NBA Power Rankings: Hawks rise, Lakers fall

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While the world was focused on the state of Indiana and the NCAA tournament, the NBA quietly rolled along. LeBron James and LaMelo Ball are injured, the Hawks are rolling and the Rockets finally won a game.

 

Need a refresher? Look no further, my friend. 

 

1. Brooklyn Nets (1)

Week recap: 2-1 SU/1-2 ATS

 

A loss to the Orlando Magic might be enough to knock Brooklyn from the top spot in some rankings, but not this one. The impressive win over Indiana without Kyrie Irving and the victory over Washington are enough to give the Nets a weak grasp on this spot. However, they are now 1-4 ATS in their last five, and their offense regressed to 115.5 points per 100 possessions. It is not solid ground for the Nets up here.

 

2. Milwaukee Bucks (2)

Week recap: 3-0 SU/1-2 ATS

 

An undefeated week could push the Bucks past Brooklyn, but the win over Philadelphia ultimately keeps them here. The Bucks were held to 0.574 points per possession in the first half before rallying for the win. They also had a win without their star, blowing out Indiana in a game without Giannis Antetokounmpo. Another week like this, coupled with more failed covers from Brooklyn, will have Milwaukee atop these rankings.

 

3. Philadelphia 76ers (3)

Week recap: 3-1 SU/1-2-1 ATS

 

Status quo so far, but how in the world can I knock down Philadelphia? In their first week without Joel Embiid, they won three games and led the league in defensive efficiency at 98.3. Their offense has been poor, averaging 104.3 points per 100 possessions, so it’s clear they are playing with fire.

 

4. Phoenix Suns (4)

Week recap: 2-1 SU/1-2 ATS

 

Splitting a two-game series with the Minnesota Timberwolves and beating up on the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers is not enough to improve your ranking, but it was still a solid week for Phoenix. The Suns embark on a four-game East Coast trip this week on which they will face Miami, Orlando, Toronto and Charlotte, so I would expect another solid week for Phoenix.

 

5. Utah Jazz (5)

Week recap: 3-1 SU/2-2 ATS

 

Three wins in four games is an accomplishment, but Utah mixed in some poor performances. The Jazz lost to Washington while giving up 1.213 points per possession and needed big fourth quarters against Boston and Toronto to pull out wins. The Jazz are treading water, but it is a long season.

 

6. Los Angeles Clippers (9)

Week recap: 2-1 SU/2-1 ATS

 

The Clippers land here by default because the teams ahead of them last week faltered in a big way. Los Angeles earned a split with Dallas before beating down Charlotte and rallying from a 22-point second-half deficit to beat Atlanta. This team is still flawed, but the trade deadline looms.

 

7. Dallas Mavericks (10)

Week recap: 2-1 SU/2-1 ATS

 

After beating the Clippers in the first game of the week, the Mavericks were taken down by hot shooting in Portland. However, they got revenge by decimating the Trail Blazers 132-92 in the rematch two nights later. Dallas led the league in offensive efficiency last week, averaging 125.4 points per 100 possessions. The Mavs will need every bit of that offense as they try to claw their way out of the play-in seeds.

 

8. Los Angeles Lakers (6)

Week recap: 2-2 SU/2-2 ATS

 

Splitting four games in a week is not a nightmare, but seeing your best player suffer a serious ankle injury is. Los Angeles is without LeBron James for the foreseeable future, and the two games without him were ugly offensive performances in which the team averaged 96.9 points every 100 possessions. How bad will this offense get without James?

 

9. Miami Heat (7)

Week recap: 1-3 SU/1-3 ATS

 

The Heat were on a three-game slide heading into a meeting with Phoenix on Tuesday night that will count toward next week’s rankings. The big issue has been an offense that is averaging 100.7 points every 100 possessions and shooting 24.8% from deep. Is this shooting ever going to turn itself around?

 

10. Denver Nuggets (11)

Week recap: 2-1 SU/1-2 ATS

 

Two wins over a couple of overmatched Eastern Conference foes does not do much for me, but Denver climbs a spot due to Boston’s slide. The troubling loss of the week was against New Orleans in which the Pelicans went 31-of-48 (64.6%) inside 14 feet and scored 54 points in the paint. The Nuggets’ 30th-ranked rim defense showed up in a big way in that game and will likely burn them in the big picture.

 

11. Boston Celtics (8)

Week recap: 1-4 SU/1-4 ATS

 

What a poor week for Boston. A blown fourth-quarter lead to Utah, another road loss in Cleveland and a home loss to Sacramento. The team meeting held by the players gave them a win over Orlando, but after a 10-2 run got them to overtime against Memphis, they dropped that game too. Their defense continued its inconsistent ways, giving up 115.6 points per 100 possessions to opponents.

 

12. Portland Trail Blazers (14)

Week recap: 3-1 SU/2-2 ATS

 

Portland’s week got off to a good start with the massive comeback win over New Orleans, but it ended with a blowout loss to Dallas. It’s not shocking to say the Trail Blazers posted the worst defensive rating of the week at 121.2, and they were outscored by 5.6 points every 100 possessions despite going 3-1 SU. Do they acquire a frontcourt piece this week?

 

13. Memphis Grizzlies (15)

Week recap: 3-1 SU/3-1 ATS

 

The lone loss for Memphis was as bad as it gets, giving up 116 points to Golden State without Steph Curry, but the week ended with a strong overtime win over Boston. The Grizzlies’ defense was so good (103.9) last week that they still have a positive net rating (+ 2.0) despite posting the seventh-worst offensive rating of the week (105.8).

 

14. Atlanta Hawks (16)

Week recap: 3-1 SU/3-1 ATS

 

Atlanta continues its climb up my rankings because it continues to win. The Hawks are a blown 22-point second-half lead against the Clippers from an even higher spot. Their schedule has been pretty light, and the collapse is not exactly encouraging, but they’re in the midst of a West Coast trip that will show us how legitimate this turnaround under Nate McMillan is.

 

15. New York Knicks (12)

Week recap: 1-2 SU/0-2-1 ATS

 

New York’s offense has fallen off a cliff. The Knicks were held to under 100 points in regulation of all three games they played last week, but two came against Philadelphia. I thought New York was due for some second-half regression, and that is starting to show.

 

16. Charlotte Hornets (13)

Week recap: 1-3 SU/1-3 ATS

 

Charlotte turned things around Monday with a win over San Antonio that snapped a three-game slide. The numbers have been bad. The team posted a -15.6 net rating last week, but this was more about poor matchups than anything else. Losing LaMelo Ball is a blow, but the Hornets showed their legitimacy as five-point underdogs against the Spurs.

 

17. San Antonio Spurs (17)

Week recap: 2-2 SU/2-2 ATS

 

Wins over Chicago and Cleveland are not necessarily impressive, but a cover against Milwaukee is. The loss to Charlotte puts a damper on the week and keeps them in the same spot as last week. San Antonio continues to impress me with its defense, and last week the Spurs posted the eighth-best defensive rating in the league (108.3).

 

18. Golden State Warriors (18)

Week recap: 2-1 SU/2-1 ATS

 

The most impressive win this week was over Memphis without Steph Curry. The Warriors’ offense was held to 0.981 points per possession in the rematch the next day, giving bettors a true glimpse of this team when Curry doesn’t play. They still limited the Grizzlies to 1.047 points per possession, which is true to the numbers we have seen all season for this defense.

 

19. Indiana Pacers (21)

Week recap: 2-2 SU/2-2 ATS

 

Can anyone figure out what Indiana is? The week was bookended with losses to Brooklyn and Milwaukee, which played without Kyrie Irving and Giannis Antetokounmpo, respectively. In between they took care of business in a two-game set with Miami. They’re not entirely deserving of an improved ranking, but they are here due to the failings of the team below them.

 

20. New Orleans Pelicans (20)

Week recap: 1-2 SU/2-1 ATS

 

Congratulations on two covers and a win over Denver, but this team deserves no improvement in its ranking. The Pelicans blew a 17-point fourth-quarter lead to Portland to start the week, lost the rematch and bounced back in a good matchup for them against Denver. Portland and Denver averaged 114.4 points per 100 possessions, showing us yet again that this team is never improving on defense.

 

21. Toronto Raptors (19)

Week recap: 0-4 SU/1-3 ATS

 

Things have really gone sideways for Toronto, and it culminated with a loss to Houston on Monday night. The Raptors posted the second-worst net rating in the league last week (-9.3), and now the rumors are swirling about their willingness to sell before Thursday’s deadline. Will Kyle Lowry and Norm Powell be Raptors next week?

 

22. Chicago Bulls (22)

Week recap: 1-3 SU/2-2 ATS

 

When the only win a team can muster in a week is over Detroit, there is no reason to improve its ranking. The Bulls’ best performance came in an overtime loss to Denver, and even then their defense was cooked for 1.236 points per possession. They begin a West Coast trip this weekend, so bettors could see this defense get exposed a few more times.

 

23. Oklahoma City Thunder (23)

Week recap: 2-2 SU/2-2 ATS

 

It really was a very bland week for Oklahoma City. The Thunder dropped games to Chicago and Atlanta and took wins from Houston and Minnesota. Defensively, the Thunder have begun to regress and gave up 115.5 points per 100 possessions last week. They are 16th in defensive efficiency since the start of March. Is this trend going to continue?

 

24. Sacramento Kings (26)

Week recap: 3-1 SU/3-1 ATS

 

The Kings crawl up a couple of spots because of some really solid work throughout the week. Sacramento took care of business in the fourth quarter in a win over Washington, took out Boston in Beantown and blew out Cleveland on the road. The loss to a 76ers team without Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid is a head-scratcher, but it’s hard to ignore a 3-1 week.

 

25. Detroit Pistons (25)

Week recap: 2-1 SU/2-1 ATS

 

Wins over Toronto and Houston are nothing to write home about, so I feel comfortable keeping the Pistons in the same spot. Let’s focus on Saddiq Bey for a moment, though. The Rookie of the Year race is wide open, and the world needs to know about the 3-and-D wing who dropped 28 on the Raptors. Watch my guy for the rest of the season.

 

26. Washington Wizards (24)

Week recap: 1-2 SU/1-2 ATS

 

Washington drops a couple of spots, but this might be too harsh. Yes, the Wizards lost to Sacramento when their defense could not stop a nosebleed, but they beat Utah and covered in a solid game against Brooklyn.

 

27. Minnesota Timberwolves (27)

Week recap: 1-3 SU/1-3 ATS

 

The win over the Suns was the highest point of the week for Minnesota, but two blowout losses to them and the Lakers really put a damper on the victory. Couple that with a nine-point loss to Oklahoma City and that keeps Minnesota here. I thought Minnesota could be due for a solid run for bettors, but maybe that starts next week.

 

28. Cleveland Cavaliers (28)

Week recap: 2-2 SU/2-2 ATS

 

A four-game split might be a massive win for a team of Cleveland’s ilk, but it’s not worth surpassing a team like Minnesota. The Cavaliers have been average the last week (-0.5 net rating), which is a massive upgrade from what we have seen.

 

29. Orlando Magic (29)

Week recap: 1-2 SU/1-2 ATS

 

Beating Brooklyn 121-113 was the highlight of the week for Orlando, but losses to New York and Boston in which the Magic were held to under 100 points was status quo for this season. They have a homestand against three Western Conference teams before heading to the West Coast for five games. Do they get a single win next week? Unlikely.

 

30. Houston Rockets (30)

Week recap: 1-4 SU/1-4 ATS

 

All right! Houston finally pulled out of the tailspin with a double-digit win over Toronto on Monday. The Rockets are still the worst team in the league, but is there a chance they are on the verge of a play-on streak? Christian Wood missed 17 games, after all, so maybe it will take some time to regain some continuity for this offense.

 

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