NBA Power Rankings: Here come the Golden State Warriors

J.J. Barea

Nov 6, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea (5) and center Andrew Bogut (6) and guard Wesley Matthews (23) and guard Seth Curry (30) react during the second half against the Milwaukee Bucks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

30

Dallas Mavericks

(2-11)

Last week: 0-4
Last rank: 26th

Joining the Miami Heat on the tanking train we have the Dallas Mavericks. After 16 straight seasons of 50-plus wins, the Mavericks will be lucky to sniff 40 this season. Dirk Nowitzki’s achilles injury has helped nudge Dallas into the tanking direction and maybe it’ll pay off in the long run and give Nowitzki the chance to end his career–it’s got to be time for the German sharpshooter to say farewell soon right?–on a high note. A player like Markelle Fultz added into a core of Wes Matthews, Harrison Barnes and Nowitzki could immediately turn things around for Mark Cuban’s team (did I mention that I am all the way aboard the Markelle Fultz hype train yet? Because if I haven’t here’s my formal announcement: “THAT BOY GOOD!”). Seth Curry was able to have a big game in their nail-biting finish against a resting San Antonio Spurs squad on Monday night. If the Mavericks are able to find other players like Curry that are able to contribute on cheaper deals than all of this losing could be worth it in the end. Let’s hope for us all that Nowitzki is able to get healthy and choose when he wants to ride off into the sunset on his own dime.
Nov 16, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) pleads with referee Derrick Stafford (9) during the second half against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. The Philadelphia 76ers won 109-102. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 16, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) pleads with referee Derrick Stafford (9) during the second half against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. The Philadelphia 76ers won 109-102. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

29

Washington Wizards

(4-9)

Last week: 2-2
Last rank: 29th

Things are probably not as bleak for the Washington Wizards as this ranking would make it seem, but things aren’t great for Washington either. In D.C., Bradley Beal has found the injury bug once again and John Wall still seems unable to bring the team along with him as he continues to excel in his nightly solo acts. Beal came up big with 42 points against the Phoenix Suns, but the fact remains that they still needed a 7-0 run in the final moments of the game to get a home victory over the lowly Suns. Scott Brooks hasn’t done much to quiet the crowd that suspects him to be one of the main reasons that the Oklahoma City Thunder were unable to win an NBA championship despite having Kevin Durant, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, and Russell Westbrook on the same team. Brooks’ elementary offense isn’t going to set the league on fire, but he’s been really good for the Wizards on the other end. The Thunder were consistently a top five to top ten team in regards to defense while Brooks was in charge. At 4-9 the season isn’t lost just yet for the Wizards, but they are going to need to find a way to consistently play their best basketball if they want a shot at being part of the playoffs this year.
PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 5: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts after a made basket against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the third quarter at Wells Fargo Center on November 5, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Cavaliers defeated the 76ers 102-101. The NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA, PA – NOVEMBER 5: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts after a made basket against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the third quarter at Wells Fargo Center on November 5, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Cavaliers defeated the 76ers 102-101. The NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

28

Philadelphia 76ers

(4-10)

Last week: 3-1
Last rank: 28th

Trust the process if you’re a fan of the Philadelphia 76ers. Joel Embiid has been worth the extra life that Sam Hinkie’s mantra has been afforded in recent weeks. The Sixers look better than they have during any part of Hinkie’s time running the team, but the irony is that it’s the picks and deals that he made that have Philadelphia sitting pretty for the future. That’s without the number one overall pick in this year’s draft, Ben Simmons, suiting up for a single game this season. The belief is that Simmons will be back on the floor in the early months of 2017 and once he and Embiid get on the court together the heads of Sixers fans might just literally explode. Add on to that the likely two lottery picks that Philadelphia will have in the 2017 Draft–one of the deepest in recent memory–and this team could be stockpiled with youthful talent for the foreseeable future. Things were never about the 2016-17 season in Philadelphia, aside from making sure Embiid got on the floor and remained healthy. They are well setup and now it’s on the new regime to capitalize in ways that Hinkie did before them.
Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) is in my FanDuel daily picks. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) is in my FanDuel daily picks. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

27

Phoenix Suns

(4-11)

Last week: 1-3
Last rank: 25th

Out West, the Phoenix Suns have been full throttle with their youth movement and have gotten from it just about what you would expect from a group of young inexperienced players. Devin Booker is looking more like the player we saw in the second half of their season last year. He had a huge night in their game against the Washington Wizards last night — scoring a team-high 30 points and hitting six of his nine 3-point attempts on the night. Aside from Booker regaining his form, things haven’t been as good in regards to their two lottery picks Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender this season. Chriss is now a starter, but neither player has really had that big of an impact on the team so far. The Suns still need to figure out what they are going to do with Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight. They have a luxury in keeping both, but it’s not something that will last much longer for them.
Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) anchors my DraftKings daily picks lineup tonight. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) anchors my DraftKings daily picks lineup tonight. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

26

Miami Heat

(4-9)

Last week: 2-2
Last rank: 26th

The Miami Heat are tanking and I can’t be convinced otherwise. The Philadelphia 76ers “process” has seemingly worked out now that the world is finally getting a look at Joel Embiid. With Dwyane Wade now playing for his hometown Chicago Bulls, Pat Riley could be eyeing the 2017 NBA Draft class to replenish South Beach with a superstar–there’s no chance that Chris Bosh ever suits up again in a Miami Heat uniform. Markelle Fultz has looked superb and he’ll likely be the player that most teams are after in the chase for the number one pick in the upcoming draft. Dion Waiters has free reign to do as he pleases (which is all Dion Waiters has ever wanted to do on a basketball court) and Hassan Whiteside’s empty stats (17.7 PPG, 16.2 RPG and 2.8 BPG) have not led to many wins for his team. Whiteside is a high-level player in the NBA, but it looks like he does not have what it takes to be the face of a franchise–though he has made less and less appearances on DJ Khaled’s Snapchat story, which is a plus for everyone involved. However, the race for the number one pick is going to be a tighter than initially believed.
New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) is in my DraftKings daily picks for today. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (11) is in my DraftKings daily picks for today. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

25

New Orleans Pelicans

(4-10)

Last week: 2-1
Last rank: 30th

Someone has finally answered my calls to help Anthony Davis in New Orleans. While I still think Davis should head out of the Bayou on the first steamboat he can get a hold of, the return of Jrue Holiday has transformed this group into an actual NBA team. Holiday might not be in peak condition yet, but he is at least a threat to be watched when he’s on the floor. That adds one more threat aside from Davis for teams to worry about. Davis has been as good as one could reasonably expect, if not better, through these 14 games and if Holiday can round himself back into playing shape quickly then things could get turned around quickly with the Pelicans. Now if only a certain lottery pick could find his shot (I’m looking at you Buddy “Under 25 percent from 3” Hield) than this team might even look appealing to someone of Anthony Davis’ stature. Alvin Gentry’s seat is starting to cool off some, but an extended losing streak could be the end of things for him in relation to his time with New Orleans.
Nov 10, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) reacts to a play against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half at Golden 1 Center. The Lakers won the game 101-91. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 10, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) reacts to a play against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half at Golden 1 Center. The Lakers won the game 101-91. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

24

Sacramento Kings

(5-9)

Last week: 1-2
Last rank: 23rd

It’s looking more and more likely that one of the better players on the Sacramento Kings roster won’t be around long in 2017. That player of course is swingman Rudy Gay. While DeMarcus Cousins’ name is the much bigger one and has been more widely discussed in trade rumors–it seems that only the Oklahoma City Thunder are still chasing Gay–it’s going to take a lot more than another middling season from the Kings for them to let Boogie go. Cousins is just too good, and too well-liked by majority owner Vivek Ranadive, to be given away less than halfway into the tenure of a new head coach. FUNNY BOOGIE KINGS HEADER IMAGES ARE HERE TO STAY DAMNIT! Dave Joerger has had success playing big during his time with the Memphis Grizzlies and to this point it does not seem like there is a fissure the size of the San Andreas Fault in their relationship. Things are not great in the California capital–Kanye West’s breakdown during his performance at the Kings’ new sold out arena might have foreshadowed future turmoil–but it’s not time to hit the reset button just yet. Especially when the reset button clears the entire cupboard of assets.
Jamal Murray

Oct 31, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) gestures to fans during a time out in a 105-102 loss to Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

23

Denver Nuggets

(5-8)

Last week: 2-1
Last rank: 22nd

Jamal Murray was a man on the mission for the Denver Nuggets in their win over the Utah Jazz on Sunday night. The rookie score 16 of his 18 points in the final quarter and looked like the prospect many thought he would be when he was still in high school dominating the Nike Hoop Summit. The Nuggets are another team that should look into making some deals and moves around the NBA Trade Deadline. Unlike with the Orlando Magic though it wouldn’t be because their roster is poorly constructed, but because they have the pieces to make a push at bringing in a superstar that they have lacked since Carmelo Anthony left in the deal with the New York Knicks. With Murray looking like the real deal there’s no time like the present for Denver to try and cash out and get a big name player to help speed up Murray’s development. Nikola Jokic has not been as good as the advanced metrics suggested during his rookie year. The Jusuf Nurkic and Jokic combo together hasn’t lived up to Michael Malone’s preseason expectations. Luckily, the Nuggets kept Kenneth Faried around and his versatility and tenacity have been key for Denver hanging around in a lot of the close games they’ve been in this year.
Brooklyn Nets guard Sean Kilpatrick (6) and forward Trevor Booker (35) are both in my FanDuel daily picks again today. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Brooklyn Nets guard Sean Kilpatrick (6) and forward Trevor Booker (35) are both in my FanDuel daily picks again today. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

22

Brooklyn Nets

(4-9)

Last week: 0-3
Last rank: 18th

Despite what Anthony Bennett told you during Media Day, the Nets have been a team worthy of keeping an eye on during the early stretch of games this season. It hasn’t been pretty, but Kenny Atkinson and the Brooklyn Nets have been one of the more surprising teams at the beginning of the NBA season. The biggest storyline in Brooklyn in the offseason was just how high of a draft pick they could potentially surrender to the Boston Celtics in the 2017 NBA Draft. Yet, as the season has played out it’s looking like that pick will be lower and lower in the lottery. Jeremy Lin, the team’s star offseason acquisition, is closing in on being sidelined for the better part of a month. In his absence, the team has gone 2-6 and are currently in the midst of a four-game losing streak. If they want to keep appearing in the low 20’s on this list they’ll need to bring this skid to an end soon, otherwise we could once again only be discussing the Nets in relation to the draft pick they’ll give up at the season’s end.
Nov 11, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Elfrid Payton (4) drives to the basket against the Utah Jazzduring the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 11, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Elfrid Payton (4) drives to the basket against the Utah Jazzduring the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

21

Orlando Magic

(6-8)

Last week: 2-1
Last rank: 19th

Down in sunny Florida, the sun has not been shining on the NBA team that plays in Disney World’s backyard. The Orlando Magic aren’t really a conundrum like the Milwaukee Bucks, they are just not built to work as currently situated. The front office tried to mash together a bunch of square pegs into round holes and we’re seeing now just how badly that plan is working out for them. They have talent and a high-level coach that are keeping them afloat and hovering around the .500 mark. They haven’t played the easiest of schedules either so there is still hope that this team can get it all figured out. The frontcourt of Aaron Gordon, Bismack Biyombo, Nikola Vucevic, and Serge Ibaka just hasn’t been able to get on the same page so far this season. Vogel has tinkered with his lineups in hopes of finding the right combination to get the most out of this mismatched roster, but it’s more likely that the Magic are going to need to make a move in order to get this team to compete at the level that the people in upper management expected from them after spending all of their money chasing free agents this summer.
Nov 12, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) dribbles in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 12, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) dribbles in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

20

Minnesota Timberwolves

(4-9)

Last week: 1-3
Last rank: 21st

Things have been weird to say the least to begin the Tom Thibodeau era with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The defensive genius has so far had a bigger impact on the team’s offensive output than the defense. The Timberwolves have the seventh highest offensive rating (110.8 ORtg) and their defensive rating comes in at 23rd right now–it was 28th at the end of last season. Another weird stat that pops off the page when looking at Minnesota’s play is just how terrible they have been in the third quarter of games. It’s become a habit for the Timberwolves to outscore and even outplay their opponents for three of the four quarters, but they are so bad in the third that it erases all they good they did previously. It’s too soon to lock in on what the cause of these third quarter collapses could be, however, making adjustments out of halftime falls square on the shoulder of the coach. In their loss last night to the Boston Celtics, it was a horrendous start to the fourth quarter–Boston opened the quarter with a 17-0 run–that ultimately did the team in. If Thibs can’t get this team to execute better after the half than the franchise’s hope of making the playoffs could be over before they even get a chance to compete.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker (12) is in my FanDuel daily picks lineup for tonight. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker (12) is in my FanDuel daily picks lineup for tonight. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

19

Milwaukee Bucks

(6-7)

Last week: 1-3
Last rank: 14th

The Milwaukee Bucks are the conundrum of the league right now. They have young stars in Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo and a capable supporting cast, but they have not been able to play like the same team night in and night out. They took the Golden State Warriors to the closing seconds on Sunday night, but in their previous game they lost by 23 points to the Miami Heat and totaled only 73 points on the night. Losing Khris Middleton for the year was a big blow for this team and they have yet to find a player that can fill his role. It’s not likely that they’ll be able to anyway, Middleton is not the type of player that teams have an excess of. If Milwaukee can figure out a way to space the floor more or at the least keep teams from packing the paint against Antetokounmpo and Parker they could be a stealth team to look out for in the Eastern Conference. Or they can hope to keep getting triple-doubles from the Greek Freak and let everything else just work itself out. Either plan is a pretty good one in my opinion.
Nov 14, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Tobias Harris (34) takes a shot over Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jerami Grant (9) during the third quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons won 104-88. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 14, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Tobias Harris (34) takes a shot over Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jerami Grant (9) during the third quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons won 104-88. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

18

Detroit Pistons

(6-8)

Last week: 0-3
Last rank: 16th

After demolishing the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Detroit Pistons have now dropped three straight games. They couldn’t get over the hump in close games against the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics and were ran off the court by the Cleveland Cavaliers. For all his hardwork, Ish Smith should definitely be applauded, but with Reggie Jackson nearing a return (the team is hoping he’ll be back in early December) the Pistons can finally get themselves stuck out of the mud they’ve been entrenched in to start of the 2016-17 NBA season. Andre Drummond’s lack of an offensive post game is still holding this team back from reaching it’s full potential. Tobias Harris is looking even more like a steal than he seemed when he was first acquired by the team from the Orlando Magic last year. The Pistons have the pieces to make a run at the postseason again, but they are going to need Jackson to come back and help round this team into form once again.
Oct 8, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) reacts after scoring a basket against the Brooklyn Nets during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 8, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) reacts after scoring a basket against the Brooklyn Nets during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

17

New York Knicks

(6-7)

Last week: 2-1
Last rank: 20th

Kristaps Porzingis should be the sun that the New York Knicks orbit around. Yet, Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose are actively trying to pull the team away from him. I’m not saying the two superstars are actively trying to sabotage Porzingis, but their quest to prove that they’re still two of the better players in the NBA is casting a shadow on the growth and development of the 2016 fourth overall pick. Porzingis JUST had his first 30-plus point game of his career and looks primed to do it even more as the season continues. Anthony and Rose are not the future of this team–and they may not even be the right now either–and if the Knicks continue to let the team run through them they could be squandering the opportunity to unleash their unicorn, Porzingis. No one knows what the rest of this year will bring for New York, but if Phil Jackson is remembered for anything during his tenure as president of the Knicks it will hopefully be for drafting Porzingis and not his poor choice of words in describing LeBron James’ group of friends.
Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) is in my DraftKings daily picks for tonight. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) is in my DraftKings daily picks for tonight. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

16

Indiana Pacers

(7-8)

Last week: 2-2
Last rank: 24th

Getting a win over the Russell Westbrook triple-double-led Oklahoma City Thunder on the road, without Paul George, is a huge boost for this team’s psyche. Jeff Teague seems to be getting closer and closer to rediscovering the player he was for the Atlanta Hawks and that can only mean good things for the Indiana Pacers. Though they’ve been able to battle to split half their 14 games this year, this team has some troubling losses. The Pacers have dropped games against the Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns–all games the Pacers entered as favorites. If they win those three games they’re sitting at 10-4 and have the fifth best record in the league right now. Indiana has amassed the talent to be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, but they’re still working on the cohesion. If that ever comes together than this team has no way to go but up. They also need to hope that George and the rest of the injured Pacers will soon be back in time for them to begin to separate themselves from the bottom of the pack in the East.
Nov 15, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) shoots over Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson (22) and guard Jerian Grant (2) during the third quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 15, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) shoots over Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson (22) and guard Jerian Grant (2) during the third quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

15

Portland Trail Blazers

(8-7)

Last week: 1-3
Last rank: 9th

The Portland Trail Blazers are in a similar situation as the Boston Celtics, but without the injuries. Damian Lillard has been up and down for the better part of the opening 15 games. It seems that he and CJ McCollum have been taking turns scoring the ball, as opposed to both being in sync as we saw for stretches last year. The addition of Evan Turner hasn’t had much of an impact on the team, an additional ball handler should help Lillard and McCollum search for their shot more often, but that hasn’t worked out as planned to date. There’s no need to worry in the upper Northwest, the Trail Blazers were expected to be one of the worst teams in the NBA a season ago before they turned things around and streaked their way into the second round of the 2016 NBA Playoffs. Lillard was a player that was mentioned in the potential NBA MVP discussion and Portland is going to need him to get back to playing at that level if they are to be taken serious as a championship contender.
Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) is in my DraftKings daily picks for today. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) is in my DraftKings daily picks for today. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

14

Boston Celtics

(8-6)

Last week: 3-1
Last rank: 13th

Things aren’t going swimmingly for the Boston Celtics. The Celtics have been without Al Horford and Jae Crowder for a better part of their first 13 games and their depth hasn’t been able to get them victories as once expected. Horford and Crowder are back and hopefully the chemistry of working them back in won’t cost Boston much in the long run. Boston has been bad on the glass for the better part of this season and the addition of Horford should help cure that ill for them. Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown have been bright spots for the team despite the slow start. Brad Stevens loves to use as much of his bench as possible, but he might be better suited this year if he cut back on the number of players that got on the floor. With Horford and Crowder back the Celtics have begun to find their way back into one of the premiere teams in the league this season. Hopefully there aren’t any more injuries to slow down Boston as this team at full strength could do some damage in the NBA, and not just in the Eastern Conference.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Lakers

13

Los Angeles Lakers

(7-7)

Last week: 1-2
Last rank: 15th

The Los Angeles Lakers could possibly make the playoffs and it is going to be unbearable to deal with Lakers Nation if they do. Luke Walton is making himself look more and more like a shoe-in for Coach of the Year Award. If Walton is able to keep Nick Young as focused on the court as he’s been this year, I’ll petition the league to change the name of the award to the Luke Walton Award. However, Swaggy P isn’t the only player that’s seen his play improve under the new coach. The Lakers young core of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr have all made great strides since the team swapped out Old Man Byron Scott for Walton. Number two overall selection in the 2016 NBA Draft, Brandon Ingram, is still working his way into the flow of things, but if he starts to scratch at his potential this team could be really entertaining and really dangerous in the near future. The Lakers look like they could be a real threat to snatch away one of the last spots in a Western Conference playoff race that is already shaping up to be a good one this early into the year.
Utah Jazz guard Dante Exum (11) is in my FanDuel daily picks for this Sunday. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Utah Jazz guard Dante Exum (11) is in my FanDuel daily picks for this Sunday. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

12

Utah Jazz

(7-8)

Last week: 0-3
Last rank: 8th

The Utah Jazz are seemingly still searching for rhythm. With additions of wise veterans in Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw, this team was once thought to have a shot at jumping into contention for home-court advantage. This is still in play for the Jazz, but they need to get things turned around quickly before it slips through their grips. With players like George Hill, Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood, Dante Exum, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert making up the base of your rotation it’s more likely than not that you have a team capable of competing with the top teams in the league. While they haven’t been consistent for much of their start to the season, there have been flashes where this team looked the part of a Western Conference Finals party crasher. The Jazz will need to iron out the last of their kinks if they are hoping to advance that far in the postseason. Otherwise they could find themselves in familiar territory, battling for one of the final seeds in the playoff race.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) is in action tonight and one of my FanDuel daily picks. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) is in action tonight and one of my FanDuel daily picks. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

11

Oklahoma City Thunder

(8-6)

Last week: 2-1
Last rank: 11th

The Oklahoma City Russell Westbrook and Friends have been captivating to watch in the same way people were drawn into early Destiny’s Child. Russ’ star is too bright not to notice. He’s the Thunder’s Beyonce, Steven Adams is the Kelly Rowland of the crew and the rest of the team is some combination of Michelle Williams, LeToya Luckett and any other former Destiny’s Child/Girls Tyme members you can think of. However, unlike Beyonce, Westbrook can only do so much before the supporting cast needs to step up. Westbrook just casually recorded another triple-double on Sunday, yet it ended with Oklahoma City losing its six game out of their last 10. The Thunder are in danger of hovering around .500 and leaving the fate of their season in the hands of tiebreakers and other off the court factors. Victor Oladipo hasn’t found his stride in his new surroundings just yet and with the Oklahoma City Thunder investing over $80 million into him over the next four years the hope would be that the team could count on him for more production on a more consistent basis.
Nov 16, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) celebrates after a three point basket in the second half of the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. Grizzlies won 111-107. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 16, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) celebrates after a three point basket in the second half of the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. Grizzlies won 111-107. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

10

Memphis Grizzlies

(8-5)

Last week: 3-0
Last rank: 17th

VINCE CARTER WILL LIVE FOREVER! Half Old-Man, Half Amazing is still doing work in the NBA despite the fact that he is 40 years old. Vinsanity’s 9.9 PPG average won’t necessarily wow anyone, but his two 20-point performances put him in a club with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Robert Parish, Karl Malone and John Stockton as the only players in NBA history to score 20-plus points at the age of 40. Marc Gasol’s strut celebration is the greatest thing this season has brought us so far. The team formerly known as the Grit N Grind Grizz, are suddenly fun under David Fizdale. Chandler Parsons’ revenge game against Mark Cuban was everything and more, but he once again will be forced to miss time due to knee issues. If Fizdale can keep this team playing modern style basketball it could be just the kick in the butt that this team needed in order to jump itself back into the ranks of tough playoff opponents. This is basically the same roster that jumped out to a 2-1 lead a couple of years ago over the Golden State Warriors–who would go on to win the NBA Finals that same postseason.
Nov 19, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives to the basket against Utah Jazz center Jeff Withey (24) and forward Joe Ingles (2) in the second half at Toyota Center. Rockets won 111-102. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 19, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives to the basket against Utah Jazz center Jeff Withey (24) and forward Joe Ingles (2) in the second half at Toyota Center. Rockets won 111-102. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

9

Houston Rockets

(8-5)

Last week: 2-1
Last rank: 12th

Not much has changed for the Houston Rockets. James Harden is still posting monster numbers (what he did to Dante Exum on Saturday night was just plain filthy). Mike D’Antoni still doesn’t have the time of day for defense. Clint Capela is still teasing us with his potential to make a leap. In Patrick Beverley’s two games back the Rockets have held teams under 110 points, which is an improvement. Yet, defense won’t be what keeps this team out of the playoffs, that would be injuies. As seen with Beverley’s extended absence, the Rockets are an injury to a key player away from being a shell of themselves as a team. Houston is probably the most fun team to watch outside of the top three teams on this list (Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors) and while fun is good, winning is better. As long as the wins keep coming for Harden and D’Antoni than everything else is an afterthought. Harden’s transition to the league’s leading assist man has been poetry in motion on the floor.
Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) is in my FanDuel daily picks for tonight. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) is in my FanDuel daily picks for tonight. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

8

Chicago Bulls

(9-5)

Last week: 3-1
Last rank: 10th

The Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler experiment has not gone particularly well for the Chicago Bulls. The Wade and Butler combination has been outstanding for them however. Rondo was once a highly-sought after top-notch NBA point guard and now he’s losing minutes to Jerian Grant. Fred Hoiberg’s job was on the line if the Bulls had another disappointing season, but 14 games in they look like a lock to make the NBA Playoffs this year. Butler has been nothing short of phenomenal for this team and if he can continue to produce at this level it won’t be long before I’m eating my words on every thing bad I said about this franchise prior to the season starting. Things are looking pleasantly up in the Windy City and the hope would be that this good start is more than just a flash in the pan. Jimmy Butler’s clairvoyant call out of a 40-point game against the Los Angeles Lakers is the type of story legends are made of. Butler has been nothing short of great for the Bulls this season and the longer he can keep that up then the longer this team will find itself ranked in the top 10 in these power rankings.
Nov 15, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) dribbles the ball up court in the first half against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 15, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) dribbles the ball up court in the first half against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

7

Charlotte Hornets

(8-4)

Last week: 1-1
Last rank: 7th

The Charlotte Hornets should probably be higher on this list, but like the national media as a whole, I’m having trouble giving them the proper respect they’ve earned so far this season. Their record is better than the Toronto Raptors, yet I wouldn’t consider Charlotte to be the superior team. Kemba Walker has elevated his game to All-Star level and his play has been one of the biggest reasons for the Hornets start through 12 games. The Hornets are the best-coached defensive team in the league and game by game they insist their will on the opposing team with their stingy defensive efforts. With Black Friday fast approaching and the Hornets winning games, things couldn’t possibly be going any better for Michael Jordan. I’m sure His Airness would rather be on the court as part of the team than just watching his money counter spin endlessly. Steve Clifford is probably the real man deserving of the Coach of the Year honors–and has a case for arguing that he should have taken the trophy home last year too. As long as Walker can keep this up and they can get performances out of Frank Kaminsky (23 points and nine rebounds) like they did last night than this team will definitely finish off the year with home court advantage in the opening round.
Atlanta Hawks forward Mike Muscala (31) is in my DraftKings daily picks for today. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Hawks forward Mike Muscala (31) is in my DraftKings daily picks for today. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

6

Atlanta Hawks

(9-4)

Last week: 2-2
Last rank: 3rd

Things for the Atlanta Hawks have hit a slight snag after the year got off to such a great start for the team. Back-to-back losses to the Charlotte Hornets and the New York Knicks have brought this team back down to Earth in the last few days. The injuries have begun to pile up for the Hawks. With Tim Hardaway Jr. going down against the Knicks on Sunday, they could potentially be without Hardaway, Mike Scott, Thabo Sefolosha, and Tiago Splitter for an extended time. All four players are big parts of head coach Mike Budenholzer’s plan. Atlanta’s ability to build depth and capitalize off it has been one of the biggest keys to it’s success under the former San Antonio Spurs assistant coach. In order for the Hawks to keep this up they will need to make sure that they can find a way to keep the contributions that they are currently getting as consistent as possible. Trusting a team to the temperaments of Dennis Schroeder and Dwight Howard isn’t my idea of how to best run a franchise, but then again Coach Bud has forgotten more basketball than I know. If he can get those two personalities to be on the same page than just about anything could happen in the ATL.
Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) is in my FanDuel daily picks for this Sunday. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) is in my FanDuel daily picks for this Sunday. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

5

Toronto Raptors

(8-5)

Last week: 1-3
Last rank: 4th

The Toronto Raptors have showed up to the plate for their three biggest games, but have not be able to pull out a win in any of them. Their two games against the Cleveland Cavaliers and one matchup with the Golden State Warriors have been decided by 10 points total. While DeMar DeRozan is still putting up the best Team USA-bump numbers we’ve seen in recent memory, the Raptors have yet to take that next step and ascend into the grouping of the NBA’s elite. Two losses to the Sacramento Kings would be the biggest example of this–for his part, DeRozan is only averaging 17.5 PPG against the Kings, a little more than half of the 33.9 PPG he averages against the rest of the NBA. The rest of this week’s two-game schedule features the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks. The Raptors should win those and it would be a good start towards putting them back on course to be mentioned amongst the upper echelon of the league. These close calls help to open the eyes of the NBA world to how good Toronto is, but in the end a loss is a loss is a loss. The Raptors need a find a way to compile wins before they get left behind by the Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks.
San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) is in my FanDuel daily picks again today. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) is in my FanDuel daily picks again today. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

4

San Antonio Spurs

(11-3)

Last week: 3-0
Last rank: 6

Quietly, as they like it, the San Antonio Spurs have been one of the most consistent teams in the NBA. The Golden State Warriors look like the Harlem Globetrotters one night and then turn into the Washington Generals the next. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers have been better, but there are flaws present that opponents have exposed at times in their losses. Meanwhile, the Spurs continue to run like the well-oiled machine they are. Gregg Popovich is a master on the sidelines and as long as he’s around then the NBA world will always remember the Alamo. Kawhi Leonard announced his MVP candidacy early in the season and as long as he continues to produce there’s no reason to believe that he doesn’t have a shot at taking the award home this season. Pop is still controlling minutes as he sees fit. This season only Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge are playing over 30 minutes a night and the next closest are Tony Parker and Pau Gasol who clock in at 25.9 and 25.8 respectively. Keeping his guys fresh will always be priority number one with the Spurs and while Parker and Gasol haven’t looked as great as they once were all San Antonio needs is for them to be able to reach something close to those levels when the second season tips off in May.
Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) is in my DraftKings daily picks for today. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) is in my DraftKings daily picks for today. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

3

Golden State Warriors

(12-2)

Last week: 4-0
Last rank: 3rd

Things are starting to look a lot easier for the Golden State Warriors and that should scare the rest of the league. Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry are routinely putting up 30-plus points during their seven-game win streak. Klay Thompson is starting to knock down all of those wide open looks he’s getting. Draymond Green threatens to get an assists and rebounds double-double on a nightly basis. JAVALE MCGEE IS ACTUALLY CONTRIBUTING IN A PRODUCTIVE WAY. I SAID, JAVALE MCGEE IS ACTUALLY CONTRIBUTING IN A PRODUCTIVE WAY! The defense is still a work-in-progress (they rank 20th in defensive rating currently), but that hasn’t stopped Death Lineup 2.0 from annihilating teams. The Curry-Thompson-Andre Iguodala-Durant-Green five man lineup has a net rating of 27.0 (best amongst lineups that have played at least 60 minutes together). In total, the Warriors have 12 lineups that have a net rating higher than 25–this includes three lineups that have net ratings OVER 100, but those groupings have not played large enough sample sizes to truly be as dominant as they look. As Golden State continues to round into form it’s going to be amazing to see just what this team is capable of once it hits its peak.
Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) and forward Blake Griffin (32) look to bounce back from a loss as they visit Sacramento in tonight's DraftKings daily picks. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) and forward Blake Griffin (32) look to bounce back from a loss as they visit Sacramento in tonight’s DraftKings daily picks. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

2

Los Angeles Clippers

(13-2)

Last week: 3-1
Last rank: 2

The Los Angeles Clippers are not showing any signs of slowing down. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan are as good as we know them to be. In between being a podcast host, JJ Redick is still draining outside shots with ease. The biggest change for the Clippers has been the production they have received from their bench. While Jamal Crawford’s scoring numbers have dipped from a year ago, the additions of Raymond Felton and Marreese Speights, along with the improving play of Austin Rivers has made the Clippers into a top-flight contender. Their improvement on the defensive end has been noticeable too. They currently lead the league with a defensive rating of 99.0. Griffin has looked as locked in as ever on the defensive end and with him being back at full health it’s only made this team more dangerous. Their defense has been their calling card all season and if they want to have a shot at bringing a title back to Los Angeles’ other team than they are going to need their defense to be at it’s best and that best needs to be tops in the league. The Golden State Warriors can manufacture open looks by simply stepping on the court. It’s early, but a potential Clippers and Warriors Western Conference Finals matchup is making me very very happy inside.
Nov 5, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (L) shares a lighter moment with guard J.R. Smith (R) during the second quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. The Cleveland Cavaliers won 102-101. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 5, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (L) shares a lighter moment with guard J.R. Smith (R) during the second quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. The Cleveland Cavaliers won 102-101. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

1

Cleveland Cavaliers

(10-2)

Last week: 2-1
Last rank: 1st

Despite a road loss to the Indiana Pacers dropping them from best record in the NBA to third, the Cleveland Cavaliers still remain atop the power rankings for the third week in a row. The Cavaliers are easily the best team in the Eastern Conference and with every passing game it’s looking more and more likely that LeBron James will catch that ghost he’s been chasing–at least in terms of consecutive trips to the NBA Finals. We’ve also seen our first instance of James coasting through the regular season, he was given the night off in the team’s loss to the Pacers, and it’s likely this will be the first of many DNP-rest for James. It will be interesting to see if James decides to spread them out sporadically over the year or opts to due his usual mid-season extended absence that he’s relied upon since coming back to his home state. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are playing at a high-level and the rest of the team’s supporting cast looks to be accustomed to their roles already. Outside of injuries or an extended losing streak, the Cavaliers should remain amongst the top tier of teams that have separated themselves from the pack as we inch closer to the 20 game mark.

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