With brilliant play since the All-Star break and a little help from his friends, Damian Lillard has led the Trail Blazers into sole possession of the Western Conference’s eighth seed (James Schumacher/Flickr).
With fewer than 10 games remaining on each team’s regular-season schedule, valuable playoff seeding is still up for grabs all over the NBA standings. Some teams, like the Celtics, Blazers and Raptors, look like they’re hitting their stride at just the right moment, building momentum that they hope will continue through the playoffs. Others, like the Hawks and Cavaliers, are just hoping that they can stop the bleeding before it’s too late. As always, the result is much debate and movement in the penultimate regular-season edition of our power rankings.
Biggest Jumps: Portland Trail Blazers (+8), Toronto Raptors (+5), Denver Nuggets (+5), New Orleans Pelicans (+5)
Biggest Falls: Minnesota Timberwolves (-14), Detroit Pistons (-9), Atlanta Hawks (-7)
Anthony Davis is off to a great start this season, but can the Pelicans’ supporting cast help him translate that into wins (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)?
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As expected, three games into the 2016-17 season, Anthony Davis is putting up monster averages of 37.7 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and 2.7 steals per game, including an almost unfathomable performance in the season opener where he racked up 50 points, 17 rebounds, five assists, four blocks and five steals against the Denver Nuggets. Unfortunately, for all his effort, the Pelicans still have no wins to show for it. Mason Ginsberg of ESPN Truehoop’s Bourbon Street Shots details what the Pelicans need to do over the course of this season to turn that around. Additionally, he expounds on the disappointment of last year’s injury-filled season, the many roster moves made in the offseason and need for a sense of urgency around the team.
5:12-5:26 On how Quincy Pondexter’s injury last year affected the team and his uncertain timetable to return this season:
“Quincy [Pondexter] was their only plus defender who could really stretch the floor and [needed to be] defended from the 3-point line and missing him was just huge. Again, it’d be really helpful to get him back, but no real certainty on when that’s going to happen.”
10:13-11:05 On Anthony Davis’ still developing game and the myriad of injuries he has suffered over his career:
“He’s only 23 years old still. He’s developing into more of a stronger figure. That’s going to help him play more minutes at the 5, which he vocally did not want to do at the start of his career… I think now he’s realizing that’s where the NBA game is going; he’s been playing more and more 5 every year. I’m optimistic about AD from an injury perspective. There’s been nothing that really sticks out as a major red flag… All things considered, I’d rather have him have a bunch of random injuries than keep injuring the same thing over and over again”