 95.4 (20), OffRtg: 105.0 (11), DefRtg: 100.2 (6), NetRtg: +4.7 (7)
The Spurs know drama. They've played the most games that were within five points in the last five minutes and are just 13-13 in those games after a brutal loss against Detroit and a comeback win against Phoenix. Tony Parker is back and Kawhi Leonard is back to traveling with the team, but they've added two more injuries (Manu Ginobili and Marco Belinelli).
This week: @ WAS, @ CHA, vs. POR, vs. UTA
(26-12) Pace: 96.0 (17), OffRtg: 105.1 (9), DefRtg: 101.3 (9), NetRtg: +3.8 (9)
The Bulls just can't seem to sustain any concern-free success. On the night that Pau Gasol scored a career-high 46 points
, Derrick Rose was out with knee soreness. The offense has struggled with Mike Dunleavy out, his slow recovery from a sprained ankle is another concern, and playing Nikola Mirotic at small forward has had mixed results
. This week:
vs. ORL, vs. WAS, @ BOS, vs. ATL
(26-12) Pace: 97.1 (9), OffRtg: 111.6 (1), DefRtg: 103.9 (19), NetRtg: +7.7 (2)
The Mavs are on the road for 14 of their first 19 games of 2015. They're 13-6 on the road, but that's 11-0 against the East and 2-6 vs. the West. They're 1-8 against the other seven West playoff teams after Saturday's loss in L.A.
, having allowed 113 points per 100 possessions in the nine games. Only Miami has been worse defensively against that group. This week:
@ SAC, @ DEN, vs. DEN
(26-11) Pace: 94.1 (27) OffRtg: 105.1 (10) DefRtg: 102.0 (11) NetRtg: +3.0 (11)
The Grizz need to hope that Jeff Green was just in the wrong role in Boston, because the Celtics were much better with him on the bench each of the last two seasons. He's certainly a more dynamic player than Tayshaun Prince offensively, but Prince's defense could be missed. And that's the end of the floor that's been an issue for the Grizz of late
. This week:
@ BKN, @ ORL, vs. POR
(26-11) Pace: 97.8 (7), OffRtg: 102.6 (18), DefRtg: 98.0 (2), NetRtg: +4.6 (8)
The Rockets' offense is showing some life ... partly because five of their last six opponents have been bottom-10 defenses. Their own defense continues to get the job done, though. With both Dwight Howard and Donatas Motiejunas ranking among the league's best rim protectors
, their starting lineup has allowed less than 92 points per 100 possessions
. This week:
@ BKN, @ ORL, vs. OKC, vs. GSW
(25-13) Pace: 96.3 (15), OffRtg: 110.2 (3), DefRtg: 103.5 (17), NetRtg: +6.7 (4)
The Clippers were on their way to a 7-2 homestand until they were outscored 37-12 by the Heat in a 10-minute stretch spanning the first and second quarters
on Sunday. It was the latest example of how much they need bench help. But they've been watching the Western Conference arms race from the sidelines so far, and Austin Rivers isn't the answer. This week:
@ POR, vs. CLE, @ SAC
(25-11) Pace: 96.0 (16), OffRtg: 110.7 (2), DefRtg: 104.8 (22), NetRtg: +5.9 (6)
The Raptors have been outscored by at least seven points in the first quarter of each of their last four games and have the league's worst first-quarter defense
, which is more about the perimeter (3-point shooting
, lack of forced turnovers
) than the interior. They did recover from an ugly start to end their four-game losing streak
on Saturday against Boston. This week:
vs. DET, vs. PHI, vs. ATL, vs. NOP
Pace: 99.3 (3), OffRtg: 106.4 (5), DefRtg: 103.7 (18), NetRtg: +2.6 (12)
The Suns played four more games that went down to the wire last week. They played with fire in Milwaukee and Minnesota and got burned in San Antonio and Memphis. Their longest homestand of the season (eight games in 19 days) begins Tuesday and should include plenty of opportunities to practice, but gets tough after the first few games.
This week: vs. CLE, vs. MIN
(25-12) Pace: 95.5 (19), OffRtg: 103.9 (13), DefRtg: 100.7 (7), NetRtg: +3.2 (10)
Before they ran into the Hawks on Sunday, the Wizards had scored better than a point per possession in five straight games for the first time, picking up a big win against the Bulls on Friday with a 60-point first half. With Cleveland continuing to sink, the Wiz are looking good to have home-court advantage in a playoff series for the first time since 1979
. This week:
vs. SAS, @ CHI, vs. BKN, @ BKN
(18-19) Pace: 96.6 (11), OffRtg: 101.1 (21), DefRtg: 100.9 (8), NetRtg: +0.3 (14)
When you lead the league in usage rate
and don't shoot well, your team's offense is going to suffer. Russell Westbrook has been in a slump and the Thunder have scored less than 90 points per 100 possessions in their last three games. Westbrook did shoot better on Friday and OKC escaped with a win against Utah, but catching Phoenix remains a challenge. This week:
@ HOU, vs. GSW, @ ORL
New Orleans (18-18)
Pace: 94.9 (24), OffRtg: 105.9 (7), DefRtg: 105.8 (24), NetRtg: +0.1 (15)
The Pelicans are weird. They've won five of their last six games against other teams in the West's top 10, but have lost four straight against the East, blowing a 13-point, third-quarter lead in Charlotte on Wednesday. To stay competitive within the first group, they need to be successful against the second. A five-game trip against the East starts Monday.
This week: @ BOS, @ DET, @ PHI, @ TOR
(20-19) Pace: 96.4 (14), OffRtg: 101.2 (20), DefRtg: 99.7 (4), NetRtg: +1.5 (13)
The Bucks have the league's best defense (90 points allowed per 100 possessions) since Christmas
, and not just because five of the 10 games have come against bottom-six offenses. But they get the Knicks for the second time in 12 days in Londay on Thursday. Hopefully, they saved some dunks (like this one
, this one
and this one
) for the Brits. This week:
vs. NYK (London)
(13-24) Pace: 95.7 (18), OffRtg: 100.5 (23), DefRtg: 103.3 (16), NetRtg: -2.8 (20)
The Pistons' post-Josh-Smith mojo was no match for the Hawks' post-Thanksgiving mojo
, but Detroit continued to build a ****ing wall toward a playoff spot with a win over Brooklyn
on Saturday. Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe have played less than 16 minutes per game together since Smith's departure, so they're getting 32-plus minutes of floor spacing. This week:
@ TOR, vs. NOP, @ IND, vs. PHI
(15-24) Pace: 95.0 (22), OffRtg: 99.3 (25), DefRtg: 102.6 (13), NetRtg: -3.3 (24)
Kemba Walker has stepped up in the absence of Al Jefferson, averaging 30.2 points
and hitting another game-winner
during a five-game winning streak that has put the Hornets within striking distance of a playoff spot. Their longest homestand of the season (four games) begins Wednesday. They haven't had a six
-game winning streak since March of 2010. This week:
vs. SAS, vs. IND
(17-20) Pace: 98.7 (5), OffRtg: 102.5 (19), DefRtg: 104.4 (21), NetRtg: -1.9 (19)
The Nuggets have won four straight, with their starting backcourt -- Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo -- averaging 43.5 points on 57 percent shooting
. But the week belonged to Jusuf Nurkic, who got his first two career starts, had Marc Gasol citing the next time the two will face off
, threw a pass into the basket
, and added DeMarcus Cousins to his trash-talk rolodex
. This week:
vs. DAL, @ DAL, vs. MIN
(16-21) Pace: 91.6 (30), OffRtg: 103.2 (17), DefRtg: 106.5 (26), NetRtg: -3.3 (23)
Hassan Whiteside almost scored as many on Sunday (28) as he had in the first two years of his career
(29). The road win over the Clippers
was Miami's best victory (and best defensive performance) since the first couple of weeks of the season. The rest of their trip will determine if it was the start of a turnaround or just a bad afternoon for the Clippers. This week:
@ LAL, @ GSW, @ SAC
(16-21) Pace: 97.0 (10) OffRtg: 103.8 (14) DefRtg: 105.5 (23) NetRtg: +-1.7 (23)
The Kings held a team with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to to 83 points on Wednesday, and then held a team with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to 84 points on Sunday. DeMarcus Cousins appears to be re-engaged and their starters remain the best defensive lineup in the league
. All other Kings lineups have defended like the Lakers. This week:
vs. DAL, vs. MIA, vs. LAC
(13-25) Pace: 92.8 (29), OffRtg: 103.5 (15), DefRtg: 106.8 (27), NetRtg: -3.3 (25)
The Jazz got a big win in Chicago on Wednesday and Trevor Booker hit the shot of the year
, but they committed 51 turnovers in OKC and Houston over the weekend. Enes Kanter returned from injury on Saturday, but Rudy Gobert stayed in the starting lineup. The lineup with Gobert at center and Joe Ingles at shooting guard is a plus-9 in 56 minutes together
. This week:
vs. GSW, vs. LAL, @ SAS
Pace: 94.5 (x), OffRtg: 104.8 (x), DefRtg: 106.0 (x), NetRtg: -1.2 (x)
The Cavs are 1-8 without LeBron James, scoring at a rate (95.4 points per 100 possessions) that would rank 29th offensively (worse than Andrew Wiggins' team). Kevin Love has actually shot better than he has when James has been around, but both Love and Kyrie Irving have lower assist rates in those nine games. James' passing is missed most.
This week: @ PHX, @ LAL, @ LAC
(15-24) Pace: 95.3 (21), OffRtg: 98.5 (28), DefRtg: 101.3 (10), NetRtg: -2.8 (21)
No East team under .500 has more remaining games within the group than the Pacers (20, including six against the Sixers and Knicks). But they needed overtime to beat the Celtics at home on Friday, and then lost in Philly a night later, shooting 35 percent in the two games
. The Philly loss made them 2-16 when Roy Hibbert makes less than half of his shots. This week:
vs. MIN, vs. DET, @ CHA
(16-21) Pace: 94.3 (26), OffRtg: 99.6 (24), DefRtg: 102.5 (12), NetRtg: -2.9 (22)
This season, the Nets' holiday-time turnaround lasted less than two weeks. They've lost five straight games, shooting less than 23 percent from 3-point range
and scoring 91 points per 100 possessions
. Four of the five losses have come to teams below .500. And now, 13 of their remaining 16 opponents before the All-Star break have winning records. This week:
vs. HOU, vs. MEM, @ WAS, vs. WAS
(12-26) Pace: 97.6 (8), OffRtg: 103.2 (16), DefRtg: 109.1 (29), NetRtg: -5.9 (27)
Nick Young (16-for-64 in the last five games
) has been struggling, but, though he sees the biggest jump in usage rate, the Lakers don't necessarily live and die with "Swaggy P" when Kobe Bryant is out. They had six other guys in double figures in Friday's win over Orlando
, which made them at 6-4 (4-0 at home) against the Eastern Conference. This week:
vs. MIA, vs. CLE, @ UTA
Pace: 99.8 (2), OffRtg: 101.0 (22), DefRtg: 102.8 (14), NetRtg: -1.8 (18)
The Celtics' fire sale continues, with Brandan Wright and Jeff Green being sent away for more draft picks. Before you go thinking that their own pick is about to get better, note that they're a plus-47 (plus-5.9 per 100 possessions) in 479 minutes with neither Green nor Rajon Rondo on the floor. That could change with a tough schedule in the next two weeks.
This week: vs. NOP, vs. ATL, vs. CHI
(13-27) Pace: 95.0 (23), OffRtg: 98.4 (29), DefRtg: 104.1 (20), NetRtg: -5.7 (26)
To confirm the Magic are in an offensive slump, they shot 40 percent and scored less than 90 points per 100 possessions against the Lakers' defense on Friday. Four of the five guys who have taken at least 10 threes during their six-game losing streak have made less than 30 percent of them
. Given their upcoming opponents, the slump will continue. This week:
@ CHI, vs. HOU, vs. MEM, vs. OKC
Pace: 99.1 (4), OffRtg: 91.1 (30), DefRtg: 103.1 (15), NetRtg: -12.0 (30)
The Sixers have won three of four games for the first time in over a year. They're getting by almost entirely with defense, but scored 35 points in the fourth quarter against the Cavs on Monday, had two of their best 3-point shooting games against the Nets and Pacers over the weekend, and got layups to take the lead in the final 10 seconds of each win.
This week: vs. ATL, @ TOR, vs. NOP, @ DET
(5-35) Pace: 92.9 (28), OffRtg: 99.0 (26), DefRtg: 109.0 (28), NetRtg: -10.1 (28)
The Knicks officially pulled the plug on the 2014-15 season by trading Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith for ... nothing. The deal, along with Phil Jackson's "mea culpa"
could be a step forward, but the issue of trying to rebuild with a 30-year-old who's in the first year of a five-year, $124 million contract still stands. London, we give you the New York Knicks. This week:
@ MIL (London)
(5-31) Pace: 98.3 (6), OffRtg: 98.8 (27), DefRtg: 110.1 (30), NetRtg: -11.3 (29)
Andrew Wiggins has taken the clear lead in the Rookie of the Year race
, averaging 21.0 points on 49 percent shooting over the last 10 games
, finishing well at the rim
and shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range. In case you were wondering, the Wolves (losers of 15 straight) don't play the Knicks (losers of 15 straight) again until mid-March. This week:
@ IND, @ PHX, @ DEN