The second edition of our weekly Eastern Conference power rankings is an interesting one, as we look at how things stand after the Sixers' trade for Jimmy Butler.
1. Toronto Raptors (12-3) Last week: 1
Pascal Siakam is having a breakout season for the Raptors. The third-year forward from Cameroon is averaging 14.1 points and 6.5 rebounds. Despite two straight losses, the combination of Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry and an incredibly deep bench (the Raptors have 11 players averaging more than 14.9 minutes) keeps the Raptors at the top of the East, although the next three teams are not far behind.
2. Milwaukee Bucks (10-4) Last week: 3
Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 25.8 points per game and shooting 56 percent from the field, which is ridiculous. That’s the highest shooting percentage of any player averaging at least 17.5 points. Milwaukee leads the East in a bunch of pretty important categories, including points per game; three-point makes; three-point percentage; points in the paint; rebounding; and defensive rating. Though Milwaukee has returned to earth after a 7-0 start, they still look like a real contender.
3. Boston Celtics (8-6) Last week: 2
The Celtics have the highest percentage of open shots (closest defender four to six feet away) and wide open shots (closest defender six-plus feet away) in the league. It’s inevitable that they’re going to start hitting more of those shots. Still, the 1-4 road trip Boston just returned from is a concern. They keep starting slow, spotting their opponents huge first-half leads, and Gordon Hayward isn’t yet anywhere near what he was pre-injury.
4. Philadelphia 76ers (9-7) Last week: 4
It’s hard to argue that the Sixers didn’t get better through the Jimmy Butler trade. They added one of the best two-way players in the game, a star who gives them the shot creation and perimeter defense they were lacking. In order to compete with the Celtics, Bucks and Raptors, the Sixers needed a player like Butler. But it’s likely going to take some time to integrate Butler and make the most of his talent. As the season progresses, there's a good chance the Sixers rise up these rankings.
5. Indiana Pacers (8-6) Last week: 5
Victor Oladipo’s Most Improved Player campaign was no fluke, and the Pacers have a solid, deep supporting cast — seven players average more than 9.4 points per game. While the league is playing faster and taking more threes, Indiana is the doing the opposite. They’ve taken the second-least threes in the East, and play at the slowest pace in the conference.
6. Charlotte Hornets (7-7) Last week: 8
The Hornets actually have the third-best point differential in the East. They turn the ball over less than any team in the NBA. While Kemba Walker has struggled in his last three games (20.3 points per game on 32.3 percent shooting), he’s one of the best scorers in basketball. Charlotte is a clear step or two below the top tier in the East, but they’re not an easy opponent.
7. Detroit Pistons (7-6) Last week: 7
Reggie Bullock’s buzzer-beater gave the Pistons a great comeback win on Wednesday night in head coach Dwane Casey’s return to Toronto. Detroit has the most second-chance points in the East.
8. Miami Heat (6-8) Last week: 6
Outside of Josh Richardson, there’s not a ton to be excited about for the Heat. As a team, they don’t do anything exceptionally well.
9. Orlando Magic (7-8) Last week: 11
The Magic have won five of their last seven, and are feeling good about themselves after erasing a 16-point deficit in Wednesday’s win over the Sixers.
10. Washington Wizards (5-8) Last week: 12
Three straight wins have given the Wizards a needed boost, even if none of them were against very good competition. On paper, Washington is still better than their record. After finishing fourth in assists last season, the Wizards are 21st in that category.
11. Brooklyn Nets (6-9) Last week: 9
Caris LeVert’s injury on Monday night was devastating for the Nets.
12. New York Knicks (4-11) Last week: 10
The Knicks have lost their last three games by an average of 22.3 points. Rookie Kevin Knox replaced Frank Ntilikina in the starting lineup on Wednesday.
13. Bulls (4-11) Last week: 13
Zach LaVine is in a shooting slump, which is bad news for the Bulls. Chicago has been outscored by 8.1 points per game, 28th in the NBA.
14. Hawks (3-12) Last week: 14
Atlanta played the Lakers and Warriors close on the road, but the Hawks have a six-game losing streak heading into a very difficult stretch (their next four games are against Indiana, the Clippers, Toronto and Boston). Trae Young has the the second-worst three-point percentage of any player with at least six long range attempts per game.
15. Cavaliers (2-12) Last week: 15
It feels like just about everyone on the Cavs is injured. Cleveland somehow beat the Hornets by 24 on Tuesday, then lost to the Wizards by 23 on Wednesday. They’re the only team in the East without a road win and have the worst defensive rating in the NBA.
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