It’s that time.
After three of Wednesday’s 10 games are complete, we will have reached the quarter point (308/1,230) of the 2019-20 NBA season. So it’s time to take stock of where your team sits after 20 games.
If your team is one of the 13 that currently reside above .500, you should be feeling pretty good. Over the last 20 full (82-game) seasons, 86% of the teams that won at least 11 of their first 20 games went on to make the playoffs. And if, at the 20-game mark, your team has fewer than eight wins, maybe start working some college games into your viewing schedule, because the NBA Draft Lottery is probably in your future.
There’s still plenty of season left, and everything is relative. Fans in Indiana might be feeling better about the Pacers’ 12-7 mark than fans in Philadelphia are feeling about 14-6.
No team’s fans should be feeling more confident than those of the Bucks, who take over the top spot in this week’s Power Rankings.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Toronto (4-0) — The Raptors improve their winning streak to seven games, picking up a huge win over the Sixers and thumping the Jazz along the way.
- Something Just Ain’t Right: Chicago (0-3) — The Bulls (twice) helped the Blazers turn things around last week, while also giving the Warriors their fourth win of the season.
East vs. West
Schedule strength through Week 6
- Toughest: 1. Atlanta, 2. New Orleans, 3. Sacramento
- Easiest: 1. L.A. Lakers, 2. Toronto, 3. Indiana
- 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: Portland (+7), Toronto (+5), Detroit (+3)
- Free falls of the week: Chicago (-4), Phoenix (-4), Three teams (-3)
Week 7 Team to Watch
- Toronto — The Raptors take a seven-game winning streak and a 9-0 home record into a week in which they’ll host the Heat (who are 12-3 with Jimmy Butler) on Tuesday and Rockets (with James Harden throwing flames) on Thursday. They’ll then visit one of the other three teams that’s undefeated at home, playing in Philadelphia on Sunday.
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Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)
The league has averaged 101.7 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 108.1 points scored per 100 possessions this season.
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NBA.com’s Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man’s opinion. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via Twitter.
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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.
Pace: 106.0 (2) OffRtg: 113.0 (3) DefRtg: 102.7 (3) NetRtg: +10.3 (1)
Though they rank third in the percentage of their own shots that have come from 3-point range (44.2%), the Bucks have been outscored by 2.0 points per game from beyond the arc. They're the only team that ranks in the bottom five in both opponent 3-point percentage (38.0%, 28th) and the percentage of their opponent shots that have come from 3-point range (41%, 26th), on pace to break their own record (set last season) for most 3-pointers allowed in a season. The 21 threes that the Jazz made on Monday were a franchise record, and the Cavs made things a little too interesting on Friday by shooting 12-for-22 from beyond the arc in the second half. But the Bucks continue to dominate inside, outscoring their opponents by 16.7 points per game in the paint over their 11-game winning streak, and they got Khris Middleton back last week. With Kawhi Leonard having missed the first meeting, their game against the Clippers on Friday will be the only matchup of reigning regular season MVP vs. reigning Finals MVP (before this season's Finals, at least).
Week 7: vs. NYK, @ DET, vs. LAC
Pace: 100.4 (22) OffRtg: 110.9 (6) DefRtg: 103.3 (5) NetRtg: +7.6 (4)
The Lakers were playing with fire for much of their 10-game winning streak, trailing six of those games in the second half, because they didn't defend particularly well until the fourth quarter (allowing 111.8 points per 100 possessions in Quarters 1-3 over the streak). And then the streak came to an end on Sunday once they played a good team, with the Mavs scoring 69 points on 51 possessions over the second and third quarters and outscoring the Lakers, 51-21, from 3-point range. The Lakers weren't going to win 'em all and there's value in taking care of business against the bad teams. But the league's toughest December schedule (10 of their 14 games against teams currently over .500) will continue to be a great test, especially on defense, where they rank 16th over the last two weeks. A stretch where they're playing eight of nine games on the road begins Tuesday in Denver.
Week 7: @ DEN, @ UTA, @ POR, vs. MIN
Pace: 101.3 (14) OffRtg: 111.2 (5) DefRtg: 102.3 (2) NetRtg: +8.8 (2)
The Raptors remain pretty, pretty good. They've won seven straight games, picking up wins over the Sixers and Jazz last week, holding Joel Embiid scoreless and dropping Utah from fifth to 11th in defensive efficiency in one night with a rather ridiculous performance from the perimeter. They're still just 3-4 in games between the 13 teams that are currently over .500, but they've joined the Bucks as teams in the top five on both ends of the floor, and they're the only team in the league that hasn't lost a game that wasn't within five points in the last five minutes. After the 77-point first half on Sunday, they've scored a league-best 118.4 points per 100 possessions at home, where they've had a much lower turnover rate (13.4 per 100 possessions vs. 16.5 on the road) and where they're 9-0, with their schedule remaining home-heavy through the end of the month. A couple of good teams are at Scotiabank Arena this week, and their visit to Philly on Sunday will obviously test their ability to take the show on the road.
Week 7: vs. MIA, vs. HOU, @ PHI
Pace: 103.6 (7) OffRtg: 110.8 (7) DefRtg: 104.0 (10) NetRtg: +6.9 (5)
The Clippers are no longer undefeated with both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard in the lineup, and Leonard is now 0-2 as a visitor in San Antonio after, on Wednesday, he shot just 4-for-16 from outside the restricted area, where only 17% of his shots have come from this season. That rate ranks 183rd among 217 players with at least 200 field goal attempts, is the lowest mark of his career, and is down from 27% last season. With his field goal percentage (both inside and outside the paint) and his free throw rate also seeing drops, Leonard's effective field goal percentage (49.0%) and true shooting percentage (54.8%) are also the lowest marks of his career. The Clippers still rank seventh offensively, they still shut down the Mavs' No. 1 offense on Monday, and they've been almost 10 points per 100 possessions better defensively (allowing just 97.4 per 100) with the Finals MVP on the floor. We'll see if he gets the Antetokounmpo assignment on Friday.
Week 7: vs. POR, @ MIL, @ WAS
Pace: 100.9 (17) OffRtg: 116.0 (1) DefRtg: 108.3 (15) NetRtg: +7.7 (3)
The Mavs got humbled by the Clippers on Tuesday. The loss was Dallas' worst offensive game of the season and Kawhi Leonard didn't even spend that much time guarding Luka Doncic. But five days later, the Mavs avenged the other loss in which they scored less than a point per possession, with Doncic scoring or assisting on 28 of their 35 points in a big third quarter that, essentially, ended the Lakers' 10-game winning streak. Doncic's usage rate has jumped from 32.7% (sixth in the league) over the first four weeks of the season to 39.3% (higher than that of James Harden) over the last two weeks, but he's been even more efficient (both in regard to true shooting percentage and assist/turnover ratio) with the higher usage. When you lead the league's No. 1 offense with high usage and high efficiency, you're an MVP candidate at just 20 years old. The question is where the Mavs will finish in the standings, and the answer may lie with a defense that has shown some improvement over the last few weeks.
Week 7: @ NOP, vs. MIN, vs. NOP, vs. SAC
Pace: 98.1 (30) OffRtg: 106.8 (18) DefRtg: 101.9 (1) NetRtg: +4.9 (10)
The Nuggets have the league's No. 1 defense and are in second place in the West, just a game in the loss column behind the Lakers, who they host on Tuesday. But their offense, which scored just 33 second-half points as they blew a 17-point lead in Sacramento on Saturday, continues to disappoint. Only the Warriors (-10.3 points per 100 possessions) and Magic (-5.7) have seen a bigger drop in offensive efficiency from last season than the Nuggets (-5.3), who were one of five teams with a top-10 offense in each of the last three seasons. Despite drops in usage rate and true shooting percentage for Nikola Jokic, their starting lineup has been efficient enough (111.4 points scored per 100 possessions) in its 317 minutes (75 more than any other lineup in the league has played). But, though the Nuggets are seemingly the deepest team in the league, bench minutes have been a struggle. Monte Morris remains at the top of the league in assist-turnover ratio, but is one of four Denver reserves - Malik Beasley (from 58% to 51%), Torrey Craig (from 53% to 39%) and Jerami Grant (from 57% to 50%) are the others - who have seen big drops in effective field goal percentage from last season (Morris has gone from from 56% to 45%). Denver's bench ranks 22nd in aggregate (estimated) NetRtg, with only the Warriors having seen a bigger drop from last season (when the Nuggets ranked 10th).
Week 7: vs. LAL, @ NYK, @ BOS, @ BKN
Pace: 100.5 (20) OffRtg: 107.8 (16) DefRtg: 103.2 (4) NetRtg: +4.6 (11)
Ben Simmons began Week 6 by throwing the ball in the general direction of the basket from 32 feet away when there was six seconds left on the clock and with the Sixers still having a timeout left, part of a collapse where Philly went scoreless over the final four minutes of a five-point loss in Toronto. Simmons ended the week by stealing three Pacers passes in the final 15 seconds of a three-point win on Saturday. Joel Embiid rebounded from his scoreless night north of the border to average 30.7 points (and shoot 40-for-44 from the line) over the Sixers' three-game winning streak. They'll get another shot at the champs on Sunday, one of eight December games in which Philly's oft-maligned offense faces a team that currently ranks in the top 10 defensively. They'll face what is now the No. 11 defense on Monday, when Embiid matches up with Rudy Gobert. The Sixers and Jazz have split the four games in which both All-NBA centers have played, with Embiid having shot 3-for-10 (though with 10 free throw attempts) when matched up with Gobert in Utah's win on Nov. 6.
Week 7: vs. UTA, @ WAS, vs. CLE, vs. TOR
Pace: 100.5 (21) OffRtg: 109.6 (11) DefRtg: 103.4 (6) NetRtg: +6.2 (6)
The Celtics remain undefeated at home, thanks to Marcus Smart's last-minute heroics (two buckets for the lead and a strip of Bogdan Bogdanovic) against Sacramento on Monday and Kemba Walker's season-high 39 points against Brooklyn on Wednesday. But they had scored less than a point per possession over a stretch of five road games before coming back to beat the Knicks on Sunday. Among 189 players with at least 50 field goal attempts both at home and on the road, Smart (who shot 4-for-19 over the two weekend games in New York before suffering an abdominal injury) has the eighth biggest home-road effective field goal percentage differential (59.1% vs. 40.8%). The Cs play eight of their next 11 at TD Garden - with visits from the Heat, Nuggets, Sixers and Raptors over that stretch - and they'll have a rest advantage against both Miami and Denver this week.
Week 7: vs. MIA, vs. DEN
Pace: 105.7 (3) OffRtg: 113.7 (2) DefRtg: 108.4 (16) NetRtg: +5.3 (8)
With the season less than 25% complete, James Harden has attempted 81 more 3-pointers than any other player in the league and is on pace to easily break his record (set last season) of 1,028 3-point attempts in a season. After shooting 30% from beyond the arc over his first 10 games, he has shot 42% over the last nine. His 3-point percentage (35.5%) is still down slightly from last season, but his effective field goal percentage (54.9%) is the highest its been in his eight seasons in Houston, because he's finished better in the paint. His free throw rate (60 attempts per 100 shots from the field) is the highest of his career and up from 45 per 100 last season. He's attempted at least 10 free throws in every single game this season and his 60-point performance (in three quarters) on Saturday came with 23 attempts from the line. Tuesday will bring the Rockets' first meeting with the team (San Antonio) that has ranked in the top 10 in opponent free throw rate in each of the last 22 seasons, though Harden dropped 61 (with 17 free throw attempts) the last time they met.
Week 7: @ SAS, @ TOR, vs. PHX
Pace: 101.1 (16) OffRtg: 109.5 (12) DefRtg: 103.5 (7) NetRtg: +6.0 (7)
The Heat are one of four teams undefeated at home, and they're set to visit two of the other three on Tuesday and Wednesday, having escaped Brooklyn with a comeback win on Sunday. Jimmy Butler won that game with seven free throws in the final 67 seconds and is the biggest reason the Heat have seen the league's biggest jump in free throw rate, from 25 attempts per 100 shots from the field (20th) last season to 32 (second) this season. And though Butler has shot just 36% over his last seven games, they've also seen the league's biggest jump in effective field goal percentage, from 51.5% (21st) to 55.3% (second). Their starters remain one of the best lineups in the league (it was without Butler in their loss in Houston on Wednesday), and Justise Winslow has returned to give the bench a boost. After that back to back in Toronto and Boston, the Heat will begin their first real homestand (four games over eight days) of the season. Their eight home games have been one two-game stand and six individual games.
Week 7: @ TOR, @ BOS, vs. WAS, vs. CHI
Pace: 100.0 (23) OffRtg: 108.5 (15) DefRtg: 103.5 (8) NetRtg: +5.0 (9)
The Pacers have still played one of the league's easiest schedules. But a win over the Jazz (Utah's worst defensive game with Rudy Gobert this season) and a narrow loss in Philadelphia (another efficient offensive game against a top-10 defense) have confirmed that their 12-7 start is legit. After some mixed results with their two bigs earlier in the season and though Myles Turner's offense remains remarkably inconsistent, the Pacers have outscored their opponents by 39 points (allowing less than a point per possession) in 89 minutes with Domantas Sabonis and Turner on the floor together over their last four games. It helps that their three perimeter starters have combined to shoot 55% (including 22-for-47 from 3-point range) over those four games. T.J. Warren was having a heck of a week until he threw the ball to the wrong team with the Pacers up one with 15 seconds left in Philly on Saturday.
Week 7: @ MEM, @ OKC, @ DET, @ NYK
Pace: 100.8 (18) OffRtg: 106.0 (21) DefRtg: 104.3 (11) NetRtg: +1.7 (13)
Defense is supposed to travel, but the Jazz have allowed almost 116 points per 100 possessions over a five-game trip that ends in Philadelphia on Monday. They allowed the Pacers to score as many points in the paint (58) with Rudy Gobert back in the lineup on Wednesday as they allowed the Bucks to score without Gobert two nights earlier. Then, after a win in Memphis, they allowed the Raptors to shoot 13-for-19 from 3-point range in a 77-37 first half. Bojan Bogdanovic is one of four players who have shot better than 45% on at least five 3-point attempts per game, but Mike Conley continues to struggle with his shot (he had four straight games of shooting 25% or worse before going 7-for-13 on Sunday) and heading into his matchup with Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell has shot just 39% (with a drop in free throw rate) over the trip.
Week 7: @ PHI, vs. LAL, vs. MEM
Pace: 105.3 (4) OffRtg: 106.2 (20) DefRtg: 106.9 (12) NetRtg: -0.7 (17)
The Wolves remain weird; They're now 7-2 on the road after wins in Atlanta and San Antonio last week, and 3-7 at home after a confounding loss to the Grizzlies (without Ja Morant) on Sunday. Jarrett Culver is now the permanent starting point guard (with Jeff Teague having ceded his spot to the rookie), and the Wolves' lineup with Culver at the point has performed better (in just 75 minutes thus far) on both ends of the floor than the lineup with Teague, whose effective field goal percentage (45.2%) is the lowest mark since his rookie season. Karl-Anthony Towns has more assists (14) than Culver (nine) in those 75 minutes with the new starting lineup on the floor and has seen an increase in assist ratio (from 10.0 to 15.2 per 100 possessions used) every season he's been in the league. Though they play two of the best teams in the West this week, a four-game trip might not be a bad thing.
Week 7: @ DAL, @ OKC, @ LAL
Pace: 103.3 (8) OffRtg: 107.6 (17) DefRtg: 108.9 (19) NetRtg: -1.3 (19)
The Nets are 6-3 without Kyrie Irving, in part because Spencer Dinwiddie has averaged 25.0 points, while also assisting on 20 of Jarrett Allen's 51 buckets, in his nine games as a starter. But defensive improvement has been a bigger factor (Iman Shumpert has added some energy on that end of the floor) and, without Irving and Caris LeVert, the Nets have scored less than 90 points per 100 possessions in 137 minutes with Dinwiddie off the floor over the nine games. While they've had the guy to replace the guy, there's been nobody to replace the guy who replaces the guy. They did get some good bench minutes to start the fourth quarter against Miami on Sunday, but they missed their final five shots - including a wide-open three from Joe Harris and a much tougher attempt from Dinwiddie in the final seconds - as they blew a seven-point lead with less than two minutes to go and his hero-ball success dried up. That ended their run of five straight wins in games that were within five points in the last five minutes.
Week 7: @ ATL, @ CHA, vs. DEN
Pace: 100.7 (19) OffRtg: 106.2 (19) DefRtg: 106.9 (13) NetRtg: -0.7 (16)
The Thunder got their first two road wins of the season last week, though it took a 13-0 closing run to beat the Warriors on Monday and a 12-0 run late in the fourth quarter to beat the Pelicans on Sunday. Chris Paul scored 12 of those 25 total points, ranks second in the league in clutch scoring (49 points), and second in fourth-quarter true shooting percentage (68.8%). The Thunder closed the Golden State win with a lineup - Paul, Dennis Schroder, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari and Steve Adams - that has outscored its opponents by 33 points in 45 total minutes together. Though he's used that lineup in 15 of their 19 games, Billy Donovan has never had it on the floor for more than seven minutes on any one night. The Thunder are just two games behind the seventh-place Wolves, who they'll face for the first time on Friday.
Week 7: vs. IND, vs. MIN, @ POR
Pace: 98.2 (29) OffRtg: 105.7 (23) DefRtg: 108.8 (17) NetRtg: -3.1 (20)
There are some days when Harrison Barnes looks like an $85-million man, and Saturday was one of those days. The Kings, after coming back from 17 points down, repeatedly ran the Dirk Nowitzki Play to get Barnes isolated against smaller Denver defenders at the top of the key down the stretch of their overtime victory, and he scored a season-high 30 points, with the highlight being a tough bank shot over Will Barton in the final minute. In the first year of his new contract (and coming off another summer with the national team), Barnes is registering career highs in effective field goal percentage (56.8%), free throw rate (41 attempts per 100 shots from the field) and true shooting percentage (61.9%). The Kings went 1-3 on their trip East, are still missing De'Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley, and are back on the road on Wednesday (with the the league's only Texas Triangle of the season starting Friday). But they head into the week tied with the Suns for eighth place in the West.
Week 7: vs. CHI, @ POR, @ SAS, @ DAL
Pace: 103.1 (10) OffRtg: 110.7 (8) DefRtg: 108.9 (18) NetRtg: +1.8 (12)
The Suns got Aron Baynes back from a five-game absence on Friday and they held the the Mavs' No. 1 offense to just 55 points on 55 possessions with the big man on the floor. But Dallas scored 65 points on just 49 possessions with Baynes off the floor and the Suns have now allowed more than 117 per 100 in each of their last five losses. The most troubling of those five was Wednesday, when they couldn't beat the Wizards at home, with a rest advantage, and with eight Suns in double-figures. A 7-4 start has been followed by a 1-6 stretch, with the much bigger drop-off coming on defense, where they rank 25th over the last two weeks. The Suns will have to find their footing on the road, where they will spend most of this month, though they do have a relatively easy December schedule in regard to opponent strength.
Week 7: @ CHA, @ ORL, @ NOP, @ HOU
Pace: 103.1 (9) OffRtg: 109.9 (9) DefRtg: 110.4 (21) NetRtg: -0.5 (15)
The second week of Carmelo Anthony (22.3 points per game on an effective field goal percentage of 63% and a team-best plus-56) was much better than the first (13.0 on 40%, minus-19), the Blazers are 3-0 with their new starting lineup, and they've scored almost 120 points per 100 possessions in 89 total minutes with Anthony, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum on the floor together. On Wednesday against Oklahoma City, Anthony took advantages of the Thunder's switching by posting up their guards (though his friend Chris Paul did get him with the 'ol pull-the-chair trick) and shooting 8-for-8 inside of 16 feet. He already has more catch-and-shoot 3-pointers (10) than Mario Hezonja (eight) or Nassir Little (four), and his final bucket against Chicago on Friday was an empty-side pick-and-pop with Lillard that looks like a go-to set going forward. The schedule gets tougher this week, with the Blazers having their first meetings with the two-star Clippers (Paul George missed the first game) and the Lakers.
Week 7: @ LAC, vs. SAC, vs. LAL, vs. OKC
Pace: 98.4 (28) OffRtg: 102.5 (30) DefRtg: 103.7 (9) NetRtg: -1.2 (18)
A soft schedule and a couple of big games (30 and 32 points) from Evan Fournier have allowed the Magic to pick up a pair of wins without Nikola Vucevic and remain in playoff position in the East. But they were fortunate that Alec Burks' game-winning three rimmed out on Sunday and they've fallen back to 30th in offensive efficiency, having scored just 33 points in the second half in Detroit on Monday and just 36 in the second half against Toronto on Friday. Aaron Gordon returned from his ankle injury, but shot just 4-for-22 over the weekend. Amazingly, Markelle Fultz has been the Magic's most consistent player, scoring in double figures in eight straight games and shooting 47% from mid-range for the season. The schedule remains soft for another week.
Week 7: @ WAS, vs. PHX, @ CLE
Pace: 98.7 (26) OffRtg: 109.7 (10) DefRtg: 110.0 (20) NetRtg: -0.3 (14)
Though Blake Griffin has missed 12 games and shot just 42% in the eight games in which he's played, and even though they have the league's third highest turnover rate, the Pistons have a top-10 offense after eviscerating the Spurs on Sunday (with Griffin and Andre Drummond combining for only 19 of their 132 points). They rank second in 3-point percentage (39.3%) and they've seen an increase in attempts from beyond the arc since Griffin made his season debut. Nine of the 10 Pistons with at least five attempts (all except Griffin himself) have shot better than the league average (35.6%) from 3-point range over that 10-game stretch. They just can't figure out how to beat the Hornets, to whom they've lost nine straight games after coming up one possession short twice last week.
Week 7: @ CLE, vs. MIL, vs. IND
Pace: 106.0 (1) OffRtg: 112.1 (4) DefRtg: 115.7 (30) NetRtg: -3.6 (21)
The Wizards' offense has cooled off a bit. With poorer shooting, more turnovers, and fewer offensive rebounds, their last five games have been their worst five-game stretch of offense (106.6 points scored per 100 possessions) of the season. Bradley Beal continues to see a big jump in his assist rate, but he shot just 12-for-32 in L.A. over the weekend. Their opponents' offenses have not cooled off (118.0 per 100, 66% shooting in the paint over those five games), their defense has fallen to 30th in the league, and they've followed a somewhat promising 3-1 stretch by losing four out of five. Their game against the eighth-place Magic on Tuesday is an opportunity to rebound and pick up an important win, but it's followed by three tough games, including one against the team (the Clippers) that just gave 'em 150 at Staples Center. The Wiz are 1-8 against the 13 teams that are currently over .500.
Week 7: vs. ORL, vs. PHI, @ MIA, vs. LAC
Pace: 104.4 (5) OffRtg: 109.0 (14) DefRtg: 113.4 (25) NetRtg: -4.3 (24)
Monday is six weeks since the day that Zion Williamson was ruled out for 6-8 weeks after meniscus surgery. But the No. 1 pick's regular season debut doesn't appear imminent and the Pelicans' latest injury (an ankle sprain suffered Friday) took out the guy (Kenrich Williams) who has been filling in as the starting power forward. Williams' boxscore stats are modest, but he's a plus-38 in 470 minutes for a team that's 6-14, and the Pels have outscored their opponents by 8.4 points per 100 possessions in 226 total minutes with Williams, Jrue Holiday and J.J. Redick on the floor. Williams' absence on Sunday brought Lonzo Ball's return to the starting lineup, but the Pels were down 11 points by the time they made their first sub. They've lost five straight (though four of the five games were within five points in the last five minutes), and the schedule is only going to get tougher from here.
Week 7: vs. DAL, vs. PHX, @ DAL
Pace: 101.5 (13) OffRtg: 109.3 (13) DefRtg: 113.4 (26) NetRtg: -4.0 (22)
The Spurs picked up their best win of the season on Friday, holding their opponent (Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers) under a point per possession for just the second time this season, while tying a season high with 14 threes. DeMar DeRozan even made one from deep. And they promptly followed that up with their worst defensive game (132 points allowed on 100 possessions) of the season, allowing the Pistons to register 70 points in the paint and shoot 15-for-31 from 3-point range. Last season was their worst defensive season in 22 years and this season, only two teams (the Warriors and Grizzlies) have seen a bigger jump in points allowed per 100 possessions. They've tinkered with the starting lineup, but have been outscored by 9.9 points per 100 possessions (and allowed 114.6 per 100) in 664 total minutes with at least two of their three full-time starters - Bryn Forbes, DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge (who missed Sunday's game with a thigh injury) - on the floor together. They've outscored their opponents by 8.0 points per 100 in 344 total minutes with at least two of the three off the floor.
Week 7: vs. HOU, vs. SAC
Pace: 99.2 (25) OffRtg: 105.8 (22) DefRtg: 114.4 (28) NetRtg: -8.6 (28)
When the Hornets swapped Kemba Walker for Terry Rozier, you may not have expected that, when you take league-average efficiency into account, they'd suffer more defensively than offensively. But that has been the case and the Hornets have, incredibly, allowed more than 110 points per 100 possessions in 11 of their last 12 games. Only the Hawks, Knicks and Spurs have been worse defensively against Detroit, but the Hornets got 43 points (on 16-for-23 shooting) from P.J. Washington over three nights last week and the stops they needed (highlighted by an incredible block by Bismack Biyombo on Andre Drummond) to improve to 3-0 against the Pistons. They don't get to play Detroit again until February, but have the East's second easiest December schedule in regard to cumulative opponent winning percentage.
Week 7: vs. PHX, vs. GSW, vs. BKN, vs. ATL
Pace: 104.1 (6) OffRtg: 104.6 (26) DefRtg: 111.6 (23) NetRtg: -7.0 (25)
The Grizzlies' biggest investments are in first round picks Ja Morant (who had 21 assists and just two turnovers over a two-game stretch last week), Jaren Jackson Jr. (who had a season-high 28 points in Indiana on Monday) and Brandon Clarke (who had the league's highest effective field goal percentage in November). But former second round pick Dillon Brooks is still just 23 years old and still a 6-7 guard who's shooting 40% from 3-point range. With three of their top seven guys (including Morant) out and the two young bigs combining for just 12 points in Minnesota on Sunday, the Grizz ended their six-game losing streak behind 26 points from Brooks and some big minutes from their bench (they were a plus-22 in Brooks' 16 minutes off the floor). They've won three of their last four road games, with a four-game trip starting in Chicago on Wednesday.
Week 7: vs. IND, @ CHI, @ UTA
Pace: 103.0 (11) OffRtg: 102.9 (29) DefRtg: 107.1 (14) NetRtg: -4.2 (23)
Jim Boylen's "If you build it, they will come" statement after the Bulls' loss in Portland on Friday was about...
His love for movies about dead baseball players appearing out of corn.
The Bulls having built a foundation for the remainder of the season.
Time will tell if he's right about the latter, and the Bulls are only 2 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Magic in the Eastern Conference. But they've played one of the league's easiest schedules thus far and, over the last 20 full (82-game) seasons, only four (7%) of the 61 East teams with six or fewer wins through their first 20 games have gone on to make the playoffs. The Bulls miss Otto Porter (they were at their best offensively with him on the floor) and Chandler Hutchison can't seem to stay healthy, but teams ahead of them in the East have been no less banged up.
Week 7: @ SAC, vs. MEM, vs. GSW, @ MIA
Pace: 99.8 (24) OffRtg: 104.8 (24) DefRtg: 112.4 (24) NetRtg: -7.6 (26)
The Cavs have lost nine of their last 10 games and rank in the bottom four both offensively and defensively over that stretch. But the last four games - a win over Portland and three relatively competitive losses last week - have been much better than the first six, even though Kevin Love missed two of the four games and scored just nine points in his first game back. He had a bigger offensive role as the Cavs erased almost all of a 22-point deficit against the Bucks on Friday and recorded 32 assists, their season high by a wide margin. After turning the ball over 13 times (with just two assists) over his previous two games, Darius Garland had six dimes and just one turnover, assisting Love on three of his four 3-pointers. The Cavs still rank in the bottom 10 in both ball and player movement for the second straight season.
Week 7: vs. DET, vs. ORL, @ PHI
Pace: 98.4 (27) OffRtg: 103.3 (28) DefRtg: 111.1 (22) NetRtg: -7.8 (27)
The Knicks remain winless (0-8) within the Atlantic Division, having twice blown leads of more than 15 points to the Sixers. They led Toronto by 11 in the second quarter on Wednesday and Boston by six with less than eight minutes to go on Sunday. The good news is that, before all those blown leads, they've had some better starts offensively, scoring 90 points on 73 first-quarter possessions (against three top-10 defenses) last week. Marcus Morris (still shooting better than 50% from 3-point range) missed Sunday's game against his old team and Elfrid Payton remains on the shelf, but Julius Randle has been more efficient, shooting 51% over the last four games and getting to the line for 26 total free throw attempts over the weekend. The Knicks have one of the league's toughest December schedules and face three more top-10 defenses this week.
Week 7: @ MIL, vs. DEN, vs. IND
Pace: 101.2 (15) OffRtg: 104.7 (25) DefRtg: 113.9 (27) NetRtg: -9.2 (29)
The Warriors have been relatively competitive over their last five games, their best five-game stretch of defense (106.7 points allowed per 100 possessions) this season. They beat the Bulls on Wednesday (recording assists on 31 of their 37 buckets), three of their last four losses have been within five points in the last five minutes, and they were within a few inches of winning in Orlando on Sunday. Draymond Green has averaged just 22 minutes in his three games back from injury, but Omari Spellman has played well off the bench, averaging 17.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per 36 minutes, registering a team-best plus-33 over the five games, and showing some Draymond-esque defensive instincts (here and here) against Chicago. The Warriors have the league's easiest December schedule in regard to opponent winning percentage, their loss to the Magic on Sunday was just the first game of six straight against teams that are at least five games under .500, and that improved defense is set to get Kevon Looney back this week.
Week 7: @ ATL, @ CHA, @ CHI
Pace: 102.7 (12) OffRtg: 103.9 (27) DefRtg: 114.7 (29) NetRtg: -10.9 (30)
The Hawks have the league's first double-digit losing streak of the season. Over the last two weeks, they've held second-half leads over the Bucks (twice), Raptors, Wolves and Pacers, but the streak also includes two of the three worst margins of defeat this season (49 and 47 points). They're in the bottom five in three of the four factors on defense, dead last in defensive rebounding percentage, having allowed at least 10 offensive rebounds in 10 of their last 12 games and grabbed 69.6% of available defensive boards. That latter number has been just 64.1% in 228 total minutes with their current starting frontline - Jabari Parker and Damian Jones - on the floor. The Hawks' December schedule includes only two games against teams that currently rank in the top 10 offensively and they'll face two bottom-10 offenses this week.
Week 7: vs. GSW, vs. BKN, @ CHA