NBA Power Rankings: Denver Rises to Loftier Altitudes
Image Credit: Mile High Sports
We are back to the biweekly power rankings, and these rankings are quite different than the previous ones. Portland has lost seven of ten and plummeting in the ranks, while the Nuggets are on the rise after winning six straight. The Jazz are free falling, while the Celtics and Lakers seem to have finally turned it on. Most importantly, there is a new number one. Time to reveal this week’s rankings…
1. Toronto Raptors (20-5) Previous Rank: 2
The Raptors have finally wrested control of the top spot from the Warriors, after beating to them in overtime up north. The good? The Raptors showed they could hang with a Warriors team when Kevin Durant dropped 51, and Kawhi Leonard looks to be back into 2016 form. The bad? The Warriors didn’t have Steph Curry, and the Raptors were at home and still barely won in overtime. If the Raptors make the Finals, this looks to be another noncompetitive summer series, but for now, let the Baby Dinosaurs reign.
2. Denver Nuggets (16-7) Previous Rank: 5
The Nuggets get the No. 2 spot because of the hot streak they are on. Winners of six straight, this includes Western Conference rivals in the Lakers and Blazers as well as Toronto. Everything is clicking right now in the Mile High City, and it’s all due to the two-man battery of Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic. Look no further than last night, when the duo combined for 44 points, 18 rebounds and 23 assists in the win over the Raptors. After a hot start, Denver cooled off, but now look to be heating up again while other Western Conference powers continue to fade.
3. Golden State Warriors (16-9) Previous Rank: 1
The Warriors are at No. 3, but that is more about reputation than actual performance. When last the rankings came out, the Dubs were 11-3. Now they are 16-9, with many question marks throughout the roster including Kevin Durant. What can fix this? Winning. Curry is back, and the Warriors will be the Warriors soon, but they need to get Klay Thompson going, who is shooting an anemic—for him—35 percent from three thus far.
4. Milwaukee Bucks (15-7) Previous Rank: 3
The Bucks are 6-4 in their last ten, and seem to be regressing to the mean in the East. Those last ten include bad losses to the Suns, Hornets, and Knicks. This team will go as far as Giannis Antetokounmpo takes them, and if they finish top four in the East he will have a stranglehold on the MVP.
5. Los Angeles Clippers (16-7) Previous Rank: 10
Who would’ve thought the Clippers would’ve been a half game back for the lead in the West? The Clippers are doing it with a relatively unknown cast, led by first-rounder Shai-Gorges Alexander and Danilo Gallinari. As I’ve reiterated before, I want the Clippers to sell high. Doc Rivers and company should realize that the stretch they are on is unsustainable with the no-names they have and should sell a couple of pieces for first rounders so they can further entice a max player like Kawhi or Jimmy Butler to come to the lesser team in Tinseltown.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder (15-7) Previous Rank: 7
The Thunder started 0-4, but have stepped it up big time thanks to their defense. The Thunder have a defensive rating of 100.5 points per game, first in the association. This is all coming without defensive stalwart Andre Roberson, as he suffered a setback during rehab and will be reevaluated in six weeks. The Thunder face an upcoming schedule of the Nets, Bulls, Jazz, and Pelicans; this should be time to bank some more wins before the games against the tough opponents.
7. Boston Celtics (13-10) Previous Rank: 6
The Celtics are in the midst of their easiest stretch of the season, with upcoming games against the Knicks, Bulls, Pelicans, Wizards, Hawks, Pistons, and Suns. They are also on a three-game win streak, and Gordon Hayward seems to finally be rounding into form. Hayward put up 30 points in Saturday’s win in Minnesota, and the Celtics desperately need offense to pair with Kyrie Irving. Perhaps the absence of Jaylen Brown has helped, or the Celtics have hit their stride, but things are looking up in Boston.
8. Philadelphia 76ers (17-8) Previous Rank: 8
Who would’ve thought Jimmy Butler was this clutch? It seems like the man has done nothing but splash game winners since joining the Sixers, and they sit with the third best record in the East. Their biggest test is upcoming, however, a showdown tomorrow with the Raptors north of the border. This is the first real measuring stick game for the new-look Sixers, and they need to capitalize even with their lack of consistent perimeter shooting against a talented stable of Toronto big men.
9. Los Angeles Lakers (14-9) Previous Rank: 17
LeBron James and the Lake Show have finally cracked the top ten after being mired in mediocrity since the season started. That title is no joke because it is literally all James. One guy to watch? Shaq’s boy, JaVale McGee. McGee is averaging career highs in points, assists, steals, blocks, and field goals attempted. With a rumored trade to be going down in LA, who will James handpick to join him? Bradley Beal? Anthony Davis? Only time will tell, something the King is running out of.
10. Memphis Grizzlies (13-9) Previous Rank: 15
If Luka Doncic wasn’t having such a stupendous year, Jaren Jackson Jr. would be the Rookie of the Year. As a rookie, he is averaging 13.5 ppg, and two blocks, and put up 36-8-2 in an overtime win over Brooklyn. This Memphis team will hang around and be good enough for the six to eight seed, but the Grizzlies need to tinker with the roster just a bit in order to really compete in the West.
Here are the rest of the rankings:
11. Indiana Pacers (13-10) Previous Rank: 9
12. Dallas Mavericks (11-10) Previous Rank: 20
13. Detroit Pistons (13-8) Previous Rank: 19
14. Portland Trail Blazers (13-10) Previous Rank: 4
15. New Orleans Pelicans (12-13) Previous Rank: 13
16. Houston Rockets (11-12) Previous Rank: 18
17. Charlotte Hornets (11-12) Previous Rank: 12
18. San Antonio Spurs (11-12) Previous Rank: 11
19. Orlando Magic (11-12) Previous Rank: 21
20. Sacramento Kings (11-11) Previous Rank: 16
21. Utah Jazz (11-13) Previous Rank: 14
22. Minnesota Timberwolves (12-12) Previous Rank: 24
23. Washington Wizards (10-14) Previous Rank: 27
24. Miami Heat (9-13) Previous Rank: 23
25. New York Knicks (8-17) Previous Rank: 25
26. Brooklyn Nets (8-17) Previous Rank: 22
27. Cleveland Cavaliers (5-18) Previous Rank: 30
28. Chicago Bulls (5-19) Previous Rank: 26
29. Atlanta Hawks (5-19) Previous Rank: 28
30. Phoenix Suns (4-19) Previous Rank: 29