Tanks, ranks and… planks? Week 10 Power Rankings


Image by Anthony Bain

Sorry about missing rankings last week during the aftermath of the trade deadline, but I was busy trying to figure out the best way to go into crippling debt by purchasing a car. In the meantime, we got to get a nice fresh look at how teams have adjusted to any changes made and where it puts them in the grander scheme of the playoff push.

We also have seen which teams have punted on the season and are borderline tanking/completely tanking and it’s really obvious. Some people get mad at the idea of tanking but as long as we have a weighted lottery system that promotes and potentially rewards such dastardly motives and decisions, it would be foolish for a team to not take advantage of it, if they feel the playoffs aren’t going to happen.

Onto the rankings! 

Hope you’re watching the tournament closely

15. Charlotte Bobcats (7-40, 4-18 home, 3-22 road, -13.1 differential, 15th in the East)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: StillTeeteringOnTheEdgeOfHistoricallyComical%
Currently: Looking into who the best esthetician in Charlotte is
Games behind 8th seed: Almost as many as there are games left
Did you know that the Bobcats have just ONE player who has a 15.0 PER or greater? That player is Kemba Walker and everybody else is at a 14.8 or lower. It shouldn’t be too astounding that this is the case, considering they’re a really awful team and were bordering on the cliff of historic mediocrity for quite some time. I don’t know that I’m really shocked with the individual consequences of such badness as I am that Kemba Walker seems to be the only average player on the team based on this measurement.

Gerald Henderson, DJ Augustin, and Corey Maggette are definitely average NBA players by all assumptions. And yes, this team (including these three players) has been battling injuries all season long and I’m sure it’s the excuse being used for the historical awfulness. However, even in such a truncated state of health, it’s still kind of shocking to know that these guys aren’t as efficient as a guy shooting 36.6% from the field.
Games this week: home to the Wolves, back-to-back (home to Denver, at Detroit)

More obvious tank than the one in a Master P video

14. Toronto Raptors (16-34, 8-16 home, 8-18 road, -4.0 differential, 13th in the East)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: Extinction%
Currently: 12th in East
Games behind 8th seed: 9 games


Games this week: home to Denver, home to Miami, home to Wizards

13. New Jersey Nets (16-35, 6-19 home, 10-16 road, -6.4 differential, 13th in the East)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: DeronWilliamsAcceptableHaircut%
Currently: 13th in East
Games behind 8th seed: 9.5 games
Billy King since taking over the Nets:

- Essentially traded Courtney Lee for Troy Murphy.
- Signed Joe Smith and then later flipped him to the Lakers for a future protected first rounder and Sasha Vujacic.
- Traded Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and two first round picks to the Jazz for Deron Williams.
- Traded Troy Murphy to the Warriors for Brandan Wright and Dan Gadzuric.
- Traded JaJuan Johnson in the draft for MarShon Brooks.
- Traded a second round pick and a trade exception for Mehmet Okur.
- Traded Okur, Shawne Williams and a top-3 2012 first round pick to the Blazers for Gerald Wallace.

The Deron Williams move was fantastic, assuming he stays with the organization. Other than that, I can’t imagine why Dwight Howard seemed to balk at the idea of joining this team and helping usher in the Brooklyn Nets era. Why trade one Otis Smith for another Otis Smith?
Games this week: home to Indiana, back-to-back (at Warriors, at Kings)

12. Washington Wizards (11-38, 6-19 home, 5-19 road, -7.3 differential, 14th in the East)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: TheSameOddsAsAndrayBlatcheGettingInShape%
Currently: 14th in East
Games behind 8th seed: 13.5 games
I’m probably drunk off my assumed direction of this team but I absolutely love the recent decisions of the Wizards’ brass. Too often, we see just how desperate a fledgling front office is for a young team to come together despite incredibly obvious faults. In the Wizards’ case, the faults were basketball decision-making on the court. I don’t even know that it was a low basketball IQ thing as it was apathy toward working for the correct play.

They had John Wall looking like he was destined to be a part of something frustratingly horrendous for the next few years. Instead, they jettisoned two of the poor playmakers (McGee and Young) and have convinced Andray Blatche to take some time off in order to get into shape. All the while, they brought in Nene, made Jordan Crawford the designated wing scorer (can’t have him AND Nick Young fighting for shots), and allowed Booker, Singleton and Vesely to just go out and learn how to play. This team looks much more fun right now and I think we can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Games this week: 4 games in 5 nights (at Indiana, home to Philly then at Toronto, home to Bucks)

11. Cleveland Cavaliers (17-29, 9-15 home, 8-14 road, -4.7 differential, 10th in the East)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 0.1%
Currently: 10th in East
Games behind 8th seed: 6 games
Seems like the Cavs are okay with not fighting for a playoff spot right now and it’s the right thing to do. This team could really benefit from putting a high lottery pick next to Irving. If it’s a big man, it takes the pressure off of Tristan Thompson to be really good right away and gives him some time to figure out the pro game. In the process, they’re staying relatively close in games, letting Kyrie Irving be a fourth quarter maven, and still not ruining their lottery chances.

Speaking of Kyrie Irving in the fourth quarter, “Wow,” Chris Paul says. The only time Kyrie Irving is “bad” is when it’s the last minute of a game and his team is down by five or fewer points. In those situations, he’s shooting 36% from the field. The rest of the time? He’s shooting 50% from the field in the last five minutes when his team is down by five or fewer and 48.4% in the last three minutes of those situations. When they’re ahead or behind by five or fewer points, he’s shooting 55.4% in the last five minutes, 53.3% in the last three minutes and he’s above 60% in the final 30 seconds of a game. Kyrie just puts teams away when he has the chance.
Games this week: 4 games in 5 nights (at Philly, home to Detroit then home to Bucks, at Knicks)

10. Detroit Pistons (17-32, 12-12 home, 5-20 road, -5.9 differential, 11th in the East)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: BenGordonGoing9for9from3again%
Currently: 11th in East
Games behind 8th seed: 7.5 games
Rodney Stuckey is going OFF right now. Over his last 23 games (or since February 1st), Stuckey is averaging 19.1 points per game on 48.2% from the field. He’s also getting to the line over seven times per game and making 83.5% of those freebie attempts. The Detroit Pistons have been more than respectable as of late and it’s mainly due to the fact that Greg Monroe finally has a little help along side his near double-double averages.

Stuckey is one of those tough guards to figure out. He’s definitely not a point guard and putting him with a bunch of combo guards (see: Gordon, Ben and Knight, Brandon) can potentially be a bad combination (no pun intended). However, if you just allow Stuckey to be a bowling ball of scoring then you start to accentuate his strengths. It’s something teams could never figure out with Randy Foye. I don’t know that this is a long-term plan for success, but it’s making the Pistons a tough matchup most nights.
Games this week: at Cavs, back-to-back (at Chicago, home to Charlotte) 

You’re standing at the edge of tomorrow…

9. Milwaukee Bucks (22-27, 11-11 home, 11-16 road, -0.8 differential, 9th in the East))
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 39.0%
Currently: 9th in East
Games behind 7th seed: 2.5 games
It’s very possible that this Jennings-Ellis backcourt could eventually work. I think the claims that this could catapult the Bucks into the playoffs had much more to do with the Knicks faltering, rather than Milwaukee setting themselves up for success right now. The thing about having a Jennings-Ellis backcourt is not just the SWAG comments and jokes, but it’s really hard to contain two players like this who can get to the basket without a moment’s notice. However, trying to decipher whether or not this is any different than what the Warriors had with Ellis-Curry is complicated.

It’s going to come down to system and what role players can be put around these two guys. The role players are in flux at the moment. You don’t know if Ilyasova will be around long-term. They could try to get rid of Gooden or flip Udoh for parts down the road. They have a lot of veterans that might be acquirable in the off-season by title desperate teams. The system, however, is something the guards are going to be able to figure out the rest of the season and we’ll just how the backcourt and Skiles’ vision compromise on the court. It’s really up to Skiles to make this work, more than it is up to Jennings and Monta.
Games this week: home to Atlanta, back-to-back (at Cavs, home to Memphis), at Wizards

Hanging on for deer life… you see what I did there?

8. New York Knicks (25-25, 16-10 home, 9-15 road, +2.3 differential, 8th in the East)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 75.0%
Currently: 8th seed
Games behind 7th seed: 2.5 games
The D’Antoni firing was interesting. It probably had to be done because you can’t have this back-and-forth nonsense in the newspaper when you’re trying to figure out how to get your team back on track. Also, much like Ben Stiller’s Meet the Parents character in a pool volleyball game, nobody is expecting Mike Woodson to do a whole lot based on a partially unfair reputation after his stint in Atlanta and everybody assuming he isn’t long for this head coaching position in New York. So it takes the pressure off of a lot of people involved and puts it soley on Carmelo Anthony to prove that D’Antoni was the problem all along, whether he’ll publicly state it or not.

And this is exactly where Carmelo should be. I’m not someone who thinks of Carmelo as an albatross on a franchise like many other pundits too. He has often performed his best under pressure and this certainly brings that to him and then some. He now has to find a way to work with Amare (when he’s not injured) and Lin, along with the rest of the role players. If he doesn’t, the next few years of his life will be very tough. If he does, he’ll be considered a hero once again in Madison Square Garden.
Games this week: home to Orlando, back-to-back (at Atlanta, home to Cavs) 

7. Boston Celtics (27-22, 17-8 home, 10-14 road, +0.8 differential, 7th in the East)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 87.1%
Currently: 7th seed
Games behind 6th seed: 2.5 games
There is something seriously wrong with the Celtics’ offense and it may take some sacrifice from the older guys on the team to work it out this season. This team is seventh in field goal percentage, ninth in 3-point percentage and fifth in free throw percentage. So how in the world are they 25th in offensive rating and barely chugging over 100 points per 100 possessions? Some might want to punish Rajon Rondo for this problem because he’s the point guard who “passes up shots” in order to set other guys up. However, it seems to be a pace of the game kind of thing.

The Celtics are 20th in the NBA in pace and that’s largely due to their grind it out mentality. Even though they have the sixth worst turnover rate in the NBA, they might be doing Rajon Rondo’s vision and their offense a disservice by not finding more opportunities to run. The Celtics are 10th in the NBA in PPP in transition opportunities. If they can get Rondo some running mates on the wings and speed up the game a little bit, doesn’t it seem like they’d start to fix their offensive woes? Is stubbornness in pretending you’re the tough grind-it-out standard worth costing yourself a chance at being more dangerous?
Games this week: home to Utah, at Wolves, home to Miami

NTTH – Never Trust The Hawks

6. Atlanta Hawks (30-20, 16-7 home, 14-13 road, +2.1 differential, 6th in the East)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 99.8%
Currently: 6th seed
Games behind 3rd seed: 2 games
I have honestly been trying to figure out a way for the Hawks to become trustworthy in a playoff run and it just seems improbable. They’re a pretty good defensive team, which speaks volumes to how Larry Drew and his veterans have picked up the slack since Al Horford went down with his pectoral injury. Their offense is pretty bad, despite having guys who should have matchup advantages at three key positions (Teague is quick enough to get good shots, Joe Johnson is very good despite his contract concerns, and Josh Smith should be raining hellfire and brimstone on anybody unfortunate enough to have to contain him.

And yet, they can’t seem to get an efficient offense going. The problem is this team just doesn’t go to the free throw line nearly enough. They’re not a good free throw shooting team to begin with (24th in percentage) and they’re 20th in overall attempts at the line. The key though is that they’re 29th in the league (behind Philadelphia) in free throws per field goal attempted, which shows you that they’re bailing out the defense by not forcing contact inside. If they could ever figure this part of the game out, there would be a small glimmer of trust. Alas, there isn’t.
Games this week: 4 games in 5 nights (at Bucks, home to Chicago then home to Knicks, at Philly)

Sorry, kid… you just don’t have it

5. Philadelphia 76ers (27-22, 17-10 home, 10-12 road, +6.2 differential, 5th in the East)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 99.1%
Currently: 4th seed
Games behind 3rd seed: 4.5 games
Welcome back to Earth, Philadelphia. We missed you while you were playing above your head. The world breaking point differential has been more than cut in half over the past month or so. The end of game scoring has been as atrocious as some of us have feared, with the Sixers ranking 27th in field goal percentage and having the second fewest free throw attempts (just ahead of Charlotte) in clutch situations on the season. They are 11-18 in games against .500 teams or better and they are winless (0-4) in games decided by three points or less.

So how do you fix this? I’m not sure that it’s even possible this season. Iguodala isn’t the clutch scorer they need and Lou Williams can no longer make a shot at the end of close games (down to 35% on the season). Is Evan Turner capable of scoring when the game is on the line? Can Thad Young be a matchup problem? Anybody remember that Elton Brand is on the team? This team is just dangerous enough to be a handful but not scary enough to be fearful of an upset.
Games this week: home to Cavs, back-to-back (at Wizards, home to Atlanta)

4. Indiana Pacers (29-19, 15-7 home, 14-12 road, +3.2 differential, 5th in East)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 99.8%
Currently: 5th seed
Games behind 3rd seed: 2 games
Hey, speaking of teams that can’t seem to close out games because of offensive problems, it’s the Indiana Pacers! Indiana has the toughness and the defense to be there at the end of important games. They kill you on the offensive boards but manage to struggle with defensive rebounding. But ask them to get scores at the end of tight games and they simply can’t do it. They’re one slot ahead of Philadelphia in clutch field goal percentage and one of the worst teams in the NBA at making a 3-pointer when they need it. They’re also poor against good opponents (just 11-16 against winning teams).

What’s puzzling is they’ve clawed their way up to 10th in the NBA in offensive rating and yet it doesn’t seem to matter when the game is on the line. The acquisition of Leandro Barbosa was nice because they didn’t mess up their cap situation and they barely gave up anything to get him. Unfortunately, they seem sold on Eric Gordon fixing their problems next year and maybe should have gone for a homerun at this trade deadline.
Games this week: 4 games in 5 nights (at Nets, home to Wizards then at Spurs, at Houston)

3. Orlando Magic (32-18, 18-8 home, 14-10 road, +2.4 differential, 3rd in the East)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 100%
Currently: 3rd seed
Games behind 2nd seed: 4 games
Dwight Howard stayed! Their problems should be over, right? Yeah, that’s not really true. Orlando has the firepower to be a top offensive team in the league and their defense is still top 10. But they just won’t stop giving the ball away to the other team. The Magic are giving the ball away 15% of the time on offense. That’s just way too much for a team that relies on precision passing around the perimeter to open up the flow of their offensive attack.

They also never get to the free throw line. Other than Dwight, nobody on this team even gets there three times per game and since Dwight is under 50% on his 10.6 attempts per game, there is no chance of free points for Orlando. Guys like Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson are the only ones really capable of changing that part of their offense. Doesn’t seem likely to happen any time soon.
Games this week: at Knicks, home to Dallas, home to Denver

Lot of separation forming between you two

2. Miami Heat (35-13, 20-2 home, 15-11 road, +7.3 differential, 2nd in the East)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 100%
Currently: 2nd seed
Games behind 1st seed: 3.5 games
Miami is ninth in field goal percentage in clutch situations… this isn’t the narrative we’ve been spreading around. I know LeBron James is incapable of making plays at the end of games, but there is no way even Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh’s alleged femininity (you know, if you’re into hating women) are able to make up for such a choking artist.

Here is one problem I really do have with Miami in the clutch – nobody is there to rebound the ball. They’re often one-and-done like a Calipari recruit. They have an offensive rebounding rate of a measly 18% in clutch situations. Sure they’re making shots, but they have to be able to react to misses and put pressure on the defense by scooping up errant shot attempts. Especially as we get deep into the playoffs, they will need this against teams like Chicago and any Western Conference opponent (if they manage to get to the Finals).
Games this week: back-to-back (home to Dallas, at Toronto), at Boston

1. Chicago Bulls (40-11, 20-5 home, 20-6 road, +8.4 differential, 1st in the East)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 100%
Currently: 1st seed
Home court advantage? 2-game lead
I don’t care what John Lucas III is pretending to do, there is no way he’s going to be any kind of deciding or positive factor in the playoffs. This team will live and die by Derrick Rose and the offense he helps create. This team’s passing is really good and their shooting has held up all season long. They even get to the free throw line at the highest rate in the league in clutch situations.

Their one focus should be getting Derrick Rose back in time for the playoffs. Ideally, you’d like him back and testing his groin a week or so before the regular season ends. However, if the only way to get him as close to 100% as possible is to keep him out until the first round showdown with the Knicks (or maybe the Sixers if they fall that far), then so be it. I just want to see what a healthy Rose can do this postseason.
Games this week: at Atlanta, home to Detroit, back-to-back (at OKC, home to Houston)

I’m trying to get enough DirecTV referral money to buy you

15. New Orleans Hornets (12-37, 5-21 home, 7-16 road, -4.9 differential, 15th in the West)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: SameAsGustavoaAyonBeingReal%
Currently: Thinking of a MKG-Gordon Wing Duo
Games behind 8th seed: So close to being mathematically eliminated
At first we were like…

But then we were all…

Games this week: 4 games in 5 nights (at Warriors, at Portland then at Lakers, at Phoenix)

Tanks a lot!

14. Sacramento Kings (17-32, 13-10 home, 4-22 road, -5.6 differential, 14th in the West)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: OddsOfIsaiahThomasROYCampaignWorking%
Currently: 14th in West
Games behind 8th seed: 9.5 games
Much like George Bluth with an ice cream sandwich, I am having a love affair with DeMarcus Cousins’ second season. A lot of people are quick to point out the Kings’ record or his 44% from the field as detractions from what he’s doing everywhere else. But overall, I don’t see how you can really dislike the total package of what he brings to the Kings every night. Every opposing coach knows that he’s the focus of whom you want to stop. Keep him out of the paint. Keep him off the boards. Avoid him when he steps in to take a charge (he’s running away with the charges taken total by the way). He’s the biggest problem for opposing teams first and foremost.

As for his low field goal percentage, a lot of that could be cleaned up with him learning out to be patient inside. I think he still manages to rush a lot of his attempts at the rim because either he’s worried he’s going to get blocked or he’s just too anxious to score. He needs to realize that he’s stronger than everybody and it’s going to take a lot of power to knock his shot off of course. Once he figures this out, there will be no stopping him, outside of perfect double teams.
Games this week: home to Spurs, back-to-back (at Utah, home to Nets) home to Wolves

13. Golden State Warriors (20-27, 11-13 home, 9-14 road, -2.0 differential, 13th in the West)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 1.5%
Currently: 13th in West
Games behind 8th seed: 5.5 games
When I threatened Ethan with a fake trade of Udoh, I never thought it would actually be a possibility. I don’t mind the way they’ve set the reset on their “building” project. This team wasn’t going anywhere and it didn’t have the capability of becoming the defensive presence that Mark Jackson promised in his early press conferences. They’re banking on Andrew Bogut and Steph Curry being relatively healthy moving forward and securing a top-7 draft pick (so they don’t lose their pick to Utah in such a loaded draft). They also have a chance to add to their core by picking up San Antonio’s late first rounder that will be owed to the Warriors.

They also get to see what their first round pick this past summer, Klay Thompson, is capable of doing for them. As a starter, he’s not shooting lights out but he is managing to average 18 points per game in a completely disjointed unit. I’d imagine if you pair him with Curry instead of Charles Jenkings and Nate Robinson, he might be a bit more efficient in his scoring efforts.
Games this week: back-to-back (home to Lakers, home to Hornets), home to Nets, at Lakers

 12. Portland Trailblazers (23-26, 16-8 home, 7-18 road, +1.0 differential, 8th in the West)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 11.4%
Currently: 12th in West
Games behind 8th seed: 3.5 games
You’re so bad at tanking. That’s really all I have to say. You’re so bad at tanking and I’m mad you didn’t give the Wolves Jamal Crawford for the stretch run. If you’re going to be all selfish, I am too. That is all.
Games this week: home to Thunder, 4 games in 5 nights (home to Hornets, at Clippers then home to Wolves, home to Utah)

Surprisingly in the thick of the playoff race still

11. Minnesota Timberwolves (24-26, 13-12 home, 11-14 road, +0.2 differential, 9th in the West)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 32.7%
Currently: 10th in West
Games behind 8th seed: 3 games
Rubio is out for the year. Pekovic might have ankle surgery and end his season. Darko… well he’s not going to play because he’s lazy and out of shape so that’s actually a plus. Kevin Love is pretty much the only weapon right now and he’s been going off lately. Over the month of March, Love has averaged 30.8 points on 47.8% shooting (43.7% from 3) and 13.8 rebounds per game. He followed up a 51-point double OT with his third 30-20 game of the season in a blowout win against the Nuggets. And yet…

It’s not enough without Pek and Rubio right now. Especially with Barea now out for a couple games, the Wolves more than ever need Michael Beasley to be a star and be a star in the right, efficient way. It scares me to think about how badly they need Beasley to take over games, especially with the second unit constructed the way it is right now. He doesn’t have to have a Kobe Bryant usage rate, but he does need to be Jason Terry for this team. This is my nightmare.
Games this week: back-to-back (at Memphis, at Charlotte) home to Boston, back-to-back (at Portland, at Kings)

10. Phoenix Suns (25-24, 15-10 home, 10-14 road, -0.4 differential, 12th in the West)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 33.4%
Currently: 10th in West
Games behind 8th seed: 1.5 games
I’m not prepared to really talk about this Suns team right now. They’re winning and they’re winning a lot and it makes me uncomfortable. I feel like they’re up to something right now and I can’t quite figure it out. I look at their current success like this right now:

Games this week: back-to-back (home to Spurs, at Clippers), home to Hornets

9. Houston Rockets (27-23, 19-7 home, 8-16 road, +0.7 differential, 10th in the West)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 51.0%
Currently: 8th seed
Games behind 6th seed: 0.5 game
Kyle Lowry is out and might be out for the rest of the season. In a year of tanking for better draft selection chances, the Houston Rockets aren’t jumping on the trend. I tend to think this is a conscious organization decision all the way down, even if the players don’t know it or won’t admit that their sudden playing time isn’t a tanking decision. It seems obvious that the Rockets want to make the playoffs now and aren’t overly concerned with lottery odds.

It’s refreshing to see a team actively decide not to tank, even if it seems like a misguided decision to me. At a certain point you have pride battle long-term vision, but if you’re tired of chasing that big payday of getting a superstar, there is nothing wrong with being sick of losing. The Rockets are pulling up their bootstraps and trying to get to the playoffs and I commend them for that. Just please don’t know the Jazz and Wolves out in the process.
Games this week: at Dallas, home to Memphis, back-to-back (home to Indiana, at Chicago)

None of you should fall out of the playoffs

8. Denver Nuggets (27-23, 15-12 home, 12-11 road, +1.5 differential, 6th in the West)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 57.5%
Currently: 9th in West
Games behind 6th seed: 0.5 game
I wrote about Kenneth Faried earlier and I really want to write something about JaVale McGee in the next day or two. So I’m just going to talk about The Association and how much I’m enjoying it. I think I could watch George Karl talk about anything to anybody for a long time. I really love the way he carries himself with his guys and how he communicates things to everybody in an equal manner.

Getting to see him right now on this show, in a candid manner, is one of the highlights of a pretty fun season. While I don’t necessarily agree with his TEAM approach, I also can see that he doesn’t really have a choice of going about it any other way. He’s trying to buck the trend and spit in the face of a lot of history. I don’t think it can work, but I would believe him if he was coaching me to think it was possible.
Games this week: at Toronto, at Charlotte, at Orlando

7. Los Angeles Clippers (28-21, 17-8 home, 11-13 road, +1.6 differential, 5th in the West)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 82.9%
Currently: 4th seed
Games behind 3rd seed: 2 games
I am just SO. SICK. OF. SEEING. THESE. GUYS. POSE. FOR. THE. CAMERA. AFTER. EVERY. SINGLE. PLAY.

It’s clouding my judgment on how I even want to evaluate this. I think they’re pretending to be a really good team and I don’t know that Chris Paul is going to be enough to get them through this. Their defense continues to be awful, even when they’re playing Evans and Martin (two guys who are supposed to be good defenders). Nick Young on this team is just a hilarious idea, even if it didn’t cost them anything to acquire him. Too much needs to go right for this team to matter in the postseason, but that won’t stop them from posing while everything shakes out.
Games this week: home to Phoenix, back-to-back (home to Portland, home to Utah), at Dallas

6. Utah Jazz (27-23, 19-6 home, 8-17 road, +0.3 differential, 8th in the West)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 74.4%
Currently: 7th in West
Games behind 6th seed: 0.5 game
The Jazz are playing out of their minds right now and it has everything to do with the young role players on their team right now. Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors are starting to come around within the team concept. Both are rebounding the ball extremely well and they’re growing within the team defensive idea. It makes you wonder if the Jazz should forego their frontcourt depth by trading Jefferson or Millsap, in order to get more depth at other positions.

However, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks have been pretty incredible on the wing as of late. Gordon shouldn’t be much of a surprise because he showed a lot of flashes on both ends of the floor last season. Burks on the other hand is starting to come together in some pretty important minutes. They have him playing at the end of games and even with a shaky jumper, he’s still making a lot of plays. This team has a bright future and it’s not even close to being a completed roster.
Games this week: at Boston, back-to-back (home to Kings, at Clippers), at Portland

One piece from being serious contenders

5. Memphis Grizzlies (26-21, 16-7 home, 10-14 road, +1.3 differential, 3rd in the West)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 82.7%
Currently: 6th seed
Games behind 5th seed: 0.5 game
Z-Bo is back and he’s looking pretty decent in limited action. And I love the way the Grizzlies are handling the situation. They’re allowing guys like Cunningham and Speights to play minutes while Randolph slowly rounds himself back into shape. It’s going to end up costing them seeding at some point because without Randolph playing heavy minutes, they’re putting inferior players on the court. But I love that they’re showing long-term vision and patience with his return.

The Grizzlies have a vision of making it to the Finals and while I don’t think it’s that doable with their problems shooting the 3, I love when a team shows some self-control with getting a guy back on the court. After the improbable run they made last year, we’re going to get to see them replace Shane Battier with Rudy Gay this time and see where it takes them. I’m excited to see it develop over this final stretch run.
Games this week: home to Wolves, back-to-back (at Houston, at Bucks), at OKC

4. Dallas Mavericks (28-22, 18-8 home, 10-14 road, +1.7 differential, 7th in the West)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 73.4%
Currently: 5th seed
Games behind 4th seed: 0.5 game
I know Tyson Chandler is gone but the only thing that seems to be keeping me from thinking this team can win the title again is the play of Jason Kidd and Lamar Odom. With Kidd, it seems pretty simply. He has to make 3s and stop shooting so horrendously from the field. It isn’t much to ask of him either. He’s more than capable of adjusting like that and moving the ball around the perimeter. His defensive presence is that he’s always where the unit needs him to be.

Odom on the other hand is tricky. Getting him some confidence and consistency might be as simple as taking him out after he makes a couple of good plays in a row. Usually, you’d keep him in and want him to build on that. But he needs a string of positive moments in which he can only have that memory of being successful on the court. Might be the trick to getting him out of his funk. Or it might just be me playing armchair psychologist. It’s one of those.
Games this week: home to Houston, back-to-back (at Miami, at Orlando), home to Clippers

I can see you winning a title under the right circumstances

3. Los Angeles Lakers (30-19, 20-4 home, 10-15 road, +2.5 differential, 4th in the West)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 99.0%
Currently: 3rd seed
Games behind 2nd seed: 4 games
It’s not so much the acquisition of Ramon Sessions (although it’s nice seeing someone that can run a fastbreak), but it’s the frontcourt of the Lakers continuing to dominate and grow. Pau is still incredible and Bynum seems to understand positioning under the boards and in the paint at the end of games as well as any big man in the NBA.

The question becomes whether or not Kobe has enough bullets left in the chamber to close out games for the Lakers. I’m not necessarily doubting him because I still think he’s an elite scorer more than just a volume guy. But teams are going to gameplan to take him away at the end of games and it’s harder for him to break free these days. How much does he trust his big men to close out games?
Games this week: at Warriors, home to OKC, back-to-back (home to Hornets, home to Warriors)

2. San Antonio Spurs (33-14, 20-4 home, 13-10 road, +4.8 differential, 2nd in the West)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 100%
Currently: 2nd seed
Games behind 1st seed: 3 games
I don’t even know what to say about this team right now. They’re just so fun to watch and they’re looking to be the ninth team in NBA history to shoot 40% from 3 for the season. The ball movement is superb and Duncan has gotten better as each month of the season goes along. Manu is healthy, Parker should be healthy for the playoffs and Kawhi Leonard has been GOOD. I just want to watch Pop coach in the playoffs and it’s hard for me to wait.   
Games this week: back-to-back (at Phoenix, at Kings), home to Indiana

1. Oklahoma City Thunder (37-12, 22-4 home, 15-8 road, +6.4 differential, 1st in the West)
Hollinger Playoff Odds: 100%
Currently: 1st seed
Games behind home court advantage: 2 games behind Chicago
I’m not saying he’s the clutchest player in the NBA or that his clutch gene would out bench press other clutch genes or that Kevin Durant deserves MVP or is the best player in the league, but I can’t think of a scorer in the NBA I enjoy watching do his job more than Kevin Durant. Every game has become appointment viewing and you actually hope his games come down to the wire so he can take over and provide us with some suspense and drama.

I thoroughly enjoyed Kevin Love’s 51-point effort against the Thunder, but part of me was thrilled to see the way Durant answered him shot after shot throughout the final 22 minutes of the game. I enjoyed watching Durant coldheartedly break a remarkable effort by my favorite team and probably ruin any chance they had at making the playoffs. That’s how fun he is right now.
Games this week: at Portland, at Lakers, back-to-back (home to Chicago, home to Memphis)

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  1. [...] to opening said gift. Zach Harper unpacks this and more in the Week 10 NBA Power Rankings at HoopSpeak.com.anthony davis, basketball, christmas, hoopspeak, hoopspeak power rankings, kentucky wildcats, nba, [...]

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