- Devoid of any major stars, the Clippers continue to get big results. The combination of Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams have them in the Top 5 of this week's Power Rankings.
The entire NBA taking a day off in the middle of the week was not ideal for viewers, but if we all had to spend time pretending to care about talking with family, it’s probably best no basketball was missed in the process.
It was another fun week across the Association as teams approach the one-quarter mark of their seasons. Some have disappointed. Some have surprised. Some have done exactly what we expected. Some we still won’t care about until January.
Now let’s dive into The Crossover’s latest edition of Power Rankings so you can see just how hype you should be about your favorite team as November wraps up.
30. Hawks | Record Last Week: 1-3 | Previous Ranking: 30
It took everything from the Hawks to end their 10-game skid on Sunday with a 124-123 win over the Hornets. Trae Young took some bad shots late in the contest, but John Collins saved the day with 23 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and the game-clinching block on Kemba Walker as time expired. Too bad Atlanta’s three games before that were nowhere near as close and far less entertaining for Hawks fans.
29. Bulls | Record Last Week: 1-2 | Previous Ranking: 28
Jabari Parker had a big week for the Bulls. Whether he expects to be in Chicago’s long-term plans or he just wants to boost his stock before he finds another home, he’ll need more play like this to keep people inspired about his potential. Parker still needs to make strides with his outside shooting, but any time you average 23.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists over three games, you should feel like the world is yours for the taking.
28. Suns | Record Last Week: 1-3 | Previous Ranking: 26
Jamal Crawford’s still got it.
Well, for one night at least, Crawford reminded everybody how he became a three-time Sixth Man of the Year. He’s playing the fewest minutes of his career this season, so don’t expect to see J. Crossover taking over too many games this season. His 11 points and game-winner in Milwaukee are not going to turn around the Suns this season, but his late-game heroics will make teams a bit more afraid of going down to the wire against Phoenix.
27. Cavaliers | Record Last Week: 2-2 | Previous Ranking: 29
Back-to-back wins will have any team feeling good. And when the first win is also your first road victory, there’s even more reason to be excited about the accomplishment.
It’s easy to look at Cleveland’s wins over the 76ers and Rockets and assume they were overlooked on the schedule, but the way Collin Sexton and Tristan Thompson attacked the opposition, it’s safe to say the Cavaliers went out and took those wins. With all the dysfunction at the top that led to an early-season coaching change, rumors of players wanting out and concerns over the best way to create rotations, there have been more than enough ugly tales coming from Cleveland already this season. If the added subplots of Thompson dominating the glass on his way to double doubles and Sexton coming into his own as lead ball handler become constants in the season-long story, the Cavaliers can avoid being a complete doormat this season.
Getting more consistent contributions from Rodney Hood and Cedi Osman would also change the outlook for the Cavaliers. Both have the potential to go for 20 points or five points on any given night. If Cleveland could just bank on getting 15 each instead of playing a guessing game, it would give Sexton more solid options to play off.
26. Nets | Record Last Week: 1-3 | Previous Ranking: 23
D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie had Brooklyn in position to get another blowout victory over the 76ers. Then everything came crashing down in the Barclays Center during the fourth quarter. After taking double-digit deficits into the fourth quarters of their two previous losses, Sunday’s 127-125 defeat was a special type of gut punch.
25. Heat | Record Last Week: 1-2 | Previous Ranking: 24
There will only be a few more games where Dwyane Wade is going to be the game’s leading scorer, and you want to see the Heat win those contests. Losing at home to the Nets, though, is a bigger problem than squandering a 35-point gem from Flash. The season is still early, but a five-game home losing streak is not going to cut it if this team plans on playing in the postseason again.
24. Wizards | Record Last Week: 2-1 | Previous Ranking: 25
The Wizards had every reason to lose the Clippers on Tuesday after going down by as many as 24. The rumors were swirling about the fight in practice, Los Angeles was hot and Washington was floundering. And yet the Wizards stormed back to win the game by seven. Maybe the fact that most of this team could be on the trading block made everybody play a little better. Or pride really kicked in while losing by 24 at home.
23. Knicks | Record Last Week: 3-1 | Previous Ranking: 27
Allonzo Trier, Emmanuel Mudiay and Trey Burke all put together impressive outings to help the Knicks get their three-game winning streak started. Then Enes Kanter went for 21 points and 26 boards in Memphis to help coach David Fizdale get revenge on his former team. New York is going to have plenty downturns this season, but these last three victories could at least inspire the club and help it get a couple more wins as its road trip pivots to Detroit and Philadelphia this coming week.
22. Jazz | Record Last Week: 1-3 | Previous Ranking: 16
Sunday’s win over the Kings was needed to stop the bleeding in Utah. Without Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz went on the road to halt a three-game losing stretch. Despite putting up 133 without their leading scorer, the Jazz should still be concerned with an offense that’s 27th in scoring and 23rd in turnovers.
21. Pelicans | Record Last Week: 1-3 | Previous Ranking: 14
The New Orleans offense got off to a great start by hanging 140 on the Spurs. Then the week went downhill with an East Coast road trip.
Anthony Davis didn’t have his reputation affected by losing his battle against Joel Embiid, but it has to hurt losing a game by one when Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore both put up 30. Davis is going find ways to change the game even when he isn’t scoring (16 rebounds, six assists, five steals and five blocks to go with 12 points against the 76ers), but some nights, he will need to just go get a bucket when it matters most. And when other players are filling it up and taking the pressure off of Davis to be a scorer, he needs to deliver late in games. You don’t want to take LeBron’s title for blowing free throws in the clutch.
Holiday has continued to control the game from the point guard position, but Elfrid Payton’s eventual return from his pinky injury will be a big boost to Holiday’s effectiveness. Frank Jackson is still getting his legs underneath him in the NBA and can’t be trusted the same way to run the offense and allow Holiday to go off-ball. If Julius Randle can distribute the way he did against Spurs and Wizards, New Orleans might have another player to lean on to help others get going. Giving Holiday a chance to take a back seat a few extra possessions could be the difference over these next few weeks without Payton.
The Pelicans are going to play fast and try to to run their opponents off the court, but everybody will need to do a little bit extra while this roster waits for Payton’s return.
20. Timberwolves | Record Last Week: 2-1 | Previous Ranking: 21
Even a combined 1-for-30 shooting performance from Robert Covington (1-of-18) and Andrew Wiggins (0-of-12) couldn’t stop the Timberwolves from beating the Bulls. The upcoming schedule isn’t light, but a road game in Cleveland and then home contests with the Spurs and Celtics will give Minnesota a chance to keep the ball rolling after winning five of its last seven.
19. Magic | Record Last Week: 1-2 | Overall Record: 10-10 | Previous Ranking: 20
I really thought the Magic were going to find a way to pull out the win against the Raptors after Evan Fournier’s game-tying jam. Danny Green had other thoughts. Orlando is going to compete for the playoffs if it can continue to hover around .500, and it will need to steal some wins against top teams later on. For now though, having Nikola Vucevic eat the Lakers alive in the second game of a six-game road trip is a good enough way to keep hopes high.
18. Kings | Record Last Week: 2-2 | Previous Ranking: 22
The Kings had the Warriors in their sights, but Klay Thompson sent the crowd at Oracle Arena home happy and started up a two-game losing streak for Sacramento.
Since rumors concerning Dave Joerger’s future and Marvin Bagley III’s playing time surfaced, the 2018 No. 2 pick has provided a reliable post presence off the bench. The Duke product’s energy is a great mix with De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. When the two guards are clicking, Bagley doesn’t need to worry about creating his own shot, as he can feast off rim-running and crashing the glass in addition to finding empty space in the defense. If he can continue to add value to the offense even without the ball in his hands, Joerger will have no choice but to keep increasing Bagley’s minutes.
However, it’s on the defensive end where he will need to separate himself from Sacramento’s other options down low. Bagley’s not going to turn into the shooter Nemanja Bjelica is, but he can solidify himself as the team’s top shot blocker.
Meanwhile, Fox doesn’t need to be as reliable as Hield from the outside, but he can’t go 15-of-49 over four games. He finds ways to help the Kings as a passer and on defense when his shot isn’t falling, but Sacramento also needs Fox to put up points if it wants to keep up this start. If Sacramento’s youth keeps improving throughout the year, the wins will keep coming. But if the young players plateau or regress, this will go back to looking like every other season in Sacramento since Rick Adelman left in 2006.
17. Rockets | Record Last Week: 1-2 | Previous Ranking: 15
Chris Paul was not playing, and it was the second game of a back-to-back, but Saturday’s loss to the Cavaliers is a tough one to swallow. A trip to Washington D.C. is Houston’s last shot at a victory on its three-game road trip. As long as Eric Gordon continues to produce the second-lowest scoring output of his career while shooting career worsts from the field and from deep, it’s hard to feel encouraged about the Rockets.
16. Mavericks | Record Last Week: 2-1 | Previous Ranking: 19
The Mavericks are sixth in the league in made threes per game and it showed in Saturday’s win against the Celtics. If Dallas can improve just a smidge more from behind the arc, it will give itself a chance in basically every game off three-point shooting alone. A big start like the first quarter against the Celtics (seven threes) isn’t something to chase from night to night, but shooting on par with that will create more room to attack the basket from the perimeter and allow DeAndre Jordan to control the paint.
15. Hornets | Record Last Week: 2-2 | Previous Ranking: 18
In a week where Jeremy Lamb leads the team in scoring one game and Malik Monk in another, the Hornets should feel good knowing other guys are growing more comfortable shouldering the scoring load when Kemba Walker isn’t at his best. But when you lose to the Hawks on a night Monk drops 26 and Marvin Williams has 20, the excitement about that aspect goes down a tad bit.
14. Spurs | Record Last Week: 1-3 | Previous Ranking: 11
The Spurs are 2-6 in their last eight games, and the two wins came against the hobbled Warriors and the Pacers without Victor Oladipo. The season started off hot in San Antonio, but now Gregg Popovich needs to address some of the uglier aspects of his squad, like the the perimeter defense that allowed Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, Mike Conley, Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon to go off this week.
13. Celtics | Record Last Week: 1-3 | Previous Ranking: 9
If you’re in Boston, keep believing in Brad Stevens’s genius and assume the players on this roster will find a way to play together at a high level. If you’re not pulling for the Celtics though, keep sending your New England friends quotes from players talking about the team getting its a-- whooped or needing another veteran in the locker room to help mentor the young guys. Patience hasn’t worn thin, but people should be a bit nervous about just what to expect from the Celtics going forward.
12. Pistons | Record Last Week: 3-1 | Previous Ranking: 17
The home-and-home against the Rockets around Thanksgiving was a useful test for Dwane Casey’s team, especially when the other games this past week were against the Suns and Cavaliers.
Blake Griffin was phenomenal in the first game, going 6-of-9 from three for 37 points. Yet, as the team saw Friday, Detroit will need major contributions from Reggie Jackson on a nightly basis if they are going to give any of the top seeds in the East a battle come April. Jackson was showing out on Friday like it was his first full season with the Pistons when he averaged nearly 19 points. This was before his injuries derailed the team’s quest for the playoffs in consecutive years. You might not expect Jackson to be a guy to go toe-to-toe with the James Harden’s of the league, but in the fourth quarter and overtime of the home win against Houston, he posted 18 points to lead the charge. That’s a big jump from the nine points he scored in the entirety of the teams’ first meeting.
Finding the right matchups and best ways to exploit Griffin and Andre Drummond will be the most important part of the Pistons establishing their identity throughout this season. Establishing Jackson as a reliable third option will determine just how much of a splash they can make in the playoffs. In addition to boosting his field goal percentage, Jackson needs to ride the wave from Friday’s performance and continue to be lethal in clutch situations to take the pressure off Griffin in a way Drummond can’t.
11. Pacers | Record Last Week: 1-2 | Previous Ranking: 8
There’s only so much the Pacers will do without Victor Oladipo, but stretches like this will be key for Indiana going forward. You can’t expect Bojan Bogdanovic to keep shooting better than 50% from distance, but going for 20-plus in three straight is something he could accomplish even with a healthy Oladipo on the floor.
10. Lakers | Record Last Week: 2-1 | Previous Ranking: 13
The Lakers had won seven of their last eight before the Magic walked into Staples Center and left with a victory Sunday. Between LeBron James missing free throws late throughout the season and his decision to dish to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with the game on the line Sunday, there are plenty of fake LeBron issues for people to get upset about and highlight when L.A. loses.
9. Trail Blazers | Record Last Week: 1-3 | Previous Ranking: 3
The Trail Blazers got closer and closer to winning in each game during their three straight losses, but the first loss was by 43 points. And the second loss was by 28. So closer didn’t mean too much. Sunday’s game against the Clippers was a chance to brush the blowouts to the side, but losing the third quarter 38-16 means Portland has to keep dealing with the stench of defeat for a bit longer.
8. Grizzlies | Record Last Week: 2-2 | Previous Ranking: 5
Memphis missed out on a shot to climb to the top of the West standings with two painful losses. After having a game-tying attempt from three blocked in overtime against the Clippers, the Grizzlies watched as former coach David Fizdale came back to Memphis and got some revenge. Mike Conley, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Marc Gasol are still playing great ball and the Grizzlies didn’t show any glaring issues in these defeats, but you can’t drop a home game to a team that likely won’t reach 30 wins on the season.
7. Warriors | Record Last Week: 2-1 | Previous Ranking: 10
After falling to the Thunder for their fourth straight loss, the Warriors ripped off a pair of wins. The blowout over the Trail Blazers was a great way to get back on track, and holding on to knock off the Kings by one was a positive step for a team that has had its dirty laundry aired out in front of the world. Golden State’s depth will continue to be tested until Stephen Curry and Draymond Green are back on the court. Whenever those two are back in the fold, Kevin Durant’s gaudy numbers will have more sting behind them.
6. Thunder | Record Last Week: 2-2 | Previous Ranking: 6
Oklahoma City didn’t look as great as it would hope with Russell Westbrook coming back in the lineup, but injuries to Terrance Ferguson and Hamidou Diallo didn’t help matters. Still, Westbrook needs to keep finding ways to help the offense off-ball so Dennis Schroder and Paul George can keep attacking and creating. Westbrook also needs to make sure he’s not hampering a defense that started allowing more points after he got back in the rotation.
5. Nuggets | Record Last Week: 3-1 | Previous Ranking: 12
Denver almost let one slip away in Oklahoma City, but the Nuggets held on for their third consecutive victory. Although the offense isn’t scoring as well compared to the rest of the league as expected, Denver has the ninth best field-goal percentage in the league and still possesses a top-three scoring defense. Having a balanced offensive attack that allows for three different players to lead the team in scoring during its three-game winning streak also goes a long way.
4. Clippers | Record Last Week: 3-1 | Previous Ranking: 7
The Los Angeles Clippers are tied with the Warriors at the top of the West. Sunday’s come-from-behind win in Portland was just another reminder that as long as Doc Rivers has access to this full group, he can find a way to create wins.
Everybody knows their role with the Clippers and it lets everything come easy for them. Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams can all go get 25 whenever needed, and they could all take a step back and be third fiddle for a night if that’s what the game calls for. Harris might not be viewed as a No. 1 option to most, but with the luxury of Williams coming off the bench and his acumen for closing out games, Harris doesn’t face the same pressures most top options face on the offensive end. In Portland on Sunday, Harris and Gallinari brought it home. WIlliams did the heavy lifting in Los Angeles on Friday to take care of the Grizzlies in overtime.
A loss like Tuesday’s to the Wizards, though, is a reminder why those who don't have faith in this team yet might be justified. The Clippers jumped out to a huge lead against a team the world was expecting to collapse, but Rivers’s team walked out of the game with a seven-point defeat. Blown leads will always happen, and legs will always be shot on the second night of a back-to-back, but you’d like the Clippers to find just a bit more in the tank and get past Washington.
Either way, as November approaches its end, the Clippers are at the top of the West and they know exactly who they are across the board. They might not stay up there, but they do know what they did to get there.
3. 76ers | Record Last Week: 3-1 | Previous Ranking: 4
Jimmy Butler showed on Sunday exactly why Philadelphia traded for him. The 76ers were on the cusp of their second straight loss to the Nets when Buckets took over. It wasn’t a pretty win for the Processors, but seeing Butler hit his second game-winner on the road in as many weeks in a Philadelphia uniform will make the short trip home all the better.
2. Bucks | Record Last Week: 3-1 | Previous Ranking: 1
It was going to be hard to move the Bucks down after they went and demolished the Trail Blazers by 43, but then they made it easy by losing to the Suns at home. Similar to the 76ers and their loss to the Cavaliers, you can’t let home games against teams with inferior records slip away.
1. Raptors | Record Last Week: 4-0 | Previous Ranking: 2
Getting to play four games against the Southeast division is a great way to boost your record. The Raptors’ five-game winning streak has come against lesser competition, but it was still necessary after a three-game slump. You can only play who is on the schedule, and beating the teams you’re expected to will not always happen. But getting those wins following a few tough losses is sometimes all you need to get your mojo going.