Seemingly recovered from injury, Chris Paul is playing at a high level as he chases his first championship ring (Verse Photography/Creative Commons).
We’ve reached the final day in a historic NBA season packed with nearly unprecedented statistical seasons by some players, monstrous single-game outbursts by others and a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs for almost all of the teams in the league. On Wednesday’s final 14-game slate, six playoff seeds are still yet to be determined: 1, 2, 7 and 8 in the East and 4 and 5 in the West. Thirteen teams have already been eliminated from further contention, and the rest hope that their fortunes will be on the rise. This will be the final edition of our power rankings this season, but as a reminder, you can chart how every team has fared in our rankings over the course of the season with the interactive graph atop the Power Rankings landing page.
Biggest Jumps: Atlanta Hawks (+8), Minnesota Timberwolves (+6), Los Angeles Lakers (+6)
Biggest Falls: Philadelphia 76ers (-7), Denver Nuggets (-6), Dallas Mavericks (-5) Continue reading
Jimmy Butler and the Chicago Bulls halted their five-game losing streak by defeating Charlotte Monday night (Jacob Gaertner/Creative Commons).
A particularly tumultuous period sees the Warriors and Cavaliers dropping to their lowest positions of the season. Meanwhile, every other team has moved up or down at least one spot except for the Clippers and Hawks, who remained at No. 8 and 12, respectively. A handful of sub-.500 squads are recognized for their strong recent play, as the Grizzlies and Bulls are punished for their sluggish performances over the past two weeks. One final fun fact: Last edition, Chicago came in at No. 15, a full 10 spots ahead of the Hornets. This time around, Chicago clings to a single-spot lead over Charlotte after edging the Hornets Monday night.
Biggest Jumps: Milwaukee Bucks (+6), Minnesota Timberwolves (+5), Washington Wizards (+4)
Biggest Falls: Chicago Bulls (-6), Memphis Grizzlies (-5), Dallas Mavericks (-4), Indiana Pacers (-4), Toronto Raptors, (-4) Continue reading
In his first season in Miami, Dion Waiters is playing an outsized role in the Heat’s active 10-game winning streak (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
Up is down and down is up in this tumultuous edition of the power rankings, which features the most movement of any edition so far, with mighty teams struggling and lowly teams rising up. The Cleveland Cavaliers, still the consensus pick to come out of the Eastern Conference, went just 7-8 in January, giving LeBron James his first losing month since his rookie year. The Toronto Raptors and the Houston Rockets, both in last edition‘s top five, have lost eight of 11 and eight of their last 14, respectively. Even the seemingly unstoppable Golden State Warriors, who have occupied the No. 1 spot in our rankings every single edition except for our first, have dropped games since last edition to the Miami Heat and the Sacramento Kings.
On the other side, the Washington Wizards were just 13-16 before Christmas and have since gone 17-4, steadily climbing up the Eastern Conference standings to the third seed, and up our rankings to fourth. The Dallas Mavericks, at one point dead last in our rankings, have won six of their last seven games, their one loss coming to the Miami Heat. And finally, the twice-aforementioned Heat, unquestionably the NBA’s biggest story right now, were 11-30 and 29th in our previous power rankings, before rattling off 10 straight wins, a streak that is still active. These are some exciting times in the NBA.
Biggest Jumps: Miami Heat (+15), Washington Wizards (+8), Dallas Mavericks (+8)
Biggest Falls: Philadelphia 76ers (-8), Milwaukee Bucks (-8), Toronto Raptors (-8) Continue reading
Coach Brett Brown and his Sixers are finally starting to see results, with wins in seven of their last nine games (TastyPoutine/Creative Commons).
With every team at or beyond the midpoint of its regular-season schedule, it could not be a better time to assess how each squad measures up. Some teams will be celebrating All-Star starter selections just named, while many others are confronting serious injuries. Amid this crazy time, the 76ers jumped nine slots, leaving the league’s cellar thanks to a mighty strong start to 2017. Meanwhile, the Charlotte Hornets, Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic have experienced the league’s steepest declines in recent weeks.
Biggest Jumps: Philadelphia 76ers (+9), Washington Wizards (+4), Detroit Pistons (+4), Denver Nuggets (+4)
Biggest Falls: Sacramento Kings (-8), Charlotte Hornets (-8), Orlando Magic (-7)
The Hawks earned a 13-spot demotion by struggling mightily after storming out of the gates with a 9-2 start (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
Due to stellar play from the Rockets, Jazz, Thunder and Celtics, the red-hot Grizzlies actually dropped a couple slots. The panel was indeed impressed by Memphis’ ability to win five of its last six games without Mike Conley Jr. on the court; it’s just those other teams were deemed to be even better. On the other side of the coin, the Hawks have been dreadful for nearly three weeks now and are paying for it by falling precipitously in this edition. Their 13-place drop on our list may be awfully difficult for teams to “beat” in future rankings.
Biggest Jumps: Milwaukee Bucks (+8), Orlando Magic (+7), Oklahoma City Thunder (+6)
Biggest Drops: Atlanta Hawks (-13), Chicago Bulls (-10), Denver Nuggets (-9), New Orleans Pelicans (-7), Los Angeles Lakers (-7)
Both experts agree that Paul George has been key for the Pacers, both offensively and in limiting DeMar DeRozan on defense. (joshuak8/Flickr)
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With the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers deadlocked at two games apiece, there’s no shortage of anxiety for the Raptors and their fan base. And it’s only natural for a franchise that has struggled mightily in recent postseason play. Paul George’s stifling defense and explosive offense have certainly not made life easy for the No. 2 seed. However, both our guests, The Score’s Lead Basketball Editor, Joseph Casciaro, and Ben Gibson, Assistant Editor for Pacers blog 8 Points, 9 Seconds, agree that the Raptors will emerge victorious and go on to explain why. Delectable excerpts can be found below:
Joseph Casciaro (2:14-2:37): “They’ve gotta to get something from DeMar DeRozan, because right now they’re literally getting nothing. He’s been awful offensively; Paul George has dominated him on that end with his defense. The other thing, too, is DeMar’s been very inattentive on the defensive end. He’s never been a great defender. He’s not the kind of guy that you’re gonna put on the opposing team’s best player, but he’s also not usually this bad, and he’s just been atrocious on both ends of the floor.”
JC (2:54-3:29): “I think, even outside of DeMar, this team can win with DeMar not playing well if they’re generating good looks for everyone else, if they’re moving the ball…As much as the ghosts of playoffs past haunt this team, I just think they’re such a better team than the Pacers that at some point in this series it has to show, and I think it will over the next couple games.”
Over a year after a gruesome injury that sidelined him for nearly the entirety of the 2014-2015 season, Paul George seems to have returned to form as one of the NBA’s elite (joshuak8/Flickr).
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As we enter the stretch run, the Eastern Conference playoff picture is wide open, with ample room for jockeying. Jared Wade of Fansided’s 8 Points 9 Seconds stops by to illuminate the Indiana Pacers’ postseason prospects. The team boasts a healthy Paul George, as well as brand new contributors Monta Ellis and Myles Turner and a “defensive genius” in Frank Vogel. If you ask Wade, the rest of the East, outside of Cleveland and Toronto, better watch out! Choice cuts below:
2:05-4:05 on the difference between last season and this for the Pacers: “Obviously Paul George… It’s changed the whole team him being there. Monta Ellis has been a big lift… The defense is still strong. Even with the lack of Roy Hibbert and David West, they’ve changed to a more turnover-forcing defense and they get a lot of points in transition… Myles Turner has proved that he deserves to be in the starting lineup and he’s been a force.”
5:10-6:43 on how Paul George has recovered from his devastating injury: “I think he’s as good as he was. In some ways, he’s improved… He was arguably the second best player in basketball through December 1st.”