That’s right, it’s 2017: A time when teams from *Cleveland* and *The Bay* dominate the league, and a team based in *Canada* could be upset-makers on the way to the championship. And when the free-flowing, pace-ruling, shoot-when-you-get-it play of today, we thrill to gaudy 1980s. like statistics. So is the NBA in 2016-17 a throwback? An evolution? A devoluiion (in defenses)? It’s so confusing…
Thank the gods, then, that we’ve got Alex Golden’s NBA power rankings to help us make sense of it all. And there they are…
1. Golden State Warriors. The Warriors were the first team to reach 30 wins this season and are loaded with talent from top to bottom. However, they’re still looking to add a piece or two, to complete their already stacked roster.
2. Houston Rockets. The Rockets have the longest winning streak right now in the NBA and are one win away from joining the 30-win club. You cannot say enough about the job Mike D’Antoni has done with this squad.
3. San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs get moved up this week because quite frankly, they’re playing some incredible basketball right now. And they’re the only team aside from the Warriors right now to have 30 wins in the NBA.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers. We get it: LeBron James is still the greatest player in the NBA – but Cleveland is coasting. They’re the top dogs of the East and it would be mindboggling if they ever get tested in the playoffs. Oh yeah, they just acquired Kyle Korver for nothing. But their uninspired play of late leads me to believe they’re beatable right now.
5. Boston Celtics. Watch out, Toronto, we are seeing some great play from the boys in green. It is a long season but right now, I would not be surprised if the Celtics make a push to become the 2nd-best team in the East.
6. Toronto Raptors. If the Raptors can somehow steal Paul Millsap away from the Atlanta Hawks then they will be in a much better position going forward. Overall, they still have a talented team that’s predicated on defense and roster continuity.
7. Los Angeles Clippers. While the Clippers are treading water until the return of Blake Griffin; they have weather the storm of their slide. Now on a 3-game winning streak, the Clips look to regain some momentum heading into the heavy January schedule.
8. Utah Jazz. With George Hill returning the starting lineup for the Jazz, things will only get better. It will be interesting to see if the Jazz make any moves. Unloading Derrick Favors might be the first move they make.
9. Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies walked into Oracle Arena and defeated the Warriors in overtime. It is a very difficult task to achieve and Mike Conley Jr. hit one of the most beautiful jumpers to force that game into the overtime. Memphis has really maintained a solid level of play through all their injuries this season. A gritty, determined basketball franchise. A lot to like here.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder. Oklahoma City is playing some solid basketball right now but as a casual NBA fan, you should wonder how much longer Russdiculous can keep playing at this level. It takes almost a triple-double effort from Westbrook every night for the Thunder to win. I love this team and think they’re fun to watch, but I do have some concerns.
11. Indiana Pacers. The Pacers are hot, riding a 5-game winning streak and are headed over to London to face the Denver Nuggets on Thursday evening. It will be a great bonding moment for a group of guys who seem to be gelling on well of late. The recent decision by coach Nate McMillan to keep Monta Ellis coming off the bench has paid huge dividends for the makeup of this roster.
12. Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks have been playing some extremely good basketball this season and are quite possibly the team that could cause a first-round upset in the East playoffs. Their length and size are the keys to their success, and they have shown so many moments this season how much of a challenge they bring to opposing teams.
13. Charlotte Hornets. A bit of a downslide here for the Hornets this week in the Power Rankings: They have been very mediocre as of late and do not resemble the same team they were a few weeks ago. The Hornets keep sliding in the standings and two of the next three games will be extremely difficult for them. We will see how they weather this storm.
14. Atlanta Hawks. It’s come to the realization in the Hawks front office that this roster has no shot of winning a title, so they’re looking to reload it. It is a sad thing to see, as they are winners of 6 straight now and sit 4th in the East. Many people are dumbfounded by the recent rumors that the Hawks are looking to unload their best player in Paul Millsap along with wings Thabo Sefolosha and Tim Hardaway Jr. Maybe the Hawks front office knows more than the common fan, but it still doesn’t make sense to do this now. Regardless it will be interesting to see where the Hawks go from here and who gets Millsap for the playoffs.
15. Chicago Bulls. if we learned anything about the Bulls this week, it’s that Jimmy Butler is a man on a mission. If Butler continues to play at this level, he is a shoo-in for All-Star. The Bulls have their own issues off the court with the Rajon Rondo rumors, so seeing your star play through all the adversity – and certainly awkwardness inside the locker room – is mighty impressive.
16. Washington Wizards. A setback from last week, but not too much. The Wizards are still playing better basketball of late and look to be a competitive team in the East. John Wall is the catalyst of their recent success: His court vision and speed are lethal to opposing teams. It appears the Wizards are looking to upgrade their roster to appease Wall and Beal.
17. New York Knicks. Although I am unimpressed with the current roster makeup of this “2011 Dream Team”, I am impressed by the play of Kristaps Porzingis and Derrick Rose. This team won’t scare anyone, but they have a few good pieces. Joakim Noah is not what he used to be and the Knicks’ bench is atrocious. Hopefully, New York can figure out a way to booster their bench and quite frankly, their starting five.
18. Detroit Pistons. The Pistons still aren’t playing the type of basketball that their fans would like to see, though there is reason to believe that the Pistons are headed in the right direction. This last few seasons Stan Van Gundy has made midseason trades to better his team. It would not shock me in the slightest if we see that again this year.
19. Portland Trailblazers. So, despite the Blazers’ awful play of late, they are still 8th in the West. Basically the 8th seed is wide open and nobody really wants it, especially if they are playing Golden State first. However, the Blazers are such a good organization that you hope they turn this around quickly. It would be a shame to waste Damian Lillard’s prime on a roster with lackluster talent.
20. Sacramento Kings. There really isn’t much to say here, except that the Kings are the most common name in trade rumors and the most unstable franchise in the NBA. They have talent and they are playing okay basketball this season but nothing out of the norm. I hope they get back to the days where a winning culture existed and not whatever you want to call this.
21. Orlando Magic. The Magic have a limited amount of talent for the future of this franchise. They play extremely hard every night, but the makeup of this roster screams that they are not in playoff mode. Regardless, we have slowly seen the growth of Aaron Gordon this season, and his transformation from the extremely athletic power forward to a combo forward who can put the ball on the floor and shoot threes.
22. Denver Nuggets. it is finally an official rumor that the Nuggets are listening to trade offers for forwards Danilo Gallinari, Tyson Chandler and Kenneth Faried. Take it for what it’s worth, but the Nuggets don’t want to continue any longer with this roster. They have been playing some solid basketball this season, but it’s not always adding up to victories. Nuggets fans must be frustrated with this recent unsuccessful roster.
23. New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans are looking to add pieces to their roster to pair up with “The Brow”. They too were rumored to like Paul Millsap. I would be intrigued with a Davis/Millsap front court. Like we said, the 8th seed in the West is wide open and those two together would be talented enough to get them there. So, NOLA, are you as hopeful for Millsap as the rest of the league is?
24. Los Angeles Lakers. So the Lakers had a horrible month of December but it looks like the month of January could be a little easier on them. With no pressure of succeeding this year, you would like to see this group continue to grow and develop chemistry. I don’t really think Nick Young, Luol Deng and Lou Williams are a part of the Lakers’ future [Deng could be, as he’s on a three-year deal. Williams is signed through 2017-18. Young is probably gone ASAP–Ed., representing the Purple and Gold.], and I am hopeful that they increasingly give more playing time to younger guys like Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. whenever he returns from injury.
25. Dallas Mavericks. it looks like the Mavericks aren’t turning this thing around anytime soon. It’s surprising to me how ineffective this roster is with a coach like Carlisle, but the talent on this squad is just not that good. I know my Mavs fans don’t want to hear me say this, but they have seen this team enough to understand that I am speaking the truth. It’s time to rebuild again, Mr. Cuban.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves. The Timberwolves have really been struggling of late, going 3-7 in their last 10 games and losers of 4 straight. You know this is killing coach Thibbs and I am sure that he has pulled almost every piece of hair out that he has left. You must remain positive, though, because this is a very young team.
27. Phoenix Suns. In a lot of ways, the Suns are like the Lakers and the Timberwolves. It is irritating to see loss after loss after loss, but you know there are some great players in the works here. When the Suns finally hit that breaking point, we will be talking about how great of a team they are with Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss. I don’t think Eric Bledsoe is the guy they need at point, though. This team is starting to show improvements throughout the season, but many questions must be answered by the Suns front office with this group going forward.
28. Philadelphia 76ers. With the Sixes finally reaching their 10th win, we have a lot to talk about here. Joel Embiid is a beast; he’s getting some love from the fans for the All-Star game and even non 76ers fans enjoy watching him. Once Ben Simmons returns this year and they grow together, the 76ers are going to be somewhat enjoyable to watch. Hopefully, the next move or two solidifies the starting backcourt to give some sort of balance to this roster.
29. Miami Heat. I have moved Miami down a little bit: They’re 2-8 in their last 10 and they just don’t have a competitive enough roster. I look at this team and I know exactly what GM Pat Riley is doing: He’s rebuilding this roster and will use his re-signed assets (Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic) to get him better picks in this upcoming loaded draft. The Heat still have solid enough veterans to upset some better teams, but realistically they’re not a good team.
30. Brooklyn Nets. Here’s the real question: What is the Nets starting five without Jeremy Lin? I guarantee you a non-Nets fan couldn’t answer that without looking it up to double-check. The Nets are hands down the laughingstock of the NBA this season, and they traded away their first-round draft pick this season back a few years ago. So call it what you want, but this team is not worth talking about. They’re the worst team in the entire NBA.