NBA Power Rankings: Draymond Green pacing the Warriors


NBA Power Rankings: Draymond Green pacing the Warriors

The Warriors never really were in serious doubt with Stephen Curry out of the lineup.

Though the reigning MVP missed two games the talk was more of how it may jeopardize the team's chase for 73 wins than anything.

But Curry's time off also paved the way for Draymond Green to take his game to another level. The Michigan State product continues to improve after finishing runner-up to Jimmy Butler for Most Improved Player a season ago, and he was at his best this week.

In four Warriors wins this week Green averaged 14.5 points, 12.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists. He added two more triple-doubles to his league-leading tally of eight. Though the Warriors are playing a brand of basketball and having success unlike any the NBA has ever seen, Green's individual play may be the most impressive of any on the team, Steph Curry included.

Consider his current averages of 15.0 points, 9.6 rebounds and 7.4 assists. Since 1946, only seven players have maintained those averages (or better) over the course of an entire season, and it's been done 12 times by those players. Five are in the Basketball Hall of Fame: Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, John Havlicek, Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson.

Taking it a step further, only two other players since 1974 (when blocks and steals were first officially recorded) have averaged at least seven assists, a block and a steal per game. LeBron James did it three times and Dwyane Wade did it twice. Green is currently averaging 1.3 steals and 1.4 blocks.

He's got a ways to go to finish the season with those numbers and join those players in such an exclusive club, but it's still worth noting that Green has been an absolute monster for the Warriors, ranked again atop this list.

On to the rankings:

Previous power rankings: Preseason | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10

Rank (LW) Team
Record Comment
1 (1) (35-2) Draymond Green has four triple-doubles in his last six games. That's more than Russell Westbrook has all year (three in 37 games). He'll get serious MVP consideration.
(2) (32-6) Six opponents have topped 100 points against the Spurs. Their defensive rating is 4.3 points better than No. 2 Boston. Oh, and they have the league's third most efficient offense.
(4) (26-9) The Cavaliers are 9-2 since Kyrie Irving returned to the lineup. But now the big tests come. Their next four games: at DAL, at SAS, at HOU, vs. GS. Buckle up.
4 (5) (25-13) Blake who? They've won nine straight (eight without Blake Griffin) and get the next three at home before a difficult road trip to finish January.
5 (3) (26-12) Sunday night's collapse in Portland notwithstanding, the Thunder are rolling. They're tops in offensive efficiency since Christmas Day.
6 (6) (23-15) Al Horford was a one-man wrecking crew in a 15-point win over the Bulls on Saturday. He went for 33 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and four blocks in 36 minutes.
7 (8) (22-13) Jimmy Butler is averaging 28.6 points in his last six games while playing 39 minutes a night. He's making a strong case to start the All-Star Game.
8 (9) (24-15) Rolled past Philly and Brooklyn and in between earned a tough victory over John Wall and the Wizards. They've responded after debacles against the Bulls and Cavs.
9 (7) (22-15) They scored 90 and 83 points, respectively, in losses to New York and Utah last week. Not a good time to go cold heading to Golden State on Monday.
10 (13) (21-16) The roller coaster continues. After losing four of five, Stan Van Gundy's group reels off three straight wins, including a nice road victory in Boston.
11 (11) (22-16) Looking at the Mavs' roster and realizing they're 8th in offensive efficiency is really a credit to the job Rick Carlisle has done this year. They've won 7 of 10.
12 (18) (19-19) Trevor Ariza is finally heating up for the now-.500 Rockets. Since Christmas Day he's 20-for-43 from beyond the arc. He dropped 24 in an overtime win over the Pacers.
13 (10) (21-16) Paul George took just two of Indiana's shots in overtime against the Rockets (a loss). Tough to swallow after they led by 13 in the fourth quarter.
14 (17) (21-18) Mario Chalmers, starting in place of Mike Conley, hit two clutch 3-pointers down the stretch to finish a comeback win over the Celtics on Sunday.
15 (19) (19-20) A one-point loss to San Antonio was all that stood between the Knicks and a perfect week. Still, the wins came over Atlanta, Miami and Milwaukee. They're on the rise.
16 (12) (19-18) They seemed to be back on track, up 21 in the third (and nine in the fourth) against the Grizzlies on Sunday. They lost by three, giving them L's in five of six.
17 (15) (16-19) John Wall has taken his game to another level. In Bradley Beal's absence. He's averaged 20.9 points and 9.9 assists in his last eight games.
18 (14) (20-18) They've lost five of six and haven't beaten a team with a current winning record since Nov. 29 (Boston). Tough to figure out the Magic at this point.
19 (24) (15-22) DeMarcus Cousins has averaged 32.4 points and 13.0 rebounds in his last five, and the Kings are looking better each time out.
20 (22) (16-20) Getting Rudy Gobert back is huge, but Derrick Favors has now missed 10 straight games with back spasms. Utah's win over Miami was an impressive one.
21 (23) (16-24) Damian Lillard's theatrics in the fourth quarter Sunday to beat the Thunder were something else. Five of his eight triples came in the final 3 minutes.
22 (20) (15-24) Though Giannis Antetokounmpo still has his deficiencies, he's one of four players averaging 2.0+ assists, 1+ steal and 1+ block (Green, Millsap, Cousins). Good company.
23 (16) (17-20) Yes, the team once ranked in the top-5 of these power rankings now owns the longest current losing streak in the NBA (seven games). Not good at all.
24 (21) (11-25) Positive signs continue to flash at times, but the reality is they've still got the fifth worst net rating in the NBA. Going to be tough to make up ground in the West.
25 (27) (14-24) Emmanuel Mudiay returns and the Nuggets pick up a win over the Hornets. If nothing else, it's good to see the rook back from that nagging ankle injury.
26 (25) (12-26) They've lost 10 of 11 and haven't reached 100 points in any of those games. That's tough to do. Tougher to do? Giving up 109 to the Sixers in a loss.
27 (29) (13-26) They mercifully stopped a nine-game losing streak against the flailing Hornets after that rock-bottom loss to the Lakers.
28 (26) (10-27) GM Billy King has been reassigned and Lionel Hollins is out as head coacht. Good luck replacing either with the team stuck in purgatory the next few seasons.
29 (28) (8-30) There won't be many non-Kobe memories from this Lakers season, but Lou Williams' 44-point explosion against the Thunder will be one of them.
30 (30) (4-36) They've got a five-game cushion in the Ben Simmons Sweepstakes after double-digit losses to East powers Toronto, Atlanta and Cleveland.

Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury


Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury

The NBA may have lost another top superstar due to injury.

On Friday, Jimmy Butler appeared to have suffered a non-contact injury to his right knee. He left the game against the Houston Rockets unable to put any pressure on his right leg and needed assistance getting back to the locker room. 

Here's a video of the incident:

Coach Tom Thibodeau said that Butler will have an MRI when the team returns to Minnesota on Saturday.

Butler drew a lot of headlines last weekend after not playing in the NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

Entering Friday, Butler led the league with 37.3 minutes played per game.

The Bulls also take on the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Saturday night.

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

The final 25 games was supposed to be all about the development of the Bulls’ recent acquisitions and securing a record worthy of one of the last three envelopes at the NBA Draft Lottery.

Only Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn seemed to matter, with Cameron Payne and Cristiano Felicio being the perfect window dressing for development as opposed to just saying a team is tanking.

But Bobby Portis is making a case that he isn’t to be forgotten in the big picture, that his worth is more than just being a punchline to the jokes that followed his incident with Nikola Mirotic.

The only thing Portis didn’t do right in the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was missing a point blank shot that would’ve given the Bulls an improbable and unwanted win, and it would’ve given him 40 points.

Instead he had to settle for a career-high 38 as Joel Embiid was bearing down on Portis when he caught a diagonal pass from Dunn with 1.1 seconds left, having the shorter T.J. McConnell on him and taking a power dribble to gather himself.

“If I could go back I would’ve just went up the first time off the glass like I always do,” Portis said. “We just have to try to close out games better.”

Embiid showed he’s worth all the trouble with his health problems, scoring 30 with 13 rebounds and five rebounds while Ben Simmons put up 32 with 11 assists and seven rebounds as the 76ers improved to 31-25, good enough for seventh place in the East.

In a game that featured remarkable resolve from a purposely undermanned Bulls team as they sat Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, they put themselves in position to win after trailing by 18 early. After leading by five courtesy of a LaVine walk-down triple with 1:02 left, they made a couple critical errors that allowed the 76ers to steal a game the Bulls won’t mind them taking at the end of 82.

Denzel Valentine’s inbounds pass with 5.9 seconds left was intended for LaVine, but Embiid stepped in front for a steal as they were in position to make it a free-throw game the rest of the way.

Similar to the Bulls’ unlikely win over the Orlando Magic before the All-Star break, they returned the favor as 76ers rookie Ben Simmons made free throws after the steal to give the visitors a one-point lead, setting the stage for the final play.

If learning lessons is what the last 100 quarters of basketball is supposed to be about, the Bulls got a big-time lesson in a game that ultimately means nothing.

“These are learning opportunities for our team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I couldn’t be happier, the way we went out and competed. We dug ourselves an 18-point hold and (fought) our way back—have complete control of the game.”

Control was wrestled from the 76ers by Portis’ able and quick hands. Taking more of a scoring posture since Mirotic’s departure, Portis has never been shy about being aggressive.

But now he’s being encouraged in that department, playing a big part in the Bulls’ tying their franchise record of 18 triples with six of his own, scoring 21 in the first half and not backing down one step from the massive Embiid.

“I kind of struggled from (three) in the last six, seven games,” said Portis, who didn’t take much time off during the All-Star break. “I think I’ve shown this entire year, trying to stay consistent and be a spark off the bench.”

Counting the last two games before the break, Portis has been on the best scoring binge of his career—cementing his place in the league when just a few months ago, many were questioning if the Bulls should’ve actually picked up his player option following the Mirotic incident.

His 25.0 points in the last three, along with scoring in double figures for seven straight games are career-bests. With every flex, every energetic plea to the crowd and resourceful score underneath the rim, Portis is becoming a player the Bulls can’t afford to plan without.

The stage was set for a Portis breakout shortly after the incident, when he was serving his suspension to start the season. When the Bulls traveled to Miami and Orlando, he flew on his own to Orlando for dinner with his mentor, former NBA veteran and Magic assistant coach Corliss Williamson.

Williamson, a player who was not to be trifled with during his career, told Portis essentially, “this too shall pass”.

“Just play your game,” Williamson told NBCSportsChicago.com recently. “Don’t put any pressure on yourself about what’s gonna happen after this year. What’s got him here is hard work, how hard he plays in the game. He continues to do that, he’ll be successful.”

Portis recalled the dinner where he was finally able to confide and unleash after weeks of frustration. Calling Williamson a father figure dating back to their Arkansas roots, where Portis played on Williamson’s AAU teams in middle school, Portis put his trust in him and came back reinvigorated.

“We talked for hours about the whole situation,” Portis told NBCSportsChicago.com “He told me when I come back to come 10 times harder. When people play this game and play the right way, they forget about the other stuff. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Scoring 38 tends to remake a narrative.

“Bobby just continues to improve,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a confident kid that goes out and plays with a ton of swagger and toughness. You need that, to go out and play with that type of effort. He’s tenacious on the glass. He’s getting the crowd into the game.”

When speaking of Portis, Hoiberg’s face went from flush to beaming, knowing how far Portis has come in his three years—being a player who wouldn’t take 3-pointers with confidence to now unleashing them whenever a defender’s feet shows the slightest hint of leaning back.

No hesitation.

“Regardless if I’m making shots, I try to leave it all out on the floor,” Portis said. “It felt good making shots, being able to help the team. I wanted the win tonight.”

Portis helped make up for the Bulls not getting their usual production from Dunn, who struggled guarding the bigger Simmons and Lauri Markkanen, who missed all five of his 3-pointers and made just one field goal in 32 minutes.

“You can put he and Lauri together,” Hoiberg said. “It gives you two guys that can stretch the floor and space it, two guys that can rebound, two that can put it on the floor. It’s exciting to think about when Kris gets his rhythm back.”

And now, Williamson’s words have proven to be prophetic for his pupil, because if the Bulls aren’t seeing Portis as a key part of their future, there’s about 25 other teams who’ll be lining up for his services this summer.

“I told him don’t even worry about it,” Williamson said. “Let your game speak for itself. People who really know you, know what type of person you are. You start producing people will forget about it and love you for what you do on the court.”

His game is talking, even if the Bulls’ loss was one they’d rather have taken in silence.