Suns new No. 1 in NBA power rankings

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We have a new team on top of our NBA power rankings this week. Brooklyn’s continued inconsistency coupled with the loss of James Harden to injury has pushed the Phoenix Suns to the top of the list. Phoenix continues to treat the regular season with utmost urgency, and the Suns have dropped just three games since the All-Star break. No one is playing better basketball than the Suns.

 

Having said that, there were plenty of great performances over the last week in the NBA. The Utah Jazz moved up a spot after a strong week, and the Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets pushed forward after undefeated weeks.

 

We also have a contender besides Houston for worst team in the league.

 

1. Phoenix Suns (3)

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

 

The wins continue to come, so the Suns find their way to the top of my power rankings. Phoenix led the league in offensive efficiency last week, averaging 1.3 points per possession against Chicago, Oklahoma City and Houston. The opponents have not been great, but we’ll get some questions answered this week. The Suns will face the Jazz and Clippers in games that weigh heavily in the Western Conference race.

 

2. Brooklyn Nets (1)

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

 

Injuries and inconsistent play have knocked Brooklyn out of the top spot. The Nets needed a 12-0 run in the third quarter to get past the Rockets, lost to Chicago and barely got by the Knicks. That week is part of a larger 3-10 ATS slide over the last 13 games, and the Nets’ offense has been the culprit. Averaging 113.6 points per 100 possessions would be fine for any team, but when you give up 112.1 over the same stretch, you’re barely going to get by.

 

3. Utah Jazz (4)

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

 

Utah posted the second-best net rating of the week at + 13.5, but its power rating is at its peak. That is represented by a 1-3 ATS record despite such a dominant week statistically. The Jazz’s defense had seemingly come back to form before the week ended, but Dallas cooked them for 1.22 points per possession. Is that a sign of things to come?

 

4. Philadelphia 76ers (2)

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

 

Joel Embiid is back in the mix, but without him the 76ers were listless on offense in a loss to Memphis. Their defense over the last two games has regressed a bit too. Memphis and Minnesota combined to average 1.162 points per possession in the final two games of the week. They face the Celtics, Pelicans and Mavericks in the next week, with another back-to-back situation on the schedule. It could be another uneven week for Philadelphia.

 

5. Milwaukee Bucks (6)

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

 

The only blemish last week was a win over Sacramento in which Milwaukee did not cover, but Giannis Antetokounmpo was not on the floor. The Bucks’ 127-109 win over the Trail Blazers was very impressive. The Bucks crushed them inside by going 23 of 26 at the rim and scoring 58 points in the paint, but their defensive effort was even better. Milwaukee has a great week on the horizon with some bottom-feeders on the schedule.

 

6. Denver Nuggets (7)

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

 

The Nuggets are undefeated with Aaron Gordon in the lineup, and they really flexed their muscles on defense last week. In a fantastic win over the Clippers, the Nuggets allowed just 1.068 points per possession and 29.4% from beyond the arc. Denver is starting to take the form of true contender with Gordon in the fold, and the league better watch out.

 

7. Dallas Mavericks (8)

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

 

Dallas put together a fabulous week on defense, giving up just 101.3 points every 100 possessions to its four opponents. However, two of the Mavs’ four opponents rank lower than 22nd in offensive efficiency, so it is safe to say they benefited from a favorable schedule. However, their own offense continues to thrive. The Mavericks averaged 113.4 points every 100 possessions and shot 41.3% from deep last week.

 

8. Los Angeles Clippers (5)

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

 

Los Angeles deserves to tumble this far down the list because of a couple of really poor performances. The Clippers’ loss to Orlando was inexcusable, giving up a 17-3 run in the fourth quarter that cost them the game. Two nights later Denver handled the Clippers by limiting them to 1.068 points per possession. Los Angeles needs to turn around an offense that put up a 103.9 rating last week.

 

9. Miami Heat (10)

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

 

Miami outscored its opponents by 8.3 points every 100 possessions last week, and it was largely due to a defense that gave up just 103.5 over that stretch. The Heat still need to figure out their offense, so there is no way to believe this is sustainable. Miami scored just 1.118 points per possession and shot 34.9% from beyond the arc. Once the shooting corrects itself, this team will become a threat, but there have been no real signs this will happen.

 

10. Los Angeles Lakers (9)

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

 

Kudos to Frank Vogel, who has Los Angeles playing extremely well on defense. Since losing LeBron James, the Lakers are third in defensive efficiency at 103.8, and last week they gave up just 102.3 points every 100 possessions. That defense, coupled with an offense that put up a 99.3 offensive rating last week, has led to a 1-8 run to the Under.

 

11. Boston Celtics (11)

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

 

It is hard to judge Boston’s week. The Celtics beat up on Houston and a Charlotte team without three key role players, but they could not overcome a poor first half against Dallas. Their net rating of + 13.4 was sixth best in the league last week, but that figure is inflated due to a soft schedule. Two losses for Boston this week will clinch the Under on its win total.

 

12. Portland Trail Blazers (12)

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

 

Despite a lopsided loss to the Bucks, the Trail Blazers still led the league in net rating at + 17.1. That was a result of blowout wins over Oklahoma City and Detroit, but the loss to Milwaukee tells us more. Portland still has one of the worst interior defenses in the league, and that showed when all three opponents last week combined to go 51 of 64 (79.7%) at the rim.

 

13. Memphis Grizzlies (13)

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

 

Even the Grizzlies’ lone loss of the week was somewhat impressive. Memphis held Utah to 1.099 points per possession and 16-of-49 shooting from deep in a 111-107 loss. The Grizzlies’ defense has been a strength all season, and their offense joined the party in their two wins to end the week. Memphis dropped an offensive rating of 119.8 and shot 45.5% on 38.5 3-point attempts per game in wins over Minnesota and Philadelphia. Their flow goes as their shooting does, so if the shots keep falling, expect the wins to follow.

 

14. New York Knicks (14)

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

 

New York exploited two poor defenses to end the week and averaged 1.247 points per possession in a couple of covers, but it’s pretty clear the issues that plague the 

Knicks on that end of the floor are still around. The losses are starting to add up, and their standing in the conference is worth monitoring. New York was just 3.5 games ahead of Chicago, which was sitting 10th in the East.

 

15. Atlanta Hawks (16)

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

 

Atlanta stumbled into three wins last week due to a favorable break in the schedule. San Antonio pushed the Hawks in overtime, New Orleans played without three starters and Golden State is in poor form. The Hawks’ 3-point shooting has been noticeably better, and last week they shot 43.6% on 29.3 attempts per game. De’Andre Hunter underwent a nonsurgical procedure on his knee but is supposed to be back to basketball activities this week.

 

16. Charlotte Hornets (15)

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

 

Cluster injuries have cut down the Hornets, and the team’s future on offense is in real danger. Gordon Hayward and Malik Monk joined LaMelo Ball on the bench this week, and in their first game without all three, the Hornets posted a -37.3 net rating in a loss to the Celtics. Charlotte should still be on relatively even footing with most of the Eastern Conference teams, but these injury losses loom large.

 

17. New Orleans Pelicans (17)

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

 

Right when New Orleans seemed to be turning the corner, the injury bug took a big bite. Lonzo Ball, Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram missed multiple games last week, so it is hard to knock the Pelicans down a peg. New Orleans was 4-1 over five games before last week with a + 6.1 net rating. Ball returned a couple of nights ago, and it is safe to assume this team will turn it back around with better health.

 

18. Indiana Pacers (18)

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

 

A win over San Antonio is the only success Indiana found last week, and that really is no accomplishment. In their two losses, the Pacers scored less than a point per possession, and in one of those losses, they scored under 90 points. Indiana has covered consecutive games just once since Feb. 15 and will stay down here until it shows some consistency.

 

19. Chicago Bulls (22)

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

 

Chicago is slowly starting to show some positive signs on offense, and that is reflected in its perfect week against the number. The Bulls got the Suns’ defense for 1.202 points per possession in a 121-116 loss on the road, and then they posted their highest individual-game offensive rating since the trade deadline against the Nets. They embark on a challenging five-game trip this week, but they are in bet-on form right now.

 

20. Toronto Raptors (23)

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

 

Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry have been out of the lineup, but it has not mattered to the Raptors. Golden State sat Draymond Green and Steph Curry, and Toronto posted a 53-point blowout. On Monday the Raptors overcame a 19-point deficit in the third quarter to beat Washington. They move up mainly due to teams ahead of them falling, but you have to admire this team’s fight. The offense has managed just 110.2 points every 100 possessions since losing Norm Powell.

 

21. San Antonio Spurs (20)

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

 

The Spurs felt the effects of their grueling schedule this week. San Antonio had two games go to overtime, one of which was a double-overtime loss to Atlanta. After losing the next game in overtime to Indiana, the Spurs were gassed in a 125-101 loss to Cleveland.  The defensive regression I was expecting is here, and they allowed 118.6 points every 100 possessions last week.

 

22. Sacramento Kings (21)

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

 

In last week’s rankings, the Kings moved up three spots after an undefeated week. They gave all those games back with a winless week in which they were outscored by 11.6 points every 100 possessions. Their lone cover of the week came against the Bucks without Giannis Antetokounmpo, so that’s hardly noteworthy. The problem was an offense that put up just 1.064 points per possession. That is not going to cut it when you rank 30th in defensive efficiency.

 

23. Golden State Warriors (19)

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

 

Steph Curry missed just one game last week, but Golden State put together an embarrassing week on offense. The Warriors were held to 98.0 points every 100 possessions and posted a -20.2 net rating as a result. This team is now 1-8 SU and ATS over the last nine games. It seems pretty safe to say the Warriors are more focused on the offseason than the postseason.

 

24. Detroit Pistons (24)

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

 

It was an average week for a below-average team. The Pistons blew out the Thunder and Wizards but were subsequently routed by the Knicks and Trail Blazers. It seems pretty clear the Pistons are better than the bottom-tier teams but still have a way to go until they can match up with the teams ahead of them. Overs are 6-2 in the last eight Pistons games.

 

25. Minnesota Timberwolves (27)

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

 

It was a strong week for Minnesota, which jumped a couple of spots. The Timberwolves’ defense gave up just 112.8 points per 100 possessions, a massive difference for a team that was getting its teeth kicked in the week before. D’Angelo Russell finally returned to the lineup against Sacramento, so this offense could start to improve.

 

26. Washington Wizards (25)

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

 

Bradley Beal missed all four games last week, and the Wizards’ offense suffered. Washington managed just 95.3 points per 100 possessions and averaged only 95.7 points per game. The lone cover included a blown 19-point lead in the second half against Toronto, so even the positive had a cloud hanging over the result. Until Beal returns, this is a bet-against team.

 

27. Orlando Magic (29)

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

 

The betting market was too strong in downgrading this team after the trade deadline, and Orlando has made doubters pay with a 6-1 ATS run that goes back to the previous week. The Magic were 23rd and 24th in offensive and defensive efficiency last week but were catching 11.5 or more in three games. When given that much room for error, even the worst teams will find a way to cover.

 

28. Cleveland Cavaliers (28)

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

 

A beatdown of San Antonio lets Cleveland keep its spot in my rankings. The front court has been really beat up, as Larry Nance Jr. and Jarrett Allen missed time last week. Cleveland showed some fight in each of its contests and was outscored by only 3.0 points every 100 possessions.

 

29. Oklahoma City Thunder (26)

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

 

Oklahoma City finished last week last in defensive efficiency (123.6) and net rating (-25.0). The Thunder are tanking, and it is starting to work. After Detroit closed as a favorite for just the fourth time this season, they routed the Thunder 132-108. This is not improving anytime soon. Will they surpass their win total? They need only three wins, but that is not a given anymore.

 

30. Houston Rockets (30)

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

 

Houston’s lone cover came against Phoenix in a high-scoring affair. Since snapping their losing streak, the Rockets are 1-7 SU/3-5 ATS, which means they are showing some fight. A couple of covers next week will surely push them past the pathetic Thunder.

 

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