I didn’t have the time to write something before this week’s rankings, apologies for my Christmas slacking.
I thank each and every one of you who reads what I write, please follow me on Twitter @DamanR, and I wish you a very Happy New Year and a great 2016 ahead.
1. Warriors (28-1) [LW:1]
2. Spurs (26-6) [LW:2]
3. Cavaliers (19-9) [LW:3]
4. Thunder (21-10) [LW:4]
5. Raptors (19-12) [LW:6]
6. Heat (18-11) [LW:9]
7. Pacers (17-12) [LW:5]
8. Clippers (18-13) [LW:7]
9. Hawks (20-12) [LW:11]
10. Bulls (16-12) [LW:8]
11. Celtics (18-13) [LW:12]
12. Pistons (17-12) [LW:10]
13. Mavericks (17-13) [LW:14]
14. Magic (17-13) [LW:15]
15. Hornets (16-13) [LW:13]
16. Grizzlies (17-16) [LW:16
17. Rockets (16-16) [LW:24]
18. Wizards (14-14) [LW:21]
19. Bucks (12-19) [LW:17]
20. Timberwolves (11-19) [LW:18]
21. Kings (12-18) [LW:22]
22. Jazz (12-16) [LW:23]
23. Knicks (14-18) [LW:19]
24. Suns (12-20) [LW:20]
25. Pelicans (10-20) [LW:27]
26. Nuggets (12-19) [LW:25]
27. Trailblazers (13-20) [LW:26]
28. Nets (8-22) [LW:28]
29. Lakers (5-26) [LW:29]
30. 76ers (2-30) [LW:30]
1. Warriors (28-1) [LW:1]: A really nice stretch for the Warriors after their long 7 game road trip, with only 6 games in the last 16 days. Some gripes with the rotation have begun to surface, but with such a large head start in terms of standings, experimenting now (especially with Barnes still out) can’t hurt. They didn’t look like world beaters on Christmas Day, and still won, another sign of their greatness. This team continues to be a fun story and I don’t see them slowing down any time soon. Onto 72!
2. Spurs (26-6) [LW:2]: The Spurs had won 7 straight before losing to the Rockets on Christmas Day, a disappointment to me because of my intense dislike for the team from Houston. In terms of this team’s prospects – they are clearly the 2nd best team in the league, and are motivated enough by last year’s early exit to maintain their position in the standings. Also, I love Kawhi Leonard’s game.
3. Cavaliers (19-9) [LW:3]: Cleveland lost a close game on Christmas to Golden State and were gifted by the NBA a game the next night in Portland which they simply weren’t mentally ready for. Still, this team is poised to go on a run as they slowly bring back Kyrie into the fold. You can never mess up by bringing in a guy like Kyrie Irving into the fold, but I worry about how much their defense will slip as it’s been such a strong point for the Cavs so far. Nonetheless, happy to have Kyrie back and playing again.
4. Thunder (21-10) [LW:4]: Monday’s win against the Clippers was one of the best games of the year, and even though the Thunder lost in the Maligned New College Coach Hires Bowl on Christmas against the Bulls, this Thunder team is too damn talented to not be in the top 5. It’s frustrating that Anthony Morrow can’t get out there more, with Dion Waiters getting too many of his minutes (in my opinion). Durant and Westbrook featuring Serge Ibaka are so good that they continue to carry their mediocre cast of supporting players.
5. Raptors (19-12) [LW:6]: Despite a bad loss to the Kings at home, a good week for the Raptors. Bismack Biyombo has hopefully won the starting job for the rest of the year (seriously can’t believe the Hornets just let him go) even when JV comes back. In addition, DeMar keeps making me look dumb for disliking his game so much, he’s been efficient and with Lowry keeping that offense humming.
6. Heat (18-11) [LW:9]: This team could really use a hiring of an offensive wizard to put on Spo’s bench because a team featuring Bosh, Wade, Whiteside, Dragic, Green should simply be doing better offensively. It can be painful at times to watch the Heat struggle to get their points despite the talent on the roster. Dwyane Wade continues to have a great season and I still think this team will hit a rough patch at some point because their defense won’t be able to prop up their offense. While they are in the top 10 in efficiency, they are 23rd in assist percentage, and the regression to the mean has to be coming.
7. Pacers (17-12) [LW:5]: Not a great week, losing to the Spurs (understandable) and then losing to the Kings at home (not understandable). This team is far too reliant on Paul George, which has been a good thing while he’s been shooting so well, but this offense needs to get more versatile to balance out the scoring load on George. The inevitable regression to the mean for him might be a blessing in disguise relatively early in the season to allow for Indiana to start spreading out the shots now.
8. Clippers (18-13) [LW:7]: A close loss to OKC, wins against the Lakers and Jazz, no complaints from a win-loss standpoint. Yet: something seems off about this team. Why didn’t they put the Lakers away? Why is Josh Smith not able to get off the bench and what the hell is going on with Lance? This team needs a shake up badly, and I don’t know where it’s going to come from. The Doc-CP-Blake-DeAndre thing looks like it’s accomplished what it’s accomplished and that’s not to say they haven’t been good. They’re the rare team that has what it takes to face the Spurs, Warriors, Thunder, Cavaliers head on, but they’re still something fundamentally off. Being in LA and having gone to more Clippers games than Lakers games due to prices, there’s something that’s holding this team back and it doesn’t look like an easy fix.
9. Hawks (20-12) [LW:11]: Winners of their last 6, this team is looking like it’s finding the rhythm it had seemingly the entirety of last season. Losing Splitter for 2 weeks will be a little bit of a setback, but with them regaining their offensive mojo, they’ll be fine.
10. Bulls (16-12) [LW:8]: Sandwiched in between losses to the Nets (at home!) and Mavericks was a damn good Christmas win at OKC. There’s something funky going on here too (see: LA Clippers) and this team needs a shakeup in a bad way too. The front office needs to sit with Hoiberg (who isn’t going anywhere) and figure out who should be safe and who should be on the table and really sort this out. With news out that the Bulls are willing to deal Noah or Gibson to get some wing depth, that process has already begun. The Butler/Rose dynamic remains weird and Hoiberg has really had his hands full this season. Still, this team when it’s truly ON and Rose is playing at a relatively decent level, they can be the 2nd best team in the East. Problem? That doesn’t happen often enough.
11. Celtics (18-13) [LW:12]: Winners of 4 straights, the most impressive being @Charlotte and @Detroit, the Celtics are not only ahead of schedule – they are in a position to make a deal and make a run way sooner than planned. While Danny Ainge shouldn’t be in a hurry to make this team a contender, they have developed into a team that can give anybody problems on any given night. Their box scores are probably the most balanced in the league – a Brad Stevens product – but similar to the Hawks last year, that formula tends to have a finite success. Long term, they still need a star, but for now? Damn good.
12. Pistons (17-12) [LW:10]: Tough to blame the Pistons for losing close ones to Atlanta and Boston after beating Miami by 1 on the 22nd. Overall, this team is ahead of schedule and they are resembling the 2009 Magic in their style of play. Two trade/reunion targets looming: Ryan Anderson-SVG reunion? Morris Brothers reunion?
13. Mavericks (17-13) [LW:14]: They might have overdosed JJ Barea with the magic potion the Mavs gave to rejuvenate Deron Williams because he shot 7/8 from 3 point range in Dallas’ win against Chicago on the 26th. With Chandler Parsons looking better and better as he comes back from his injury, with Wes Matthews and Dirk continuing to look solid, the Mavs might have taken the top mantle from the Suns for best training staff.
14. Magic (17-13) [LW:15]: While it might be helping the team overall, Victor Oladipo has really struggled off the bench recently after initially it looked like he might thrive playing against second units. He only played 18 minutes in Saturday’s loss against Miami, a game in which I would imagine he could’ve been used to guard Dwyane Wade, and I wonder if his time is almost done in Orlando.
15. Hornets (16-13) [LW:13]: 2-5 in the last seven, and a pretty rough stretch coming: after Monday against the Lakers they play the Clippers, Raptors, Thunder, Warriors in 4 consecutive games. Ouch.
16. Grizzlies (17-16) [LW:16]: Needing to rough one out against the Sixers and beating the Lakers as the only wins this week are hardly cause for celebration. This team is like the friends that formed a startup that never really made it big enough to achieve an acquisition by a giant company, and they know they will be shut down soon but they still really like each other and coming to work together.
17. Rockets (16-16) [LW:24]: Congrats on a win against the Spurs on Christmas. Meh, whatever. I can’t be subjective about this team. Yay for being .500?
18. Wizards (14-14) [LW:21]: .500 baby! The Wizards took advantage of a relatively soft part of their schedule to win 4 in a row to get to .500 for the first time since November 25th. While only 2 games out of the playoffs in the topsy turvy conference situation this season, the Wiz need to leapfrog some pretty damn good teams to get into the playoffs.
19. Bucks (12-19) [LW:17]: With Jason Kidd being out for some time with a hip surgery and the comments Bobby Marks and Adrian Wojnarowski made on Woj’s new podcast about Kidd potentially positioning himself into a front office job full time, this team went from feel-good to troublesome real fast. I don’t know what Kidd’s fascination with personnel control is, and based on Woj’s reporting it appears that he’s had full control since this summer – coinciding with some pretty bad decisions (Vasquez for a first being the big one). The Bucks ownership would be wise to look at situations with Doc and the Clippers as a cautionary tale before handing over the basketball ops job to somebody who simply hasn’t done it before.
20. Timberwolves (11-19) [LW:18]: No shame in 3 straight losses to the Celtics, Spurs, and Pacers, all significantly better teams at this moment. With the minutes distribution still at times being funky with the rookies, it seems to have gotten slightly better recently. The Kevin Martin trade should be happening soon and this team remains promising long-term.
21. Kings (12-18) [LW:22]: DeMarcus Cousins line in their loss at home to the Blazers playing without Damian Lillard? 36 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks. #FreeBoogie
22. Jazz (12-16) [LW:23]: The Jazz have had a pretty rough December (Thunder x2, Spurs, Warriors, Clippers) but will be given a little bit of a reprieve with Philly. They are a feisty bunch, fighting and being in games longer than they have the right to be, but they are a few moves/health improvements away from being a consistent playoff team.
23. Knicks (14-18) [LW:19]: Uh Oh. Brutal stretch for the Knicks that already have lost 4 in a row: Detroit, @Chicago, Atlanta, @Atlanta, @Miami, @San Antonio are their next 6. Could they lose 10 in a row?
24. Suns (12-20) [LW:20]: After the news of Eric Bledsoe’s injury, the Suns season officially hit their low when they lost to the Sixers on Saturday night. On Sunday night, the Suns fired 2 of Jeff Hornacek’s assistants and it seems like they gave him one final chance. My question to the organization – why the wishy washy way and not just firing Hornacek? Is he the problem or not? I tend to believe that he’s a good coach who was just given a wonky roster – and as a fan of a team with a terrible coach (Byron Scott) I’d be glad to have him.
25. Pelicans (10-20) [LW:27]: With the better health the team is rounding into a better form than they were to start the season. Still, this team should be better. Are there two more frustrating starters to watch on the same team than Tyreke Evans and Omer Asik? #FreeBrow
26. Nuggets (12-19) [LW:25]: I love how consistently tough and relentless Mike Malone’s teams are. This team should try to acquire more long term assets by maximizing their return on the vets that they can and continue to grow by the draft.
27. Trailblazers (13-20) [LW:26]: Nice wins against the Cavs and Kings, but this team is too young and will continue to fall off despite CJ McCollum doing his best to keep the team afloat without Lillard.
28. Nets (8-22) [LW:28]: This team is no good, yet still pulls out hilarious wins like the one on Monday in Chicago. Just this month: beat Houston, beat Chicago, lost to the Clips by 5, Heat by 6, Pacers by 7, Mavs by 1. Can you be impressed and disappointed at the same time?
29. Lakers (5-26) [LW:29]: I spend way too much time on Twitter bitching about Byron Scott to keep it going here. What I will say: D’Angelo Russell looks good. Given the Porzingis heat has simmered and the off court stuff with Jahlil Okafor, I’ve never felt better about the Lakers pick then now. Now somebody please tell that to Byron Scott.
30. 76ers (2-30) [LW:30]: They’re so awful that whenever they beat a team, that team has to have an extensive soul search to figure out how they hell they could’ve let that happen.