Another week, another installment of impeccable misjudgment-free NBA Power Rankings. Drink it in, it always goes down smooth.
The only number that really matters for the Hawks right now is this one — a 52.1 percent chance of landing in the top four of the 2019 NBA Draft, and a 14.0 percent chance of finishing with the top pick.
The best news the Chicago Bulls could have received this week is news that Lauri Markkanen might be ready to play as soon as next week. This is already a lost season for the Bulls but an opportunity to get Markkanen on the floor so he can get reps and build a rhythm with Wendell Carter Jr. and Zach LaVine is hugely important.
A Jamal Crawford buzzer-beater was the only thing that kept the Suns from a winless week, but Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker combined for 49.7 points, 14 rebounds and 9.3 assists per game over their last three, combining to shoot 57.8 percent from the field. Now if they could just get some consistently positive contributions from the other three positions…
The Wizards are finally picking up some wins but even in a week where they went 3-1, they only outscored their opponents by an average of 1.0 per 100 possessions. In the small scale, things might be moving in a healthier generation but on a larger scale this still looks like a team on the verge of exploding.
.The Knicks are riding a three-game win streak, picking up games over the Memphis Grizzlies, Boston Celtics and New Orleans Pelicans. The supporting cast was knocking down 3s, Mitchell Robinson is still swatting everything in sight and Emmanuel Mudiay and Trey Burke are giving solid point guard minutes. This is about as good as it gets for New York.
A brief update on Collin Sexton’s numbers in the 13 games since head coach Ty Lue was fired — 15.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists, shooting 45.9 percent from the field and 13-of-26 on 3-pointers. He still has a long way to go towards being an overall positive player but things are certainly trending in a better direction.
The Magic’s record may look strong and they’re currently sitting in the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference but they’ve been outscored by an average of 3.1 points per 100 possessions on the season, well below the marks of teams like the Heat and Nets. Nikola Vucevic has been sensational but they still have a lot of questions to answer if they’re going to stay in the playoff race.
The Heat continue to struggle, especially when Josh Richardson isn’t on the floor. With him on the court, the Heat have been outscoring opponents by an average of 3.1 points per 100 possessions. When he sits, their point differential falls to minus-12.5 points per 100 possessions, a difference of 15.6, by far the largest on the team.
The Nets have gone just 2-5 in the seven games since Caris LeVert suffered his leg injury. The offense has been able to survive without his creation, although the efficiency of players like D’Angelo Russell has taken a hit and catch-and-shoot numbers for key outside threats like Joe Harris have dropped.
De’Aaron Fox’s shooting numbers have slipped over the past two weeks but the re-entry of Bogdan Bogdanovic into the lineup has helped pick up the slack. If they could just figure out how to stop someone on defense they might be able to keep themselves in the playoff race.
The Timberwolves have looked like a different team since the Jimmy Butler trade, particularly on the defensive end. Robert Covington has ably taken on the primary wing defender role that Butler vacated, and the Wolves are allowing just 97.7 points per 100 possessions with Covington on the floor. Andrew Wiggins is going through one of the worst stretches of his career but finally buckling down on defense is paying dividends.
The Jazz are still struggling on offense and it’s clear that a lack of on-ball creation has been one of their biggest problems. Donovan Mitchell is doing his best and Ricky Rubio is capable, although inclined to favor the past. The Jazz are in the top-five in drives per game but only the Magic are scoring on a lower percentage of their drives this season.
The Spurs are still hanging around, playing .500 ball and finding ways to win games. DeMar DeRozan has been absolutely incredible, averaging 24.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game, with a true shooting percentage right at his career average. If LaMarcus Aldridge’s mid-range shooting bounce’s back they could have that extra edge they need to start separating themselves from the pack.
James Harden has continued to be sensational but the supporting cast is clearly not holding up to last year’s bar-raising performance. Last season, all Rockets other than Harden and Chris Paul made 35.8 percent of their 3s. This year, that group has only made 32.5 percent. They’re sacrificing efficiency and working in a more-tightly spaced halfcourt environment. Right now their supercharged offensive stool is missing one of its legs.
The Pelicans had another winless week, continuing their endlessly yo-yoing results. New Orleans had a four-game winning streak to begin the season and then promptly lost six-in-a-row. They bounced back by winning six of seven games and are now mired in a four-game losing streak. Their ceiling is much higher but until the Pelicans can establish some consistency they probably belong in the bottom half of these rankings.