PBT’s Weekly NBA Power Rankings: No. 1 vs. No. 2 this week… and No. 3.


There are some real tests for the top-ranked Hawks this week against the No. 2 Grizzlies and the No. 3 Warriors. Down on the bottom of the scale, while the Timberwolves remain there the return of Ricky Rubio this week should hang that soon.

source:  1. Hawks (40-8, Last Week No. 1). There’s a lot of buzz around Friday night’s Hawks showdown with the Warriors, a potential Finals matchup of the two best teams from the first half of the season. But the entire week is tough for Atlanta — New Orleans and Washington Monday then Wednesday, then Memphis looms on Sunday. If Hawks winning streak reaches 20 on Monday, only fifth NBA team to do that.

source:  2. Grizzlies (35-12, LW 4). They are 10-2 in their last dozen games, which is not so coincidentally when Zach Randolph returned and started putting up his usual double-doubles nightly. I’ve got a feeling this is the team that snaps the Hawks winning streak, Memphis has been playing great defense during their streak.

source:  3. Warriors (37-8, LW 2). They lost to the Bulls and Jazz last week, but that’s just a blip. Still, David Lee at the five for stretches and more Leandro Barbosa are not my favorite things to see. Did we mention the big showdown with Atlanta on Friday night?I kno

source:  4. Clippers (33-15, LW 5). They had their six game win streak snapped in New Orleans, then responded on Saturday with maybe best game of season vs. Spurs. They Clippers have done it all with offense, scoring 113.9 points per 100 possessions in last eight games, best in NBA in that stretch. Defense 17th in league in that same time frame.

source:  5. Spurs (30-18, LW 3). An ugly home loss to the Clippers was another sign that the bench play of the Spurs is not what it was during their run last season, with Boris Diaw not looking the same and Manu Ginobili in a slump. That would be an issue if it continues into the playoffs.

source:  6. Rockets (33-15, LW 6). The Rockets are 6.7 points per 100 possessions better when Dwight Howard is on the court and now they will be without him for weeks with a knee injury. They are currently the five seed in the West (although they would have home court over four seed Portland) but this is the kind of thing that could see them slide down the seedings and make the playoffs that much tougher.

source:  7. Cavaliers (29-20 LW 11). They have won 10 games in a row, thanks in part to Kyrie Irving just going off when LeBron James was out. Still, they watched Andrew Wiggins drop 33 on them last week and you have to think the GMs of this team — LeBron and David Griffin — have to have a knot in their stomach about the long-term impact of the Kevin Love trade.

source:  8. Mavericks (32-17, LW 7). Rajon Rondo is out for at least a week with a orbital bone fracture in his face. When he is on the court the Dallas defense improves by 5.5 points per 100 possessions, the problem is the offense dips by 6.7 per 100. They need Rondo to find an offensive groove with this team by the playoffs.

source:  9. Suns (28-21, LW 10). A lot of people predicted the Suns would set during a tough run of eight games they are in the midst of, however they are 3-3 so far and are almost through the tough patch (only Memphis and Portland remain). They have a two game lead on the Pelicans and a four game lead over Oklahoma City for the final playoff spot and will be tough to catch.

source:  10. Trail Blazers (32-16. Last Week No. 8). Damian Lillard did get screwed out of not being an All-Star, but he didn’t unleash that anger on the Hawks last weekend. Will he in a tough stretch of games this week that include the Suns, Mavericks and Rockets?

source:  11. Raptors (33-15, LW 13). Is it possible to win six games in a row and not look great doing it? The Raptors have their wins but didn’t blow our doors off beating the Wizards or Nets. In their last 10 games the Raptors have the fifth best offense in the NBA but still the 21st ranked defense. That end of the court is still an issue.

source:  12. Bulls (30-19, LW 9). They are bucking for the title of most inconsistent team in the NBA — they beat the Warriors then turn around and fall to the Lakers. Even within games their play is erratic. I keep saying in radio interviews on paper the Bulls are the best team in the East but if they can’t put the pieces together it’s moot (and Tom Thibodeau may take the fall for that).

source:  13 Wizards (31-17, LW 12). Another team that, like the Bulls, looks good on paper and tantalizes you with stretches of impressive play, followed by just some terrible losses. They have a good measuring stick game Wednesday vs. Atlanta, but the question is can they sustain it after that?

source:  14. Pelicans (25-22, LW 14). Coach Monty Williams’ seat is getting warm in New Orleans and it’s largely due to the fact a team with Anthony Davis and Omer Asik on the back line is still 23rd in the NBA in defense. That end of the court is why the Pelicans are so up and down. (This offseason, the Big Easy would be an interesting landing spot for Tom Thibodeau if he’s out in Chicago.)

source:  15. Thunder (23-24, LW 15). Fans may not have hit the panic button yet in OKC but they sure have at least figured out where it is. The one good thing in OKC favor is a heavy home schedule the rest of the way but four games is going to be a lot to make up on a Phoenix team that will not roll over, the Thunder need to string together a healthy winning streak fast.

source:  16. Bucks (25-22, LW 18). They picked up a quality win over Portland last week and we’re going to get to see a lot of Giannis Antetokounmpo All-Star weekend — things continue to look up for the Bucks. Clipper fans are likely watching this Jared Dudley play and say “where was this guy when we had him?”

source:  17. Hornets (20-27, LW 16). It’s impressive that the Hornets have gone 4-1 without Kemba Walker so far, giving hope that they can hold on to the eight seed in the East until the star point guard returns. The Bobcats offense has taken the expected dive without walker but they are defending well again and that can keep them in the playoffs.

source:  18. Heat (21-26, LW 17). In his last five games Heat fan favorite Hassan Whiteside has averaged 15.2 points shooting 61.8 percent plus pulling down 12.8 rebounds. More than the numbers, when he is on the court the Heat are just more active and energetic on defense with deflections and blocked shots. .

source:  19. Jazz (17-30, LW 20). They beat the Warriors on Friday with maybe their best game of the season, showing both the potential and development of this team. Can they replicate that in a tough stretch this eek against Portland, Memphis and Phoenix?

source:  20. Pistons (18-30, LW 19). . Pistons fans got to boo Josh Smith and watch him struggle and his Rockets lose. That was cathartic. But then this same Pistons team got manhandled by the Sixers last week, so everything is not right yet. Just less bad.

source:  21. Nets (18-28, LW 21). They have dropped four in a row and 12 of their last 14 games, they have slid out of the playoffs, and the talk is now should they buy out Kevin Garnett and let him play for a contender. The front office is more focused on moving players like Brook Lopez or Joe Johnson to clean up the books before a sale of the team than than they are Garnett’s future.

source:  22. Nuggets (19-29, LW 22). JaVale McGee is back on the court and that ups the entertainment value of the league right away. This is another team where the most interesting story the next few weeks will be if Wilson Chandler gets traded, not anything they do on the court.

source:  23. Celtics (16-30, LW 23). If I were going to bet on one team to make another deal before the trade deadline, Boston would be at the top of the list. They keep playing Tayshaun Prince minutes and that has to be to showcase him, not because they want to make a run at the eight see, right?

source:  24. Pacers (17-32, LW 22). The Pacers are just four games out of the playoffs, so in theory they could make a run at it, but they just lack the offense to get it done.

source:  25. Kings (17-29, LW 25). DeMarcus Cousins deserved to be an All-Star and was a great selection to fill in for Kobe Bryant on the roster. He’s the first Kings All-Star in more than a decade, when Peja Stojakovic and Brad Miller were on the squad together in 2004.

source:  26. Knicks (10-38, LW 27). The Knicks are playing better of late because their defense has been less bad (I don’t know that I’d say good) and Carmelo Anthony is doing things like putting up 31 points on the Lakers. What happens after the All-Star Game when ‘Melo shuts it down? That could get ugly.

source:  27. Magic (15-35, LW 26). No coach is on a hotter seat than Jacque Vaughn, who in his first year looked like he could get this team to play defense but has not any more. If they make a coaching change in season, it may come after they get back this week from a road trip that finishes against the Thunder and Spurs.

source:  28. 76ers (10-38, LW 29). If you’re into moral victories, the Sixers had one against the Hawks last week. Michael Carter-Williams had another triple double and, while I’m not sold he’s a star, should be a solid rotation guard in the league for a while.

source:  29. Lakers (13-34, LW 28). No Kobe Bryant or Nick Young and they played hard and found a way to beat the Bulls last week to end their losing streak. Still, the most interesting thing about this team the rest of the way is how Jordan Clarkson develops.

source:  30. Timberwolves (8-39, LW 30). Don’t expect them to stay on the bottom long, not with Ricky Rubio close to returning to the lineup (possibly Monday), along with Kevin Martin and Nicola Pekovic. Those three take Minnesota out of the pushover category and will get them a few wins, along with Andrew Wiggins’ improved play.

Damian Lillard, snubbed for All-Star game, won’t defend Skills Competition title


Damian Lillard, a year after competing in five All-Star events, seemingly won’t participate in even one this season.

He’s too old for the Rising Stars Challenge. No dunk contest. No 3-point shootout. No All-Star game.

And no skills challenge.

Shams Charania of RealGM:

The NBA, as negotiated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, could have required Lillard to participate. The league can compel any skills challenge (plus 3-point shootout and shooting stars) defending champion to return the following year.*

*The NBA can generally make players participate in those events, of which the dunk contest is specifically excluded. An exception is players who competed in that event the two previous years, and Lillard did. But an exception to that exception is defending champions.

Perhaps, Adam Silver just gave Lillard a break after the agonizing decision to spurn him, rather than DeMarcus Cousins, for Kobe Bryant’s injury-replacement slot.

Meanwhile, Lillard’s co-defending champ, Trey Burke, wants to defend his title:

Unfortunately, the Jazz guard will need a new partner (unless the NBA wisely scraps the tandem format) after he and Lillard clicked so well last year:


Adam Silver supports expanding All-Star rosters


Adam Silver didn’t want to choose between DeMarcus Cousins and Damian Lillard.

The next time the NBA commissioner picks an injury replacement, he might not have to weigh two candidates so deserving.

Silver was asked about increasing All-Star rosters from their current 12 per conference to 13 or even 15.

Silver on ESPN Radio:

I think that’s something that will get very strong consideration.

I think that’s an issue that I’m sure we’ll end up discussing with the Players Association. It has a direct impact on many of the player’s bonuses. There’s preset bonuses in their contracts for making the All-Star team.

I think counter-balancing that is the issue of playing time. Rod Thorn and I were having this discussion yesterday. We said we should move to Calipari’s platoon system for All-Star just to make sure that everyone gets playing time.

But in all seriousness, that’s one of the concerns with a larger team. We want to make sure guys get minutes as well if they’re All-Stars.

But I’m in favor of expanding it. I’m not sure by whether it’s one or two, but it is something I’m sure Michele Roberts and I will discuss.

Increasing All-Star roster sizes is a good idea.

The number of NBA teams (blue) has increased faster than the number of All-Star roster spots between both conferences (orange):


The result?

Fewer All-Stars per NBA team than ever.


Not counting the additional honor created by injury replacements, there are 0.8 All-Stars per NBA team now – less than a third of the 1961 high of 2.75.

Increasing the All-Star rosters to 13 players, which would match the size of regular-season rosters, would give the league .87 All-Stars per NBA team. That’s about where the NBA was in the first half of the 1990s.

So, 13-man All-Star rosters wouldn’t be much of a shakeup. Rather, they’d honor two players who probably deserve it.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement allows the NBA to unilaterally change the All-Star roster sizes, so if Silver really wants to do this, he could without consulting Michele Roberts. But as he mentioned, some players have All-Star bonuses in their contracts. Owners won’t want to just pay extra money. So, Silver is surely looking for a concession on Roberts’ side – even if the commissioner believes this is a good idea anyway.

Because he says he does, it’s hard to see this not happening eventually.

Adam Silver deferred to coaches’ All-Star vote to choose DeMarcus Cousins over Damian Lillard


Adam Silver surprised DeMarcus Cousins and motivated Damian Lillard and left the rest of us wondering:

How did the NBA commissioner choose the Kings center as Kobe Bryant’s All-Star injury replacement?

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Silver on ESPN Radio:

I didn’t like having to make that choice, and I wish I had another slot for Damian, because I think he’s so deserving of being an All-Star as well.

I rely heavily on our basketball folks in terms of where the coaches came out. Of course, there’s a fan vote for the starters and then the coaches choose the reserves. And DeMarcus was very high up on the coaches’ vote, so that had a strong influence on me. And I think, ultimately, I deferred to them.

DeMarcus, based on his numbers, absolutely deserves to be an All-Star. With Damian his numbers are great, too. But when I look at his team’s record, I want to take that into account as well. Damian is someone who has literally been a model citizen in terms of what he’s done in the community in Portland, activities he’s engaged in with the league.

So, it was essentially a tie in my mind, so I ultimately deferred to the coaches.

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That’s as good a way as any, though I wonder whether Silver saw the coaches’ vote before deciding to let that guide him.

Both Lillard and Cousins are deserving of making the All-Star team. Lillard has a chance to complete the best non-All-Star season in NBA history, and Cousins would have too if not selected.

I don’t envy Silver for having to make that choice, and it is a bit strange how many hands determine All-Star rosters – fans, coaches and the commissioner at different stages of the process. It seems Silver found a way to clear a cook from the kitchen.

Maybe it should just be a rule injury replacements are determined by place in the coaches’ reserve voting.

Rudy Gay makes spinning dunk look easy against the Cavaliers (VIDEO)


Geometry wasn’t my best subject, so I’ll leave it to you all to decide whether this was a 180 or 360 dunk that Rudy Gay threw down during his team’s Friday night loss to the Cavaliers.

But no matter what we choose to call it, he made the spinning dunk along the baseline look far too easy.

MORE: CSN California subscriber? Watch Kings-Pacers Saturday at 7:00 p.m. ET