Kuwait Times infographic: NBA Power Rankings
KUWAIT: In addition to its usual coverage of NBA news, Kuwait Times introduces a new feature this year: the NBA Power Rankings. It is a weekly list ranking each team based on its performance during the week. The actual record for each team (put between brackets, for games played as of yesterday) does play a role in the assessment process but is not the main factor for deciding each team’s ranking, thus making it different from league standings. This week’s ratings saw changes in the top ten as two Western Conference teams are making unlikely strong pushes in December.
1- Golden State Warriors (20 - 4) Last week:
1 - The Warriors nearly lost their top spot in this week’s ranking following their loss to the Grizzlies Saturday night after they struggled with shooting and passing, but it is hard to overlook their commanding performance in the previous few days. In Monday’s rout of Indiana, Klay Thompson scored 60 points in 29 minutes, and was on pace to score a 100 according to Elias Sports Bureau’s research.
2- Toronto Raptors (17 - 7) Last week: 3 -
The Raptors won nine of their last 10 games, and led the NBA in offensive rating, net rating and three-point percentage during that span (they lead the league in offense overall). After beating the Celtics on Friday, they set their sights on possibly taking the lead in the Eastern Conference’s standings with a relatively easy schedule ahead.
3- Cleveland Cavaliers (17 - 5) Last week: 4
Following his team’s win against the Hornets Saturday night, LeBron James became the only player in NBA history with 27,000 points, 7,000 assists and 7,000 rebounds, and the only forward ever to reach the 7,000 assists’ mark. We’re not done talking about LeBron’s accolades yet: he also climbed to ninth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list last week.
4- San Antonio Spurs (19 - 5) Last week: 2 -
All good things come to an end, including the Spurs’ undefeated record on the road. After calling his team out following its loss to the Bulls in Chicago on Thursday, Coach Gregg Popovich’s squad responded by scoring 130 points to defeat the Nets two nights later.
5- Houston Rockets (17 - 7) Last week: 6 -
Not only did the Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook’s seventh straight triple-double to beat the Thunder on Friday, but they also cruised past the Mavs one night later for their sixth straight win. Hot shooting from the three-point line remains the key factor behind Houston’s wins this season.
6- Memphis Grizzlies (17 - 8) Last week: 8 -
Not even the streaking Warriors could stop the Grizzlies, who dominated on both ends of the floor to beat Golden State on Saturday. But their six-game (and counting) winning streak seems in jeopardy with two back-to-back games against the Cavs tomorrow and Wednesday.
7- Los Angeles Clippers (17 - 7) Last week: 5
- The Clippers needed that big win Saturday against the Pelicans - who were playing without star Anthony Davis - to offset their previous two ugly losses to the Warriors and Pacers. Good news is that they don’t have to face a team with a winning record until December 22 against the Spurs.
8- Oklahoma City Thunder (14 - 9) Last
week: 7 - Russell Westbrook’s seventh straight triple-double recorded on Friday is the longest since Michael Jordan’s similar streak in 1989, but it was still not enough for the Thunder to beat the Rockets and extend their winning streak to seven.
9- Chicago Bulls (13 - 10) Last week: 9 -
The Bulls ended a three-game losing straight with a confidence-boosting win against the Spurs on Thursday, and further boosted their confidence by beating the Heat on Saturday although it came in the form of a tough victory over Dwayne Wade’s former team.
10- Utah Jazz (15 - 10) Last week: 11 -
The Jazz enter Wednesday’s game against the Thunder winning eight of their last ten games, and ranking in the top ten in offensive, defensive and net ratings in the league during that span. With his 26 points in Utah’s win over the Kings on Saturday, Gordon Hayward became the first Jazz player with 10 straight 20-point games since Karl Malone in 2001-02 (per Elias Sports and Information).
11- Boston Celtics (3 - 10) Last week: 10 -
The Celtics survived a bomb threat - which turned out to be a hoax - in their flight to Oklahoma City on Saturday, but could not survive the Raptors’ offense one night earlier in a game in which they sorely missed their injured guard Isaiah Thomas; who was already ruled out of last night’s game against the Thunder.
12- Charlotte Hornets (14 - 10) Last week:
12 - Marvin Williams’ return to the lineup invigorated the Hornets, but it was Nicolas Batum’s impressive play that keyed his team’s victories against the Mavs, Pistons and Magic last week. LeBron James was too much though on Saturday, carrying his team to victory with 44 points.
13- New York Knicks (13 - 10) Last week: 18
- Carmelo Anthony is not letting his issues with President Phil Jackson distract him; on the contrary, it seems to be rejuvenating him as he scored 33 points to lead the Knicks to a victory in Sacramento on Friday. They’ve won five of their last six games entering last night’s game against the Lakers.
14- Milwaukee Bucks (11 - 11) Last week: 13
- Giannis Antetokounmpo is the only player in the NBA who is leading his team in scoring, assists, rebounds, blocks, and steals. The last player to do that for an entire season was LeBron James for the 2008-09 Cleveland Cavaliers (per Elias Sports and Information).
15- Detroit Pistons (13 - 12) Last week: 14 -
In Friday’s win in Minnesota, center Andre Drummond scored 22 points and grabbed 22 rebounds; his third 20-20 game this season. In comparison, the rest of the league has four
such games combined, and no other player has more than one (per ESPN Stats and Information).
16- Indiana Pacers (12 - 12) Last week: 16 -
Paul George poured in 37 points and led his team to victory over the Trail Blazers on Saturday, outscoring fellow All-Star Damian Lillard in the process. The Pacers need his shooting touch when they host the Hornets tonight.
17- Atlanta Hawks (12 - 12) Last week: 19 -
Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 33 and led Atlanta to overcame a 20-point halftime deficit to beat the Bucks 114-110 on Friday, and that two nights after Dwight Howard and Paul Millsap helped the Hawks snap their season-high seven-game losing streak.
18- Portland Trail Blazers (12 - 13) Last
week: 15 - The Blazers enter Monday ranked sixth in the league in offensive rating and 26th in defensive rating. Currently on a three-game losing streak, it is hard to imagine that their offense will be enough to achieve wins in a tough stretch ahead that features matches against the Clippers, Thunder and Warriors.
19- Washington Wizards (9 - 13) Last week:
26 - John Wall criticized his team after his 52 points were not enough to beat the Magic on Tuesday, and the Wizards responded by beating the Nuggets and Bucks the following two games. More importantly, their defense has improved to fourth best in the league during that two-game span.
20- Los Angeles Lakers (10 - 15) Last week:
17 - Reserve guard Lou Williams’ 137 points of the bench in the Lakers’ last four games is the most ever scored by a bench player in a fourgame span. Still the Lakers are struggling to figure out a way to end their five-game losing streak entering last night’s game against the Knicks.
21- Denver Nuggets (9 - 15) Last week: 24 -
As rookie Jamal Murray continues to develop, it’s worth noting another bench player’s performance. Wilson Chandler leads the Nuggets in scoring at 18.0 points per game despite starting only two games this season. He has averaged 16.8 points off the bench, third in the NBA behind Lou Williams and Eric Gordon (per ESPN Stats and Information).
22- Sacramento Kings (8 - 15) Last week: 21
- The Kings have lost six of its last ten games, a span during which their defense has improved but their offense remains bad. They could not even capitalize on Utah’s 22 turnovers and beat the Jazz on Saturday.
23- Orlando Magic (10 - 15) Last week: 20 -
In their win over the Wizards on Tuesday, the Magic’s entire starting lineup was outscored by Washington’s John Wall, who scored 52 compared to 51 by Orlando’s starting five. Their current three-game losing streak came after three straight wins, which seems to be a trend, one that is symbolic of their roller-coaster season so far.
24- Miami Heat (7 - 17) Last week: 22 -
Miami enters tonight’s game against the Wizards on a five-game losing streak, and have lost seven of its last ten. Their defense dropped to 25th in the league during that span, which is problematic considering that they’re facing high-scoring teams (Pacers and Clippers) after tonight’s match.
25- Phoenix Suns (7 - 16) Last week: 27 -
The Suns, who rank in the bottom ten in offensive, defensive and net ratings, got something to celebrate after ending their three-game losing streak in Friday’s win over the Lakers behind 30 points from Eric Bledsoe, who celebrated his birthday on that day.
26- New Orleans Pelicans (7 - 17) Last week:
23 - The Pelicans opted to rest Anthony Davis against the Clippers on Saturday, and everybody sat and watched LA’s guard Chris Paul make history by becoming the first player to have 20 points, 20 assists and no turnovers since turnovers were first recorded for individuals in 1977-78 (per Elias Sports Bureau).
27- Minnesota Timberwolves (6 - 17) Last
week: 25 - The Wolves lost to the Pistons on Friday following earlier losses to the Raptors and Spurs, prompting guard Ricky Rubio to proclaim that his team, which lost eight of its last ten games, plays with ‘no heart’ and ‘no desire’.
28- Brooklyn Nets (6 - 16) Last week: 28 -
The Nets suffered an onslaught from the Spurs on Saturday in the first game since the Rockets matched their four-year $37 million offer sheet to forward Donatas Motiejunas.
29- Dallas Mavericks (5 - 18) Last week: 29 -
Mavs’ owner Mark Cuban (who still thinks Russell Westbrook is not a superstar) said Saturday that his team would only consider trading its top-five projected first round pick in this summer’s draft in exchange for a topfive player in the entire league. It is unlikely that the Mavs will trade out of what is promising to be one of the deepest drafts in recent memory, however.
30- Philadelphia 76ers (5 - 18) Last week:
30 - Friday’s win against the Pelicans ended the 76ers’ eight-game losing streak and its franchise record-tying 23-game road losing streak. Their defense has only slightly improved, as they entered Monday ranking 21st in the league in defensive rating.