Power Rankings: Cleveland Cavaliers surging at the quarter mark
We’re almost there. About halfway through Wednesday’s 10-game slate, we’ll reach the 1/4 mark of the season (308 of 1,230 games played), the point when it’s fair to believe in what we’ve seen so far, what teams are good, and what teams aren’t.
Over the last 10 (82-game) seasons, 136 of the 160 teams (about 14 per year) that eventually made the playoffs were in playoff position at the 1/4 mark of the season. Last season, all eight of the teams that made the West playoffs were in the top eight on Dec. 5 (when 302 games had been played). In the East, six of the eventual playoff teams were in the top eight, with the Hawks (a half game out) and the Wizards (three games out) being the exceptions.
We had some parity over the first month this season, but through Sunday, there are actually fewer teams within two games of .500 (six) than there were at the quarter mark last season (eight). Over the last couple of weeks, teams have begun to sort themselves out.
Nine teams have already hit the 20-game mark and the other 21 will do so this week. Over the last 10 full seasons, 98 of the 102 teams that had at least 12 wins through their first 20 games made the playoffs.
Over that span in the East, almost 70 percent teams that had a 9-11 record through their first 20 games have made the playoffs, while the percentage dropped dramatically for teams with an 8-12 record or worse. In the West, the cut-off has been at 11 wins.
That’s good news for teams like the 11-8 Pelicans and 11-9 Pacers, who weren’t expected by most to make the playoffs, but have gotten off to good starts. And it may make us look a little closer at the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 8-11 record through Sunday.
- Last week: Celtics climb to No. 1 with comeback win over Warriors
- This time last year: Warriors streak to the top — The Warriors and Cavs were a combined 28-4, while the Spurs were 10-0 on the road. Kevin Love scored 34 points in a quarter, Zach LaVine threw one down on Alex Len, and Nick Young stole the ball from a teammate in order to hit a game-winner vs. Oklahoma City.
- Plus-minus stud: Luc Mbah a Moute (HOU) was a plus-78 in two games last week.
- Plus-minus dud: Justin Holiday (CHI) was a minus-72 in four games last week.
- Hero team of the week: Miami (3-0) — The Heat followed up their streak-busting win over the Celtics with an impressive road win in Minnesota on Friday. Then they climbed over .500 by recovering from a seven-point first quarter in Chicago on Sunday.
- Zero team of the week: Memphis (0-4) — The Grizzlies are without Mike Conley, but their eight-game losing streak includes five losses at home, two to Dallas and Brooklyn last week.
- East vs. West: The East is 63-59 (.516) against the West in interconference games after going 9-11 last week. The East teams that have played the fewest games against the West are Cleveland (2-2) and Boston (6-0), while the West teams that have played the fewest games against the East are Memphis (0-5) and Dallas (2-4).
- Toughest schedules so far: 1. Philadelphia, 2. Indiana, 3. Charlotte
- Easiest schedules so far: 1. Boston, 2. Portland, 3. Cleveland
- 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 (+9), Miami (+6), New Orleans (+6)
- Free falls of the week: Memphis (-9), Orlando (-6), Milwaukee (-5)
- Team to watch in Week 7: Philadelphia — Coming off their three most comfortable wins of the season and having won five of their last six games, the Sixers face four tough Eastern Conference tests. They host the Cavs on Monday and the Wizards on Wednesday, travel to Boston on Thursday, and return home to face the Pistons on Saturday. They’ll have a rest disadvantage against the Celtics, but both Washington and Detroit will be playing the second game of a back-to-back.
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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 100.5 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 104.3 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: 98.5 (23) OffRtg: 104.2 (16) DefRtg: 97.1 (1) NetRtg: +7.1 (4)
The Celtics' 16-game winning streak came to an end in Miami on Wednesday, but they responded with two of their best offensive games and two of their most comfortable wins of the season. They turned the ball over a season-low nine times against Orlando on Friday and shot a season-high 56 percent in Indiana on Saturday, with Terry Rozier having the two highest scoring games (23 and 17 points) of his career. They've scored just 95 points per 100 possessions with neither Al Horford or Kyrie Irving on the floor, so some scoring punch off the bench is critical to not having to come back in the fourth quarter so often. They've still won eight straight at home, with their longest homestand of the season (five games) beginning Monday.
Week 7: vs. DET, vs. PHI, vs. PHX
Last Week: 2
Pace: 104.5 (5) OffRtg: 113.8 (1) DefRtg: 100.4 (4) NetRtg: +13.4 (1)
The Warriors have scored a relatively pedestrian 103 points per 100 possessions over their last five games that weren't against the worst team in the league (Chicago). Kevin Durant (sprained ankle) has missed three of the last four games, Draymond Green is back to shooting like he did last season, and the turnover issue reared its ugly head in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, with the Warriors' 15 live-ball turnovers helping the Thunder rack up 33 fast break points. It's likely just a blip on the radar and they've had the league's best defense in November, with the 36 points in the paint they held the New Orleans to on Saturday being 16 below the Pelicans' average. The six-game trip that begins Wednesday in L.A. is the champs' longest of the season.
Week 7: vs. SAC, @ LAL, @ ORL, @ MIA
Last Week: 3
Pace: 101.5 (8) OffRtg: 112.1 (2) DefRtg: 101.7 (7) NetRtg: +10.4 (2)
Chris Paul's return hasn't disrupted the Rockets, who are 5-0 with their point guard and 10-1 in November, having scored almost 15 points per 100 possessions more this month (117.9) than they scored in October (104.0). James Harden has shot better (and he has 15 more November threes than any other player), gone to the line more often, and turned the ball over less frequently this month than he did last month. Only two of the Rockets' 11 November games have been against teams that currently rank in the top-10 defensively and they'll finish the month against two more below-average defenses. The December schedule, beginning with Sunday's visit to L.A., will be much tougher in that regard.
Week 7: vs. BKN, vs. IND, @ LAL
Last Week: 13 ↑
Pace: 100.6 (12) OffRtg: 109.5 (4) DefRtg: 108.9 (29) NetRtg: +0.5 (x)
LeBron James had a couple of huge quarters last week, 16 points in the first quarter in Detroit on Monday and 23 in the fourth against Brooklyn on Wednesday, shooting 3-for-4 from 3-point range in both. Close calls at home against the Nets and Hornets at home are evidence that the Cavs haven't put it all together just yet. But they do rank 10th defensively over their seven-game winning streak (officially climbing out of the DefRtg basement after the Suns' loss on Sunday), and bench minutes continue to be critical. Their best two-man plus-minus over the course of the streak belongs to Kyle Korver and Dwyane Wade, who are a plus-77 together in 146 minutes (plus-25 per 48) over the seven games. Monday in Philly should be fun.
Week 7: @ PHI, vs. MIA, @ ATL, vs. MEM
Last Week: 4 ↓
Pace: 99.9 (15) OffRtg: 109.9 (3) DefRtg: 102.5 (10) NetRtg: +7.4 (3)
The Raptors have had the league's worst third-quarter defense (115 points allowed per 100 possessions), and their offense was equally bad as they were outscored 72-30 in third quarters in New York and Indiana on Wednesday and Friday last week. They're without Delon Wright for a while, but haven't needed to go back to staggering the minutes of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, because Fred VanVleet continues to give them good minutes off the bench. He hasn't shot particularly well, but has the best plus-minus on the team, having gone 14 straight games without the opponent outscoring the Raptors with him on the floor. The Raps continue to have the league's best aggregate bench NetRtg (plus-12.1).
Week 7: vs. CHA, vs. IND
Last Week: 5 ↓
Pace: 98.4 (24) OffRtg: 105.3 (10) DefRtg: 103.7 (13) NetRtg: +1.6 (11)
The Pistons have scored less than a point per possession over their last five games, even though only one of the five was against a top-10 defense. Tobias Harris has cooled off and they rank in the bottom two in both free throw rate and turnover percentage (with Andre Drummond averaging more than five turnovers per game) over that stretch. But their defense stepped up for another come-from-behind win in Oklahoma City on Friday. It was the 11th time they held their opponent under a point per possession in the second half, having done so just five times in the first half. Drummond's activity probably has something to do with the discrepancy; He has almost three times as many steals plus blocks after halftime (35) as he does before halftime (12). The OKC win made them 6-1 against the West and they'll look to improve upon their in-conference record (6-5) with three big road games this week.
Week 7: @ BOS, vs. PHX, @ WAS, @ PHI
Last Week: 7
Pace: 97.3 (30) OffRtg: 103.9 (19) DefRtg: 100.7 (5) NetRtg: +3.2 (7)
Without Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs haven't been very consistent offensively. The team that led the league in 3-point percentage last season ranks 19th this year, with Manu Ginobili (from 39 percent to 26 percent), Pau Gasol (from 54 percent to 42 percent) and Patty Mills (from 41 percent to 33 percent) all seeing big drops. But they've climbed from 18th to 5th in defensive efficiency over the last three weeks, having allowed less than a point per possession over their last eight games. Without their best player, the team that has won at least 50 games in each of the last 18 seasons is on pace for ... 52 wins. The other missing starter (Tony Parker) is set to make his season debut on Monday.
Week 7: vs. DAL, vs. MEM, @ MEM, @ OKC
Last Week: 11 ↑
Pace: 105.1 (4) OffRtg: 104.4 (15) DefRtg: 102.2 (9) NetRtg: +2.2 (9)
Seven of the Sixers' first eight wins were within five points in the last five minutes. But they've won their last three games (Games 2-4 on a six-game homestand) by an average of 20 points, holding Utah and Portland to just 81 points per 100 possessions, and having their best offensive game of the season against Orlando (without Ben Simmons) on Saturday. Strong starts have been their calling card - they've lost the first quarter only once in their last 15 games and have been at their best both offensively and defensively in the opening 12 minutes - and it's a matter of being able to play with a lead. With his 8-for-12 performance against his former team on Saturday, J.J. Redick has shot 54 percent from 3-point range at home and 26 percent on the road.
Week 7: vs. CLE, vs. WAS, @ BOS, vs. DET
Last Week: 9
Pace: 99.3 (19) OffRtg: 103.2 (20) DefRtg: 99.6 (3) NetRtg: +3.6 (5)
The Blazers never recovered from an 0-for-13 start in Philly on Wednesday, but are 3-1 on their road trip that ends at Madison Square Garden on Monday, with a big game (29 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks, and the go-ahead bucket) from Jusuf Nurkic in Brooklyn on Friday, a big comeback (from 17 points down in the fourth quarter) in Washington on Saturday, and big buckets from C.J. McCollum (5-for-6 in the clutch on the trip) in all three games. Despite the absence of Al-Farouq Aminu for the last 12, their defense continues to hold up. After the Washington win (with John Wall out), they've had the league's best defense against top-10 offenses, having allowed just 96 points per 100 possessions in going 4-1 against that group.
Week 7: @ NYK, vs. MIL, vs. NOP
Last Week: 6 ↓
Pace: 99.8 (16) OffRtg: 107.9 (5) DefRtg: 107.8 (25) NetRtg: +0.2 (16)
Forget what was written here last week about the Wolves ranking fourth defensively in November. They've since dropped to 14th for the month, even though none of their four games over the last seven days were against decent offenses. Jeff Teague was missed over the last two games, especially with Tom Thibodeau deciding to start Aaron Brooks (who was a minus-15 in less than 14 minutes) against Miami on Friday, but the Wolves' perimeter issues go beyond their point guard. Over their last five games, they've been outscored by 84 points from 3-point range. Jimmy Butler has seen an increase in usage rate over the last few games and 20 of his 25 points in Sunday's win over Phoenix came in the paint.
Week 7: vs. WAS, @ NOP, @ OKC, vs. LAC
Last Week: 8 ↓
Pace: 100.0 (14) OffRtg: 106.6 (8) DefRtg: 103.8 (14) NetRtg: +2.8 (8)
Otto Porter's shooting isn't just a product of the attention paid to John Wall and Bradley Beal. Porter has shot 58 percent with Wall off the floor and, with the Wizards set to be without Wall for two weeks, Porter stepped up against Portland on Saturday, scoring 24 points on 9-for-14 shooting through the first 40 minutes. He did a lot of work in the post against smaller wings and has been the league's best shooter among players with at least 15 shots in post-ups. But Porter didn't get a shot as the Wiz blew a 17-point lead over the last eight minutes on Saturday. That was the second straight game in which they blew a second-half, double-digit lead, and the 11th time they've shot less than 40 percent in the fourth quarter, when they rank 28th offensively. They've lost seven of their last eight games that were within five points in the last five minutes and four of their last five games overall, with seven of their next eight on the road.
Week 7: @ MIN, @ PHI, vs. DET
Last Week: 12
Pace: 100.6 (11) OffRtg: 107.1 (7) DefRtg: 105.9 (18) NetRtg: +1.3 (12)
Paul Millsap had surgery on his left wrist on Sunday and is expected to miss "several months." It's a huge loss, but the good news is that the Nuggets have some depth at forward and the schedule is giving them a stretch of five straight games (starting with Friday's win over Memphis) against teams with losing records and bottom-10 offenses to work things out. They've played at the level of a top-10 defense (101.3 points allowed per 100 possessions) with Nikola Jokic on the floor, even in the 251 minutes he's played without Millsap. Bench minutes have been the issue on defense and Trey Lyles hasn't helped with his additional minutes in the absence of Millsap.
Week 7: @ UTA, vs. CHI, vs. LAL
Last Week: 19 ↑
Pace: 102.4 (7) OffRtg: 105.5 (9) DefRtg: 104.8 (16) NetRtg: +0.7 (14)
The Nuggets, Grizzlies, Spurs and Jazz are all dealing with injuries to key starters, while the Thunder are still struggling to figure things out. So the door is open for the Pelicans, who picked up important wins over OKC and San Antonio last week, and have four more big games (against Minnesota, Utah, Portland and Denver) coming up in the next 10 days. Their new, three-guard starting lineup recovered from an rough start (and DeMarcus Cousins' ejection) against Oklahoma City on Monday, and they also got important production (plus-28 in 19 minutes) from a lineup of Anthony Davis and four reserves as they won three straight games before losing at Golden State on Saturday.
Week 7: vs. MIN, @ UTA, @ POR
Last Week: 10 ↓
Pace: 99.3 (18) OffRtg: 102.4 (22) DefRtg: 99.0 (2) NetRtg: +3.4 (6)
The Thunder seemingly put it all together in Wednesday's win over the champs, holding the league's best offense under 90 points per 100 possessions. And then they blew a 15-point, second-half lead to Detroit on Friday and couldn't make a shot in Dallas on Saturday. They've lost four of their last five games overall and six straight on the road. Since Carmelo Anthony missed a game with a sore back, they changed the rotation so that Paul George is the All-Star that plays some minutes without the other two, and they've been pretty terrible, getting outscored by 44 points and shooting 4-for-25 from 3-point range, in 41 George-only minutes over the last six games. George's 1-for-12 on Saturday was the second worst shooting performance in the 422 career games (including playoffs) in which he's attempted at least 10 shots.
Week 7: @ ORL, vs. MIN, vs. SAS
Last Week: 14 ↓
Pace: 101.1 (9) OffRtg: 107.4 (6) DefRtg: 105.7 (17) NetRtg: +1.7 (10)
Victor Oladipo suffered a bruised knee midway through the fourth quarter of Friday's game against Toronto, but Lance Stephenson saved the day, scoring 13 points in the fourth for the second time during the Pacers' five-game winning streak (their best offensive stretch of the season). The streak came to an end with a game against the league's best defense (and without Oladipo) on Saturday, though the other end of the floor was more of an issue. Boston got to the line just nine times, but shot better than 50 percent from the field for the first time this season. The Pacers lead the league in opponent free throw rate (21 attempts per 100 shots from field), but no team has allowed more points per game in the restricted area.
Week 7: vs. ORL, @ HOU, @ TOR
Last Week: 22 ↑
Pace: 98.7 (22) OffRtg: 101.5 (25) DefRtg: 102.8 (11) NetRtg: -1.3 (21)
The Heat's win over the Celtics on Wednesday not only ended Boston's 16-game winning streak, but also began Miami's first three-game winning streak of the season. They managed to win a game (in Chicago on Sunday) in which they scored seven points in a quarter, and their 3-point shooting (which was the biggest difference between their 11-30 start and their 30-11 finish to last season) is coming around. They've made 13 or more threes in five of their last seven games, with Wayne Ellington (24-for-44) and Goran Dragic (18-for-37) combining to shoot 52 percent from Kaboomtown over that stretch. Dion Waiters hasn't been so consistent, but hit two clutch threes (with a little help from the top of the backboard on the first one) in the win over Boston.
Week 7: @ CLE, @ NYK, vs. CHA, vs. GSW
Last Week: 16 ↓
Pace: 99.0 (20) OffRtg: 105.1 (11) DefRtg: 106.3 (21) NetRtg: -1.2 (20)
The Home Knicks are 9-3 and have proven that they don't need a huge game from Kristaps Porzingis to win. The Unicorn had only two points as they turned Wednesday's game against Toronto around with a ridiculous 32-3 run to start the third quarter. Tim Hardaway has averaged 26.3 points and 5.8 assists over the last four home games and was attacking the basket on that big run against Toronto. The Road Knicks are 1-6, having allowed 115 points per 100 possessions over their last four games and blown first-half leads of 17 and 22 points in Atlanta and Houston over the weekend. The home-heavy schedule continues for the next few weeks, with only one road game (in Indiana next Wednesday) against a team that currently has a winning record.
Week 7: vs. POR, vs. MIA, vs. ORL
Last Week: 20 ↑
Pace: 101.0 (10) OffRtg: 104.2 (18) DefRtg: 104.0 (15) NetRtg: +0.1 (17)
Dwight Howard had a four-game stretch in which he averaged 21.8 points and 15.5 rebounds (his first 20-and-15, four-game stretch in almost four years), with the Hornets outscoring their opponents by 15 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor. But a miss against Kevin Love in the post and a loose-ball foul a possession later turned out to be the difference as the Hornets blew a late, five-point lead in Cleveland on Friday. That dropped them to 1-8 on the road, though six of the eight losses were within five points in the last five minutes. They're home for most of December, but have a couple of big road games this week.
Week 7: @ TOR, @ MIA
Last Week: 23 ↑
Pace: 98.1 (26) OffRtg: 102.9 (21) DefRtg: 101.7 (8) NetRtg: +1.1 (13)
Donovan Mitchell will continue to have his ups and downs; He shot 7-for-29 over games against Philadelphia and Chicago last Monday and Wednesday. But it's clear that the rookie can play. Not only did he score 24 points and shoot 6-for-10 from 3-point range against Milwaukee on Saturday, but also had a couple of terrific assists as the Jazz had their best offensive game of the season. Utah now ranks fourth offensively since Rudy Gobert's injury, but seven of those eight games were against bottom-10 defenses. In that regard, the opponents will be slightly tougher this week and much tougher later in December.
Week 7: vs. DEN, @ LAC, vs. NOP
Last Week: 15 ↓
Pace: 97.8 (27) OffRtg: 104.5 (14) DefRtg: 106.8 (22) NetRtg: -2.2 (24)
It's a broken-record storyline, but the Bucks' defense continues to be a feast-or-famine situation. They've held their opponents under a point per possession in four of their eight games with Eric Bledsoe, but they've also allowed the Mavs (19) and Jazz (18) to tie or set franchise records for 3-pointers in a game over the last nine days. The Bucks themselves have shot just 27 percent from 3-point range as they've lost three of their last four games, though Khris Middleton (40 points) and Eric Bledsoe (30) did enough inside the arc to win without Giannis Antetokounmpo in Phoenix on Wednesday. Both of the Bucks' games against the Kings (the team that takes the fewest threes) this week are rest-advantage games, where Sacramento is playing the second game of a back-to-back, while Milwaukee is not.
Week 7: @ SAC, @ POR, vs. SAC
Last Week: 21
Pace: 105.5 (3) OffRtg: 99.2 (28) DefRtg: 101.0 (6) NetRtg: -1.8 (22)
Only the Suns have been worse in the first quarter than the Lakers, who have been outscored by almost 16 points per 100 possessions in the opening 12 minutes and have lost the first quarter in seven of their last nine games. Most of the time, they've improved defensively as the game has gone on. But Wednesday's game in Sacramento turned into, statistically, their worst defensive game of the season (against the league's second worst offense). Now, after they "visit" the Clippers on Monday, the Lakers will play 11 of their next 12 games against teams that currently have winning records, with the only exception being a game in Charlotte, where the Hornets are 7-3. Eight of those 12 games (including three meetings with the No. 1 Warriors) are also against top-10 offenses, so it will be interesting to see where they stand defensively after Christmas.
Week 7: @ LAC, vs. GSW, @ DEN, vs. HOU
Last Week: 24 ↑
Pace: 99.4 (17) OffRtg: 105.1 (12) DefRtg: 105.9 (19) NetRtg: -0.8 (18)
The Clippers got Patrick Beverley back for one game before losing him for the season. And with his team on a nine-game losing streak and Milos Teodosic not expected back for another month, Doc Rivers got desperate and put Lou Williams in the starting lineup. The result was an end to the streak and Blake Griffin breaking out of his slump. Griffin shot 50 percent in Atlanta and Sacramento, recorded a triple-double against the Hawks, and hit the game-winner against the Kings. He has shot much better and has had a much higher assist-turnover ratio with Williams on the floor than with Williams off the floor. Williams' effective field goal percentage of 52.7 percent, meanwhile, is the highest mark of his career.
Week 7: vs. LAL, vs. UTA, @ DAL, @ MIN
Last Week: 25 ↑
Pace: 105.7 (1) OffRtg: 104.2 (17) DefRtg: 107.8 (26) NetRtg: -3.6 (25)
The last five games have been the Nets' best offensive stretch of the season, with them scoring 110 points per 100 possessions against four top-12 defenses and the improving Cavs. But getting stops remains problematic (they rank 27th over that same 10-day stretch) and the offense hasn't been so potent down the stretch of close games. Since D'Angelo Russell's knee injury (and including the game in which he was hurt), the Nets are 0-5 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, shooting 6-for-22 in the clutch over that stretch. After they visit the Rockets, they'll get a chance to improve the defensive numbers with five straight games against bottom-10 offenses.
Week 7: @ HOU, @ DAL, vs. ATL
Last Week: 18 ↓
Pace: 102.9 (6) OffRtg: 104.6 (13) DefRtg: 106.9 (23) NetRtg: -2.2 (23)
It turns out that neither the Magic's own 3-point percentage nor that of their opponents in their first eight games was a sustainable number. The increase in the latter has been the bigger problem as they've lost eight straight to fall from third to 12th in the Eastern Conference. Over the streak, they rank 29th in opponent 3-point percentage, 30th in opponent turnover rate, 27th in defensive rebounding percentage, and 30th in overall defensive efficiency. They've played four top-10 offenses in the eight games and will play two more this week, with the exceptions being the 11th-ranked Knicks and the team that has Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.
Week 7: @ IND, vs. OKC, vs. GSW, @ NYK
Last Week: 27 ↑
Pace: 98.2 (25) OffRtg: 99.4 (27) DefRtg: 106.0 (20) NetRtg: -6.6 (27)
The Mavs have suddenly turned into a good defensive team, allowing just 93 points per 100 possessions as they've won three of their last four games, with the only loss coming to the Celtics in overtime. Harrison Barnes hit the game-winner against Memphis on Wednesday and Dirk Nowitzki has shot 52 percent over the four games, with his best minutes coming with the Mavs' bench. The trio of Nowitzki, J.J. Barea and Devin Harris was a plus-53 in 47 minutes over the four games and for the season as a whole, the Mavs' best two-man combinations have been mixes of Nowitzki and reserves.
Week 7: @ SAS, vs. BKN, vs. LAC
Last Week: 17 ↓
Pace: 97.4 (29) OffRtg: 102.0 (24) DefRtg: 103.1 (12) NetRtg: -1.1 (19)
This is starting to look like the year the Grizzlies don't miraculously keep it together through injuries. They've lost eight straight games, have scored less than a point per possession in five straight, and seemingly reached a nadir with home losses to the Mavs and Nets (teams that are otherwise 3-13 on the road) last week. Chandler Parsons is again dealing with knee pain, Marc Gasol is unhappy about sitting all of the fourth quarter (when the game was within five points with less than eight minutes to go) on Sunday, and they play their next five games against teams with winning records.
Week 7: @ SAS, vs. SAS, @ CLE
Last Week: 26 ↓
Pace: 105.7 (2) OffRtg: 100.8 (26) DefRtg: 109.0 (30) NetRtg: -8.2 (28)
We thought that Greg Monroe's days as a power forward were over after he left Detroit, having compromised the Pistons' spacing when he played alongside Andre Drummond. But he started next to Tyson Chandler on Friday and Sunday, with Marquese Chriss moving to the bench. The two traditional bigs only played 22 minutes together, with the Suns taking only seven of their 41 shots from 3-point range and their opponents (New Orleans and Minnesota) shooting 59 percent in those minutes. Chandler did score in double figures in consecutive games for the first time since January, though most (17/26) of his points were scored with Monroe off the floor.
Week 7: @ CHI, @ DET, @ BOS
Last Week: 28
Pace: 100.3 (13) OffRtg: 102.0 (23) DefRtg: 107.7 (24) NetRtg: -5.7 (26)
The absence of Luke Babbitt (the only player who has started for the Hawks and has a positive plus-minus for the season) has allowed John Collins to start the last three games at power forward. But the Hawks allowed 127 points per 100 possessions in 38 minutes with Collins and Dewayne Dedmon on the floor together. With good hands and good hops, Collins is one of seven players to have shot 70 percent or better on at least 100 shots in the restricted area. Only four rookies in the last 15 seasons - Brook Lopez (66 percent), Blake Griffin (66 percent), Anthony Davis (68 percent) and Karl-Anthony Towns (67 percent) - have shot better than 65 percent on at least 300 restricted-area shots. That's pretty good company if Collins can keep it up.
Week 7: vs. CLE, @ BKN
Last Week: 30 ↑
Pace: 97.5 (28) OffRtg: 96.3 (29) DefRtg: 108.4 (27) NetRtg: -12.1 (29)
The Kings broke out offensively (shooting 55 percent) on Wednesday, a night when their young core looked deeper more potent than that of the Lakers. Their five games with a new lineup have been good for Zach Randolph (shooting 55 percent over the last four), Willie Cauley-Stein (averaging more minutes, points and rebounds off the bench than he did as a starter) and Frank Mason III (getting regular playing time because De'Aaron Fox and George Hill are playing together). Buddy Hield also scored a season-high 27 points off the bench on Saturday, though his late-game heroics (four threes in the last five minutes) were undone by Blake Griffin's game-winner.
Week 7: @ GSW, vs. MIL, @ CHI, @ MIL
Last Week: 29 ↓
Pace: 99.0 (21) OffRtg: 93.7 (30) DefRtg: 108.6 (28) NetRtg: -14.9 (30)
The grind of NBA travel may be affecting Lauri Markkanen, who shot 25 percent last week as the Bulls wrapped up a four-game trip and played at home less than 40 hours after finishing a game in Oakland. Jerian Grant, meanwhile, lost his starting job on Tuesday and then had his two best games of the season off the bench over the weekend, totaling 45 points in losses to the Warriors and Heat. The East has a winning record against the West despite an 0-9 mark from the Bulls, who have a couple of decent chances to get off the interconference schneid this week.
Week 7: vs. PHX, @ DEN, vs. SAC