NBA Power Rankings: Wade, Heat proving to be battle-tested


NBA Power Rankings: Wade, Heat proving to be battle-tested

When Chris Bosh was forced out of action indefinitely with a blood clot in his left leg before the All-Star break, it felt like deja vu.

Bosh missed 30 games the previous season with a blood clot in his lungs, a serious situation that could have cost him his life. At that time, Miami was 22-30, sitting in the No. 8 spot in the East. After Bosh went down, Miami limped to the finish line without their All-Star, going 15-15 and missing out on the postseason by a single game.

This time around, however, Miami hasn't faltered. Since coming out of the All-Star break the Heat are 8-2 and have moved within one-half game of the Boston Celtics for the No. 3 seed in the East.

Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside and newcomer Joe Johnson all have contributed to the cause, while Goran Dragic is improving and Amare Stoudemire has helped fill some of the void left behind by Bosh inside. It's no surprise they're on the move in this week's power rankings. Here's how the rest of the teams shook out:

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 | Week 17 | Week 18

Rank (LW) Team
Record Comment
1 (1) 55-6 Statistically speaking, Sunday's loss to the Lakers was the biggest upset in NBA history. It just defies logic. Steph, Klay, Draymond and Barnes went 2-for-25 from deep.
(3) 53-9 Have yourself a week, Kawhi Leonard. San Antonio's franchise player averaged 27.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists in three victories. The Spurs are now just two games behind the Warriors for the league's best record.
(5) 44-17 What panic? Cleveland knocks off Indiana, Washington and Boston at home this week, averaging 109.3 points per game in the process. LeBron James averaged 26.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and 6.3 assists after resting in Washington.
4 (4) 41-20 Another impressive week north of the border, as the Raptors keep pace with Cleveland after victories over Utah and Portland. They may not catch the Cavs, but there's no question about who's the East's second best team.
5 (3) 43-20 Brutal week for Kevin Durant and the Thunder. They choke away a victory on the road against the Clippers and then take a fourth-quarter lead against the Warriors...only to lose by 15.
6 (6) 40-21 Thursday's improbable come-from-behind victory over the Thunder, that ended in a 26-5 run, may be a turning point in the season for the Clips. How Blake Griffin acclimates when he returns will be interesting to watch.
7 (8) 37-26 Can't say enough about the job Erik Spoelstra has done, keeping the Heat in contention in the East after Chris Bosh was sidelined again. They're fourth in the East and closing fast on Boston.
8 (7) 38-26 The race for the No. 3 seed (and, thus, avoiding the Cavaliers in a potential second round series) will be exciting between the C's and Heat. Boston won three more at home this week but was blown out Saturday in Cleveland.
9 (10) 35-28 Gutsy win against the Clippers on Saturday night. Between that and their near-victory over the Warriors they're proving that hanging on to Al Horford and Jeff Teague at the trade deadline could pay off in the postseason.
10 (9) 33-31 Damian Lillard's encore after his sensational February? A March that began with averages of 33.3 points on 51 percent shooting and 4.3 triples in three games, including a 50-point outing in a loss to the Raptors.
11 (12) 37-25 Winners in six of eight against albeit weak competition, but their home win against the Jazz was an impressive victory. Zach Randolph went for 25 points and eight rebounds in that one.
12 (13) 33-28 Yet another impressive week for Kemba Walker and the Hornets: A 34-point win over the Suns, a 20-point win over the Sixers and a seven-point win over the Pacers. They're now up to No. 6 in the East.
13 (11) 33-30 The Pacers' next six games are against teams with winning records. They get four of those at home, but they've lost three of their last four in Indiana. We'll learn a lot about Paul George and the Pacers the next two weeks.
14 (14) 33-30 Crazy tough schedule upcoming for the Mavs: Nine of their next 10 come against teams at or above .500. That includes two against the Blazers, sandwiched between two against the Warriors. Gut-check time for Dallas.
15 (15) 31-31 The Pistons may look back on Saturday night's ugly loss to the Knicks as one that got away if they fail to make the playoffs. They fell behind the Bulls for the No. 8 seed with the loss.
16 (16) 31-30 Jimmy Butler wasted no time making an impact in his return to the Bulls' lineup. In a win over the Rockets he went for 24 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out. Maybe the two-time All-Star can save the Bulls' playoff chances.
17 (18) 29-33 Derrick Favors' 28 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks helped snap a five-game losing streak. The fight for the No. 8 seed in the West (and the right to get thumped by the Warriors) rages on. Utah's one game behind Houston.
18 (17) 30-32 Bradley Beal bruised his pelvis on Saturday (and it wasn't pretty). If he's forced to miss any time it may prove lethal to Washington's playoff chances. They're now 1.5 games behind the Bulls.
19 (21) 25-36 A silver lining in their rapidly declining record: They now hold the NBA's ninth worst record, two games worse than Orlando (11th). They'll keep their first round pick so long as it stays inside the top 10.
20 (20) 31-32 In Thursday's win over New Orelans, they went 3-for-34 from beyond the arc, an NBA record for outside shooting futility. A victory in Toronto on the second of a back-to-back was maybe the biggest win of the week.
21 (23) 26-37 Giannis Antetokounmpo is playing the best basketball of his young career. In his last seven games he's averaged 20.3 points, 10.6 rebounds and 8.7 assists, including three triple-doubles.
22 (25) 27-34 The good: Beating the Bulls by 13 at home. The (really) bad: Getting blown out at home by the Suns, who had previously lost 17 straight away from Phoenix. They're four games back of the No. 8 seed.
23 (19) 23-38 They have now lost four straight - three to teams below .500 - and Eric Gordon fractured his ring finger again. This season has been a complete and utter mess.
24 (22) 25-38 Emmanuel Mudiay was a stud in a matchup against fellow rookie point guard D'Angelo Russell, going for 22 points and seven assists in Denver's win over the Lakers. He followed it up with 25 against the Nets.
25 (24) 26-38 It's been tough listening to Carmelo Anthony air his frustrations with constant losing, so it was good to see him and the Knicks earn an impressive victory over the Pistons on Saturday. Melo had 24 and 10 in that one.
26 (26) 20-43 A beautiful sign for the future: In Saturday's win over the Nets Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine combined for 75 points on 33-for-44 shooting. Wiggins is the oldest of the three...at 21 years old.
27 (27) 18-45 Thomas Robinson went for 18 points, 17 rebounds, 5 assists and four steals in Saturday's loss to the Timberwolves. It's just one game, but it'd be fun to see him finish the season strong. He's still just 24.
28 (29) 13-51 D'Angelo Russell's 39-point outing in a win over the Nets was something to behold. He hit eight triples, added six boards and was a game-high +13 in 35 minutes. He's the real deal.
29 (30) 17-46 Silver lining alert: 19-year-old Devin Booker has two games with 32+ points. The only other players to accomplish that? LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant. Good company for the rookie.
30 (28) 8-55 They've now lost 12 straight and have a 3.5-game "lead" on the Lakers for the league's worst record. Incredibly, they've had three 10-game-plus losing streaks this year. Trust the process?

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.

Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.

"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"

Paxson scored 10 of 12 points for the Bulls during a fourth quarter run in Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, the series clincher, and famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch that series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.

"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"

Watch the video above to see the interaction.

Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?


Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

John Calipari's 2017 recruiting class featured five McDonald's All-Americans and Hamidou Diallo, a former five-star recruit who nearly jumped to the NBA the previous year. It also included a lanky 6-foot-6 point guard named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And for the first part of the 2017-18 season, the Toronto native who played his final two high school years in Tennessee, appeared to be a nice fit off the bench for Calipari.

But something flipped. Gilgeous-Alexander was inserted into the starting lineup for good on January 9 and never looked back. He played his best basketball beginning in late February to the end of the season, a span of 10 games against eight NCAA Tournament opponents. In those games Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from deep and 84 percent from the free throw line, and added 1.4 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game for good measure. He was one of the best players in the country, and on a team with five McDonald's All-Americans, he was Calipari's best freshman.

"I knew with how hard I worked that anything was possible," SGA said at last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "It was just a matter of time before it started clicking and I started to get it rolling."

That stretch included a 17-point, 10-assist double-double against Ole Miss, a 29-point showing against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and 27 more points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Buffalo. Even in his worst game of the stretch, a 15-point effort against Kansas State in the Tournament, he made up for 2 of 10 shooting by getting to the free throw line 12, converting 11 of them.

It made his decision to make the jump to the NBA an easy one - that, and another loaded Calipari recruiting class incoming. He stands taller than just about any other point guard in the class and might have as good a jump shot as any. He's adept at getting to the rim, averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game (that number jumped to 5.6 after he became a starter, and 7.5 in those final 10 games of the season. He isn't the quickest guard in the class, but he uses his feet well, is able to find open shooters due to his height and improved on making mistakes on drive-and-kicks as the season went on.

"I think I translate really well to the next level with there being so much more space on the floor and the open court stretched out," he said. "It only benefits me and my ability to get in the lane and make plays."

There's something to be said for him being the next in line of the Calipari point guards. The ever-growing list includes players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray and DeAaron Fox. It's the NBA's version of Penn State linebackers or Alabama defensive linemen. The success rate is nearly 100 percent when it comes to Calipari's freshmen point guards; even Brandon Knight averaged 18.1 points over a three-year span in the NBA.

"That’s why guys go to Kentucky," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It prepares them for the next level. Coach (Calipari) does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time."

Gilgeous-Alexander didn't test or play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, but he still came out of Chicago a winner. He measured 6-foot-6 in shoes with a ridiculous 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, a full three inches longer than any other point guard at the Combine. He also added, rather uniquely, that he watches of film Kawhi Leonard playing defense. Most players don't mention watching film on different-position players; most players aren't 6-foot-6 point guards.

"(It's) obviously a more versatile league and playing small ball. And with me being able to guard multiple positions, a lot of teams are switching things like the pick and roll off ball screens, so me being able to switch and guard multiple positions can help an organization."

Gilgeous-Alexander's arrow is pointing way up. He appears to be teetering near Lottery pick status, though that could go one way or the other in private team workouts, especially if he's pitted against fellow top point guards like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. But if his rise at Kentucky is any indication, he'll only continue to improve his game, his stock and eventually his draft position.