- LeBron James and the Lakers keep falling in the Western Conference standings, dropping games to the lowly Suns and wasting big performances from The King this week. Los Angeles takes another tumble in our NBA Power Rankings.
Welcome back for another rendition of The Crossover’s NBA Power Rankings.
While the personal relationships and team drama have made the season a great soap opera to follow from start to finish, sometimes it’s good to push those topics to the back burner while examining what’s happening around the league. You don’t need to know about all the phone calls between Kyrie Irving and LeBron James to discuss what’s wrong with the Celtics and Lakers right now.
That said, this past week has been filled with plenty of intrigue as the playoffs are now right on the horizon. Regular season story lines are nearing their conclusions and for some teams, that could mean an offseason filled with more questions than we could imagine. We can't answer those questions right now, but we can dive into important factors that could impact the stretch run. For this week’s ranking, we’ll take a look at one number that points out what is going on with each team and highlights what should be points of interest during the remainder of the season.
30. Knicks | Last Week: 1-2 | Overall: 13-50 | Previous Ranking: 29
3: February wins
Despite February being the month the Knicks played their second-fewest games, it was also the month the Knicks won their second-most games. The 3-9 record during February was the best winning percentage since the 5-10 November New York experienced. If they still want Zion Williamson though, they probably won’t match those three wins during their upcoming 13 games in March.
29. Suns | Last Week: 2-1 | Overall: 13-51 | Previous Ranking: 30
34: Free throws made against the Lakers
The Suns had their most prolific night from the foul line this season when they defeated the Lakers 118-109 on Saturday. Deandre Ayton (10-for-14) and Devin Booker (9-for-9) did the bulk of the damage. If these two—particularly Ayton—can make getting to the foul line a more regular part of their games next season, Phoenix could take a major leap from the bottom of the standings to the back end of the lottery.
28. Grizzlies | Last Week: 2-2 | Overall: 25-40 | Previous Ranking: 28
18.4: Jonas Valanciunas' scoring average over seven games
The 26-year-old big man acquired in the Marc Gasol trade has flashed his offensive prowess in seven games in Memphis. He scored 20 points in the Grizzlies’ win over the Lakers and then he matched that total in the win against the Mavericks. It will be interesting to see how he well he fits with Jaren Jackson Jr. going forward.
27. Lakers | Last Week: 1-3 | Overall: 30-33 | Previous Ranking: 21
3: Games under .500/Losses last week
There are so many fun numbers that we could throw out about the Lakers right now, but this one kills two birds with one stone and helps sum up the current situation right now. The Lakers are holding onto their playoff aspirations by a thread and have picked the most hilarious time of the season to lose to the Grizzlies and Suns.
26. Cavaliers | Last Week: 2-2 | Overall: 16-48 | Previous Ranking: 26
7: Kevin Love double doubles this season
With their All-Star big man back on the court, the Cavaliers are going to be more of an issue for teams still fighting for the playoffs down the stretch than their record would suggest. Just ask the Magic, who were on the wrong end of Kevin Love’s 16-point, 14-rebound showing. Luckily the Pistons didn’t have to deal with Love when they were in Cleveland the day prior.
25. Bulls | Last Week: 2-2 | Overall: 18-46 | Previous Ranking: 27
.500: Winning percentage since February
The Bulls have been clicking a lot better under Jim Boylen since they’ve gotten further and further away from the attempted mutiny in December. January was ugly as well, but they’ve turned it around as of late. It’s too bad the only games they have left that could impact the East’s playoff picture are a home-and-home with the Pistons at the end of the week.
24. Wizards | Last Week: 2-1 | Overall: 26-37 | Previous Ranking: 25
5: Games where Bobby Portis grabbed double-digit rebounds
The former Chicago Bull has provided consistent scoring for the Wizards while also proving his value on the glass. The Wizards have seen a modest improvement in their rebounding since Bobby’s arrival via the Otto Porter trade, and going into next season, that will be the main area where he can help this team grow. Averaging 18-10 next season isn’t out of the question for Portis.
23. Wolves | Last Week: 1-3 | Overall: 29-34 | Previous Ranking: 20
4: Road wins in 2019
Ryan Saunders’s first game as a head coach was a two-point victory in Oklahoma City. He’s since seen his team go 3-9 in road games, including losing three straight this week. Poor defense is definitely at the root of the issue, but Andrew Wiggins’s production might also be a significant part of the problem.
Andrew Wiggins scored 40 points in Ryan Saunders' first game as head coach.— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) March 4, 2019
Wiggins has now played 20 games since then, averaging 16.9 points and shooting 38% on all field goals, 29% on three-pointers, and 62% on free throws.
22. Mavericks | Last Week: 1-2 | Overall: 27-35 | Previous Ranking: 19
30: Points they lost to the Grizzlies by at home
It’s always tough when the worst loss of your season comes in front of the home fans. It’s super tough when that loss comes to the Grizzlies comes without Jaren Jackson Jr. and you’ve been as good and entertaining as the Mavericks have been in Dallas.
21. Pelicans | Last Week: 2-2 | Overall: 29-36 | Previous Ranking: 23
22.7: Anthony Davis’s average minutes since returning from injury
Since returning to the Pelicans Anthony Davis is now playing fewer minutes per game than Darius Miller. It’s kinda wild that the Pelicans are 5-5 during this time and beat the Thunder with Davis seeing 16 minutes and the Nuggets in Denver with Davis sitting out the whole night.
20. Hawks | Last Week: 2-2 | Overall: 22-42 | Previous Ranking: 24
32: Points Trae Young is averaging since the All-Star Break
And that number would be even higher without the lamest ejection of the season. Coming off his career-best 49 points in the Hawks' quadruple-overtime loss to the Bulls, Young had 18 points and pushed the Hawks to a 16-point lead on Sunday when he got tossed for hitting this three-pointer from too deep. Who knows how many more he could have finished with if he had that second half to add to his total.
19. Hornets | Last Week: 1-3 | Overall: 29-34 | Previous Ranking: 18
19: Points they outscored the Nets by in the second quarter on Friday
If it wasn’t for the second quarter in Brooklyn on Friday, the Hornets would probably be on a five-game losing streak right now. The 37-18 difference during those 12 minutes are why Charlotte still leads the Magic in the loss column and holds a half-game edge over the Heat.
18. Heat | Last Week: 2-2 | Overall: 28-34 | Previous Ranking: 22
5: Dwyane Wade career buzzer-beating game winners
Kevin Durant’s reaction to this shot is only topped by the Heat running around with such unbridled joy.
Am I tripping, or does it look like Dwyane Wade could star in Roll Bounce 2?
17. Magic | Last Week: 2-2 | Overall: 30-35 | Previous Ranking: 16
17: Consecutive points surrendered to the Cavaliers at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth
The Magic are getting really good at winning games they probably shouldn’t and losing games they have no business losing if they want to go to the playoffs. These last few weeks should be interesting.
The Magic, winners of 8 of their last 11 including the Warriors, Raptors, and Bucks have lost to the Knicks, Bulls, and Cavs in that same stretch lmao— Chris Barnewall (@ChrisBarnewall) March 4, 2019
16. Celtics | Last Week: 1-3 | Overall: 38-26 | Previous Ranking: 12
30: Celtics rank in offensive efficiency since All-Star Break
In addition to having the worst offense in the league since the All-Star Break, the Celtics also have the worst record at 1-5.
The worst-case scenario for Boston is getting the fifth seed, but it seems more and more likely that Brad Stevens’s squad is headed toward that fate. As long as they continue to struggle putting the ball through the rim, the Celtics will continue to dig themselves deeper and deeper into fifth.
Jayson Tatum is averaging 12.7 points during this downward spiral. Gordon Hayward hasn’t scored more than nine points. And Marcus Morris was held scoreless Sunday in 18 minutes.
Now doesn't seem like the best time possible to play the Warriors in Oracle Arena.
Players aren’t going to suddenly decide to get along better and start building friendships that can change the locker room dynamic this late in the season. So the only hope at switching up this team's chemistry is making changes on offense. Whether it’s by making a lineup adjustment similar to the decision to start Morris and Marcus Smart or tweaking the general scheme, something needs to happen if the Celtics still want to at least reach a third straight Eastern Conference finals.
15. Spurs | Last Week: 2-1 | Overall: 35-29 | Previous Ranking: 17
42.8: Rudy Gay’s three-point percentage
For the first time in his career, Rudy Gay is going to shoot above 40% from three. His scoring has gone up about three points from last season, moving in concert with the three-point percentage that rose more than 10 points. And although he didn’t make any triples in the Spurs' Wednesday win over the Pistons, he had a pair in their 14-point victory over the Thunder on Sunday. And to think, people thought Gay, DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge would shoot too many mid-range jumpers. Instead, they are at the heart of the league’s seventh-best offense.
14. Nets | Last Week: 1-3 | Overall: 32-33 | Previous Ranking: 13
3: Consecutive losses
After a solid start to the week with a win over the Spurs, the Nets fell to the Wizards, Hornets and Heat and dropped back to seventh in the East. With the Mavericks, Cavaliers and Hawks up next before a date with the sixth-seeded Pistons on March 11, the Nets will either stop the bleeding, or enter the biggest game of the year in the midst of one their worst stretches of the season.
13. Kings | Last Week: 0-3 | Overall: 31-31 | Previous Ranking: 11
4: Losses to the Clippers this season
The Kings are three and a half games back of the Clippers and three and three games back of the Spurs for the eight seed. Friday’s loss in Sacramento stretched the Kings’ losing streak to three. And with Marvin Bagley banged up, it might have been the result that dashed their playoff hopes.
12. Pistons | Last Week: 3-1 | Overall: 31-31 | Previous Ranking: 15
2: Wins against coach Dwane Casey’s former team
The Pistons are one of the hottest teams in the NBA and they might be setting themselves up to take the six seed after Sunday’s overtime win over the Kawhi-Leonard-less Raptors. If they keep it up, the March 11 meeting with the Nets could be the game that separates them from the fight for seventh and eighth.
11. Pacers | Last Week: 1-3 | Overall: 41-23 | Previous Ranking: 9
-2.4: Wesley Matthews’s net rating in eight games
Indiana’s latest acquisition has added some three-point shooting, but the team is getting outscored while he’s on the floor. It’s only an eight-game sample size, but it is something to watch out for as the season closes out. The Pacers are 4-4 in those games with losses to the Magic and Pistons, who the Pacers might meet in the playoffs if they hold on to the three seed. And Matthews is going to play a big role in deciding if the team stays ahead of the 76ers and the Celtics to make one of those matchups potentially happen.
10. Clippers | Last Week: 3-1 | Overall: 36-29 | Previous Ranking: 14
6: Landry Shamet first-quarter threes against the Knicks
Landry Shamet has quietly put together a very solid rookie season. He’s established himself as a legit three-point specialist already by making the second-most among rookies so far. And his 41.6% shooting clip from distance is the best in years.
And with the Clippers holding a 3.5 game edge over the ninth-placed Kings, it looks like he and teammate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are going to be two of the few rookie contributors this season who will see playoff action.
9. 76ers | Last Week: 2-1 | Overall: 40-23 | Previous Ranking: 10
19: Consecutive losses to the Thunder prior to Thursday’s win
The 76ers could not find a way to beat the Thunder for nine seasons before Thursday’s win in Oklahoma City. All it took was 32 points from Tobias Harris and a triple double from Ben Simmons.
8. Thunder | Last Week: 1-3 | Overall: 39-24 | Previous Ranking: 4
4: Longest losing streak of the season
If it wasn’t for Russell Westbrook coming up clutch against the Grizzlies while Paul George missed his third straight game, the Thunder would be riding a season-high five-game losing streak right now. Instead their draught was capped at four, which matched the losing streak they had to start the season.
During the losing skid, the Thunder lost major ground on the Nuggets and drifted back toward the Trail Blazers, Rockets and Jazz in the standings.
If Paul George continues to miss time with his shoulder injury, Oklahoma City could fall as low as sixth in the West. The team starts up a four-game road trip this week that includes stops in Portland and Utah. If the Thunder complete the season sweeps of those divisional rivals, they should be hold onto at least the three seed. But if they drop one or both of those contests, the Thunder could find themselves without home-court advantage in the first round.
7. Raptors | Last Week: 2-1 | Overall: 46-18 | Previous Ranking: 7
19: Games Pascal Siakam scored at least 20 points
During his first two seasons, Pascal Siakam’s career high was 20 points, and he reached that mark once. In 63 games this season, Siakam, who now averages 16.3 points and 7.0 rebounds, has shown he’s improved by leaps and bounds as a scorer, and he’s looking more and more like the perfect third wheel to Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry.
6. Nuggets | Last Week: 1-2 | Overall: 42-20 | Previous Ranking: 2
28.1: Three-point percentage over last two games
The Nuggets are 11th in the league shooting 35.4% on threes for the season, but during this two-game home losing streak to the Jazz and Anthony Davis-less Pelicans, they went 16-for-57 and let the Warriors create some distance for the top seed.
5. Jazz | Last Week: 3-0 | Overall: 36-26 | Previous Ranking: 8
18: Games remaining against opponents with a worse record
With the easiest schedule left in the league, the Jazz have a shot to jump as high as three in the West standings. And if Donovan Mitchell has more performances like Saturday’s 46-point outing left in his bag, there’s a really good chance that happens.
4. Trail Blazers | Last Week: 3-1 | Overall: 39-24 | Previous Ranking: 5
27: Rodney Hood’s season-high
The Blazers have been dominating during this seven-game road trip. Assuming they take care of business against the Grizzlies, they will finish the trip at 6-1.
In Sunday’s win over the Hornets, it was Rodney Hood who stepped up and proved to be the difference maker. His season-high 27 points led the way in the 10-point win and provided hope that maybe Hood can supply a performance like this in the playoffs.
Hood hadn’t scored in double figures with the Trail Blazers since he put up 14 in his first game with the squad. There’s no way Hood can produce enough to hold over the entire bench like he did Sunday, but if he can step up as the leader of that unit, it could make a huge difference in how Portland’s March and April.
3. Warriors | Last Week: 2-2 | Overall: 44-19 | Previous Ranking: 3
.698: Warriors winning percentage, which is the lowest since 2013-14
The Warriors are very likely going to have the worst record that they had since the dynasty started and they’re still probably going to have the top seed in the West.
In a season that’s been filled with speculation of what the future holds, Golden State has put itself at the top of the West despite at times looking more vulnerable than it had in the past.
Still, no matter what happens in the regular season, we all agree they should be favored once the playoffs start. So no matter how many games they lose in Florida or to the Rockets, nobody will think it means but so much.
But now would be the time of the year when the switch would get hit. You don’t to wait until the postseason starts to get serious, because you want to make sure you’re playing your best basketball by then. So over these next 19 games, look to see if the Warriors do hit that next gear. They see the Rockets once more and have two games against the Nuggets. There will be plenty chances before the postseason to send messages to the rest of the league that they are still in a class of their own. But if they lose a few more games here or there and finish the season with 26 or 27 losses, it might give us reason to believe all these long playoff runs might finally be starting to wear them down.
2. Rockets | Last Week: 4-0 | Overall: 38-25 | Previous Ranking: 6
16: PJ Tucker three-pointers during Houston's five-game winning streak
While James Harden continues to carry as much of the burden as he can within the Rockets’ offense, he still needs help from other guys. PJ Tucker has emerged as one of the most helpful pieces in Houston by functioning as a defensive Swiss Army Knife and putting together the best shooting season of his career.
Without shooters spacing the floor for Harden to have maximum room to create, the entire offense would fall apart. This season, Tucker has provided even more assistance as a shooter. And during this current winning streak, he’s been lights out from deep. He’s 16-for-27 on his attempts and in Wednesday’s five-point win in Charlotte, he went 5-for-5 from distance.
If Tucker can ride this wave into the playoffs and Eric Gordon looks more like the guy who torched the Celtics Sunday for 32, Chris Paul and Harden will have the necessary floor-spacing to get back to the conference finals. And with Clint Capela and Kenneth Faried rolling off screens all game, defenses will have to pick their poison and hope that Harden doesn’t go off as well. If Tucker and Gordon are hitting, and Harden’s making shots like this, the Rockets might be the biggest threat to the Warriors.
1. Bucks | Last Week: 3-1 | Overall: 48-15 | Previous Ranking: 1
7: Longest winning streak of the season
Milwaukee opened the season 7-0 and maintained a seven-game winning streak when it lost to the Jazz Saturday. The Bucks have easily been playing the best basketball in the league since Christmas, going 26-5 during that stretch with four winning streaks of at least five games and no consecutive losses.