The Cavaliers are back on top of the rankings after Golden State’s meltdown against Memphis, but I was incredibly close to moving the Rockets all the way up to No. 1. The Bulls, Pacers, Clippers, Lakers and Hawks made the biggest jumps this week, while the Thunder, Pelicans, Nuggets and Heat took a sizable hit. For NBA news, stats and fantasy advice, click here to follow me on Twitter!
1.) Cavaliers (28-8) Previous rank: 2
The Cavaliers finished 3-1 in Week 11 with three wins over the Pelicans, Nets and Suns with one loss to the Bulls. The Cavaliers were missing Kevin Love in the loss to the Bulls because he ate some bad sea bass and Kyrie Irving (hamstring) also missed that one, so I’ll give them a pass. The Cavs are now healthy again with the exception of J.R. Smith (thumb), but the big story of the week is that they traded Mike Dunleavy and a 2019 first-round pick for one of the best pure 3-point shooters in the NBA in Kyle Korver. That’s almost unfair.
2.) Warriors (31-6) Previous rank: 1
The Warriors beat the Nuggets, Blazers and Kings in Week 11, but collapsed against the Grizzlies on Jan. 6. The Warriors were outscored 49-21 after the third quarter in the overtime loss, and it’s no secret that closing out games has been one of their biggest weaknesses this season. With that said, they are averaging 31.1 assists per game which is the third highest mark in NBA history, and they are the first team in NBA history to start 30-5 or better in three straight seasons.
3.) Rockets (30-9) Previous rank: 3
The Rockets have won eight straight games including four wins over the Wizards, Thunder, Magic and Raptors in Week 11, so you could make a case that they belong in the top two. We all know how incredible James Harden has been, but Eric Gordon deserves some love as well. He has 10 games with 5+ 3-pointers this season after 10 such games in his previous four seasons combined, and he’s second in the NBA in 3-pointers made per game with 3.7 — Stephen Curry leads the NBA with 3.8.
4.) Spurs (30-7) Previous rank: 4
The Spurs won all three of their games in Week 11 against the Raptors, Nuggets and Hornets, beating them by a combined 73 points. Kawhi Leonard is currently averaging 23.9 points per game, the highest mark by a Spurs’ player since Tim Duncan in the 2001-02 season.
5.) Celtics (23-14) Previous rank: 6
The Celtics have won four straight games including three wins over the Jazz, 76ers and Pelicans in Week 11. Isaiah Thomas is one of the hottest players in the NBA right now and averaged 30.3 points in that three-game span, and he’s the only Celtic besides Larry Bird and John Havlicek to average 27+ points per game in a season. He’s also scored 20+ points in 21 straight games which is the longest streak in the NBA this season, and he has a ridiculous player efficiency rating of 43.6 in the fourth quarter and overtime.
6.) Clippers (26-14) Previous rank: 11
The Clippers snapped a six-game losing streak and are back in the top 10 of my rankings with a vengeance, as they picked up four straight wins over the Suns, Grizzlies, Kings and Heat in Week 11. Chris Paul has played the last two games since returning from his hamstring injury, and he joined Gary Payton, Jason Kidd and John Stockton as the only players to rank in the top 10 of career assists and top 15 of career steals per ESPN. He also has 25 more 15-point/15-assist games than any other player since he came into the NBA (h/t @StatMuse).
7.) Raptors (24-13) Previous rank: 5
The Raptors had a rough week and lost three games to the Spurs, Bulls and Rockets, but they were able to beat a solid Jazz team. Kyle Lowry is putting up 22.7 points and 7.2 assists per game this season, the first Raptors player to put up 20+ PPG and 7+ APG since Damon Stoudamire in 1996-97 (h/t @Statmuse).
8.) Hawks (21-16) Previous rank: 12
The Hawks have won six straight games including three wins over the Magic, Pelicans and Mavericks in Week 11. However, I expect them to start sliding in the standings as they have basically given up on the season by dealing Kyle Korver to the Cavaliers and putting Paul Millsap on the trade block. The Hawks are going to start rebuilding and guys like Thabo Sefolosha, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Millsap are likely going to be moved in exchange for younger pieces and draft picks. Even with a 21-16 record, the Hawks know they have no shot at contending this season.
9.) Grizzlies (24-16) Previous rank: 9
The Grizzlies started Week 11 with two losses to the Lakers and Clippers, but had a season-defining moment in an incredible comeback win over the Warriors in overtime. The Grizzlies were down by as many as 24 points, making this their third-largest come-from-behind win in franchise history (h/t Grizzlies PR). They followed up that win with another victory over the Jazz on Sunday, keeping them in the top 10 of my power rankings.
10.) Jazz (23-16) Previous rank: 8
Their only win of the week was against the Wolves, as they dropped three games to the Celtics, Raptors and Grizzlies. The good news is that George Hill is healthy again, so now the Jazz just need to find a way to get Derrick Favors going. Rudy Gobert has been their MVP this season, evidenced by the fact that he has the highest offensive rating in the league this season in addition to the lowest defensive rating (h/t @StatMuse). He’s also the first Jazz player to average 12+ points and 12+ rebounds in a season since Karl Malone in 1987.
11.) Thunder (22-16) Previous rank: 7
The Thunder lost three straight games to the Bucks, Hornets and Rockets before finally bouncing back with a win over the Nuggets. Russell Westbrook put up 49 points in the loss to Houston, and he is currently the first player with 24+ field goal attempts per game in a season since Kobe Bryant in 2005-06. He also has three games with 30+ points and 15+ rebounds, the most by any guard over the past 30 years (h/t @StatMuse).
12.) Pacers (20-18) Previous rank: 16
The Pacers have turned their season around and are rolling with five straight wins, including victories over the Pistons, Nets and Knicks in Week 11. Myles Turner is on the verge of becoming a superstar and scored 25 points with 15 rebounds and five blocks against the Nets, joining Jermaine O’Neal as the only other Pacer to accomplish that in the last 30 years (h/t @StatMuse). Per ESPN, he’s also one of four players to do that at 20 years old or younger in the last 30 years along with Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and Shaq.
13. Bulls (19-18) Previous rank: 17
Maybe Rajon Rondo was the problem, as the Bulls won all three of their games in Week 11 over the Hornets, Cavaliers and Raptors. Jimmy Butler has entered the MVP conversation, averaging 38.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 2.3 steals and 2.7 triples in that span. He dropped 52 points against the Hornets with 12 rebounds and six assists, his second game of the season with 40+ points, 10+ rebounds and 5+ assists. Only Russell Westbrook (5) has more.
14.) Hornets (20-18) Previous rank: 10
The Hornets had one win over the Thunder in Week 11, but dropped their other three games to the Bulls, Pistons and Spurs. The Hornets will have to manage without Nicolas Batum for a week or two after he hyperextended his right knee, but Kemba Walker is more than capable of keeping this team afloat. Walker is averaging 23.1 points per game, the second-highest PPG in a season for a Hornets player since Glen Rice in 1996.
15.) Wizards (18-18) Previous rank: 13
The Wizards lost to the Rockets and Mavericks at the start of Week 11, but rebounded with two wins over the Wolves and Bucks. Otto Porter is the only player with more than one game with 3+ blocks, 3+ steals and 3+ triples this season, while John Wall now has three career 18-assist games, passing Rod Strickland for most by a Wizards player since 1985 (h/t @StatMuse).
16.) Bucks (18-18) Previous rank: 14
The Bucks split their four games in Week 11, beating the Thunder and Knicks and losing to the Knicks (rematch) and Wizards. To be fair, Giannis Antetokounmpo missed the game against Washington with an illness. Speaking of the Greek Freak, he’s on pace to become the first NBA player in the top 20 in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks in the same season, and he also hit his first game-winning shot in the win over New York (link).
17.) Pistons (18-21) Previous rank: 22
The Pistons started the week off with a loss to Indiana, but then they beat Hornets and stole a game in Portland in double overtime thanks to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s game-winning 3-pointer. Speaking of KCP, the SG is having a career year and has scored 26 points in two straight games, setting himself up for a massive raise this summer.
18.) Pelicans (14-24) Previous rank: 15
The Pelicans entered Week 11 on a four-game winning streak, but they dropped three straight games to the Hawks, Cavaliers and Celtics. That’s a brutal schedule to be fair, but things look much more promising in Week 12 with games coming up against the Knicks, Nets, Bulls and Pacers. Anthony Davis became the first player with eight 35-point/15-rebound games in a season since Shaq in 1999-00 (h/t @StatMuse), and the Pelicans have to be encouraged by the debut of Donatas Motiejunas. The forward scored 11 points with five rebounds, four assists, one triple and one steal in just 20 minutes vs. Boston.
19.) Knicks (17-20) Previous rank: 18
The Knicks lost three games to the Magic, Bucks and Pacers in Week 11, but they were able to get a win in a rematch with Milwaukee. Kristaps Porzingis returned from an Achilles injury and didn’t miss a beat, and he put up 16 points with four blocks and four triples in the loss to Indiana. No other player on the Knicks has done that in the last 30 years. On the other hand, the Knicks are just 1-12 this season when Derrick Rose attempts more than 17 shots (h/t Marc Stein).
20.) Blazers (16-23) Previous rank: 21
The Blazers came up just short against the Warriors without Damian Lillard, but their star PG was able to return from his ankle injury the next day and led them to a win over the Lakers. The Blazers then dropped a game in double overtime to the Pistons despite 35 points from C.J. McCollum. Speaking of McCollum, the SG has been incredible with 35+ points in four out of his last five games.
21.) Kings (15-21) Previous rank: 19
The Kings started the week with a win over the Nuggets, but then dropped three straight games to the Heat, Clippers and Warriors. It seems like we hear another DeMarcus Cousins rumor every week, but the latest one from Marc Stein of ESPN was certainly interesting. Stein said that the Kings plan to offer the big man an extension this summer that could be worth more than $200 million using the designated player exception under the new collective bargaining agreement. Cousins recently said that he would like to stay in Sacramento, but let’s see if he’s still singing that tune a couple months from now.
22.) Lakers (15-26) Previous rank: 26
The Lakers had a quite a week, picking up three wins over the Grizzlies, Heat and Magic with their only loss coming against the Blazers. D’Angelo Russell is breaking out before our eyes with averages of 20.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.0 steals and 3.0 triples over his last five games, while Brandon Ingram is finally finding his groove with two straight 17-point efforts.
23.) Magic (16-23) Previous rank: 23
The Magic were able to beat the Knicks at the beginning of Week 11, but then dropped three straight games to the Hawks, Rockets and Lakers. Their next five games are on the road and that includes trips to face the Clippers and Jazz, so there are likely more tough times ahead for the Magic. They rank 28th in offensive efficiency and just 20th in defensive efficiency. Remind me again why they are starting Bismack Biyombo over Nikola Vucevic?
24.) Nuggets (14-23) Previous rank: 20
The Nuggets have lost five games in a row including four losses to the Warriors, Kings, Spurs and Thunder in Week 11. The team is now shopping Jusuf Nurkic, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried and they are a rumored destination for Paul Millsap, so this team could look a lot different in the next month. At least they have a legitimate superstar in Nikola Jokic, as the second-year center is the first player to ever have a true shooting percentage above 64.0 percent and an assist rate over 25.0 (h/t @CTowersCBS).
25.) Mavericks (11-26) Previous rank: 25
The Mavericks beat the Wizards early in Week 11 before dropping two games to the Suns and Hawks. The Mavs are finally healthy and play the Wolves twice in Week 12 in addition to the Suns, but they are in a tricky spot because they could jeopardize their future if they win too much because this team is really banking on landing a top pick in this year’s draft.
26.) Suns (12-26) Previous rank: 28
The Suns actually didn’t have a bad week, splitting four games with two wins over the Heat and Mavericks with two losses to the Clippers and Cavaliers. Tyson Chandler has recorded 15+ rebounds in three straight games and is the first Suns player to do so since Shawn Marion in 2005-06, but the team is rumored to be shopping the big man and the Blazers are a possible destination according to ESPN’s Marc Stein.
27.) Wolves (11-26) Previous rank: 24
Their nightmare of a season continued, as the Wolves lost three straight games to the 76ers, Wizards and Jazz in Week 11. Their schedule also looks brutal moving forward, as four of their next five games are against the Rockets, Thunder, Spurs and Clippers. If there’s one positive, it’s that Andrew Wiggins erupted for 41 points in the loss to Washington.
28.) 76ers (10-25) Previous rank: 29
The 76ers are making a lot of strides and finished Week 11 with a 2-1 record, beating the Wolves and Nets while narrowly losing to the Celtics. Joel Embiid is the first 76ers rookie to average more than 19 points per game since Allen Iverson, and he has six straight games with at least 20 points in fewer than 30 minutes, the longest such streak since 1985-86 (h/t @Jkubatko).
29.) Heat (11-28) Previous rank: 27
The Heat racked up three more losses to the Suns, Lakers and Clippers in Week 11, but did manage to pick up a win over the Kings. Justise Winslow had the lowest offensive rating in the league among players with more than 30 minutes per game, but the Heat are still going to miss him terribly after he was ruled out for the season following shoulder surgery. On a side note, ESPN’s Marc Stein is reporting that the Heat’s asking price for Goran Dragic is still too high, but don’t be surprised when they blow up their roster before the trade deadline.
30.) Nets (8-28) Previous rank: 30
The Nets have lost six games in a row including four losses to the Jazz, Pacers, Cavaliers and 76ers in Week 11. There is hope for the future and Caris LeVert is a big reason why, as the rookie became the first Net with a 15-point, five-assist game this early in his career since Mookie Blaylock in 1989 (h/t NY Post).