There aren’t a lot of changes at the top this week, but a lot of teams are going streaking around the NBA. The Celtics, Wizards, Pacers, Heat and Mavericks have now won a combined 30 games in a row, while the Hornets, Pelicans and Nets have lost a combined 20 straight games. If you have questions or feedback of any kind, find me on Twitter here!
1.) Warriors (43-8) Previous rank: 1
The Warriors started the week off right with two wins over the Hornets and Clippers, but collapsed in an overtime loss to the Kings in which Stephen Curry missed a pair of layups on their two final possessions. The Warriors are currently just the fourth team ever to beat opponents by an average of 17 points per game in a season at home, and Curry now has 30 games with at least eight 3-pointers made (including two in Week 15), more than double the next-closest player (h/t @Statsmuse).
2.) Spurs (39-11) Previous rank: 2
The Spurs won all three of their games in Week 15, beating the Thunder, 76ers and Nuggets by a combined 54 points. Coach Gregg Popovich passed Jerry Sloan this week for the most wins with one franchise in NBA history, while Kawhi Leonard became the first Spur with 15 games of 30+ points before the All-Star break since David Robinson in 1994-95 (h/t @Statsmuse).
3.) Celtics (32-18) Previous rank: 4
Do I think the Celtics can beat the Cavaliers in a seven-game series? I’m not ready to go that far yet, but the Celtics are one of the hottest teams in the league right now with seven straight wins including victories over the Pistons, Raptors, Lakers and Clippers in Week 14. Rival executives expect them to make another push to acquire Jimmy Butler according to the Chicago Tribune, a move that could potentially push them past the Cavaliers. Isaiah Thomas is still the “King of the fourth quarter” with 10.7 points per game in the 4Q, so he’s poised to shatter Kobe Bryant’s previous record of 9.5 (h/t @ESPNForsberg)
4.) Cavaliers (34-15) Previous rank: 3
The Cavaliers lost to the Mavericks early in Week 15, but responded with two wins over the Wolves and Knicks. LeBron James became the youngest player in NBA history to hit 28,000 points at just over 32 years old (h/t @mcten), but he’s still begging the front office for help and the Cavs have been linked to Deron Williams, Andrew Bogut, Shelvin Mack, Jameer Nelson and Jose Calderon with the deadline approaching in a few weeks.
5.) Rockets (37-17) Previous rank: 5
The Rockets finished 2-1 in Week 15, picking up two wins over the Kings and Bulls and losing to the Hawks by five points. James Harden has six games with 40+ points, 10+ assists and 5+ rebounds this season, tied with Michael Jordan for the most such games since 1985-86 (h/t @Statsmuse).
6.) Wizards (30-20) Previous rank: 8
The Wizards had the second best record in January behind the Warriors and aren’t slowing down with seven straight wins. They have won 17 straight games at home and picked up wins over the Knicks, Lakers and Pelicans in Week 15. John Wall has 157 games with 10+ assists over the last four seasons, easily the most in the NBA — Chris Paul is second with 138 (h/t @Statsmuse).
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7.) Jazz (32-19) Previous rank: 10
The Jazz only played twice in Week 15, but took care of business with wins over the Bucks and Hornets. First-time All-Star Gordon Hayward is averaging 22.0 points per game, the first Jazz player with 22+ PPG in a season since Karl Malone in 2001-02 (h/t @Statsmuse).
8.) Thunder (30-22) Previous rank: 6
The Thunder split four games in Week 15 with two losses to the Spurs and Bulls at the beginning of the week, but finished strong with two wins over the Grizzlies and Blazers. Russell Westbrook now has nine games this season with at least 12 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists, passing Magic Johnson (8) for the most in NBA history in a single season.
9.) Grizzlies (31-22) Previous rank: 9
The Grizzlies had a strong Week 15 with three wins over the Suns, Nuggets and Wolves with their only loss coming against the Thunder. Mike Conley scored a career-high 38 points against the Suns, becoming the first player this season to score 35+ points on 18-or-fewer FGA and 8-or-fewer FTA (h/t Grizzlies PR).
10.) Raptors (31-21) Previous rank: 7
The Raptors finished 2-2 in Week 15 with two wins over the Pelicans and Nets with two losses against the Magic and Celtics. Kyle Lowry is keeping the Raptors afloat with DeMar DeRozan (ankle) out and has eight games with 30+ points this season (that ties his career best), and he also recorded a triple-double on Sunday vs. the Nets with 15 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds despite playing through flu-like symptoms. He also has the highest plus-minus in the East.
11.) Pacers (28-22) Previous rank: 13
The Pacers are rolling with six straight wins (longest streak of the season) including three victories over the Magic, Nets and Pistons in Week 15. Paul George said he’s “in a good place physically and emotionally” after admitting he was in a “dark” place earlier this season when the team wasn’t meshing well and when he couldn’t shake his ankle issues. All of that is in the past and the Pacers suddenly look like a top-5 team in the East (h/t USA Today).
12.) Hawks (30-21) Previous rank: 12
The Hawks started off Week 15 with a loss to the Heat, but finished with two straight wins over the Rockets and Magic. The Hawks may have a gem on their hands in Tim Hardaway Jr., as he scored 23 of his career-high 33 points in the fourth quarter of the win over the Rockets. He had a 56.9 usage rate in that quarter… The Knicks probably shouldn’t have traded him for Jerian Grant…
13.) Clippers (31-20) Previous rank: 11
Blake Griffin has returned to form, but this team desperately misses Chris Paul (thumb) and he’s still weeks away from a return. The Clippers only picked up one win over the Suns in Week 15 while dropping two games to the Warriors and Celtics. Speaking of Griffin, he passed Bob McAdoo for second on the Clippers' all-time scoring list this week.
14.) Heat (21-30) Previous rank: 21
They will eventually cool off, but the Heat deserve this rank as they’re currently on a 10-game winning streak that includes wins over the Nets, Hawks and 76ers in Week 15. Dion Waiters is getting all the headlines these days (what a time to be alive), but Hassan Whiteside scored 30 points and collected 20 rebounds in under 27 minutes in the win over the 76ers — no other player has had at least 30 points and 20 rebounds in as little playing time per Elias.
15.) Bulls (25-26) Previous rank: 14
The Bulls split a pair of games in Week 15, picking up a win over the Thunder and a loss to the Rockets. Jimmy Butler (heel) missed the game against Houston, but an MRI on his heel was negative and he will be a game-time call on Monday night. The most noise Rajon Rondo has made this season was on Instagram, and with the Bulls going nowhere, it’s not a surprise that rival executives are expecting them to blow up their roster at the deadline.
16.) Nuggets (22-28) Previous rank: 15
The Nuggets had the highest offensive rating in January, but they struggled a bit in Week 15 with three losses to the Lakers, Grizzlies and Spurs with their only win coming against the Bucks. Nikola Jokic missed the two games against the Lakers and Grizzlies with a hip injury, but returned in the win over the Bucks and recorded a triple-double with 20 points, 11 assists and 13 rebounds. He is one of two Nuggets players to record 11 or more assists in a game while starting at center, joining Marcus Camby (h/t Elias).
17.) Blazers (22-30) Previous rank: 17
The Blazers started off Week 15 with a win over the Hornets, but then dropped two straight games to the Mavericks and Thunder. Mason Plumlee became one of six players in the NBA this season with 400+ rebounds and 200+ assists, joining Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook (h/t Blazers PR).
18.) Pistons (23-28) Previous rank: 22
The Pistons dropped two games to the Celtics and Pacers in Week 15, but also picked up two wins over the Pelicans and Wolves. Andre Drummond now has 13 games with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in the last four seasons, five more than any other player (h/t @Statsmuse).
19.) Mavericks (20-30) Previous rank: 27
The Mavericks are 9-3 in their last 12 games and they won all three of their games in Week 15 against the Cavaliers, 76ers and Blazers. Yogi Ferrell had a legendary week in Dallas and is 4-0 as the starting point guard with averages of 17.8 points, 5.0 assists, 3.0 boards, 1.8 steals and 3.3 treys. He dropped a career-high 32 points in the win over the Blazers and hit nine triples which tied a franchise record for triples made by a rookie. His 32 points were also the most points in a game within a player's first 15 career games since Blake Griffin scored 44 in 2010 vs. the Knicks (h/t ESPN Stats). Yogi gets baskets!
20.) Hornets (23-28) Previous rank: 18
The Hornets have lost seven games in a row including defeats to the Blazers, Warriors and Jazz in Week 15. They made a horrible trade by dealing away Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes for one of the worst contracts in the NBA in Miles Plumlee — Plumlee is making $52 million over four years while Hibbert and Hawes would’ve been off the books this summer (assuming Hawes declines his player option). I have no idea what the Hornets are thinking here… On a positive note, first-time All-Star Kemba Walker passed Larry Johnson (7,438) this week for second on Charlotte’s all-time scoring list (h/t Hornets PR).
21.) Bucks (22-28) Previous rank: 20
The Bucks lost two games to the Jazz and Nuggets in Week 15 before bouncing back against the Suns behind Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 30 points with 12 boards, six assists and four blocks. The big news for Milwaukee is that they are getting a star back this week, as Khris Middleton (hamstring) will be making his season debut on Feb. 8 against the Heat after four long months on the shelf.
22.) Kings (20-31) Previous rank: 19
The Kings dropped three games to the 76ers, Rockets and Suns before stealing an epic win against the Warriors in overtime. The Kings are still contemplating whether or not to offer DeMarcus Cousins an extension that could be worth over $200 million, a decision that seems like a no-brainer to me. Boogie now has 60 games with 30 points and 10 rebounds which is the most by any player since he came into the league, and he joined Chris Webber as the only Kings in the Sacramento era with at least 45 points and 15 rebounds in a game (h/t Elias).
23.) Pelicans (19-32) Previous rank: 16
The Pelicans have lost four straight games including losses to the Raptors, Pistons and Wizards in Week 15. Anthony Davis has more games (10) with at least 35 points and 15 rebounds this season than the rest of the NBA combined, and with the entire roster healthy, they could realistically make a push for a playoff spot since they are only four losses behind the eighth-seeded Nuggets.
24.) Knicks (22-30) Previous rank: 23
The Knicks picked up one win against the lowly Nets in Week 15 while dropping two more games to the Wizards and Cavaliers. They have a tough decision on their hands in regards to Carmelo Anthony, but coach Jeff Hornacek said he’s still not sure what direction the team will go in moving forward. “We’re all competitors, and we all want to get [to the playoffs], but we have to understand that we have to try to develop something for long term,” Hornacek said. “If we’re skipping steps just to get in the playoffs, that would be great for this year, but then what do you do for next year? So we want to try to combine those two.”
25.) Wolves (19-32) Previous rank: 24
Their only win of the week was against the Magic as they dropped their next three games against the Cavaliers, Pistons and Grizzlies. To make matters worse, Zach LaVine suffered a torn ACL in his left knee and will have season-ending surgery “at a later date.” The Wolves went on an 8-3 stretch from Jan. 9 to Jan. 30 and appeared to be back on track before losing their next three games, but making a playoff push without LaVine seems like a lot to ask from such an inexperienced roster.
26.) Magic (20-33) Previous rank: 26
The Magic lost three games in Week 15 to the Wolves, Pacers and Hawks, but they were able to beat the reeling Raptors. Keith Smith of RealGM recently reported that Orlando has made "every player on the roster available to some extent,” and that includes Serge Ibaka which suggests that they are not confident about their ability to re-sign the impending free agent. Why did they trade Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris again?
27.) 76ers (18-32) Previous rank: 25
They started the week with a win over the Kings, but then dropped three straight games to the Mavericks, Spurs and Heat. After going 10-5 in January, the 76ers are 0-3 in February and Joel Embiid (knee) is going to miss his sixth game in a row on Monday vs. the Pistons. It’s still unclear if The Process will return this week, but he’s scheduled to be re-evaluated on Tuesday.
28.) Suns (16-35) Previous rank: 28
The Suns lost three games to the Grizzlies, Clippers and Bucks in Week 15, but a Devin Booker buzzer beater off the glass (link) gave them a two-point win in Sacramento. Booker also scored 31 points in the loss to the Bucks and had 27 points in the second quarter alone, making him the first player this season with at least 27 points in multiple quarters (h/t Elias).
29.) Lakers (17-36) Previous rank: 29
The Lakers earned one win over the Nuggets in Week 15, but dropped their other two games against the Wizards and Celtics. Ivica Zubac is showing signs of becoming a future stud and D’Angelo Russell is healthy again and playing well, averaging 19.6 points, 9.0 assists, 6.7 rebounds, 1.0 block, 1.3 steals and 2.7 triples over his last three games. The 2017 Draft looks promising, so expect the Lakers to tank in order to keep their top-3 protected pick.
30.) Nets (9-42) Previous rank: 30
The Nets have now lost nine straight games and dropped four of them against the Heat, Knicks, Pacers and Raptors in Week 15. The Nets let go of Yogi Ferrell earlier in the season, and now he looks like one of the most promising rookie guards in the NBA. This season can’t end quick enough for the Nets, and the worst part about it is that they don’t even control their own first-round pick this season — the Celtics have the ability to swap first-round picks this summer.