Blakely's NBA Power Rankings: Warriors take over
Blakely's NBA Power Rankings
By A. Sherrod Blakely
BOSTON — Injuries have certainly impacted the NBA standings of late in both a positive and not so positive way.
You have the Oklahoma City Thunder who are looking more like a title contender with Russell Westbrook (hand) and Kevin Durant (foot) back in the fold.
And at the opposite end of the injury spectrum you have the Toronto Raptors who will be without the services of DeMar DeRozan (groin) - their top scorer and lone all-star on the roster - who is out indefinitely.
It all adds up to a decent amount of movement in this week's power rankings.
BACK OF THE PACK
30. Philadelphia (Record: 0-17: Last week 30) - I guess it took 14 straight losses before they decided it was time to compete, with their last three losses by an average of 8.3 points per game.
29. Detroit (Record: 3-14. Last week 27) - The Andre Drummond-Greg Monroe tandem starting didn't work for Stan Van Gundy's predecessors. Guess what? It still doesn't work.
28. Charlotte (Record: 4-14. Last week 24) - Hard to say which was the bigger screw-up: not re-signing Josh McRoberts or signing Lance Stephenson.
27. New York Knicks (Record: 4-14. Last week 25) - How often do you think Melo plays the "what if I went to Chicago..." game in his head?
26. Los Angeles Lakers (Record: 4-13. Last week 29) - Kobe Bryant's gunning for his third league scoring title and first since 2007.
25. Minnesota (Record: 4-11. Last week 26) - The more you watch Andrew Wiggins, the clearer it becomes he has the potential to be a special player defensively.
TRAILING THE PACK
24. Boston (Record: 4-10. Last week 22) - December schedule more manageable, but Celtics' fourth quarter execution has to improve.
23. Utah (Record: 5-13. Last week 23) - Lots of time left in the season, but another trip to the lottery appears in the waiting for the Jazz.
22. Indiana (Record: 7-10. Last week 18) - With road games out West three of the next four days, look for the Pacers struggles to continue.
21. Orlando (Record: 7-12. Last week 21) - Ranked 10th in fewest points allowed in the fourth quarter, a big reason why they are 4-2 in games decided by five points or less.
20. Oklahoma City (Record: 5-12. Last week 28) - You get Russell Westbrook back, you win a couple games! Bam! You rise quickly in the standings. It's that simple.
19. Brooklyn (Record: 6-9. Last week 20) - The Nets will try to make up ground with four of the next six games at the Barclays Center.
MIDDLE OF THE PACK
18. New Orleans (Record: 7-8. Last week 15) - Losses in four of their last five games, it'll be interesting to see whether Monty Williams can get his talented crew back in the playoff hunt.
17. Cleveland (Record: 8-7. Last week 17) - The three-game winning streak is nice, but even more impressive has been the Cavs holding three consecutive opponents to less than 100 points - a first for them this season.
16. Sacramento (Record: 9-8. Last week 13) - Next three games at home against Eastern Conference teams. Yup, look for the Kings to move up a couple spots next week.
15. Miami (Record: 9-8. Last week 9) - From third-wheel to go-to guy, Chris Bosh is reminding us all that he's one of the game's top forwards in this post-LeBron era in South Beach.
14. Denver (Record: 9-8. Last week 19) - If the league ever decided to give out a comeback coach of the month award, Brian Shaw would have been a winner in November.
13. Milwaukee (Record: 10-8. Last week 16) - Brandon Knight should be on everyone's short list for most improved player, averaging career highs in scoring (17 point) and assists (5.9).
RUNNING WITH THE PACK
12. Atlanta (Record: 9-6. Last week 14) - Hawks transition defense has been strong, evident by them giving up a league-low 9.1 fast-break points per game.
11. Phoenix (Record: 10-8. Last week 11) - They don't score, they don't win. Suns are 2-5 this season in games in which they score less than 100 points.
10. Dallas (Record: 13-5. Last week 10) - What a division. They've won three straight and nine of their last 11, and yet the Mavs are currently fourth in a stacked Southwest division.
9. Los Angeles Clippers (Record: 11-5. Last week 12) - Blake Griffin coming off an MVP-esque week in leading the Clippers to four wins - all on the road - while averaging 23.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and five assists.
8. Houston (Record: 13-4. Last week 6) - Dwight Howard may anchor the Rocket's defense, but in his absence they showed they can get it done at the end of the floor with or without him.
7. Washington (Record: 11-5. Last week 7) - The Wizards' signing of Paul Pierce was a genius move this past summer that continues to pay off for Washington.
LEADERS OF THE PACK
6. Chicago (Record: 11-6. Last week 5) - Tough team to prepare for, having shown the ability to win with its defense (97-95 over Utah) or offense (109-102 over Boston).
5. Toronto (Record: 13-4. Last week 2) - DeMar DeRozan's injury (torn tendon, left groin) will keep them on the fringe of being elite until his return.
4. Portland (13-4. Last week 3) - Can't underestimate the value of Robin Lopez who, as the fifth option offensively, is averaging 11.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.
3. San Antonio (Record: 13-4. Last week 8) - Timmy's getting his rest, the bench gets lots of quality minutes and San Antonio continues to roll along. #sameoldsameold
2. Memphis (Record: 15-2. Last week 1) - The Grizzlies are showing no signs of leaving the ranks of the elite anytime soon.
1. Golden State (Record: 14-2. Last week 4) - The Warriors are proof that you can play with a high pace, defend and win a lot of games.