By Danny Dragin
1. Houston Rockets (2): 44-13
James Harden had 34 points and 13 assists in the Rockets win over the Timberwolves. The Rockets now find themselves in the midst of a 10-game win streak heading into the All-Star break.
2. Golden State Warriors (1): 44-14
Steve Kerr decided to let the players coach themselves in their game against the Suns. Many thought the move was disrespectful, but some also thought it was an intelligent coaching strategy. The dubs also lost to the Trail Blazers this past week despite Kevin Durant’s 50-point performance.
3. Toronto Raptors (4): 41-16
The Raptors have emerged as the most consistent team in the Eastern Conference, winning their last seven games. A giant aspect to the dominance of the Raptors is their bench play. The Raptors bench which is made up of C.J. Miles, Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam, Fred Van Vleet, and Delon Wright have a net rating of +34.7 since game 25 of the season. That is the best rating of any 5-man lineup in the entire NBA.
4. Boston Celtics (3): 40-19
The Celtics continue to struggle which all might be due to the absence of Marcus Smart. After getting beat by the Raptors they were eviscerated by the new look Cavaliers who beat them by 22 points. They are now in the midst of a three game losing streak heading into the All Star break.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers (10): 34-22
The new Cavaliers are starting to look normal again. The additions of Rodney Hood, George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance look like they’re molding with the team extremely well and J.R. Smith looked like he ran the clock back a little bit in their 22-point win over the Celtics.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder (5): 33-26
People need to start realizing that there isn’t just a big three in Oklahoma City right now — there’s a big four. Steven Adams continues to dominate in the paint night in and night out. If he did this earlier in the season he might even be in the running for an All-Star spot.
7. San Antonio Spurs (6): 35-24
Gregg Popovich has shown that an underwhelming season can still be extremely impressive for a coach. Of course this team has not been the same since Kawhi Leonard has been out they continue to push and they continue to stick around the top five teams. Although they find themselves going into the All-Star break in a three-game losing streak.
8. Milwaukee Bucks (8): 32-25
Jabari Parker has given the Bucks some much needed life and he has helped them score the ball a lot more efficiently.
9. Portland Trail Blazers (11): 32-26
You can tell Damian Lillard is satisfied that he didn’t get snubbed from All-Star voting once again but that doesn’t mean he is done. Lillard had 44 points in their win against the Warriors, while his counterpart in CJ McCollum had 29 points.
10. Detroit Pistons (9): 28-29
Blake Griffin and the Pistons remain to be an extremely entertaining story line. Griffin walked off the court last Friday after their 13-point loss to the Clippers without saying anything to his old teammates or coaches.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves (7): 36-25
The Timberwolves cannot remain consistent and they continue to lose against both good and bad teams. They’ve had heartbreaking losses to the Cavs who beat them by two, and the Bulls who beat them by one. Lots of talk is going around that they may try to sign Derrick Rose which would reunite him with Tom Thibodeau and Jimmy Butler.
12. Indiana Pacers (14): 33-25
The Pacers continue to prove everyone wrong as they win their last three games. One of which was against the Celtics where Victor Oladipo had 35 points. It was reported this week that the Pacers would eye Aaron Gordon and Marcus Smart during free agency.
13. Denver Nuggets (12): 32-26
Before the trade deadline, the Nuggets were a team that was made up of a lot of young talent, who were all taking their time and waiting to see how they fell in the grand scheme of things. Since the loss of Emmanuel Mudiay they have given players like Gary Harris and Jamal Murray the concrete confidence they needed to move forward as stars.
14. Miami Heat (13): 30-28
Dwayne Wade is finally where he belongs. In his first game back he blocked Eric Bledsoe with 30 seconds left to essentially win them the game.
15. Los Angeles Clippers (18): 30-26
The Clippers have sneakily put together and extremely impressive team, from the scoring to the defense. In Detroit Tobias Harris was the go to scoring threat and now in LA he doesn’t need to be that guy which makes his job undoubtedly easier.
16. Utah Jazz (20): 30-28
Donovan Mitchell has taken this team right out of the hands of Rudy Gobert who has not been able to figure it out since they lost Gordon Hayward. They also go in to the All-Star break with an extremely impressive 11-game win streak.
17. Washington Wizards (16): 33-24
There has been some serious issues brewing within the locker room in Washington. The Wizards won their first five games after John Wall suffered his knee injury and some members of the team thought they were better off without him. The most vocal one was Marcin Gortat who took to Twitter to throw a slight jab in the All-Star’s face.
18. New Orleans Pelicans (15): 31-26
Rajon Rondo and Isaiah Thomas both got tossed in the Pelicans 22-point win over the Lakers. This comes after Paul Pierce’s number retirement ceremony and Rondo’s vocal disapproval of Celtics fans love for Isaiah Thomas.
19. Philadelphia 76ers (17): 30-25
The problem with Markelle Fultz has been long debated and many still don’t know what exactly the situation is. We do know that the problem is in his shoulder and he has essentially had to completely recreate the muscle memory in his shooting form.
20. Los Angeles Lakers (19): 23-34
Lonzo Ball is expected to return right after the All-Star break but the Lakers have managed to find a good replacement in Isaiah Thomas. What many people don’t realize is that when Thomas came in to the league he started as a shooting guard, point guard-hybrid which means him and Lonzo might have no problem figuring out where to find each other on the floor. Ball and Thomas might have other problems though.
21. Charlotte Hornets (23): 24-33
Dwight Howard had 22 points in the Hornets dramatic win over the Magic in their last game before the All-Star break. Before that the Hornets lost four games straight.
22. New York Knicks (26): 23-36
The Knicks decided to go with youth at the trade deadline. They picked up Emmanuel Mudiay who will fit well Frank Ntilikina and Kristaps Porzingis. This could create a really solid core unit moving forward.
23. Brooklyn Nets (22): 19-40
The Nets are starting to look like normal, losing their last seven games. The re-addition of D’Angelo Russell has not proven to be extremely effective and Jahlil Okafor has not panned out how they thought.
24. Chicago Bulls (27): 20-37
Lauri Markkanen continues to be one of the best rookies in his draft class but he is getting burdened with trying to lead his team. Zach Lavine is a great player with a ton of athleticism and talent but he might not have what it takes to lead a serious contender. They have also had nine losses in their last 11 games.
25. Phoenix Suns (21): 18-41
The addition of Elfrid Payton does not seem like it has been that helpful due to the fact that the Suns have lost their last seven games.
26. Memphis Grizzlies (24): 18-38
Andrew Harrison had one the biggest nights of his career with 28 points in the Grizzlies loss to the Thunder. Memphis is a team that will need to take a big step back in the off season and orchestrate exactly what they want to do with the club.
27. Sacramento Kings (25): 18-39
News came out this week that Vlade Divak was angry with the Cavs and the Jazz who tried to get them to throw in Georgios Papagiannis at the last second of the trade.
28. Dallas Mavericks (29): 18-40
The Mavericks might be more interested in what Dennis Smith Jr. will do in the dunk competition than how their actual season is going. They’ve lost nine times in their last 11 games.
29. Atlanta Hawks (28): 18-41
The Hawks are easily one of the most boring teams in the NBA right now and they didn’t do anything at the trade deadline to make any type of difference.
30. Orlando Magic (30): 18-39
The Orlando Magic have had a dismal season and the fact that they traded away their biggest scoring threat in Elfrid Payton for basically nothing means that they are just going to have to go for broke and hope that they make smart draft picks in the coming years.
Full article @ NBA power rankings: Celtics continue to fall
Source: GreenStreet Blog