Associated Press

NBA Power Rankings Week 24: It’s Golden State’s world, we just live in it

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The Warriors have won 11 in a row, and that includes beating the Spurs and the Rockets a couple times. They are going to finish the season with the NBA’s best record and on top of these rankings as the team to beat in the NBA. Yes, they were last year as well, and all they did was get to Game 7 of the Finals. Also, notice that a team with a longer streak than the Warriors has moved to the bottom of this list.

 
Warriors small icon 1. Warriors (63-14, Last Week No. 1). You want to know why teams rest players sometimes? Steve Kerr took a lot of heat for resting his stars against the Spurs on national television a few weeks back, but the Warriors have not lost since — 11 wins in a row. And by this coming weekend they could get Kevin Durant back. During win streak Stephen Curry is averaging 27 points, 7.9 assists, and 2.3 steals per game, plus is shooting 46.5 percent from three.

 
Spurs small icon 2. Spurs (59-17, LW 2). Coming from 21 down to beat the Thunder on Friday night was one of the best wins of the season for the Spurs, and they have had a lot of them. It feels to me (talking to voters) that Kawhi Leonard is going to finish third in the MVP voting, with a season that would be strong enough to win it most years. If the Spurs are going to be a real threat to the Warriors in the postseason, they are going to need some vintage Tony Parker, like we saw Sunday.

 
Celtics small icon 3. Celtics (50-27, LW 4). The top seed in the East could be decided Wednesday night when the Celtics host the Cavaliers (catching Cleveland on the second night of a back-to-back is helpful). Boston has an easier schedule the rest of the way compared to Cleveland and could win it either way. Of course, the real question is: Can Boston beat a fully healthy Cavaliers team four times in seven games? You can add me to the skeptics list there. But home court would help.

 
Rockets small icon 4. Rockets (52-25, LW 3). James Harden came out and said that playing in every game should matter toward MVP, but with his wrist injury and him battling the flu, taking more games off than just Sunday’s (a Houston over the hapless Suns) might be wise heading into the playoffs. Harden’s MVP case is not going to be made much stronger in these handful of games, but he needs to be right for the playoffs if Houston is thinking second-round upset of the Spurs.

 
Raptors small icon 5. Raptors (47-30, LW 7). While everyone has been focusing on Boston and Cleveland, Toronto has quietly been the best team in the East the past few weeks — 8-2 in their last 10 outscoring teams by 8.2 points per 100 possessions. Plus could get Kyle Lowry back this week, it looks like he certainly returns for the playoffs. The Raptors have moved past the Wizards into the three seed in the East, and on paper they might be the best matchup against Cleveland in the East.

 
Clippers small icon 6. Clippers (47-31, LW 8). They have won 7-of-9 and have a soft schedule with plenty of rest built in the rest of the way. That is to say, the Clippers are peaking at the right time and will be about as healthy as they have been in a long time heading into the postseason (although Austin Rivers is out for a bit). That should be trouble for the Jazz in the first round. Golden State in the second… not so much.

 
Jazz small icon 7. Jazz (47-29, LW 10). Watching the Jazz struggle to slow the Spurs Sunday, we’re reminded that Utah’s preferred starting five — George Hill, Rodney Hood, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert — have played just 13 games together. This team has been deep and versatile enough to overcome that, but if Utah can secure home court in the first round (they are just half a game ahead of the Clippers) and get that five on the court, the Jazz have a real shot to win that series.

 
Wizards small icon 8. Wizards (46-30, LW 5). After starting their road trip with a couple of wins (Cavs and Lakers), the Wizards have dropped three straight, their defense has been unimpressive, and they have whined about getting blown out. They have a relatively easy end of the season schedule and they need the wins to try and catch Toronto for the three seed in the East.

 
Cavaliers small icon 9. Cavaliers (48-27, LW 6). LeBron James played 52 minutes Sunday against Indiana, and he will play a healthy amount Wednesday in a big showdown with Boston. Aside from that, do the Cavs need to think more about rest than chasing the No. 1 seed? Their defensive play against the Pacers — rotation mistakes when the game was still in doubt — point out what we’ve been saying about them not building good habits this season. Still, hard not to picture them coming out of the East once playoff LeBron gets going.

 
Thunder small icon 10. Thunder (43-33, LW 9). Wild week for the Thunder: They come back from 13 down with 3:30 left to beat the Mavericks, they came from 21 down to beat Orlando, then blew a 21 point lead to the Spurs. Through it all Russell Westbrook keeps racking up triple-doubles — he has 40 with six to play, and has gotten one in six-straight games. He can tie Oscar Robertson’s record of 41 in a season Tuesday. By the way, the Thunder are 31-9 when he gets one, 12-24 when he fall short.

 
Blazers small icon 11. Trail Blazers (38-38, LW 13). Portland has been the second best team in the NBA in its last 10 games, going 9-1 and outscoring opponents by 12.1 points per 100 possessions. They should hold off Denver and get the eighth seed. That said, the injury that ended Jusuf Nurkic’s season and will keep him out of the playoffs is a real blow (and ends any already long-shot dreams of a first-round upset).

 
Bucks small icon 12. Bucks (40-36, LW 11). Winners of three in a row until they stumbled on Sunday, they are going to make the playoffs, the only question is can they hold off Atlanta and remain the five seed. I’ll admit I thought Thon Maker was a reach when they drafted him, but he’s come along faster and farther than I thought this season, it’s easy to picture him as part of the future rotation in Milwaukee. Don’t take my word for it, ask the Greek Freak.

 
Bulls small icon 13. Bulls (38-39, LW 17). Thanks in part to a soft stretch of the schedule, the Bulls are playing some of their most consistent and best ball of the season. The Bulls are going to make the playoffs. Sure, they are just one game up on Miami and Indiana (tied for the 8/9 seeds) but look at their final five games: Knicks, Sixers, Nets (twice), and Magic. If anything, the Bulls are more likely to climb up to the six seed than fall out of the postseason.

 
Grizzlies small icon 14. Grizzlies (42-35, LW 15). They have locked up a playoff spot, so it’s smart of them to get Marc Gasol as much rest as they can now in hopes of having him healthy for the playoffs. It looks like we’re going to get a Pau vs. Marc Gasol brothers first-round matchup that should be fun, but likely is not going to last very long. Mike Conley has been playing well and carrying this team for the past week.

 
Heat small icon 15. Heat (37-40, LW 12). Miami has lost three of its last five and that leads to a sentence I never thought I’d type: This team desperately misses Dion Waiters. The Heat and Pacers are tied for the eighth seed out East, but look at the final five games for Miami: at Charlotte, at Toronto, At Washington, Cleveland, Washington. Brutal. But the Heat need to find some wins in there, even if that mans a Hassan Whiteside tip at the buzzer.

 
Pacers small icon 16. Pacers (37-40, LW 16).. They are tied with Miami for that final playoff slot in the East and their final playoff slot in the East, and while that was a dramatic, hard-fought loss to the Cavaliers Sunday it was still a loss. Where the Pacers need to feel good is they have an easier schedule to close out the season than the Heat: Raptors, Bucks, at Magic, at Sixers, Hawks.

 
Pelicans small icon 17. Pelicans (33-43, LW 22). This ranking may seem high, but the Pelicans are starting to figure it out — they are 7-3 in their last 10 with the fourth-best point differential in the NBA in that stretch. And yes, part of that is DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis starting to figure out how to play together. It is possible both of the Pelicans big men could make the All-NBA team as centers this year (a lot of voters are likely to move David to center, where he’s played more minutes this season than forward, because the forward crop is so deep).

 
Hornets small icon 18. Hornets (35-41, LW 21). This ranking may be too low, the Hornets have quietly won 7-of-9, outscoring opponents by 5.5 points per 100 possessions in that run thanks to an improved offense, and they have moved within a game of Miami and Indiana for the final playoff slot in the East. If they have dreams of that spot, they need to beat the Heat on Wednesday. Tough end of the season schedule even outside that game with the Wizards, Celtics, Bucks, and Hawks on the docket.

 
Nuggets small icon 19. Nuggets (35-40, LW 14). Losers of three in a row, but the big blow was Tuesday night in a loss to Portland. Denver needed that game to have a real shot at the eighth seed, but the defense that has been an issue all season let them down on that big stage. On the bright side, Nikola Jokic picked up another triple-double on Friday with 26 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists in a loss to Charlotte.

 
Hawks small icon 20. Hawks (39-38 LW 18). Paul Millsap returned on Sunday, which is huge for the Hawks heading into the postseason (he was an understandably rusty 4-of-14 against the Nets). They need him because this team is 2-9 in their last 11 games, which sets up a tough first-round series (likely against Toronto) where the Hawks will be one-and-done, then face some tough off-season questions about direction.

Pistons small icon 21. Pistons (35-42, LW 19). . The Pistons have lost 9-of-11 and their playoff dreams are dead, which is stunning for a team that was .500 and in control of its own destiny as late as March 11. I’m not sure any team in the NBA has been as disappointing as Detroit this season, and that will make for a rough summer. Reggie Jackson has been benched, and now at the top of Stan Van Gundy’s summer to-do list is deal with the point guard situation in Detroit.

 
Mavericks small icon 22. Mavericks (32-44, LW 20). This will be the fist time the Mavericks finished below .500 since Mark Cuban purchased the team, but this group proved to be scrappy and that bodes well for the future. Harrison Barnes showed he can handle a larger role with more playmaking, Yogi Ferrell has been a find, and we do get one more season of Dirk Nowitzki.

 
timberwolves small icon 23. Timberwolves (30-45, LW 24). This is the 13th consecutive year the Timberwolves will miss the playoffs, the longest streak in the NBA, but at least it seems poised to end next year. Ricky Rubio has been fantastic since the All-Star break, averaging 16.4 points and 10.7 assists per game, all with his jump shot falling. He should be back at the point next season (Kris Dunn has not been the answer).

 
Sixers small icon 24. 76ers (28-48, LW 23). Joel Embiid and Dario Saric are likely going to finish 1-2 in the Rookie of the Year balloting (with Malcolm Brogdon and Willy Hernangomez battling for the third spot on people’s ballots). The question is who gets the award? Embiid was nothing short of brilliant but only played in 31 games (with a minutes limit at that). Was Saric’s run after the All-Star break enough to catch him?

 
Kings small icon 25. Kings (30-47, LW 26). Off the court, there were the Sam Hinkie rumors, that he (or someone more established) would come in and take over the top dog role instead of Vlade Divac. Something the team denied. It came off as another “the right hand does not know what the left is doing” moment in Sacramento. On the court, coach Dave Joerger is getting a long look at all his young players as the season winds down. Sure, Buddy Hield has looked more comfortable, but so have Skal Labissiere, Georgios Papagiannis, and Willie Cauley-Stein, in flashes.

 
Knicks small icon 26. Knicks (29-48 LW 27). Derrick Rose’s season-ending injury doesn’t mean anything to the death spiral of the Knicks season, but it’s the final nail in the coffin of the idea he could come back to the Knicks next season. The Knicks will miss the playoffs again this season, and it’s worth remembering that since 2000 they have won exactly one playoff series. This summer is going to be an interesting one in NYC, with the only thing that seems certain is Carmelo Anthony agreeing to be traded.

 
Nets small icon 27. Nets (18-59, LW 28). The Nets have won 5-of-8 and are showing some life. The good news for Boston fans is Brooklyn was so bad for much of the season that there is still almost no chance Phoenix or the Lakers can tank their way to a worse record this year. But the Celtics have the Nets pick next year also and you have to wonder if that is losing a little potential value.

 
Magic small icon 28. Magic (27-50 LW 25). The most interesting question left around the Magic during this season is: Will the Cavaliers rest LeBron against them Tuesday night to have him fresh for the Celtics game Wednesday? Eyes of Magic fans should be on the draft, where they are slotted to pick fourth (before the lottery has its say). That could mean someone like Jayson Tatum or Malik Monk to get them buckets (since Mario Hezonja can’t seem to do that). Has Elfrid Payton played well enough that a point guard is off the table? (Not if they get lucky in the lottery and can move up to a top two spot it doesn’t.)

 
Lakers small icon 29. Lakers (22-55, LW 30). The Lakers picked up a nice win Sunday over Memphis behind one of the good D’Angelo Russell games the Lakers thrive during. Russell has been inconsistent, but when he is on you can see the potential of the Lakers’ young core come together. (Which is why you don’t trade those kids for Paul George or Jimmy Butler this summer.) If the Lakers lucked out in the lottery and got the top pick, would they feel pressure to take UCLA’s Ball over Washington’s Fultz? Most teams have Fultz rated higher.

 
Suns small icon 30. Suns (22-55, LW 29). Losers of a dozen in a row and things do not look better with Golden State and Oklahoma City on tap for their next two. Still, with Devin Booker, Alex Len, and the emerging Marquese Chriss there is reason for hope going forward — as Long as the Suns don’t just go for the quick fix to get back in the playoffs next season. If they can land a top two pick and draft the point guard of the future, then trade Eric Bledsoe for players who fit the younger timeline, they could start to build something. They just need a little luck and some patience.

Russell Westbrook to miss start of training camp after PRP injection in knee

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There is a physical price for the historic, MVP season Russell Westbrook had last go around.

When the Oklahoma City Thunder open training camp next week, Westbrook will be sidelined for a couple of days to rest his knee after getting a platelet-rich plasma therapy injection, Thunder GM Sam Presti told the media (as reported by Royce Young of ESPN).

PRP therapy was made popular in the NBA by Kobe Bryant and now a number of players have used the treatment. It involves the player giving some blood, which is then spun in a centrifuge to separate the platelets, which are then injected back into the area where the person wants to promote healing.

Westbrook is the heart and soul of the Thunder, averaging a triple-double last season with 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game. With the off-season addition of Paul George, the Thunder are a dangerous team in the West, one that will have a very strong defense and a couple of elite scorers now.

Westbrook also has a max contract extension sitting in front of him from the Thunder, as he has since July 1, which he has yet to sign. That should make Thunder fans a little nervous. George is in the last year of his contract, and there have been not-so-subtle hints out of his camp he is headed to the Lakers next summer. If this year goes well in Oklahoma City — such as the Thunder reaching the Conference Finals — maybe George reconsiders, and with that Westbrook would stay (he has professed and shown loyalty to the city so far). Maybe they stay anyway. However, both men seem to be using the LeBron James playbook of keeping all their options open.

Report: Carmelo Anthony “heavily considering” adding Portland to trade list

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If he could choose his destination, Carmelo Anthony would be playing this coming season alongside Chris Paul and James Harden in Houston. However, since that seems dead, Anthony has told the Knicks he also would waive his no-trade clause for Cleveland or Oklahoma City.

What about Portland, a team hot on the rumor mill?

Anthony has yet to tell the Knicks he would waive his no-trade to head to the Pacific Northwest, but he’s seriously considering adding the Blazers to the list, reports Marc Berman of the New York Post.

The source told The Post that Anthony is heavily considering putting the Trail Blazers on his list as well.

Portland’s stars Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have been very public in their recruitment of Anthony. That seems to be having an effect.

Portland has the pieces to get a trade done, much more so than the Thunder or Cavaliers. The Knicks would certainly ask the Blazers for the just drafted Zach Collins, and Evan Turner with his $17 million salary would be part of the deal to match up the numbers, then after that there would be other players and picks needed to round everything out. However, there are multiple ways to get that deal done.

Anthony just added Cleveland and Oklahoma City to his list of acceptable trade destinations, he likely lets Cleveland negotiate with them for a while to see if a trade can be reached. However, if no deal is reached — and it will not be easy to find a trade the Knicks like with those rosters, plus both of those teams are already paying the luxury tax so there are financial considerations — then the Trail Blazers could be in luck.

Minnesota’s Wiggins considers contract deal without agent

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Andrew Wiggins says he feels good about a max contract offer that is sitting in front of him with the Minnesota Timberwolves. But he’s in no rush to get it signed.

Wiggins says he is going over the five-year, $148 million offer from the Wolves deliberately to make sure everything is where he wants it before he signs. He is being extra careful because he is operating without an agent after parting ways with Bill Duffy and BDA Sports in August.

Wiggins says he has only positive things to say about Duffy. But he made the decision “from a business point of view.” He says he is leaning on parents, who were both high-profile athletes.

He says he appreciates the level of commitment the Timberwolves have shown and wants to be in Minnesota for the long term.

 

Report: Carmelo Anthony adds Cavaliers, Thunder to list of teams where he will accept trade

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Carmelo Anthony wants most of all to be traded to Houston (and he has leverage thanks to the no-trade clause Phil Jackson/James Dolan gave him). However, to make the deal work the Rockets needed to unload the three-year, $60 million contract of Ryan Anderson — which the Knicks do not want, and neither did any third team without a couple high first-round picks as a sweetener. Also, the Knicks wanted quality you assets back the Rockets didn’t have (or would part with), so the deal was dead. Anthony tried to wait it out, but nothing happened, and at this point the Knicks expect ‘Melo in camp Monday.

In the face of that, Anthony has expanded his list of teams where he will waive his no-trade clause to include the Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder, according to multiple reports.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN was first with the news about the Cavs.

Carmelo Anthony, a 10-time NBA All-Star, has delivered the New York Knicks an expanded list of teams — including the Cleveland Cavaliers — with which he’d be willing to waive his no-trade clause, league sources told ESPN.

After the Knicks insisted that they were unable to make a deal with the Houston Rockets, his primary trade destination, Anthony and his representatives honored New York’s request and furnished at least two more teams within the past 10 days, league sources told ESPN.

ESPN’s Ian Begley filled in the details.

Cleveland was on the initial list of teams Anthony gave the Knicks (teams he would waive his no-trade for) but the Knicks wanted Kevin Love and Cleveland shot that down (that was before the Kyrie Irving deal, now Cleveland is even less likely to make that trade). The Cavaliers don’t have a lot of young talent on their roster, and that’s what the Knicks will want back in a deal, picks and players who are on Kristaps Porzingis‘ career arc.

If Cleveland was willing to throw the 2018 Brooklyn Nets pick in the trade it would get done quickly, but I have been told (before this news) Cleveland would not part with that pick, they see it as “LeBron leaves” insurance.

You can bet LeBron James is pushing to get Anthony on the Cavs. Adding him and Dwyane Wade — when Wade is bought out by the Bulls (eventually) — would move the Cavaliers a little closer to the Warriors, although both Wade and ‘Melo are bad defensive matchups against Golden State.

Oklahoma City would likely use Enes Kanter in any trade because his $17 million salary helps balance the money. However, the Thunder are like the Cavs in that this is not a roster with much young talent that the Knicks would want. Guys like Doug McDermott and Kyle Singler are not going to cut it.

It could take a third team to get a deal done with either the Cavaliers or Thunder.

While there had been rumors Portland was still trying to get in — that’s a team with multiple ways to make that trade if they are willing to send Zach Collins and picks to New York — multiple reports out of New York say the Blazers are not one of the teams on Anthony’s list, something first reported by Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

Anthony may well get moved before the start of the season now, but not likely before training camp opens for the Knicks Monday. So that awkward set of questions still gets to take place.