Can the Bulls and Clippers challenge their respective conference powers? Or will both dwindle on the peripherals? They're this week's notable risers in the NBA Power Rankings.
Here we are, getting closer to the midway point of the season, and on a macro scale things really haven’t changed much. The Warriors are soldiering through Stephen Curry’s nagging leg injury, the Spurs are making a strong case to take the number one spot and the Cavs and Thunder are chugging along behind them. There’s been little action within our top four, justifiably. We know what to expect. So let’s talk for a second about the Bulls and Clippers.
Both teams feature well-tested rosters and still cling to some degree of title hopes, though the weight of expectations often exceeds their respective on-court products. Both turned in 4–0 weeks, the Bulls reversing course from a tumultuous run of games and the Clippers taking care of business without do-it-all Blake Griffin. It was enough to loft them into the five and six spots, which have featured different teams for each of the last three weeks.
Whether they’ll remain there is another question. Chicago’s still searching for its identity and Derrick Rose is dealing with a new injury. Perhaps the biggest personality, Jimmy Butler, just put up his most impressive performance of the season. The Bulls have the talent to return to the East finals, but staying healthy and peaking at the right time remains a major question.
The Clippers have yet to lose in five games without Griffin and are on their longest win streak of the year. Their schedule has certainly played a part in that, but getting those types of results under the circumstances bodes well for the continued resilience of their roster—especially given the strange mishmash of stars, veterans and castoff role players. Their long-term ceiling can still feel capped at times, and they’ve been overshadowed by superior West powers, but L.A. has gotten the job done and perhaps deserves a little more respect.
There’s a wide variety of outcomes for both teams, which should continue to make for fascinating case studies in management. Whether the Bulls and Clippers stay hot, fall apart or strangely float somewhere in the middle, the Power Rankings will remain constant. So, without further adieu.