Power Rankings

Power Rankings, Week 16: Clippers leading way to start trade deadline week

The Wolves and Cavs are rising (and the 76ers fall back) as Thursday's trade deadline looms over the league.

Russell Westbrook reached a career milestone as the Clippers kept rolling along in the West.

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The trade deadline is just three days away and two pieces of news from the last week have surely affected the market.

Zach LaVine has been the player most discussed over the last couple of months, but is out for the remainder of the season. The Philadelphia 76ers, meanwhile, should have been the most aggressive buyer on the market, but now have to wonder if Joel Embiid will return to full health in time for the playoffs.

There should still be plenty of action in the next few days, whether teams want to contend for a title, make the playoffs, build for the future, or just save some money.

Plus-Minus Players of the Week

Teams of the Week

  • Make It Last Forever: Cleveland (4-0) — Players are hopping back on, but the train keeps moving.
  • Something Just Ain’t Right: Charlotte (0-4) — It bears repeating that this team has a much worse point differential than the 6-43 Pistons.

* * *

East vs. West

Schedule strength through Week 15

  • Toughest: 1. Golden State, 2. Memphis, 3. L.A. Lakers
  • Easiest: 1. Phoenix, 2. Philadelphia, 3. Milwaukee
  • Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.

* * *

Movement in the Rankings

  • High jumps of the week: Cleveland (+4), Atlanta (+3), Minnesota (+3)
  • Free falls of the week: Philadelphia (-6), Chicago (-3), Memphis (-3)

* * *

Week 16 Team to Watch

  • Sacramento The Kings have won six of their last seven and complete their seven-game trip with a game against the Cavs (who’ve won 13 of their last 14) on Monday. After hosting the Pistons on Wednesday, they’ll play the Nuggets and Thunder over the weekend.

* * *


OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)
Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)

The league has averaged 115.2 points scored per 100 possessions and 99.7 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes this season.

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 threads.

Last Week:1

Record: 33-15

OffRtg: 119.8 (4) DefRtg: 113.5 (11) NetRtg: +6.3 (3) Pace: 98.3 (26)

The Clippers are 5-1 on the seven-game road trip that ends in Atlanta on Monday, and they remain tied in the loss column with the Wolves and Thunder at the top of the Western Conference.

Three takeaways

  • Russell Westbrook became the 25th player in NBA history with 25,000 career points on a night (Friday in Detroit) when the Clippers needed his contributions (23 points on 10-for-13 shooting, eight assists) off the bench. Their starting lineups (with either Ivica Zubac or Mason Plumlee at center) have generally been excellent (plus 15.8 points per 100 possessions in 467 total minutes), but the Plumlee group had a few sub-par outings last week.
  • Daniel Theis’ minutes, with the starters or off the bench, have not been great. So it was good that Zubac returned from a nine-game absence on Sunday. Still, bench minutes were again key in the Clippers’ win in Miami, with Plumlee, Norman Powell and Amir Coffey on the floor (with James Harden and Paul George) for all of the 20-6, fourth-quarter run that decided the game. The Clips’ bench still ranks 13th for the season and ninth as they’ve gone 25-5 since Dec. 1.
  • The Clippers have the league’s No. 1 offense by a pretty healthy margin (123.6 points scored per 100 possessions) over that 25-5 stretch, with Kawhi Leonard averaging 25.7 points and shooting an amazing 56.8% from the field, 49.6% from 3-point range and 93.3% from the line.

The Clippers’ seven-game trip concludes with a rest-disadvantage game in Atlanta on Monday. They’re 4-3 (1-3 on the road) in the second games of back-to-backs, with Leonard having played in six of those seven games.

Week 16: @ ATL, vs. NOP, vs. DET

Last Week:2

Record: 38-12

OffRtg: 120.4 (2) DefRtg: 110.6 (2) NetRtg: +9.8 (1) Pace: 99.0 (18)

After winning their first 20 home games, the Celtics have lost three of their last six, with their loss to the Lakers (who were without LeBron James and Anthony Davis) on Thursday being the most inexplicable of those three defeats.

Three takeaways

  • The loss on Thursday was, in part, about 3-point shooting, with the Lakers (who rank 28th in made 3s per game) going 19-for-36 and the Celtics having a sub-par night (16-for-48) from beyond the arc. But Boston also attempted 19 fewer free throws and shot just 19-for-40 (48%) in the paint. The difference between their wins and losses continues to be more about the offensive end of the floor, with Jrue Holiday (60.1% vs. 41.9%) and Jaylen Brown (59.3% vs. 43.2%) having the fifth and ninth biggest effective field goal differentials in wins and losses among 186 players with at least 100 field goal attempts in each.
  • The Celtics led the league last season with eight wins by at least 25 points, with three of those coming after the All-Star break. They’ve already got nine this season, having beat the shorthanded Grizzlies by 40 on Sunday. Brown (who has shot 1-for-13 from 3-point range over his last four games) missed that one with lower back tightness.
  • The Celtics might be looking to add another rotation piece at the deadline, and an insurance big behind Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford could be needed. But they already have the league’s top-ranked bench, and Sam Hauser’s time on the floor was particularly strong last week, with the Celtics outscoring their opponents by 23.2 points per 100 possessions in his 95 minutes.

The Celtics are still undefeated (17-0) at home against the Eastern Conference, and their seven-game homestand concludes with games against the Hawks and Wizards. Then they’ll head to Miami, where they scored 143 points on just 96 possessions 11 days ago.

Week 16: vs. ATL, vs. WAS, @ MIA

Last Week:3

Record: 35-16

OffRtg: 118.1 (8) DefRtg: 113.7 (12) NetRtg: +4.5 (8) Pace: 97.2 (29)

The Nuggets had a chance in Oklahoma City, holding a lead late in the third quarter, without Nikola Jokic on Wednesday. But whether Jokic is in uniform or not, their bench remains a question mark, and they lost a game in which they outscored the Thunder by 12 points with their starting lineup on the floor. They’re still 21-7 over the last eight weeks, though that game has them one game in the loss column behind the top three teams in the West.

Three takeaways

  • Jokic’s on-off differential remains pretty big (18 points per 100 possessions) and one element of that differential is rebounding. Denver has grabbed 74.2% of available defensive rebounds with Jokic on the floor, but just 67.1% with him off the floor. They needed a stop when they were down one with less than a minute to go on Wednesday, but they were playing small and they allowed the Thunder to grab two offensive boards before Chet Holmgren hit the dagger 3.
  • We’ll see if the Nuggets try to trade for another rotation piece (Bruce Brown might be available) or hope they can pick up somebody on the buyout market. Peyton Watson (who started in Jokic’s place on Wednesday) remains an X factor and shot 11-for-14 (4-for-5 from 3-point range) as they swept a two-game series against the Blazers this weekend.
  • The Nuggets have wins over the Celtics, Sixers and Bucks over the last 17 days, but with that loss to the Thunder, they’re just 6-9 against the other nine teams that have won at least 60% of their games. Offense has been the bigger issue in those games, with the Nuggets having scored just 106.4 points per 100 possessions in the eight losses in which they had Jokic against the top 10.

That 6-9 record within the top 10 includes a 0-1 mark against the Kings, who the Nuggets will play twice more before the All-Star break. They have just two games this week, but they’re a back-to-back and they’ll be at a rest disadvantage in Sacramento on Friday. They’re 3-3 (2-1 on the road) in rest-disadvantage games thus far, having not had one in a month.

Week 16: @ LAL, @ SAC

Last Week:7

Record: 35-15

OffRtg: 114.1 (19) DefRtg: 108.2 (1) NetRtg: +5.9 (6) Pace: 98.4 (25)

The Wolves have stumbled a little over the last few weeks, but they picked up two important wins within the top eight in the West last week and are sending Chris Finch and his coaching staff to the All-Star Game.

Three takeaways

  • The Cavs and Knicks have both been playing great defense for more than a month now. But the Wolves are still holding strong to that No. 1 spot on that end of the floor, having allowed 2.3 fewer points per 100 possessions than Cleveland. They’re 9-4 over the last 3 1/2 weeks despite ranking 20th offensively over that stretch. They scored just 111 points on 103 possessions on Sunday, but cruised to a 21-point win by holding the Rockets to just 19-for-48 (40%) shooting in the paint and their least efficient performance of the season.
  • The Wolves win in Oklahoma City last Monday was their 13th rest-advantage game of the season, where they were rested but their opponent had played the day/night before. No other team has played more than 11 rest-advantage games and 17 teams have played six or fewer. The Wolves 10-3 (6-1 at home, 4-2 on the road) in those rest-advantage games, with the win over the Thunder (which they trailed with less than three minutes left) being the most important of the 13.
  • They didn’t have a rest advantage on Wednesday, but the Mavs were without their entire (theoretical) starting lineup. There was no advantage two nights later when the Wolves blew a 17-point lead to the Magic and came up short down the stretch. After going 11-1 in clutch games through Dec. 31, they’re 3-7 (having allowed 105 points on 87 clutch possessions) in 2024.

The Wolves conclude their pre-break schedule with a five-game road trip that includes a visit to Milwaukee on Thursday. They’re 3-3 (3-0 at home, 0-3 on the road) against the top five teams in the Eastern Conference, having split their season series against the Celtics, Knicks and Sixers and having yet to play the Bucks or Cavs.

Week 16: @ CHI, @ MIL

Last Week:5

Record: 35-15

OffRtg: 119.3 (6) DefRtg: 111.2 (4) NetRtg: +8.1 (2) Pace: 100.6 (10)

The Thunder split their two big home games within the top four in the West last week, with neither being a truly fair fight. They lost a rest-disadvantage game to the Wolves and then beat the Nuggets without Nikola Jokic.

Three takeaways

  • Despite the loss to Minnesota, the Thunder have the best record (10-4) in games played between the top eight teams in the league (those more than 12 games over .500). Five of the other seven rank in the top 10 offensively, but the Thunder have allowed just 112.9 points per 100 possessions over the 14 games.
  • They erased a 10-point deficit last Monday and were up one with less than three minutes left before Minnesota went on a 9-0 run to put them away. They came back from 13 down against the Nuggets and from 23 down against Toronto on Sunday, when the Thunder scored 35 points on 23 clutch possessions and escaped in double-overtime. With those two comebacks, they’re the first team with 10 wins (they’re 10-13) in games it trailed by double-digits. They weren’t nearly as good a team overall in the last two seasons, but had 16 double-digit comeback wins (one fewer than the league leader) in 2021-22 and 17 (tied for the league lead) last season.
  • The Thunder remain one of the league’s most intriguing teams regarding the trade deadline. They have more future Draft picks (both first and second round) than they can use and, as good as they’ve been, they could certainly upgrade a rotation spot or two. Their starting lineup has been just OK overall (plus-3.4 points per 100 possessions) and has been destroyed on the glass (rebounding percentage of 45.3%) over the last three weeks, though it hasn’t played together (with Jalen Williams out) in the last two games.

Though they lost to the Pistons in their last road game, the Thunder are still tied for the league’s second-best road record (15-9). Three of their four remaining pre-break games are on the road, and they’ve already won in Utah and Dallas, where they’ll have games this week with a three-day break in between.

Week 16: @ UTA, @ DAL, vs. SAC

Last Week:10

Record: 31-16

OffRtg: 115.3 (17) DefRtg: 110.5 (2) NetRtg: +4.7 (7) Pace: 98.8 (19)

Both Evan Mobley and Darius Garland returned from their extended absences last week, and the Cavs just kept on rolling. They’ve now won 13 of their last 14 games, climbing from eighth to third in the Eastern Conference.

Three takeaways

  • The Cavs have had the league’s No. 1 defense (104.3 points allowed per 100 possessions) over the 13-1 stretch, though it should be noted that eight of the 14 games have come against teams that currently rank in the bottom 10 offensively, while five (three against the Bucks) have come against top-10 offenses. They did hold the Clippers to 108 on 97 (111 per 100) on Monday, with LA having scored more than 125 per 100 over its five-game winning streak leading into that game.
  • The Cavs’ reunited starting lineup played just 18 minutes together (over two games) last week, allowing the Pistons and Spurs to score 44 points on 35 defensive possessions (126 per 100) and outscoring the last-place teams in each conference by just a single point. Neither Garland nor Mobley has played more than 24 minutes since returning.
  • But Mobley had a huge game in San Antonio on Saturday, scoring 28 points on 11-for-15 shooting in his 24 minutes, with his three 3-pointers (on three attempts) being a career-high. Though Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen also had 31 and 26 points, respectively, it was only the Cavs’ eighth most efficient offensive game on this 13-1 stretch, over which they rank fifth offensively.

We’ll have a great matchup of two teams playing well when the Kings (who’ve won six of their last seven) visit Cleveland on Monday. The first meeting (Nov. 13 in Sacramento) was the Cavs’ worst defensive game of the season (132 points allowed on just 96 possessions).

Week 16: vs. SAC, @ WAS, @ BKN, @ TOR

Last Week:8

Record: 32-18

OffRtg: 118.0 (9) DefRtg: 112.0 (6) NetRtg: +6.0 (5) Pace: 97.6 (27)

The Knicks ran their winning streak to nine games, winning their first three without Julius Randle. They then went into the fourth quarter against the Lakers with a six-point lead on Saturday, but came up empty offensively (10 straight scoreless possessions) and suffered just their second loss in a game they led after 36 minutes.

Three takeaways

  • The Knicks have also been without OG Anunoby for the last four games, but they allowed just 106.4 points per 100 possessions over the first three, with one of those coming against the league’s No. 1 offense. They ranked 20th defensively on Jan. 1, but have now climbed to sixth on that end of the floor.
  • Randle was certainly missed in that fourth quarter on Saturday, when the Lakers put extra (and deserved) attention on Jalen Brunson, who was 0-for-4 with two turnovers in that stretch of 10 scoreless possessions, struggling to turn that attention into easy shots for his teammates. The All-Star still finished with 36 points and 10 assists, but the Knicks have also scored less than a point per possession in his 38 minutes off the floor over these four games.
  • Donte DiVincenzo has picked up some of the offensive slack with Randle and Anunoby out. Before this season, the most points he averaged in any four-game stretch of his career was 17 ppg, but he had a stretch after Christmas averaging 19.5 ppg and he’s averaged 26.8 points over these last four. For the season, he’s registering career-high marks for both usage rate (19.8%) and true shooting percentage (61.2%).

The Knicks are still 11-1 with both Brunson and Anunoby, having outscored their opponents by 29 points per 100 possessions in 361 total minutes with both on the floor. That one loss came in Dallas on Jan. 11, when the Knicks couldn’t get a rebound on a critical defensive possession in the final minute. The Mavs will be at Madison Square Garden on Thursday for Game 5 of the Knicks’ six-game homestand.

Week 16: vs. MEM, vs. DAL, vs. IND

Last Week:6

Record: 33-17

OffRtg: 119.9 (3) DefRtg: 116.4 (19) NetRtg: +3.5 (10) Pace: 102.5 (3)

Doc Rivers is the Eastern Conference All-Star coach, because he was able to get one win in his first four games with the Bucks.

Three takeaways

  • The Bucks’ starting lineup outscored the Nuggets and Blazers by 18 points, allowing just 87 points on 91 defensive possessions, in 42 total minutes over their first two games with Rivers on the bench. But they were a minus-27 (allowing 136 per 100) in 54 minutes with at least one reserve on the floor. Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to have a significant on-off differential and the Portland loss was the Bucks’ fifth in which they outscored their opponent with him on the floor. That’s as many of those losses as they had over the last two seasons combined.
  • The Bucks had a stretch of about 52 minutes in which they outscored their opponents by 55 points, coming back from 25 points down to beat the Mavs and then building a 19-point lead in Utah. But that 19-point lead eventually disappeared, and they were outscored 38-9 by the Jazz over the final 11 minutes on Sunday. They’re still 30-4 in games they led by double-digits.
  • Damian Lillard registered the highest true shooting percentage (110%) of his career (minimum 10 field goal attempts) in the win in Dallas on Saturday, scoring 30 points on 10-for-11 from the field and 5-for-6 from the line. He’s shot just 45-for-128 (35%) over the Bucks’ other seven games in the last 15 days, with Milwaukee ranking just 18th offensively over that stretch.

Having split their games in Denver and Dallas last week, the Bucks are 4-1 against the top eight teams in the West, set to face the Suns and Wolves for the first time this week. Those are Games 3 and 4 of their only stretch of five games in seven days this season.

Week 16: @ PHX, vs. MIN, vs. CHA

Last Week:9

Record: 29-21

OffRtg: 118.2 (7) DefRtg: 115.3 (16) NetRtg: +2.9 (11) Pace: 98.7 (20)

The Suns went 4-3 on their seven-game road trip, good enough to remain in the top six in the West, but it seems like they still haven’t hit their stride.

Three takeaways

  • The Suns have now played 15 straight games (19 total) with all three of Bradley Beal, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant. They’re 10-5 (6-3 against other teams currently over .500), ranking third offensively and 16th defensively, over that stretch. Their starting lineup has outscored their opponents by 14.2 points per 100 possessions in its 190 minutes over the 15 games (Grayson Allen and Jusuf Nurkic have each missed one), but their bench ranks just 18th.
  • Beal had shot just 3-for-11 from mid-range and 4-for-29 from 3-point range over the five games prior to his return to Washington on Sunday. And wouldn’t you know it, he busted out against his old team, scoring a season-high 43 points in just 31 minutes, making more shots from outside the paint (8-for-10) than he did over those previous five games. Beal’s usage rate this season (23.1%) is (unsurprisingly) his lowest in the last nine years, and it’s even lower (22.1%) over these last 15 games in which all three stars have been available.
  • Nurkic had a big game (28 points on 11-for-15 shooting, five offensive boards, six assists) in Brooklyn on Wednesday, destroying the Nets’ guards and wings after their bigs switched screens. But the Suns still closed with Kevin Durant at the five (and Eric Gordon in place of Nurkic) two nights later in Atlanta. Seven of these last 15 games have been within five points in the last five minutes, with a center (Nurkic or Drew Eubanks) on the floor for 55% of the 22 clutch minutes.

Only four of these last 15 games have been at home, where the Suns are just 14-11 (more home losses than they had in all of 2020-21 or ’21-22). They’ll play four of their last five pre-break games at the Footprint Center, with a marquee matchup against the Bucks on Tuesday.

Week 16: vs. MIL, vs. UTA, @ GSW

Last Week:4

Record: 30-18

OffRtg: 119.3 (5) DefRtg: 113.3 (9) NetRtg: +6.0 (4) Pace: 99.5 (14)

Joel Embiid returned from two-game absence on Tuesday and suffered another knee injury in the Sixers’ loss at Golden State. With Tyrese Maxey returning from a three-game absence two nights later, they were able to get a win in Utah without the reigning MVP. But after losing to Ben Simmons and the Nets over the weekend, the Sixers are just 4-10 without Embiid, who is going to miss a lot more games in the coming weeks.

Three takeaways

  • The bigger difference between games with and without Embiid has been on defense. And over their last three games without him, the Sixers have allowed an incredible 131.3 points per 100 possessions, with the opponents (Portland, Utah and Brooklyn) combining to shoot 65.4% in the paint.
  • Maxey helped overcome the defensive issues by scoring a career-high 51 points in Utah on Thursday, shooting 7-for-8 at the basket, 7-for-9 from 3-point range and 10-for-11 at the free throw line. His 3-point percentage (38.3%) is down from 43.1% over the last two seasons, but remains well above the league average, and his free throw rate (29.6 attempts per 100 shots from the field) has seen a big jump from the last two seasons (24.1 per 100).

Four other rotation players — Robert Covington (the last 16 games), De’Anthony Melton (11 straight), Nicolas Batum (three straight) and Tobias Harris (three of the last six) — have also been out, with three of the four listed as out for the Sixers’ game against Dallas on Monday (Harris is questionable). And with Embiid set to have surgery on his knee, it might not be time to go all-in with a trade at the deadline.

Week 16: vs. DAL, vs. GSW, vs. ATL, @ WAS

Last Week:13

Record: 29-19

OffRtg: 116.7 (14) DefRtg: 115.7 (17) NetRtg: +1.1 (15) Pace: 100.5 (11)

The Kings are 5-1 on the seven-game road trip that concludes in Cleveland on Monday, and have won six of their last seven games overall, climbing from eighth to fifth (with a two-game edge in the loss column over the sixth-place Suns) in the Western Conference.

Three takeaways

  • The Kings rank a little higher defensively (10th) than they do offensively (11th) during this 6-1 stretch over the last two weeks, even though four of the seven opponents have been teams that rank much higher offensively for the season. They’re still a worse-than-average defensive team overall, but they’re one of only nine teams that have allowed fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season.
  • One area where they’ve improved is paint defense. The Kings rank 14th in opponent field goal percentage in the paint (57.3%) after ranking 26th (60.1%) last season. Two of the seven opponents on this 6-1 stretch, including the Grizzlies (17-for-36) on Monday, have made less than half of their shots in the paint.
  • De’Aaron Fox shot 4-for-22 from 3-point range over the previous four games, but was 5-for-11 from beyond the arc on his way to 41 points in Chicago on Saturday, hitting one of the biggest shots of the night after the Kings lost almost all of a 30-point lead. His hasn’t shot nearly as well from mid-range as he did last season, but his 38.0% from 3-point range is a career-high mark, and up from just 31.2% over the previous four years.

After finishing their seven-game trip in Cleveland, the Kings will be home for just two games before hitting the road again for the last three games before the break. They’re currently 8-8 within the top eight in the West, set to play their final four pre-break games against the Nuggets (twice), Thunder and Suns.

Week 16: @ CLE, vs. DET, vs. DEN, @ OKC

Last Week:11

Record: 28-21

OffRtg: 116.9 (13) DefRtg: 113.0 (8) NetRtg: +3.9 (9) Pace: 99.5 (13)

A tough January schedule pushed the Pelicans out of the top six in the West, but they won the last two games of a four-game trip and have a much more generous schedule over the next two weeks.

Three takeaways

  • Three lineups have played at least 300 minutes and been outscored in those minutes. Two of them belong to the Raptors and Wizards, while the third is the Pelicans’ starting lineup, which has been outscored by 3.4 points per 100 possessions, with its 120.0 points allowed per 100 possessions being the worst defensive mark among the 12 total lineups that have played at least 300 minutes by a healthy margin.
  • The Pels have played 102 total minutes with Trey Murphy III in the place of Herb Jones, Brandon Ingram or Zion Williamson (and on the floor with the other four starters), and they’ve allowed just 97.2 points per 100 possessions (outscoring their opponents by 9.2 per 100) in those 102 minutes.
  • The Pelicans have the league’s easiest schedule in the first half of February, with only two of their seven final pre-break games against teams that currently have winning records. But they began that stretch with a narrow escape in San Antonio on Friday, needing Williamson’s fast-break layup to beat the Spurs. Among the 17 teams currently above .500, they have the worst record (13-9) against the 13 teams currently below .500, though they’ve now won seven straight against that group after a 6-9 start.

The two remaining pre-break games against good teams are a three-day stay in L.A. this week, with the Pelicans having split their first two games against both the Clippers and Lakers.

Week 16: vs. TOR, @ LAC, @ LAL, @ POR

Last Week:12

Record: 28-23

OffRtg: 120.7 (1) DefRtg: 119.1 (26) NetRtg: +1.6 (12) Pace: 102.8 (2)

The Pacers lost their first three games with Tyrese Haliburton back, with their star on a minutes restriction and even coming off the bench against the Kings on Friday. But they got to play the Hornets over the weekend and ended the skid with their third wire-to-wire victory of the season.

Three takeaways

  • The Pacers were 11-4 against the top five in the East before losing in Boston and New York last week. Both games were within five points in the last five minutes, but Haliburton (who’s shot 20-for-31 in the clutch) wasn’t available down the stretch and Indy scored just eight points on 11 clutch possessions.
  • Overall and though he shot 52%, the Pacers’ offense wasn’t much more efficient with Haliburton on the floor (114.7 points scored per 100 possessions) than it was with him off the floor (113.3) over their four games last week. They still lead the league in offensive efficiency, but the Celtics have closed the gap with the Pacers ranking 18th on that end of the floor since Haliburton first injured his hamstring.
  • Rick Carlisle continues to change the starting lineup (as Rick Carlisle does), but Aaron Nesmith has started the last 10 games and has had a few big games of late, including 26 points (on 11-for-17 shooting), 12 rebounds and seven assists (with zero turnovers) against his former team on Tuesday. Nesmith has an effective field goal percentage of 64.6%, up from 52.5% in 2022-23, with that being the second biggest jump among 217 players with at least 200 field goal attempts in each of the last two seasons. The only player who’s seen a bigger jump is teammate Jalen Smith (from 53.0% to 70.7%).

Their loss to the Kings on Friday dropped the Pacers to just 6-10 (4-4 at home) against the Western Conference. One of those six wins was against the Rockets, who will be in Indianapolis on Tuesday. The Pacers will have a rest advantage two nights later for their first meeting with the Warriors.

Week 16: vs. HOU, vs. GSW, @ NYK

Last Week:14

Record: 26-23

OffRtg: 117.3 (12) DefRtg: 117.9 (25) NetRtg: -0.7 (17) Pace: 100.8 (8)

The Mavs remain shorthanded, and they’ve lost six of their last eight games, falling to eighth place in the Western Conference.

Three takeaways

  • The Mavs were almost healthy a couple of weeks ago, but they’ve had no more than six of their top nine guys in 24 of their last 32 games, with Kyrie Irving and/or Dante Exum having missed 27 of the last 28. They’ve had all nine of those guys available in just two of their 49 games, and those were the first two games of the season.
  • With Luka Doncic and Tim Hardaway Jr. combining for 81 points on Monday (with 27 of those coming at the free throw line), the Mavs scored 131 points on 99 possessions, the second most efficient performance that Orlando’s fifth-ranked defense has allowed this season. The Mavs are 23-1 (with 16 straight wins) in games in which they’ve scored at least 120 per 100.
  • But, in part because they rank 25th defensively, they’re 3-22 (with 18 straight losses) when they haven’t scored at least 120 per 100, and they didn’t come close in losses to the Wolves (without Doncic) and Bucks last week. One issue is that when they don’t shoot well from the perimeter, they can’t make up for it inside, continuing to rank last in the percentage of their shots (42%) that have come in the paint.

With the Doncic-less loss in Minnesota last week, the Mavs have the worst record (5-13) in games played between the top eight teams in the West, with seven of those 13 losses having come by more than 15 points. They’ll host the Thunder (0-1) after getting back from a three-game trip East. Irving is listed as probable (though Doncic is questionable) for their game in Philly on Monday

Week 16: @ PHI, @ BKN, @ NYK, vs. OKC

Last Week:15

Record: 27-23

OffRtg: 112.5 (24) DefRtg: 111.4 (5) NetRtg: +1.1 (13) Pace: 98.6 (23)

The Magic let one get away last Monday, blowing a 16-point, halftime lead in Dallas and falling to 2-8 (with seven straight losses) in the second game of back-to-backs. But they’ve since won three straight (all on the road), holding their opponents to just 102.4 points per 100 possessions.

Three takeaways

  • The Magic have now seen the league’s third biggest drop in points allowed per 100 possessions from last season (113.7, 18th), even though their opponents have shot better from 3-point range. They’ve seen the fifth biggest jump in opponent turnover rate and the seventh biggest drop in opponent field goal percentage in the paint.
  • Their opponents have shot just 51% in the paint with Jonathan Isaac on the floor, the third-lowest on-court mark among 350 players who’ve been on the floor for at least 250 opponent shots in the paint. Isaac was on the floor (with Paolo Banchero and Wendell Carter Jr.) down the stretch of the Magic’s two-point win in Minnesota on Friday, and the Magic have allowed just 71 points on 79 total defensive possessions (90 per 100) with those three guys on the floor together.
  • The Magic have taken less than 30% of their shots from 3-point range in each of these last three wins, having done so just six times in their first 47 games. They’re 7-2 in those nine games overall, in part because they have the league’s fourth biggest differential between their 2-point value (107.9 points per 100 shots) and their 3-point value (103.5 per 100).

The Magic’s five-game trip concludes on Tuesday in Miami, where they lost an ugly one (one of 11 games this season in which both teams scored less than 100 points) last month. They’re a game ahead of the Heat for seventh place in the East (and first in the Southeast Division).

Week 16: @ MIA, vs. SAS, vs. CHI

Last Week:17

Record: 26-25

OffRtg: 113.6 (20) DefRtg: 114.7 (15) NetRtg: -1.1 (20) Pace: 101.3 (6)

LeBron James tweeted and the Lakers have responded, getting big wins in Boston (where the Celtics were 22-2) and New York (where the Knicks were 11-1 since Christmas), with one of those wins (the Boston one) coming without both James and Anthony Davis. They’re back above .500 and only two games in the loss column behind the eighth-place Mavs.

Three takeaways

  • The two wins were a reminder that the Lakers can win with defense. The previous five games were their worst stretch of defense this season (123.4 points allowed per 100 possessions), but Boston’s 105 points on 99 possessions was its second least offensive performance at home, and the Lakers shut down Jalen Brunson and the Knicks (10 straight scoreless possessions) in the final seven minutes on Saturday. It was just New York’s second loss in a game it led after the third quarter.
  • James and Davis have played 1,098 minutes together, 211 more than they played together all of last season (887). The Lakers have outscored their opponents by only 0.9 points per 100 possessions in those minutes, but that’s a tick better than the duo’s on-court number (plus-0.8 per 100) at the trade deadline last year. L.A. then outscored its opponents by 17.1 per 100 with James and Davis on the floor together after the deadline.
  • Of course, most of the players the Lakers got at the deadline last season have been on the roster this season, one of them (Jarred Vanderbilt) is going to miss extended time with a foot injury, and the two stars have been healthier this year. So it seems unlikely that history will repeat itself.

The Lakers have lost six straight games to the Nuggets (counting the conference finals), who they last faced on opening night (when Davis went scoreless in the second half). They’ll host the champs about seven hours after the trade deadline, with a more important game (against the Pelicans) a little more than 24 hours after that.

Week 16: @ CHA, vs. DEN, vs. NOP

Last Week:18

Record: 26-24

OffRtg: 112.8 (23) DefRtg: 113.8 (13) NetRtg: -0.9 (19) Pace: 97.5 (28)

The Heat ended their seven-game losing streak (their first since 2008) and got one of their best wins of 2024 on Wednesday, beating the Kings, who are otherwise 5-0 on their road trip. But Miami still can’t find any offense and remains in the Eastern Conference Play-In picture.

Three takeaways

  • The Heat rank 28th offensively (only the Hornets and Blazers have scored less efficiently) since Jan. 1, having scored just 108.3 points per 100 possessions. They rank last in effective field goal percentage (50.6%) over that stretch.
  • The Heat trailed the Wizards at the half on Friday, but they played some zone in the third quarter, when Washington scored just 15 points on 26 possessions. The Heat’s 1,545 possessions of zone defense last season were the most in 15 years of Synergy tracking, but they rank second (behind the Jazz) in total zone possessions this season, when the zone (1.05 points allowed per possession) hasn’t been as stingy as it was in ’22-23 (0.93).

Four of their five remaining pre-break games are against other teams that currently have winning records, and the the Heat have the worst record (8-16) in games played within that group. They are 2-1 against the Magic, who will be in Miami on Tuesday.

Week 16: vs. ORL, vs. SAS, vs. BOS

Last Week:16

Record: 25-26

OffRtg: 115.6 (15) DefRtg: 117.9 (24) NetRtg: -2.3 (23) Pace: 100.7 (9)

After an 11-2 stretch, the Jazz lost six of eight, with the only wins coming against the Wizards and Hornets. They were well on their way to another loss on Sunday night before turning a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit into a 15-point win over the Bucks with a 38-9 run to close the game.

Three takeaways

  • Five guys were on the floor for the entirety of the 38-9 run, and four of them (all but Lauri Markkanen) were reserves. It was a big turnaround for a bench that had struggled over the three-game losing streak leading into Sunday, with the Jazz being outscored by more than 25 points per 100 possessions in Jordan Clarkson’s 89 minutes over those three games. It’s fair to say that Clarkson and Kelly Olynyk are offense-first players, but Utah has scored just 112.6 points per 100 possessions in their 606 minutes on the floor together this season.
  • The other good news from Sunday is that the Jazz allowed only 11 fast break points after allowing no fewer than 24 in each of their previous six games. The 18 fast break points they’ve allowed per game would be the highest opponent mark in the last 13 seasons, and you have to wonder where this team would be in the standings if these guys just got back in transition.
  • Seven guys scored in double-figures on Sunday, and they were led by Markkanen (21 points). His numbers this year (23.5 points per game on a true shooting percentage of 64.7%) are down only slightly from this point last season (24.9 on 66.7%) when he was named an All-Star. But there were seemingly a lot more Western Conference frontcourt candidates this time around.

The Jazz have two games left on a stretch of five straight against the top 11 teams in the league. They’re 0-5 against this week’s two opponents (the Thunder and Suns), having allowed 126.7 points per 100 possessions over those five games.

Week 16: vs. OKC, @ PHX

Last Week:22

Record: 22-27

OffRtg: 117.4 (10) DefRtg: 119.5 (27) NetRtg: -2.2 (22) Pace: 102.4 (4)

The Hawks followed a four-game losing streak with four straight wins, beating the Lakers (who’ve since won in Boston and New York) and Suns along the way. If they were in the Western Conference, they’d be in 13th place. But they’re 9-7 against the West and holding onto the last Play-In Tournament spot in the East.

Three takeaways

  • The Hawks’ defense is still not very good, but it hasn’t been disastrous over the last four games. One thing that’s helped is a drop in turnover rate on their end of the floor. They’ve committed just 10.1 turnovers per 100 possessions (the fewest in the league) over their last eight games and rank second for the season in shooting-opportunity differential, averaging 3.4 more than their opponents.
  • At one point (Dec. 28), the Hawks were 6-14 in clutch games. But with their overtime victory over the Warriors on Saturday (in which they scored 24 points on 14 clutch possessions), they’ve won eight of their last 10 that were within five points in the last five minutes. Dejounte Murray (5-for-7) and Trae Young (4-for-9) are two of the 10 players with at least four buckets to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime this season.
  • Even during the winning streak, the Hawks have been better with one of Murray or Young on the floor (plus-11.5 points per 100 possessions in 103 total minutes) than they’ve been with them on the floor together (plus-5.2 in 85 minutes), though there’s still value in always having one or the other in the game, and finding a Murray trade that works well for all parties could be difficult.

The Hawks haven’t won five straight games since last January and the competition gets a little tougher this week, with their six-game homestand concluding with a visit from the Clippers. They’ll then travel to Boston, where they suffered one of their three wire-to-wire losses of the season.

Week 16: vs. LAC, @ BOS, @ PHI, vs. HOU

Last Week:20

Record: 23-26

OffRtg: 113.2 (21) DefRtg: 112.1 (7) NetRtg: +1.1 (14) Pace: 99.2 (17)

With their win over the Lakers last Monday, the Rockets became the first team to match its win total from last season (22-60), though their pace has slowed after a 13-9 start and they remain outside the Play-In group in the West.

Three takeaways

  • One thing that was somewhat consistent over the previous five games was the play of the Rockets’ bench. Houston outscored its opponents by 31.3 points per 100 possessions in 73 total minutes with Amen Thompson and Cam Whitmore on the floor together over that stretch. Whitmore averaged 21 points (in just 21.8 minutes) on an effective field goal percentage of 61% over the five games, and Thompson scored a career-high 19 points on 9-for-11 shooting in the Rockets’ win over Toronto on Friday.
  • On Thursday, the Rockets traded three second-round picks for Steven Adams, who won’t be able to play until next season. The numbers don’t spell a desperate need for more size. The Rockets rank in the top 10 regarding both opponent field goal percentage in the paint and the (lowest) percentage of their opponents’ shots that have come in the paint. They’re also eighth in defensive rebounding percentage and have drawn even with their opponents with Alperen Sengun off the floor. But more veteran depth is a good thing and Adams is a very useful player who will be on a very reasonable contract next season.

Their loss in Minnesota was the start of a four-game trip, and the Rockets still have the league’s biggest home-road winning-percentage differential (18-9 vs. 5-17). They’ve also lost their last eight games against the Pacers, who they’ll visit on Tuesday.

Week 16: @ IND, @ TOR, @ ATL

Last Week:21

Record: 21-25

OffRtg: 117.3 (11) DefRtg: 117.4 (22) NetRtg: -0.1 (16) Pace: 99.9 (12)

The Warriors won two straight games for the first time since Christmas, getting stops against two shorthanded opponents. Then they got 60 points from Stephen Curry … and lost in Atlanta on Saturday.

Three takeaways

  • Jonathan Kuminga and Draymond Green have started the last four games at the four and five, and the Warriors have outscored their opponents by 12.5 points per 100 possessions (with very good defensive numbers) in their 222 total minutes on the floor together. Of course, the bench is still missing Chris Paul and Gary Payton II, and Dario Saric has also missed the last two games. Gui Santos and Lester Quinones got rotation minutes on Saturday, with the latter on the floor (with Kuminga having fouled out) for all of overtime.
  • Kuminga has averaged 24.6 points over the last nine games, shooting 62% from the field over that stretch. That includes 54% (14-for-26) from 3-point range, though most of his damage (15.1 points per game on 65% shooting) has been done in the paint.
  • The Warriors keep putting their fate in the hands of the clutch gods, and with the overtime loss in Atlanta on Saturday, they’ve lost their last four games that were within five points in the last five minutes, now 15-18 in clutch games for the season. After going 1-for-2 at the end of regulation in Atlanta, Stephen Curry is 7-for-19 (37%) on shots to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime. That’s a little better than the league average (34%) on those shots, but not something you want to be relying on so often. The 19 attempts lead the league (Curry had just nine all of last season), with only three other players having 10 or more.

Games 3 and 4 of the Warriors’ five-game trip (also their only stretch of five games in seven days) are against teams – the Nets and Sixers — they’ve already beaten at home. Then we’ll get to see Curry vs. the Pacers for the first time on Thursday.

Week 16: @ BKN, @ PHI, @ IND, vs. PHX

Last Week:19

Record: 23-27

OffRtg: 112.9 (22) DefRtg: 114.7 (14) NetRtg: -1.8 (21) Pace: 97.1 (30)

The trade market took a hit on Saturday when the Bulls announced that Zach LaVine (who had missed 23 of the previous 30 games) would have surgery on his right foot and miss the rest of the season. After a loss to the Kings on Saturday night, they’ve played exactly half of their games (and are 13-12) without LaVine.

Three takeaways

  • The good news (for both LaVine and the Bulls) is that he still has three years left on his contract, so he’s got long-term security and the team will have other opportunities to trade him if that’s what they want to do. And they could certainly get something of value in the next few days if they’re willing to part with Alex Caruso.
  • The Bulls have been better on both ends of the floor in their games without LaVine, but the offensive mark in those games (115.4 points scored per 100 possessions) is still just a tick above the league average. The Bulls and Pistons are the only teams that rank in the bottom 10 in 2-point percentage, 3-point percentage and the percentage of their shots that have come from 3-point range.
  • Torrey Craig returned from a 22-game absence on Saturday, but rookie Julian Phillips remained in the rotation for a fourth straight game and had one really impressive finish against Toronto on Tuesday. The Bulls rank just 22nd (11th among the 13 teams with losing records) in the percentage of their minutes (4%) that have come from rookies or second-year players.

The Bulls’ 22nd-ranked offense will now play six of its next seven games (a stretch that takes them past the All-Star break) against top-10 defenses. Two of the six times they’ve scored a point per possession or less have come against the Magic, who they’ll visit on Saturday.

Week 16: vs. MIN, @ MEM, @ ORL

Last Week:24

Record: 20-28

OffRtg: 115.5 (16) DefRtg: 116.2 (18) NetRtg: -0.8 (18) Pace: 98.7 (22)

The Nets have won three of four for the first time since Dec. 13, and they trail both the Bulls and Hawks (who occupy the last two Play-In Tournament spots in the East) by just a game in the loss column.

Three takeaways

  • The first win in this stretch was pretty ugly. But the last two (over the Jazz and Sixers) have been two of the Nets’ three most efficient offensive performances of the season. Cam Thomas has been in the starting lineup for this 3-1 stretch and averaged 31.8 points on an effective field goal percentage of 63% over the four games. More important is that the Nets have won his time on the floor decidedly, outscoring their opponents by 16.1 points per 100 possessions in Thomas’ 143 minutes.
  • The Nets are certainly a team to watch at the trade deadline. They could go in either direction, having both Draft picks and useful veterans to trade, with Royce O’Neale being the most tradeable of the latter (because he’s on an expiring contract). O’Neale’s 3-point percentage of 36.4% is down from 38.8% over the last three seasons, but his effective field goal percentage is up a little from last season as he’s taken 81.5% of his shots from 3-point range, up from 70.7% and the third-highest rate among 241 players with at least 200 field goal attempts.

After welcoming Kevin Durant back last week, the Nets will get a visit from Kyrie Irving on Tuesday. They’re just 6-14 against the Western Conference, having lost in Dallas on Luka Doncic’s ridiculous late-clock 3-pointer off the glass back in October.

Week 16: vs. GSW, vs. DAL, vs. CLE, vs. SAS

Last Week:25

Record: 17-32

OffRtg: 114.5 (18) DefRtg: 117.1 (20) NetRtg: -2.7 (24) Pace: 99.3 (16)

The Raptors got a win in Chicago on Tuesday and should be 2-2 (with a quality win) on their six-game road trip. However …

Three takeaways

  • A comeback from a deficit of 20 points or more isn’t that rare these days. There have been 22 games this season where a team lost after leading by 20-plus and the league-wide winning percentage when up 20 (318-22, .935) is the lowest in the 28 seasons for which we have play-by-play data. But the Raptors had won 168 straight games that they led by 20-plus (a streak dating back to Dec. 2015) before blowing a 23-point lead and losing in double-overtime in Oklahoma City on Sunday.
  • The good news is that they were competitive against a great team on the road, scoring relatively efficiently against a top-five defense with their three core pieces (Scottie Barnes, RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley) all in the lineup for the first time in 10 days. The trio has still played just 78 total minutes alongside Jakob Poeltl, who returned from an 11-game absence on Friday.
  • The Raptors have already been the big seller this trade season, but they could certainly deal another piece or two in the next three days. Poeltl is healthy again, Bruce Brown has championship experience and Gary Trent Jr. (on an expiring contract) has shot 63-for-126 (50%) from 3-point range since late December.

Sunday was not a good time for a double-overtime loss, because it was the start of the Raptors’ second (and final) stretch of five games in seven days. They’ll be at a (serious) rest disadvantage in New Orleans on Monday and against the Cavs this weekend, currently 1-6 (0-4 on the road) in rest-disadvantage games.

Week 16: @ NOP, @ CHA, vs. HOU, vs. CLE

Last Week:26

Record: 15-35

OffRtg: 108.9 (29) DefRtg: 117.1 (21) NetRtg: -8.2 (26) Pace: 98.5 (24)

The Blazers have won seven of their last 11 games at home, beating the Sixers and Bucks at the Moda Center last week. And they were somewhat competitive in two games in Denver, too.

Three takeaways

  • The Blazers are 7-1 when they’ve scored more than 120 points per 100 possessions, and they’ve done so three times in the last 12 days to climb to 29th in offensive efficiency for the season. Anfernee Simons has led the way, averaging 25.4 points on 49/40/95 shooting splits over those 12 days. His true shooting percentage hasn’t seen much of a drop from last season even though his usage rate has seen a big jump.
  • Deandre Ayton’s offense has also picked up. He’s scored at least 18 points in six of his last seven games, having done so in just five of his 27 games prior. He’s shot 12-for-18 from mid-range over that stretch and is now at 53.5% for the season, the third-best mark among 68 players with at least 75 mid-range attempts. Jerami Grant has the sixth-best mark (50.5%).
  • Scoot Henderson hasn’t been as consistent (and is still coming off the bench), but he did score 30 points in the first of the Blazers’ two games in Denver, using his quickness to get to the line, where he was 11-for-12. He’s 9-for-19 from 3-point range over the last four and the shot looks good when he’s got his feet under him.

The Blazers lost their first six rest-advantage games before beating the Pacers with an advantage 17 days ago. They’ll have three rest-advantage games in a row starting Thursday, with the first of those against the Pistons, who are 0-6 in Western Conference arenas.

Week 16: vs. DET, vs. NOP

Last Week:23

Record: 18-32

OffRtg: 107.2 (30) DefRtg: 113.4 (10) NetRtg: -6.2 (25) Pace: 99.3 (15)

With their loss to the Warriors on Friday, the Grizzlies became the first team to match its loss total from last season (51-31). They surpassed it with a 40-point loss in Boston two nights later.

Three takeaways

  • When the Grizzlies have been competitive against teams with better records than them, they’ve done it with defense; They’ve allowed fewer points per 100 possessions than the league average in each of their last nine wins and they still rank in the top 10 on that end of the floor after facing each the league’s top-two offenses in the last eight days.
  • But no defense can withstand how anemic the Grizzlies’ offense has been (100.6 points scored per 100 possessions) over their five-game losing streak, with the four Grizzlies who’ve attempted the most shots over the five games all shot less than 40%. Jaren Jackson Jr. is at the top of that list, but has often been the only source of offense, and he missed the loss in Boston on Sunday, when the Grizzlies scored just 91 points on 102 possessions.
  • The Grizzlies traded Steven Adams (out for the season, but under contract for another year) for three second-round picks on Thursday, which might mean that they’re confident about playing Jackson more at the five than they have when Adams has been healthy. They’ve been slightly better with him in 788 minutes at the five this season (mins-4.7 per 100 possessions) than they’ve been with him in 706 total minutes alongside Bismack Biyombo or Xavier Tillman (minus-5.2 per 100).

The Grizzlies have the league’s second-toughest February schedule regarding cumulative opponent winning percentage (entering the month), even though six teams had more February games against teams that entered the month with winning records. Six of their 12 are against the top eight teams in the league, with the Knicks (against whom the Grizzlies had a rough offensive night a few weeks ago) up next.

Week 16: @ NYK, vs. CHI, @ CHA

Last Week:29

Record: 9-40

OffRtg: 111.2 (25) DefRtg: 120.0 (28) NetRtg: -8.8 (28) Pace: 103.2 (1)

The Wizards got their first winning streak of the season, following their second win in Detroit with a comeback victory in San Antonio last Monday. Their schedule then took a more serious turn, and they lost the first three games of a four-game homestand.

Three takeaways

  • The Wizards allowed both the Clippers and Suns to score more than 125 points per 100 possessions last week, but they still rank 16th defensively (116.3 allowed per 100) over their last 16 games, up from 30th (121.8 allowed per 100) before that. They’ve seen a drop in the percentage of their opponents’ shots that have come from 3-point range, while also seeing jumps in both turnover rate and defensive rebounding percentage.
  • That improvement started not long after Delon Wright returned from a 20-game absence. And over these last 16 games, the defense has been at its best (108.2 points allowed per 100 possessions) with Wright on the floor.
  • The Heat played a bunch of zone on Friday, happy to let Washington shoot from the outside. Corey Kispert made six 3s and scored 26 points, but the Wizards were just 13-for-51 (25%) from outside the paint and rank 28th in effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint for the season. They’re one of two teams — the Magic are the other — that rank in the bottom five in both mid-range field goal percentage (36.2%, 28th) and 3-point percentage (34.6%, 27th).

The Wizards are three games into a stretch of 11 straight against teams that currently have winning records. They’re now just 1-27 against that group, but Saturday will bring their final meeting with the Sixers, who are 4-10 without Joel Embiid.

Week 16: vs. CLE, @ BOS, vs. PHI

Last Week:27

Record: 10-40

OffRtg: 109.3 (27) DefRtg: 117.8 (23) NetRtg: -8.5 (27) Pace: 102.2 (5)

After winning two of the first three games in their seven-game homestand, the Spurs have dropped four straight. They now have five fewer wins than anybody else in the Western Conference.

Three takeaways

  • Their game last Monday was a matchup of a team (the Spurs) looking for its first three-game winning streak and a team (the Wizards) looking for its first two-game winning streak of the season. The Spurs led by as many as 14 points and were up nine with six minutes left, but couldn’t close the deal, scoring just six points on their final 12 possessions, with two turnovers (when they were down three) in the final 70 seconds. After blowing two more double-digit leads to the Magic and Pelicans last week, the Spurs are just 6-14 in games they led by at least 10 points.
  • The losing streak has been a rough stretch for the league’s 27th-ranked offense. The Spurs have scored just 105.2 points per 100 possessions over the four games, with players not named Devin Vassell shooting 31-for-109 (28%) from 3-point range.
  • The 3-point miss for the win (when a lob to the 7-foot-4 guy probably would have been a better play) wasn’t the only questionable shot Vassell took down the stretch of the Spurs’ one-point loss to the Pelicans on Friday. But he’s averaged 25 points on better than 50% shooting over the last five games and has seen a jump in effective field goal percentage every season he’s been in the league, with his 2-point percentage this season (55.5%) being a career-high mark by a wide margin.

The annual Rodeo Trip — nine straight road games split by the All-Star break — begins on Wednesday. The Spurs have already played the most interconference games (they’re 3-19 against the East) and the first four games of the trip will be their final four games in Eastern Conference arenas.

Week 16: @ MIA, @ ORL, @ BKN

Last Week:28

Record: 10-38

OffRtg: 109.2 (28) DefRtg: 121.3 (30) NetRtg: -12.1 (30) Pace: 98.7 (21)

The Hornets have the league’s longest active losing streak (seven games) and they haven’t held a lead in their last 108 minutes (nine quarters) of basketball.

Three takeaways

  • Terry Rozier is gone, Kyle Lowry isn’t coming and LaMelo Ball has missed the last five games. So the Hornets were starting Cody Martin at point guard … until he missed their loss to the Pacers on Sunday. They scored 86 points on 71 possessions through the first three quarters against the Bulls earlier in the week, but came up empty in the fourth.
  • The depleted state of the roster has provided an opportunity for Brandon Miller, who averaged 28.3 points over the Hornets’ four games last week, to tie his career high with 29 against the Knicks and then top it with 35 against Indiana. With Martin out, the Hornets set 40 ball screens for the rookie, 13 more than they’d set for him in any other game this season, according to Second Spectrum tracking.
  • The Hornets would certainly like to get something for Lowry and/or Gordon Hayward in the next few days, but the former struggled (4-for-21, including 0-for-12 from 3-point range) in his last four games with the Heat and the latter hasn’t played since the day after Christmas. Trading contracts of $30 and $32 million, respectively, is also a lot easier said than done.

The Hornets have a couple of decent opportunities to end the losing streak (and maybe pick up their first non-clutch win) this week, hosting the Raptors (whom they’ve already beaten at home) and Grizzlies, though those are Games 3 and 5 of their only stretch of five games in seven days.

Week 16: vs. LAL, vs. TOR, @ MIL, vs. MEM

Last Week:30

Record: 6-43

OffRtg: 111.0 (26) DefRtg: 120.5 (29) NetRtg: -9.5 (29) Pace: 101.0 (7)

The Pistons have been relatively competitive (minus-2.8 points per 100 possessions) over their last 11 games, but they’ve dropped three straight after breaking through with a win over the Thunder.

Three takeaways

  • The Pistons need to win nine games to avoid finishing with the worst record in NBA history. Right now, they’re 6-43, but have the point differential of a team that’s 10-39. They’re 3-19 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, which would be the worst clutch record in the 28 seasons for which we have clutch data. Monty Williams coached the team (the 2021-22 Suns, 33-9) with the fourth-best clutch record in that time.
  • Against the Cavs’ second-ranked defense on Wednesday, the Pistons scored more than 120 points per 100 possessions for the fifth time in January (having done so just three times prior), with Danilo Gallinari giving them a boost off the bench. But they allowed Cleveland to score 16 points on just nine clutch possessions and now rank last in both clutch offense (82.4 points scored per 100 possessions) and clutch defense (138.4 allowed per 100).
  • Jaden Ivey (who’s now started 23 straight games) has an effective field goal percentage of 71.6% over the last three, but the Pistons’ improvement over the last few weeks has been more about their reserves. They have the league’s fifth-ranked bench since Jan. 12, up from last (by a healthy margin) before that. They’ve outscored their opponents by 7.4 points per 100 possessions in Ausar Thomas’s 253 minutes over the last 11 games.

Four of the Pistons’ six wins have come at home, with the only exceptions being road wins in Charlotte and Washington. They’re on the road for their final five games before the All-Star break, and they’ll be at a rest disadvantage for the most winnable of those (Thursday in Portland).

Week 16: @ SAC, @ POR, @ LAC