Sure, the NFL is heading down the homestretch, but you’ll all be fixated on the roundball game come All-Star Weekend. And then, you’ll be thrilled that Alex Golden was keeping an eye on the happenings of the NBA. And when the dust settles on Super Bowl LI, you’ll be glad for the official Grueling Truth NBA Power Rankings…
Rankings compiled Saturday, January 15.
1. Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are still number one because they’re just so good. However, the do lack rim protection. We saw what happened last year in the Finals when Andrew Bogut went down. This is a major area of concern…
2. San Antonio Spurs. Kawahi Leonard scored 30 points or more in the last three games and the Spurs went 1-2. Leonard is an amazing talent, but honestly, the Spurs are best when the scoring load is equally distributed.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs are still looking for a playmaker off the bench to relieve some of the load on LeBron James and Kyrie Irving for the season’s remainder. It appears there is nobody in the East who can take down the champs, so a-coasting they will go into the postseason.
4. Boston Celtics. Boston has won 8 of their last 10 and really look like a team poised for great things. Although we are seeing the offensive assassin that Isaiah Thomas is, he still needs to work on his defense. Regardless, the Celtics are a team to watch out for as we approach the final half of the regular season.
5. Houston Rockets. The Rockets lost two in a row this week to not-so-great teams: Those with athleticism and strong defense give Houston problems. We’ll see how Houston responds after losing two games in a row for the first time this season.
6. Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers have the hottest winning streak in the NBA at 6 straight games. CP3 and DeAndre Jordan are playing great basketball together and keeping the team afloat through the absence of Blake Griffin.
7. Memphis Grizzlies. In 3 of their last 4 games, the Grizzlies have beaten the Jazz, Rockets and Warriors – huge wins all. They currently sit at 6th in the Western Conference with plenty of time to improve their record.
8. Utah Jazz. The Jazz have really missed George Hill in the lineup and with his return, we have seen the Jazz go on a 3-game winning streak. Take note, though: These were three home games. The Jazz did defeat the Cavaliers, but they didn’t beat the cream of the crop in their other two victories. Regardless, this momentum they’ve built will be huge going forward.
9. Toronto Raptors. Easily one of the most underappreciated teams in the NBA, the Raptors are playing good basketball. They are still 2nd in the East but of course they have some holes they need to fill. Kyle Lowry is playing some of his best basketball ever this season, and Raptors fans hope it’s enough to get them back to the East Finals.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder. Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple-double this season and his team is playing solid basketball. They have been a tad inconsistent of late, but what is there not to love about a man who is doing literally everything for his team?
11. Atlanta Hawks. Last week all the talk was about the Hawks blowing up their roster. Now that Atlanta has won eight of their last 10, the front office has decided not to trade Paul Milsap. The Hawks’ front office might be a bit of a mess right now, but the coaching staff and players seem to be clicking. Their play of late shows how together they are.
12. Milwaukee Bucks. Say what you want about the Timberwolves and Lakers being the teams to watch out for in the future; the Bucks are already a notch above both. To be fair, the Bucks play in a weaker conference then LA and Minny, but you can’t deny the *superstar* talent of Giannis Antetokounmpo. He has been by far the most improved player in the NBA this season.
13. Indiana Pacers. The Pacers spent the entire week in London and failed to show up for their tilt with the Nuggets. If you watched any of this game, you saw a blazing hot shooting performance by the Nuggets accompanied by a horrible defensive effort from Indiana. This honestly looked like an exhibition game that didn’t matter to the Pacers. I don’t want to make a bigger deal of this then it is.
14. Washington Wizards. There is a lot of good going on right now in DC. The Wizards have won 7 of their last 10 games and are currently 6th in the East. I don’t know how long they’ll keep this stellar play going, but with Chicago and New York having their own issues, the back end of the East is wide open. Washington is taking full advantage.
15. Charlotte Hornets. What is going on with the Hornets? They are 3-7 in their last 10 games. They were once the no. 3 seed and now sit in 8th place. Charlotte had impressed me earlier this season because they lost three key pieces to their bench this offseason and never skipped a beat. I think we are seeing that lackluster bench depth show its true colors here lately.
16. Portland Trailblazers. No, they aren’t playing that much better than last week, but they had a few impressive wins this week. Let’s not overlook the fact that Damian Lillard is a stud and coach Stotts is a terrific basketball mind.
17. Chicago Bulls. The awkwardness has gotten worse as Chicago had to play Rajon Rondo despite his recent benching. It’s been an interesting season for the Bulls, but they still have played solid basketball in the face of adversity among the front office, coach Hoiberg and Rondo.
18. New Orleans Pelicans. If there is one team that’s playing decent basketball of late but their record would indicate otherwise, it’s the Pels. Anthony Davis is finally getting some help from the supporting cast and New Orleans has won 6 of their last 10 games.
19. New York Knicks. Derrick Rose went missing for a game and the NBA world was shocked. Rose claimed his disappearance wasn’t anything basketball-related but that his family had an emergency. It is odd to me that, in a society where people check their phone on average every 6 minutes, Rose couldn’t inform his team via text or call that he was going to be absent. The Knicks have consistently gotten worse on the defensive end and Melo seems to be on the decline of his career.
20. Detroit Pistons. The Pistons have just not figured out their problems but are still within reaching distance of a playoff spot. It would be devastating for the Pistons to take a step back this season and miss the playoffs, but if they don’t right this ship anytime soon, then we may just see that.
21. Sacramento Kings. The Kings seem to be treading water until making a move as one of the most talked-about teams in the league when it comes to wheeling and dealing. The NBA world knows how talented Boogie Cousins is, but all are aware of his antics. The Kings have solid role players throughout the roster but only one superstar. They are continuing to fight for 8th in the West but it would be my guess they are on the outside looking in.
22. Minnesota Timberwolves. The T-Wolves are playing a lot better of late, and have the second-longest active winning streak at three. They are playing better basketball and this has all happened while Zach Lavine has been out with an injury. I don’t know what exactly that tells us, but it could mean that Rubio has more control of the offense and Karl Anthony-Towns is getting more touches than usual. Either way, you should be happy if you’re a Wolves fan: Being just four games out of 8th isn’t too shabby considering the slow start you had.
23. Philadelphia 76ers. I never thought I would see the 76ers so high, but they deserve the recent boost in the Rankings. We are slowly starting to see how dominate Joel Embiid is. The starting five play much better when pairing Embiid with Noel too. Simmons is destined to return sooner rather than later and we will finally get to see a sample of how good this team could be. Still not a team you fear, but someone that could give you a run for your money.
24. Denver Nuggets. Like Indiana, the Nuggets spend the week in London. They blasted the Pacers with a 28-point win to end their 5-game losing streak. This was probably a key win for the Nuggets along with getting that bonding time overseas. The Nuggets have been playing poorly but we got to see how talented some of their young guys are. It would be great to see Denver get back into the playoffs and turn this thing around.
25. Orlando Magic. There are some teams that want some of the talented front court possessions of the Magic. The Magic need to use these assets to better their roster and they need better starters from positions 1-5. This whole Aaron Gordon process is manageable for now if you are a Magic fan but there are just so many holes in his game that scream to me he isn’t a starting small forward on a winning basketball team.
26. Los Angeles Lakers. A 3-game losing streak for the Lakers once again shows that this team is not ready for the playoffs. The future is still bright but the present is scary. I like Luke Walton and believe he is the man for the job but I think it’s time to turn things over to a different voice when it comes to who’s running the team.
27. Dallas Mavericks. So, Mark Cuban and the officials are the headline story for the Mavs this week. It is a sad day in the NBA world when your owner and his feelings towards the officials are the highlight of your team’s recent play. The Mavericks have the worst record in the Western Conference and I am done waiting for them to turn this around. They do not have the talent to do so.
28. Phoenix Suns. Their 2-game stint in Mexico was great for them. They were able to spend some time together and they defeated the Spurs in a competitive battle. A lot of young talent that continues to grow. They won’t be climbing the Power Rankings Board anytime soon but they’ll continue to grow together as a team.
29. Miami Heat. More trade rumors from the Heat world. Now we are hearing Goran Dragic is available and some teams have shown interest. Rightfully so, the Heat have to consider dealing Dragic because he is not a part of their future.
30. Brooklyn Nets. I guarantee Nets fans are fed up with this season already. I can’t even begin to tell you how horrible this roster is. I’m shocked they have won eight games as it is. The fact that Brooke Lopez has handled this all so well and hasn’t demanded he wants out is mindboggling to me. The Nets are wasting Lopez’s talent and they’re the laughing stock of the league.