There was plenty of action and excitement in the association over the past seven days, highlighted by the blockbuster deal that sent Jimmy Buckets to Philly. However, one consistent theme this season has been the impressive play of the Raptors, who jumped up into the top spot in this week’s rankings.
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1. Toronto Raptors
Toronto already has two separate six-game winning streaks this season. They will look to run their current streak to seven when they host the Pelicans at the Air Canada Centre on Monday night. The Raps have yet to lose at home, and are one of only four teams remaining with a perfect home record, along with Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Memphis. Per NBA.com, since the start of the 2014-15 campaign, Toronto has the best home winning percentage (.749) in the Eastern Conference and third overall in the NBA trailing only Golden State (.872) and San Antonio (.830). The Raps are 128-43 at home during this stretch.
2. Golden State Warriors
Steph Curry (left groin strain) sat out Saturday’s win over the Nets but was feeling better over the weekend, according to coach Steve Kerr. “Better mobility, less pain, so good sign,” said Kerr. The Warriors play five games this week, and Steph is expected to miss at least the first couple. However, who needs that Curry guy when you have Quinn Cook step in and step up. Cook made 11 of his 16 field goal attempts on Saturday and finished with 27 points, three rebounds and five assists. Dating back to last season, Cook has started 19 games for Golden State and is averaging 15.3 points (.507 FG%, .478 3P%, .864 FT%), 3.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists in those 19 contests.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
After a tough overtime defeat to the Clippers on Saturday, the Bucks bounced back and beat the Nuggets in Denver on Sunday. Now that they have wrapped up their west coast road swing, the Bucks head back to Milwaukee and begin a six-game homestand on Wednesday. The six consecutive home games are tied for the longest such string of the season for Milwaukee.
4. Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers have won four straight, including impressive home victories over the Bucks, Clippers and Celtics last week. However, things get much tougher in the near future. Portland is about to embark on a six-game road trip that will take them from Los Angeles to New York and back to California. They play the Lakers in L.A. on Wednesday and wrap up the trip by playing the Bucks Milwaukee next Wednesday and Warriors in The Bay next Friday.
5. Denver Nuggets
At 9-1, the Nuggets were tied for the league’s best record through ten games. However, Denver has now dropped three straight, including disappointing losses to the Grizzlies in Memphis and the Nets at home. Fortunately for Denver, Will Barton (hip) has begun on-court rehab work. Barton underwent surgery to repair hip and core muscles back on October 23rd. There is currently no timetable for his return, but it’s possible he is back in action by the end of this month.
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6. Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers shook up their squad, and the league, over the weekend. No longer merely willing to patiently trust the process, new Philadelphia general manager Elton Brand pushed his chips into the middle of the table and went all in by trading Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick to Minnesota in exchange for Jimmy Butler. It will be fascinating to see how Butler gets along (both on and off the floor) with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. If things go smoothly, Philly’s Big Three could be headed to the NBA Finals. If not, Butler could leave town this summer as a free agent and the Sixers would have nothing to show for it. Butler is expected to make his Sixers debut Wednesday against the Magic.
7. Boston Celtics
Last season, despite a slew of early-season injuries, the Celtics stormed out of the gate, winning 16 of their first 18 contests. However, they are surprisingly mired in a slump this month. Four of the C’s top-eight rotation players have been unable to get on track offensively. Jaylen Brown (.364), Marcus Smart (.328), Gordon Hayward (.396), and Terry Rozier (.385) are all shooting below 40 percent from the field this season.
8. Indiana Pacers
It was a tough week for the Pacers, who dropped three of four, although all three losses were to quality opponents (Philadelphia and Houston, twice). Indiana now has the next four days off, a rarity in the NBA, before hosting the Heat in Indy on Friday.
9. Oklahoma City Thunder
Before losing to the Mavs in Dallas on Saturday, the Thunder had ripped off seven straight wins. Russell Westbrook rolled his left ankle in last week’s win over the Pelicans and has been sidelined for each of OKC’s previous three games. He is listed as out for Monday's game vs. Phoenix.
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10. San Antonio Spurs
Coach Gregg Popovich and his Spurs continue to somehow find ways to win games. This remains one of the most remarkable stats in sports: Per NBA.com, since the beginning of the 1997-98 season, San Antonio has had a losing record for only 48 days over the past 21 years. Every other team in the league has at least spent over 900 days below. 500.
11. Utah Jazz
Utah needs greater consistency from point guard Ricky Rubio. He is shooting a frigid 33.9 percent from the field this season, including 28.0 percent from downtown. He is the only player in the league who has logged over 350 minutes but is shooting below 35% from the floor.
12. Los Angeles Lakers
The addition of Tyson Chandler has already paid dividends for the Lakers. It’s a small sample size (68 minutes), but Los Angeles is allowing just 89.3 points per 100 possessions with Tyson Chandler on the floor in his first three contests. Over their first ten games of the season, prior to the arrival of Chandler, the Lakers were allowing 111.5 points per 100 possessions.
13. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers notched their most impressive win of the season on Saturday when they knocked off the surging Bucks, 128-126 in overtime. Lou Williams made a driving layup with 0.3 seconds remaining in OT to secure the victory. Williams leads the NBA in bench scoring (18.6) and ranks third in total fourth-quarter points (97).
14. Memphis Grizzlies
Having won all five of their contests in Memphis, the Grizzlies are the only Western Conference team still undefeated at home. Surprisingly, the Grizz have gotten off to a strong start despite inefficient offense from their main cogs. Mike Conley is shooting just 37.8 percent from the floor and 29.9 percent from 3-point territory. (For his career, Conley shoots 44% from the floor and 37.5% from downtown.) Marc Gasol, a career 48.7% shooter, is knocking down just 40.6% of his field goal attempts this season.
15. New Orleans Pelicans
It’s been a season of streaks for the Pelicans. They started the year winning four straight. Then they lost six in a row, as a strained right elbow slowed Anthony Davis. With AD now on the mend, New Orleans has won each of their past two games. In addition, Nikola Mirotic (right ankle) has been upgraded to probable for Monday's game vs. the Raptors. Elfrid Payton (ankle) is unlikely to play on Monday, but is expected to return to the lineup later this week.
16. Houston Rockets
The current buzz around Houston is centered on the immediate future of Carmelo Anthony. When the Rockets signed Melo this offseason, there was plenty of hope and optimism that Anthony could resuscitate his career playing alongside his buddy Chris Paul and James Harden. However, that hasn’t been the case, as Carmelo's Net Rating of minus-6.3 is the worst on the team this season. Anthony has missed each Houston’s last two games due to illnesses, and ESPN's Tim McMahon is reporting that players and coaches in Houston believe Carmelo has played his last game as a Rocket.
17. Charlotte Hornets
Kemba Walker has made the All-Star team in each of the two previous years, but the pending free agent is off to the best start of his career this season. He’s averaging a career-highs in points (27.9), assists (6.3) made 3-pointers (3.9), field goal percentage (.458) and free-throw percentage (.865). He’s also put the Hornets on his back in crunch time; Kemba has scored 98 points in the fourth quarter in 2018-19, second most in the NBA.
18. Detroit Pistons
After starting the season 4-0, the Pistons have lost six of their last eight games. However, they will look to take advantage of some home cooking to get back on track this month. After traveling to Toronto on Wednesday to take on the Raptors, the Pistons will play eight of their next nine and 10 of their next 12 in Detroit.
19. Sacramento Kings
In 2017-18, the Kings leading scorer was Zach Randolph, at 14.5 points per game. They were the only team in the league without at least one player averaging 15 ppg. This season, the Kings have three players (Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox and Willie Cauley-Stein) averaging more than 16 points per contest.
20. Brooklyn Nets
Caris LeVert appeared in 128 games over the first two seasons of his NBA career and scored more than 25 points just once. LeVert has scored at least 26 points in four of the Nets first 13 games this season. LeVert is averaging 19.0 points per game in 2018-19, which ranks second among all third-year players.
21. Miami Heat
The low point of Hassan Whiteside’s career in Miami occurred during the playoffs last spring. During the Heat’s first-round loss to Joel Embiid and the Sixers, Whiteside averaged just 5.2 points in 15.4 minutes. After the series, Heat president Pat Riley said that Whiteside wasn't ready "mentally or physically" for the playoffs and backed coach Erik Spoelstra's decision to bench him. Well, Hassan is far more involved this season. He has at least ten rebounds and two blocks in nine consecutive games, the longest current streak in the NBA. Over his last three games, Whiteside is averaging 18.3 points, 18.0 rebounds and 5.7 blocks. The Heat host Embiid and the Sixers Monday night.
22. Minnesota Timberwolves
After losing five straight, Tom Thibodeau and the Wolves finally decided it was time to move on. On Saturday afternoon, Minnesota traded Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton to Philadelphia in exchange for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round draft pick. Fortunately for the Timberwolves, they will have an opportunity to gain some momentum against a favorable schedule. Beginning Monday vs. the Nets, the Wolves will play ten of their next 12 at home in the Target Center.
23. Orlando Magic
After dropping six of their first eight games, coach Steve Clifford and his troops have won four of five. Underrated big man Nikola Vucevic continues to play at a high level. He is one of only two players currently shooting over 55% from the floor and averaging at least 18 points, ten rebounds and three assists. Giannis Antetokounmpo is the only other player in this club... Aaron Gordon (left ankle sprain) sat out Sunday's win over the Knicks and is listed as questionable for Monday's matchup vs. the Wizards.
24. Washington Wizards
The Wizards got a desperately needed win on Saturday when they beat the Heat in Miami. Washington has a chance to get their season back on track over the next two weeks due to a favorable schedule. After playing eight of their first 12 games on the road to start the 2018-19 campaign, the Wizards play each of their next five, and seven of their next eight games, at home.
25. Dallas Mavericks
Stud rookie Luka Doncic (bruised right thigh) is listed as questionable for Monday's game vs. Chicago. Doncic was previously dealing with a bruised left knee, but that no longer seems to be an issue. Doncic has been phenomenal this season. He is currently on pace to become just the third rookie in NBA history to average at least 20 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. The other three players already in this exclusive club are Oscar Roberston, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird.
26. New York Knicks
It was a rough weekend for the Knicks, as they got outscored 243 to 201 in embarrassing blowout defeats to the Raptors and Magic. Frank Ntilikina continues to struggle. Over his last four games, Frank is averaging just 4.8 points while shooting 25.9 percent from the floor, and has more turnovers than rebounds and steals. He was benched just six minutes into Sunday's loss and never checked back into the game.
27. Chicago Bulls
Zach LaVine has scored at least 20 points and knocked down at least one 3-pointer in 14 straight games. That’s the longest such streak in Chicago’s franchise history. The second longest streak belongs to Derrick Rose, who had ten straight such games during his MVP campaign in 2011. (Michael Jordan’s longest stretch was nine games).
28. Atlanta Hawks
Over the Hawks last five games, Trae Young is averaging 18.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 10.0 assists. Only two players in NBA history have averaged at least 18 points and eight assists per game as a rookie over the course of a full season: Damon Stoudamire and Oscar Robertson.
29. Phoenix Suns
T.J. Warren averaged 13.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.3 triples in 23.4 minutes over the Suns first ten games of this season. However, Warren was inserted into the starting lineup in each of the past two contests and has averaged 27.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.5 treys in 39.2 minutes.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers
Not much positivity surrounding the Cavs at the moment, but Collin Sexton has looked solid since being inserted into the starting lineup in place of the injured George Hill. In his first two starts, Sexton tallied a total of 35 points (15-of-30 shooting), six rebounds and four assists in 76 minutes.