Written by: Mikey Ryan
Twitter: @wingspansports (we’ll follow back, you won’t regret it)
This NBA season has been nothing short of awesome. At long last it looks like a competitive balance has come back to the league.
Yeah the NBA finals is likely going to be represented by either the Warriors or Rockets in the West and the Celtics or Cavaliers in the East but the middle ground of teams have vastly improved.
In the East, the four through ten spots are just separated by 2 games. Out West, four through nine there’s only a three game separation in the standings.
The standings are fluctuating on a day to day basis which makes every game matter. This is exactly what the NBA has been seeking the past coupe of seasons as people started saying “the regular season was boring”. Fortunately not anymore.
30. Atlanta Hawks – record – 6-23
The Hawks are the favorite to land the number one pick in the draft. They’re in total rebuild mode and the streak of longest consecutive playoff appearances in the East is all but over. What’s good for fans though? Marco Belinelli, Ersan Ilyasova, and Dennis Schroeder are all on reasonable contracts and should have trade value for extra picks to contenders.
29. Memphis Grizzlies – record – 9- 21
The Grizzlies are 2-17 in their past 19 games. That’s just awful. Grit and Grind is dead. The team currently lacks all heart and hustle. If ownership still thinks they can win with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley as center pieces, that’s a joke. If they can deal either and remove their hefty salaries it’ll be a big win for the future of the team,
28. Dallas Mavericks – record – 8-22
It’s honestly a shame Dirk’s final years are being wasted on a awful lottery team. The Mavericks will be picking within the top four of the draft and should set themselves up nicely for the future with a top prospect to pair with Dennis Smith Jr.
27. Sacramento Kings – record 9-20
George Hill recently came out and said he did not expect the team to struggle as much as they are when he signed a three year deal in the off-season? Is George Hill serious? Like its the Kings? The same franchise that just traded it’s star player at the deadline a year prior and has missed the playoffs every year since 2004.
26. Phoenix Suns – record 10-21
The Suns are just an unwatchable team without Devin Booker. There’s not a single person on the roster worth giving a damn about unless Josh Jackson starts living up to his draft potential. Dragan Bender had his best offensive game of the season against Minnesota scoring 17 points on 6-for-10 shooting (5-for-8 from 3) in 30 minutes.
25. Chicago Bulls – record 8-20
Break up the Bull! The Bulls are tied for an East best five game winning streak. What’s sparked the play? Oh only the Bash Brothers of Nikola Mirotic and and Bobby Portis. Looks like their differences have been put aside. Kris Dunn is starting to show out as well and looking worthy of his draft selection a year prior.
24. Charlotte Hornets – record 10-19
Time for Jordan to complete blow this up. Try and find a team to take a flyer on Nicloas Batum, move Cody Zeller once his leg heals, and see if you could flip Marvin Williams in any deal. The Hornets may be the leagues biggest underachievers year in and year out. Can anyone really expect Kemba Walker to stay around after 2019?
23. Orlando Magic – record – 11 -20
The Magic have now lost 5 in a row and are extremely banged up. Nikola Vucevic is putting up big numbers of late (23.2 points, 14.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists in past 5 games) which is only aiding his trade value. Expect the Magic to be huge sellers at the deadline. Evan Fournier is a player that can get a first rounder and a future pick for. Mario Hezonja has had a hot hand of late scoring 17 vs the Hawks and 28 against the Pistons this past week.
22. Brooklyn Nets – record 11-18
After acquiring Jahil Okafor from the 76ers, the Nets have only played him once in his four games with the team. Okafor is still losing minutes to Timofey Mozgov and Quincy Acy. That’s a joke. You can say “oh he needs to learn the system”. That’s nonsense. Nik Stauksas has appeared in two games and played 43 combined minutes and he was in the same deal. Okafor needs to play.
21. Los Angeles Lakers – record 10-17
The Lakers are stuck in a brutal stretch of facing top tier teams. They do start this week with a Kobe Bryant ceremonial jersey retirement against the Warriors. The Lakers are all but likely to end up in the lottery once again. This will mark the fifth consecutive season the team has missed the playoffs.
20. Los Angeles Clippers – record 11-17
Want to know much of an effect Chris Paul had on the Clippers? Last year the Clippers ranked 15th in assists. This year? All the way down to 27th in the league. Pretty much explains why the team has struggled so much.
19. Utah Jazz – record 14-16
Rudy Gobert is going to be out another 3-4 weeks with a sprained PCL in his knee. Just terrible news for the Jazz who were already without Gobert a month already this season. The Jazz stayed afloat the first time without Gobert but it’ll be struggle to stay in the playoff race with another lengthy absence coming.
18. Philadelphia 76ers – record 14-14
Joel Embiid will miss his third game out of the past five for rest purposes after playing a career high 49 minutes against OKC Friday night. The Sixers are 1-4 without Embiid this season and will continue to be careful with Embiid on back to backs. The record in games Embiid does not play will need to improve with the tight playoff race and for playoff position.
17. Oklahoma City Thunder – record 14 -15
The Thunder rank ahead of the 76ers for surviving the triple overtime thriller this past Friday. However, the Thunder followed that loss with a loss to a Knicks team missing its two leading scorers. A ton of problems remain in OKC that need to be resolved.
16. New Orleans Pelicans – record 15-15
The Pelicans are the 5th highest scoring team in the league and dish out the second most assists. New Orleans issue is on defense where they are surrendering 111.7 points a game. That’s the second highest amount of points allowed in the league and explains why the Pelicans can not move more than a game or two above .500.
15. Miami Heat – record – 15-14
The Heat are still without Hassan Whiteside and now have lost James Johnson to injury for the next 1-2 weeks. Fortunately, Pat Riley knows talent and the Heat have been getting contributions from Jordan Mickey, Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk to stay within striking distance of a playoff spot. The Heat may still be on the outside looking in but they are getting closer.
14. Milwaukee Bucks – record 15-13
In the midst of a three game losing streak the Bucks have lost games to the Pelicans (average), Bulls (terrible), and the Rockets (awesome) which shows how incredibly inconsistent the Bucks have been. Fun fact: The Bucks have given up exactly 115 points in all three of their losses this past week.
13. Washington Wizards – record – 16-14
The Wizards are a team that will be active come the trade deadline. The potential for a deep playoff run is there with John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. The bench needs an upgrade and the Wizards need to become more athletic in the front court. A good trade target for the Wizards would be Nikola Mirotic or Kenneth Faried.
12. Denver Nuggets – record 16-13
The Nuggets are sitting tied for 5th in the West and just return Nikola Jokic from injury. The return of Jokic and the standout play of Gary Harris (living up to his contract) and Will Barton (seriously, how has no contender traded for this guy at any point the past two years) have helped off shoot the teams injury concerns. The Nuggets are the ploar opposites of Minnesota when fully healthy as they like to rely on depth to win games.
11. Portland Trailblazers – record 16-13
Portland’s turn around on defense has been vastly under talked about. Last season, the Blazers could not stop a soul. Teams ran their offenses and did whatever they pleased when playing Portland a year ago. The Blazers relied on a high powered offense to win games. Now? Exact opposite. The offense is scoring the 23rd most points and the defense is giving up the fifth fewest. Crazy how things change fast.
10. New York Knicks – record 16-13
Enough cant be said about Jeff Hornacek and the job he’s done with the Knicks. The Knicks have won four in a row and just beat the OKC Thunder by 15 without KP or Tim Hardaway Jr. Hardaway should be evaluated later in the week and update on his condition should be given.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves – record 17-13
Tom Thibodeau is doing to the Twloves what he did to the Bulls and that is just running his players into the ground. Thibs is playing 8 guys and every starter seems to be playing 36-40 minutes a night. The amount of playing time in unsustainable and is the reason why Minnesota is the worst 4th quarter team in the league.
8. Indiana Pacers – record 17-13
The Pacers are still exceeding past all expectations set forth for them this season. Indiana is currently the seventh highest scoring offense in the league and the offense has actually greatly improved since Paul George’s departure. Victor Oladpio continues to make his case for not only an All Star berth but to be a starter.
7. Detroit Pistons – record 17-13
The Pistons have bounced back winning three in a row following a seven game losing streak. Moving Reggie Bullock into the starting lineup has helped spread the floor even more. In his past three games, Bullock has made 9 of his 14 three point attempts.
6. San Antonio Spurs – record 20-10
Kawhi Leonard has finally returned from his quad injury and has been on a minutes restriction in his two games back. Leonard has looked impressive but the Spurs as a whole have played poorly this week. They dropped the two games with Leonard and barely squeaked by the Mavericks with Leonard resting. There’s no worrying about the Spurs. They’ll be a top 8 team in the Power Rankings all season.
5. Toronto Raptors – record 20-8
Toronto is 9-1 over their past ten games and 11-1 at the Air Canada Centre this season. The recent hot streak has them within three games of the Cletics for the number one overall seed in the East. The Raptors are another team that will look to add pieces at the deadline to ensure they maximize the Kyle Lowry – Demar Derozan era.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers – record 23-8
The LeBron James show is unreal. No player has been this historically dominate or efficient in their 15th season yet it seems LeBron is getting better and better. Best part about the Cavs? Isaiah Thomas is targeting an early January. A key date to keep an eye on? January 3rd Cleveland visits Boston.
3. Boston Celtics – record 25-7
The Celtics are starting to lose ground on their top spot of the East with the Cavs and Raptors surging upwards. Marcus Morris has been out with a knee injury and the Celtics bench unit has suffered a bit. It would not be a terrible idea for the Celtics to consider moving Tatum or Brown to the bench in the meantime to help the bench production.
2. Golden State Warriors – record 23-6
The Warriors have won 8 in a row and Steph Curry and Draymond Green have both missed significant time with injuries. Just shows how talented and deep the roster is. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson is still an awesome 1-2 punch on offense and has more firepower than what most of the league can handle. The Warriors wont rush any player back from injury as they are playing for titles not regular season wins.
1. Houston Rockets – record – 24-4
And the Rockets are still unbeaten when Chris Paul and James Harden are sharing the floor together. Any offseason questions about how they’d fit with one another seem to be completely irrelevant now. What they are doing in Houston works and James Harden deserves his NBA MVP award this year if Houston maintains its league best record. The Rockets have been so good they’ve failed to score 100 points twice.