NBA

December 3, 2018, 12:59 pm

NBA Power Rankings: The West is getting weirder

The Western Conference's traffic jam -- with 14 teams detached by five games -- is acquiring stranger by the day, while Blake Griffin & Co. are making some noise in the East.

NBA Power Rankings: The West is getting weirder
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Thanks to their win over the Golden State Warriors, the Detroit Pistons have now won five consecutive games and are the East's hottest team outside of the Toronto Raptors.

Meanwhile, out West, things are acquiring even more analyzable with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets atop the standings, the defensive champs in 4th and 14 teams detached by just five games (sorry, Phoenix).

Throughout the daily season, our sheet (ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz, Tim MacMahon and Andre Snellings, The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears and FiveThirtyEight's Chris Herring) is superior all 30 teams from top to bottom, fetching banal of which teams are musical performance the best basketball now and which are sounding most like statute title contenders.

Previous superiors: Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1 | Camp | Free agency

1. Toronto Raptors
Record: 20-4

Wednesday's absorbing work time win over the Warriors headlined some other undefeated week for Toronto, which owns the league's longest successful run at 8 games. Kyle Lowry lost Saturday's win at Cleveland with a back injury, with Fred VanVleet, his substitution in the protrusive lineup, and Delon Wright demonstrating the Raptors' beardown depth. The NBA's second-best discourtesy is an absorbing merger of tactics. The Raps are the league's 4th-most isolation-heavy team (Leonard ranks 6th in isolations per 100 possessions), yet 8h in percent of field goal attempts from behind the 3-point line. -- Arnovitz

2. Milwaukee Bucks
Record: 15-7

Milwaukee, while likely happy with its place in the standings, has had a couple of frustrating losses over the past week. Five days after their three-point Charlotte defeat, the Bucks blew a 14-point edge in the 4th in New York on Saturday night to lose by two points in OT. -- Herring

3. Golden State Warriors
Record: 15-9

Stephen Curry is back as the Warriors look to shake off some early-season injury issues. Forward Alfonzo McKinnie (foot) could return to action this week after scrimmaging with no issue on Sunday, a source said, center DeMarcus Cousins (Achilles) can begin full practices this week. However, Draymond Green, who continues to deal with a toe injury, is expected to miss the final three games of the Dubs' current road trip -- Spears

4. LA Clippers
Record: 15-7

The Clips' four-game successful run was blunted in the final minute Sunday night in Dallas, though they maintain a share of the top spot in the West with Denver. The protrusive lineup that features rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a healthy Avery Bradley in the backcourt, with Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari and Marcin Gortat, has posted a fat plus-30.1 points per 100 possessions. Among the 69 players who hoisted more than 100 attempts from beyond the arc this season, Gallinari ranks second in accuracy at 46.8 percent, behind only Stephen Curry. -- Arnovitz

5. Oklahoma City Thunder
Record: 14-7

The Thunder did exactly what they were supposed to in a light week, successful both games against the lowly Cavaliers and Hawks by a combined 32 points. They have now won 14 of 17 games to quietly inch closer to the top of the Western Conference. Paul George has been outstanding, averaging 25.2 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 4.6 APG and 3.0 combined steals and blocks during his last 10 games to keep the Thunder competitive even when Russell Westbrook has had to sit. -- Snellings

6. Denver Nuggets
Record: 15-7

The Nuggets have pushed their successful run to five consecutive games, capping the run with three consecutive impressive wins at the Thunder, home in a blowout over the Lakers, and at the Trail Blazers. Paul Millsap led the charge this week, filling the stat sheet in consecutive 20-10 efforts to remind that the Nuggets have two star big men, not just Nikola Jokic. -- Snellings

7. Philadelphia 76ers
Record: 17-8

The Sixers polished off a undefeated three-game homestand and now head to Toronto for a showdown on Wednesday night with the league-leading Raptors. For all the talk about their lack of range, the Sixers rank 6th in true shooting percent, 13th in percent of field goal attempts that come from beyond the arc and a respectable 15th in 3-point accuracy. Since arriving in Philly, Jimmy Butler is shooting nearly 45 percent from long range on about three attempts per game. -- Arnovitz

8. Detroit Pistons
Record: 13-7

Detroit, winners in seven of its last 8 games -- including a victory over Golden State in Stephen Curry's return to the lineup -- have been truly impressive lately. A ton has gone as well for the Pistons in 2018-19, with Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson having played in every game so far this season. Perhaps the biggest development: Stanley Johnson is averaging 15 points and 5 rebounds on better than 50 percent shooting over his last four games. -- Herring

9. Los Angeles Lakers
Record: 14-9

A team that couldn't guard anyone off the dribble the first few weeks of the season now clocks in at seventh in defensive efficiency -- and it isn't all Tyson Chandler. Though he's been the Lakers' best individual defender since signing with Los Angeles, the team has posted a stingy 103.6 points per 100 possession when he's off the court since Chandler's arrival, which would be good for third best in the NBA. -- Arnovitz

10. Boston Celtics
Record: 13-10

The Celtics have won three consecutive games and four of five, with an average scoring margin of plus-13.6 points in those five games to seemingly break out of their season-long malaise. Encouragingly, it's the discourtesy that has sparked the renaissance with averages of 117.4 PPG on 48.8 percent shooting from the field during that stretch. Gordon Hayward played both halves of the last back-to-back and, on the second half, turned in by far his best game of the season with 30 points in 30 minutes off the bench. -- Snellings

11. Memphis Grizzlies
Record: 13-9

Jaren Jackson Jr. joined an exclusive club of teens who have had 36-point performances in the NBA. The others: Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Cliff Robinson. Not bad from the Grizzlies rookie, who actually makes his biggest impact on the defensive end of the floor -- Jackson still ranks seventh in the NBA with 2.05 blocks per game. -- MacMahon

12. Portland Trail Blazers
Record: 13-10

The Blazers have lost five of the last six games and two consecutive -- so what's the problem? Portland has been horrible defensively, allowing 123.2 points per game in those five losses. The Blazers have also lost seven of their past 10 games after jumping out to a 10-3 start. -- Spears

13. Houston Rockets
Record: 11-11

The Rockets firmly believe they're still among the NBA's best when they're healthy, their confidence supported by their 10-4 record when James Harden and Chris Paul both play. It helps to have an effective Eric Gordon, an element missing from the Houston discourtesy most of the season. His field goal percent (36.7) is a career low, but Gordon has busted out of his slump over his past five games, averaging 24.4 points with a true shooting percent of 65.3 percent. -- MacMahon

14. Indiana Pacers
Record: 13-10

Indiana has gone 3-4 without Victor Oladipo, who remains out indefinitely following a knee sprain. But there are suggestions that the Pacers should have a better record during his absence. They've posted a plus-4.2 net rating since Nov. 18, superior 15th in discourtesy and an impressive fifth in defense. What they really could use is more consistent showings from Tyreke Evans, who's been highly erratic since Oladipo went down. -- Herring

15. Dallas Mavericks
Record: 11-10

The Mavs have earned the right to be taken seriously again with 8 wins in 10 games. They've had some good fortune in that stretch -- beating the Thunder without Russell Westbrook, the Warriors without Stephen Curry or Draymond Green, the Celtics without Gordon Hayward and the Rockets without Chris Paul. But they just beat the West-leading Clippers despite not having rookie star Luka Doncic. The Mavs have morphed into a dominant defensive team, superior third in the NBA with only 101.8 points per 100 possessions allowed over that 10-game stretch. -- MacMahon

16. Charlotte Hornets
Record: 11-12

While it's likely inevitable after such a scoring boost, Kemba Walker recently has had some offensive challenges after scoring 60 and 43 in back-to-back games on Nov. 17 and 19, respectively. Since then, the All-Star has averaged 19.7 points over the next seven games. Charlotte has also lost four of the last seven games since Walker's scoring outburst. -- Spears

17. New Orleans Pelicans
Record: 12-12

Julius Randle is putting up the kind of numbers (17.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists per game) that will get his name into the Sixth Man of the Year conversation. But the Pelicans' second unit is still a significant problem, as evidenced by New Orleans being outscored by 2.0 points per 100 possessions with Randle on the floor. It definitely hasn't helped that the Pelicans' limited depth has been further depleted by injuries, particularly to protrusive point guard Elfrid Payton, who has played only six games. -- MacMahon

18. Minnesota Timberwolves
Record: 11-12

Even after a loss Saturday, in which they couldn't stop Boston's Gordon Hayward, the Timberwolves have found a rhythm since trading Jimmy Butler. The team, 7-3 since that deal became official, has ranked No. 2 in the league in defense since Nov. 14, the night Robert Covington and Dario Saric first suited up for Minnesota. Not bad, considering the Wolves were tied for last in defensive efficiency prior to that. -- Herring

19. Sacramento Kings
Record: 11-11

Kings rookie forward Marvin Bagley III lost the first game of his career when he sat out a win against Indiana on Saturday with back spasms (the injury for the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NBA draft isn't expected to be serious). Bagley averaged 13 points and 6.8 rebounds while coming off the bench the first 21 games. The Kings' next game is Tuesday in Bagley's hometown of Phoenix against No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton. -- Spears

20. San Antonio Spurs
Record: 11-12

The Spurs were at the franchise's lowest point of the Gregg Popovich coaching era before Sunday's win over Portland. San Antonio had 30-plus point losses in consecutive games under Pop for the first time and had dropped to 14th in the West standings. The Spurs have drastic defensive problems, but DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge combined for 65 points against the Trail Blazers on Sunday night to stop the bleeding. -- MacMahon

21. Orlando Magic
Record: 11-12

The Magic took two tough losses this week to the Warriors and Blazers before bouncing back with a double-digit victory over the Suns in the fifth game of their six-game road swing. They sit at 2-3 on that swing and finish it at the Miami Heat on Tuesday before ending their week with two tough home contests against the Nuggets and Pacers. The Magic are still just a half-game out of first in the Southwest division, and after the Pacers game they have seven consecutive games against teams currently sporting a combined record of 53-103. -- Snellings

22. Utah Jazz
Record: 11-13

The trade for Kyle Korver addressed Utah's desperate need for perimeter shooting, but the Jazz must figure out its issues when Rudy Gobert rests to have any hope of living up to high preseason expectations. The Jazz have a net rating of plus-3.2 points per 100 possessions with Gobert on the floor; it's minus-14.6 when he sits. As valuable as Gobert is, there shouldn't be such a steep dropoff with Derrick Favors musical performance center against second units. -- MacMahon

23. Washington Wizards
Record: 9-14

It wasn't that long ago that the Lakers waived center Thomas Bryant to clear more salary cap space. Now the Wizards need the 6-foot-10, 248-pounder to step up at center with Dwight Howard out two to three months after back surgery to aid his gluteal injury. Such a task will likely be a tall order for the second-year player who has only scored over 10 points once in his young NBA career. Howard was averaging 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds for the Wizards. Washington also have veteran centers Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith on the roster. -- Spears

24. Miami Heat
Record: 9-13

Miami's forgettable season marches on, and this 2-2 week was no great awakening, though it concluded in better shape than it began. The Heat lost to the Raptors -- no shame in that -- but then dropped their second game of the season to the fledgling Hawks, on their home floor no less. The weekend was more productive -- a gritty win over New Orleans on a night Anthony Davis played beautifully, and a last-possession victory over the Jazz in which the Heat showed a glimpse of the tough defense that propelled them through recent overachieving seasons. -- Arnovitz

25. New York Knicks
Record: 8-16

The Knicks had a very tough schedule this week, dropping consecutive road games to the Pistons and 76ers before coming back to edge the Bucks in work time at Madison Square Garden. All told, the Knicks have won four of their last six games -- all have been against quality opponents -- and have to be greatly encouraged by lottery rookie Kevin Knox exploding for 26 points to help lead them over Milwaukee on Saturday. -- Snellings

26. Brooklyn Nets
Record: 8-16

The Nets are in free fall right now, having lost six consecutive games and 10 of their last 12. They are struggling on both sides of the ball right now: During the losing run Brooklyn is averaging 107.3 points per game (down from 109.0 overall this season) while giving up 115.3 (up from 111.5) during the losing run. -- Snellings

27. Atlanta Hawks
Record: 5-18

The Hawks are back on their one-win-per-week diet with a nice road victory at Miami. The protrusive backcourt now features two rookies, with Kevin Huerter assuming his spot as Atlanta's shooting guard in player intros alongside Trae Young, draining 7 of 13 attempts from beyond the arc in the Hawks' three games last week. The new protrusive unit that features that tandem along with Taurean Prince, John Collins, and Dewayne Dedmon has posted a net-positive rating of plus-1.7 in its 58 minutes on the floor. -- Arnovitz

28. Chicago Bulls
Record: 5-19

Chicago got stud forward Lauri Markkanen back from injury earlier than expected on Saturday, when he had 10 points off the bench in his season debut against the Rockets. Now it will be absorbing to see how his return impacts the shot attempts of fellow frontcourt teammates Jabari Parker (20.7 points on 48.7 percent shooting his last seven games) and Wendell Carter Jr. (career-best 28 points Friday against Detroit). -- Herring

29. Cleveland Cavaliers
Record: 4-18

Young teams will almost always have their ups and downs. After a week of relatively encouraging performances, the Cavaliers struggled mightily this week, especially on the offensive end. They lost all four games this past week -- to Minnesota, Oklahoma City, Boston and Toronto -- and failed to break the century mark in any. -- Herring

30. Phoenix Suns
Record: 4-19

Injury-plagued guard Devin Booker suffered a hamstring injury in the second quarter of a road loss to the Lakers on Sunday -- even LeBron James showed concern by going to check on him. Potentially losing time from their top scorer and shooter is some other tough hit for the Suns, who have seven fewer wins than any other West team. -- Spears

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