Best and worst NBA teams in January

Top NBA offenses, defenses and records of the month

There’s something about the calendar year being flipped when it comes to the Utah Jazz.

Save for an uncharacteristic lapse to end the month with their 132-105 loss to Portland, the Jazz were one the NBA’s best teams in January. Rallying behind talented leaders Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell ― both at the forefront of All-Star snubs discussions ― Utah has rallied from a disappointing start to the season.

Gobert led all players with 204 rebounds in January and finished second in blocks with 37. Mitchell averaged 27.7 points per game ― the highest mark he’s had in a calendar month in his young career ― while shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc.

As a team, Utah closed out the month winning nine of its last 11 games, including a 114-108 triumph over the Denver Nuggets. Prior to that stretch, the Jazz were 20-21 and stationed outside of the Western Conference playoff mix. That’s when their second-half switch was turned on, a button that appears to be hit practically annually.

January is the same month the Jazz began their vaunted run last season, an exemplary stretch in which they won 21 out of 23 games after starting the season 19-28. Heading into February, Quin Snyder’s unit has positioned themselves for another mid-season playoff push.

The Jazz currently sit at seventh place in the West, one game ahead of the eighth-place LA Clippers and two games ahead of the ninth-place Los Angeles Lakers. With LeBron James back in the fold (and a mega trade possibly on the horizon), there is a chance the Jazz or Clippers are on the outside looking in come April.

But the former isn’t playing like they’ll be the ones left out.

Here’s a look at the best records, offenses and defenses based on numbers from Jan. 1 to Jan. 31 only.

Five best records

  • Golden State Warriors: 11-2
  • Milwaukee Bucks: 12-3
  • Denver Nuggets: 12-4
  • Boston Celtics: 11-4
  • Brooklyn Nets: 11-4
  • Philadelphia 76ers: 11-4
  • Portland Trail Blazers: 11-4
  • Utah Jazz: 11-4

The Nets captured double-digit wins in a calendar month for the first time since March of 2014. In the West, a 12-4 January stretch has the Nuggets at 35-15 overall, their best record through 50 games in franchise history.

Five worst records

  • New York Knicks: 1-12
  • Memphis Grizzlies: 2-14
  • Chicago Bulls: 2-13
  • Phoenix Suns: 2-13
  • Cleveland Cavaliers: 3-12
  • Orlando Magic: 5-11

There’s a good chance this crop will remain the same for the rest of 2018-19. Another ghastly month in New York ― part of a 48-day stretch with just one win ― ended with Kristaps Porzingis wanting out of town and being traded to Dallas. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies and Suns are no longer battling for someone with the last name Brooks, but instead… Williamson?

Five best offenses

(Points scored per 100 possessions)

  • Golden State Warriors: 123.7
  • Denver Nuggets: 117.8
  • Portland Trail Blazers: 116.9
  • Houston Rockets: 115.8
  • Philadelphia 76ers: 115.7

We all knew Golden State would overcome its early-season inconsistency and go on some pristine run, sparked by its deep pool of All-Stars. The Sixers halted that streak on the last day of the month and illustrated how dangerous their own All-Stars are. Portland had its best month of the season and, oh yeah, James Harden did some pretty unbelievable stuff to spark Houston’s offense.

Five worst offenses

  • Memphis Grizzlies: 100.6
  • New York Knicks: 102.9
  • Detroit Pistons: 104.3
  • Los Angeles Lakers: 104.5
  • Chicago Bulls: 104.6

With LeBron sidelined for essentially the entire month, the Lakers took a sharp drop offensively to rank 27th in the league throughout January. Not far behind were the Pistons, whose offensive woes continued despite Blake Griffin having a career season. Detroit finished the month with a 6-10 record, on par with its NFL team.

Five best defenses

(Points allowed per 100 possessions)

  • Milwaukee Bucks: 102.7
  • Boston Celtics: 104.7
  • Utah Jazz: 105.8
  • Brooklyn Nets: 106.9
  • Washington Wizards: 107.1

Milwaukee moved ahead of Oklahoma City in mid-January to boast the NBA’s best defense overall this season, while Brad Stevens’ crew continues to stay in the mix. The most impressive ascent comes from the Wizards, who came into January with the third-worst defense in the league, but have showcased a ”New Year, New Me” mindset on that end in 2019.

Five worst defenses

  • Cleveland Cavaliers: 120.7
  • Phoenix Suns: 116.0
  • Chicago Bulls: 115.0
  • Houston Rockets: 114.6
  • Atlanta Hawks: 113.8
  • Charlotte Hornets: 113.8

While the talk in Houston is solely centered around Harden’s monster scoring streak, the Rockets are still missing the elite defensive efficiency that helped generate 65 wins last season. In the East, Chicago hasn’t improved on either side of the ball since firing coach Fred Hoiberg, and the Cavaliers are in the midst of their worst defensive season by far since ratings became available in 1973.