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NBA Power Rankings for February 2nd
We’re almost to the All-Star break, which means we are a little more than halfway through the 2016-17 NBA season. This season has flown by, and there have been plenty of surprises, both good and bad thus far. Now, it’s time for our weekly ranking of all 30 teams in the Association.
Golden State Warriors (42-7)
Stephen Curry has exploded in each of the last two games and looked like the MVP we got used to seeing on a nightly basis last season. In his last two appearances against the Clippers and Hornets, respectively, Steph has connected on an absurd 20 of his 30 three-point attempts and scored 72 points in just 49 minutes of play.
San Antonio Spurs (37-11)
Kawhi Leonard will not win MVP, but that certainly is not a knock on him. The sleepy former San Diego State great is averaging a career-high 25.6 points per game and continues to play the stellar defense he has become known for. To say that he might not even finish the season in the top-five in MVP voting just goes to show how many insane individual performances we have seen elsewhere around the league.
Cleveland Cavaliers (33-15)
However, what are they supposed to do? Cleveland has very little money to spend and already tried to shore up a hole by adding Kyle Korver in a trade from the Hawks. Korver has been solid in his first 12 games in the Wine and Gold, as he is connecting on better than 42 percent of his three-point attempts. The Cavs will figure it out, but they look largely lost at the moment.
Houston Rockets (36-16)
Russell Westbrook’s 24 triple-doubles on the season have drawn the most headlines, but James Harden’s 14 to this point are nothing to sniff at. He is just one away from equaling Hakeem Olajuwon’s CAREER total of triple-doubles this season alone. With the Thunder teetering and plummeting down the standings right now, The Beard is looking like the odds-on favorite to capture his first career MVP award.
Washington Wizards (28-20)
John Wall often gets overlooked in the discussion of the league’s best point guards, which is a total shame. The 26-year-old All-Star is in the midst of a career year, averaging 22.7 points, 10.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds and better than two steals per game. He is another guy that should be right in the thick of the MVP race if Washington is able to land a top-three seed in the East.
Boston Celtics (31-18)
Thomas is averaging 10.5 points in fourth quarters alone on the season, which is easily the top mark in the league. No player has averaged double digits in any single quarter in more than 20 years, so what Thomas is doing is rather unprecedented. He helped Boston overcome a 17-point double-digit deficit to beat the Raptors at home on Wednesday night.
Utah Jazz (31-19)
Rudy Gobert likely has as strong a case as any other player that was snubbed from the All-Star Game. The Stifle Tower has established himself as the best paint patroller in the league, and he is also averaging career-highs in points (13.1), rebounds (12.6) and blocked shots (2.5). The West is loaded with premier centers, and Gobert belongs in that conversation.
Los Angeles Clippers (31-18)
Blake Griffin fortunately returned to the lineup last week and dominated the Clips’ aforementioned win in Phoenix. In 34 minutes of work, Griffin finished with 29 points, eight rebounds and five assists and contributed a handful of highlight plays, for good measure. Once Chris Paul returns, this team will be a force in the playoffs.
Toronto Raptors (30-20)
Norman Powell has started each game that DeRozan has missed and has looked quite solid. In five games as a starting guard on the year, Powell is going for 17.2 points and nearly five rebounds per game on 50 percent shooting from the field. The former UCLA standout is looking like a second-round steal, and he deserves more minutes moving forward.
Memphis Grizzlies (30-21)
Marc Gasol has taken more of a scoring role for the Grizz this season. The big Spaniard has clearly fully recovered from the foot problem that ended his 2015-16 season prematurely. His 20.8 points per game mark is easily the best of his career to this point, and his new three-point stroke has clearly added a new and lethal wrinkle to his offensive repertoire. Gasol is taking nearly four long balls per game and is hitting them at a near 42 percent clip.
Atlanta Hawks (28-21)
All eyes will be on Houston tonight when Dwight Howard makes his first appearance in H-Town since leaving for Atlanta as a free agent over the summer. Despite giving the Rockets three solid years, one would imagine the big man will be serenaded with a chorus of boos after a disappointing 2015-16 campaign. In his first meeting against the Rockets earlier this season in Atlanta, Howard got a measure of revenge with 20 points and 15 rebounds.
Oklahoma City Thunder (28-22)
In spite of the shortcomings of the rest of the roster, Russell Westbrook remains ridiculous. We are 50 games into the season and the man is still averaging a triple-double (30.7 points, 10.4 rebounds, 10.3 assists). If he can get through the remaining 32 games with that mark intact, he will become the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62 to average a triple-double for a full year.
Indiana Pacers (26-22)
On the bright side, Paul George has finally found the stroke of late. Before a mediocre offensive showing on Wednesday against the Magic, PG13 had scored at least 31 points in each of his last four games, including a 33-point, nine-rebound showing in Sunday’s demolition of the Rockets.
Denver Nuggets (21-27)
Nikola Jokic is currently dealing with a hip problem, but he has been a revelation since Mike Malone finally decided to make him Denver’s starting center. The second-year big man has emerged as one of the very best passing centers in the league. In the month of January, Jokic averaged an absurd 23.9 points on 60.6 percent shooting to go along with 11.1 rebounds and a shade under five assists per game. It appears as though the Nuggest have finally found their post-Melo superstar.
Portland Trail Blazers (22-28)
In an attempt to keep the good vibes from last season going, GM Neil Olshey splurged on some contracts he would probably like to have back. They gave $75 million to Evan Turner, who has been awful, as well as $75 million to Allen Crabbe and $15 million to Festus Ezeli. Ezeli has not played a minute this season due to injury.
Philadelphia 76ers (18-30)
Embiid is obviously the butter and egg man for the Sixers, but they may have found something in undrafted point guard T.J. McConnell. He essentially Wally Pipped Sergio Rodriguez for the team’s starting point guard spot, and averaged a solid 8.1 points, 9.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game in January.
Chicago Bulls (25-25)
There is just no way this is going to end happily for Chicago. Wade sounds like he is already planning on bailing after just one year with the team, and there are rumors swirling that Butler could also be had in a trade for the right price. Even if Chicago makes the playoffs, they have all the makings of a team that will be done after one round.
Charlotte Hornets (23-27)
Nicolas Batum’s counting stats (14.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists) have been solid, but he’s shooting just over 40 percent on the field this season, which is rather underwhelming. Charlotte will need him to step it up in that department if they have any plans of showing out on the postseason stage – if they make it.
Miami Heat (20-30)
Of all players, the Heat have gotten excellent play out of journeyman Dion Waiters of late. The former lottery pick has spent the first several years of his career looking like a bust, but he has apparently found a home in Miami. During the winning streak, Waiters is averaging 22.1 points along with 4.8 assists and 4.6 rebounds while shooting 51 percent from three-point range. He earned Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors last week.
Detroit Pistons (22-27)
Andre Drummond posted stellar individual numbers in the month of January, as he went for 16.1 points, 14.8 rebounds, 2.2 steals and nearly two blocks per game on 56 percent shooting from the field. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was particularly stellar in Wednesday’s win over the Pelicans, as he finished with a career-high 38 points in 39 dominant minutes.
Sacramento Kings (19-30)
Sacramento is just 3-7 in their last 10 games, but they did earn impressive road victories over the Pistons, Cavaliers and Hornets in that stretch. They will now get to enjoy a stretch of eight straight games in the state of California, six of which will come at home in their sparkling new building.
Dallas Mavericks (19-30)
The younger Curry brother has scored at least 20 points in three of his last five games, including 22 points on Wednesday in Dallas’ win over Philadelphia. He is currently knocking down better than 42 percent of his three-point tries on the season, which is only two percentage points worse than his older brother’s current mark.
Milwaukee Bucks (21-27)
Khris Middleton, who has yet to play this season after tearing his hamstring in the offseason, is set to return soon. Milwaukee is in dire need of some sort of shooting presence, which he can certainly provide. The Bucks are an impressive ninth in the league in three-point percentage, but only 24th in attempts.
New York Knicks (22-29)
In spite of all that has gone wrong with them, New York still sits just a game-and-a-half behind the Hornets for the last playoff spot out East. Trading Anthony would likely torpedo their chances of qualifying for the tournament, but the writing seems to be on the wall there. Getting rid of him now is likely the best course of action for the Knicks’ future.
New Orleans Pelicans (19-31)
Anthony Davis has gotten bumped and bruised lately, and has been forced to leave a slew of games early due to injuries. Regardless, he is still enjoying the most prestigious statistical season of his young career. The Brow is going for 27.9 points, 12.3 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 1.3 steals per game.
Minnesota Timberwolves (19-30)
In spite of the team’s overall struggles, Karl-Anthony Towns has certainly rebounded from a fairly sluggish start to the season. The second-year big man is averaging 23 points and nearly 12 boards per game after going for 25.4 points and 12.9 rebounds a night in January.
Orlando Magic (19-32)
Despite Ibaka being a rental, the list of suitors should still be substantial. Teams like the Raptors, Rockets and Celtics stand out as potential fits for a shot-blocking big that has the ability to space the floor, as well.
Phoenix Suns (15-34)
Phoenix is also getting a phenomenal individual season from Eric Bledsoe. Finally healthy, the 27-year-old has now scored at least 40 points in three of his last six games after dumping 41 on his former team, the Clippers, on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see if the Suns decide to stick with Bledsoe in the long term or if he will be a hot commodity on the trade market in the coming weeks.
Los Angeles Lakers (17-34)
Rookie big man Ivica Zubac has been unleashed by Luke Walton, and there is plenty to like about what he has been giving the Lakers. The Bosnian seven-footer is incredibly polished for a 19-year-old, and he has notched three double-doubles in his last six games entering play Thursday.
Brooklyn Nets (9-40)
The Nets play hard, but there is just no overcoming the general lack of talent on the roster these days. It is really just Brook Lopez surrounded by a bunch of guys. What makes it particularly sad is that they will not even get to reap the benefits of their struggles.
The Celtics own the Nets’ first round pick this year, which means Boston is almost surely going to land a top-five pick in the upcoming draft. Boston has aspirations of competing this season, though, so it will be interesting to see if they can pawn that asset off for a high-level player that can help them immediately.