NBA Power Rankings: Damian Lillard, Blazers continue to roll


NBA Power Rankings: Damian Lillard, Blazers continue to roll

Apparently Damian Lillard isn't too happy about being snubbed for the All-Star Game a second consecutive year.

The Blazers' star point guard - and, yes, he is a star - came out of last week's break on a tear, dropping 51 points on Steph Curry and the defending champs. The Blazers won by 32, handing the Warriors their worst loss of the last two seasons.

Lillard's follow-up act? 30 points in a crucial victory over the Utah Jazz on Sunday.

The Blazers have now won 14 of 17 games and sit seventh in the Western Conference. Barring something wild he won't win the award, but Terry Stotts deserves some consideration for Coach of the Year.

As expected, the Blazers are on their way up in this week's power 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 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15 | Week 16

Rank (LW) Team
Record Comment
1 (1) (49-5) Anderson Varejao signing with the Warriors could be a big boost for a team that doesn't really need anything but could use another big body inside while Festus Ezeli is sidelined.
(4) (40-14) A statement win in Oklahoma City for LeBron and co. With Kyrie Irving battling the flu, LeBron went for 25/7/11 while Kevin Love added 29 points and 11 boards. Cavs beginning to roll.
(3) (47-9) Blown out against the Clippers without Kawhi Leonard, but Spurs fans breathe a sigh of relief after Leonard's MRI on a sore calf comes back clean. They're still just three back of the Warriors.
4 (2) (40-16) The Thunder are 11th in defensive efficiency this season, but just 18th the last three weeks. Their juggernaut offense won't matter if they're giving up 100+ a night, which they've done in five of their last six.
5 (5) (36-18) A pair of ugly road losses as favorites to the Timberwolves and Bulls, but they rebounded nicely with a home win over the Grizzlies. They may not catch Cleveland, but they look like the East's second best squad.
6 (7) (36-19) It was fun to watch the Clips try and go big on the Warriors (DeAndre Jordan logged 37 minutes). And it sort of worked. Whether they can go that big when Blake Griffin returns, however, is another story.
7 (6) (33-24) The toughest team to figure out in the top 10, Boston appears to have all the pieces to contend in the East 
8 (10) (31-24) Hassan Whiteside is an absolute monster. After serving his suspension Friday in Miami's win over Atlanta, he went for 25 points and 23 rebounds in a 20-point win over Washington.
9 (12) (30-25) Hours after Kevin Durant proclaimed Paul George would one day be a Hall-of-Famer, George scored 22 points and handed out 10 assists in a road win over the Thunder. KD may be on to something.
10 (8) (32-23) They dealt Courtney Lee and Jeff Green in the wake of Marc Gasol's broken foot. They're still in the playoff race (currently No. 5) but that could change in the coming weeks. Dave Joerger has his work cut out for him.
11 (13) (29-27) Damian Lillard simply can't be stopped. Since his All-Star snub he's averaged 27.8 points and 8.1 assists in nine games. Oh, and the Blazers have won 14 of 17. Remarkable. He deserves MVP consideration.
12 (14) (29-26) Kemba Walker continued his All-Star-caliber season this past week, and he's averaged 26.2 points, 4.6 assists and 2.0 steals during the Hornets' five-game win streak. They're up to No. 7 in the East.
13 (11) (27-28) They follow up a seven-game win streak by losing three of four, though that one win was an important one over the Celtics. Their schedule gets very tough down the stretch, so they can't afford many slip-ups.
14 (9) (31-26) It's just impossible trying to figure this team out. What is clear is their struggles are very real after dropping three straight at home, including giving up 117 points to the Bucks on Sunday.
15 (18) (29-26) A big home win over the Raptors stopped the bleeding after losing 13 of 18 games. If they can just hang on until Jimmy Butler returns in a few weeks they should be OK for a playoff spot. But Detroit and Washington won't go away easy.
16 (15) (30-27) It's good to see David Lee latch on with the Mavs after he was cut by the Celtics. Whether he really gets a chance to play is another question, but he's a good locker room guy who should help Dallas' playoff push.
17 (19) (25-29) Picking up Markieff Morris could help them make a late push for the final playoff spot in the East, but they need to start winning at home; they're the only top 10 team in the East standings with a losing home record (13-16).
18 (20) (22-33) If you haven't gone and watched highlights of Anthony Davis' 59-point, 20-rebound game Sunday against the Pistons, go do so. In this writer's opinion, Brow is the game's best center.
19 (16) (28-28) Could be the most important week of the year for them, playing at Utah and Portland and then home against the Spurs. Houston, No. 8 in the West, is one game behind Portland and half-a-game up on Utah.
20 (17) (27-29) Ouch. Five straight losses, including three to sub-.500 teams, have them now 2.5 games behind the Bulls for the final playoff spot in the East. Tobias Harris needs to acclimate quick before it's too late.
21 (21) (23-31) It would have been interesting to see them go for it in trading for Pau Gasol, but the right move was to keep your young assets (McLemore, Casspi) and hold out hope that they retain their first round pick (top 10 protected).
22 (23) (23-33) There you go, Jabari Parker. The sophomore has averaged 22.7 points on 55 percent shooting and 11 rebounds in his last three games. Would be great to see him turn a corner in this, a lost season for the Bucks.
23 (22) (22-34) Safe to assume Blake Griffin was never really on the table in trade talks with the Nuggets. But that would have been something else to watch Denver build around Griffin.
24 (25) (24-30) Brandon Jennings has been great in Orlando thus far, totaling 30 points and 11 assists in two games with the Magic. And it's all sorts of awesome that he decided to wear No. 55, an homage to his double-nickel game.
25 (24) (17-39) It'd be nice to see Zach LaVine show some consistency off the ball in these final two months. He's scored in double figures in 11 straight games, averaging 17.6 points per game in that span.
26 (26) (24-33) Jimmer Fredette inked a 10-day contract with the Knicks, and while it won't mean much for their prospects this season, between Jimmer and Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks won't be lacking in excitement.
27 (27) (8-47) Trade rumors and porous defense aside, Jahlil Okafor's monster 31-point, eight-rebound effort was a reminder of just how dominant the 20-year-old can be and will be down the line.
28 (28) (15-41) Interesting decision not to deal one or both of Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez at the trade deadline. But with Sean Marks in as general manager, things are moving in the right direction (albeit very slowly).
29 (29) (11-46) Just read CSN's Kobe coverage on his final game Chicago. And why it was such a special night for his longtime friend and former teammate Pau Gasol.
30 (30) (14-42) Fourteen straight losses is almost unfathomable for a team picked by many to contend for a playoff spot this year. At least they did the right thing and dealt Markieff Morris at the trade deadline. It's a start.

Hoiberg, Bulls already facing touch decisions on Opening Night

Hoiberg, Bulls already facing touch decisions on Opening Night

The Bulls’ starting point guard missing the team’s season opener is less than ideal, but that is the dilemma Fred Hoiberg and company are faced with.
Hoiberg made the announcement during shoot around that Kris Dunn would miss the first game of his third NBA season for personal reasons, but noted that his absence is “excused.” 
The Bulls will turn to Cameron Payne as they get set to play the Sixers in Philadelphia Thursday night. The 24-year-old guard out of Murray State will be tasked with running the offense against one of the better defensive teams in the league.
Because of injuries and the numbers game at guard, Payne hasn’t had a chance to show Bulls fans much since he came over from Oklahoma City in a trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.
“I feel like I can be way better,” Payne said when asked about the opportunity to show what he can do. “I know I didn’t make a lot of shots but it’s really not about that. It’s about getting my team involved and make sure everyone gets the ball in their spots to contribute.”
Payne showed flashes over the last 22 games of the 2017-18 season (14 starts), shooting 42 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists per game in that stretch. The shooting stroke didn’t show up early in the preseason for Payne. 
He was better in the team’s final exhibition against Denver and has shown enough to Hoiberg to earn the starting nod. He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight.
“Obviously we’ve been working on different coverages based on having a full roster, but things like this happen,” Hoiberg said when asked what this does to his game prep. “It’s going to be electric in here. They’re going to come out and play extremely hard and extremely physical. That’s who they are and we have to be ready for that. It’s a little bit of shock and awe with (the Sixers). You have to weather that first storm and hopefully give ourselves a chance with great effort.”
After Payne, the Bulls will have Ryan Arcidiacono as the first point guard off the bench. They’ll also have the services of newcomer Tyler Ulis, who will be in uniform tonight. Hoiberg mentioned that he feels comfortable with Zach Lavine bringing the ball up as well. He also mentioned that Jabari Parker will have his hands on the ball an awful lot with the team’s second unit.
The season hasn’t even started yet and the Bulls are already missing several key players. After an impressive rookie season, Lauri Markkanen will start the season on the shelf with a high grade lateral elbow sprain. Denzel Valentine will also miss tonight’s game with an ankle injury. The team may have Cristiano Felicio, also dealing with an ankle injury, depending on his pregame workout goes.
“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “It happens at this level. You just have to go out and do the best job you can. It’s an opportunity for our guys to step up with two of our better players out of the lineup – really three with Denzel as a guy that can make plays in that second unit.”   

Bulls will open against Sixers without Kris Dunn


Bulls will open against Sixers without Kris Dunn

The Bulls faced a steep test opening their 2018-19 campaign against the Philadelphia 76ers.

That task won't become any easier with Kris Dunn missing the game for personal reasons, head coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters at shootaround on Thursday.

Dunn's exlusion opens up an opportunity for Cameron Payne, who will enter the starting lineup. Payne started 14 games for the Bulls last season, averaging 9.4 points and 5.6 assists in 26.5 minutes.

It also moves up Ryan Arcidiacono and Tyler Ulis, both of whom will be active, in the rotation. Expect both to see at least some playing time, especially with Denzel Valentine also out while recovering from a sprained ankle suffered in training camp.

It could mean an even bigger evening for Sixers point guard Ben Simmons. The reigning Rookie of the Year posted 19 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists in Philly's season-opening loss to the Celtics on Tuesday.