Fire up the trade machine because Dec. 15 is here, and a couple of teams have given you some names to start with.
The 6-17 Charlotte Hornets are reportedly ready to say goodbye to Lance Stephenson. And the 10-12 Brooklyn Nets, having already unloaded Andrei Kirilenko, are looking to shake things up as well, making their three highest-paid stars available. And you know other teams have guys they'd be happy to move (hello, Dion Waiters!).
Speaking of dissatisfied teams shaking things up, the Sacramento Kings decided that Mike Malone wasn't doing a good enough job without his team's best player for the last nine games, or playing at a fast enough pace when one of the league's best post-up players was healthy. Same 'ol Kings, apparently.
Change is gonna come, except at the top of the Power Rankings, where the Golden State Warriors have remained since Week 1.
* * *
• Last week: OKC at full strength as schedule reaches quarter pole
• This time last year: Top five keeps rolling as trade season begins -- The Rockets were supposed to trade Omer Asik by Dec. 19. Damian Lillard hit another game-winner, Rudy Gay was off to a hot start with the Kings, the Pacers won their first showdown with the Heat, and Plum Dog denied Boogie.
• Plus-minus stud: Russell Westbrook (OKC) was a plus-62 in four games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: Rodney Stuckey (IND) and Tyler Zeller (BOS) were both a minus-53 last week.
• Hero Team of the Week: Golden State (4-0) -- Things got a little hairy in New Orleans on Sunday, but the Warriors kept their winning streak (currently at 16 games) alive with wins over the Rockets and Mavs earlier in the week.
• Zero Team of the Week: Phoenix (0-4) -- The Suns have played a tough schedule of late, but their 0-4 week included a home loss (with two days of rest) to a team (Detroit) that had lost 13 straight.
• High jumps of the week: Oklahoma City (+6), Chicago (+5), Houston (+4)
• Free falls of the week: Phoenix (-4), Four teams (-3)
• East vs. West: The West is 89-45 (0.664) against the East in interconference games and was 11-9 last week.
• Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. L.A. Lakers, 2. Utah, 3. Sacramento
• Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Atlanta, 2. Portland, 3. Washington
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 95.9 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.3 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.
(21-2) Pace: 100.4 (1), OffRtg: 107.5 (5), DefRtg: 95.2 (1), NetRtg: +12.3 (1)
Stephen Curry's layups (see here
) have become just as ridiculous as his jumpers. And it's really not fair that the league's most dangerous pull-up shooter is also one of the best guards at finishing at the rim
. The Dubs play just two games this week, but both are must-watches, with Curry facing Mike Conley and Russell Westbrook. This week:
@ MEM, vs. OKC
(19-4) Pace: 94.2 (25), OffRtg: 107.0 (7), DefRtg: 100.2 (7), NetRtg: +6.8 (5)
The Grizzlies almost
lost to the Hornets and almost
lost to the Sixers, but they're back on a four-game winning streak as they head into one of the toughest weeks any team will play all season. Mike Conley's shooting in the clutch (he's 16-for-27 with the score within five points in the last five minutes
) is almost
as good as Tony Allen's dancing after a turnover
. This week:
vs. GSW, @ SAS, vs. CHI, @ CLE
(18-5) Pace: 97.3 (8), OffRtg: 101.9 (20), DefRtg: 96.7 (2), NetRtg: +5.3 (8)
Dwight Howard (26 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks) looked sharp in his return on Saturday
. The Rockets are now 10-1 with him in the lineup, Trevor Ariza has shot much better with Howard on the floor
, and Houston has outscored its opponents by 20.3 points per 100 possessions in 286 minutes with Howard and James Harden on the floor together
. This week:
@ DEN, vs. NOP, vs. ATL
Pace: 96.3 (10), OffRtg: 105.9 (8), DefRtg: 99.4 (6), NetRtg: +6.4 (7)
The Blazers rank as one of the league's three most improved defenses, but what was a top-five offense (last season and as recently as two weeks ago) has slipped a bit, having been held under a point per possession in three of their last six games. Their four starters not named LaMarcus Aldridge have each seen a drop in their free throw rate this season.
This week: vs. SAS, vs. MIL, @ SAS, @ NOP
San Antonio (17-7)
Pace: 95.6 (17), OffRtg: 105.8 (9), DefRtg: 97.9 (3), NetRtg: +7.9 (3)
The Spurs have developed a habit of losing to bad teams in games in which they weren't resting healthy players. Last week, they couldn't shoot against the Jazz and couldn't stop the Lakers until the fourth quarter. And now they're in fifth place in the West, with their next 10 games (a stretch that includes three back-to-backs) against other teams in the top 10.
This week: @ POR, vs. MEM, vs. POR, @ DAL
(16-7) Pace: 96.3 (11), OffRtg: 110.1 (3), DefRtg: 103.5 (15), NetRtg: +6.7 (6)
Not only did Blake Giffin's game-winner
bounce up and in against Phoenix on Monday, but his very next shot
rolled in off the top of the backboard. Things haven't bounced so well for Chris Paul, who is 2-for-19 from 3-point range in his last four games, with more turnovers (19) than he had in his previous 11. The Clips have lost two straight for the first time. This week:
vs. DET, vs. IND, @ DEN, vs. MIL
(17-8) Pace: 96.2 (12), OffRtg: 113.4 (1), DefRtg: 105.5 (22), NetRtg: +7.9 (2)
The Mavs would be on a 10-game winning streak and in third place in the West if it weren't for a few bad quarters. But they got outscored 40-27 by Phoenix in the first quarter 10 days ago, 36-17 by Memphis in the third on Tuesday
, and 39-18 by Golden State in the first on Saturday
. So they've lost three of their last five and are 0-6 against the top eight in the West. This week:
@ NYK, @ DET, vs. SAS
(15-8) Pace: 95.9 (15), OffRtg: 105.8 (10), DefRtg: 101.5 (9), NetRtg: +4.3 (11)
Derrick Rose isn't getting to the rim as much as he did in his pre-knee-surgery days. Only 26 percent of his shots
have come in the restricted area, down from 35 percent in his first five seasons. But his floater game was on point (he was 8-for-11 on non-restricted-area shots in the paint) as he scored 54 points against the Nets and Blazers last week. This week:
@ ATL, vs. NYK, @ MEM
(17-6) Pace: 96.0 (13), OffRtg: 104.0 (14), DefRtg: 98.8 (4), NetRtg: +5.2 (9)
The Wizards have had some close calls, but Friday's impressive win over the Clippers makes up for needing double-OT
after blowing a 23-point lead against Boston and needing a beautiful alley-oop from Andre Miller to Bradley Beal
to win in Orlando. By hook or by crook, they've won eight of their last nine to move within a half game of first place in the East. This week:
vs. MIN, @ MIA, vs. PHX
Pace: 94.8 (22), OffRtg: 108.1 (4), DefRtg: 105.0 (21), NetRtg: +3.1 (12)
It was an interesting week for the Cavs' guards. Kyrie Irving had a knee scare, Matthew Dellavedova was playing crunch-time minutes just a day after returning from a one-month absence, and Dion Waiters broke out of an extended slump, shooting 18-for-31 in wins over the Nets and Raptors, though his shot selection wasn't less questionable than usual.
This week: vs. CHA, vs. ATL, vs. BKN, vs. MEM
(18-6) Pace: 95.6 (18), OffRtg: 111.0 (2), DefRtg: 103.4 (14), NetRtg: +7.5 (4)
Dwane Casey has dusted off Landry Fields and put him into the starting lineup in order to reunite Greivis Vasquez and the rest of the second unit. The move has helped the Raptors' first-quarter defense, which has allowed just 98 points per 100 possessions in Fields' three starts after allowing 112.0 (29th in the league
) through the team's first 21 games. This week:
vs. ORL, vs. BKN, @ DET, vs. NYK
(16-7) Pace: 95.9 (14), OffRtg: 105.5 (11), DefRtg: 100.8 (8), NetRtg: +4.7 (10)
The Hawks' winning streak came to an end in Orlando on Saturday
and we're about to find out what they're really made of. They've played the easiest schedule in the league and haven't faced a team that currently has a winning record in almost three weeks. But only two of their next 14 games
(both on the road) are against teams with losing records. This week:
vs. CHI, @ CLE, @ HOU
(11-13) Pace: 95.0 (20), OffRtg: 99.6 (24), DefRtg: 99.0 (5), NetRtg: +0.6 (14)
Just like that, the Thunder have a positive point differential and are within a half game of a playoff spot. They're 7-1 since the return of Russell Westbrook (who has averaged 31.6 points per 36 minutes
and has shown no regard for his recovering right hand
), outscoring their opponents by a league-high 13.4 points per 100 possessions
in that time. This week:
@ SAC, @ GSW, @ LAL, vs. NOP
(12-12) Pace: 96.4 (9), OffRtg: 101.8 (21), DefRtg: 102.2 (10), NetRtg: -0.4 (16)
The Bucks rank eighth offensively over the last three weeks
and outgunned the No. 1 offense in that time on Saturday
. Their starting unit has been OK, but all other lineups have scored 109 points per 100 possessions in the last 10 games. Jerryd Bayless and Khris Middleton totaled 25 points against the Clips and are a plus-75 in 213 minutes together
. This week:
@ PHX, @ POR, @ SAC, @ LAC
(11-12) Pace: 95.1 (19), OffRtg: 107.0 (6), DefRtg: 107.4 (27), NetRtg: -0.4 (15)
Four different Pelicans scored 30-plus points in the last three games, and two of them (Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday) did it twice. They beat the Cavs and almost beat the Warriors without Anthony Davis (chest contusion). In their last six games, they've scored 113.6 points per 100 possessions and have allowed 113.0
. That's entertainment. This week:
vs. UTA, @ HOU, vs. POR, @ OKC
Pace: 99.0 (4), OffRtg: 104.6 (12), DefRtg: 103.9 (16), NetRtg: +0.7 (13)
Isaiah Thomas is back, but Goran Dragic (lower back strain) is out and the Suns have lost five straight to fall under .500 for the first time. Blame the schedule (six games in five cities in 10 days), but it remains tough for a few more weeks. After hosting the Bucks on Monday (the second night of a back-to-back), they play 11 of their next 14 games on the road.
This week: vs. MIL, @ CHA, @ NYK, @ WAS
(11-13) Pace: 95.7 (16), OffRtg: 103.6 (15), DefRtg: 104.2 (18), NetRtg: -0.6 (17)
Unrealistic expectations can be a killer. In Sacramento, they killed the tenure of Mike Malone, who was fired late Sunday night
, because apparently, Vivek Ranadive thought he owned a playoff team. Nevermind that it's been missing its best player (by a wide margin) for the last nine games and hasn't actually lost any ground in that time
. This week:
vs. OKC, vs. MIL, vs. LAL
Pace: 98.5 (6), OffRtg: 102.9 (18), DefRtg: 105.5 (23), NetRtg: -2.6 (20)
The Nuggets are banged up (again), with five rotation guys (if you believe they have a rotation) missing at least two of their four games last week. But they took the Raptors to overtime on Monday and beat the Heat handily on Wednesday. If the second quarter (when they were outscored 58-29) didn't count, they would have beat the Rockets and Spurs, too.
This week: vs. HOU, vs. LAC, vs. IND
(11-13) Pace: 91.5 (30), OffRtg: 103.6 (16), DefRtg: 106.9 (25), NetRtg: -3.3 (21)
More injuries (to Josh McRoberts and Chris Bosh) have popped up and the Heat's offense has often looked as bad as their defense. Their three point guards have combined to shoot 15-for-69 (22 percent) from 3-point range in the last 10 games
. They begin a seven-game homestand on Wednesday, but have lost ¡seis! of their last ¡siete! on Biscayne Bay. This week:
@ BKN, vs. UTA, vs. WAS, vs. BOS
(10-16) Pace: 94.9 (21), OffRtg: 99.2 (25), DefRtg: 104.0 (17), NetRtg: -4.7 (22)
Last season, it was fair to see Tobias Harris as a guy with good numbers on a bad team. The Magic haven't exactly shed the "bad team" label and Harris isn't much of a passer, but he's developed into a strong offensive player. His efficiency has risen with his usage rate, he's one of the league's most improved 3-point shooters and has been pretty darn clutch
. This week:
@ TOR, @ BOS, vs. UTA, vs. PHI
(10-12) Pace: 94.1 (27), OffRtg: 100.4 (23), DefRtg: 102.6 (11), NetRtg: -2.1 (18)
The Nets actually got two comfortable wins over the weekend, but have made Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Deron Williams available
, have cracked a point scored per possession in just two of their last 10 games, and are 1-10 (with a NetRtg of minus-13.4) against teams that are currently in playoff position. Amazingly, they're there themselves. This week:
vs. MIA, @ TOR, @ CLE, vs. DET
(8-16) Pace: 97.6 (7), OffRtg: 104.0 (13), DefRtg: 110.4 (30), NetRtg: -6.4 (26) Kobe Bryant passed Michael Jordan
, Nick Young hit a ridiculous game-winner
, and the Lakers have won three straight games (with defense, believe it or not) for the first time in almost 13 months. Only the Warriors (4) and Spurs (4) have more road wins over teams currently over .500 than the Lakers, who have won in Atlanta, Houston and San Antonio. This week:
@ IND, vs. OKC, @ SAC
(6-17) Pace: 94.2 (26), OffRtg: 97.9 (27), DefRtg: 105.7 (24), NetRtg: -7.7 (28)
The Hornets played their best game of the season (a double-OT loss in Memphis) on Friday. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, whose return provided a boost, could be in the starting lineup on Monday. Jeffery Taylor is eligible to return on Wednesday, and the schedule eases up after that. But the team has reportedly seen enough to start shopping Lance Stephenson
. This week:
@ CLE, vs. PHX, @ PHI, vs. UTA
(7-14) Pace: 100.4 (2), OffRtg: 102.1 (19), DefRtg: 104.7 (20), NetRtg: -2.5 (19)
Rajon Rondo has recorded triple-doubles in two of his last four games, but has been one of the worst shooters in the league, and the Celtics have been better both offensively and defensively with him off the floor
. Marcus Smart went for 23 points in Washington on Monday, but the heir apparent suffered another injury (strained Achilles) four days later. This week:
@ PHI, vs. ORL, vs. MIN, @ MIA
Pace: 94.6 (24), OffRtg: 96.9 (28), DefRtg: 103.0 (12), NetRtg: -6.1 (24)
The Pacers have lost eight straight, thanks to a combination of tough opponents and rough starts. With 10 different guys having started games this season, they're a minus-141 in the first six minutes of the first and third quarters, and a plus-40 in all other minutes. Things were a little better with C.J. Watson starting against the Raptors and Blazers over the weekend.
This week: vs. LAL, @ LAC, @ DEN, @ MIN
Pace: 92.8 (28), OffRtg: 103.1 (17), DefRtg: 109.3 (29), NetRtg: -6.2 (25)
If you need an ounce of optimism in Sacramento (or just a reprieve from the head-scratching reports regarding the firing of Mike Malone), you could note that the Jazz have moved up only one spot in defensive efficiency (from 30th to 29th) and have actually played slower under Quin Snyder than they did under new Kings coach Tyrone Corbin.
This week: @ NOP, @ MIA, @ ORL, @ CHA
(5-18) Pace: 98.9 (5), OffRtg: 98.3 (26), DefRtg: 109.2 (28), NetRtg: -10.8 (29)
Andrew Wiggins recorded his first double-double (23 points and 10 rebounds) in Wednesday's upset of the Blazers
. Just as impressive was his refusal to concede this 3-on-1 fast break
. The absences of Ricky Rubio and Mo Williams (out the last six games with back spasms) have forced Flip Saunders to play some funky, no-point-guard lineups. This week:
@ WAS, @ BOS, vs. IND
Pace: 94.8 (23), OffRtg: 96.6 (29), DefRtg: 104.2 (19), NetRtg: -7.6 (27)
Jodie Meeks hasn't hit a 3-pointer yet, but the Pistons are 2-0 with him healthy. The offense has looked better with Meeks spacing the floor and the defense was already starting to show some improvement. Of course, games against the league's top three offenses in the next five days could have the defensive numbers heading back toward Lakerville.
This week: @ LAC, vs. DAL, vs. TOR, @ BKN
(5-21) Pace: 92.0 (29), OffRtg: 101.2 (22), DefRtg: 107.1 (26), NetRtg: -5.9 (23)
Amid stories of infighting, distaste for the Triangle, and Carmelo Anthony maybe thinking about possibly waiving his no-trade clause, the Knicks ended their 10-game losing streak
. Amar'e Stoudemire has started the last eight games and continues to score efficiently and rebound well. If he keeps it up, he'll be a fascinating free agency case next summer. This week:
vs. DAL, @ CHI, vs. PHX, @ TOR
(2-21) Pace: 99.2 (3), OffRtg: 91.7 (30), DefRtg: 103.1 (13), NetRtg: -11.4 (30)
It's a good thing the Sixers had already won a couple of games, because Saturday's loss to Memphis, in which they blew a 17-point, fourth-quarter lead, would have been even more brutal were they still winless. They've found something in Robert Covington, though. He's averaged 19.3 points
and shot 20-for-44 from 3-point range over the last six games. This week:
vs. BOS, vs. CHA, @ ORL