- In this week's NBA Power Rankings, the Cavaliers fall to the bottom half, the Rockets surge and the Clippers continue to surprise. Oh, and there's a guest Power Ranker this week too!
Welcome to a special edition of The Crossover’s NBA Power Rankings! Well, special in the sense that I’ve literally never done this before. Drunk with power ranking power, I’ve decided the best way to tackle this week’s list is to be super reactionary (sorry, Cavs fans) and reward teams playing better than they should be (go Clippers!) We won’t dive deep into every team today, but headed into Week 15 of the NBA season, here’s a snapshot of how each team has looked in its most recent games.
(All stats and records used through Jan. 22).
30. Sacramento Kings (13–33)
I had a little bit of excitement for the Kings headed into this season, but they have been far and away the worst team in the Association. Selling off any veterans at practically any price would be a smart move here. De’Aaron Fox can still lead this team out of the woods one day, but the front office needs to make sure his talent isn’t cultivated in a losing environment forever.
29. Phoenix Suns (17–30)
The Greg Monroe Revenge Game was almost a thing in their Monday night loss to the Bucks.
28. Orlando Magic (14–32)
Aaron Gordon has cooled considerably from deep after a scorching start to the season. Still, if he settles somewhere in the mid-30%s from distance, that will be a massive improvement over the rest of his career.
27. Atlanta Hawks (14–32)
Looking a little friskier the last couple weeks.
26. Utah Jazz (19–28)
The Jazz look very much like a team relying on a rookie to carry the offensive load. Utah needs to be aggressively looking for a long-term answer at point guard in the offseason to help ease the burden on Donovan Mitchell.
25. Dallas Mavericks (16–31)
The Mavs had a nice little win against the Jekyll-and-Hyde Wizards on Monday. Dennis Smith Jr. is also putting together some of his best performances of the season over the last couple weeks. They’ve almost become more entertaining than Shark Tank reruns. Almost.
24. New York Knicks (21–26)
The return of Tim Hardaway Jr. earlier this month has helped the offense, but this team is still awful on the road. Upcoming games at Golden State and Denver won’t help.
23. Brooklyn Nets (18–29)
Brooklyn has won two in a row over teams above them in the East standings. The Nets play in a decent amount of close games, and they often make better teams work for wins. I like this squad a lot.
22. Detroit Pistons (22–23)
Losers of five in a row!
21. Charlotte Hornets (19–26)
Charlotte has played much better over the last two-and-a-half weeks of the season than it did to start the year. And the return of Steve Clifford earlier this month is reason to celebrate. But when Michael Jordan is basically confirming reports that Kemba Walker could be moved for the right price, it’s hard to pretend that things are looking up for the Hornets. A major shake-up may be in play here.
20. Memphis Grizzlies (17–29)
Break up the Grizz! Memphis has won five of its last seven, including wins over the 76ers and Pelicans. The tank will probably continue after the trade deadline, but the Grizzlies have been relatively hot for a couple weeks so they get a bump here. He may never be a star, but I enjoy watching Dillon Brooks every time he’s on the court.
19. Los Angeles Lakers (17–29)
Winners of six of their last eight, which means they’re slightly hotter than Memphis.
18. Chicago Bulls (18–29)
Chicago lost a nail-biter to the Pelicans on Monday, but the Bulls appear competent enough to play spoiler on any given night. The front office needs to strike while the Nikola Mirotic iron is hot.
17. Washington Wizards (26–21)
Washington should not be second in its own division and in the bottom half of the East playoff bracket. What a disappointing season here. A guy like Mirotic would help, but an attitude adjustment would probably help even more. The Wizards are playing like a team that can flip the switch when they aren’t exactly proven playoff contenders. And John Wall calling J.J. Barea a “midget” was absolutely weak. This franchise needs a jolt.
16. Cleveland Cavaliers (27–18)
Where do we even start with the Cavs? Their defense is worse than the 2012 Bobcats, the team with the worst winning percentage in NBA history. Some players held a clandestine meeting earlier this month with select media members to complain about the roster. And then Monday night, Woj reported everyone was mad at Kevin Love. Cleveland definitely won’t beat the Warriors as presently constructed, and the Cavs would be lucky to even make the Finals at this point.
15. Milwaukee Bucks (24–22)
A close win over the Suns wasn’t the best start to the post-Jason Kidd era, but his firing should ultimately help the team. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s reservations aside, Kidd never really proved he could take this team to the next level. His defensive scheme was lacking, and the addition of Eric Bledsoe should have been more impactful. The Bucks are still very talented, and will be a sought after coaching destination. They still have time to turn things around this season as well.
14. Indiana Pacers (25–22)
Indiana is holding steady and remains very much in the thick of the East playoff race. The Pacers play their favorite punching bag, the Cavs, later this week.
13. Denver Nuggets (24–23)
Denver is just barely holding on without Paul Millsap. Jamal Murray has made big strides this season, but this team could still use one more guard off the bench. Maybe the Nugs can get in play for George Hill? Millsap’s return should be a big enough boost to get Denver back into the top eight.
12. Portland Trail Blazers (25–22)
Damian Lillard’s meeting with Paul Allen doesn’t seem all doom and gloom. Dame didn’t ask for a trade, and star players should be putting pressure on management to build winning teams. Can the Blazers catch up to the West’s best? Not the way the roster is put together right now. Portland desperately needs to get rid of some of its bad contracts, which could mean sending away someone like C.J. McCollum. Dame won’t be patient forever.
11. Los Angeles Clippers (23–23)
This team has absolutely no business fighting for a playoff spot. Not with guys like Sindarius Thornwell and Jawun Evans routinely playing big minutes and injuries up and down the roster. Somehow, the Clips have the ninth-best offense in the league. Doc Rivers deserves some Coach of the Year love if he keeps this up.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (22–21)
A blown lead to the Grizzlies was a bad look, but they were 3–0 last week, and will have two big opportunities to make a statement this week with road games at OKC and San Antonio.
9. Miami Heat (27–20)
An overachieving team that can still be frustrating. Losses to Chicago and Brooklyn last week, but also wins over the Bucks and Hornets—the latter of which had schedule loss written all over it. Miami, without its starting backcourt, took Houston down to the wire Monday, but the Heat can’t afford to keep playing in close games every night.
8. New Orleans Pelicans (25–21)
New Orleans has won three of its last four, and Boogie and Anthony Davis are capable of putting up a historic stat lines against any frontcourt in the league. The hot streak gives them a nice showing in these rankings, but the Pelicans still need to find consistency. They should be better than their record.
7. San Antonio Spurs (30–18)
The mystery around Kawhi Leonard’s injury grew as ESPN reported Leonard was upset with the Spurs for how his season has been handled. The report sent every NBA fan scrambling for the trade machine, but San Antonio is obviously still being very supportive of its superstar. Leonard’s absence has certainly been baffling this season. It’s unclear how serious his quad ailment is or how much of his inaction has to do with the Spurs being overly cautious. If he continues to miss time, it’s fair to wonder if the Spurs are just punting on this season.
6. Boston Celtics (34–13)
They’ve lost three straight, and the offense’s struggles can’t be ignored heading into the All-Star break. On the bright side, Gordon Hayward has been practicing his threes…
5. Minnesota Timberwolves (31–18)
The Wolves won their 31st game of the season Monday. They won 31 all of last season.
4. Toronto Raptors (31–14)
If they don’t make the Finals this season, it’s time to blow it up. No more excuses for Toronto.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (26–20)
OKC went 3–0 last week and the schedule looks pretty soft this week. Things are never simple with the Thunder, but their starting lineup is becoming one of the more dominant units in the league.
2. Golden State Warriors (37–10)
They are bored.
1. Houston Rockets (33–12)
Houston gets the top spot thanks to its win over Golden State to end last week. The Rockets are 18–0 when James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela are all in the lineup. Mike D’Antoni is doing a great job of staggering Harden and Paul, and the role players are doing a great job of supporting their stars. Don’t sleep on Luc Mbah a Moute.