Power Rankings, Week 16: Davis helps push trade season into full gear
The NBA rarely sleeps. And when it does, it wakes up early.
It was a little after 7 a.m. ET on Monday when ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the news that Anthony Davis is ready to leave New Orleans after 6 1/2 years with the Pelicans. During that time frame, his team has won a single playoff series.
The timing of the news is seemingly about getting Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers, because the team with the best collection of trade assets is the Boston Celtics. They can’t trade have both Davis and Kyrie Irving on the same roster until Irving is done with his current contract (which he can opt out of on July 1).
Of course, the Pelicans have no obligation to deal Davis in the 10 days before the Feb. 7 trade deadline, because he’s under contract until July of 2020. Waiting until July, when Boston can enter the bidding, would seemingly be the best play. But the Lakers will surely make an effort to get a deal done now, and other teams will put some interesting assets on the table.
Buckle up. It’s going to a wild run to the deadline.
- Last week: One star returns, but another goes down
- This time last year: Season-ending injuries shake up West — DeMarcus Cousins (torn Achilles) and Andre Roberson (ruptured patellar tendon) were lost for the season. LeBron James eclipsed the 30,000-point mark and selected Kevin Durant with the No. 1 pick in the All-Star draft. The Bucks fired Jason Kidd and Marcus Smart lacerated his hand by punching a picture frame in his hotel room. Stephen Curry dropped 49 on the Celtics in one of the best games of the season, Joel Embiid dunked all over Russell Westbrook, Ricky Rubio hit a game-winning three in Toronto, and De’Aaron Fox had a game-winning tip dunk in Miami.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Mr. Plus: Paul George (OKC) was a plus-53 in four games last week.
- Mr. Minus: Josh Jackson (PHX) was a minus-93 in four games last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Oklahoma City (4-0) — The Thunder’s five-game winning streak includes wins over three other teams – Philadelphia, Portland and Milwaukee – in our top 10.
- Something Just Ain’t Right: Phoenix (0-4) — The Suns ran their current losing streak to eight games with four losses (three of them to teams missing key players) by an average of 23 points.
East vs. West
- The West is 154-113 (.577) against the East in interconference games after going 14-8 last week.
Schedule strength through Week 15
- Toughest: 1. New York, 2. Phoenix, 3. Utah
- Easiest: 1. Indiana, 2. Miami, 3. Oklahoma City
- 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: Oklahoma City (+7), Philadelphia (+5), Boston (+2)
- Free falls of the week: Toronto (-6), Indiana (-4), Three teams (-2)
Week 16 Team to Watch
- L.A. Lakers — With news of Davis’ desire to leave New Orleans, the Lakers are obviously back at the center of the NBA universe. They’re also likely to get LeBron James back from a month-long absence this week. And they have three great games on the slate, hosting the Sixers on Tuesday, playing the Clippers on Thursday, and visiting the Warriors on Saturday.
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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 100.7 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 109.0 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: 2 ↑
Pace: 101.9 (10) OffRtg: 115.6 (1) DefRtg: 109.0 (15) NetRtg: +6.5 (2)
The Warriors' winning streak has reached 10 games with a 4-0 start to a trip that ends in Indiana on Monday. After registering a plus-35 in 18 minutes in DeMarcus Cousins' first two games, the Warriors' five-star lineup was outscored by four points in its 24 minutes in Washington and Boston. And on Saturday, the champs closed with the Hamptons Five lineup (Andre Iguodala instead of Cousins), which got stops on six of the Celtics' last seven possessions. The Warriors rank 15th defensively overall, but have had the league's No. 1 clutch defense (92.7 points allowed per 100 possessions), with opponents having shot 19-for-57 (33 percent), with 14 turnovers, in 36 clutch minutes against the Iguodala lineup (which is a plus-35 in those 36 minutes). The Boston game illustrated Cousins' issues on defense, but the Warriors have now allowed less than a point per possession in 433 total minutes with Iguodala and Draymond Green on the floor together.
Week 16: @ IND, vs. PHI, vs. LAL
Last Week: 1 ↓
Pace: 103.3 (5) OffRtg: 113.1 (4) DefRtg: 103.7 (1) NetRtg: +9.4 (1)
The Bucks still have the league's No. 1 defense, but their loss in Oklahoma City on Sunday -- in which the Thunder shot 16-for-32 from 3-point range -- was a reminder that the league's No. 1 defense can be beat from beyond the arc. No team has allowed their opponents to take a greater percentage of their shots from 3-point range (39 percent) and no team has allowed their opponents to shoot better from 3-point range in games they've lost (43.4 percent) than the Bucks, who are just nine games into a stretch where they're playing 21 of 30 away from Fiserv Forum. They're 6-6 when their opponent has made at least 15 threes and nine of those 12 games have come on the road. They'll likely be playing for first place in the Eastern Conference in Toronto on Thursday.
Week 16: @ DET, @ TOR, @ WAS
Last Week: 10 ↑
Pace: 104.0 (3) OffRtg: 109.2 (16) DefRtg: 104.5 (3) NetRtg: +4.7 (7)
Through the first 12 weeks of the season, the Thunder were the league's worst 3-point shooting team at 32.1 percent. Over the last three weeks, the Thunder have been the league's second-best 3-point shooting team at 42.7 percent (and its fifth-best offensive team overall), with Paul George (46 percent on 97 attempts) and Terrance Ferguson (52 percent on 62 attempts) leading the way. George has averaged 31.4 points over the Thunder's five-game winning streak, but more noteworthy is that the streak reached five games with the OKC defense holding Giannis Antetokounmpo to his worst shooting performance in the restricted area (5-for-15) in almost two years (since March of 2017) on Sunday. After allowing 119.8 points per 100 possessions over a 1-5 stretch, the Thunder have allowed 108.4 over the winning streak (which included an important win over the fourth-place Blazers on Tuesday) to regain their footing and remain in the top three in the West.
Week 16: @ ORL, @ MIA, @ BOS
Last Week: 4
Pace: 98.2 (27) OffRtg: 113.6 (2) DefRtg: 107.7 (10) NetRtg: +5.8 (4)
More absences -- a Nikola Jokic suspension and a Jamal Murray ankle injury -- kept the Nuggets' top four (Jokic, Murray, Gary Harris and Paul Millsap) from playing together over the weekend. Murray is also set to miss their game in Memphis on Monday. Those four guys have played just 50 minutes together since early December. But they were also a minus-14 together as the Nuggets got outscored, 57-24, from 3-point range in a six-point loss in Utah on Wednesday. They've otherwise taken advantage of a soft schedule, with the last five games (the visit to Utah plus home games against the Bulls, Cavs, Suns and Embiid-less Sixers) having been their best offensive stretch (127 points scored per 100 possessions) of the season. They've lost three straight road games within the Western Conference and have three more this week, though their visit from Houston on Friday may be their biggest test. Though the Warriors dropped 142 on 'em two weeks ago, no team has been more efficient against the Nuggets' defense this season than the Rockets, who have scored almost 124 points per 100 possessions in the two meetings thus far (both Houston wins).
Week 16: @ MEM, @ NOP, vs. HOU, @ MIN
Last Week: 7 ↑
Pace: 100.1 (19) OffRtg: 111.0 (10) DefRtg: 104.9 (5) NetRtg: +6.1 (3)
The Celtics still have the league's No. 1 clutch offense (131.2 points scored per 100 possessions) by a pretty wide margin and rank fourth in turnover rate overall, but they came up empty in the final 2 1/2 minutes against the Warriors on Saturday. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford committed a couple of costly turnovers and Marcus Smart took an ill-advised 3-pointer with 17 seconds on the shot clock. The bright side is that they've come closest to knocking off the champs in the last three weeks and Horford has looked more like the player we saw in last year's postseason, averaging 18.6 points on 66 percent shooting over his last five games. Despite a slow start to the season, Horford is registering career highs in effective field goal percentage (58.4 percent) and true shooting percentage (59.7 percent), having his second-best shooting season in the restricted area (73 percent) and his best shooting season from mid-range (55 percent -- second best among players with at least 75 mid-range attempts).
Week 16: vs. BKN, vs. CHA, @ NYK, vs. OKC
Last Week: 11 ↑
Pace: 102.8 (7) OffRtg: 111.2 (9) DefRtg: 108.1 (12) NetRtg: +3.1 (9)
The Sixers beat the Rockets and Spurs without Jimmy Butler (sprained wrist) last week, with both wins being highlighted by Joel Embiid blocks (one on James Harden and another on DeMar DeRozan). They held Houston's second-ranked offense to just 93 points on 101 possessions on Monday and came back from eight points down with less than 2 1/2 minutes left (thanks in part to that Embiid block of DeRozan) against the Spurs on Wednesday. But there was no winning in Denver without both Butler and Embiid (rest) on Saturday, when the Sixers got outscored 74-40 in the paint. They've outscored their opponents by 3.4 points in the paint per 48 minutes with Embiid on the floor, but are a minus-10.6 in the paint with Embiid off the floor, with the much bigger differential coming on defense. They've lost the last three games they've played without the All-Star starter, having allowed the Blazers, Hawks and Nuggets to score more than 122 points per 100 possessions.
Week 16: @ LAL, @ GSW, @ SAC
Last Week: 5 ↓
Pace: 98.9 (25) OffRtg: 112.6 (6) DefRtg: 110.1 (21) NetRtg: +2.5 (11)
The Spurs are 3-0 without DeMar DeRozan, having won a pair of weekend games without him by scoring 125 points per 100 possessions against New Orleans and Washington. DeRozan is dealing with knee soreness and has a January effective field goal percentage of just 41.8 percent, the sixth-worst mark among 144 players with at least 100 field goal attempts this month. But Derrick White has the second-best January effective field goal percentage (67.7 percent) among that same group of 144 players. White has seen his minutes climb steadily from 17.9 per game in Games 11-20 to 31.8 in Games 41-50, and better shooting has come with more minutes. He has shot 52 percent on non-restricted-area paint shots, the third-best mark among 159 players (and the best among non-centers, just ahead of teammate Rudy Gay) with at least 50 such attempts. The Spurs have three more home games before the annual rodeo trip begins next week.
Week 16: vs. PHX, vs. BKN, vs. NOP
Last Week: 6 ↓
Pace: 97.8 (28) OffRtg: 113.5 (3) DefRtg: 112.0 (27) NetRtg: +1.6 (12)
Chris Paul returned from a 17-game absence on Sunday and the Rockets had one of their best defensive games of the season, holding the Magic to 98 points on 98 possessions as James Harden ran his 30-points-or-more streak to 23 games. The Rockets came back from 16 down (and eight down in the fourth quarter) in that game, having almost blown two leads with late-game blunders -- P.J. Tucker's #Shaqtin moment in New York and Eric Gordon's way-too-early shot against Toronto -- earlier in the week. Paul, who injured his hamstring in the second game of a back-to-back on Dec. 20, probably won't play two games in two nights any more this season. The Rockets have five back-to-backs remaining on their schedule, with the only one between now and the All-Star break coming this week, when they visit the Nuggets and Jazz on Friday and Saturday. They've won 12 of their last 13 games against the Western Conference, but only three of those 12 wins have come on the road.
Week 16: vs. NOP, @ DEN, @ UTA
Last Week: 3 ↓
Pace: 100.3 (17) OffRtg: 112.4 (7) DefRtg: 107.5 (9) NetRtg: +4.9 (6)
"Load management" remains a thing with the Raptors, who sat Kawhi Leonard for four straight games before pulling him out of bubble wrap for a pair of weekend games in Texas. And maybe Victor Oladipo's injury, which occurred right in front of their eyes on Wednesday, was a reminder that the cautious path with their star is the correct one. Even with Leonard having missed 14 games (in which the Raptors are 11-3), and even with the Raptors having allowed 118.6 points per 100 possessions over their last three (losing in Indiana and Houston), they can take first place in the East back from the Bucks (and even the season series at two games apiece) on Wednesday. They've won 10 straight at Scotiabank Arena, with the Bucks responsible for the last loss on Dec. 9.
Week 16: vs. MIL, vs. LAC
Last Week: 9 ↓
Pace: 100.1 (20) OffRtg: 111.7 (8) DefRtg: 109.1 (16) NetRtg: +2.5 (10)
The Blazers have won 11 of their last 15 games, with top-five marks in both offensive and defensive efficiency over that stretch. The bigger difference from their first 26 games (6.7 points per 100 possessions) has been on offense, even though Damian Lillard has averaged 3.2 fewer points per game over the last 15 (23.9) than he did over the first 26 (27.1). It's been additional production from Jusuf Nurkic, Jake Layman and Seth Curry that have made a big difference. C.J. McCollum picked up his first career triple-double (28 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists) against Atlanta on Saturday and has an effective field goal percentage of 57 percent over the last six games, but more important is that the Blazers got a big road win (behind a 17-point third quarter from Jusuf Nurkic) without him shooting particularly well in Utah last week. They can even the season series with a victory at home on Wednesday, the lone game they're playing in a nine-day stretch that began on Sunday.
Week 16: vs. UTA
Last Week: 12 ↑
Pace: 100.4 (14) OffRtg: 108.1 (20) DefRtg: 104.8 (4) NetRtg: +3.2 (8)
The Jazz, who were in 14th place in mid-December, are now just two games out of a top-four seed, with their final meetings with the fourth-place Blazers, fifth-place Rockets and sixth-place Spurs all in the next two weeks (and with the tiebreaker with all three teams still up in the air). The Jazz have had the league's No. 2 defense as they've won 15 of their last 20 games, but the bigger difference between their first 31 games and the last 20 has been on offense, where they've cut down on turnovers (15.9 per 100 possessions through the first 31 games, 13.7 over the last 20) and where Donovan Mitchell continues to get to the line like he never has before. Seven of his 19 career games with at least eight free throw attempts have come in the last 16 days.
Week 16: @ POR, vs. ATL, vs. HOU
Last Week: 8 ↓
Pace: 98.9 (24) OffRtg: 109.7 (15) DefRtg: 104.2 (2) NetRtg: +5.5 (5)
The Pacers will remain competitive without Victor Oladipo, because they have four other guys who deserve some All-Star consideration (in the Eastern Conference) and they have the league's second-ranked defense. Their five no-Oladipo lineups that have played at least 75 minutes have outscored their opponents by 12.5 points per 100 possessions (allowing only 96.5 per 100) in 593 total minutes, playing at a much faster pace (103.2 possessions per 48 minutes) than they've played with Oladipo on the floor (98.8). But Oladipo's injury (a torn quad muscle in his right knee that has him out for the season) is obviously a brutal blow to a terrific player and a team that was surpassing expectations for the second straight season. Oladipo had seen big drop-offs in effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage, but was registering career highs in assist-turnover ratio and rebounding percentage, and had shot 24-for-38 (including 12-for-20 from 3-point range) with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime. With Oladipo, the Pacers were 11-4 in games that were within five in the last five. Without him, they're 4-3, though they never had a chance to tie in Memphis on Saturday after getting to clutch time with a late run.
Week 16: vs. GSW, @ WAS, @ ORL, @ MIA
Last Week: 14 ↑
Pace: 100.1 (18) OffRtg: 110.0 (13) DefRtg: 109.6 (17) NetRtg: +0.4 (17)
A six-game winning streak has taken the Nets to a league-best 19-5 over the last 7 1/2 weeks. Over those 24 games, they've outscored their opponents by 88 points in the third quarter and have been outscored by five points otherwise. The third-quarter success has mostly been about offense (124.8 points scored per 100 possessions), with D'Angelo Russell and Joe Harris combining for a third-quarter effective field goal percentage of 72 percent over that stretch. Spencer Dinwiddie (torn ligament in his right thumb) has been the team's second-leading scorer, both in those third quarters and overall, and will be missed over the next 3-6 weeks, especially late in close games. Dinwiddie ranks in the top 15 in clutch points, 3-pointers and free throws, and is tied for 11th in clutch assists. Shabazz Napier (who has registered a career-high usage rate of 23 percent and has shot just 37 percent in January) now has a bigger role running the offense and the timing of Caris LeVert's eventual return becomes a little more important.
Week 16: @ BOS, vs. CHI, @ SAS, @ ORL
Last Week: 15 ↑
Pace: 102.2 (9) OffRtg: 110.8 (11) DefRtg: 109.9 (19) NetRtg: +1.0 (14)
The Clippers have recovered from a five-game losing streak with what would be a five-game winning streak if not for an 18-5, fourth-quarter run from the Mavs on Tuesday. Potential All-Star reserve Tobias Harris has averaged 29 points on 63 percent shooting in the three road wins and the the 4-1 stretch has been their best defensive stretch of the season (103.0 points allowed per 100 possessions), and they've allowed just 94.4 per 100 in 101 minutes with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Patrick Beverley and Avery Bradley (starting at small forward with Danilo Gallinari out) on the floor together. A strong first quarter from their makeshift starting lineup helped them improve to 3-0 against the 10th-place Kings on Sunday and they have another big game against the ninth-place Lakers on Thursday before embarking on their longest road trip of the season (six games).
Week 16: vs. ATL, vs. LAL, @ DET, @ TOR
Last Week: 13 ↓
Pace: 104.1 (2) OffRtg: 108.3 (19) DefRtg: 110.3 (22) NetRtg: -1.9 (21)
The Kings have been unable to climb back into playoff position, because their offense barely scored a point per possession over a 2-4 road trip (their longest of the season) that ended with a critical loss to the eighth-place Clippers on Sunday. Buddy Hield remains the league's best 3-point shooter in January, but Kings not named Hield shot a brutal 26 percent from beyond the arc over the six games. Iman Shumpert's poor shooting goes beyond the trip (his January effective field goal percentage of 33.3 percent ranks last among 195 players with at least 75 field goal attempts this month), but the Kings' regular starting lineup (with Shumpert) has still been better offensively (106.1 points scored per 100 possessions) than their lineup with Bogdan Bogdanovic in Shumpert's place (105.2), and the difference has been bigger in January. The Kings now begin their longest homestand of the season (six games), having won four straight at the Golden 1 Center.
Week 16: vs. ATL, vs. PHI
Last Week: 16
Pace: 99.0 (23) OffRtg: 106.5 (22) DefRtg: 106.3 (6) NetRtg: +0.2 (18)
The Heat have the East's toughest remaining schedule in regard to cumulative opponent winning percentage, not that opponent quality always matters with this team. Weekend road games against the Cavs and Knicks (two teams with a combined record of 4-34 over the last six weeks) were both within five points in the last five minutes, because offense continues to be a struggle. Wayne Ellington was a guy who helped the offense last season, but hasn't had the same effect this year (the Heat have scored less than a point per possession with him on the floor) and had played just 11 minutes since Christmas before his Golden Arm was dusted off in New York on Sunday. He scored 19 points, registered a plus-19 in 31 minutes, and hit two huge 3-pointers in the final two minutes of the nine-point win over the Knicks.
Week 16: vs. CHI, vs. OKC, vs. IND
Last Week: 18 ↑
Pace: 101.3 (11) OffRtg: 109.8 (14) DefRtg: 109.8 (18) NetRtg: +0.0 (19)
After putting together a three-game winning streak (in which they averaged more than 24 second chance points per game), the Wolves had an opportunity to put themselves right in the mix for a playoff spot over the weekend. But they were without Robert Covington and all three of their point guards, and they lost both ends of a home-and-home with the seventh-place Jazz, getting outscored by 27 points in 31 minutes with Karl-Anthony Towns off the floor. They're just 9-8 since Christmas, even though Towns and Taj Gibson are both in the top 20 in cumulative plus-minus over that stretch, because bench minutes have mostly been bad. More minutes for Luol Deng and Anthony Tolliver over the last couple of weeks has helped, but both of those guys missed last-minute threes as the Wolves' comeback from a 23-point deficit in Utah on Friday came up short.
Week 16: vs. MEM, vs. DEN
Last Week: 17 ↓
Pace: 103.8 (4) OffRtg: 107.5 (21) DefRtg: 106.8 (7) NetRtg: +0.7 (15)
It's now been more than a month since LeBron James suffered his groin injury. The Lakers were in fourth place after that Christmas Day win in Oakland and have since fallen to ninth, two games behind the eighth-place Clippers, who have an easier schedule going forward. The two L.A. teams do have three head-to-head meetings remaining, one of them is Thursday, and James could be back by then, having participated in full-contact drills over the weekend. The Lakers' game against the Sixers on Tuesday is the start of six straight against teams that currently have winning records and they're 1-5 against that group without James, so yeah, it would be nice if he returned this week. They did get Rajon Rondo back on Thursday and he had 24 assists (with just five turnovers) against Minnesota and Phoenix, but Kyle Kuzma (sore hip) was subsequently added to the injury list and missed the win over the Suns on Sunday.
Week 16: vs. PHI, @ LAC, @ GSW
Last Week: 19
Pace: 103.2 (6) OffRtg: 113.0 (5) DefRtg: 111.6 (26) NetRtg: +1.5 (13)
This was going to be a good spot for a note about how Jahlil Okafor has seemingly revived his career by averaging 19.8 points (on 75 percent shooting, with only one shot having come from outside the paint) and 10.8 rebounds as the Pelicans' starting center over the last four games. Alas, the Anthony Davis news hit Monday morning and everything else in the Pelicans' world -- their remaining strength of schedule, how depleted their frontline has been over the last week, Frank Jackson's minutes off the bench, etc. -- is pretty much irrelevant. It could be that Davis, currently nursing a sprained finger, has played his last game in a New Orleans uniform. After all, even if he was healthy and even if they were waiting until the summer to trade him, is there a reason for the Pelicans to have Davis play another minute for them? Isn't their own 2019 draft pick now as important as any they might acquire in a deal?
Week 16: @ HOU, vs. DEN, @ SAS
Last Week: 20
Pace: 100.3 (16) OffRtg: 110.4 (12) DefRtg: 110.0 (20) NetRtg: +0.5 (16)
The Hornets have had three entertaining games against the Bucks (a potential playoff opponent) and, though Charlotte ranks 20th defensively overall, only two teams (Miami and Indiana) have allowed the league's fourth-ranked offense to score fewer points per 100 possessions this season. But the Hornets couldn't manage more than 12 points themselves in the final 12 minutes on Friday, getting shut down by the Bucks' Antetokounmpo-at-center lineup and seeing their road record fall to 7-17. Since Cody Zeller has been out, the Hornets' own small-ball looks hasn't been good. They've been outscored by 7.5 points per 100 possessions in 104 total minutes (and have scored just 93.4 per 100) with either Marvin Williams or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at the five this month, though part of that was a minus-10 (and 1-for-11 shooting) in five minutes with Williams at the five in that ugly fourth quarter on Friday. After playing nine of their last 11 games on the road, they'll play four of the next five at home, with a real opportunity to get back to .500 with three home games against bad teams this week.
Week 16: vs. NYK, @ BOS, vs. MEM, vs. CHI
Last Week: 21
Pace: 102.2 (8) OffRtg: 108.6 (17) DefRtg: 111.4 (25) NetRtg: -2.8 (23)
The Wizards are still hanging around, picking up two important wins last week by holding both the Pistons and Magic under a point per possession. They're 8-6 since John Wall last played, with six guys averaging double-figures and a top-10 defense over that stretch (even after allowing the Spurs to shoot 57 percent on Sunday). Otto Porter has been coming off the bench since returning from a three-week absence 12 games ago and had some good performances over a six-game homestand. But he has shot just 11-for-39 over the last three games and the Wizards have been at their best over the 8-6 stretch with Porter on the floor alongside one (or both) of the two starting forwards.
Week 16: @ CLE, vs. IND, vs. MIL
Last Week: 22
Pace: 100.4 (15) OffRtg: 108.5 (18) DefRtg: 108.8 (13) NetRtg: -0.3 (20)
If triple-doubles are your thing, then welcome aboard the Luka Doncic bandwagon. The Kia Rookie of the Year front runner recorded his first two triple-doubles last week (the second coming with a career-high 35 points), though the Mavs lost both games and won the two games in which he didn't reach double-figures in either points or rebounds. Dennis Smith Jr. returned from purgatory last week and had a solid game (19 points on 8-for-14 shooting) in the Mavs' win over Detroit on Friday. He has shot better on pull-up jumpers (effective field goal percentage of 45.9 percent) than he did last season (35.2 percent) and he's also shot those pull-ups far less often (4.5 attempts per 36 minutes vs. 7.3 last season), though the Mavs' Smith-and-Doncic minutes continue to be underwhelming. They've been outscored by 4.9 points per 100 possessions in 751 minutes with both on the floor, but are a plus-2.4 per 100 (with much better offensive numbers) in 792 minutes with Doncic on the floor without Smith.
Week 16: @ NYK, @ DET, @ CLE
Last Week: 23
Pace: 99.2 (21) OffRtg: 105.4 (23) DefRtg: 108.0 (11) NetRtg: -2.7 (22)
The Pistons remain in the playoff race, because they remain in the Eastern Conference. But they just went 1-2 on the road against three teams that are also below .500, scoring less than a point per possession (with Pistons not named Blake Griffin shooting 37 percent) over the three games. Now they begin the longest homestand remaining on their schedule, with the worst opponent being the one they just lost to in Dallas on Friday. They've had at least one quarter where they've scored less than 20 points in eight straight games and five of the nine sub-20-point quarters over that stretch have been in the fourth period, when even Griffin has shot poorly (13-for-39 in the fourth over those eight games). Only the Cavs, Wolves and Bulls have taken a bigger step backward offensively than the Pistons, who have scored 1.1 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season, with the league seeing an increase of 1.2 per 100.
Week 16: vs. MIL, vs. DAL, vs. LAC
Last Week: 24
Pace: 98.2 (26) OffRtg: 105.3 (25) DefRtg: 108.9 (14) NetRtg: -3.6 (25)
The Magic keep finding excruciating ways to lose. They lost in Brooklyn on Wednesday with Nikola Vucevic tipping the ball into the Nets' basket in the final minute and then committing basket interference on Evan Fournier's drive to tie in the final seconds. Two nights later against Washington, Vucevic went 0-for-2 at the line with the chance to take the lead with a minute to go and, after a Jeff Green bucket, the Magic never got a shot to tie or take the lead, because they committed turnovers on their next two possessions. And on Sunday in Houston, they suffered their eighth loss in a game they led by 15 points or more. Two weeks ago, they were just a half game out of eighth place, with five of their next six games against teams that had losing records (at the time). They've since lost six of their last seven, with all six losses having been within five points in the last five minutes. And the Houston loss began a stretch of five straight games against teams that currently have winning records. Two of those five are against the streaking Thunder.
Week 16: vs. OKC, vs. IND, vs. BKN
Last Week: 25
Pace: 105.2 (1) OffRtg: 104.5 (27) DefRtg: 111.3 (24) NetRtg: -6.8 (26)
The Hawks have climbed out of the No. 29 spot in offensive efficiency (where they resided since before Christmas), with their best five-game offensive stretch of the season (113.7 points scored per 100 possessions). Seven different Hawks have averaged double-figures over that stretch (though not all seven have played in all five games), led by John Collins, who scored a career-high 35 points in Chicago on Wednesday. Collins now ranks fourth in effective field goal percentage (among 184 players with at least 300 field goal attempts), having seen a jump from last season, even though he has taken a greater percentage of his shots from outside the paint. He has shot better both inside the paint and out, and has taken 2.8 times as many 3-pointers (75) as mid-range shots (27), having shot more often from mid-range (67 mid-range FGA) than from beyond the arc (47 3PA) as a rookie.
Week 16: @ LAC, @ SAC, @ UTA, @ PHX
Last Week: 26
Pace: 96.3 (30) OffRtg: 104.0 (28) DefRtg: 107.0 (8) NetRtg: -3.0 (24)
The Grizzlies' latest losing streak reached eight games before they were the first team to take advantage of the post-Oladipo-injury Pacers. Marc Gasol either benefited from a game off or has been motivated by the idea of being traded, because he's averaged 18.3 points (on 51 percent shooting), 10.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists in the four games since his first DNP of the season (having scored seven points or fewer in four of the seven games prior). Even with a 4-19 record over their last 23 games, the Grizzlies have still outscored their opponents by 3.2 points per 100 possessions in 1,228 minutes with Gasol and Mike Conley on the floor together. They've been outscored by 9.2 points per 100 possessions in 1,192 minutes with one or both off the floor, with the much bigger drop-off (10.7 per 100) coming on defense.
Week 16: vs. DEN, @ MIN, @ CHA, @ NYK
Last Week: 27
Pace: 100.8 (13) OffRtg: 103.7 (29) DefRtg: 113.2 (28) NetRtg: -9.4 (28)
With Deandre Ayton (left ankle sprain) and Richaun Holmes (right foot sprain) both out, Dragan Bender (whose fourth-year option was declined in the fall) may be getting his last chance to prove he can play. The former No. 4 pick averaged 14 points in his first four starts of the season (before playing less than 13 minutes with Holmes back on Sunday), but the Suns have allowed more than 119 points per 100 possessions in his 131 minutes at center over the last eight days. On the other end of the floor, the Suns have shot 29 percent from 3-point range as they've lost eight straight games. They have no road wins within the Western Conference and no home wins against the East, though they have home games remaining against each of the bottom four teams in the opposite conference. The first of those is Saturday, when they get a visit from the Hawks.
Week 16: @ SAS, vs. ATL
Last Week: 28
Pace: 100.8 (12) OffRtg: 105.3 (26) DefRtg: 113.2 (29) NetRtg: -8.0 (27)
With a nine-game losing streak topping the eight-game losing streak that preceded it, the Knicks have been caught by the Cavs (who they'll play twice more this season) in the win column. Four of their last six games (including the one in which James Harden scored 61 points at Madison Square Garden) have been within five points in the last five minutes and coach David Fizdale has used 11 different guys in clutch time over that stretch. Of course, none of the 11 is named Enes Kanter, who can't even get playing time with Luke Kornet out for a couple of weeks with an ankle injury. With Emmanuel Mudiay suffering a shoulder injury on Wednesday, Frank Ntilikina got a chance to start for the first time since early November, but he went down with a groin injury two games later.
Week 16: @ CHA, vs. DAL, vs. BOS, vs. MEM
Last Week: 29
Pace: 99.0 (22) OffRtg: 101.2 (30) DefRtg: 111.2 (23) NetRtg: -10.0 (29)
The Bulls split their two games with the Cavs last week, with their offense unable to hit league-average efficiency in either meeting with, perhaps, the worst defense in NBA history. The Bulls are the only team that ranks in the bottom five in both field goal percentage in the paint (53 percent -- 27th) and mid-range field goal percentage (36 percent -- 29th). They're in the middle of the pack in 3-point percentage (35 percent -- 16th), but have seen the league's second biggest drop-off (smaller than only that of the Cavs) in the percentage of their shots that have come from 3-point range. Chandler Hutchison is the newest young Bull on the shelf, having suffered a right foot injury in their wire-to-wire loss to the Hawks on Wednesday.
Week 16: @ BKN, @ MIA, @ CHA
Last Week: 30
Pace: 97.1 (29) OffRtg: 105.3 (24) DefRtg: 116.9 (30) NetRtg: -11.6 (30)
After getting thumped at home by the Bulls on Monday, the Cavs had one more chance to beat what has been, statistically, the second-worst team in the league. And they avoided the season sweep on Sunday behind a big game (including six assists in less than 22 minutes!) from Jordan Clarkson and a game-winning put-back from Alec Burks. The Cavs have some more vets to sell off between now and the Feb. 7 trade deadline, but the contracts of J.R. Smith (remember him?) and Tristan Thompson (who's out with a sore left foot until after the deadline) might make deals for those guys difficult to pull off. Rodney Hood would seemingly be the Cav most likely to move in the next 10 days. In regard to winning more games, they still have four more meetings with the Knicks and Suns.
Week 16: vs. WAS, vs. DAL