By Danny Dragin
With the NBA returning to action following the All-Star break, it’s time for this week’s installment of Danny Dragin’s power rankings. The rankings didn’t move much, since no one played last week, but let’s get up to speed before the home stretch begins shortly. (Last week’s rank in parentheses).
1. Houston Rockets (1): 44-13
James Harden leads our surprising No. 1s, who entered the break on a 10-game winning streak. The Rockets will look to stay on a roll against the Timberwolves on Friday night.
2. Golden State Warriors (2): 45-14
The Warriors beat the Clippers in a shootout on Thursday night and will be everyone’s pick to win it all once the games start counting for real.
3. Toronto Raptors (3): 41-16
DeMar DeRozan was clearly displeased with Steph Curry’s ball-hogging at the end of the All-Star Game. The Raptors enter the second half on a seven-game winning streak as the No. 1 seed in the East.
4. Boston Celtics (4): 40-19
Marcus Smart should make his much-awaited return to the Celtics on Friday night, and boy have they missed his intensity and defense.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers (5): 34-23
It was reported this week that Larry Nance Jr. would wear his father’s No. 22 jersey, which was retired by the Cavs in 1995, which leads to an obvious question: The Cavaliers retired Larry Nance’s jersey?
6. Oklahoma City Thunder (6): 34-26
Russell Westbrook nearly recorded a triple-double in the All-Star Game, because of course he did.
7. San Antonio Spurs (7): 35-24
Kawhi Leonard was medically cleared to play according to a report, but decided to not return to the lineup. Sounds like there’s bad blood between Leonard and the Spurs.
8. Milwaukee Bucks (8): 32-25
The Bucks belong on everyone’s radar moving forward. There’s way too much talent, starting with Giannis Antetokounmpo.
9. Portland Trail Blazers (9): 32-26
Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers represent a serious threat for teams like the Rockets and Thunder come postseason time.
10. Detroit Pistons (10): 28-29
Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin make the Pistons a particularly bad matchup for the Celtics, whom they play on Friday night.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves 11): 36-25
Jimmy Butler decided to stay out of the All-Star Game in order to “rest” but many don’t think that is the case. Videos came out of the Timberwolves superstar drinking heavily the night before the game.
12. Washington Wizards (17): 34-24
John Wall said he plans to return to school this summer to complete a business degree as part of a promise to his father. The Wizards can expect Wall back in the lineup within the next month. They beat the Cavs in their first game back from the All-Star break.
13. Indiana Pacers (12): 33-25
Victor Oladipo had seven points in his first All-Star Game and also almost stole the spotlight in the dunk contest by wearing a Black Panther mask.
14. Denver Nuggets (13): 32-26
Players like Gary Harris and Jamal Murray will find themselves in a much more comfortable spot during the second half without Emmanuel Mudiay, who was traded to the Knicks.
15. Miami Heat (14): 30-28
The Heat have had a very emotional season with the loss of Dion Waiters and then the re-acquisition of Dwyane Wade.
16. Los Angeles Clippers (15): 30-27
The Clippers are one of the most interesting teams in the league. They have two extremely good inside- outside scorers in Tobias Harris and Lou Williams, and they feature two of the best paint (DeAndre Jordan) and perimeter (Avery Bradley) defenders in the game.
17. Utah Jazz (16): 30-28
The Jazz don’t miss Gordon Hayward like we would’ve thought. They won 11 straight to end the first half, and are led by high-flying rookie Donovan Mitchell, who won the dunk contest with an ode to Vince Carter in 2000.
18. New Orleans Pelicans (18): 31-26
New Orleans must’ve loved hearing Anthony Davis tell Rachel Nichols that Kevin Garnett’s comments about wishing he had left Minnesota sooner made the Brow think. He has said before that he wants to be a Pelican for life but maybe his patience has its limits.
19. Philadelphia 76ers (19): 31-25
Joel Embiid played in both the All-Star Game and Rising Stars game. Ben Simmons played in the latter and made a compelling case to appear in the former.
20. Los Angeles Lakers (20): 23-34
Lonzo Ball will make his long-awaited return on Friday night against the Mavericks. Many are eager to see how Lonzo and Isaiah Thomas will mesh.
21. Charlotte Hornets (21): 25-33
Good luck making a playoff push.
22. New York Knicks (22): 24-36
Kristaps Porzingis was supposed play in the Rising Stars Challenge and All-Star Game, but his knee injury ended that.
23. Brooklyn Nets (23): 19-41
The Nets are determined to make the Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell pairing work, while they also work to get Jahlil Okafor to be a serious power forward/center hybrid.
24. Chicago Bulls (24): 20-38
Lauri Markkanen won the Skills Challenge, an impressive feat for a rookie who looks like another home run in a draft full of them.
25. Phoenix Suns (25): 18-41
Devin Booker compiled a record score of 28 in the 3-point shootout.
26. Memphis Grizzlies (26): 18-38
The Grizzlies are a mess. They fired their coach, failed to trade a moveable asset in Tyreke Evans, and lost their best player in point guard Mike Conley.
27. Sacramento Kings (27): 18-40
The Kings were well-represented in the Rising Stars Challenge with Buddy Hield and MVP Bogdan Bogdanovic playing for Team World and De’Aaron Fox playing for Team USA.
28. Orlando Magic (30): 18-40
The Magic are pointless.
29. Atlanta Hawks (29): 18-41
Forget about any of the actual Hawks — the real star is Georgia native Quavo, who Euro-stepped his way to the MVP award at the Celebrity All-Star Game.
30. Dallas Mavericks (28): 18-40
Rough 24 hours for Mark Cuban. He was fined $600,000 for telling his team to tank, and more importantly faced allegations about workplace misconduct within the Mavericks front office in an explosive Sports Illustrated report.
Full article @ NBA Power Rankings: Celtics have work cut out for them
Source: GreenStreet Blog