NBA Midseason Power Rankings: Warriors, Cavs where we thought they'd be
Golden State, Cleveland and San Antonio sit 1-2-3 midway through the 2016-17 season
We're halfway through the season and the Warriors are No. 1 like we expected. They have the best record and the best metrics, no matter what happens in their rematch with the Cavaliers Monday. Cleveland is the class of the East by a wide margin, and that we expected too.
Truth be told most teams are about where we thought they'd be by this point. The Spurs are a bit better than common wisdom predicted, predictably. The Celtics aren't quite as good but are starting to peak now. The Bulls are talented, but messy, along with about eight other teams in the East fighting over four playoff spots.
||The Warriors don't have any signature wins or big impressive performances since the meltdown vs. Memphis, but all the other teams slipped in front of them. So headed into their rematch against Cleveland Monday, they re-take the top spot. The good news is their M.O. over the past year is that they're great at holding leads, so this should be fine.||3||38-6|
||The Cavs are pretty clearly hitting their bored stretch. They have big games against the Warriors and Spurs this week, but the rest of January is pretty soft. They're probably going to continue to just kind of muddle through. They have nothing to prove by smashing through this stretch. This is survival mode for the champs.||1||30-12|
||The Spurs uncharacteristically have lost two of three. The Suns game was a bit wacky in Mexico City, giving up 39 points to Devin Booker, but it should be noted they only play five teams over .500 (and that includes the 20-19 Pacers) before the All-Star Break.||1||34-9|
||Toronto is 2-0 against Boston, but in their last matchup, the C's were without Avery Bradley and still played the Raptors tough. So I'm giving them the "good loss" mark and factoring in that they've won eight of 10. Isaiah Thomas continues to be the best clutch time performer in the league this season, though there are some alarming numbers about the fourth-quarter defense when he's on the court.||1||26-17|
||After losing just two games between December 2nd and January 10th, the Rockets lost two of three last week. Their schedule is tough through the end of January. You wonder if they're about to maybe fall back into a tier with the Clippers while the Spurs cement themselves as the probable 2-seed.||2||34-13|
||The Raptors will climb higher than this in the next two weeks. They're right there with Boston and Houston on a tier of really good teams. Their defense is starting to pick itself up off the dirt and they're in a great position for the second half of the season.||--||28-15|
||So much for that struggle without Blake Griffin. He's back practicing without a brace and the Clippers have rattled off six in a row in the meantime to recapture the 4th spot. Their February schedule is a hellish, though. Is it too early to say they're already out of it for a top-two seed?||4||29-16|
||Out of nowhere, the Hawks win eight of nine. It was mostly bottom dwellers, but it gave them a 2.5-game lead for the 4th seed, and a pretty comfortable positioning. There's still no telling what they're going to do before the deadline. Paul Millsap's off the table? OK, they risk losing him for nothing, but whatever, he's good, try and keep him. However, they have the 21st-ranked offense in the league. If they want to get serious about a run, they need to add some weaponry.||--||26-18|
||What a weird three-week stretch. Losses to the Lakers, Clippers (without their stars), the Bulls (without Wade) and wins over the Jazz and the Warriors. The Grizzlies are tough as nails, but with a 24th-ranked offense, you wonder if they're going to be anything more than a "tough team you don't want to face in the playoffs, but can probably beat anyway."||2||26-20|
||Utah is 4-6 against teams ranked 2-7 in the West, and 0-2 vs. Golden State. That's good enough to get the Jazz in the conversation for a team that could make a ruckus in the playoffs. The Jazz's growth has been slow and steady, which is more promising than one hot run. They're on pace for a 51-win season. They are, at the very least, meeting expectations.||1||29-16|
||Russell Westbrook's supporting cast is either flying under the radar and better than advertised or more dangerous than they're being given credit for. Jerami Grant is averaging 39 percent from 3-point range and Enes Kanter has been a monster.||1||25-19|
||Since December 1, Jabari Parker is averaging 22 points per game and shooting 45 percent from 3-point range. He's coming into his own while Giannis Antetokounmpo is thriving and they could still get Khris Middleton back this year.||--||20-23|
||I'm working on a theory that the Pacers' play diminishes relative to the distance from center court at Banker's Life Fieldhouse. They are awesome at home. They lost to a sub.-500 Nuggets team by 28. Maybe Indianapolis just makes really great mac and cheese or something.||--||22-21|
||The Wizards have won seven of 10 and are 15-12 against Eastern Conference teams. John Wall's All-Star case is very hard to decline.||--||23-20|
||They have won three of four! They beat the Cavs on national TV in impressive fashion! They turned the corner! Wait, no, two of those wins were against the Lakers and then they lost to the Magic. False alarm, everyone! Back to panicking about what the Blazers are going to do to salvage this mess.||3||19-27|
||Remember when the Bulls were hitting all sorts of shots in November? Yeah, they're 30th in effective field-goal percentage. Can't hide from the rims, man.||--||22-23|
||At some point, the fact that they are so bad when Andre Drummond -- their franchise cornerstone -- is on the court has to be addressed. They can't hide from this forever. It's a deal.||--||21-24|
||Their biggest problem remains that good shooters aren't hitting shots so far for some reason. But they also just keep finding ways to lose games they should win and if they don't correct it, it will cost them in the end.||3||23-21|
||Hey, they made it all the way to mid-January in the playoff race! That's swell! I mean, it's over now as they've lost seven of 10, but for a while, hope was a good thing.||--||18-28|
||Philly's won five of seven, and at this point I'm amazed my computer even let me type that without error messages popping up that read "Did you mean 'lost five of seven?'" But, no, here we are. Miracles can happen.||1||15-27|
||Anthony Davis is second in points, first in blocks, and top 10 in rebounds. The team is over 11 points better per 100 possessions when he's on the court with a great defensive rating. I was skeptical, but you really cannot blame him for the Pelicans' struggles.||1||17-27|
||They've lost seven of nine and are a game back of the 8th spot in the West. It cannot be overstressed how terrible the back half of the West is.||1||16-27|
||Forget Derrick Rose's situation. It's a blip. The festering Carmelo Anthony-Phil Jackson feud is a much bigger deal with much bigger consequences.||3||19-26|
||The coded comments from Denver after its dominant win in London were kind of hilarious. "See what happens when our home crowd is made up of living beings who do this thing called 'cheering?'" is basically the gist.||2||18-24|
||They play really slow (26th in pace) and turn the ball over constantly. So valuing possessions isn't really their strong suit.||2||15-28|
||They show sporadic signs of life. It's clearly too late for the playoffs but ... wait, the Mavericks are four games back of the 8th spot?! Ban the Western Conference 8th seed now!||2||14-29|
||Devin Booker scored 39 points in back-to-back games. Could the rookie sensation be finally rising from his sophomore slump?||2||14-29|
||The Lakers have fallen to 20th in offense. The positive signs are fading into the dark. They're just bad again.||4||16-31|
||Heat fans should be outside the arena like a zombie horde moaning "Traaaaaades!"||--||14-30|
||If you ever find your job difficult, try and imagine being in a meeting trying to come up with slogans for the Nets' ticketing department.||--||9-34|
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