NBA power rankings: How does Joel Embiid's injury affect Sixers?

NBA power rankings: How does Joel Embiid's injury affect Sixers?

The Sixers saw Joel Embiid go on the shelf, but also took two out of three games against quality opponents. Where do they sit in our power rankings?

Let’s take a look: 

1. Milwaukee Bucks (35-6)
There’s no need to move them. This still looks like the best team in the NBA.

2. Los Angeles Lakers (32-7) 
LeBron James has been “on one,” as the kids say, with Anthony Davis out. He averaged 29 points 11.7 rebounds and 7.7 assists in three games with Davis sidelined. L.A. even won without both its stars Saturday night in OKC. 

3. Los Angeles Clippers (27-13)
Honestly, most weeks it seems like you could pick 2-10 out of a hat. With that said, the Clippers appear to be the third-best team in the NBA right now in terms of talent. They’ve been inconsistent and dealt with injury, but this spot feels right.

4. Denver Nuggets (27-12)
The Nuggets lost to the Cavs and then turned around and beat the Paul George-less Clippers. You figure out the NBA, because I can’t. Nikola Jokic had a monster week, averaging 29.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists.

5. Houston Rockets (26-12)
Outside of a blowout loss in Russell Westbrook’s emotional return to OKC, the Rockets continue to play well. James Harden recorded back-to-back 40-point triple-doubles and likely would’ve had another Saturday if Houston didn’t win by 30.

6. Utah Jazz (27-12) 
The Jazz are the hottest team in the NBA, having won nine straight and 14 of their last 15. Granted they’ve done it during the soft spot on their schedule, but still quite impressive. They’ve done so without Mike Conley, who hasn’t quite been himself this season as he deals with a hamstring injury. 

7. Miami Heat (27-12)
The Heat have been one of the bigger surprises in the NBA, but they just dropped games to the Nets and Knicks. Be honest, Jimmy Butler’s scuffle with T.J. Warren made you feel a bit whimsical about the former Sixer.

8. Dallas Mavericks (24-15)
This feels like a good spot for the Mavs coming off a big win over the Sixers after back-to-back losses to the Nuggets and Lakers. Luka Doncic has struggled from the field (39.7 percent) but is still the focal point of Dallas’ offense, creating for others over his last three (9.7 assists per game). He also needs to take it easy on his jersey.

9. Sixers (25-15)
The week started out on a positive as they beat the surging Thunder to snap a four-game losing streak. Then news that Embiid would miss time was followed by an ugly loss in Dallas. It overshadowed a week in which the Sixers beat two quality opponents — including a win over the Celtics without Embiid.

This team may be built for the playoffs defensively, but they desperately need shooting.

10. Boston Celtics (26-11)
They took out their frustrations on the Pelicans Saturday after dropping three straight. The Celtics have already lost their season series to the Sixers and appear to match up very poorly against them. 

11. Toronto Raptors (25-14) 
The Raptors have been banged up and as a result have been up and down recently. There’s a report they’re interested in Andre Drummond. Masai Ujiri obviously doesn’t need my advice, but it just doesn’t seem like a move that would make them better.

12. Indiana Pacers (24-15) 
They’ve lost three out of five, but All-Star guard Victor Oladipo is nearing a return. Indiana is going to be an intriguing team in the East when they get to full strength.

13. Oklahoma City Thunder (22-17) 
The Thunder are up there with the Heat for biggest surprise. Chris Paul has been excellent. I’m curious to see how they approach the trade deadline. It’s very similar to last year’s Clippers, who traded Tobias Harris to the Sixers while firmly in the playoff race.

14. Brooklyn Nets (18-20) 
Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert are back. That won’t help the Nets’ defense, but it should certainly make their upcoming matchups against the Sixers more interesting.

15. Memphis Grizzlies (18-22)
The Grizzlies are currently in a playoff spot and I am drinking the Ja Morant Kool-Aid. All this kid does is make highlight-reel plays — and win, apparently.

16. San Antonio Spurs (17-21) 
The Spurs have won three of four, including wins over the Bucks and Celtics. DeMar DeRozan nearly took a life with his dunk in San Antonio’s big comeback win in Toronto.

17. Orlando Magic (18-21)
The Magic are banged up and clinging to that eighth playoff spot. Should be another exciting run for them to earn the right to lose in the first round.

18. Portland Trail Blazers (16-24)
Portland is still hanging around out West. They’ll get Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins back at some point. Can they hang around long enough?

19. Phoenix Suns (16-23)
Monty Williams has his team still playing hard, having won two in a row.

20. New Orleans Pelicans (14-26) 
The Pelicans were actually playing well before getting crushed by the Celtics. No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson is practicing, which is good for all basketball fans.

21. Sacramento Kings (15-24) 

22. Charlotte Hornets (15-27)

23. Minnesota Timberwolves (15-23) 

24. Chicago Bulls (14-26) 

25. Washington Wizards (13-26)

26. Detroit Pistons (14-26) 

27. Cleveland Cavaliers (12-27)

28. New York Knicks (11-29) 

29. Golden State Warriors (9-32) 

30. Atlanta Hawks (8-32) 

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'It's a gift and a curse' — Steve Nash shares his thoughts on Ben Simmons

'It's a gift and a curse' — Steve Nash shares his thoughts on Ben Simmons

On the surface, Steve Nash and Ben Simmons don’t have a ton in common. 

Nash, inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018, shot 42.8 percent from three-point range and 90.4 percent from the foul line in his NBA career. Simmons’ shooting is not a strength.

However, the two chatted Saturday night at Madison Square Garden after Simmons’ 21-point, eight-assist performance in the Sixers’ win over the Knicks (see observations).

Simmons told reporters he talked with Nash, a co-owner of the MLS’ Vancouver Whitecaps FC, about soccer.

“He was such a great leader, a competitive spirit,” Simmons said. “Just watching highlights and some of his games, the way he played, he was just relentless. He played through anything." 

Nash sees a lot to admire in Simmons’ game, too. He said he thinks Simmons is worthy of being an All-Star for the second straight season.

Ben’s a generational talent. Crazy athlete, can play multiple positions on offense and defense. Obviously his glaring weakness is the shooting, but he’s so gifted that he can make up for it in other ways, and it’s about finding a way for him to be at his best for this group. And that’s a challenge for this club, is how do all the pieces fit together? Ben’s ability at both ends of the floor is unique and he’s a special, special player. 

“I wouldn’t put it past him to become a reliable shooter at some stage in his career, but he still does so many things at both ends of the floor that if you could find a way as an organization to promote that, you have an incredible, incredible piece. That is a huge challenge — how do all the pieces fit? … I think it’s something that Brett [Brown] and everyone are working through every day. It’s a gift and a curse.

Though his game isn’t much like Nash’s, Simmons said he can still take a lot from the 2004-05 NBA MVP. 

“He’s a legend, so definitely,” Simmons said. “I definitely want to talk to him and pick up things.”

Nash was asked whether Simmons can keep going as an infrequent jump shooter. 

“He can, in the right environment,” Nash said. “If he can figure out how to make some shots in some parts of the court, it can change everything. … He can do so many things. He can change positions four or five times in a game. That in itself is huge. So, how do you absorb that? That’s the challenge. Like I said, it’s a gift and a curse, and they’ll have to figure that out.”

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Tobias Harris trolls Ben Simmons before and after Sixers' win

Tobias Harris trolls Ben Simmons before and after Sixers' win

There are probably quite a few people that would like to be Ben Simmons.

Tobias Harris took that a step further before the Sixers game Saturday night against the Knicks, rocking Simmons' expensive looking neckwear.

The Sixers sweated out a win and snapped their six-game road losing streak at Madison Square Garden Saturday (see observations). Harris had a rough night, going 5 of 13 overall, but he did hit a huge three with 28.2 seconds left off a Simmons’ inbounds pass to give the Sixers a two-point lead.

“I was just trying to get it in,” Simmons told reporters postgame. “I don’t think we had any timeouts left, so I’m glad he came to the ball and put up a great shot. He made it look good.”

The chemistry between the two seems to be paying off on the court.

“He’s locked in,” Simmons said. “He’s been aggressive taking shots. We want him to keep shooting the ball and taking those open looks. He’s a great player."

Postgame, Harris went back into Simmons mode.

The team also had a little fun with Harris’ “Fresh Prince” impersonation.

Simmons had a big night, posting 20 points for the fourth straight game — the first time in his career he's done so. The duo of Harris and Simmons also combined for the biggest defensive play of the game, trapping Julius Randle and causing a turnover with 7.6 seconds left.

Even though Harris accidentally gave Simmons a smack in the face in his haste while celebrating.

The Sixers have won three games in a row and it looks like they’re having fun again.

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