WEEK 6 POWER RANKINGS

Week 6 NBA Power Rankings

Recently, my power rankings would include the ranked list with a short paragraph for each of the top 10 teams. For the next few rankings I am going to include the ranked list, but at the end of the list I will have a longer write up on 2 teams. This teams will be chosen at random each week. This way I will be able to include a write up on each team in the NBA at least once. 

In addition to this change I am also going to include a new tier based ranking.

  1. Golden State Warriors (12-6) – Previous Rank – 1
  2. Toronto Raptors (13-4) – Previous Rank – 2
  3. Milwaukee Bucks (11-4) – Previous Rank – 3
  4. Boston Celtics (9-7) – Previous Rank – 6
  5. Houston Rockets (8-7) – Previous Rank – 7
  6. Portland Trailblazers (11-5) – Previous Rank – 4
  7. Oklahoma City Thunder (10-5) – Previous Rank – 9
  8. Denver Nuggets (10-6) – Previous Rank – 5
  9. Philadelphia 76ers (11-7) – Previous Rank – 10
  10. Indiana Pacers (10-6) – Previous Rank – 11
  11. New Orleans Pelicans (9-7) – Previous Rank 13
  12. Los Angeles Lakers (9-7) – Previous Rank 14
  13. Los Angeles Clippers (10-5) – Previous Rank 15
  14. San Antonio Spurs (8-7) – Previous Rank 8
  15. Memphis Grizzlies (10-5) – Previous Rank 16
  16. Utah Jazz (8-8) – Previous Rank – 12
  17. Detroit Pistons (7-6) – Previous Rank – 18
  18. Minnesota Timberwolves (7-10) – Previous Rank 20
  19. Charlotte Hornets (7-8) – Previous Rank 17
  20. Miami Heat (6-10) – Previous Rank 19
  21. Sacramento Kings (8-8) – Previous Rank 23
  22. Orlando Magic (9-8) – Previous Rank 24
  23. Washington Wizards (5-11) – Previous Rank 22
  24. Dallas Mavericks (7-8) – Previous Rank 25
  25. Brooklyn Nets (7-10) – Previous Rank 21
  26. New York Knicks (4-13) – Previous Rank 27
  27. Chicago Bulls (4-13) – Previous Rank 28
  28. Phoenix Suns (3-12) – Previous Rank 26
  29. Atlanta Hawks (3-13) – Previous Rank 29
  30. Cleveland Cavaliers (2-12) – Previous Rank 30

Western Conference – Minnesota Timberwolves – (Week 6 Rank – 18)

Free at last!! Free at last!! With the Jimmy Butler drama out of the way now the Wolves can focus on playing basketball. It is hard to argue that the loss of Jimmy Butler will be conducive to winning more basketball games than last season, but I am convinced that the subtraction of his drama filled stay will clear up a lot of behind the scenes distractions. 

With all that said let’s look at some Jimmy/Wolves related stats. With Jimmy Butler this season the Wolves are 3-7. Without Jimmy The Wolves are 5-3. Since the Jimmy Butler trade on November 10 the Wolves are 3-1. This sets the Wolves at 7-10 overall on the season.

Now, the question to ask is if the Timberwolves are the competitive 47 win team they were last season? Or are they the young and growing 31 win team from 2016? My answer is that they probably fall somewhere in between. The Wolves have been on fire from 3 so far this season. Covington in his first 3 games has shot over 50% from 3. On the season Wiggins and Towns, who are below 40% in their careers, have shot over 40% from 3. Although, it is possible Wiggins has taken a step forward and finishes the year above or at 40% from 3. This team will surely welcome that. 

The downfall of this team is its defense. Currently they are giving up 114.1 points per game to opposing teams. Only 6 other teams are doing a worse job of giving up points. However, there is a bright spot within this statistic. In their last 3 games they have given up only 98.7 points to opposing teams (Blazers, Pelicans, Grizzlies). That is 3rd best in the NBA in the last 3 games. After a clear downward trend starting this summer for the Wolves, fans can finally find some things to be hopeful about. 

My current projections for this team would be 40 wins and ending the year around 11th or 12th in the West. The additions of Covington and Saric provide 2 solid roles players and much needed defensive help in Covington. In the end this is still a young team who probably needs 1 more solid piece to be in real contention for a playoff spot. 

 

Eastern Conference – Boston Celtics – (Week 6 Rank – 4)

As I had written last week, the Celtics are still finding their new identity. They have pretty much the same roster as last season, but are a completely different team. Hayward and Kyrie’s injuries and the emergence of Tatum, Brown, and Rozier have all had their separate impacts on how this team is going to operate. 

How much of the Celtic’s slow start to the season should we allow to shape what we think of this team long term? Will they play like a 9-7 team rest of season? Is this start a total fluke and will they easily handle the East like many would have thought entering the season? Well, let’s try to answer these questions. 

First, I really think it’s obvious this team isn’t truly a 9-7 team. The first sign of this is Gordon Hayward. Incorporating Hayward hasn’t exactly been good for winning games. Gordon is shooting under 40% from 2 and under 30% from 3 through 15 games played. He’s also logging over 25 minutes a night. When you have a guy getting 25 minutes plus a night who is taking 12 shots and only hitting them similarly to a rate of players like Mario Hezonja and Cameron Payne then you’re going to have negative results.

Second, similar to Hayward’s struggles are Jaylen Brown’s. Jaylen isn’t coming off a major injury but his efficiency has been way down as if he was. Last season Brown emerged as one of their primary scorers. At the end of the year he averaged over 14 points and shot over 46% from the field. This season Brown is averaging the same amount of shot attempts (11.5), but he is only hitting on 36% of them. 

These 2 problems are not the only problems the Celtics have encountered this season, but to save time they’re the only ones we’ll extensively highlight here. When you add things up Boston is bringing back 2 starters from injuries. They have 2 players taking a combined 23 shots and shooting a career low percentage on those attempts. Boston had also been scheduled 9 road games in their first 13 games of the season. This isn’t easy for any team, but especially when you’re trying to help your young guys figure out their new roles and re-incorporate your injured stars into the roles they expect.

(Other problems they’ve faced include, but are not limited to, Kyrie’s early struggles in the first few games, plain bad luck on a 5 game road trip, averaging the 7th least ppg as a team.) 

I think a lot of these issues will be cleared up and fixed over time. Brad Stevens and the Celtics coaching staff are always making quality decisions. I’m not as high on Boston as I was to start the season. Toronto looks like a legitimate threat and Philadelphia adding Butler will make things interesting as well. My pre-season prediction for Boston was 60 wins and while I still think that team exists I am going to hedge against this a little. My new prediction for this team is 57 wins and I’m still predicting them to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.

Week 6 Tiers

Tier 1

  • Golden State Warriors
  • Toronto Raptors
  • Milwaukee Bucks

Really this tier should be just Golden State. Fortunately, for the rest of the league, they can’t get along. Oh… and Steph hasn’t been playing. 

Tier 2 

  • Boston Celtics
  • Houston Rockets

Both these teams have had slow starts and realistically could end up being in the top 3 teams in the NBA by the end of the season.

Tier 3

  • Portland Trailblazers
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Denver Nuggets
  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Indiana Pacers
  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • Los Angeles Lakers

Tier 4

  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • Memphis Grizzlies
  • Utah Jazz

This tier is really interesting to me. I could easily see the Jazz jumping at least 1 or maybe 2 tiers very soon or by the all star break. I could also see LA and Memphis bottoming out if just 1 thing goes wrong.

Tier 5 

  • Detroit Pistons
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Miami Heat

All 4 of these teams should have playoff aspirations. If it wasn’t for the weakness of the east I would say all 4 won’t be meeting those aspirations. 

Tier 6

  • Sacramento Kings
  • Orlando Magic
  • Washington Wizards

This is really a strange group of teams. I can’t tell if Orlando’s good start is a fluke like last season. I assume the Kings will start to tank soon, and I am so disappointed the Wizards are in the same tier as both of these teams..

Tier 7

  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Brooklyn Nets

The Mavericks may be my favorite “bad team” to watch right now. Pretty much because of Luka and DSJ. 

Tier 8

  • New York Knicks
  • Chicago Bulls
  • Phoenix Suns
  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Cleveland Cavlaliers

I wrestled with whether or not I should put the Suns, Hawks, and Cavs in a tier of their own, but… 8 is a more round and solid number than 9. Either way 4 of these 5 teams have no shot headlining the bottom tiers for the 2018-19 campaign.

WEEK 5 – NBA POWER RANKINGS

NBA Power Rankings – Week 5

1. Golden State Warriors (11-2)

No shock here. Golden State came out firing on all cylinders. Curry has shot just under 50% from 3 so far. Curry will most likely miss at least one more game with his groin injury. The team was able to fend off Brooklyn without him.

2. Toronto Raptors (12-1)

The Toronto Raptors are quickly becoming the Eastern Conference favorite. The fast start to this season has largely come on the back of Kawhi Leonard proving he is still a top 5 player in the NBA. Kawhi has played 9 games and the team’s future success will largely depend on whether or not he stays healthy. Another beautiful development in Toronto has been the emergence of Pascal Siakam. In his 3rd year he is already averaging career highs in points, rebounds, and steals.

3. Milwaukee Bucks (10-3)

Milwaukee is 2-2 in their last 4 games. However, these games were certainly nothing light. With 4 road games in 6 days the Bucks were able to defeat the Warriors and Nuggets while falling in close games to the Clippers and Blazers. Mike Budenholzer should deserve a lot of credit for their success as Milwaukee had struggled to find the right coach throughout last season. They may have their guy in Bud.

4. Portland Trailblazers (10-3)

After a major let down in the playoffs last season the Blazers have put that all in the past. This team is built for the regular season and between Terry Stotts, McCollum, and Lillard should be a shoe in for a playoff spot. Coming into the season I had plenty of hesitation on this team, but they are consistently tough to beat at home. Barring injury or a major shake up by the front office this team should see steady wins rest of season. That being said, I wouldn’t expect them to be in a top 8 spot for too long.

5. Denver Nuggets (9-4)

It was difficult for me to not put Denver ahead of Portland. I’m excited about the prospects of this young team. This team is led offensively by Jokic, Murray, Harris, and Barton. Millsap is also contributing with just under 13 points a night. Harris has only shot 27% from 3, and this shouldn’t last. He hasn’t performed this poorly from 3 since his rookie season so it is reasonable to expect more from him moving forward.

6. Boston Celtics (7-6)

Boston has lost 4 of their last 5 games with the lone win coming in a tight game against Phoenix. My panic meter for this team isn’t high… yet. Incorporating Hayward is taking time and will continue. Luckily, they have veterans in Kyrie, Morris and Horford while also having one of the league’s best coaches. I would be much more concerned with this team if they didn’t have quality vets, coaching, and miles of depth. Still, Boston should be playing the long game with their injury history. If their losing skid continues my panic meter will rise. For now we stay calm.

7. Houston Rockets (5-7)

If I hadn’t watched last year’s playoffs I would chalk up this slow start to a NBA Finals hangover. Unfortunately, it may just be laziness. Again, much like Boston I’m very hesitant to panic with this team. Especially, after a solid victory last night over Indiana. Houston looked much like themselves in that victory and moving on from Anthony might help them get kick started again. Carmelo will become the scapegoat when they get this turned around, which will distract from the true crime of letting Ariza and Mbah-Moute walk. Morey and the Houston front office deserve much blame for this slow start.

8. San Antonio Spurs (7-4)

When I was putting together my season long predictions this year I projected the Spurs making their 21st consecutive playoff. To my chagrin I saw/heard others counting San Antonio out. Now, it is still very early in the season, but San Antonio seems to be plodding along. They aren’t exciting, but they get the job done. I have an expectation that this should be the expectation rest of season.

9. Oklahoma City Thunder (7-5)

OKC is a candidate to drop furthest in the next power ranking. It seems unclear what Westbrook’s time table is and I’m not sure if they can win without him. Since his nasty ankle injury OKC is 2-1 which is fantastic. Their next 4 games they’ll face Phoenix twice, New York, and Sacramento. This injury really couldn’t have come at a better time.

10. Philadelphia 76ers (8-6)

Philadelphia has made a huge splash with the addition of Jimmy Butler. The 76ers were looking like they needed something more if they wanted to truly compete at the end of the season with Toronto and Boston. They will lose 2 very important pieces in Saric and Covington, but the addition of Butler does increase their ceiling. I’m excited to see what he can add to this already talented team.

 

 

Complete List

  1. Golden State Warriors
  2. Toronto Raptors
  3. Milwaukee Bucks
  4. Portland Trailblazers
  5. Denver Nuggets
  6. Boston Celtics
  7. Houston Rockets
  8. San Antonio Spurs
  9. Oklahoma City Thunder
  10. Philadelphia 76ers
  11. Indiana Pacers
  12. Utah Jazz
  13. New Orleans Pelicans
  14. Los Angeles Lakers
  15. Los Angeles Clippers
  16. Memphis Grizzlies
  17. Charlotte Hornets
  18. Detroit Pistons
  19. Miami Heat
  20. Minnesota Timberwolves
  21. Brooklyn Nets
  22. Washington Wizards
  23. Sacramento Kings
  24. Orlando Magic
  25. Dallas Mavericks
  26. Phoenix Suns
  27. New York Knicks
  28. Chicago Bulls
  29. Atlanta Hawks
  30. Cleveland Cavaliers