NBA Power Ranking Week 18: One Player Who Needs to Step up on Every Team
Feb 22, 2020; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) drives for the basket against Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez (11) in the first quarter at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
NBA Power Ranking Week 18! With the playoff stretch ahead, each team has someone whom they will want to take a step up. Enjoy.
- Milwaukee Bucks Record: 48-8 Previous:1
To be fair, at 48-8, everyone on this team has done his job. Brook Lopez is having one of the best defensive seasons of his career, but his three-point percentage has dropped from 36.5 percent last season to 29.4 percent this season.
Needs to step up: Brook Lopez
- Los Angeles Lakers Record: 43-12 Previous: 2
Danny Green’s three-point percentage has dropped from 45.5 percent last season to 37.5 percent with the Lakers this season. If he can once again connect on his threes at a high clip like he did last season, it will go a long way.
Needs to step up: Danny Green
- Toronto Raptors Record: 42-15 Previous: 3
With the loss of Kawhi Leonard, nearly everyone else on the roster has stepped up and improved this season. However, Marc Gasol is having the worst offensive season of his career with a -1.0 OBPM.
Needs to step up: Marc Gasol
- Boston Celtics Record: 39-17 Previous: 4
At the trade deadline, GM Danny Ainge failed to make an upgrade at center, putting his trust in Daniel Theis. While Theis has improved a lot this season, he will have to stay at a high level if the Celtics want to make a postseason run.
Needs to step up: Daniel Theis
- Los Angeles Clippers Record: 37-19 Previous: 5
By this point, most fans have forgotten that Paul George was third in the MVP voting just last season. However, PG-13 has had a tough time recovering from off-season surgery, with his numbers down across the board. If he can play at an elite level, the Clippers are going to be even more feared in the West.
Needs to step up: Paul George
- Denver Nuggets Record: 39-18 Previous: 6
At age 25, Gary Harris is having the worst season of his career, both in terms of scoring and field goal percentage, since his rookie season, when he barely played. With Malik Beasley gone, the Nuggets will need him to perform better.
Needs to step up: Gary Harris
- Houston Rockets Record: 36-20 Previous: 10
Obvious pick here. The Rockets have fully embraced small-ball, putting the 6-foot-5 PJ Tucker in at center. He will have help around him through double-teams, but the Rockets need Tucker to step up defensively while guarding big men.
Needs to step up: PJ Tucker
- Oklahoma City Thunder Record: 35-22 Previous: 11
Tough choice here as almost everyone has overperformed for this Thunder team that is exceeding all expectations. Undrafted free-agent signing, Luguentz Dort, was thrust into the starting lineup, and if he can play well, it will help the Thunder a lot.
Needs to step up: Luguentz Dort
- Miami Heat Record: 36-20 Previous: 8
Since joining the Heat and signing an extension, Andre Iguodala has been quiet, having scored just 23 points in 105 minutes this season. While Iguodala’s value isn’t from his offense, Miami would like to see him improve on those numbers if they want to make a postseason run.
Needs to step up: Andre Iguodala
- Utah Jazz Record: 36-20 Previous: 7
In his first season with the Utah Jazz, Mike Conley has significantly underperformed expectations. His 13.5 points per game is his lowest since the 2009-10 season, while his 39.0 percent from the field is the lowest mark of his career.
Needs to step up: Mike Conley
- Philadelphia 76ers Record: 35-22 Previous: 9
Easy answer. Joel Embiid has looked heartless on the court at times, and the 76ers need him to step up, especially if Ben Simmons has to miss an extended amount of time with his back injury. Al Horford also looks lost and needs to play better for this team.
Needs to step up: Joel Embiid
- Dallas Mavericks Record: 34-23 Previous: 12
While Porzingis has been solid this season as the second guy next to Luka Doncic, the Mavericks ideally would like to see him improve. He is shooting just 41.8 percent from the field, the lowest mark of his career.
Needs to step up: Kristaps Porzingis
- Indiana Pacers Record: 33-24 Previous: 13
Victor Oladipo has looked lost all season, shooting 33.3 percent from the field. The Pacers are just 3-7 since his return as he has had trouble gelling with his new teammates.
Needs to step up: Victor Oladipo
- Brooklyn Nets Record: 26-29 Previous: 15
After a poor start to the season, Caris LeVert has turned it on, averaging 21.0 points per game and 2.0 steals per game in February. With Kyrie Irving out for the season, they will need LeVert to continue playing at this level.
Needs to step up: Caris LeVert
- Memphis Grizzlies Record: 28-28 Previous: 14
The 21st pick out of Gonzaga, Brandon Clarke, has proven to be arguably the steal of the 2019 draft. However, with Jaren Jackson Jr. hurt, Clarke, will have to step up as a member of the starting five.
Needs to step up: Brandon Clarke
- New Orleans Pelicans Record: 25-32 Previous: 17
In his third NBA season, it’s time for the former second-overall pick to show his worth. Lonzo Ball has only made minor improvements this season, and still struggles with his shot, shooting 40.0 percent from the field.
Needs to step up: Lonzo Ball
- Portland Trail Blazers Record: 26-32 Previous: 16
CJ McCollum had a career-night on Feb. 23, dropping 41 against Detroit. With Damian Lillard out indefinitely, CJ McCollum will have to carry the load for his team.
Needs to step up: CJ McCollum
- Sacramento Kings Record: 23-33 Previous: 18
With Marvin Bagley III out at least three more weeks, the Kings need to get production out of Jabari Parker. Sacramento acquired him in a deal where they sent Dewayne Dedmon to Atlanta at the trade deadline.
Needs to step up: Jabari Parker
- San Antonio Spurs Record: 24-32 Previous: 19
While Dejounte Murray hasn’t been bad, the Spurs were hoping they would get more from him coming into the season. They will need him to take a step forward if San Antonio wants to make the playoffs.
Needs to step up: Dejounte Murray
- Orlando Magic Record: 24-32 Previous: 20
For each of the last three seasons, Aaron Gordon has come into the season with expectations of breaking out into a star. However, his 14.1 points per game this season is the lowest of his career since 2015-16 as he has yet to take that step forward.
Needs to step up: Aaron Gordon
- Phoenix Suns Record: 23-34 Previous: 22
A Villanova product, and 10th pick in the 2018 draft, Mikal Bridges has been fine but is still yet to have taken a step forward in his second season. If he can improve as a scorer, it will go a long way for Phoenix.
Needs to step up: Mikal Bridges
- Washington Wizards Record: 20-35 Previous: 21
Despite significant roster turnaround and several injuries, the Wizards have a shot at making the playoffs and getting swept by Milwaukee in the first round. At 20 years old, Isaac Bonga starts most games at small forward for Washington, and if he can take a step forward, it will help this team a lot.
Needs to step up: Isaac Bonga
- Chicago Bulls Record: 20-38 Previous: 25
Once Lauri Markkanen returns from injury in early March, the Bulls will need him to take a step forward. In his third season, Markkenen was having the worst season of his career before hurting his ankle. If he can play at a high level upon his return, then the Bulls may have a shot at the playoffs.
Needs to step up: Lauri Markkanen
- Atlanta Hawks Record: 17-41 Previous: 24
Cam Reddish has been flamed by fans around the league after he had a lackluster season at Duke and went 10th in the draft. However, Reddish has quietly improved the last month, and if he can keep this production up, the Hawks should be excited about what they have in him.
Needs to step up: Cam Reddish
- Charlotte Hornets Record: 19-37 Previous: 27
While he draws almost no attention, Miles Bridges has quietly improved a good deal over the month. In February, Bridges is averaging 19.3 points per game; if he can keep up this level of play, it will be a big bonus for the future of the Hornets.
Needs to step up: Miles Bridges
- New York Knicks Record: 17-39 Previous: 23
With Marcus Morris Sr. gone, RJ Barrett should have every opportunity to be the Knicks’ leading scorer for the rest of the season. Now it’s time for him to go out and prove he was worth being the third pick in the 2019 draft.
Needs to step up: RJ Barrett
- Minnesota Timberwolves Record: 16-39 Previous: 26
The sixth pick in the 2019 draft out of Texas Tech, Jarrett Culver has underperformed in his rookie season. With Minnesota out of playoff contention, the franchise would love to see Culver improve during the latter part of the season.
Needs to step up: Jarrett Culver
- Cleveland Cavaliers Record: 15-41 Previous: 29
Reportedly unhappy, Andre Drummond has taken a step back since leaving Detroit for Cleveland. The organization is a mess, but they would love to see Drummond perform better.
Needs to step up: Andre Drummond
- Detroit Pistons Record: 19-40 Previous: 28
With Drummond gone, Christian Wood has an opportunity to be one of Detroit’s most important players. Now it’s time for him to go out and prove he deserves to be a starter in this league.
Needs to step up: Christian Wood
- Golden State Warriors Record: 12-45 Previous: 30
The Warriors are expected to explore an Andrew Wiggins trade in the off-season. However, for him to have trade value, they will need him to perform better than he has all season.
Needs to step up: Andrew Wiggins