Author: Kurt Helin

Dwight Howard, Jason Terry, James Harden

PBT’s NBA Power Rankings: Rockets, Grizzlies move to the top of the charts


This early in the season there is still a lot of shifting around in the rankings as we are just starting to get a real sense of the pecking order, while teams that got off to a slow start find a groove (such as San Antonio). About the only thing we can count on right now is the Sixers and Lakers to be bad.

source:  1. Rockets (9-1, Last Week No. 2). Nobody is shooting threes like the Rockets, who have averaged 32.7 attempts per game (hitting 36.1 percent, which is okay but not great). Even with that, they just had two rough offensive outings and got wins because they played the Sixers and Thunder. Big showdown Monday with Memphis but the schedule is still pretty kind to Houston.

source:  2. Grizzlies (9-1, LW 3) They have racked up the wins but against one of the softest schedules in the NBA so far — Phoenix, New Orleans and Charlotte are the only potential playoff teams they have seen, and they needed a 26 point comeback on Kings and struggled with the Lakers. This week the schedule stiffens with the Rockets, Raptors and Clippers.

source:  3. Warriors (8-2, LW 1). What I like most from Steve Kerr’s offense is that he’s got them playing a little bit faster, and that pace seems to be picking up. Also, they are getting used to the offense and the turnovers seem to be going down. Still, that was not a good loss to a Spurs team (on the second night of a back-to-back).

source:  4. Mavericks (7-3, LW 12). They are benefitting from a soft spot in the schedule (save for upstart Sacramento, but Dallas came from 24 down to win) and that continues this week. Well, up until a weekend showdown with Houston. If you have Chandler Parsons on your fantasy team, play him that night.

source:  5. Trail Blazers (7-3. LW 10). They keep picking up wins (against soft teams last week) behind the hot shooting Damian Lillard — the NBA’s Western Conference Player of the Week is averaging 7.1 attempts from three a game and is hitting 46.5 percent of them. The days of going under the pick with him are long gone.

source:  6. Spurs (5-4, LW 15). Back-to-back road wins over the Clippers and Warriors announced San Antonio’s slow start was over and they are back to being the Spurs. That their defense is still top five without Tiago Splitter is impressive because when you watch them play you see how much they miss his rim protection.

source:  7. Bulls (7-3, LW 5). Lost in all the “Derrick Rose injury watch” overhype, the Bulls have a Top 10 offense. They are scoring 106 points per 100 possessions. As their defense starts to round into Tom Thibodeau form, this team looks more and more dangerous.

source:  8. Raptors (8-2, LW 4).
Loss to the Bulls just showing the Raptors where the bar will be set in the Easter playoffs. Their seven-game home stand ends this week and starting Saturday 5-of-7 are on the road, including at Cleveland Saturday. Some real tests ahead for Toronto.

source:  8. Cavaliers (5-3 LW 16). The offense has found its groove, as expected, with great ball movement and guys who can knock down the open look. Plus they have that LeBron James guy (playing 39 minutes a night). But the questions remain on defense, where this is still a bottom five team in the league.

source:  9. Wizards (7-2, LW 9). I don’t know that you can be an unimpressive 7-2, but the Wizards have picked up their wins against a soft schedule so far. However, they likely get Bradley Beal back this Friday and he instantly makes them more dangerous.

source:  11. Clippers (5-3, LW 8). The Lakers hole at the three spot is creating some serious defensive issues for the team. These are not the kinds of flaws that show up too often in the regular season, but they get exploited mercilessly come the playoffs. Tough week, facing the Bulls then at Memphis and Miami.

source:  12. Pelicans (5-3, LW 14). They are outscoring teams by 6.4 points per 100 possessions, sixth best margin in the NBA and ahead of teams like Memphis and Cleveland. We said the key to them this season (aside health) was getting the defense up to at least average. It’s still early, but the Pelicans are currently 14th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, which is pretty much average.

source:  13. Kings (6-4, LW 6). The beat the Spurs, but it is a little disturbing that they blew better than 20 point leads against both Dallas and Memphis. Keeping Rudy Gay for a couple more years was a win-win for both sides, he’s found a home in the California capital.

source:  14. Suns (5-5, LW 13). Isaiah Thomas has looked great coming off the bench. Like “can we still keep bringing him off the bench?” good. Interesting week for the Suns as they head out for an Easter road trip but all four games (Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia, Indiana) are winnable.

source:  15. Heat (5-5, LW 7). Dwyane Wade went down with a hamstring injury (he’s missed two games so far), then not so coincidentally Chris Bosh and Luol Deng have off shooting nights. When defenses can focus on fewer threats it makes it can take away the space and pace the Heat rely on.

source:  16. Hawks (5-4, LW 21). This is a team getting nice play out of Jeff Teague and Al Horford on offense, plus they are moving the ball and as a team assisting on 2/3 of their buckets. However, their bottom 10 defense so far has them hanging around .500.

source:  17. Bucks (5-5, LW 20). We knew the Greek Freak would be fun to watch, as would Jabari Parker. What nobody saw coming was Brandon Knight playing beautifully and the Bucks having a top three defense. You’ve got to give Jason Kidd a round of applause for his work so far.

source:  18. Nets (4-5, LW 11). A tough West Coach road swing exposed some issues for the Nets. Now Joe Johnson is calling the team “selfish” and Brook Lopez isn’t his old self late in games, all of which means the struggles from the West could well follow Brooklyn home.

source:  19. Celtics (3-5, LW 17). The collapse and loss to Cleveland was a tough to swallow, even if it took LeBron going LeBron to make it happen. The Celtics have the sixth most efficient offense in the NBA but when your defense is 27th you still lose more than you win.

source:  20. Jazz (4-7, LW 18). Utah’s offense is 13.3 points better per 100 possessions when Gordon Hayward is on the floor. With Derrick Favors the offense is +10.6 better. And you wonder why the Jazz decided to pay those two guys big money.

source:  21. Hornets (4-6, LW 19). They went 1-2 on a West Coast road swing but they Hornets showed some real signs of life. Lance Stephenson seems to be getting more and more comfortable with his teammates. It was always going to be a process in Charlotte, with that team looking a lot better in the second half of the year compared to the first.

source:  22. Pacers (4-7, LW 29). Roy Hibbert remains on of the best rim protecting big men in the game and the heart of the Pacers defense, but when he sits down the Pacers offense gets 13.2 points better per 100 possessions. Still, credit the Pacers for finding themselves lately and picking up a few wins.

source:  23. Magic (4-7, LW 27). Losing rookie Aaron Gordon to injury is a punch to the gut, but on the bright side Victor Oladipo is back and finding his way. You have to like the way they competed against Toronto and Washington this past week.

source:  24. Knicks (3-8, LW 24). The Knicks will take the win over struggling Denver as it ends their seven game losing streak, and they have three more winnable ones coming up (Milwaukee, Minnesota and Philly). So, anyone still think Steve Kerr has second thoughts about not taking this job last summer?

source:  25. Thunder (3-8, LW 25). The return of Reggie Jackson has been a boost to a previously terrible offense, but it doesn’t exactly make it good. We’ll see how much the Thunder are improving in winnable games against Utah, Denver and Brooklyn this week — these are the kind of wins they need to keep their heads above water before the dynamic duo returns next month.

source:  26. Pistons (3-7, LW 23). Brandon Jennings is putting up impressive numbers and the defense isn’t terrible, but until the Pistons can get the front line to work together — and until Andre Drummond really blossoms under Stan Van Gundy — this team is going to struggle. The question is how long.

source:  27. Timberwolves (2-7, LW 22). They had two of the ugliest losses of the season, giving up better than 130 points on back-to-back nights. Ricky Rubio is a better defender than he gets credit for and they clearly miss him. They are reportedly shopping veteran Corey Brewer and don’t be shocked if other veterans on that team find themselves in a lot of trade rumors.

source:  28. Nuggets (2-7, LW 26). This team is a mess and you’ve got a feeling Brian Shaw’s seat has to be getting pretty warm right now. When your home fans are booing the team’s effort, it’s not a good sign.

source:  29. Lakers (1-9, LW 28). On the season now the Lakers have a defensive rating of 114.7, which is 3.8 points per 100 possessions worse than anyone else in the NBA, and if they keep this up it would be the worst NBA defense since at least 2000. But hey, Kobe Bryant is scoring.

source:  30. 76ers (0-9, LW 30). We try to focus on the good of seeing Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel together, but when you trail 78-29 at the half in a game as the Sixers did last week there really are no positives. Teams trying to avoid giving the Sixers their first win of the season this week: San Antonio, Boston, Phoenix and New York.

Derrick Rose out Monday vs. Clippers, says after knee injuries must be cautious with hamstring

Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose is going to be out Monday in Los Angeles as the Bulls take on the Clippers, the team announced at shootaround on Monday.

That was not really a surprise. Regardless of what you think of Rose’s willingness to play through pain (which is a silly thing to question of a former MVP, but whatever) hamstrings are tricky in that they are very easy to re-injure if you come back to quickly. He can just ask teammate Pau Gasol about that, Gasol missed time with the Lakers when he tried to come back too quickly from a hamstring strain.

Rose spoke to the media and said that he has to be cautious because after two knee surgeries he knows the hamstring is a key support muscle for the knee. Here are his quotes, via Sam Smith of

Rose said in those comments that he had to think long term about his life while dealing with injuries, that he didn’t want to be “sore in meetings” or at his son’s graduation. It was a poor phrasing of thoughts often heard by professional athletes, they just usually say things like “I want to be able to play with my son in the backyard” or “I want to walk my daughter down the aisle someday.” Nobody has sympathy for how you feel in a meeting because nobody wants to be in those meetings anyway.

In other Bulls news, both Gasol and Taj Gibson are probable to play through minor injuries against the Clippers.

Byron Scott is frustrated with Lakers’ defense, threatens changes. To what?

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers are not only the worst defense in the NBA this season by a healthy margin, surrendering 114.7 points per 100 possessions this season, but also if they keep up this pace for the season they would have the record for worst defense of this century. Nobody since 2000 has finished with that high a number.

Lakers coach Byron Scott can’t watch anymore… well, he will watch. He gets paid a lot to do so, but he’s going to make changes to stop the bleeding.

That’s what he said after the Lakers latest loss Sunday (this time it to the Warriors), as reported by Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

He admitted that “patience is running thin.” Scott also said he’s “getting close” to making lineup changes after the Lakers allowed the Warriors to feature seven players cracking double digits…

“You either want to do it, can’t do it or won’t do it,” Scott said of the Lakers’ defense. “I got to assume that when I see guys jogging, that you’re tired. If I assume that, I have to make changes.”

Specifically, Scott took aim at the Lakers front line. Carlos Boozer took some exception to that.\

Here’s Scott’s real problem — he doesn’t have other options. He gets Nick Young back Tuesday, but Swaggy P isn’t exactly a defensive stopper. What’s he going to do, play more Robert Sacre? More Wesley Johnson?

Scott doesn’t have the cards to play on defense. He can tweak the system, but this is just not going to be a good defensive team whatever he does. He just has to hope for some big Kobe Bryant nights and see if that is going to be enough.

PBT’s Sunday NBA Winners/Losers: Kobe Bryant keeps scoring, Lakers keep losing

Kobe Bryant

Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed while thinking about buying Don Corleone’s home….

source:  Kobe Bryant. This was vintage Bryant mentality: We’re getting killed on defense, we need to flat-out just outscore this team, and I’m going to take that on. He finished with 44 points on 15-of-34 shooting, with three assists — that’s fairly efficient compared to how he’s played most of this season. But it’s not going to be enough, certainly not against the Warriors. When the Lakers signed Bryant to that massive deal it was pretty clear what the plan was — rebuild, but rather than sell hope to fill the building they would sell Kobe. See the farewell tour where he has the ball in his hands and puts on a show. Sunday that show included him getting knocked down and getting back up. This was vintage Kobe Bryant mentality.

source:  Lakers’ defense. Golden State put up 136 points on 53.5 percent shooting overall and hitting 14-of-28 threes, which gave them an offensive rating of 128.4 points per 100 possessions. Which is ridiculously good. Thing is, we could put the Lakers’ defense here just about every time they play. This is a bad defensive team that seems to find new lows. On the season now the Lakers have a defensive rating of 114.7, which is 3.8 points per 100 possessions worse than anyone else in the NBA this young season, and if they keep this up it would be the worst NBA defense since at least 2000.

source:  J.R. Smith. We have a good J.R. Smith sighting — 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting, plus he had four rebounds and four assists. We know these kinds of efficient nights from him are about as rare as spotting a snow leopard, so we should savor them. With Iman Shumpert out Smith was inserted into the starting lineup Smith said he felt more comfortable in the offense, leading the team in touches (89). He got a lot of his buckets off a standard triangle action, throwing the ball into the high post then cutting off it and taking a handoff if there’s space (he uses his step back off this). He had a couple where he just had to create late in the shot clock. But he was hitting shots, plus he was fairly disruptive on defense.

source:  Denver’s shooting in the second quarter. The Knicks win over the Nuggets was really one of those games where fans could ask, “Were the Knicks really good or were the Nuggets just that bad.” In the second quarter, Denver was that bad. As evidence, here is their shot chart for the quarter.


source:  Giannis Antetokounmpo. He had a nice game, 11 points, 7 assists. So, why is he listed here as a winner. Because he did this, and he’s been doing this a lot more this season.

source:  Fans at Rockets, Thunder game. The game itself was exciting, going down to the wire and with Patrick Beverly and Scott Brooks both getting a little testy. But man the shooting was ugly. Your winning Houston team shot 28.8 percent while Oklahoma City shot 29.4 percent (combined the teams were 43-of-148). The Rockets were 10-of-30 in the restricted area. The teams were a combined 10-of-54 from three. You could try to put a positive spin on this and call it gritty, but mostly it was just ugly.

Patrick Beverley jaws at referee, Scott Brooks jumped into argument (VIDEO)

Patrick Beverley, Scott Brooks, Bill Kennedy

It was an emotional, physical and nasty game between the Rockets and Thunder. And an ugly game where the winning team shot by 28.8 percent.

And at one point Patrick Beverley got into it with the referee Bill Kennedy, at which point Thunder coach Scott Brooks races out to give Beverley his thoughts on the matter as well.

Great restraint from Kennedy not to T-up Beverley or Brooks here.

(Hat tip Matt Moore)