Week 20 Power Rankings: Houston Rockets remain at top with big week ahead for those below
After two shortened weeks around the NBA All-Star break, Week 20 brings us a full seven days of basketball. And it’s an important seven days in regard to playoff seeding.
Through Sunday’s games, there are 11 teams with 25-27 losses. Seven of them are in the Western Conference, currently seeded 3-9. Each of those seven teams will play a game within the group this week, with the Blazers hosting both the Wolves and Thunder.
In the East, we have the Wizards, Pacers, Bucks and Sixers all with 25 or 26 losses. One of those teams will have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs and another will get to play that team and avoid the Raptors, Celtics and Cavs. This week, there will be four games between those four teams seeded 4-7 (with Milwaukee playing three of the four at home). There’s also an important game between the eighth-place Heat and ninth-place Pistons in Miami on Saturday.
Maybe the next seven days will help sort out the jumble behind the top three teams in the rankings. The Rockets, Warriors and Raptors remain the cream of the crop.
- Last week: Spotlight remains on Cavs, Warriors
- This time last year: Deadline doesn’t change title picture — Less than three weeks after bringing him in as a consultant and just two days before the traded deadline, the Lakers hired Magic Johnson as team president. At the deadline, the Raptors added Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, while the Thunder added Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott. The Sixers traded Nerlens Noel to Dallas, ruled Ben Simmons out for the season, and lost at Madison Square Garden on a last-second Carmelo Anthony game-winner. Lou Williams went to Houston and hit two 3-pointers in his first 33 seconds as a Rocket.
- Plus-minus stud: Jeremy Lamb (CHA) was a plus-53 in three games last week.
- Plus-minus duds: Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews (DAL) were each a minus-57 in two games last week.
- Hero team of the week: Charlotte (3-0) — The Hornets won all three games by at least 15 points, and that includes a win in Washington on the second night of a back-to-back.
- Zero team of the week: Memphis (0-2) — The Grizzlies lost to the Cavs and Heat (teams that were otherwise 0-3 last week) by a total of 49 points.
- East vs. West: The West is 180-162 (.526) against the East in interconference games after going 4-2 last week.
- Toughest schedules so far: 1. Dallas, 2. Chicago, 3. Philadelphia
- Easiest schedules so far: 1. Houston, 2. Indiana, 3. Washington
- Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
- High jumps of the week: Washington (+5), Boston (+3), Charlotte, Denver & New Orleans (+2)
- Free falls of the week: Cleveland (-5), Philadelphia (-3), Detroit & Utah (-2)
- Team to watch in Week 20: Washington — The Wizards are 9-3 since losing John Wall and are just a half game behind the Cavs (who they beat on the road on Thursday) for third place in the East. But they’re just a game in the loss column ahead of the sixth-place Bucks (who they’ll visit on Tuesday) and tied in the loss column with the fifth-place Pacers (who they’ll host on Sunday). In between, they’ll get visits from the Warriors (Wednesday) and Raptors (Friday).
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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 99.5 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 106.1 points scored per 100 possessions this season.
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NBA.com’s Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man’s opinion. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via Twitter.
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Last Week: 1
Pace: 100.3 (10) OffRtg: 113.5 (2) DefRtg: 104.8 (10) NetRtg: +8.8 (2)
More tough games are coming, but with their win in Denver on Sunday, the Rockets' 12-game winning streak includes five road wins over teams with winning records. Fourth quarters used to be a problem for James Harden (he shot 26 percent in the fourth through November), but he hasn't been running out of gas much of late. He has shot 48 percent (including 17-for-33 from 3-point range) in the fourth quarter over the winning streak, hitting a dagger, step-back jumper on Sunday, just the fourth game during the streak that has been within five points in the last five minutes. Trevor Ariza is back, but Eric Gordon's absence has allowed Mike D'Antoni to give 51 minutes in two post-break games to Joe Johnson without getting too funky with his lineups. Ryan Anderson (still coming off the bench) has played just six of his 40 post-break minutes at center.
Week 20: @ UTA, @ LAC, vs. BOS
Last Week: 3 ↑
Pace: 102.5 (2) OffRtg: 114.0 (1) DefRtg: 103.5 (5) NetRtg: +10.5 (1)
Over their last 18 games before the All-Star break, the Warriors' defense allowed an incredible 126 points per 100 possessions in the first six minutes of the first quarter. So Steve Kerr started JaVale McGee in their first two post-break games (against the Clippers and Thunder), their opponents shot 9-for-31 in the first six minutes, they allowed less than a point per possession with McGee on the floor, and Saturday was Oklahoma City's worst offensive game of the season. Stephen Curry shot 13-for-23 from 3-point range (including 9-for-13 on pull-ups) in the two games and the bench gave them big minutes against OKC. The champs have just five games remaining against top-10 offenses and one of those is against Minnesota without Jimmy Butler. Three of the next four are against teams in the bottom 10.
Week 20: @ NYK, @ WAS, @ ATL
Last Week: 2 ↓
Pace: 100.5 (9) OffRtg: 110.7 (4) DefRtg: 102.8 (3) NetRtg: +7.9 (3)
The Raptors have been more improved defensively than offensively this season, but their defense has struggled in three of their last four games against other Eastern Conference playoff teams. Against Milwaukee on Friday (just their fifth home loss of the season), they allowed the team that makes the third fewest threes per game to shot 13-for-26 from beyond the arc. Their starting lineup continues to have strong numbers overall, but has allowed 115 points per 100 possessions over its last four games. If they hold onto the No. 1 seed, the Raptors are going to have a role in who they play in the first round, with three remaining games against the ninth-place Pistons, beginning with a rest advantage game on Monday.
Week 20: vs. DET, @ ORL, @ WAS, vs. CHA
Last Week: 4
Pace: 98.1 (23) OffRtg: 111.3 (3) DefRtg: 108.3 (25) NetRtg: +2.9 (6)
The Wolves were fortunate to get the Bulls in their first game after Jimmy Butler tore the meniscus in his right knee. But Tom Thibodeau played just eight guys (prior to garbage time) on Saturday and they remain a minus-15 in 179 minutes (and have some ugly defensive numbers) with their other four starters on the floor without Butler. After the loss in Houston in which he was injured, they're also 1-11 on the road in 2018, with more road games (10) than home games (9) remaining. They will have five days off after this week's three-game trip, but it's not clear if or when Butler will return, and the Blazers (who they visit on Thursday) are one of three West teams tied with them in the loss column. Holding on to home-court advantage for a first round series without Butler may be too much to ask.
Week 20: @ SAC, @ POR, @ UTA
Last Week: 5
Pace: 98.6 (19) OffRtg: 108.4 (7) DefRtg: 106.0 (15) NetRtg: +2.4 (9)
The Pacers have had some big offensive games as they've won eight of their last 10. But it's more noteworthy that they rank seventh defensively over their last 18, having ranked in the bottom 10 prior to that. Myles Turner's offensive development remains slow, but since his return from injury in late January, the defense has been at its best (103.0 points allowed per 100 possessions) with him on the floor. The Pacers have a shot at at top-four seed and big games in Milwaukee and Washington this week, but those begin a stretch (through Game 80) where they're playing 16 of 19 against teams that currently have winning records.
Week 20: @ DAL, @ ATL, @ MIL, @ WAS
Last Week: 7 ↑
Pace: 98.9 (18) OffRtg: 105.3 (17) DefRtg: 104.6 (9) NetRtg: +0.7 (15)
When the calendar changed from 2017 to 2018, the Blazers changed from a good defensive team to a good offensive team. They ranked 27th offensively and fourth defensively through December, and then sixth offensively and 23rd defensively from Jan. 1 until the All-Star break. But they came out of the break by holding the Jazz and Suns to just 92 points per 100 possessions in a pair of road wins, with Damian Lillard providing the heroics on the other end of the floor (scoring 19 of their 35 fourth-quarter points as they came back from a 15-point deficit) on Saturday. They've won 10 of their last 11 games at home, where they'll play 10 of their next 12, with big games against the Wolves and Thunder this week.
Week 20: vs. SAC, vs. MIN, vs. OKC
Last Week: 10 ↑
Pace: 98.3 (22) OffRtg: 104.8 (18) DefRtg: 101.0 (1) NetRtg: +3.8 (4)
The Celtics' offense came out of the break on fire, draining 11 threes in the first half in Detroit on Friday, and didn't let up as they won weekend road games over the Pistons and Knicks with two of their 11 best offensive games of the season. Kyrie Irving had 31 points at Madison Square Garden, but the Cs had six guys in double-figures in both games and 30 assists (for just the third time this season) in Detroit. With Irving ranking seventh in unassisted buckets, the Celtics have seen the league's biggest drop in assist percentage from last season, assisting on just 58 percent of their buckets (14th in the league) after assisting on 65 percent (second) last season. Marcus Smart had 11 assists in his first two games back from a month-long absence.
Week 20: vs. MEM, vs. CHA, @ HOU
Last Week: 13 ↑
Pace: 99.4 (15) OffRtg: 107.4 (10) DefRtg: 105.5 (12) NetRtg: +1.9 (10)
Bradley Beal is actually averaging fewer points per game over the last 12 games without John Wall (22.6) than he was prior (24.0). But the Wizards rank seventh offensively over that stretch, because their other four starters have had an effective field goal percentage of 59 percent, the ball keeps moving (their assist rate of 71.2 percent over the 12 games would rank as the highest rate in the last 14 years), and Tomas Satoransky's assist-turnover ratio remains strong (4.3 over the 12 games). They've picked up some quality wins along the way, but the win over Philadelphia on Sunday was the start of 13 straight games against teams with winning records.
Week 20: @ MIL, vs. GSW, vs. TOR, vs. IND
Last Week: 6 ↓
Pace: 101.5 (5) OffRtg: 105.7 (13) DefRtg: 102.9 (4) NetRtg: +2.7 (7)
Though the Sixers have the league's easiest post-break schedule in regard to opponent strength, claiming the 4 or 5 seed in the East will require some road wins. Last week, they needed a late-game blunder from the Bulls to win in Chicago on Thursday, and they came up empty in Washington on Sunday. They still have the league's No. 2 defense since Jan. 1, but they've allowed more than 111 points per 100 possessions over their last eight games away from the Wells Fargo Center. Of course, this week's road games are their last road games they have against teams that currently have winning records. Their bench still ranks in the bottom 10, but Marco Belinelli has mostly given them good minutes and Ersan Ilyasova is reportedly coming back after reaching a buyout agreement with Atlanta.
Week 20: @ MIA, @ CLE, vs. CHA, @ MIL
Last Week: 8 ↓
Pace: 97.4 (25) OffRtg: 105.5 (15) DefRtg: 103.7 (6) NetRtg: +1.8 (11)
The Jazz were unable to carry over their pre-break offensive success into their first to post-break games, scoring just 92 points per 100 possessions, with players not named Donovan Mitchell shooting 7-for-39 from 3-point range. Twenty turnovers and three 17-point quarters against Portland on Friday put an end to their 11-game winning streak, but they were able to win ugly against Dallas in the second game of the back-to-back. That gave them seven straight wins in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, with their opponents having shot 28 percent, including 1-for-16 from 3-point range, on clutch shots over that stretch. Both the Rockets and Wolves will be playing the second game of a back-to-back when they visit Utah this week.
Week 20: vs. HOU, vs. MIN, @ SAC
Last Week: 11
Pace: 98.6 (20) OffRtg: 106.8 (12) DefRtg: 104.3 (8) NetRtg: +2.5 (8)
The Thunder offense looked anemic (33 percent shooting) at Golden State on Saturday, but more concerning is they they allowed 113 points per 100 possessions in their previous two games against the Grizzlies and Kings. Russell Westbrook saved them at the buzzer in Sacramento on Thursday and their starting lineup with Josh Huestis has been pretty good. Their two post-break games took that unit above the 100-minute mark and, at plus-17.6 points per 100 possessions, it ranks as ninth best lineup among the 94 that have played at least 100 minutes. The Thunder play six of their next nine games against teams with losing records, but the biggest game of that stretch (Saturday at Portland) is the second game of a back-to-back.
Week 20: vs. ORL, @ DAL, @ PHX, @ POR
Last Week: 14 ↑
Pace: 98.9 (17) OffRtg: 108.5 (6) DefRtg: 108.2 (24) NetRtg: +0.2 (17)
The Nuggets have been solid defensively (105.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) with Mason Plumlee and Nikola Jokic playing together, but they brought Plumlee off the bench upon his return from an eight-game absence, and their starters (with Wilson Chandler at the four) allowed 124 points per 100 possessions in their first two games out of the break. One of those games was against the Rockets, but that group allowed the Spurs to shoot 17-for-27 on Friday. Plumlee was on the floor down the stretch of that game and did have two big baskets in the final five minutes. Gary Harris and Jamal Murray, meanwhile, are a combined 17-for-28 on clutch shots over the last five weeks.
Week 20: vs. LAC, @ MEM, @ CLE
Last Week: 12 ↓
Pace: 96.8 (29) OffRtg: 105.4 (16) DefRtg: 102.1 (2) NetRtg: +3.3 (5)
Wednesday brought the news that Gregg Popovich would be surprised if Kawhi Leonard plays again this season. Friday brought the Spurs' fourth straight loss, their second worst defensive game of the season. And just when you started wondering if we were watching the beginning of the end, they came up with a big win in Cleveland on Sunday. Danny Green is the latest Spurs vet to lose his starting job, but made five threes off the bench in the win against his former team. The Spurs' remaining schedule remains tough in regard to opponent strength, but the Cleveland win was the end of the rodeo trip and they're home for nine of their next 12 games, playing only three games in the next 10 days.
Week 20: vs. NOP, vs. LAL
Last Week: 9 ↓
Pace: 99.9 (13) OffRtg: 109.6 (5) DefRtg: 109.3 (28) NetRtg: +0.3 (16)
After scoring 126 points per 100 possessions in their last four games before the break, the Cavs have scored 101 in their first three games since the break, despite 58 percent shooting from LeBron James. George Hill has shot 4-for-18 from 3-point range as a Cav, J.R. Smith went cold over the weekend, and the new starting lineup has allowed 111 points per 100 possessions in its first five games. This team still has some things to work out, but practice days could be limited going forward. They still have four more games on their current homestand, but don't have more than one day between games until the last weekend of the regular season.
Week 20: vs. BKN, vs. PHI, vs. DEN
Last Week: 17 ↑
Pace: 102.3 (3) OffRtg: 107.5 (8) DefRtg: 106.6 (18) NetRtg: +0.9 (14)
After losing five of their first six games after DeMarcus Cousins' injury, the Pelicans have won five straight to climb back to sixth place in the West (where they were when Cousins was lost for the season). Three of the five wins went to overtime and they now have five more overtime wins (seven) than any other team in the league. Anthony Davis continues to put up big numbers, but Jrue Holiday has been the leading overtime scorer over the streak and a couple of big games (and a big tap-out in Milwaukee on Sunday) from Rajon Rondo have been critical. Emeka Okafor's minutes have been somewhat limited, but the Pels' starting lineup has allowed just 94 points per 100 possessions in the four games since Okafor was made the starting center.
Week 20: vs. PHX, @ SAS, @ DAL
Last Week: 15 ↓
Pace: 97.9 (24) OffRtg: 107.4 (11) DefRtg: 106.1 (16) NetRtg: +1.3 (12)
The Bucks blew double-digit leads in both of their games last week, but came out of them feeling much different. Their visit to Toronto on Friday, with Jason Terry (who was mostly out of the rotation before this month) hitting a big three in overtime, was one of their best wins of the season. Their game against New Orleans on Sunday, in which they were up 18 in the third quarter and allowed the Pelicans to score 65 points in the second half, was one of their worst losses. The silver lining from that one was that Jabari Parker had his best game (18 points) of the season. The Bucks are one of four East teams with 25 or 26 wins and they'll play each of the other three at home this week, with each of the three games affecting tiebreaker scenarios.
Week 20: vs. WAS, @ DET, vs. IND, vs. PHI
Last Week: 16 ↓
Pace: 101.0 (6) OffRtg: 107.4 (9) DefRtg: 106.4 (17) NetRtg: +1.0 (13)
Based on their post-break results, the Clippers are better than the Suns and not as good as the Warriors. Their offense was strong both nights (with Tobias Harris and Lou Williams totaling 108 points on 57 percent shooting), has scored 118 points per 100 possessions over their last four games, and 115 per 100 with Harris and Williams on the floor together. But they couldn't stop Stephen Curry (44 points, 8-for-11 from 3-point range) and the champs on Thursday and face two more top-10 offenses in a back-to-back this week. The Wednesday game against Houston (somebody lock the door to the secret hallway) is the start of the Clips' longest homestand of the season (six games).
Week 20: @ DEN, vs. HOU, vs. NYK, vs. BKN
Last Week: 18
Pace: 97.2 (28) OffRtg: 103.3 (24) DefRtg: 104.1 (7) NetRtg: -0.8 (19)
The Heat have a lot of guys that can do a lot of things, but don't have a lot of guys that can shoot, a problem exacerbated by both the addition of (and the need to play) Dwyane Wade, as well as the absence of Kelly Olynyk over the last six games. But they broke through offensively against Memphis (behind a season-high 17 points from Justise Winslow) on Saturday, ending their crazy streak of 17 straight games that were within five points in the last five minutes. Winslow has shot better from outside the paint than he did last season, but his volume from the outside is down and the Heat have scored less than a point per possession with him and Hassan Whiteside on the floor together. They'll have a rest advantage for their big game on Saturday against the Pistons, who are playing in Orlando the night before.
Week 20: vs. PHI, vs. LAL, vs. DET
Last Week: 21 ↑
Pace: 100.3 (11) OffRtg: 105.5 (14) DefRtg: 105.6 (13) NetRtg: -0.1 (18)
There's some life left in the Hornets, who have been the league's best 3-point shooting team since Jan. 31 (Kemba Walker leads the league in threes over the last month) and have won four straight games for the first time this season. Their starting lineup has been good, but their five-man bench unit has been better, outscoring its opponents by 27 points in its 40 minutes over the streak. Their win over Detroit on Sunday gave them the tiebreaker over the ninth-place Pistons, but they remain four games behind the eighth-place Heat, with Miami having swept the season series. The Hornets also play 13 of their final 22 games on the road, with a tough, three-game trip this week.
Week 20: vs. CHI, @ BOS, @ PHI, @ TOR
Last Week: 20
Pace: 103.0 (1) OffRtg: 103.2 (25) DefRtg: 105.6 (14) NetRtg: -2.4 (21)
With both Lonzo Ball and Isaiah Thomas healthy on Friday, Brandon Ingram remained the starting point guard, though Luke Walton did have all three on the floor together for a little over six minutes. The Lakers' offense was efficient in wins over the Mavs and Kings, with Julius Randle recording his fifth career triple-double against Dallas and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope dropping 34 in Sacramento. The move to the point has not only produced the best shooting month of Ingram's career, but he's also seen a drop in his turnover rate, from 11.9 per 100 possessions through January to 10.3 in February.
Week 20: @ ATL, @ MIA, @ SAS
Last Week: 19 ↓
Record: 28-31Pace: 98.5 (21) OffRtg: 104.5 (20) DefRtg: 105.3 (11) NetRtg: -0.8 (20)
The five games the Pistons have won with Blake Griffin are the five games since the trade in which their opponents were playing on the second night of a back-to-back. They'll get another one of those (against Milwaukee) this week, but they still haven't won against a rested opponent, have lost five of their last six overall (ranking 27th offensively over that stretch), and play eight of their next 10 games against teams with winning records. Blake Griffin shot better than 50 percent for the first time as a Piston as they lost in Charlotte on Sunday, but has committed five or more turnovers in each of the last four games.
Week 20: @ TOR, vs. MIL, @ ORL, @ MIA
Last Week: 23 ↑
Pace: 99.0 (16) OffRtg: 104.0 (22) DefRtg: 106.8 (19) NetRtg: -2.9 (22)
The Knicks scored a brutal 92 points per 100 possessions over their pre-break, eight-game losing streak, but came out of the break with one of their best offensive games of the season, registering 22 second chance points in Orlando on Thursday. They're the only team that ranks in the bottom 10 in the other three factors on offense, but rank fifth in offensive rebounding percentage for the second straight season, with Enes Kanter ranking third among players. Emmanuel Mudiay is the new starting point guard, but Trey Burke scored a season-high 26 points in the Orlando win and matched it against the league's No. 1 defense on Saturday.
Week 20: vs. GSW, @ LAC, @ SAC
Last Week: 22 ↓
Pace: 100.2 (12) OffRtg: 101.8 (28) DefRtg: 108.4 (26) NetRtg: -6.6 (28)
It's not clear why the Bulls signed Cristiano Felicio to a four-year contract last summer, but it is clear why Felicio is their new starting center (with Robin Lopez being DNP'd in their first two post-break games). The Bulls have been outscored by 25.1 points per 100 possessions with Felicio on the floor. That is, by a ridiculously wide margin, the worst on-court NetRtg among players who have averaged at least 10 minutes in 25 games or more. The Bulls have eight remaining games against the seven teams that currently have 18 or 19 wins, including two this week and three against Brooklyn.
Week 20: @ BKN, @ CHA, vs. DAL
Last Week: 24
Pace: 99.7 (14) OffRtg: 103.6 (23) DefRtg: 108.0 (23) NetRtg: -4.4 (25)
The Hawks aren't DNP'ing their other vets, but are set to waive Ersan Ilyasova and have begun to turn over more playing time to their young guys. John Collins has started the last two games and Isaiah Taylor has seen a big minutes bump in February. The second-year guard scored a career-high 17 points (with all seven of his buckets coming in the paint) in their loss in Indiana on Friday, has a 17/5 assist-turnover ratio over his last three games, and is somehow a plus-48 for this team. Collins is the teammate with him he's played his most minutes and the Hawks have outscored their opponents by 7.0 points per 100 possessions with the pair on the floor. They've lost five of their last six games, but can still be dangerous at home, where they're 11-8 since early December and where they'll play seven of their next nine.
Week 20: vs. LAL, vs. IND, vs. GSW, vs. PHX
Last Week: 25
Pace: 101.0 (7) OffRtg: 103.0 (26) DefRtg: 108.0 (22) NetRtg: -5.0 (27)
This may be Strike 2 for Jahlil Okafor. Over the six weeks that he was playing regularly (Jan. 3 - Feb. 12), the Nets were 22 points per 100 possessions better with Okafor off the floor (minus-2.5) than they've been with him on the floor (minus-24.5). Their game in Charlotte on Thursday was his second straight DNP and the team's eighth straight loss. D'Angelo Russell got his first start since returning from injury on Thursday, but he and Spencer Dinwiddie were a minus-14 in a little more than 20 minutes together as the Nets got off to another rough start. They've had the lead after the first six minutes of the first quarter in only 13 of their 60 games and have been outscored by a league-worst 19 points per 100 possessions in the first six minutes over the course of the season. Some good news: Both Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are expected to return on Monday.
Week 20: vs. CHI, @ CLE, @ SAC, @ LAC
Last Week: 26
Pace: 96.5 (30) OffRtg: 102.1 (27) DefRtg: 107.0 (20) NetRtg: -4.9 (26)
The Grizzlies rank last offensively, having scored just 94 points per 100 possessions, over their nine-game losing streak. Marc Gasol shot just 39 percent over the first eight games and was a healthy scratch as they lost in Miami on Saturday. His effective field goal percentage (46.2 percent) and true shooting percentages (52.5 percent) are both at career-low marks, with his field goal percentage in the paint (career-low 45 percent) seeing a big drop from last season (54 percent). Though they lost all four quarters without him on Saturday, the Grizzlies have been better both offensively and defensively with Gasol off the floor.
Week 20: @ BOS, vs. PHX, vs. DEN, @ ORL
Last Week: 27
Pace: 97.3 (26) OffRtg: 101.3 (30) DefRtg: 110.0 (29) NetRtg: -8.7 (29)
Buddy Hield's inability to get into the paint, get to the line, or make many plays for others keeps him from being a leading man, even on this team. But he continues to have a solid season in his role for the Kings. Having shot 8-for-14 from behind the arc in their first two post-break games, he ranks sixth in 3-point percentage, with more makes and attempts than three of the guys in front of him on the official leaderboard. He ranks fourth in bench scoring this month (14.7 points per game) and is a plus-32 in the Kings' last four games. Other teams may be DNP'ing their vets, but Zach Randolph, Garrett Temple and Vince Carter played 40, 34 and 29 minutes, respectively, against Oklahoma City on Thursday.
Week 20: vs. MIN, @ POR, vs. BKN, vs. UTA, vs. NYK
Last Week: 28
Pace: 100.8 (8) OffRtg: 104.7 (19) DefRtg: 109.0 (27) NetRtg: -4.3 (24)
The Magic got both Aaron Gordon (who missed the last nine games before the break) and Nikola Vucevic (who hadn't played since Christmas) back last week, and their starting lineup was a plus-3 in 37 minutes against the Knicks and Sixers. They're actually a plus-25 in 1,628 total minutes with Gordon and Vucevic on the floor with Evan Fournier. But their bench was bad last week and Mario Hezonja's minutes were particularly rough (he was a minus-31 in 53 minutes over the two games). He has shown improvement this season; Among 177 players with at least 300 field goal attempts in each of the last two seasons, only Trey Lyles has seen a bigger jump in effective field goal percentage. But he probably hasn't done enough to make the Magic really regret declining his fourth-year, $5.2 million option for next season.
Week 20: @ OKC, vs. TOR, vs. DET, vs, MEM
Last Week: 29
Pace: 97.3 (27) OffRtg: 104.1 (21) DefRtg: 107.4 (21) NetRtg: -3.3 (23)
The Mavs have lost 14 of their last 17 games, ranking 28th offensively over that stretch. Their three small guards - Dennis Smith Jr., Yogi Ferrell and J.J. Barea have shot a combined 38 percent over the 17 games, Smith ranks as the league's least effective shooter (minimum 100 shots) over the last month, and their latest starting lineup (with Barea and Smith in the backcourt) has allowed 117 points per 100 possessions in 42 minutes over the last five games.
Week 20: vs. IND, vs. OKC, @ CHI, vs. NOP
Last Week: 30
Pace: 102.2 (4) OffRtg: 101.5 (29) DefRtg: 110.5 (30) NetRtg: -9.0 (30)
The Suns, the team that ranks last on both offense and defense over the last six weeks, almost beat a playoff team on Saturday. But they blew a 15-point lead with less than eight minutes to go against the Blazers, committing a five-second inbounds violation to set up Damian Lillard's game-winner. In their three games together, Devin Booker has averaged 28.3 points and Elfrid Payton has averaged 9.7 assists. But Booker has shot 38 percent over those three games and the Suns have scored less than a point per possession with the pair on the floor together.
Week 20: @ NOP, @ MEM, vs. OKC, @ ATL