NBA Power Rankings, where we have a new number one

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Our weekly NBA Power Rankings, or, how Laker fans shouldn’t panic unless they get up by 18 against the Jazz.

1. Hornets (8-0). They are not going to win 82, or 72, or even 62. But what this kind of start does is make it very likely they are playoff bound. And after watching them and CP3 the first couple weeks, you think anyone wants them in the first round?

2. Celtics (8-2). A bunch of old guys who are supposed to start slow, all their centers are banged up, and yet is there any question they are the best team in the East right now?

3. Lakers (8-2). Two losses in one week will cause some Lakers fans to reach for the panic button, because they can be a bunch of nervous poodles. But as Suns coach Alvin Gentry said, Phoenix hit 22 threes and still had to hang on to win. The Lakers are fine, just entering their disinterested part of the season.

4. Spurs (8-1). Seven straight wins for the Spurs. Tony Parker is dealing, Manu is Manu again, and when Matt Bonner is hitting 80 percent from three you know they have it going. It all comes down to health with these guys.

5. Jazz (7-3). I dare you to take a big lead on them. Just dare you. They head out on a tough road trip to the Southwest and find themselves, come back as real threats in the West.

6. Mavericks (6-3). The Mavs are doing it on defense — they are fourth in the league in defensive efficiency, giving up 100.1 points per 100 possessions. That should scare teams because you know the offense will come around.

7. Heat (6-4). Dwyane Wade is right, they are the best 6-4 (now) team in the league. But they are still a 6-4 team, and like the rest of them they have flaws.

8. Magic (6-3). They have hit 34.7 percent of their threes, jus 19th best in the league. Down from 37.5 percent last season. That’s a big drop for a team that relies heavily on the deep ball.

9. Hawks (7-4). They’re good on offense, not that good on defense. In fact, 11 games in they are giving up 1.1 more points per 100 possessions than last season. Remember, Larry Drew, movement in the offense is meaningless without some defense.

10. Bulls (5-3). Three straight wins, including one over Denver. If the goal was just to be good until Boozer gets back, mission accomplished.

11. Nuggets (5-4). You saw what they are capable of — they beat the Lakers. You saw what they are capable of — they gave up 54 points to the Indiana Pacers in a quarter. You want to predict this team night to night?

12. Thunder (5-4). They have not blown our doors off yet — as we all hoped and expected — and this week they get the Jazz, the Celtics then the Bucks on a back-to-back after Boston. Tough week for anyone.

13. Warriors (6-4). They are 4-0 at home, 2-4 on the road. Love the new owners for offering steep discounts to tonight’s game as a thank you. And apology for much of the last decade.

14. Bucks (5-5). Three straight wins this week, not giving up more than 91 points to anyone. They are giving up just 96.9 points per 100 possessions, best in the Association.

15. Suns (5-4). Second in the league in offensive efficiency, 29th in defense. Those Suns are back. But when they are knocking down 22 threes a game — and they can do that a lot more often than you think — they can beat anyone.

16. Blazers (6-5). The news that this Brandon Roy, the hobbled one, is the one we will see from now on makes me feel robbed of what could have been.

17. Pacers (4-4). The Pacers offense looked better this week and, it should be noted, they have slowed the pace a little. They are currently 10th in the league in possessions per game. That might work for them.

18. Grizzlies (4-6). Interesting stat of the day — the Grizzlies create more turnovers than any team in the league (per possession). One if five trips down the court the other team turns it over.

19. Pistons (4-6). They are 4-3 over the last two weeks, which is better than we expected of them. But the question remains: Do you keep this roster together to fight for the 8 seed?

20. Cavaliers (4-5). Antawn Jamison has been solid since his return, and that kind of sums up where the Cavaliers are at — their veteran leader is solid. Still, the eight seed if the playoffs start today.

21. Rockets (3-6). Still not good, but a couple nice wins over the Pacers and Knicks this week. This is a good offensive team, despite everything.

22. Nets (3-6). Is Avery Johnson completely hoarse yet yelling about the defense?

23. Bobcats (3-7). The team in the bottom 10 we expect to move up. They are not this bad and it looks like Gerald Wallace may have found himself.

24. Raptors (2-8). Hedo Turkoglu hits a game winner for the Suns and the entire city of Toronto cringes.

25. Timberwolves (3-8). Kevin Love and Michael Beasley actually make this team a threat on any given night. Not every night, but there will be some. The roster has some talent on it, it remains a question of fit and usage.

26. Wizards (2-6). Every day without John Wall just feels like waiting around for the real part of the season to start again.

27. Knicks (3-7). Losses to Minnesota and Houston because they can’t knock down an outside shot to save their lives. Is that D’Antoni’s fault?

28. Kings (3-6). The worst defense in the NBA right now. Bar none.

29. Sixers (2-8). When you watch a lot of League Pass, when you watch a lot of games, there become teams that just bore you, the ones you don’t get excited to see. Meet your Sixers.

30. Clippers (1-9). No Baron Davis is a good thing for this team long term, but it doesn’t mean wins now. Still, a highlight reel every night from these guys.

Rumor: Cavaliers, Pacers, and Nuggets discussed 3-way deal with Paul George, Kevin Love

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Don’t count the Cleveland Cavaliers out of the Paul George sweepstakes just yet.

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein and Chris Haynes, the Cavaliers are still working on a way to get George with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Ohio.

The latest rumor involves a three way deal being discussed between the Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, and Denver Nuggets. According to Hayes, the deal would send George and Kenenth Faried to Cleveland and Kevin Love to Denver.

Presumably, Indiana would end up with good picks and a few young assets.

Via Twitter:

There is a lot to think about here given the potential for this trade. The first is how the Cavaliers would be able to complete a deal without a general manager in place. Owner Dan Gilbert fired David Griffin just last week. The Cavaliers are still talking to former NBA player Chauncey Billups about a chance to run the front office, but nothing has been decided just yet.

As good as George is, with the way that Kevin Love played in the 2017 NBA playoffs, it’s a wonder that the Cavaliers would want to let him go. The Golden State Warriors ate up Tristan Thompson in several of their Finals games, and Love was often the best player outside of LeBron on the floor for Cleveland.

Rumors also have George as being adamant that he is a one year rental only. His preferred landing place is still Los Angeles with the Lakers.

How a one year rental would work in exchange for one of Cleveland’s best players is sort of confusing. Even if the Cavaliers landed George and Faried, they would need to add yet another piece in order to get over the hump as the Eastern Conference strengthens and as they try to face off against the Warriors yet again.

This NBA off-season has been particularly crazy, and I don’t expected to calm down anytime soon.

Watch Isiah Thomas work out Lakers No. 2 overall pick Lonzo Ball (VIDEO)

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Lonzo Ball Is finally a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. Magic Johnson & Co. took him with the second overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft on Thursday.

Despite a few issues with his draft workouts with the Lakers, Ball was still the top choice for Los Angeles when they came to select after Markelle Fultz was off the board. The Lakers have already given Ball more control of the team after trading D'Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets last week.

Before the draft, Ball took some time out to work in his back yard and on his home court with NBA legend Isiah Thomas.

Check out the interaction between the two and see where Ball grew up learning to shoot his oddly-formed but highly-accurate jumper.

Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki to Harrison Barnes: “You need major skill to get to 20 years”

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Harrison Barnes is set to be a foundational piece for the Dallas Mavericks for years to come. He is trying to learn all he can from one of the greatest Mavericks of all time in Dirk Nowitzki.

So what has Barnes learned under Nowitzki’s tutelage?

Well, for one thing, he’s going to need to learn an elite-level skill if he wants to lead when Nowitzki is gone.

Speaking with the Dallas News, Barnes said that Nowitzki sarcastic but tough when it comes to gym habits and player development.

Via Dallas News:

“Honestly, I’ve just been trying to work as hard as I can and spend as much time as I can with him in the gym. I remember one day at practice we’re standing on the sidelines on the gym and said, ‘Oh man, Dirk, you’re about to get to 20 years. That’s impressive. Do you think I can get to 20 years?’ He’s like, ‘No way man. You need major skill to get to 20 years.’ So that’s kind of the nature of our relationship. I just want to try to become the best basketball player that I can and follow the mold that he’s set here in Dallas for years and years of just constantly getting better every single year.”

Knowing Dirk’s personality, there is a fair bit of tongue-in-cheek happening here but he’s not entirely wrong.Barnes was a jack of all trades for the Golden State Warriors before he signed his contract with the Mavericks. Nowitzki is one of the greatest scores in NBA history, and he obviously has more than one major skill under his belt.

Even still, it’s good advice for Barnes moving forward.

It’s time for No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz to turn 76ers into winners

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) Markelle Fultz already has his first turnover as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers.

It came in an Instagram post sponsored by a watch company. “Excited to head to (City) and join the (team name). (at)Tissot.us is helping me get started with my (team name) watch,” Fultz posted, not bothering to actually fill in the blanks.

Ah, it’s a process. Or rather, The Process. And the Sixers have plenty of blanks to fill in on their roster before becoming a playoff contender.

The No. 1 overall pick in this NBA draft has become an instant fan favorite before signing his rookie contract. The 6-foot-4 guard out of Washington has gone on late-night TV and boasted of his love of Philly cheesesteaks, made a social media connection with franchise player Joel Embiid and dazzled on draft night with a pair of orange sneakers made of the same leather used to make NBA game balls.

If that wasn’t enough, Philly fans found an open love letter from Fultz to the city on The Players’ Tribune.

“What’s up, Philly? You good? I’m pretty good,” Fultz wrote . “Today is a good day. Today we take The Process to another level.”

Long the league laughingstock, it’s the Sixers’ turn to clap back, with Embiid and Ben Simmons poking fun on Twitter at Lonzo Ball and his father, LaVar.

Moments after LaVar Ball went on TV and declared of his son, “From the words of Zeus, Jesus, everybody said he gonna be a Laker,” Simmons simply tweeted, “Crazy pills .” Embiid quickly chimed in with, “Please dunk on him so hard that his daddy runs on the court to save him.”

But the Sixers aren’t counting on the Fultz-Simmons-Embiid core to simply entertain in 140-character bursts. They expect the trio to help lead the franchise to their first playoff appearance since 2012 and first championship since 1983.

“It’s been a while,” team president Bryan Colangelo said, pointing toward championship banners hanging in the team’s New Jersey complex.

Here’s a look at how they might get to 35-50 wins over the next two seasons:

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STEP ON THE GAS

First, Simmons and Embiid need to be healthy.

Embiid, who missed his first two seasons with foot injuries, was placed on minutes restrictions in 2016-17 and was banned from playing both games of back-to-back contests. Despite the precautionary steps, Embiid played in only 31 games and needed surgery on his left knee in March.

Simmons missed his rookie season with a broken right foot.

“I think both Ben and Joel are on course for recovery,” Colangelo said Friday. “We anticipate a full, healthy roster.”

Colangelo said Embiid would have no minutes’ restrictions this season, provided he stays healthy.

“He plays with reckless abandon and some of that has got to be controlled,” Colangelo said.

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IT TAKES TWO

Coach Brett Brown had said all year that Simmons would open next season as the point guard. Simmons seemed excited at his shot to run the show until a confluence of events and a trade with Boston for the No. 1 pick that netted Fultz.

No worries, for now. Brown said Simmons and Fultz, who will play in the summer league, could work well together in the backcourt, no matter which player is the ballhandler.

“It’s a really exciting challenge to have where you try to grow those two players and let them coexist and learn more about each other,” Brown said. “The start of the season and training camp and the month of September are really going to be important for us to allow those guys to feel each other and the coaching staff to be able to truly see it on the court.”

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TOUCH OF GREY

So who shall lead the talented trio of Embiid-Fultz-Simmons, a trifecta of first- and second-year players. The Sixers have long needed a veteran both in the locker room and to help lead on the court.

“Those young guys need nurturing and they need veteran leadership. To think that you’re going to go into a season with a 19-year-old, a 20-year-old and Joel Embiid, as much as we love him and see how special he is, the reality is those three players have played a cumulative 31 NBA games,” Brown said. “And holding a locker room, growing those guys, helping them navigate NBA life and NBA games is a very powerful message when it comes from a player. And trying to identify veterans that have the ability to nurture and help those three, especially, is one of the main priorities.”

WAITING IS THE HARDEST PART

Sixers fans have been very patient, and they may have stay that way.

They waited two years for Dario Saric to come from his overseas commitments. They waited two years for Embiid to recover from injuries.

They may have to wait two more years for Latvian center, and first-round pick, Anzejs Pasecniks. Pasecniks, who most recently played with Gran Canaria, a Spanish basketball club, has two more years left on his deal and may not immediately join the Sixers. Second-round picks Jonah Bolden and power forward Mathias Lessort out of France also won’t join the team next season.

But when they do, they could be the final pieces for a contender.

“Everything is designed with a championship in mind,” Colangelo said.

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball