NBA power rankings

2019-20 NBA power rankings: Taking stock heading into the second half of the regular season

2019-20 NBA power rankings: Taking stock heading into the second half of the regular season

With the trade deadline a little over two weeks away, every team in the NBA has played at least 41 games.

Let’s take stock as the second half of the regular season begins: 

The top 10

It took the second triple-double of Markelle Fultz’s career Wednesday to snap the Lakers’ nine-game winning streak. 

Jimmy Butler has gotten to the free throw line in every game he’s played besides one this season and is third in the NBA in free throw attempts per game (9.3).

Mike Conley returned from a hamstring injury Saturday for Utah, and the Jazz have won 16 of 18.

The Rockets have lost three straight and the Mavs have won four straight, but Dallas has a difficult upcoming schedule with the Clippers and Jazz on tap this week. 

Ben Simmons has been stellar in just about every way besides fourth-quarter scoring for the Sixers in Joel Embiid’s absence and is averaging 21.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.3 assists over his last four games. 

Though Marcus Smart set a franchise record with 11 threes and scored a career-high 37 points in Saturday’s defeat to the Suns, Boston has lost three in a row. 

1. Milwaukee Bucks (38-6) 
2. Los Angeles Lakers (34-8)
3. Los Angeles Clippers (30-13)
4. Denver Nuggets (29-13) 
5. Miami Heat (29-13) 
6. Utah Jazz (29-13) 
7. Dallas Mavericks (27-15) 
8. Houston Rockets (26-15)
9. Sixers (28-16) 
10. Boston Celtics (27-14)

The middle 10

The Raptors shot over 50 percent from the floor in every game this week and could easily be higher in our rankings — it’s tightly bunched in the six through 12 range. 

Memphis has seven straight wins. Ja Morant is mesmerizing, and both he and Jaren Jackson Jr. are shooting over 40 percent on threes. 

Kyrie Irving talked Wednesday at Wells Fargo Center about the Nets requiring “one or two more pieces,” then reached out to teammates to clarify his comments.

Zion Williamson is expected to debut Wednesday vs. the Spurs, exciting news if you enjoy basketball. 

After their trade with the Kings, Portland got 34 points from Damian Lillard and a career-high 30 from flu-stricken Gary Trent Jr., and they still lost by 13 to Oklahoma City.

11. Toronto Raptors (28-14)
12. Indiana Pacers (28-15) 
13. Oklahoma City Thunder (24-19) 
14. Memphis Grizzlies (20-22)
15. Brooklyn Nets (18-23) 
16. San Antonio Spurs (18-23) 
17. Orlando Magic (20-23)
18. Phoenix Suns (18-24) 
19. New Orleans Pelicans (16-27) 
20. Portland Trail Blazers (18-26)

The bottom 10 

The Bulls’ last win over a team currently in playoff position was on Dec. 14, but Zach LaVine is putting up big numbers, including 42 points Saturday vs. Cleveland, and trying to push for a home All-Star appearance

Sekou Doumbouya, the league’s youngest player, scored 24 points on 10 of 13 shooting Wednesday night at TD Garden. 

It appears that a clear bottom four has separated from the pack. Stephen Curry is targeting a March 1 return, according to The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson. 

21. Chicago Bulls (16-28)
22. Sacramento Kings (15-27) 
23. Detroit Pistons (16-27)
24. Minnesota Timberwolves (15-27) 
25. Charlotte Hornets (15-29)
26. Washington Wizards (13-28)
27. Cleveland Cavaliers (12-31)
28. New York Knicks (11-32)
29. Golden State Warriors (10-34)
30. Atlanta Hawks (10-33) 

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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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2019-20 NBA power rankings: After winless week, where do Sixers fall?

2019-20 NBA power rankings: After winless week, where do Sixers fall?

The Sixers have lost four games in a row for the first time since December of 2017. Where do they sit in our power rankings?

Let’s take a look: 

1. Milwaukee Bucks (32-5)
The Bucks have won five straight after their Christmas loss to the Sixers and are on pace to top 70 wins.

2. Los Angeles Lakers (29-7) 
Anthony Davis only needed 21 field goal attempts to score 46 points in a win Friday over the Pelicans, and he had eight of the Lakers’ 20 blocks Sunday vs. the Pistons. The Lakers have followed up a stretch of four losses in a row with five straight wins. 

3. Los Angeles Clippers (26-12)
It’s very tight in the No. 3 through No. 10 range in these power rankings. The Clippers sitting at No. 3 is more a reflection of this writer’s opinion that they’re built well to succeed in the playoffs than of them playing good basketball lately. Montrezl Harrell thinks they’re “not a great team,” and they gave up 140 points to the Grizzlies on Saturday and 132 to the Knicks on Sunday, but the Clippers are still finding ways to win most games and only have one losing streak this season, a two-game hiccup in mid-November. 

4. Boston Celtics (25-8) 
Boston has won eight of its last nine games, including the last two without Kemba Walker, who’s been sidelined by the flu. Jayson Tatum received more than twice as many votes as Jaylen Brown in the first returns from All-Star voting, which doesn’t seem right. Brown has made the big leap the Celtics were hoping for and is one of six players in the NBA shooting over 50 percent while averaging over 20 points.

5. Miami Heat (26-10)
Miami had two bad road losses recently to the Wizards and Magic, but they keep winning at home and are now 17-1 at AmericanAirlines Arena. Jimmy Butler missed Sunday’s win over the Blazers because of a back injury. 

6. Houston Rockets (24-11)
“I think that he could quite possibly be the best offensive basketball player ever, honestly,” Josh Richardson said Sunday of James Harden. Behind Harden, whose 38.4 points per game would be the most since Wilt Chamberlain’s 44.8 in 1962-63, Houston earned quality home wins this week over the Nuggets and Sixers.

7. Dallas Mavericks 
Luka Doncic averaged 35.0 points, 11.7 rebounds and 8.0 assists over the past week, but Dallas dropped two of three. 

8. Denver Nuggets (24-11)
Since December, the Nuggets are No. 23 in defensive rating. Michael Porter Jr.’s 25-point performance Thursday vs. the Pacers was a major bright spot. 

9. Sixers (23-14)
Until they start winning games again, it’s difficult to justify putting the Sixers higher than this. The issues with offensive structure and fit, defensive breakdowns and more won’t disappear with a victory, but they’d perhaps be easier to address in a less frustrated environment. 

10. Utah Jazz (23-12) 
Utah is undefeated in the Jordan Clarkson era. 

11. Toronto Raptors (24-12) 
The Raptors were held to a season-low 76 points Thursday against the Heat and are now 5-4 without Pascal Siakam. 

12. Indiana Pacers (22-14) 
After crushing the Sixers on New Year’s Eve, Indiana lost to Denver and Atlanta. The big question remains what they’ll look like when Victor Oladipo is back. 

13. Oklahoma City Thunder (20-15) 
Oklahoma City comes into Monday night's game vs. the Sixers on a real roll, having won five straight and nine of 10. 

14. Brooklyn Nets (16-18) 
Kyrie Irving met with the media Saturday to discuss his shoulder injury. He won’t be back anytime soon, and surgery is a possibility. In better injury news for Brooklyn, Caris LeVert returned after a 24-game absence.

15. Orlando Magic (16-20)
The Magic’s best road win this season is over the Pelicans. Orlando’s offense is the worst of any team currently in a playoff spot

16. San Antonio Spurs (14-20) 
San Antonio would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, though the standings in the West are constantly shifting. The Spurs’ starters have taken just 12.7 threes per game, by far the fewest in the league.

17. Memphis Grizzlies (15-22)
Ja Morant is building a long, extensive highlight tape, and Jaren Jackson Jr. is shooting over 40 percent from three on 6.2 attempts per game. 

18. Portland Trail Blazers (15-22)
At 35 years old, Carmelo Anthony played 37 minutes Sunday in Miami, a sign of just how much the Blazers have been affected by injuries. Hassan Whiteside has been putting up huge numbers in losing efforts. 

19. Charlotte Hornets (15-23)
The Hornets might have a theme song. Head coach James Borrego sang Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” in the huddle during the fourth quarter Saturday night in Dallas, and Charlotte pulled out an overtime win. 

20. New Orleans Pelicans (12-24) 
Lonzo Ball has led the team in scoring the past three games, and the Pelicans have won six of eight. 

21. Phoenix Suns (14-22)
Monty Williams delivered a short statement about his team’s inconsistency after the Suns’ loss Sunday to Memphis, then left without taking questions.

22. Chicago Bulls (13-23) 
The Bulls are in the middle of a tough stretch and have struggled this season in third quarters.

23. Minnesota Timberwolves (14-21) 
Shabazz Napier is starting for the Timberwolves and has an ongoing streak of four games with 20 or more points. 

24. Detroit Pistons (13-24) 
This team could look very different in a month. Blake Griffin is considering season-ending knee surgery, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes

25. Sacramento Kings (13-23) 
Dewayne Dedmon publicly said he would like to be traded and was fined $50,000 for doing so. The Kings have had several unfortunate breaks with incorrect calls late in games. 

26. Washington Wizards (11-24) 
Isaiah Thomas was ejected for the second time this season and fined $25,000 for making physical contact with a referee Friday. The Wizards are severely shorthanded, but Ish Smith’s career-high 32 points led them to an improbable win Saturday over the Nuggets. 

27. New York Knicks (10-26) 
Thirty-six games into the year, the Knicks are six games back of the No. 8 seed in the East. The season obviously hasn’t gone as planned.

28. Cleveland Cavaliers (10-26)
There’s been a lot of drama lately with Kevin Love and the Cavs. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Joe Vardon, Love on Saturday had an “emotional verbal outburst directed toward general manager Koby Altman.” 

29. Golden State Warriors (9-28) 
Villanova product Omari Spellman wants more playing time, and Steve Kerr thinks he’s earned it. Golden State has lost four straight.

30. Atlanta Hawks (8-28) 
Trading for Andre Drummond would shake things up, for better or for worse. 

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