NBA Power Rankings: Warriors sit atop a league plagued by injuries
Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard and Anthony Davis are sidelined. Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh are out for the season. And LaMarcus Aldridge, Bradley Beal, Kemba Walker and several other big-name players are hobbled by injuries.
Yet somehow, the NBA hasn’t crumbled to the floor like Chris Paul absorbing a screen.
That’s because the league continues to be more team-oriented than ever. Atop this week's rankings are well-rounded squads like the Warriors, Grizzlies and Hawks—teams that feature All-Stars but aren’t comprised of all stars. Teams like the Clippers and Rockets—who are playing without Griffin and Howard for extended periods of time — are still winning games despite missing their franchise big men. L.A. has gone 4-1 since losing Griffin, beating all three Texas teams along the way, while Houston has got by without Howard for half the season, going 15-8.
Not every team is built to endure those types of losses. Miami will struggle to make a playoff run without Bosh and Washington hasn’t been the same without Beal. There’s also the case of the Knicks and Lakers, who aren’t sniffing mediocrity with or without their injured stars. But as a whole, the NBA appears to be trending toward balance and away from star-dependency. Some of the best players in the league are currently sidelined, yet the best teams in the league remain unaffected.
After taking a one-week hiatus for All-Star Weekend, here’s where all 30 teams stand in this week’s NBA Power Rankings.
(All stats and records through Feb. 22)
With upcoming road showdowns against the Wizards, Cavaliers and Raptors, Steve Kerr elected to rest Stephen Curry in the opener of a six-game trip. That cost the Warriors just their 10th loss of the season as Golden State was held to 98 points against Indiana. The Dubs’ offensive rating drops from 115.9 to 102.5 when Curry isn’t playing this year.
The Grizzlies are really taking their team nickname to heart. While Memphis has embodied the grit-and-grind mentality for years, Marc Gasol sounded like he was describing an actual bear after the team’s double-digit comeback win over Portland on Sunday. Said Gasol: “We kept scratching and clawing and getting closer and closer.”
Rather than mess with success, the best team in the East elected to stand pat at the trade deadline. The Hawks are just 4-4 in February, but their 19-game winning streak earlier this season proved what this current roster is capable of.
Toronto’s new starting lineup of Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, James Johnson, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry—which it has deployed the last four games—owns a net rating of 17.2 and is allowing a ridiculous 78.5 points per 100 possessions. Don’t expect that five-man unit to go anywhere anytime soon.
The Clippers have won four straight despite Blake Griffin’s absence and West rivals attempting the Hack-A-Shaq strategy against DeAndre Jordan. L.A. notched victories over San Antonio and Houston despite Jordan shooting 10-of-28 and 12-of-26 from the stripe, respectively.
Daryl Morey’s thievery continues. After stealing Josh Smith earlier this season, Morey’s sleight of hand at the deadline yielded K.J. McDaniels and Pablo Prigioni, two players Kevin McHale can plug into the rotation immediately. McDaniels, particularly, could prove to be a valuable acquisition, fitting in perfectly as a 3-and-D player in Houston.
The Spurs' annual rodeo road trip spans almost a month this season. San Antonio’s last home game came on Feb. 6 in a win against the Heat and the team doesn’t return to the AT&T Center until Mar. 4. Making things even more difficult: the Spurs are just 14-14 on the road this year after a 30-11 showing last season.
Tom Thibodeau’s players need rest wherever they can get it, which is why Jimmy Butler’s decision to play a minimal role in the All-Star Game bodes well for the Bulls. Butler averages a league-high 39.3 minutes per game, but he played a game-low nine minutes in the All-Star Game. The first-time selection scored 30 points in his first contest following the break and made this insane defensive play the next night out.
It’s good Sam Presti called in the calvary at the deadline, adding Enes Kanter, Kyle Singler and D.J. Augustin to the team’s rotation. With Kevin Durant sidelined once again, Oklahoma City’s newfound depth will be tested. The newcomers came through in their debut, with the three combining to score 37 points.
John Hammond is rebuilding the right way in Milwaukee. The Bucks GM made a move with the team’s long-term success in mind at the deadline rather than giving into temptation and doubling-down on his team’s surprising short-term success. As much as the Bucks are overachieving, they’re still years away from hitting their ceiling—which continues to climb thanks to Hammond.
The Wizards’ fall from grace has been sudden. Washington has lost eight of its last 10 games and suffered back-to-back blowout losses following the All-Star break. With Bradley Beal in and out of the lineup, the Wizards can’t muster any magic on offense, topping the century mark in regulation just once over their last eight games.
Anthony Davis’ unibrow is no longer his most scrutinized body part. The Pelicans star re-injured his right shoulder in Saturday’s win over the Heat and left for good in the first quarter. New Orleans, which is 2-5 when Davis sits out this season, can’t afford for its All-Star center to miss time as it fights to stay in the West’s merciless playoff race.
It’s tough to get excited about moving to Detroit in February, but Reggie Jackson was likely ecstatic about the news. After playing third (and sometimes fourth) fiddle in Oklahoma City, Jackson will get free reign under Stan Van Gundy. How excited was Jackson for his Pistons debut? The ex-Thunder guard got so hyped he threw up in the first quarter, according to his new coach.
Five teams are separated by just two games in the race for the East's No. 8 seed, but only one of them has a transformative talent scheduled to return next month. Indy is already trending in the right direction, winning six of its last seven and getting huge production from George Hill and Rodney Stuckey.
Not to rub it in, but the Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce trade might go down as one of the worst in history. Two years later, Brooklyn doesn’t have a single asset to show from that deal. Making matters worse: it still owes its 2016 and 2018 first-round picks to Boston and the right to swap picks in 2017.
It was an emotional week for Isaiah Thomas. A few days after being surprisingly dealt to Boston before the deadline, Thomas was ejected during the fourth quarter of his debut with the C’s after arguing an offensive foul call. He also scored 21 points in 25 minutes, but as his new head coach Brad Stevens said: “He did a lot of good things, but he’s got to be out there at the end.”
Utah has won three of its last four and is clamping down on opponents. The Jazz are allowing just 95.8 points per 100 possessions over that span compared to 105.6 on the season.
The playoffs are out of reach after Tyrone Corbin’s 7-21 stint as interim head coach, but George Karl gets a jumpstart on a 2015-16 playoff bid by coming in early. Sacramento’s new coach will use the rest of the season as an extended evaluation period for who will be with the team going forward.
Los Angeles notched just its second win in 18 games on Sunday by beating Boston in OT. But let’s not get carried away with the optimism: this is a team that has won just once in regulation since Jan. 7.
Before being shut down for the season, Carmelo Anthony played 30 minutes in the All-Star Game, the most of anyone not named LeBron James. It was only fitting that Melo’s lost season ended on a 6-of-20 performance and a loss at home.