Well, well, well. Welcome back to The Crossover’s weekly Power Rankings, where we have officially reached the NBA's midseason point. The Warriors are still the best team in basketball and the Grizzlies are still the worst, but there have been some surprising runs going on in between. The Heat have somehow cracked the top-five (!), the Cavs are barely hanging in the top-10 and the Lakers are the new kings of the world. Also Drake is back again.
With 41 games in the books for just about everyone, and the Warriors-Cavs set to meet Monday night in an MLK Day showdown, let's get down to business. Here are this week's Power Rankings!
(All stats and records through Jan. 14).
30. Memphis Grizzlies (13–28)
Last Week: 30
I’ll wager a guess that two guys with little-to-no trade value will have even worse value considering how desperate Memphis is to make a trade!
29. Orlando Magic (12–31)
Last Week: 28
On the bright side, Orlando has been making good on the New Year’s resolution I gave them and playing Mario Hezonja more than 27 minutes per game! He’s averaged 11.7 and 5.7 and is shooting 47.5% from the field! That’s exciting, I guess.
28. Atlanta Hawks (11–31)
Last Week: 29
It’s only a matter of time before the Hawks trade Dennis Schroder to the Nets, right? They’re in burn-it-down mode, he’s not exactly a player you build around, and Brooklyn has German national coach Chris Fleming on its bench. I’m starting the stopwatch now, let’s see how long this actually takes.
27. Utah Jazz (17–25)
Last Week: 27
This was absolutely worth the $35,000 fine.
Wanna hear something insane about the phone slap, though?
Surely couldn’t have been an iPhone. Those screens will crack if you just look at them the wrong way.
26. Phoenix Suns (16–28)
Last Week: 23
The five-day gap between games this week made me think they should have just ended their season after beating the the Thunder last Sunday. Don’t even show up. Just take all the losses, get the lottery pick, and let people hold on to that good feeling they had after the Thunder win.
25. Sacramento Kings (13–29)
Last Week: 20
The thought dawned upon me this week—what is Vivek going to do in order to draft Trae Young, who’s been touted as the next Steph Curry? We all know he’s obsessed with finding the next Steph, so what happens if the Kings get the sixth pick? Does he just trade up to No. 1 to get him? What does he give up? The deed to his house?
24. Dallas Mavericks (15–29)
Last Week: 26
This was supposed to be Harrison Barnes’s team once upon a time, but I think that window’s sealed shut. We need a new guy now. After two big games I was ready to give the team to Yogi Ferrell. Now I’m thinking it’s Dennis Smith Jr.’s. Next week it’ll probably be Dwight Powell’s.
23. Brooklyn Nets (16–27)
Last Week: 22
Can Spencer Dinwiddie actually make the All-Star team? Well, no, as Joel Embiid showed us last year even the most successful viral voting campaign in history won’t be enough. But man, these Nets fans are going HARD to get Dinwiddie there this season. It’s pretty admirable, and he’s got some pretty solid numbers.
22. Charlotte Hornets (16–25)
Last Week: 21
I thought for a moment on Saturday that the Hornets might actually knock off the Thunder, then Jeremy Lamb was cut off on a drive and tried a post fade early in the shot clock which he missed badly. They couldn’t close, which has been the problem all year.
21. Chicago Bulls (16–27)
Last Week: 24
The Bulls are now 3–0 against the Knicks this year. If they narrowly miss out on a top-five pick, and New York misses the postseason by a few games, this might go down as the funniest season series ever. Mutually assured destruction!
20. Philadelphia 76ers (19–20)
Last Week: 19
What in the hell is this? How did this happen?
19. Los Angeles Lakers (15–27)
Last Week: 25
Four-game winning streak! Fire up DUCKTALES
18. New York Knicks (19–24)
Last Week: 14
Give Kristaps Porzingis a lot of credit: There was a lot of chatter this week that he wasn’t built to be a franchise player. He came out next game—against Boogie Cousins and Anthony Davis—and scored 25 (on 10-of-24 shooting) with six boards, five steals and two blocks. There haven’t been a ton of bright spots for this team lately, maybe that’s one.
17. Denver Nuggets (22–21)
Last Week: 15
This team can’t defend, can’t hang with good teams, barely beats bad teams, and touts Nikola Jokic and Gary Harris as their only legit good players at the moment. I am very excited to see what this core does in three years, but I’m not too interested right now. I think we can cool the talk on this team making the playoffs this year. Maybe if Paul Millsap comes out of his injury firing and 2016-17 Wilson Chandler returns then we can re-open the discussion.
16. New Orleans Pelicans (22–20)
Last Week: 18
I’m not sure why more people aren’t talking about this. To me, this was like one of the craziest things I’ve seen on a basketball court in weeks.
15. Detroit Pistons (22–19)
Last Week: 13
With the Pistons continuing to boast a top defense, we can’t be too worried about them. That being said, there is certainly chemistry to be built. Reggie Bullock had Tobias Harris open for a potential game-tying bucket at the end of that Bulls loss and decided to take it himself. He was blocked. It just feels like this is representative of the Pistons’ larger problem at the moment, that sometimes guys seem to be out for themselves or out of sync with the rest of the team.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder (23–20)
Last Week: 12
When Carmelo Anthony takes 15 or more shots, the Thunder are 10-15. When Carmelo Anthony takes fewer than 15 shots, the Thunder are 13–5.
13. Indiana Pacers (23–20)
Last Week: 17
Besides male pattern baldness and maybe bear attacks, is there a single greater threat to LeBron James than Lance Stephenson?
12. Portland Trail Blazers (22–21)
Last Week: 11
Wanna know how I know Dame is a stone-cold assassin on the court? Watch this:
11. Milwaukee Bucks (22–20)
Last Week: 10
So I’ll admit it: I haven’t been a big Bucks guy this year. I find their inconsistency maddening, every five days there’s a cavalry of fans calling for Jason Kidd to be fired and they refuse to make simple adjustments. But I think I might be becoming a fan now. There might be hope for Milwaukee. Look at what Tony Snell told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
“I go into the locker room and everybody’s got their head down on their phone the whole time,” said Snell. “I’m the only one who’s got my head up. It’s the saddest thing ever. Technology is the worst. Everybody walks like this (Snell staggers with his head down), not even paying attention. It’s the worst thing ever.”
Yes. 100% yes. Everybody’s got to put down the phones. What’s happened to camaraderie? Team bonding? Enjoying human interaction? Apologies if you're reading this on your phone.
10. Cleveland Cavaliers (26–16)
Last Week: 4
The Cavs had the worst week of anyone, losing by 28 points to the Timberwolves only to follow it up with a 34-point embarrassment against the Kyle Lowry-less Raptors in Toronto. Then, to top it all off, LeBron and Co. blew a 22-point lead in a back-breaking loss to the Pacers.
Cleveland’s offense has been a mess for awhile, but I’m not overly concerned because I still think the Cavs are going to hit their shots and score on most nights, and Isaiah Thomas is eventually going to mesh. I’m more interested in Cleveland’s defense. That's what this team's fate is ultimately going to come down to in the postseason. It remains their biggest question mark.
9. L.A. Clippers (21–21)
Last Week: 16
The injuries continue to pile up (this week it was DeAndre Jordan) yet the Clippers continue to win! These random dudes have gotten so good that I actually yelled out loud in the Sports Illustrated office when C.J. Williams sprained his ankle against the Warriors. I kid you not! I guess the bright side of the injuries is that even more random players you’ve never heard of will start making plays. On Thursday it was someone named Tyrone Wallace. Also, I’ve got to mention—and tip my hat—to Lou Freaking Williams. Fifty. Boy, am I looking bad right now! I love Lou, but I never thought he would do THIS!
8. Washington Wizards (25–18)
Last Week: 9
Love this stat that the Wizards tweeted out. He’s the reason Washington stayed afloat with John Wall out, and he’s been one of the most consistent performers in the league this season.
7. Toronto Raptors (29–12)
Last Week: 5
Drake telling C.J. Miles—a professional shooter—how to shoot just killed me.
Also, Drake getting really mad at this ref made me laugh.
Also also, remember what I said about questioning whether or not Fred VanVleet could score consistently off the bench? Turns out I was wrong!
6. Minnesota Timberwolves (29–16)
Last Week: 8
The Timberwolves’ offense is on fire right now, scoring 120 points per 100 possessions over the past week (tops in the league) and posting a tasty 2.41 assist-to-turnover ratio. Now comes the hard part, though; Minnesota just wrapped up a five-game homestand and will play seven of their next nine on the road, where they’re 11–10 this season.
5. Miami Heat (25–17)
Last Week: 7
Welcome to the top-five, Miami. It’s an exclusive club and you’re probably one loss away from dropping this spot to the Wolves or Raptors, but enjoy it! You’ve earned it, though, in spite of a devastating injury to Dion Waiters. Perhaps the silver lining will be increased minutes for guys that have been super-efficient like Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson.
4. San Antonio Spurs (29–15)
Last Week: 6
So LaMarcus Aldridge reportedly wanted out, but now he and Pop are cool? How often does a coach get this to happen when other teams actually want the player who requested a trade?
BONUS MANU HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK:
3. Houston Rockets (30–11)
Last Week: 3
Last season, a James Harden injury would have spelled doom for the Rockets. This season, it just gives Chris Paul a chance to shine. CP3 is doing a fine job holding down the fort (4–2) while Harden gets right.
2. Boston Celtics (34–10)
Last Week: 2
Absolutely mental, bruv! Innit!?
1. Golden State Warriors (35–9)
Last Week: 1
Why are the Warriors letting Steph Curry play on an ankle that’s not 100%? There is no reason to. Period. The Warriors are 11–4 when Curry sits this season—why not be overly cautious?
June is all that matters to this team.