Power Rankings, Week 18: Sixers surging in wake of deadline-day deals
The 2019 trade deadline did not disappoint … unless, of course, your name is LeBron James, Magic Johnson or Rich Paul.
In fact, the deadline probably surpassed expectations in regard to both the quantity and potential impact of the trades that were made. And most of the impact will be felt at the top of the Eastern Conference, where the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors all made big moves to increase their chances of being the first non-LeBron-James team to reach The Finals out of the East since 2010. The Indiana Pacers, in third place with a five-game winning streak, didn’t make a significant trade, but added a (potential) starter in the buyout market.
The new Sixers are off to a strong start, but have a Tuesday meeting with the team — Boston — that has beaten them nine times in the last 16 months. Given how few games remain (about 26 per team) and how quickly things can change in this league, we won’t know just how well these moves worked out until May. Actually, we won’t know the full impact of the deadline shake-ups until July, when Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard and four Milwaukee starters hit free agency with Anthony Davis on the trade market again.
- Last week: Bucks rise up as trade deadline looms
- This time last year: Jazz streak up rankings and into playoff race — LeBron James beat the Wolves at the buzzer before the Cavs underwent a shake-up at the trade deadline, sending out six players (including two of the guys they got for Kyrie Irving) and bringing back four. Dwyane Wade returned to Miami, the Magic gave up on Elfrid Payton, and the Clippers signed Lou Williams to a reasonable contract extension. Kristaps Porzingis tore his ACL, Dirk Nowitzki dunked, and Giannis Antetokounmpo jumped over Tim Hardaway Jr.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Mr. Plus: Bojan Bogdanovic (IND) was a plus-77 in four games last week.
- Mr. Minus: Marco Belinelli (SAS) was a minus-70 in four games last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Pacers (4-0) — The Pacers read your stories about there being four great teams in the Eastern Conference.
- Something Just Ain’t Right: San Antonio (0-4) — The rodeo trip strikes again, though the point differential (minus-20.8 per game) is a bit skewed by a game at Golden State without LaMarcus Aldridge or DeMar DeRozan.
East vs. West
- The West is 173-131 (.569) against the East in interconference games, though the East was 10-8 last week.
Schedule strength through Week 17
- 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: Dallas (+5), Detroit (+5), Orlando (+5), Toronto (+5)
- Free falls of the week: Minnesota (-7), San Antonio (-7), Charlotte (-4)
Week 18 Team to Watch
- Portland — The fourth-place Blazers are 1-6 against the three teams – Golden State, Denver and Oklahoma City – ahead of them in the Western Conference standings, just suffered a tough loss in Dallas, and close out their pre-break schedule by visiting the Thunder on Monday and hosting the Warriors on Wednesday.
* * *
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 100.6 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 109.2 points scored per 100 possessions this season.
* * *
NBA.com’s Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man’s opinion. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via Twitter.
* * *
Last Week: 1
Pace: 103.1 (5) OffRtg: 113.3 (4) DefRtg: 103.8 (1) NetRtg: +9.5 (1)
Without Giannis Antetokounmpo on Saturday, the Bucks suffered their worst loss of the season, shooting 6-for-35 from 3-point range and falling to the Orlando Magic by 20 points. Their worst loss in a game in which Antetokounmpo played was Dec. 12 in Indiana, where they'll close their pre-break schedule on Wednesday. But they should have both Antetokounmpo (who sat Saturday for precautionary reasons) and new addition Nikola Mirotic (who hasn't played in almost three weeks, dealing with a calf strain) for both of their games this week. Mirotic will come off the bench for the Bucks, but adds some size and potency to Antetokounmpo-at-center lineups, which have been more successful defensively (less than a point per possession allowed in 115 minutes since Christmas) than offensively. Even with the 6-for-35 performance on Saturday, the Bucks have shot better from 3-point range with Antetokounmpo off the floor (36.2 percent) than they have with him on the floor (35.6 percent, subtracting his own attempts) or off his passes (35.2 percent).
Week 18: @ CHI, @ IND
Last Week: 2
Pace: 101.8 (10) OffRtg: 116.1 (1) DefRtg: 108.7 (14) NetRtg: +7.4 (2)
Kevon Looney lost his starting job to DeMarcus Cousins, but still has an important role in the Warriors' rotation. Since its first two games together, the champs' new starting lineup has been outscored by almost 24 points per 100 possessions in 82 minutes. But since Cousins' first game, the Warriors are a plus-20.5 points per 100 possessions with Looney on the floor (with the bigger difference in his on-off numbers on offense). Even though he started 22 games this season, Looney has the league's fifth-highest cumulative plus-minus off the bench, with teammate Andre Iguodala having the highest. But even with Iguodala out on Sunday, the Warriors were a plus-14 with Looney on the floor in a two-point win over Miami. They've won 15 of their last 16 games, but have lost four of their last five meetings with the Jazz, who are in Oakland on Tuesday.
Week 18: vs. UTA, @ POR
Last Week: 5 ↑
Pace: 104.0 (2) OffRtg: 110.2 (13) DefRtg: 104.9 (3) NetRtg: +5.3 (5)
Questions remain about the Thunder depth, but, with Jerami Grant shooting 16-for-29 from 3-point range over the last three weeks, their starting lineup has never looked stronger. It leads the league in cumulative plus-minus (plus-199) by a wide margin, though almost 12 percent of that total (plus-23) is just from their last three third quarters, in which the Thunder have outscored their opponents, 110-62. Their comeback from 26 points down in Houston on Saturday, with Paul George scoring 28 of his 45 points in the second half, improved them to 12-9 in games within the top 10 of the West. Three of those nine losses were the first three games of the season and the Thunder have allowed just 104.8 points per 100 possessions in the 18 games against the West's current top 10 since then. They play eight of their next 12 games, including a big meeting with the fourth-place Blazers on Monday, within the group.
Week 18: vs. POR, @ NOP
Last Week: 9 ↑
Pace: 100.3 (15) OffRtg: 112.2 (7) DefRtg: 107.1 (8) NetRtg: +5.2 (6)
The Raptors' new five-man bench unit was a minus-8 in a little more than 11 minutes at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. But you could see a formula -- Marc Gasol as the offensive fulcrum, with four athletic guards/wings around him -- for success with that group. And Toronto's regular starting lineup may have turned things around (after getting outscored by 9.4 points per 100 possessions in just 16 games together over a two-month stretch), registering a plus-16 in 39 minutes in wins in Philadelphia and New York last week. So it will be interesting to see if coach Nick Nurse continues to maximize minutes for the two separate groups or mixes and matches more going forward (as was the idea early in the season). Gasol played less than three minutes alongside Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard on Saturday, but could help the All-Stars' offensive cohesion, with Leonard having assisted Lowry just 15 times (in 921 minutes on the floor together) all season.
Week 18: vs. BKN, vs. WAS
Last Week: 7 ↑
Pace: 102.7 (7) OffRtg: 111.7 (10) DefRtg: 108.3 (11) NetRtg: +3.4 (8)
Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are just 22 and 24 years old, respectively. But 39-year-old general manager Elton Brand had no interest in waiting to go full throttle in the Sixers' drive toward title contention. And after two games with Tobias Harris, Brand looks like a genius. Harris totaled 36 points (on 15-for-26 shooting), 14 rebounds and nine assists (with just one turnover) in wins over the Nuggets and Lakers on Friday and Sunday, and the Sixers' new starting lineup was a plus-17 in its 30 minutes over the two games. That lineup presents matchup issues for opposing defenses (Denver had Jamal Murray guarding Harris for much of the game on Thursday), but the new addition also gives the Sixers more firepower in the 33-36 minutes per game that all five starters aren't on the floor together (with coach Brett Brown always having at least two starters in the game). And what better time than Tuesday for the Sixers to take another shot at their nemesis from Boston.
Week 18: vs. BOS, @ NYK
Last Week: 3 ↓
Pace: 98.2 (27) OffRtg: 113.6 (3) DefRtg: 108.8 (15) NetRtg: +4.8 (7)
The Nuggets (somehow) haven't been the worst defensive team in February, but their five February games have been their worst defensive stretch of the season (122.3 points allowed per 100 possessions). As they lost the last three games of their four-game trip, they allowed the Pistons, Nets and Sixers to shoot 48 percent from 3-point range. The Nuggets have allowed a high volume of 3-point attempts (when you take pace into account) all season, but they ranked second in opponent 3-point percentage (32.5 percent) through Dec. 31. Since Jan. 1, they rank 29th in opponent 3-point percentage (38.5 percent). They've still won 17 of their last 18 games at home, where they'll play their last two pre-break games, one against the team -- Sacramento -- that ranks fourth in 3-point percentage.
Week 18: vs. MIA, vs. SAC
Last Week: 4 ↓
Pace: 100.3 (17) OffRtg: 111.7 (9) DefRtg: 105.5 (5) NetRtg: +6.2 (3)
The Celtics have more talent and a much better point differential (both on a per-game and per-possession basis) than they did last season. The Pelicans' decision not to trade Anthony Davis before the trade deadline was a win for Danny Ainge, who will have the opportunity to deal for Davis in July. But confounding losses to the Lakers and Clippers (in games they led by 18 and 28 points, respectively) on Thursday and Saturday have the current roster in a bad place, with Marcus Morris calling the Celtics "a bunch of individuals," rather than a group playing for each other. The preseason favorite to win the Eastern Conference currently sits in fifth place, but will have plenty of opportunities (six remaining games within the top five) to move up and regain its mojo. Of course, five of those six games, including the one in Philadelphia on Tuesday, are on the road. Their last road game against one of the other teams in the top five was Nov. 3 in Indiana.
Week 18: @ PHI, vs. DET
Last Week: 8
Pace: 100.2 (18) OffRtg: 112.0 (8) DefRtg: 109.2 (16) NetRtg: +2.8 (10)
When the Blazers had more than twice as many turnovers as field goals in the final 12 minutes in Dallas on Sunday, it was, amazingly, the first time in their 55 games that the winning team wasn't the one that led after the third quarter. Focusing on their 33-1 record when leading after three or their 0-21 record when trailing after three is a matter of perspective, though the fourth quarter (when they've been outscored by 4.2 points per 100 possessions) has been their worst of the four, with "Dame Time" more likely to occur in the first or third quarters (when Damian Lillard has an effective field goal percentage of 58 percent) than in the fourth (43 percent). In fact, Lillard's 9.74 points per game in the third quarter is the highest scoring average for any player in any quarter this season (just ahead of James Harden's 9.71 in the first). A win in one (or both) of their last two pre-break games (they'll have a rest disadvantage in Oklahoma City on Monday and a rest advantage against the champs on Wednesday) would go a long way in erasing the pain of the Dallas defeat.
Week 18: @ OKC, vs. GSW
Last Week: 11 ↑
Pace: 100.6 (14) OffRtg: 108.4 (19) DefRtg: 105.3 (4) NetRtg: +3.1 (9)
The Jazz stayed intact at the deadline (Mike Conley will still be available this summer), but did add some depth with the return of Raul Neto the day prior. And the back-up point guard was on the floor for important stretches in wins over Phoenix (a run spanning the third and fourth quarters that opened the game up) and San Antonio (a second-quarter run that gave the Jazz the lead for good). The win over the Spurs on Saturday kept the Jazz in sixth place, gave them the head-to-head tiebreaker, and improved them to 12-11 against the other nine Western Conference teams that have winning records. They actually have the best point differential (plus-4.3 per game) in games played with the West's top 10 (because eight of their 12 wins have been by 20 points or more), with a marquee matchup in Oakland on Tuesday.
Week 18: @ GSW
Last Week: 13 ↑
Pace: 98.9 (25) OffRtg: 109.4 (16) DefRtg: 104.1 (2) NetRtg: +5.3 (4)
While we've all be looking forward to seeing the Bucks, Celtics, Raptors and Sixers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the third-place Pacers have won five straight games, served some smothered chicken, and signed one of most desirable free agents on the buyout market (Wesley Matthews). After allowing 114.7 points per 100 possessions in their first four games after Victor Oladipo's season-ending knee injury, the Pacers have allowed just 95.9 over their five-game winning streak. The offense has been pretty good too, with the Pacers' top two point guards -- Darren Collison and Cory Joseph -- registering a 61/7 assist-turnover ratio over the five games. The opponents haven't been great (they caught the dysfunctional Lakers right before the trade deadline and the shorthanded Clippers right after), but a streak of two wins on the road and three by at least 15 points is not to be dismissed.
Week 18: vs. CHA, vs. MIL
Last Week: 10 ↓
Pace: 98.2 (28) OffRtg: 114.1 (2) DefRtg: 112.0 (25) NetRtg: +2.1 (11)
The Houston rotation is generally only nine guys deep, but Iman Shumpert is the 20th player to log at least 12 minutes in a game for the Rockets this season. GM Daryl Morey and coach Mike D'Antoni are continuing to search for answers beyond their top five guys. Kenneth Faried has averaged 16.2 points (on 63 percent shooting) and 10.4 rebounds in his three weeks with the team, but hasn't really helped a defense that ranks 21st over those three weeks. Maybe that's where Shumpert comes in, though he's small (6-foot-5) for a small forward was on the floor for more than half of the Thunder's 42-point third quarter on Saturday. James Harden's 30-points-or-more streak reached 29 games -- the Rockets have the league's third-best record (20-9) over the course of the streak -- but he injured his most valuable left shoulder in a collision with Steven Adams in the loss to OKC.
Week 18: vs. DAL, @ MIN
Last Week: 12
Pace: 104.0 (3) OffRtg: 108.7 (18) DefRtg: 109.9 (18) NetRtg: -1.1 (21)
The door is open for the ninth-place Kings to put an end to their 12-year playoff drought (tied for the third longest in NBA history). They went 5-1 on their six-game homestand and are tied in the loss column with the eighth place Clippers (who they'll play one more time). Their trade for Harrison Barnes was a move made with a playoff push in mind, though it's not clear that Barnes is an upgrade at small forward over the combination of Iman Shumpert and Justin Jackson. Over the last two seasons, the Mavs were 8.8 points per 100 possessions better with Barnes off the floor (plus-4.1) than they were with him on the floor (minus-4.7). At least Barnes won't take minutes away from Marvin Bagley, who has seen an increase in playing time this month and registered the two highest-scoring games of his rookie season (24 points against San Antonio and 32 against Phoenix) on the homestand.
Week 18: @ DEN
Last Week: 6 ↓
Pace: 99.2 (21) OffRtg: 112.5 (6) DefRtg: 111.5 (23) NetRtg: +1.0 (13)
The Spurs have had a rough start to the rodeo trip, allowing 128.7 points per 100 possessions as they've lost the first four games. Good (and bad) defense starts in transition, and the trip began with the Spurs getting outscored, 85-25, in fast break points by the Kings and Warriors. The Blazers and Jazz didn't run as much, but still combined to shoot 68 percent in the paint against the defense that has now allowed 7.4 more points per 100 possessions than it did last season. That would be the biggest increase from season to season for any team in the last 12 years. The biggest difference in the Spurs' defense has been on the perimeter, where Kyle Anderson, Danny Green and Dejounte Murray are all missed. Last season, they ranked fifth in opponent effective field goal percentage on shots outside the paint and 12th in opponent turnover rate. This season, they rank 26th and 28th in those categories, respectively.
Week 18: @ MEM
Last Week: 15 ↑
Pace: 102.2 (9) OffRtg: 110.5 (12) DefRtg: 110.1 (19) NetRtg: +0.5 (14)
More than half of the league (16 teams) is winless after trailing by 20 or more points this season. The Clippers have three wins after trailing by 20-plus on the six-game trip that ends Monday in Minnesota, having come back from 25 points down in Detroit, from 20 down in Charlotte, and from 28 down in Boston on Saturday, with Lou Williams having scored 39 total points in the three fourth quarters. Tobias Harris had the game-winning bucket in the second of those wins and was traded a few hours later. That deal seemingly took the Clips out of the playoff race and free-agent shopping is the priority for sure. But one of their Thursday trades (Avery Bradley for Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green) keeps the Clippers competitive, they remain in eighth place, and they have an easier (and more home-heavy) remaining schedule than the ninth-place Kings or 10th-place Lakers. Doc Rivers deserves Coach of the Year consideration for his ability to keep this team together given the transitional state of his roster (in between the Paul-Griffin era and whatever comes next).
Week 18: @ MIN, vs. PHX
Last Week: 14 ↓
Pace: 100.9 (11) OffRtg: 109.0 (17) DefRtg: 109.6 (17) NetRtg: -0.5 (18)
The Nets have lost four of their last five games, their worst stretch, statistically, of the season (minus-9.4 points per 100 possessions). The win was over Denver, but two of the losses have come at the hands of teams -- Orlando and Chicago -- behind them in the standings. Aside from the Denver game (when the Nets shot 19-for-34 from 3-point range), offense has been a struggle. Among the seven Nets who have taken at least 30 shots over the five games, only Joe Harris and Jarrett Allen have an effective field goal percentage better than 47 percent. And their latest starting lineup (with Traveon Graham and Rodions Kurucs at the forward spots) has been outscored by 28 points in its last 45 minutes. So having Caris LeVert back in uniform (he had 11 points, four assists and five steals in 15 minutes off the bench on Friday) may be as important as it is heartening.
Week 18: @ TOR, @ CLE
Last Week: 21 ↑
Pace: 100.0 (19) OffRtg: 108.4 (20) DefRtg: 108.2 (10) NetRtg: +0.2 (15)
Will players want to join Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis in Dallas? We'll find out sooner than we originally thought, because the Mavs cleared some 2019 cap space by trading Harrison Barnes (who was miscast as a go-to guy) to Sacramento on Thursday. Doncic's latest heroics include a triple-double (and a ridiculous reverse finish) against Charlotte on Wednesday and a a 13-point fourth quarter (including the game-winning bucket) against Portland on Sunday. He's one of four players (the other three are All-Stars) that have shot 50 percent or better on at least 50 clutch shots this season and has a league-high 11 buckets (on 17 attempts) to tie or take the lead in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime. It appears to be a three-team race for the final playoff spot in the West, but the Mavs are still hanging around, having won six of their last nine games, with the league's sixth-ranked defense over that stretch.
Week 18: @ HOU, vs. MIA
Last Week: 17
Pace: 103.7 (4) OffRtg: 107.5 (21) DefRtg: 108.4 (13) NetRtg: -0.9 (20)
The Lakers will be no less fascinating over the final nine weeks of the season having struck out in their quest to trade for Anthony Davis before the deadline than they would have been had the Pelicans agreed to a deal. After an embarrassing loss in Indiana in their final pre-deadline game, they showed some life in beating the Celtics (after trailing by as many as 18 points) on Thursday. They did (finally) add some shooting around LeBron James (Reggie Bullock ranks 12th in 3-point percentage among 190 players with at least 500 attempts over the last four seasons), but they will need to start defending again if they're going to get back in playoff position. They've allowed almost 122 points per 100 possessions over their last six games, falling from seventh to 13th in defensive efficiency in less than two weeks.
Week 18: @ ATL
Last Week: 23 ↑
Pace: 98.7 (26) OffRtg: 106.0 (24) DefRtg: 108.4 (12) NetRtg: -2.4 (23)
The Magic made a for-the-future move by trading for Markelle Fultz on Thursday, but their veteran core stayed largely intact (they only traded the guy who ranks last in effective field goal percentage this season) and they've won five of their last six games to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The leading scorer over the 5-1 stretch has been the guy -- Terrence Ross (21.3 points per game and twice as many 3-pointers as any teammate) -- they most easily could have traded for a Draft pick or two at the deadline. They clearly want to end their six-year playoff drought and they have a favorable schedule going forward, with only eight of their 25 remaining games against teams that are currently over .500. One team in their way is the seventh-place Hornets, who they host on Thursday, with Charlotte having won the last 13 head-to-head meetings.
Week 18: @ NOP, vs. CHA
Last Week: 24 ↑
Pace: 98.9 (24) OffRtg: 106.1 (23) DefRtg: 107.8 (9) NetRtg: -1.7 (22)
The Pistons reshuffled the guys around their three highest paid players, sending out Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson and adding Thon Maker, Svi Mykhailiuk and Wayne Ellington (three guys that weren't playing much for their previous teams). But as they try to make a playoff push, those three highest paid players are more important than the supporting cast. In the seven games since Andre Drummond returned from a three-game absence, the Pistons have outscored their opponents by 25.5 points per 100 possessions in 167 minutes with Drummond, Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson on the floor together. And the three guys have combined for an effective field goal percentage of 67 percent over a three-game winning streak that began with an easy victory over Denver in which Drummond (27 points on 12-for-14 shooting, 12 rebounds and three blocks) outplayed Nikola Jokic.
Week 18: vs. WAS, @ BOS
Last Week: 19 ↓
Pace: 102.9 (6) OffRtg: 112.6 (5) DefRtg: 111.4 (22) NetRtg: +1.1 (12)
Time will tell if the Pelicans get a better trade in July than the one (the Lakers' everything-but-LeBron offer) they could have made last week. We'll also see if they continue to play the guy who wishes he were somewhere else and was booed by his own home crowd on Friday. The Pelicans were outscored by 28 points in Anthony Davis' 37 total minutes off the floor in their two games over the weekend, but managed not to lose to Minnesota on Friday with Davis sitting for the final 15 minutes. Whether Davis continues to play or not, the continued development Kenrich Williams should be a priority going forward. The 6-foot-7 rookie has averaged 12.9 points (on an effective field goal percentage of 60 percent) and 9.4 rebounds over the last seven games, starting the last four and dishing out seven assists (with no turnovers) in the Pelicans' loss in Memphis on Saturday.
Week 18: vs. ORL, vs. OKC
Last Week: 20 ↓
Pace: 98.9 (23) OffRtg: 106.2 (22) DefRtg: 106.7 (7) NetRtg: -0.5 (19)
It says something about the Heat's payroll that a team in playoff position traded a guy who had been starting for them (Tyler Johnson) for a player (Ryan Anderson) who probably won't play much and still has $15.6 million of guaranteed salary coming to him next season. One of the only guys on the roster living up to his contract is Josh Richardson, who scored a career-high 37 points (draining eight of his 11 3-point attempts) as the Heat took the Warriors to the wire in Oakland on Sunday. A 1-5 stretch has knocked the Heat out of playoff position, but three of their four remaining games against the seventh-place Hornets and eighth-place Pistons are at home, good news if you want to see Dwyane Wade make plays like his ridiculous block of Kevin Durant in one more postseason.
Week 18: @ DEN, @ DAL
Last Week: 18 ↓
Pace: 99.8 (20) OffRtg: 110.7 (11) DefRtg: 110.5 (21) NetRtg: +0.2 (16)
It would have been nice if the Hornets were able to make a move at the deadline that would have helped them in their dual quests to...
Make the playoffs.
Re-sign Kemba Walker this summer.
But they are who they are (they hadn't made a single transaction since the preseason until claiming Shelvin Mack off waivers on Sunday): a team that continues to struggle in close games. They shot 1-for-9 on clutch 3-pointers (Marvin Williams was 0-for-5) in losses to the Clippers and Mavs last week and were 0-8 without Tony Parker before Cody Zeller returned to the starting lineup on Saturday. The regular lineup has outscored its opponents by 6.2 points per 100 possessions and helped build enough of a lead in Atlanta that the Hornets didn't have to worry about late-game execution. The Hornets are 8-2 (and have outscored their opponents by 10 points per 100 possessions) in games played between the six teams fighting for the final three playoff spots in the East, but haven't played any of the other five since Dec. 31. Starting with their visit to Orlando on Thursday, they'll play eight games within that group in the next five weeks.
Week 18: @ IND, @ ORL
Last Week: 16 ↓
Pace: 100.8 (12) OffRtg: 109.8 (14) DefRtg: 110.1 (20) NetRtg: -0.3 (17)
With a three-game trip in which they were visiting three struggling teams, the Wolves had a chance to get back over .500 and back in the playoff race. But they lost all three games, allowing the Grizzlies, Magic and Pelicans (two bottom-10 offensive teams and New Orleans playing Anthony Davis just 25 minutes) to score 117.3 points per 100 possessions. The Wolves ranked 11th defensively over the 6 1/2 weeks in which they had a healthy Robert Covington, but haven't been able to hold it together without him. The defense hasn't been so bad in Covington's absence (105.2 points allowed per 100 possessions) with both Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns on the floor. But it's been very bad (114.2) with both Dario Saric and Gorgui Dieng on the floor, even those guys are generally defending against opposing reserves.
Week 18: vs. LAC, vs. HOU
Last Week: 22 ↓
Pace: 102.4 (8) OffRtg: 109.6 (15) DefRtg: 112.2 (26) NetRtg: -2.6 (24)
It was less than two years ago when the Wizards were in Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference semifinals. And it was less than two months ago when the Wizards were "buyers," trading for Trevor Ariza, a player (10 years older than Kelly Oubre Jr.) that some contenders would have been in the market for at the deadline. But when John Wall suffered a season-ending injury while he was recovering from a season-ending injury, plans changed and Otto Porter Jr. was shipped to Chicago. Here's your weekly reminder that this is still the Eastern Conference and that, with post-deadline wins over the Cavs and Bulls, the Wizards are just a game in the win column behind the eighth-place Pistons. New Wizards Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis were a plus-19 in 46 minutes together (and totaled 67 points on 28-for-50 shooting) in the wins against Cleveland and Chicago.
Week 18: @ DET, @ TOR
Last Week: 26 ↑
Pace: 96.0 (30) OffRtg: 103.7 (29) DefRtg: 106.5 (6) NetRtg: -2.8 (25)
Mike Conley remains in Memphis and finding the right deal for him will be easier in the summer. But the Conley-and-Marc Gasol era in Memphis is over after almost 20,000 minutes of the two stars on the floor together and 1,776 assists from one to the other over 11 seasons. The Grizzlies' first win without Gasol (against New Orleans on Saturday) was not much different than most of the wins they got with him, in that the two teams combined to barely score a point per possession. But it was a little different to see a 10-man rotation that included players that were on six different training camp rosters (those of the Bulls, Rockets, Clippers, Grizzlies, Knicks and Raptors) just four months ago. It's a new day (Yes, it is!) in Memphis.
Week 18: vs. SAS, @ CHI
Last Week: 25 ↓
Pace: 104.6 (1) OffRtg: 106.0 (25) DefRtg: 112.8 (27) NetRtg: -6.9 (26)
Catch them on the right night and the Hawks look like the next big thing. They've scored more than 120 points per 100 possessions in each of their six wins over the last month, with their most efficient game of the season (137 on 103) coming in Washington on Monday (with John Collins not playing in the second half). Over the last month, only the Warriors and Sixers rank higher in effective field goal percentage than the Hawks, who are the only team with three players -- Dewayne Dedmon, Kevin Huerter and Collins -- with an effective field goal percentage better than 60 percent on at least 100 shots in that time. But the Hawks can also make their opponents look pretty good, and they're 0-3 on their five-game, pre-break homestand, having allowed the Raptors, Hornets and Magic to score almost 125 points per 100 possessions over the three games.
Week 18: vs. LAL, vs. NYK
Last Week: 28 ↑
Pace: 99.2 (22) OffRtg: 103.0 (30) DefRtg: 111.7 (24) NetRtg: -8.7 (28)
The Bulls still have issues to address in their backcourt and remain on a long-term timeline with Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen just 19 and 21 years old, respectively. But their trade for Otto Porter Jr., a player who can make an impact on both ends of the floor when healthy, is a step toward a lineup that can compete. Porter's 3-point percentage isn't near what it was over the last two seasons (44 percent), but it's still a solid 38 percent after he shot 6-for-10 from beyond the arc in his first two games with his new team. The Bulls' 30th-ranked offense scored more than 127 points per 100 possessions in 61 minutes with Porter on the floor with Markkanen, who scored 30-plus points in his first three February games.
Week 18: vs. MIL, vs. MEM
Last Week: 27 ↓
Pace: 100.8 (13) OffRtg: 104.0 (28) DefRtg: 113.6 (29) NetRtg: -9.6 (29)
The Knicks' current losing streak (15 games) is longer than that of the Suns (13), but New York (with games against Cleveland and Atlanta) has a better chance of picking up a win before the break. The Suns' best opportunities to get wins have actually been against some of the best teams (Toronto, San Antonio and Golden State) they've played during the streak. Against the Warriors without Devin Booker on Friday, they led by 17 points early and by six in the fourth quarter before shooting 3-for-17 over the final 8 1/2 minutes. Tyler Johnson shot 5-for-21 in his first two games with his new team and the Suns' new combo-guard backcourt (Johnson and Booker) was a minus-8 (with the Kings scoring 70 points) in 28.5 minutes on Sunday.
Week 18: @ LAC
Last Week: 29
Pace: 97.1 (29) OffRtg: 105.2 (26) DefRtg: 116.6 (30) NetRtg: -11.4 (30)
The Cavs' roster has become a motley crew of players brought together for the purpose of collecting future Draft picks (including two first rounders for adding almost $35 million in 2019-20 salary). Kevin Love (the guy that could eventually yield the best return) returned from a 3 1/2-month absence on Friday, but played just six minutes in the Cavs' loss in Washington and sat out their loss in Indiana the following night. Starting in his place on Saturday was Marquese Chriss, who made three 3-pointers in Washington and might be playing for his NBA career less than three years after being selected with the eighth pick in the 2016 Draft. It's the league's worst record vs. the league's worst point differential in Cleveland on Monday.
Week 18: vs. NYK, vs. BKN
Last Week: 30
Pace: 100.3 (16) OffRtg: 104.3 (27) DefRtg: 113.0 (28) NetRtg: -8.7 (27)
The Knicks' losing streak has reached 16 games and they haven't won at Madison Square Garden since Dec. 1, when they, amazingly, beat the Bucks. They'll have pair of decent chances to end the streak on the road this week, though they're currently 2-4 against the other four teams -- Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland and Phoenix -- that have lost more than 80 percent of their games. The Knicks waived Wesley Matthews and Enes Kanter, but are holding onto DeAndre Jordan, who is, coincidentally, good friends with a certain No. 35 on the Golden State Warriors. That means that Mitchell Robinson, who's as intriguing of a prospect as any on the roster, will continue to come off the bench. Over the last three weeks, Robinson has averaged 17.8 points (on 78 percent shooting), 11.1 rebounds and 5.2 blocks per 36 minutes.
Week 18: @ CLE, vs. PHI, @ ATL
* * *
John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.