Week 24 Power Rankings: Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors dealing with poorly timed injuries
Injuries are a part of the game, and staying healthy is the most important key to winning a championship.
So, with the playoffs exactly 19 days away, it’s not a good time for two of the best teams in the league to be dealing with injuries to their most important offensive players.
On Friday, in his first game back from an ankle injury, Stephen Curry suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee. Less than 24 hours later, Kyrie Irving underwent a procedure to relieve irritation in his left knee.
The timelines for both Curry and Irving are fuzzy. The Celtics announced on Saturday that Irving “is expected to return to basketball activities in 3-6 weeks.” Three weeks from Saturday is the first day of the playoffs, six weeks could be too late, and “basketball activities” doesn’t necessarily mean playing in a game.
Steve Kerr made it clear on Sunday that Curry won’t be playing in the first round, though Curry himself wasn’t nearly as set on a timeline. Potential first round opponents for the Warriors include the Utah Jazz, who are 23-4 over the last couple of months, and the Minnesota Timberwolves, who were the 4 seed before losing Jimmy Butler to injury a month ago. (Butler’s status going into the playoffs remains pretty critical, too.)
The Celtics and Warriors are both dealing with other injuries, as well. Boston’s Marcus Smart (thumb) is out through at least the first round, but the champs should be getting Klay Thompson (thumb), Kevin Durant (ribs) and Draymond Green (pelvis) back soon.
All we can do is wait and see how this all plays out … and hope that everybody else stays healthy.
Note: For the 12 teams no longer in the playoff picture (the bottom seven in the East and the bottom five in the West), notes below will be focused on their offense this season. Notes on their defense will come next week.
- Last week: Teams at top gain separation as season winds down
- This time last year: Top two teams face off again this week — Devin Booker dropped 70 in Boston and Nikola Jokic dropped one of the best dimes of the season. James Harden beat the Nuggets by going coast to coast, Brook Lopez beat the Pistons at the buzzer, J.J. Barea floored Blake Griffin, and Joakim Noah was suspended 20 games for use of a banned substance.
- Plus-minus stud: Ben Simmons (PHI) was a plus-108 in four games last week.
- Plus-minus dud: Jarell Martin (MEM) was a minus-91 in four games last week.
- Hero team of the week: Houston (4-0) — There’s been no let-up with the Rockets, who began the week by ending the Blazers’ 13-game winning streak, and then knocked off another top-10 team (New Orleans) on Saturday.
- Zero team of the week: Chicago (0-4) — The Bulls lost their four games by an average of 21.5 points, allowing two bottom-10 offenses (those of the Knicks and Pistons) to score 112 points per 100 possessions.
- East vs. West: The West is 229-196 (.539) against the East in interconference games after the East went 17-12 last week. With 25 interconference games left, the West has officially clinched a better record than the East for the ninth straight season and for the 18th time in the last 19 seasons.
- Toughest schedules so far: 1. Dallas, 2. Minnesota, 3. Phoenix
- Easiest schedules so far: 1. Cleveland, 2. Indiana, 3. Toronto
- 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: Cleveland (+7), New York (+4), Boston (+3)
- Free falls of the week: Washington (-7), Chicago (-2), Dallas (-2), L.A. Lakers (-2)
- Team to watch in Week 24: Denver — The ninth-place Nuggets are just a game in the loss column behind the seventh-place Wolves and eighth-place Jazz, but are playing their last 10 games against teams with winning records. That stretch began with a win in Washington on Friday, but it gets harder this week. Denver will finish their seven-game trip with visits to Philadelphia (Monday), Toronto (Tuesday) and Oklahoma City (Friday) before returning home to face the Bucks on Sunday.
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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 106.3 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: 99.9 (14) OffRtg: 113.1 (1) DefRtg: 104.1 (7) NetRtg: +8.9 (2)
Before Sunday, the Rockets were the only franchise that had won a championship and had never won 60 games in a season. They've now accomplished the latter and may soon clinch the No. 1 overall seed (a combination of Houston wins and Golden State losses adding up to three will do the trick), allowing them to take their foot off the gas pedal if they so choose. Their offense has taken a small step backward with Chris Paul missing the last few games with a sore hamstring (he's expected to play against the Bulls on Tuesday), but they rank third defensively since the All-Star break (102.4 points allowed per 100 possessions), even though 10 of their 17 post-break games have been against top-10 offenses. They held the 10th-ranked Pelicans (a potential first-round opponent) to 39 percent shooting in a wire-to-wire win on Saturday.
Week 24: vs. CHI, vs. PHX, @ SAS
Last Week: 2
Pace: 100.1 (13) OffRtg: 111.5 (3) DefRtg: 103.5 (5) NetRtg: +8.0 (3)
A close loss in Cleveland on the second night of a back-to-back isn't too much of a worry in itself. The Raptors are going to be the No. 1 seed in the East and have home-court advantage through the first three rounds. But after allowing the Cavs to shoot 15-for-24 from 3-point range and allowing the Clippers to register 25 second chance points on Sunday, the Raptors have allowed 116 points per 100 possessions in 18 games against top-10 offenses. Only Cleveland (119) has been worse defensively against that group than the the No. 5 defense in the league, which has fattened up by taking care of business against lesser teams. The eighth-ranked Bucks have the best offense of potential first round opponents, and the Raps' two remaining games against top-10 offenses are Tuesday against the Nuggets (who will be playing the second game of a back-to-back) and next Tuesday ... in Cleveland again.
Week 24: vs. DEN, @ BOS
Last Week: 3
Pace: 102.1 (4) OffRtg: 113.0 (2) DefRtg: 103.6 (6) NetRtg: +9.4 (1)
With Stephen Curry's new injury, the seventh-place Wolves (assuming they get Jimmy Butler back) and eighth-place Jazz suddenly look like very interesting matchups. The spotlight is also back on Quinn Cook, who has averaged 20.6 points on 55 percent shooting (14-for-27 from 3-point range) over the last five games, though Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston will likely see more playoff minutes (in games Curry misses) than they've played of late. Over the last nine games (starting with the one in which Curry reinjured his ankle), Iguodala (25.6) and Livingston (19.0) rank seventh and 10th on the team in minutes per game, with Steve Kerr prioritizing the freshness of his older vets. No lineup that includes the Warriors' other three All-Stars but not Curry has played more than 52 minutes.
Week 24: vs. IND, vs. MIL, @ SAC, vs. PHX
Last Week: 7 ↑
Pace: 98.3 (23) OffRtg: 105.4 (17) DefRtg: 101.3 (1) NetRtg: +4.1 (4)
A three-game winning streak has improved the Celtics to 9-4 without Kyrie Irving. Over the first 11 of those games, both the Celtics and their opponents scored less than a point per possession. But they began a four game trip by shooting 23-for-40 from 3-point range in Portland and Sacramento, with Al Horford breaking out of a slump, with Marcus Morris scoring 30 points on Friday, and with Terry Rozier scoring a career-high 33 on Sunday. They're the only team that doesn't have a lineup that has played at least 50 minutes together since the All-Star break and their Rozier-instead-of-Irving starting group has played just 56 minutes together all season. But they remain elite defensively with Al Horford and Aron Baynes on the floor together (they've allowed just 93 points per 100 possessions in the pair's 159 post-break minutes) and they got Jaylen Brown back from a six-game absence on Sunday.
Week 24: @ PHX, @ UTA, vs. TOR
Last Week: 4 ↓
Pace: 98.7 (19) OffRtg: 106.5 (14) DefRtg: 104.5 (8) NetRtg: +2.1 (10)
After losses to the Rockets and Celtics in which their opponents shot 30-for-54 (56 percent) from 3-point range, the Blazers got a huge win in Oklahoma City on Sunday to avoid a virtual tie (though they'd still be a game up in the loss column) for third place in the West. Defense was still an issue, but C.J. McCollum had one of those nights, scoring 34 points on 14-for-24 shooting, capping it with the game-winning jumper over Russell Westbrook. The Blazers are 23-16 when Damian Lillard has scored 25 points or more, but they're 20-4 when McCollum has, and he's had more than 25 in three of their four wins over the Thunder.
Week 24: @ NOP, @ MEM, vs. LAC, vs. MEM
Last Week: 5 ↓
Pace: 97.7 (25) OffRtg: 105.6 (16) DefRtg: 102.0 (3) NetRtg: +3.6 (6)
The Jazz are prone to the occasional clunker on offense, like when they shot just 37 percent (6-for-34 from 3-point range) in an out-of-nowhere loss to Atlanta on Tuesday. More concerning is a pair of bad defensive games against a pair of below-average offenses on Thursday and Friday, with the Mavs and Spurs registering an effective field goal percentage of 63 percent from outside the paint. The Jazz have been one of the best teams in the league in keeping their opponents' 3-point attempts down, but teams have shot 48 percent from mid-range and 37 percent from 3-point range in their six losses since Rudy Gobert's return in mid-January (compared to 38 percent and 33 percent in their 24 wins over that stretch). Potential first-round opponents Golden State, Houston and Portland rank first, second and sixth in effective field goal percentage from outside the paint, respectively.
Week 24: vs. BOS, vs. MEM, @ MIN
Last Week: 6 ↓
Pace: 99.0 (17) OffRtg: 107.4 (9) DefRtg: 104.5 (9) NetRtg: +2.9 (8)
Last week was not a good week for Carmelo Anthony in the clutch. On Tuesday, his two missed free throws with eight seconds left to open the door for Marcus Morris' game-winner in Boston, as the Thunder blew a six-point lead with 20 seconds to go. And on Sunday, Anthony missed four threes down the stretch against Portland, as OKC blew a chance to put some real pressure on the Blazers for third place in the West. Only Tyreke Evans (29 percent) has shot worse on at least 50 clutch shots than Anthony (30 percent, 6-for-31 from 3-point range) this season, and with his free throw rate at just nine attempts per 100 shots from the field in February and March, Anthony's true shooting percentage is a career-low 50.8 percent.
Week 24: @ SAS, vs. DEN, @ NOP
Last Week: 8
Pace: 102.6 (3) OffRtg: 107.4 (10) DefRtg: 106.2 (15) NetRtg: +1.2 (12)
All three games were within five points in the last five minutes, but the Pelicans swept their back-to-back-to-back last week, with Anthony Davis shooting 6-for-8 in the clutch. Only the Rockets have been better in clutch games since Feb. 1 and it's been the Rockets that they've lost to twice in the last nine days. The Pels are still 6-5 in games since the All-Star break against other teams with winning records, having allowed just 103 points per 100 possessions in the 11 games. Only the Jazz (102 per 100 allowed) have been better defensively in games within that group since the break. They're currently in the 4-5 matchup and are 2-0 against the fourth-place Thunder, but have games remaining against the third-place Blazers, OKC, and the sixth-place Spurs.
Week 24: vs. POR, @ CLE, vs. OKC
Last Week: 11 ↑
Pace: 101.6 (5) OffRtg: 106.7 (13) DefRtg: 102.8 (4) NetRtg: +3.9 (5)
The Sixers have won six straight games and are the only team that ranks in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency in March. Time is running out on any kind of Markelle Fultz return, but the Sixers' other No. 1 pick is doing just fine without a jump shot. Ben Simmons still hasn't attempted a 3-pointer that wasn't an end-of-quarter heave and has made just one shot from outside the paint in the last 12 games. But he has five triple-doubles in the last seven (with better than a 4/1 assist-turnover ratio over that stretch), the Sixers have scored more than 120 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor this month, and he is on pace to become the first rookie to shoot 70 percent or better on at least 300 shots in the restricted area in the 22 years for which we have shot location data. With Indiana's win on Sunday, "the Process" has officially reached the playoffs, though there's still work to be done to secure a top-four seed.
Week 24: vs. DEN, vs. NYK, @ ATL, @ CHA
Last Week: 10
Pace: 98.3 (22) OffRtg: 107.2 (12) DefRtg: 105.6 (12) NetRtg: +1.7 (11)
The Pacers have been getting after it defensively (they lead the league in post break opponent turnover rate by a wide margin), but half-court offense continues to be a on-and-off struggle. They've seen the league's biggest drop in offensive efficiency (5.7 points per 100 possessions) since the All-Star break, with five different rotation guys (including Victor Oladipo) having shot less than 30 percent from 3-point range. But they made three of their five 3-point attempts in overtime on Sunday, as they clinched a playoff spot with a win over Miami. Though Domantas Sabonis is still out (he reaggravated his ankle injury before the game on Sunday) and Myles Turner has shot poorly (7-for-31 over the last three games), Al Jefferson is back to being DNP'd.
Week 24: @ GSW, @ SAC, @ LAC
Last Week: 18 ↑
Pace: 100.1 (11) OffRtg: 110.7 (5) DefRtg: 109.7 (28) NetRtg: +1.0 (14)
The Cavs have won five straight games and are 4-0 with Kevin Love back from a seven-week absence, scoring an incredible 138 points per 100 possessions in 72 minutes with LeBron James and Love at the four and five (with no other bigs on the floor). There's been no progress on defense (they've allowed 113 points per 100 possessions over the winning streak), but they've reached a new level offensively. In fact, the 122 points per 100 that they've scored over the streak makes it the Cavs' best five-game, regular-season stretch of offense in the four seasons since James returned to Cleveland in 2014. (They had a better stretch in the playoffs last year.) James' jumper hasn't been that sharp, but he has scored 130 of his 172 points (26 per game) over the five games in the restricted area (where he has shot 81 percent) or from the free throw line.
Week 24: @ MIA, @ CHA, vs. NOP, vs. DAL
Last Week: 12
Pace: 97.2 (29) OffRtg: 105.4 (18) DefRtg: 101.9 (2) NetRtg: +3.5 (7)
The Spurs saved their season by holding their opponents to just 93 points per 100 possessions over a 6-0 homestand, culminating in an overtime win over the Jazz, with LaMarcus Aldridge scoring a career-high 45 points and the two biggest plays being offensive rebounds against the team that ranks fourth in defensive rebounding percentage. But, with Sunday's loss in Milwaukee, the Spurs have lost eight of their last nine games on the road. Their remaining schedule is even (four at home and four on the road), though three of the home games are against the Thunder, Rockets and Blazers. They've lost each of their three games against Houston by double-digits and rank 16th defensively against the No. 1 offense in the league.
Week 24: @ WAS, vs. OKC, vs. HOU
Last Week: 13
Pace: 98.4 (21) OffRtg: 111.2 (4) DefRtg: 108.9 (25) NetRtg: +2.3 (9)
The Wolves remain last in the league in the percentage of their shots that are 3-pointers and have been outscored by 8.6 points per game from beyond the arc (only the Knicks and Kings have been outscored by more). But they made 10 threes in three straight games (doing so for the first time since Nov. 2013) before coming up empty in Philadelphia on Saturday. Jeff Teague had one of his best games of the season (20 points and 12 assists) in a critical win over the Clippers on Tuesday, but followed it up with 4-for-21 shooting (and a minus-40) in New York and Philly. The Wolves' win at Madison Square Garden on Friday was their first game in almost a month against a below-.500 opponent. They'll get three of those this week, some schedule relief before they play the ninth-place Nuggets twice in the last week of the season.
Week 24: vs. MEM, vs. ATL, @ DAL, vs. UTA
Last Week: 15 ↑
Pace: 99.2 (15) OffRtg: 109.5 (6) DefRtg: 108.8 (24) NetRtg: +0.8 (17)
The Nuggets have remained alive in the Western Conference playoff race by going 2-2 on their seven-game trip that only gets tougher this week (the Sixers, Raptors and Thunder are a combined 46-14 at home in 2018). Gary Harris has missed all four games, but the Denver offense has stayed strong, scoring 117 points per 100 possessions on the trip. Nikola Jokic's assists are down, but his scoring is up, and he as an effective field goal percentage of 60 percent over the four games. Jokic (effective field goal percentage of 54 percent before the break, 62 percent since) and Wilson Chandler ( 49 percent, 60 percent) rank as two of the most improved shooters since the All-Star break. Still, there will be no playoffs without better defense, and it's not clear if keeping the Wizards' offense in check on Friday is a sign of improvement or not.
Week 24: @ PHI, @ TOR, @ OKC, vs. MIL
Last Week: 14 ↓
Pace: 101.2 (6) OffRtg: 108.1 (7) DefRtg: 107.1 (18) NetRtg: +1.0 (15)
The Clippers are still alive, because they got an impressive win in Toronto on Sunday, coming back from 18 points down and getting 18 from Lou Williams in the game-deciding fourth quarter (against the best fourth-quarter team in the league). But their most important game of the week was Tuesday in Minnesota, and they didn't get the stops they needed, allowing the Wolves to shoot 51 percent. The Clips rank seventh offensively since trading Blake Griffin, but only New York, Chicago and Brooklyn have taken a bigger step backward defensively since the All-Star break, with the Clips having allowed 4.7 more points per 100 possessions than they did before it. Since the break, they've been 12.1 points per 100 possessions better offensively and 9.9 per 100 worse defensively with Williams on the floor than they've been with him off the floor.
Week 24: vs. MIL, @ PHX, @ POR, vs. IND
Last Week: 9 ↓
Pace: 98.8 (18) OffRtg: 107.2 (11) DefRtg: 106.1 (14) NetRtg: +1.1 (13)
John Wall could be back this week and his return can't come soon enough for the Wizards, who have scored just a point per possession as they've lost three straight games. Bradley Beal hasn't been getting to the line as much - his free throw rate of 17 attempts per 100 shots from the field in February and March is down from 29 per 100 through January - and he seemed to run out of gas, shooting 5-for-17, against New York on Sunday. That was the Wizards' first game against a team with a losing record since they lost to Charlotte in their first game after the All-Star break. They've fallen to sixth in the East, but are 5-5 against the top three teams in the conference, with games remaining against the Cavs and Celtics.
Week 24: vs. SAS, @ DET, vs. CHA, @ CHI
Last Week: 16 ↓
Pace: 97.5 (27) OffRtg: 104.8 (19) DefRtg: 104.6 (10) NetRtg: +0.2 (18)
The Heat rank as the most improved offensive team since the All-Star break (having scored 7.7 more points per 100 possessions than they did before the break), with nine different guys averaging double-figures over their 16 post-break games. But there's been a big difference between their post-break offense at home (118 points scored per 100) and on the road (102), where they're 1-11 since late January. Of course, because this is the Heat, 10 of those 11 road losses have been within five points in the last five minutes and four of them have been in overtime, where they allowed the Pacers to score on seven straight possessions on Sunday. The Heat play six of their last eight games at home, and the only road games are in Atlanta and New York.
Week 24: vs. CLE, vs. CHI, vs. BKN
Last Week: 19 ↑
Pace: 98.2 (24) OffRtg: 108.0 (8) DefRtg: 107.0 (17) NetRtg: +1.0 (16)
The Bucks struggled to defend a couple of top-10 offenses (those of the Clippers and Cavs) last week and rank 28th defensively in games against the league's top-10 offenses this season. But they've scored more than 110 points per 100 possessions in eight straight games, leading the league in offensive efficiency over that stretch. The first seven defenses they faced over that stretch rank in the bottom 13, but they were nearly as efficient against the Spurs' second-ranked defense (registering 25 fast break points and just 10 turnovers) in an important win on Sunday. With the Celtics banged up, seventh place is a good place to be in the Eastern Conference, but the eighth-place Heat are just a game back in the loss column, and Miami has both the tiebreaker and an easier schedule going forward.
Week 24: @ LAC, @ GSW, @ LAL, @ DEN
Last Week: 17 ↓
Pace: 103.0 (1) OffRtg: 104.2 (22) DefRtg: 105.7 (13) NetRtg: -1.5 (21)
The Lakers have seen the league's biggest increases in both 3-point percentage (from 33 percent to 39 percent) and the percentage of their shots that have come from 3-point range (from 31 percent to 39 percent) since the All-Star break. But their 11-game streak of making at least 10 threes came to an end last week and they lost four straight games before winning ugly in Memphis on Saturday. After some hot shooting out of the break, Lonzo Ball is 8-for-54 (15 percent) from 3-point range over the last eight games. He remains one of five players who has shot worse than 50 percent on at least 100 shots in the restricted area, where he's more likely to see improvement next season.
Week 24: @ DET, vs. DAL, vs. MIL, vs. SAC
Last Week: 20
Pace: 100.6 (8) OffRtg: 106.2 (15) DefRtg: 106.4 (16) NetRtg: -0.2 (19)
The Hornets' win in Brooklyn on Wednesday wasn't just a comeback from 23 points down, the first 30/30 game in more than seven years (courtesy of Dwight Howard), and Charlotte's second best offensive game of the season. It also came with Kemba Walker's first bucket of the season (after 15 misses) to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime. Despite his poor shooting in the clutch, the Hornets have had the numbers of the league's sixth-ranked offense (110 points scored per 100 possessions) with Walker on the floor and its worst offense (98 per 100) with him off the floor. Nicolas Batum's injury kind of derailed the season from the start and they never really tried Batum or Howard with the second-unit. Their most-used lineup that doesn't include Walker and includes either Batum or Howard has played just 38 minutes together.
Week 24: vs. NYK, vs. CLE, @ WAS, vs. PHI
Last Week: 22 ↑
Pace: 98.4 (20) OffRtg: 104.2 (23) DefRtg: 104.7 (11) NetRtg: -0.5 (20)
In last week's episode of "Too Little, Too Late," the Pistons held four straight opponents under a point per possession (for the first time this season), taking care of business against three bad teams and forcing overtime in Houston after trailing by nine points with less than five minutes to go. Reggie Jackson returned from a 12-week absence, but shot just 10-for-30 in his three games and dished out just three assists in 57 minutes. The Pistons have remained a bottom-10 offensive team since the acquisition of Blake Griffin, who has taken 41 percent of his shots from between the restricted area and 3-point range in his 24 games with Detroit, up from just 28 percent in his 33 games with the Clippers. The Pistons have seen the league's biggest jump in 3-point percentage from last season and its third biggest jump in the percentage of their shots that have come from 3-point range (from 26 percent to 33 percent), but still rank below the league average (34 percent) in that regard, though they've remained at about the same level since the Griffin trade. Since Feb. 1 (his first game with the Pistons), he ranks seventh in the league with 64 assists on 3-pointers.
Week 24: vs. LAL, vs. WAS, @ NYK, @ BKN
Last Week: 21 ↓
Pace: 97.2 (28) OffRtg: 101.5 (29) DefRtg: 109.7 (29) NetRtg: -8.2 (29)
Though 52 percent of their minutes (the highest rate in the league) have been played by rookies or second-year players, the Kings have been the most old-school team in regard to their shot selection. Only 55 percent of their shots, the lowest rate in the league, have come from the restricted area (28 percent, 29th) or 3-point range (28 percent, 28th). Of course, Zach Randolph has taken more than half his shots (53 percent) from the area in between, but so have De'Aaron Fox (53 percent) and Skal Labissiere (60 percent), who have shot a combined 35 percent on those in-between shots. Combine the league's most inefficient shot selection with its lowest free throw rate and its pretty amazing that there's an offense that ranks lower than this one.
Week 24: vs. DAL, vs. IND, vs. GSW, @ LAL
Last Week: 27 ↑
Pace: 99.1 (16) OffRtg: 104.1 (24) DefRtg: 108.1 (21) NetRtg: -4.0 (23)
The Knicks may have ditched the triangle offense this season, but they didn't do away with the mid-range shots that come with it. They're the only team that has attempted more mid-range shots (1,688) than 3-pointers (1,682) and one of six teams that has seen a drop in both the percentage of their shots that have come from the restricted area and the percentage of their shots that have come from beyond the arc. Seven weeks since his injury, Kristaps Porzingis still leads the team by a wide margin in mid-range attempts and the offense hasn't fallen off much since he was lost for the season. It ranked 22nd (104.1 points scored per 100 possessions) through the game he got hurt and ranks 23rd (104.0) since.
Week 24: @ CHA, @ PHI, vs. DET
Last Week: 24
Pace: 101.0 (7) OffRtg: 104.2 (21) DefRtg: 108.9 (26) NetRtg: -4.7 (24)
For the second straight season, the Nets rank second (to the Rockets) in the percentage of their shots that have come from the restricted area or 3-point range. But within those shots, they've seen an increase in threes and the league's second biggest drop in restricted-area shots (the most valuable on the floor), thanks mostly to the departure of Brook Lopez. A reduction in turnovers has still resulted in the league's fifth biggest jump (2.3 points per 100 possessions) in offensive efficiency, though they'll rank in the bottom 10 on that end of the floor for the third straight season. Though their shot-selection profile is top two, they rank in the bottom 12 in 3-point percentage (24th), as well as field goal percentage in the restricted area (23rd), on other paint shots (19th), and from mid-range (30th).
Week 24: @ ORL, @ MIA, vs. DET
Last Week: 23 ↓
Pace: 100.1 (12) OffRtg: 101.8 (27) DefRtg: 109.3 (27) NetRtg: -7.5 (28)
Injuries to Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen have kept the Bulls from developing their three most important young guys as they've lost five straight games. They've taken a big step backward on both ends of the floor, but have finally modernized their offense this season, seeing big increases in pace (going from 20th to 12th in the league), player movement (12th to first in distance traveled per minute of possession), and the percentage of their shots that have come from 3-point range (from 28th to 11th). As we've seen in Philadelphia and in Brooklyn, it's a matter of adding (and developing) talent. Markkanen's size and skill set obviously gives them a high ceiling on that end of the floor, but his 3-point volume and 3-point percentage have both seen drops in February and March.
Week 24: @ HOU, @ MIA, @ ORL, vs. WAS
Last Week: 26
Pace: 100.4 (10) OffRtg: 102.9 (26) DefRtg: 108.5 (23) NetRtg: -5.6 (26)
In the wake of Paul Millsap's departure, the Hawks actually took a small step forward on offense this season, scoring 0.5 more points per 100 possessions than they did last season (the second year of a precipitous two-year drop from the glory of 2014-15). They've seen the league's fourth biggest jump in made 3-pointers per game (from 8.9 to 11.1), with Taurean Prince seeing the league's biggest jump (from 0.6 to 2.1) among individuals who have played at least 40 games in each of the last two seasons. Of course, though Dennis Schroder has averaged more drives (16.4, fourth in the league) than he did last season (15.5), the Hawks have seen a big drop in both restricted area shots and free throw attempts. The next step for Prince is to get to the line.
Week 24: @ MIN, vs. PHI, vs. ORL
Last Week: 25 ↓
Pace: 97.5 (26) OffRtg: 104.6 (20) DefRtg: 107.5 (19) NetRtg: -2.9 (22)
Dennis Smith Jr. came back from a two game absence to score 21 points against Charlotte on Saturday, with five of his eight buckets coming in the restricted area. Smith has had an effect on the Mavs' shot selection this season; They've taken 28 percent of their shots in the restricted area, up from 23 percent last season. But that 28 percent still ranks last in the league, and in regard to free throw rate (FTA/FGA), they've gone from 29th to 28th. Harrison Barnes has seen an increase in both restricted area attempts and free throw rate, but, having seen drops in his field goal percentage inside the arc and his free throw percentage, his efficiency (true shooting percentage) is down a tick from last season.
Week 24: @ SAC, @ LAL, vs. MIN, @ CLE
Last Week: 28
Pace: 100.5 (9) OffRtg: 103.5 (25) DefRtg: 108.3 (22) NetRtg: -4.8 (25)
The Magic have seen the league's sixth biggest increase in offensive efficiency, having scored 2.3 more points per 100 possessions than they did last season. Of course, improvement is easier when you're starting with the second worst offense in the league, and this will be the Magic's sixth straight season in the bottom 10 on that end of the floor. Still, better health probably would have resulted in a bigger step forward; They scored 109 points per 100 possessions with Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic on the floor together. Improvement came with better and more frequent 3-point shooting; Among players that have played at least 50 games in each of the last two seasons, Gordon (from 1.0 to 2.0) and Vucevic (from 0.3 to 1.3) both rank in the top 10 in regard to increase in made 3-pointers per game. With 22 wins, the Magic have some ... interesting games this week against the Nets (23 wins), Bulls (24) and Hawks (21).
Week 24: vs. BKN, vs. CHI, @ ATL
Last Week: 29
Pace: 97.0 (30) OffRtg: 101.5 (28) DefRtg: 108.0 (20) NetRtg: -6.5 (27)
The Grizzlies were 7-6 and ranked 18th offensively after Mike Conley's last game of the season (way back on Nov. 13). Losing Conley was a season-killer, though the guys who have replaced him at point guard - Tyreke Evans and Andrew Harrison - have been the Grizzlies' best and most improved offensive players (over the course of the season), respectively. In games they've played without Evans (he's played in just six since they told him they were going to trade him), their inability to do anything off the dribble has been painful to watch. Dillon Brooks could be a keeper, but has averaged just 4.8 drives per game and 18 free throw attempts per 100 shots from the field.
Week 24: @ MIN, vs. POR, @ UTA, @ POR
Last Week: 30
Pace: 102.9 (2) OffRtg: 100.7 (30) DefRtg: 110.8 (30) NetRtg: -10.2 (30)
The Suns have lost 11 straight overall, as well as the last 11 games they've played without Devin Booker (who has missed the last four). Given their remaining schedule (six of eight games against teams with winning records), they're looking really good for being the first team to rank last in both offensive and defensive efficiency in a 30-team league in an 82-game season. Getting Booker back might only increase their chances of climbing to 29th on offense, as they've been less than two points per 100 possessions better offensively with him on the floor (scoring at the level of the 29th-ranked offense) than they've been with him off the floor. The Suns need to get him a point a point guard, so that 59 percent of his jumpers aren't off the dribble, as they've been this season. He has an effective field goal percentage of 58 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers and 45 percent on pull-up jumpers.
Week 24: vs. BOS, vs. LAC, @ HOU, @ GSW