NBA Power Rankings Heading Into 2017
Happy New Year to all. 2016 is coming to an end and the NBA season is already over a third of the way over. Which means, it’s time for the more casual NBA fans to come out from their football coma and get more involved. With a bigger sample size, it has now become clear which teams may contend this season and which teams likely will not. 10 weeks of play into the season, here are our NBA Power Rankings.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (24-7) : The champs are back a top the NBA power ranking. Depth is a legit worry, as well, because the Cavs now have two roster spots filled by players who can’t help them (Chris Andersen and Mo Williams) and face major luxury-tax implications if they try to waive and replace them. However, Kevin Love’s scoring surges, which were not present last year, along with LeBron and Kyrie Irving’s dominance have continued to carry this team. LeBron will continue to take nights off to rest throughout the year, which may result in a few disappointing losses, but this team should be able to cruise to the playoffs as the top spot in the East, barring any more significant injuries taking place.
2. Golden State Warriors (28-5): Losing a heart-breaker on Christmas day to the team they will likely face in the Finals was nothing but a minor hitch for the Warriors moving forward. What should scare every other team in the league is not necessarily the four All-Stars on this team, but the fact that this team is putting up 117.2 points per game and are also second in the league in defensive efficiency. Golden State is playing a high brand of basketball at both ends of the court, and with two previous league MVP’s in their lineup; they are clearly the favorites to win the Western Conference.
3. San Antonio Spurs ( 26-6) : The Spurs seem to be the best option to take down the Warriors in the West. Kawhi Leonard is the best two-way player in the league, averaging 24.4 points per game, and LaMarcus Aldridge continues to put up big numbers. What is even more impressive is the impact the role players have had on games. San Antonio again has proven to have the most depth in the league, with a game winner from backup point guard Patty Mills against Houston last week, and improved play from Dewayne Dedmon and rookie Dejounte Murray.
4. Houston Rockets ( 24-9): The Houston Rockets, alongside my personal pick for MVP, James Harden, have not been letting up. The Rockets have one of the most deadly offenses in basketball and a majority of what they do is shoot threes and free throws. In their last 10 games, the Rockets have scored over 100 points in every game, including 6 games with 120+. Clint Capela has been out for over a week with fracture in his fibula but expects to return in 4-6 weeks.
5. Toronto Raptors ( 22-10) : Along with the Cavaliers, the Raptors seem to be the only team in the East that actually has a chance at making the Conference Finals. DeMar DeRozan has been spectacular so far this year, scoring 27.5 points per game.
Kyle Lowry has continued to play at an All-Star caliber rate, and has improved his efficiency, as he is shooting 45% from the three point line. If these two can continue to score at such a consistent clip, this team could win a few games against the Cavs in the playoffs.
6. Memphis Grizzlies ( 21-14) : Conley’s toe injury forced him out of action during Tuesday’s loss to the Celtics, and he didn’t play Thursday against the Thunder, either. So, of course the Grizzlies won.Marc Gasol, who continues to play the best all-around ball of his life, scored 25 to lead Memphis over OKC, and Troy Daniels hit six of his team’s 13 threes.
Memphis was 2-2 this week but has lost five of its last eight overall. And because nothing about the Grizzlies computes, they’re still a solid 21-14, despite a plus-0.7 net rating on the year. Still good for 6th on the power rankings.
7. Oklahoma City Thunder (20-13) : No Kevin Durant? No problem. Or so it would seem. The Thunder remain a top-tier team in the West and have won four in a row; however, their dependence on Russell Westbrook and lack of a second scoring option has become relevant.
While Westbrook may be having a historic year (he’s still averaging a triple-double), he can only take this team so far. When he is off the court, the teams scoring numbers drop off at an extreme rate. So for the time being, the Thunder can hold a great spot in the power rankings, but the question is for how long.
8. Utah Jazz (19-13) : Despite a three game skid, the Jazz remain an up and coming team in the West, and have a much easier schedule coming up with games against teams like the 76ers and the Nets. A depleted back court may be a cause for concern, but George Hill is likely to return soon. Utah may be a ways away from competing for a title, but with Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert having All-Star caliber seasons, the sky is the limit for this team.
9. Los Angeles Clippers ( 22-12) : Since the loss of Blake Griffin due to knee surgery, the Clippers are 2-3, and since Chris Paul went out with the same hamstring injury that has nagged him for years, their record is 0-3. Those three loses came at the hands of the Mavericks, Lakers, and Nuggets. With Griffin out for another month and Chris Paul’s status being uncertain, the Clippers could continue to slide.
If most other teams lost their two best players to injury, though, they would be in a similar – if not worse – position than the Clippers are.
10. Boston Celtics ( 19-14): The Celtics have won six of their last eight games, and they still haven’t even gotten their defense anywhere close to last year’s top-five standards. Having finished a brutal road stretch that featured 10 of their last 15 games away from home, the Celtics should settle into a groove this month.
The Celtics are finally healthy and their recent play reflects on that. Isaiah Thomas is playing like an MVP underdog and Al Horford is back to doing all the little things that made him an All-Star when he was in Atlanta.