KUWAIT TIMES 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. A new team skyrocketed this week fueled by a 10-game winning streak. (For any comments or suggestions, e-mail the writer at: email@example.com)
1- Golden State Warriors (24 - 4) Last week: 1 -
Commanding offense and diverse scoring options often take the spotlight when talking about the Warriors from their equally impressive defense. They ranked fifth in the league in defensive rating in the last 10 games.
2- San Antonio Spurs (21 - 5) Last week: 4 -
Last night saw the Spurs retire the number 21 jersey of probably the greatest player in franchise history. But despite being retired, Tim Duncan still showed up to practice last Monday to teach center Pau Gasol a few postplays of his own.
3- Houston Rockets (21 - 7) Last week: 5 -
During their current 10-game winning streak, not only did the Rockets soar to third place in offensive rating, but they also ranked second in defensive rating, which is outstanding considering that defense was one of the main concerns when early-season Coach of the Year candidate Mike D’Antoni was brought to Houston.
4- Cleveland Cavaliers (19 - 6) Last week: 3 -
The Cavs have won six of their last seven games, with their only loss coming against Memphis on Wednesday in a match where LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love sat for rest, shedding more light on the increasing phenomenon of teams frequently resting their starts during the long season.
5- Toronto Raptors (18 - 8) Last week: 2 -
The Raptors continue to lead the league in offensive rating, but their defense has been abysmal as of late, ranking 26th in defensive rating in the past five games, which was shown evident in their 125-121 Friday night loss to a Hawks team that has been struggling with offense all year.
6- Los Angeles Clippers (20 - 7) Last week: 6 -
Every young player who wants to learn how to become a great point guard should watch Chris Paul play. A true floor general and pure point guard, Chris Paul is the first player since 1973-74, when steals became an official stat, to have 4,987 points, 7,943 assists and 1,855 steals in his first 800 games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
7- Utah Jazz (17 - 7) Last week: 10 -
Winning six of their last seven - with the only loss coming against the Warriors - is perhaps not the most impressive thing that the Jazz have done lately (nor is it their solid defense). Utah has been flying under the radar with their offense, ranking 2nd in the league in offensive rating in the last 10 games.
8- Memphis Grizzlies (18 - 10) Last week: 6 -
With his eight points in his first match back from injury on Friday, Mike Conley became the Grizzlies’ all-time leading scorer, in addition to leading the team in assists and steals. Though his return couldn’t prevent a loss to the Kings, the Grizzlies surely welcome their co-captain back.
9- Oklahoma City Thunder (16 - 11) Last week: 8 -
In Oklahoma’s win against Phoenix Saturday night, Russell Westbrook had a career-high 22 assists in his 50th career tripledouble (13th this season). He also had the NBA’s first 20-point, 20-assist triple-double in 18 years. His heroics couldn’t prevent losses to the Jazz and Blazers last week, though.
10- Milwaukee Bucks (13 - 12) Last week: 14 -
Fresh off beating the Bulls in back-to-back games behind strong play from Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, the Bucks look to do the same against the Cavs on Tuesday and Wednesday.
11- Chicago Bulls (13 - 13) Last week: 9 -
Following disappointing losses to the Wolves and twice against the Bucks, the Bulls hope to find ways to win and build up some momentum in their next three games before squaring off against the Spurs in the Christmas Day specials.
12- Boston Celtics (14 - 12) Last week: 11 -
Boston’s bench has been mediocre as of late, forcing coach Brad Stevens to play his starters for extended minutes. In his first game back from injury, Isaiah Thomas played the entire fourth quarter to lead his team to victory against the Hornets Friday and end the Celtics’ three-game slide.
13- Charlotte Hornets (15 - 13) Last week: 12 -
The Hornets had a much-needed win over the Hawks on Saturday, which snapped their four-game losing streak. They need to be worried about their offense which dropped to 26th in the league in the past 10 games.
14- New York Knicks (14 - 13) Last week: 13 -
The Knicks suffered their third straight loss on Saturday against the Nuggets; a game that Carmelo Anthony called a ‘must-win’. And although he did well during that game, he received little help from his teammates, especially on defense which allowed the Nuggets to shoot 56 percent.
15- Indiana Pacers (14 - 14) Last week: 16 -
After losses to the Heat and Pelicans, the Pacers improved their defense on Saturday, holding the Pistons to 38 percent shooting en route to a 105-90 victory. Their next six games come against Eastern Conference teams with similar records.
16- Detroit Pistons (14 - 15) Last week: 15 -
After losses to the Wizards and Pacers in backto-back games last Friday and Saturday, the Pistons hope to beat the Bulls tonight and prevent a third straight loss against an Eastern Conference playoffs contender.
17- Atlanta Hawks (13 - 14) Last week: 17 -
A win against the Raptors prevented the Hawks from slipping further down the rankings this week. But they might not be similarly lucky next week with three of their next four games played on the road.
18- Washington Wizards (11 - 14) Last week: 19 -
The Wizards have won six of their last 10 games, and four of their last five behind solid play from their starting backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Matches against the Pacers (twice), Bulls and Bucks (twice) this month offer a chance that could make or break their hopes in the East’s playoffs hunt.
19- Portland Trail Blazers (13 - 16) Last week: 18-
The Blazers beat the Thunder on Tuesday after holding Russell Westbrook to 719 shooting, before losing the next two matches against the Nuggets and Warriors, in games in which they allowed their opponents to score 132 and 135 points respectively. And in another blow to their defense, it was announced Saturday that center Festus Ezeli was likely to undergo a season-ending surgery on his injured left knee.
20- Denver Nuggets (11 - 16) Last week: 21 -
Impressive play from Nikola Jokic forced coach Michael Malone to put him back into the starting lineup, which translated into two straight wins for the Nuggets following a disappointing loss to the Mavs on Monday. But the lineup reshuffle has come at the expense of other standout center Jusuf Nurkic, whose minutes dropped considerably in his team’s past two games.
21- Sacramento Kings (10 - 16) Last week: 22 -
DeMarcus Cousins’ off-court issues (including his latest tirade at a columnist following last Monday’s game) is not the only thing that is drawing comparisons between him and Rasheed Wallace. His improved midrange and three-point shot this year combined with his stellar post play is reminiscent of that of the four-time All-Star and one-time NBA Champion.
22- Los Angeles Lakers (11 - 19) Last week: 20 -
In the Lakers’ loss to the Cavs on Saturday, 19-year-old rookie Brandon Ingram nearly become the youngest player ever to record a triple-double, finishing with nine points, nine assists and 10 rebounds.
23- Miami Heat (9 - 18) Last week: 24 -
Hassan Whiteside scored 26 points and grabbed 22 rebounds in 34 minutes in Miami’s win over the Pacers on Wednesday - his second ever game with at least 25 points and 20 rebounds in a game in less than 35 minutes. He joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and DeMarcus Cousins as the only players to have multiple games with at least 25 points and 20 rebounds with fewer than 35 minutes played over the last 50 seasons (per Elias Sports Bureau).
24- Orlando Magic (12 - 16) Last week: 23 -
The Magic averaged 118.4 points over the last five games, which is nearly 18 points over their total average so far this year. On the other hand, they allowed their opponents to score 108 points in average during that span, which is up by eight points compared to their total average.
25- New Orleans Pelicans (9 - 19) Last week: 26 -
What can be worse than being on the receiving end of an NBA-record 24 threepointers in Friday’s loss against the Rockets? Anthony Davis leaving that game with left leg bruise.
26- Phoenix Suns (8 - 19) Last week: 25 -
With only 12 points in Saturday’s loss to the Thunder, Eric Bledsoe failed to record his fourth straight game with at least thirty points, and thus couldn’t remain on pace to break the team’s record of five games in a row last recorded by Charles Barkley in 1993.
27- Minnesota Timberwolves (7 - 19) Last week: 27 -
Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are averaging a combined 43.6 points per game, the best mark by a young duo in the NBA and slightly better than that of the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker.
28- Dallas Mavericks (6 - 20) Last week: 29 -
Deron Williams took the blame for his team’s loss to the Jazz on Friday after shooting with 10 seconds left and the score tied, allowing for Rodney Hood’s game-winner and a heartbreaking loss in his return to Utah. The Mavs should be more worried about their rebounding which remains good for last in the league.
29- Brooklyn Nets (7 - 18) Last week: 28 -
The Nets entered Friday night’s match against the Magic carrying momentum from beating the Lakers two nights earlier and having Jeremy Lin back in the lineup, but couldn’t capitalize on that and lost to the league’s fourth worst offense.
30- Philadelphia 76ers (6 - 20) Last week: 30 -
Friday’s loss to the Lakers provided the first opportunity to see how centers Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor would fair playing together, and the result was in Noel’s minutes being heavily cut. The young prospect responded by voicing his frustration to the media after the game, before meeting with coach Brett Brown Saturday to discuss his lack of playing time. Seemingly the odd man out, it would be surprising to see him remain with the team past the mid-February trade deadline.