Well, another week of NBA basketball has passed us by, and it was a good one! This year’s Christmas slate was one of the best in recent memory; each game was filled with excitement and came (pretty much) right down to the wire.
Though it’s never fair to judge any team based on one game, we did see some movement as a result of play on Jesus’s birthday. I don’t think we can call the Rockets No. 1 any longer, we need to pay very close attention to the Thunder, and the Knicks’ win over the Celtics might be more indicative of Boston’s fall than New York’s rise. How’s everything shaking out after the unofficial start of the season? Let’s have a look, why don’t we?
30. Atlanta Hawks (8–25)
Last Week: 30
Quavo should coach the Hawks. Obviously he’s a great motivator.
29. Memphis Grizzlies (10–23)
Last Week: 27
Why haven’t the Grizzlies ruled Mike Conley out for the season yet?
28. Orlando Magic (11–23)
Last Week: 25
There’s no reason Mario Hezonja should be playing fewer than 30 minutes in a given game. We (and the Magic) need to fix this.
27. Phoenix Suns (12–23)
Last Week: 29
That might be a while, Book. No offense.
26. Dallas Mavericks (9–25)
Last Week: 28
For four games, at least, Harrison Barnes has looked like a guy who can have his own team. Yeah, this was supposed to be his team, if you’d forgotten.
25. Chicago Bulls (10–22)
Last Week: 26
Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic are kind of amazing together. Whatever Portis was mad about when he broke his face, it seemed to actually help the pairing.
22. Utah Jazz (15–19)
Last Week: 20
Fractured locker room!!!!!
23. Los Angeles Lakers (11–21)
Last Week: 23
Only need two tweets for this one:
21. Sacramento Kings (11–21)
Last Week: 24
You’re not going to find a more fun, interesting bad team than this one. If De’Aaron Fox didn’t get hurt they might have had a big win this week. They’ll come.
20. Charlotte Hornets (12–21)
Last Week: 21
Feels a little early to send Monk down, no? Or is this going to become normal with the new G-League?
19. L.A. Clippers (13–19)
Last Week: 19
Austin Rivers is the first Clipper to score at least 35 in back-to-back games since Blake Griffin in 2014. He's the first Clipper guard to do it since Ron Harper in 1989. And he’s 25. And he’s Austin Rivers.
18. Philadelphia 76ers (15–18)
Last Week: 16
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This team really shows its youth late in close games. They went four straight possessions with a turnover in the final minutes on Christmas. That might hold them back as the season wears on.
17. New Orleans Pelicans (17–16)
Last Week: 17
For the longest time now, the Pelicans have been stuck right here in the middle. They’re not bad, but they’re also not very good. Maybe they just need to get everyone playing well at the same time to rise out of mediocrity? Just as Rondo disappeared, E’Twaun Moore and Ian Clark began to turn it up. I think they’re capable of being good.
16. Miami Heat (17–16)
Last Week: 14
I feel like a lot of people took this play for granted. Not sure how this finish is possible.
15. Milwaukee Bucks (17–14)
Last Week: 15
As we saw in that loss to Charlotte, there isn’t much on this team aside from Giannis. Even in their wins, there are several unspectacular performances from the regulars.
14. Portland Trail Blazers (17–16)
Last Week: 9
I think the Blazers' only win against a good team came when they beat the Heat a couple weeks ago. Aside from that... do Denver and OKC at the beginning of the year count? Maybe the Knicks and Wizards? They had a chance to pick up a couple big ones this week, and I’m still waiting on the team-defining one. At least Shabazz Napier looks like a player now.
13. Denver Nuggets (18–15)
Last Week: 18
Did it take the Warriors having... like... their worst offensive game in years for Denver to pick up its biggest win of the year? Maybe. Do I care? Nope! Wilson Chandler is beginning to look like Sixth Man of the Year Candidate Wilson Chandler, who made an appearance in our lives last season.
12. Washington Wizards (19–15)
Last Week: 12
Last May, in Game 7 of the East semifinals, Scott Brooks didn’t play Kelly Oubre a single minute because he didn’t trust him enough. On Christmas, he was a leading factor in Washington’s wins. He’s made giant strides and I am really starting to love him.
11. Indiana Pacers (19–14)
Last Week: 10
Indiana had the league’s third-best offensive rating this past week. The Victor Oladipo breakout season is SO real! Seriously, though, as long as his supporting cast continues to shoot this well, Oladipo will carry the Pacers far. I’ve long believed BojanBogdanovic could be an impact player. Perhaps he wins an Oscar for best supporting actor this season. Actually, Myles Turner will probably win.
10. New York Knicks (17–15)
Last Week: 8
It was so evident on Christmas that EnesKanter is the second-most important player on this team. As long as KristapsPorzingis struggles a bit to rebound, they need him out there.
9. Detroit Pistons (18–14)
Last Week: 7
The Knicks were right to want Reggie Bullock back in 2014 when they tried to trade ImanShumpert and Ray Felton for Darren Collison. Who knew!
8. Minnesota Timberwolves (21–13)
Last Week: 10
Taj Gibson hit a gut-punch three on Christmas. Taj Gibson!! This team is clicking on all cylinders right now.
7. Oklahoma City Thunder (19–15)
Last Week: 13
Oklahoma City is actually playing defense now—AND sharing the ball—which is just a beautiful thing. I never thought a team with post-Nuggets Carmelo Anthony was capable of this.
6. Boston Celtics (27–10)
Last Week: 4
Seems the two things that helped Boston skyrocket to the top of the power rankings—defense, rebounding and discipline—have fallen by the wayside. These guys aren’t too scary right now.
5. San Antonio Spurs (23–11)
Last Week: 6
The Spurs’ defense remained elite last week (98.6 points allowed per 100 possessions, good for third in the league), which was more than enough to overcome some rough offensive showings. Once Kawhi returns to full health, there’s no doubt this team will enter the conversation for No. 1.
4. Toronto Raptors (23–8)
Last Week: 5
Toronto had the league’s No. 2 defensive rating over the past week, and Serge Ibaka is averaging 18.4 points in December. Defense + players other than Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan = many wins.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (24–10)
Last Week: 2
In what seems like the blink of an eye, Tristan Thompson’s gone from max player to... Roy Hibbert? Nice to see him get some big minutes on Christmas, I guess.
2. Houston Rockets (25–7)
Last Week: 1
Wanted to put them No. 1 for this pass alone... but I can’t. Without Chris Paul, it's clear this team isn't the same on defense. I mean, they gave up 128 points to the Clippers. Perhaps more Briante Weber is the answer.
1. Golden State Warriors (27–7)
Last Week: 3
Has Kevin Durant become a defensive juggernaut, or is he just now getting all the calls LeBron’s been getting for over a decade? To me this foul was egregious. Egregious! Even my father—who complained the whole game that players complained about no-calls too much—thought it was bad.
Even without Steph Curry, who I've been told is still a top-five player in the league (we can have this conversation another time), this team continues to play well. After proving to be better than Cleveland, they're next in line for the top spot.