Power Rankings for the week of December 7th

I love this Warriors team.  I know that’s obvious, who wouldn’t love a 22-0 team? But there’s a purity to watching them play and rooting for them that I don’t think I’ve ever really had as a sports fan only because the circumstances have aligned so well.  As a Lakers fan, if my team had any expectations, I would still be excited about the Warriors but I would also kind of dislike the fact that I knew my team wasn’t good enough to beat them (nobody is, this year).  It’s been a joy to watch a transcendent superstar in Steph Curry exceed expectations somehow after winning the MVP.  It’s been amazing to watch the strength of an organization that was able to withstand the absence of Steve Kerr, the architect of the championship squad last season.  As the league gets more competitive, teams get smarter, differentiating yourself as an organization becomes more difficult.  The Warriors are being run like a Fortune 500 company, with a strong culture of accountability and selflessness, they truly stand for something.

Trends:

  • There’s a LOT of good-not-great teams in the league this season, I don’t know if it’s a random blip season or it’s a sign of an increasing parity in the league
  • Four of my top six teams are from the East.  Tide shifting?
  • Warriors are good.

Snapshot:

  1. Warriors (22-0)
  2. Spurs (17-4)
  3. Cavs (10-7)
  4. Pacers (12-7)
  5. Heat (12-6)
  6. Raptors (12-9)
  7. Thunder (12-8)
  8. Bulls (11-6)
  9. Hawks (12-9)
  10. Grizz (12-9)
  11. Mavs (12-9)
  12. Hornets (11-8)
  13. Celtics (11-9)
  14. Jazz (9-9)
  15. Clippers (11-9)
  16. Rockets (10-11)
  17. Pistons (12-9)
  18. Magic (11-9)
  19. Knicks (10-11)
  20. Trailblazers (9-12)
  21. Timberwolves (8-11)
  22. Suns (8-13)
  23. Bucks (8-13)
  24. Pelicans (5-15)
  25. Wizards (8-10)
  26. Nuggets (8-13)
  27. Kings (7-15)
  28. Nets (5-15)
  29. 76ers (1-20)
  30. Lakers (3-17)

Rank:

  1. Warriors (22-0): I’m glad I’m here to witness one of the greatest runs in NBA history.  I was too young to enjoy the 1996 Bulls or the 2001 Lakers, so I’m savoring every moment of their games.  I’ve cancelled social plans* to make sure I am home to watch games like Saturday’s Warriors-Raptors game, and they’ve yet to disappoint.  *I don’t have social plans.
  2. Spurs (17-4): Oh, yeah.  The Spurs. 17-4, Kawhi is shooting threes better than ever, it will still take time to fully integrate LMA into the Spurs voodoo way (Seriously, how long will he be totally cool averaging 14-9). Yawn…
  3. Cavaliers (10-7): This is high, I get it, but there’s a huge drop-off after the Spurs and Warriors, and I think the Cavs are still the team to beat out East.  They’re relying way too heavily on Lebron, let’s hope Kyrie is back sooner rather than later so Lebron doesn’t burn out. This team will be up and down all year, but by the end of the season I think they’ll be in good shape.
  4. Pacers (12-7): Paul George in my mind is 2nd in the MVP race behind Steph, and clear Comeback Player of the Year.  He’s averaging 27.6 points/8 rebounds/4 assists/1.6 steals while shooting 45% from 3 point range.  They had a bad loss against Portland, but other than that they’ve far exceeded expectations.
  5. Heat (12-6): Doesn’t feel right that Miami is a top 5-ish team about one quarter of the way through the season, but they had an impressive win over OKC and then took care of business against a LBJ-less Cavs.  I’m not too impressed so far in the offensive execution, I think it still has room to improve with Goran getting better as the season progresses.
  6. Raptors (12-9): That was a really fun Warriors game, and losing to them by 3 should basically count as a win.  Masai killed it in the offseason, letting Lou Williams go, adding Demarre Carroll and Cory Joseph along with Biyombo. Skinny Lowry is so fun to watch.  Not a DeMar fan at all, I hate when possessions end with him holding the ball for 6-8 seconds and launching up contested jumpers.
  7. Thunder (12-8): Love having OKC healthy again (knock on wood), but isn’t it strange how their late-game offensive execution looks exactly like it did under Scotty Brooks? I understand that as a rookie coach it will take Billy Donovan some time to put his imprint in the team — so why hire somebody that raw for a season with as much pressure as them? Also, how does it feel paying your newly maxed out center 21 minutes a game?
  8. Chicago Bulls (11-6): I feel about Derrick Rose the same way I feel about watching Kobe Bryant this year, except Rose is way younger and his team actually has expectations.  He’s shooting 35% from the floor, 24% from 3, and I’m just not enjoying it one bit. This team feels like it has lots of room for improvement, I hope it does.
  9. Hawks (13-9): They’re definitely not as sexy as they were last year, and they’re certainly not as consistent, but they remain a group of talented players with a good coach.  Personally I’ve really enjoyed Kent Bazemore having a bigger role than he’s had, I think he’s a really good player and has a great energy that he brings to the court.
  10. Grizz (12-9): The Grizz have really turned around a worrisome start to the season, but a part of it makes me a little sad: I think it’s time to split up the Z-Bo and Marc Gasol twosome.  Not to a new team necessarily, but similar to how Noah was moved to the bench in Chicago, I think it’s time for Z-Bo to lead the second unit.
  11. Mavs (12-9):  Ah, Dirk. You magnificent, ageless bastard. Averaging 17/7 on 50% shooting is amazing while playing 30 minutes a game.  Wes Matthews is looking like a better signing every day and the Mavs have somehow resurrected Deron Williams.  Another franchise with a true culture and strong leadership – why the hell did they think Rondo would’ve fit in here again?
  12. Hornets (11-8): Sometimes I think I know something about basketball, and then the Hornets remind me I don’t.  I expect great things from them last season, they’re awful.  I write them off this year? And they’re good! Watching them beat the Bulls as the Bulls rallied was impressive, Batum has played really well, this team is surprisingly fun.
  13. Celtics (11-9): I hate the dirty Celtics and I hate that Brad Stevens is a really good coach.  I like the fact that Isaiah Thomas (!) might make the All Star Team and that Brad Stevens is masking the fact that a lot of these young guys aren’t very good and quietly Danny Ainge hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire with his treasure trove of assets. [A huge trade is coming isn’t it? Did I jinx it? Damnit]
  14. Jazz (9-9): A scrappy bunch of guys, a serial killer looking coach, but I don’t know why I’ve never really enjoyed watching them play.  Their offensive system seems old fashioned, and they don’t really have a point guard.  Hopefully Exum is good, but we just don’t know.
  15. Clippers (11-9): The Clippers should be better than this.  Having both Chris Paul and JJ Redick out is certainly tough, both of them are vital to this offense, but they should simply be better.  I can’t say I’m disappointed, they’ve been my #1 option in my schadenfreude rankings.
  16. Rockets (10-11):  And #2 in my schadenfreude rankings, the Houston Rockets.  I’m SHOCKED that a team led by Dwight Howard and James Harden weren’t able to sustain the weight of expectations that arise from making a conference finals.  They’ll keep turning it around, but for both the Clips and Rockets, a steep slide from the projected contenders they were to begin the season.
  17. Pistons (12-9): Winners of 4 straight, this team is poised to make a little bit of a run here.  Although they’ve been super trick-or-treat early, Drummond has really emerged as one of the best centers in the league and the occasional Reggie Jackson scoring explosions have been fun to watch.
  18. Magic (11-9): One by one, Scott Skiles will kill each player’s spirit, that much is certain.  In the mean time, they look like a competent and competitive team almost every night, the Skiles bump is real!
  19. Knicks (10-11): The New York Knickerzingers, despite the hoopla, aren’t a very good basketball team.  At the same time, Phil Jackson and co. have turned the culture and the vibe of the team around and my god do I love me some Zingis Khan.
  20. Trailblazers (9-12): Portland masterfully rebounded from moving on from LMA, Wesley Matthews, and Nic Batum, and although they’re not a playoff team yet, it’s easy to envision them there by next year.
  21. Timberwolves (8-11): Yes, they play the vets too much and they should keep KAT’s time consistent.  Yes, it’s awkward but they have to eventually move past Sam Mitchell.  You have Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. You’ll be fine.
  22. Suns (8-13): In their current 4 game losing streak (all road games) they have lost their games by: 3, 5, 3, and 2 points. The Suns know how to lose in heartbreaking fashion, they are probably the best in the league at it. That being said, I love how well their backcourt (Knight and Bledsoe) are playing.
  23. Bucks (8-13): You know what this team needs badly? Brandon Knight.  I understood the logic of the deal at the time, but it still felt like maybe the Bucks brass was over thinking it.  To me, now, it’s clearer than ever as MCW moves to the bench.  And for those that say Knight wasn’t worth the money, what’s a better asset right now: Knight on his contract or MCW on his?
  24. Pelicans (5-15):  Yuck.  I have watched way too many crappy Pelicans games this year considering how good Anthony Davis should be this year and every time I watch them I get grossed out.  Yes, they’ve had health issues, and they just beat the Cavs in overtime, but so many of their offensive possessions just hurt my eyes (shoutout to Tyreke Evans). What happened to Jrue Holiday?
  25. Wizards (8-10): The Wizards are way too low in these rankings, but if you lose to the Lakers you can’t be higher than 25. I mean, c’mon.  And don’t boo John Wall, Wizards fans, what the hell? Bad karma right now in DC.
  26. Nuggets (8-13): Emmanuel Mudiay is shooting a tasty 31.1% from the field, 25.7% from 3 with 4 turnovers a game.  And you know what? So be it, let him learn.
  27. Kings (7-15): Rajon Rondo assist god! Boogie Cousins! Front office drama! Coach-players tension! Why is this team still so boring to watch (outside of Boogie)?
  28. Nets (5-15): What’s weird about the Nets is that they’re bad, but they’re not that bad but they’re still kind of bad and they’re definitely not good but they’re not as bad as their record but that’s different than saying that they’re actually good.
  29. 76ers (1-20): If this franchise is rewarded with a player like Ben Simmons, karma is dead.
  30. Lakers (3-17): Byron Scott is by far the worst coach in the league. Lou Williams is closing games over Jordan Clarkson, the most consistently good Laker by far. Against the Pistons, Kobe, Roy Hibbert, and Lou Wiliams played more minutes than D’Angelo Russell.  While Kobe is enjoying his farewell tour by shooting the Lakers out of games, his coach stands by with his arms crossed.  When asked about Kobe’s minutes despite having stomach problems, Byron said that he told Kobe to value health more than making fans happy (source: Mark Medina).  You know what’s missing from that? How about any mention about the impact it has on the win or loss of that game? It is Kobe’s right to ask to be able to shoot recklessly and indulge himself on his farewell tour – it is then the coach and organization’s duty to rein it in so it doesn’t actively harm the team or development of the young guys.  Talk about building a culture? Byron and Kobe Bryant are on their way out, and they will leave behind a less desirable team for the future.  It’s sad, it’s a shame, but with this coach it was entirely predictable.  I’m trying, trying my hardest, to enjoy my last moments of rooting for Kobe as a basketball player, but on nights like the loss in Detroit, it becomes very difficult.  Also, they lost to the 76ers. I don’t care what their record is, they’re the worst in the league.

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