NBA power rankings


Thumbnail image for nba_bryant2_250.jpgRanking all 30 NBA teams, even the ones that deserve relegation (if only we had the English soccer system). Everybody at the top of the standings had had a recent loss, so the question becomes, whose loss bothers you the least?

1. Lakers (42-14) They lost to the Celtics at home, but they can play the “we didn’t have Kobe” card for that one after the ugliness that was Derek Fishers last shot. Kobe comes back Tuesday, time to see if LA reverts to old, bad habits.

2. Magic (38-19) They drop one to Dallas but the win against Cleveland Sunday was bigger. If Orlando gets that Jameer Nelson to start showing up on a regular basis, the East just got a lot more interesting.

3. Jazz (36-19) They have won four in a row, and showed something coming back from 25 down in Portland Sunday. The Jazz usually have a mid-season hot streak then go cold in March, we’ll see if that trend continues.

4. Nuggets (37-19) Denver beats Boston and Cleveland, but loses to Washington in between those wins? Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

5. Cavaliers (43-14) I hear the complaints coming about this one… but they have lost three straight, including to two teams above them. The Cavs will get it right with Jamison soon and start climbing back up, but as of this week they fall.

6. Thunder (33-21) A nine-game winning streak, and Kevin Durant is destined for Mount Olympus. We’d move them up higher, but does anyone think they could beat any of the top five on this list in a seven game series starting tomorrow?

7. Mavericks (35-21) Three straight wins, including an Orlando/Miami back-to-back. Not sure how far the Butler/Haywood trade takes them in the playoffs, but it did energize a slumping team.

8. Celtics (35-19) Great back-to-back wins over the Lakers and Trail Blazers, but the loss to Denver has me still questioning if this team is elite.

9. Suns (34-23) The team just kept playing through the trade
deadline rumors and aftermath, with wins against Memphis and Atlanta.
Very professional team.

10. Hawks (34-20) Losses to Phoenix and Golden State on this road trip — wouldn’t you think the Hawks would thrive when forced to run?

11. Raptors (31-24) Good test for Toronto this week — Portland, Cleveland and Oklahoma City. We’ll see how real their recent play has been.

12. Spurs (30-21) Two straight losses and now Tony Parker out for a few games. People are drinking away their sorrows on the Riverwalk. (Of course, if they were celebrating they’d be drinking to that, too.)

13. Bulls (29-26) Four straight wins since last week. All against bottom feeders, still, four straight wins. Chicagoans should not look at a gift horse like that.

14. Blazers (33-26) Well they did beat the Clippers this week. And they beat Utah for three quarters. Turns out that’s not enough.

15. Heat (29-28) Wade is willing this team to wins and a playoff spot.

16. Bucks (26-28) They have won two in a row, seven of their last 10, and are just one game out of a playoff spot. And John Salmons is going to help them.

17. Bobcats (27-27) The Bobcats better hope if they make the playoffs they don’t face New Jersey in the first round — they Nets lead the season series 2-1. Okay, maybe that’s not going to be a problem.

18. Hornets (30-26) Daren Collison may be the mid-season fantasy steal of the season.

19. Grizzlies (28-27) They steal Ronnie Brewer from the Jazz, then the fates strike him down with a hamstring injury. Life is not fair.

20. Rockets (28-27) Kevin Martin is 8 for 28 from the floor in his first two games in Houston.

21. Sixers (21-34) Is Jodie Meeks worth a second-round pick?

22. Kings (18-28) Carl Landry is going to be a great fit by the Delta, but this team has lost four in a row.

23 Pistons (20-35) Detroit is actually 5-5 in their last 10 games.

24. Clippers (22-33) The Clippers have gone 2-8 in their last 10, but they have enough cap space to sign LeBron… ha, I know, I just get a laugh every time I type that.

25. Warriors (16-39) When Monta Ellis and Steph Curry are both shooting like they did Sunday, Golden State can topple Atlanta. It’s just not a regular occurrence.

26. Pacers (19-36) They still have Troy Murphy to kick around.

27. Wizards (19-34) Al Thornton and Andray Blatche are having good games together. Yea, that will last.

28. Knicks (19-35) The team that may have been the happiest at the trading deadline? The Utah Jazz. They have the Knicks first round pick this summer.

29. Timberwolves (13-34) They have lost six games in a row….

30. Nets (5-51) But no matter how bad the T-wolves are playing I can’t take the Nets out of last.

51Q: Can Billy Donovan or Fred Hoiberg repeat Steve Kerr’s success?

Billly Donovan
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PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

Can Billy Donovan or Fred Hoiberg repeat Steve Kerr’s success?

Has any first-year NBA head coach ever walked into a more “win now” situation than Billy Donovan?

The Oklahoma City Thunder are have been considered title contenders ever since they stepped on the court in the 2012 Finals. However, they have yet to return to that stage due to a combination of personnel moves and injuries. Next summer their superstar Kevin Durant is a free agent and he’s the kind of franchise-changing player who will draw 29 other suitors. If OKC is going to keep him they have to prove to Durant he can win it all without having to change addresses. It’s a lot to ask of a rookie NBA coach.

Maybe the guy who can best relate is Fred Holberg, who was brought in from Iowa State to take over a Chicago Bulls team that has not lived up to expectations the past several seasons. He takes over for an innovative coach, but with with a mandate from management to rest guys more, modernize the offense, and lift a team known for physically breaking down up to challenge Cleveland.

That’s setting the bar ridiculously high.

Donovan and Hoiberg can thank Steve Kerr for that — he cleared that bar his rookie season. Kerr came in and made the right personnel changes — starting Draymond Green over the higher-paid David Lee, for example — and pushed the right buttons all season long to lift the Warriors to the level of champions.

Can Donovan or Hoiberg match that success?

It would take a lot of luck — Kerr and the Warriors caught breaks on the injury front — but Kerr laid out a blueprint for how to do it.

The first step was admitting what he didn’t know — Kerr went out and hired top-flight NBA assistant coaches (Alvin Gentry and Ron Adams). The Warriors paid to bring in the experience Kerr lacked.

Donovan has followed that well — Monty Williams and Maurice Cheeks and Thunder are assistant coaches. Both are well-respected former NBA head coaches who can help Donovan with the details, plus help him avoid stepping in some steaming piles of trouble along the way.

Hoiberg and the Bulls didn’t go for the big names, which isn’t to say they don’t have experience and these are not good coaches, it’s just a different tactic. Hoiberg hired Randy Brown — the Bulls’ assistant general manager the past six seasons — and Charlie Henry, who was with Holberg at Iowa State. The Bulls also retained Mike Wilhelm on staff.

The second step for Kerr was to take the time to talk to each and every player over the summer, get to know them, and sell them on his vision. He didn’t disparage the popular coach he was replacing; rather he sold the players on his vision.

Hoiberg and Donovan both did this. What’s more, both are considered very good communicators — their college players love them to this day. Both of these guys realized that they may have left college but they didn’t stop recruiting.

The third thing on Kerr’s list was the primary reason both Donovan and Hoiberg were hired — modernize the offense.

This doesn’t mean changing who gets shots — if you’re Donovan you want Durant and Russell Westbrook to take a lot of shots. But where they get them on the floor and how they come about getting them is going to change — less isolation is a good thing. Westbrook has already said he feels more space to operate in Donovan’s offense. This shouldn’t be a surprise.

“The thing that makes Donovan so appealing from an NBA perspective is that his coaching style will fit in well at the professional level,” CollegeBasketballTalk’s Rob Dauster told PBT right after the hire. “At Florida, he ran a ball-screen motion offense built around floor-spacing, which are offensive concepts that are quite prevalent in the NBA. Not all college coaches will fit in well at the professional level. Donovan will.”

Hoiberg is doing the same thing in Chicago, where the offense under Tom Thibodeau was predictable. Hoiberg is also going to trust his bench more and get guys like Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol more rest in the regular season, so they are fresh come the postseason.

The fourth and final thing Kerr did brilliantly was keep the team focused on the finish line. To use the coaching cliché, trust the process. It was not about wins and losses in December, it was about getting better, staying healthy, and peaking when the playoffs hit. This may have been what Kerr did best — and considering he played for Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich, you see where he got it.

Donovan and Hoiberg understand this, but the NBA regular season presents twice as many games as their college teams ever played in a season — and it’s after that things get serious. It’s easy to talk about focusing on the big picture, but both of these men need to walk the walk.

I think Donovan, if everything goes right and guys stay healthy, has a shot to replicate what Kerr did. That is a contending team he takes over, if they can just not devolve into a M*A*S*H* unit again there’s a chance. I think Hoiberg will be a good coach, but I’m not sure there’s enough left in the roster he was given to get out of the Eastern Conference.

But Kerr may have set the bar impossibly high even for two excellent coaches.

Stan Van Gundy rips ‘selfish’ Pistons

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The Pistons had just 19 assists – to 22 turnovers – in their 93-83 loss to the Nets last night.

Stan Van Gundy was none too pleased.

On offensive problems:

I told them in there – that was the first thing – we’re not playing together at all. I thought it was a very selfish performance, and guys wouldn’t just pass the ball to open men. They wanted to see if they could take one more dribble to get their own shot, so the passing angles were gone. I just thought we forced play after play after play. We’re not willing to move the ball

On Reggie Jackson, who scored seven points on 3-of-10 shooting with six assists and six turnovers, and was coming off Achilles soreness:

He was not good at all. He was forcing everything.

On injuries to point guards – Jackson, Brandon Jennings and Steve Blake – hindering the team’s flow in practice and that carrying over to the game:

We could probably make a lot of excuses for our guys, but we were selfish.

Van Gundy is clearly trying to send a message, and the preseason is the best time to do it.

But it’s somewhat troubling he had to do it after this game.

Eight of the 10 Pistons who played against Brooklyn project to make the regular-season rotation. Joel Anthony played over Aron Baynes, and once healthy, Blake could challenge Spencer Dinwiddie to become back up point guard – at least until Jennings is ready. Otherwise, Detroit – with Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Ersan Ilyasova, Andre Drummond, Jodie Meeks, Stanley Johnson and Anthony Tolliver – looked similar to its opening-night lineup.

Van Gundy is blunt, but he doesn’t tell the media things he hasn’t already directly told his players. They appreciate that.

He’d appreciate them getting this message.