It was a tough call to move the Spurs past the Warriors this week, but there’s no doubt who the hottest team in the NBA is right now. The good news is that next week’s decision will be a little easier, as the Warriors will take on the Spurs on March 11 in San Antonio. For NBA news and fantasy advice, find me on Twitter here!
1.) Spurs (48-13) Previous rank: 2
The Spurs have won eight games in a row including wins over the Pacers, Pelicans and Wolves in Week 19. They are sitting just two losses behind the Warriors, and with Kevin Durant (knee) set to miss several weeks, San Antonio has a legitimate shot to take the No. 1 seed in the West. The Spurs have qualified for the playoffs in 20 straight seasons which is the longest active streak in the NBA, and Kawhi Leonard is on another level right now — he’s the only player in the NBA this season in the Top-15 in Offensive Rating, Defensive Rating and Usage Percentage (h/t @AirlessJordan).
2.) Warriors (51-11) Previous rank: 1
After opening the week with a win vs. Philly, the Warriors had their first losing streak in 146 regular-season games with two losses to the Wizards and Bulls before bouncing back in a win over the Knicks on Sunday. The Warriors will have to stay afloat without Kevin Durant for at least the next four weeks, as he was diagnosed with a Grade 2 MCL sprain and tibial bone bruise in his left knee. Based on this timetable, he would be lucky to make it back before the first round of the playoffs.
3.) Rockets (44-19) Previous rank: 3
The Rockets opened their week with a loss to the Pacers before picking up two wins over the Clippers and Grizzlies in convincing fashion. James Harden is the only player in the last 33 seasons to have 20 games with 30+ points and 10+ assists, and the Rockets have the two top bench scorers in the NBA in Lou Williams and Eric Gordon. The Rockets have also made at least 20 triples in nine games this season which is an NBA record.
4.) Cavaliers (42-19) Previous rank: 4
The Cavaliers split four games in Week 19 with two wins over the Bucks and Hawks and two losses to the Celtics and Heat. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were both rested in the loss to Chicago, but it won’t be their last maintenance day as the Cavs look to preserve them for the postseason. The Cavs are the only team in NBA history to make 25 threes in a game (vs. the Hawks), and they’ve now done it a total of two times. Reinforcements will also be arriving soon with J.R. Smith due back in a week or two, while Kevin Love is probably 2-3 weeks away.
5.) Wizards (37-24) Previous rank: 8
The Wizards are sitting in third place in the East and had a strong week, racking up wins over the Warriors and Magic while splitting a pair of games with the Raptors. Their biggest weakness before the trade deadline was their second unit, but new Wizard Bojan Bogdanovic is averaging 15.5 points per game on 54.0 percent shooting and Brandon Jennings is a serious upgrade over Trey Burke.
Editor’s Note: Golf is coming soon to FanDuel! And they’ve created the Tee Off Classic to celebrate, offering you an opportunity to win a VIP trip for 3 to play a round of golf with Jerome Bettis! Play now.
6.) Raptors (37-26) Previous rank: 6
The Raptors finished 2-2 in Week 19 with two wins over the Knicks and Wizards with two losses to the Wizards and Bucks. Kyle Lowry underwent successful right wrist surgery on Mar. 1, but the good news for the Raptors is that he should be back just in time for the first round of the playoffs. Another concern for the Raptors is the disappearing act of Jonas Valanciunas, as the big man has yet to log a single minute in the fourth quarter since the All-Star break because of Serge Ibaka.
7.) Celtics (40-23) Previous rank: 7
The Celtics split four games in Week 19 with wins over the Cavaliers and Lakers with losses to the Hawks and Suns. Jaylen Brown is showing superstar potential after a slow start to the season, posting averages of 13.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.2 triples over his last five games.
8.) Jazz (39-24) Previous rank: 5
The Jazz lost their first two games of the week against the Thunder and Wolves before bouncing back against the two weakest teams in the NBA in the Kings and Nets. A report came out this week that George Hill’s camp is seeking a four-year max deal worth $134 million in free agency, a ridiculous price for a guard that will be turning 31 this summer. At least Derrick Favors looks like an actual NBA player again with two double-doubles this week.
9.) Clippers (37-25) Previous rank: 10
The Clippers don’t deserve this ranking by any means, but the Grizzlies and Thunder were even more disappointing. The Clippers dropped their first two games of the week to the Rockets and Bucks before getting back on track on Saturday vs. the Bulls behind a 25-point effort from Jamal Crawford. Speaking of Crawford, he’s going to turn 37 years old later this month, but he said that he intends to play 3-4 more seasons.
10.) Grizzlies (36-27) Previous rank: 11
After beating the Suns to open their week, the Grizzlies dropped two straight games to the Rockets and Mavericks. The Grizzlies are getting basically no production from $95 million man Chandler Parsons, and he was critical of his play after the loss to Houston. "I suck right now. There’s no sugarcoating it," Parsons said. "It is what it is. I’m just going to continue to work, continue to grind.”
11.) Thunder (35-28) Previous rank: 9
After a win over the Jazz early in the week, the Thunder dropped three straight games to the Blazers, Suns and Mavericks. Russell Westbrook tried to put the team on his back with four 40-point games in a row, the first player to do so since Kobe Bryant in January 2012. He’s still on pace to average a triple-double on the season…
12.) Pacers (32-30) Previous rank: 17
The Pacers had a strong week with wins over the Rockets and Hawks, with their only loss coming against the Spurs. Glenn Robinson III hit the game-winner over the Hawks on Sunday, meaning the Pacers are now 4-1 this season in games decided by three points or less. Still, it’s a rough time for Indiana fans as rumors continue to swirl about Paul George’s plans when he hits free agency in 2018.
13.) Heat (29-34) Previous rank: 12
The Heat finally cooled off this week with a 2-2 record, picking up wins over the 76ers and Cavaliers with losses to the Mavericks and Magic. There’s still plenty to be proud about, as head coach Erik Spoelstra was named the Eastern Conference coach of the month for February and the Heat are 18-4 in their last 22 games. The bad news is that this hot streak has significantly hurt their chances of landing a top prospect in the loaded 2017 draft.
14.) Hawks (34-28) Previous rank: 14
The Hawks won their first two games of the week against the Celtics and Mavericks before dropping their next two against the Cavaliers and Pacers. The Hawks have found a gem in Tim Hardaway Jr., as the SG scored 36 points with five 3-pointers in the loss to Cleveland — the most points by a Hawks player off the bench since Jamal Crawford scored 36 at Toronto on 1/12/11 (h/t Hawks PR).
15.) Bulls (31-31) Previous rank: 13
The Bulls beat a Warriors team that was missing their best player in Kevin Durant, but came up short against the Nuggets and Clippers. Jimmy Butler has been criticized for not being aggressive enough, but he hinted that he will change that this week. "I want to get everybody involved," Butler said. "I think that's what coaches want me to do. I think that's what everybody wants me to do. I'm trying to do that. I think we all know I can shoot the ball at any time. Good shot, bad shot, but I don't want to do that. I don't care what my stats look like, man. Just win me the game (h/t ESPN).” With Dwayne Wade (thigh) set to miss Monday’s game vs. Detroit, expect a monster game from Jimmy Buckets.
16.) Pistons (30-32) Previous rank: 15
The Pistons beat the Blazers and 76ers in Week 19 with their only loss coming against the Pelicans. The Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond combination has been a nightmare this season, as the two players have a -8.2 net rating when they share the floor together — The Pistons have a +8.7 net rating when they are both off the floor (h/t @JohnSchuhmann). I already knew R-Jax was bad, but that’s an interesting stat for a guy I’m really high on in Drummond.
17.) Nuggets (28-34) Previous rank: 18
The Nuggets are holding onto the No. 8 seed by a thread, as the Blazers, Wolves, Mavericks and Pelicans are all right on their tails. Superstar Nikola Jokic recorded two triple-doubles this week to give him a total of four on the season — the only other centers with four triple-doubles in a season in the last 40 years are Mark Eaton, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson and Joakim Noah (h/t Elias). The Nuggets finished 2-1 in Week 19 with two wins over the Bulls and Bucks and a loss against the Hornets.
18.) Blazers (26-35) Previous rank: 16
The Blazers dropped their first game of the week to the Pistons, but they are firmly in the hunt for the No. 8 seed out West after two straight wins over the Thunder and Nets. Jusuf Nurkic is fitting in like a glove on his new team and became the 3rd NBA player this season with 15+ points, 10+ rebounds, 5+ assists and 5+ blocks in a game in the win over the Thunder (h/t Blazers PR).
19.) Pelicans (25-38) Previous rank: 19
The Pelicans are finally heading in the right direction, as their only loss of the week was against the Spurs in overtime. They beat both the Pistons and Lakers and are sitting just 3.5 games behind the Nuggets for the No. 8 seed. "It’s very realistic for us,” Anthony Davis said. “We’re only [3.5] games out... We control our destiny.” On a side note, mad props to Jrue Holiday for donating $31,000 to New Orleans tornado relief efforts — he donated $1,000 for every point and assist he recorded during Friday’s game.
20.) Wolves (25-37) Previous rank: 21
The Wolves took care of business against the Kings and Jazz before losing an overtime thriller to the Spurs in San Antonio. Ricky Rubio posted his first triple-double of the season against the Spurs, but Andrew Wiggins’ impressive streak of 20-point games ended at 19 thanks to Kawhi Leonard’s smothering defense — the longest streak in franchise history.
21.) Bucks (28-33) Previous rank: 20
The Bucks lost their first two games of the week against the Cavaliers and Nuggets before responding with two wins over the Clippers and Raptors to end the week. Giannis Antetokounmpo has 16 games with 20+ points 10+ rebounds this season, the most by a Bucks player since Vin Baker in 1996-97 (h/t @Statmuse). Khris Middleton also deserves some love and it looks like he’s found his form, averaging 21.3 points, 4.7 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.7 triples.
22.) Mavericks (25-36) Previous rank: 24
The Mavericks aren’t going away anytime soon and are still committed to a making a run at the No. 8 seed. They grabbed three wins over the Heat, Grizzlies and Thunder with a single loss against the Hawks. Nerlens Noel registered his first career 15-point, 15-rebound game in his first start with Dallas, while Dirk Nowitzki is 20 points away from reaching 30,000 career points. Only five other players in NBA history have accomplished that.
23.) Hornets (27-35) Previous rank: 23
The Hornets finally had a decent week, beating the Lakers and Nuggets with one loss to an improved Phoenix team. The Hornets are going to be without Frank Kaminsky (shoulder) for the next 10-14 days which will be a huge blow, as he averaged 18.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.9 blocks and 2.4 3-pointers over his last nine games. On a positive note, Kemba Walker has already set a new career-high with 42 games of 20+ points.
24.) Knicks (25-38) Previous rank: 22
The Knicks only won one game against the Magic with three losses to the Raptors, 76ers and Warriors in Week 19. I kid you not, the Knicks are going to use the triangle offense a lot more going forward and will use the next month to determine which players will fit into the system. Let it go, Phil.
25.) Suns (21-42) Previous rank: 28
The Suns had arguably their best week of the season with one loss to the Grizzlies and three wins over the Hornets, Thunder and Celtics. Tyler Ulis hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer in the win over Boston, capping off an impressive three-game run for the rookie — he averaged 14.0 points, 6.7 assists and 2.0 steals in that span.
26.) Magic (23-40) Previous rank: 26
The Magic managed just one win over the Heat with two losses to the Knicks and Wizards in Week 19. Nikola Vucevic is battling a sore right Achilles, and with the Magic sitting in 14th in the East, the shut-down risk is going to be high for the 26-year-old center. Speaking of Vucevic, he pulled down his 1,000th offensive rebound as a member of the Magic this week.
27.) 76ers (23-39) Previous rank: 25
The 76ers officially ruled out Joel Embiid (knee) for the rest of the season, but he’s expected to make a full recovery and should be ready for the summer league along with Ben Simmons (foot). The 76ers clearly miss The Process and lost three games in Week 19 to the Warriors, Heat and Pistons with one win over the Knicks, but they have to be excited about the emergence of Dario Saric and Richaun Holmes. On the other hand, Jahlil Okafor is shaping up to be one of the biggest letdowns of the season.
28.) Lakers (19-44) Previous rank: 27
The Lakers have lost seven games in a row including losses to the Hornets, Celtics and Pelicans in Week 19. The good news is that they have moved below the Suns in the West and now have the second worst record in the NBA, meaning their chances of keeping their top-3 protected lottery pick have gone way up. D’Angelo Russell is showing that he has some star potential and Julius Randle posted a monster line vs. the Hornets with 23 points, 18 rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks. The last Laker to do that was Shaq back in 2001.
29.) Kings (25-37) Previous rank: 29
The Kings lost all three of their games in Week 19 to the Wolves, Nets and Jazz. Head coach Dave Joerger insists that his team won’t tank and has been stubborn about letting his young studs play. "I think you’ve got to get in your mind, whatever you hear out there about the T-word, players don’t like that, you know what I mean?" Joerger said. "Veteran guys that are here, they want to win every night."
30.) Nets (10-51) Previous rank: 30
After a 16-game losing streak, the Nets finally got a win over the Kings before dropping two straight games to the Jazz and Blazers. It’s been a miserable season in Brooklyn, but the future is looking brighter by the day. The Nets have already passed their previous franchise-high of 1,922 3-point attempts in a season and they can look forward to having two first-round picks in this year’s draft.