NBA Power Rankings: Warriors on fire, but Rockets even hotter
From 30 to 1
Monte Poole stacks up all 30 teams...
30) Hawks (6-23)
You’re the worst, deservedly so, but we love your fight and we’re delighted to see you playing with good intentions. Your pride shows. Keep shooting. The draft lottery is only five months away.
29) Hornets (10-19)
Three straight losses, six of the last seven. Get well soon, Cliffy. If you didn’t know how much your presence means to this team, you know it now. Hey, has anyone seen Malik Monk?
28) Mavericks (8-22)
Your misfit jigsaw puzzle of a roster is made worse by a heap of injuries. Grumpy Rick somehow has you boys pushing and even beating legitimate teams. Hats off to the coach.
27) Grizzlies (9-21)
You were reeling before your owner whacked Coach Fiz, and now you’re curled up in the fetal position. We hate to say it, but we saw this coming. You’re 2-9 in the aftermath and here come the Warriors.
26) Bulls (8-20)
Niko returns, makes peace with Bobby and you guys go on a five-game win streak. You’re the only team in NBA history to accomplish that following a 10-game loss streak. Congrats, for this shall not last. And, hey, one love.
25) Suns (10-21)
You stunned us by winning at Minny. We wish we could say it’s a springboard. We know better, and so do you. Keep those fingers crossed, though, and maybe D-Book will be back before New Year’s Day.
24) Magic (11-20)
After such a promising start, you’ve turned into a pile of wet cardboard. The five-game loss streak is bad, but what’s worse is one was to the Hawks. The fun in your run-and-gun is done.
23) Kings (9-20)
Last in defensive rating, next-to-last in true-shooting percentage. How on earth have you won nine games! You’re last in 3-point attempts but fourth in 3-point shooting percentage. Can you see what we see?
22) Lakers (10-17)
Have a night, Kobe. You were the most loved/hated player of your era. You wanted to be like Mike. A generation of kids wanted to be like you. Raise those jerseys to rafters while awaiting the call from the Hall.
21) Nets (11-18)
You play fast and steal games mostly with pluck, as symbolized by Mr. Dinwiddie. If you fix the D just a bit and improve upon that 44/34- percent shooting, you would find your way to playoffs. Seriously.
20) Clippers (11-17)
P-Bev is done for the year. Blake is rehabbing. Gallo is hurting. You’re going nowhere, fellas, and trade season is in session. Is it time to move DJ?
19) Heat (15-14)
No team outworks you and no team is better than you at beating bad opponents. That’s a tribune to Spo, who is never outcoached. Congrats, coach, on passing the legend Pat Riley to become the franchise leader in wins.
18) 76ers (14-14)
We ached while watching The Process toil for 49 minutes in that triple-OT loss to OKC. That game, though, was also part of a process. You’re learning what it takes to win, and sometimes it hurts. Ask JJ.
The injury bug wants the knees of the Stifle Tower. He misses three weeks with a sore right knee, returns for five games, and now will miss another month with a bone bruise in his left knee. Hang in there, fellas.
16) Pelicans (15-15)
You look fine in spurts, but never too long before an injury or a ugly loss or, well, something. You are where momentum goes to die. That’s the Curse of Boogie. Is The Brow great enough to overcome that?
15) Nuggets (16-13)
It’s encouraging to see you go 7-6 since losing Mr. Millsap. We feared a steep drop. Welcome back, Joker, even if your minutes are being restricted. Oh, and we love you Will Barton.
14) Pacers (17-13)
We see you, Vic, playing both ends at All-Star level and building a nice lead in the Most Improved race. You’re leading the only team to beat Cavs (twice) and the Raptors. Here come the Celtics. Show us what you got.
13) Knicks (16-13)
Classy move with the tribute video for Melo’s return. Then you unleashed the hounds, minus KP6. Please tell us his cranky left knee is not cause for great concern. His presence makes you worth watching.
12) Thunder (14-15)
Caught Melo’s return to the Big Apple and was not impressed. His lunch was snatched by Michael Freakin’ Beasley. And, you know, it explains a lot that your Big 3 is combining to shoot 40 percent.
11) Trail Blazers (16-13)
So, let’s see. You drop four straight at home and then go on the road to win three of the next four. Considering your tepid forwards and the fact that Nurk has so often been MIA, it’s like you’re weirdly overachieving.
10) Bucks (15-13)
Giannis continues to soar off the chart. And just when it appeared you’re ready to rock, winning 11 of 15 after getting E-Bled, you lose three rotation players in Snell, Teletovic and Delly. Nothing comes easy.
9) Wizards (16-14)
Welcome back, J-Wall. It’s going to take a few games to find your touch, but it’s Go Time when you do. That is, assuming Young Otto’s hip injury doesn’t linger beyond a couple games.
8) Pistons (17-13)
Some nights, you’re a force. Other nights, you’re a farce. Which explain how you follow a seven-game loss streak with a three-game win streak. We’re cool with Big Drum, but we’re losing patience with Stanley.
7) Timberwolves (17-13)
Nice offense, but no team asks of its power trio what you ask of Jimmy, Wiggs and KAT; they’re all top-15 in minutes played. Naturally. Thibs is the coach. Hmm, think this is a factor in ranking 25th in defensive rating?
6) Raptors (20-8)
You’ve never won more than 56 games, and here you are on pace to hit 58. Being in the East, you might pull if off. For now, enjoy the snow, the splendid backcourt and the surprising effectiveness of your big men.
5) Spurs (20-10)
We see you LaMarcus. Welcome back Kawhi, even if you and Tony P are on maintenance programs. Pop’s genius is doing a fine job of hiding the gray about this team’s temples, which explains why it is 5-7 in back-to-back sets.
4) Celtics (25-7)
The D, so wonderful in the first month, has fallen off lately. What’s the deal? It may be related to the fact no team has played as many games as you. Or being in a stretch of five games in seven nights. Great D demands energy.
3) Cavaliers (23-8)
He’s almost 33, with more mileage than anyone in the league not named Dirk. And he’s grabbing this team by its hand and dragging it back toward the top of the Eastern Conference. Bravo, LeBron.
2) Warriors (23-6)
No Steph. No Draymond. No Zaza. Partial Swagy. And you’re on an eight-game win streak. That’s the power of KD and Klay and a supporting cast led by a spectacular rookie. Can you keep it together until the cavalry arrives?
1) Rockets (24-4)
You’ve won 13 in a row. CP3 is undefeated at 14-0. How? You’re shooting 3s like layups and starting to feel invincible. No sign so far that The Beard’s balky knee is going to slow his sprint toward the MVP.