In Week 8 of NBA Power Rankings, the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies are really starting to impress despite the Golden State Warriors staying on top.
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Dec 6, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies forward JaMychal Green (0) and center Marc Gasol (33) celebrate as they hug forward Zach Randolph (50) after a rebound late in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers as guard Andrew Harrison looks on at FedExForum. Memphis defeated Philadelphia 96-91. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Over a month into the NBA season, the Golden State Warriors retain their No. 1 spot in Week 8 of our NBA Power Rankings. But where do the rest of the Western elite and the Cleveland Cavaliers stack up by comparison?
The San Antonio Spurs aren’t going away, content to lurk in the Warriors’ shadow for the time being. The Los Angeles Clippers remain better than people give them credit for, even after failing their Golden State test. The Houston Rockets are on the rise, while the Memphis Grizzlies have impressed despite missing their best player.
In the East, the world still belongs to the Cavs, but is there anyone who could possible loosen their vice grip on the conference? To sort it all out, we’ve ranked the teams from best to worst to this point in the season.
Here’s a look at our Week 8 2016-17 NBA Power Rankings.
Dec 10, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews (23) handles the ball during the third quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 1-3 Last rank: 30th
The Dallas Mavericks could be reaching a turning/breaking point soon, which is quite impressive for a group that already had a team meeting after a 31-point smackdown at the hands of the lowly Kings.
Dirk Nowitzki may be set to return soon, but what for? The Mavs would be far better off tanking, letting their 38-year-old franchise star rest until he’s 150 percent, and trading Andrew Bogut as the rumor mill suggests they will. Only one problem: Bogut is an injury-prone, 32-year-old center currently sidelined for two weeks with a bone bruise in his knee.
Dec 11, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) handles the ball against New Orleans Pelicans guard E’Twaun Moore (55) in the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The New Orleans Pelicans won 120 – 119 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 1-3 Last rank: 27th
Technically speaking, the playoffs aren’t completely out of reach for the Phoenix Suns at this stage. But rather than continuing to ride veterans like P.J. Tucker and Tyson Chandler in close losses to crappy teams, isn’t it time to start devoting more time and attention to the future cornerstones of the franchise?
Eric Bledsoe has played excellent basketball lately, including 30 points on his 27th birthday in a win over the Lakers, but for perhaps the league’s worst assist team, the Suns should probably start paving the way for the youth.
Dec 11, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) looks on during the first half against the Golden State Warriors at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 0-4 Last rank: 24th
We’re 24 games into the 2016-17 season, and the Minnesota Timberwolves have the same record as the Philadelphia 76ers. What the hell is happening here?
Karl-Anthony Towns is going to be a monster, Andrew Wiggins has immense two-way potential and Zach LaVine has proven himself as a legitimate NBA player, but the defense is lacking and it’s been impossible to get four full quarters of focus out of this young group. Dunks over Jonas Valanciunas aside, perhaps the Wolves are further away from arriving than we’d hoped.
Dec 8, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Ersan Ilyasova (7) celebrates with guard Sergio Rodriguez (14) during the second half against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center. The 76ers defeated the Pelicans 99-88. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-2 Last rank: 29th
What better way to snap an eight-game losing streak than back-to-back wins for the second time this season? The Philadelphia 76ers are still dead last in the East, but at least they closed the week out with back-to-back double-digit wins.
Sergio Rodriguez has been an underrated part of what little fun this team has to offer, but since it’s basically all about Joel Embiid, we should at least mention how he erased Anthony Davis this week:
Dec 9, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Chris Andersen (00) defends Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 0-4 Last rank: 21st
Mama said there’d be weeks like this. Despite Goran Dragic looking more like the Dragon from his Phoenix Suns days, but Miami Heat went 0-for-4 this week, which included Hassan Whiteside‘s numbers plummeting back down to earth.
Speaking of which, after Erik Spoelstra benched him during a 30-point loss to the Cavaliers, is it fair to say Miami’s new franchise player isn’t feeling as motivated now that the Ls are starting to stack up?
#Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on benching C Hassan Whiteside: “This league is for competitors only. I just wanted more energy, more life." #NBA
Dec 9, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) reacts to a missing a shot against the New York Knicks during the fourth quarter at Golden 1 Center. The Knicks defeated the Kings 103-100. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 1-2 Last rank: 26th
That 31-point win over the lowly Mavs was fun, but the Sacramento Kings continue to inch toward oblivion. As much as DeMarcus Cousins loves Sacramento, every loss that piles on in spite of his monster numbers moves this franchise closer to either a blockbuster trade to start over or Boogie leaving in 2018 free agency.
Seriously, the guy is averaging a 28-11-4-1-1 stat line and knocking down 36.1 percent of his three-pointers, yet his team is 8-15! Everyone involved deserves better than this.
Dec 11, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Terrence Jones (9), guard Tim Frazier (2), forward Cheick Diallo (13), guard E’Twaun Moore (55) and guard Buddy Hield (24) in the second half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The New Orleans Pelicans won 120 – 119 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Pelicans
Last week: 1-3 Last rank: 22nd
It took the first triple-double of Tim Frazier‘s career (and off the bench, no less) for the New Orleans Pelicans to avoid a winless week, and ironically enough, that lone victory in Phoenix came in a game where Anthony Davis scored 14 points on 4-of-17 shooting.
The Pelicans are still technically in the playoff picture, but it’s probably time to start putting some momentum together heading into 2017. Stretches like this past 1-3 week aren’t going to cut it.
Dec 2, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lou Williams (23) goes up to score against Toronto Raptors forward Patrick Patterson (54) at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Lakers
Last week: 0-4 Last rank: 18th
As fun as Lou Williams‘ Sixth Man scoring onslaught has been, you know what was more fun? When the Los Angeles Lakers had a healthy D’Angelo Russell and were still winning games.
Since their promising 7-5 start that had everyone talking playoffs, the Lakers have gone 3-11, including their current six-game skid. Their defense is now the worst in the NBA, but on the bright side, their rapid descent still somehow has them at ninth in the Western standings, just 2.5 games out of a playoff spot.
Dec 8, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic (15) looks to pass as Washington Wizards forward Jason Smith (14) defends during the first half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-2 Last rank: 23rd
Hard to be too optimistic about a .500 week, since the two wins came against the Sixers and Magic and the two losses came against the Nets and Wizards.
On the bright side though, Jamal Murray has been a delight off the bench, Nikola Jokic has shaken off a bumpy start to his sophomore season, and as much as we’ve bemoaned Denver’s underwhelming first month or so, they’re only 2.5 games out of a playoff spot in the West.
Nov 25, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Mario Hezonja (8) passes the ball during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 1-3 Last rank: 20th
Mario Hezonja getting assigned to D-League duty doesn’t necessarily mean he’s on the move, but given the rumors about the Orlando Magic looking to trade for more scoring, plus this franchise’s track record of giving up on youth for more shortsighted pursuits, we’re starting to get worried.
But no matter what general manager Rob Hennigan does from here, this franchise was screwed the moment he started auctioning off assets to preserve his job security with what would be a meaningless first round playoff exit in a best-case scenario.
Dec 10, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) complains to a referee during a game against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Portland 118-111. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Portland Trail Blazers
Last week: 1-3 Last rank: 17th
The flaws of this once fun team are starting to show. Though the Lakers have officially taken over the dreaded title of “NBA’s worst defense” for the time being, the Portland Trail Blazers are still sitting ugly at 28th in defensive rating.
Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum seem to be getting back on track, but Rip City needs Al-Farouq Aminu back at full strength in the worst type of way, even if they still are a playoff team by the most technical definition.
Dec 8, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) attempts a shot against the Denver Nuggets during the second half at Verizon Center. The Washington Wizards won 92-85. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 3-1 Last rank: 25th
Huge week for the Washington Wizards to reinsert themselves into the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Sure, their wins all came by single digits against the Nets, Nuggets and a suddenly struggling Bucks team, but the Wiz kids sit only two games out of a playoff spot thanks to their 3-1 week.
Ironically enough, the best game of John Wall‘s career — a 52-point detonation that included eight assists, four rebounds and three steals — was Washington’s only loss of the week.
Dec 10, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) dribbles against the Washington Wizards during the first half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 1-3 Last rank: 16th
Just when we were about to cautiously submit the idea that Giannis Antetokounmpo might be a dark horse MVP candidate as the savior of the improving Milwaukee Bucks, they put together a dismal 1-3 week that featured an excruciating one-point loss to the Spurs where Mirza Teletovic missed the potential game-winner, a loss to a Hawks team that had lost seven of its last eight games, and a five point loss to the Wizards.
That skid has not only removed Milwaukee from the playoff field, but it’s also made us pump the brakes on the Greek Freak being in that elite tier just yet, even with his monstrous 22-9-6-2-2 stat line, the fact that he leads his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals AND blocks, and his unkind block on Kawhi Leonard:
Dec 10, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) celebrates in front of Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) after a dunk in the fourth quarter to defeat the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-2 Last rank: 12th
In their two matchups with the Golden State Warriors this year, the Indiana Pacers lost by a combined 73 points, which is nearly how many points Monta Ellis and company surrendered to Klay Thompson during his 60-point detonation to start out the week.
It turns out that a healthy Paul George has not been enough to turn the tide for this team, and much like the Blazers in the West, the Pacers’ theoretically fun offense has been overshadowed by a lackluster defense and a very underwhelming record.
Pacers-Blazers was the kind of shootout that somehow gives you confidence in neither team going forward.
Dec 7, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson (1) reacts after scoring a basket during the first half of the game against the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-2 Last rank: 15th
The re-integration of Reggie Jackson hasn’t gone quite according to plan, with the team’s star point guard averaging 12.2 points and 4.0 assists per game on 35.4 percent shooting in his first five games back.
Rust was to be expected, and Reggie’s return has inspired a couple of monster 20-20 lines from Andre Drummond, but Detroit probably expected to be a little bit further along than 2-3 once Jackson finally came back.
Dec 7, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) reaches to control a lost ball against the Miami Heat during the first half at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-1 Last rank: 19th
Decent enough bounce-back for last week’s most downward spiraling disaster team. The Atlanta Hawks had lost 10 of their last 11 following a three-point defeat against the Russell Westbrooks, but escaped with single digit victories over the Heat and Bucks to right the ship.
Kyle Korver coming off the bench has taken some getting used to, but Paul Millsap is 100 percent again, Dennis Schroder dropped a career-high 33 points against Milwaukee, Tim Hardaway Jr finally looks like a real NBA player and the seven-game losing streak is over.
Dec 7, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) looks on against the Orlando Magic during the second half at Amway Center. Boston Celtics defeated the Orlando Magic 117-87. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 1-3 Last rank: 7th
Turns out missing Isaiah Thomas is a quick way to start losing games, even with a 30-point win over Orlando sprinkled in. Terry Rozier making the most of his opportunity is nice, but this team’s lack of rebounding and that brutal one-point loss to Houston featuring a missed layup at the buzzer both trace back to Al Horford.
Speaking of which, the big question for the Boston Celtics now — aside from what this team will look like when it’s 100 percent healthy — is this: Would a trade for Andrew Bogut to add more rebounding and rim protection be worth the injury-related risk?
Dec 8, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade (3) shoots the ball against San Antonio Spurs center Pau Gasol (16) during the second half at the United Center. Chicago defeated San Antonio 95-91. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-2 Last rank: 11th
Overlooking Rajon Rondo‘s one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team, we should probably take a minute to acknowledge the Chicago Bulls for handing the Spurs their first road loss of the season in a game where Rondo fell one assist shy of a triple-double.
Also on the more positive side of things: Dwyane Wade‘s more respectable second matchup with his former team, in which he and Jimmy Butler combined for 59 points. Plus, any flash of vintage Flash is worth mentioning:
Dec 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) loses the ball as Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) defends during the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 3-1 Last rank: 10th
The Charlotte Hornets are a very good basketball team. If it weren’t for LeBron James‘ monster night, they probably would’ve gone 4-0 this week, picking up wins against Dallas, Detroit and Orlando.
But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? As good as Charlotte, Boston, Toronto, Chicago and New York have looked at times this year, they’re all still second fiddle to the Cavs. That fact shouldn’t take anything away from Steve Clifford, the Hornets’ supporting cast or Kemba Walker‘s inevitable All-Star Game debut, but after yet another Eastern challenger failed to out-duel Cleveland, it has to be said.
December 11, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6), guard Derrick Rose (25), forward Carmelo Anthony (7) and guard Courtney Lee (5) react during the 118-112 victory against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
New York Knicks
Last week: 3-1 Last rank: 13th
Since their underwhelming 3-6 start, the New York Knicks have now won 11 of their last 15 games, including four straight road games for a team that started the year 1-6 away from home.
Derrick Rose missing a few games with a back injury was sure to inspire concern, but if he can bounce-back the way he did in Sunday’s game against Los Angeles — 25 points, 12-of-16 shooting — then the Knicks are really going to be in good shape moving forward.
Dec 11, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts after a play against the Boston Celtics during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Oklahoma City Thunder
Last week: 2-1 Last rank: 9th
Russell Westbrook’s triple-double streak is finally over, ending at seven straight games to tie the longest such streak in the NBA in 27 years (Michael Jordan, 1989).
More importantly though, in that historic seven-game stretch, Russ averaged 28.9 points, 13.6 rebounds, 13.0 assists per game, and though it came with 6.6 turnovers per game and 37.7 percent shooting, the Oklahoma City Thunder went 6-1 in that span. If he does actually average a triple-double and OKC wins 50 games, shouldn’t that be enough for MVP? On a more random note, shout out to Victor Oladipo for the Dunk of the Week:
Dec 10, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) and Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen (9) during the first half after the game at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
In a week filled with good moments like Gasol’s OT-forcing step-back three, Zach Randolph‘s emotional return after the passing of his mother, Toney Douglas‘ late-game free throws to live Memphis over the Blazers and obviously that dominant 21-point win over the mighty Warriors, perhaps we were wrong to go full doomsday with this resilient group.
Dec 8, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) dunks the ball during the second half against the Golden State Warriors at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Golden State won 106-99. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 3-1 Last rank: 8th
The Utah Jazz failed their big test of the week against Golden State and nearly surrendered a 19-point fourth quarter lead to the lowly Suns, but all things considered, this banged up team will take a 3-1 week.
Dec 8, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) shoots a ball during the third quarter in a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Air Canada Centre. The Toronto Raptors won 124-110. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 2-1 Last rank: 6th
Like the Hornets, the Toronto Raptors’ loss to the Cavaliers was this team’s only blemish this week, but it’s a telling one. Cleveland won’t rule the East forever, but as warm and fuzzy as Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan‘s bromance makes us feel inside, the Raptors aren’t quite there yet.
Still, between Lowry’s strong play, a 16-point fourth quarter turnaround against Minnesota and Norman Powell making the most of starting minutes, there’s a lot to like here before we even mention DeRozan’s disrespectful put-back:
Dec 10, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (right) passes the ball defended by New Orleans Pelicans forward Solomon Hill (left) during the second quarter at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Clippers
Last week: 1-1 Last rank: 3rd
Yes, that 17-point loss to the Warriors only gave the “same ol’ Los Angeles Clippers!” prosecutors more evidence to work with, but aside from watching Blake Griffin crumble into dust against the Defensive Player of the Year favorite, Draymond Green, it wasn’t the worst week.
Bouncing back with a dominant win over the Pelicans, especially one that featured Chris Paul making NBA history as the only player to ever tally at least 20 points and 20 assists with zero turnovers, was about as much as you could expect from a team playing that game without Griffin. Hopefully that sore knee isn’t a more serious issue.
Dec 5, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) celebrates with guard Patrick Beverley (2) and forward Sam Dekker (7) after the Rockets defeated the Boston Celtics 107-106 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 4-0 Last rank: 5th
Russell Westbrook is still on course for that historic triple-double average, but James Harden and the surging Houston Rockets have gone from “happy early season success story” to “legitimate Western dark horse” pretty quickly.
It’s not just about the Beard though. Eric Gordon is a top Sixth Man of the Year candidate and looks terrific. The Rockets are 11-2 since Patrick Beverley returned, Montrezl Harrell is coming into his own, Mike D’Antoni is reminding people he’s still a good coach with the right personnel, and Sam Dekker is proving what he can do now that he’s finally healthy. Good vibes all around.
Dec 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) during the second half against the Charlotte Hornets at Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavs won 116-105. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Last week: 4-0 Last rank: 4th
Every week it seems like LeBron James is achieving some kind of historical feat, and this week, it was passing Elvin Hayes for ninth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list and becoming the only player in league history with at least 27,000 points, 7,000 assists and 7,000 rebounds.
At the top of our list, though, was not only providing statement wins against Eastern hopefuls like Toronto, Charlotte and New York, but this thunderous dunk and deafening staredown at Madison Square Garden in the King’s first game there since Phil Jackson‘s “posse” comments emerged.
Dec 6, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) dribbles in the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. The San Antonio Spurs beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 105-91. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio Spurs
Last week: 3-1 Last rank: 2nd
The San Antonio Spurs finally suffered their first road loss of the season, but while the Warriors continue to gather all the attention, Gregg Popovich’s squad is quietly lurking in the Western Conference standings, trailing the Dubs by a mere 1.5 games for first place.
But even if the Spurs remain in the Warriors’ shadow for now, Kawhi Leonard’s late-game heroics and Patty Mills’ touch off the bench shouldn’t go under the radar.
December 5, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) celebrates after making a three-point basket during the second quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Golden State Warriors
Last week: 4-1 Last rank: 1st
In a five-game week, we’re willing to overlook that embarrassing no-show in Memphis, especially since the other four games included Klay Thompson’s 60-point supernova in a 36-point win over Indiana, a 17-point win in a statement game against the Clippers, a win over Utah on the second-night of a back-to-back and a 10-point comeback in Minnesota on the second night of another back-to-back.
Oh, and aside Klay’s historic scoring night that reminded people any night can still be his night, the Dubs still have the league’s best record, point differential and offense. Let’s not let one bad game against a shorthanded Grizzlies squad overshadow any of that.