PBT’s NBA Power Rankings: Check out those Golden State Warriors

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Sorry, but for this week only the PBT Power Rankings are coming out on Tuesday. I was in New York with my wife, who ran the marathon, and I could either go to the Chelsea Market and eat then take a walk on the High Line on a sunny day, or do the rankings. The rankings lost. Badly. But we’re back now on Tuesday and the Golden State Warriors have vaulted to the top with four teams still undefeated around the NBA.

 
source:  1. Warriors (3-0, Last Week No. 7). My question coming into the season was if Steve Kerr could keep the Warriors playing quality defense (they were top five last season). Well, it’s just three games but they have had the best defense in the NBA. Klay Thompson has looked like a guy deserving the max he just got. We’ll have a better picture of this team after a week against the Clippers, Rockets and Suns.

 
source:  2. Grizzlies (4-0, LW 10).  They are undefeated behind the combination of a strong defense (allowing 89.5 points per 100 possessions) and a whole lot of Marc Gasol — 22.5 points on a .606 true shooting percentage plus 8.5 boards a game so far. However, Courtney Lee’s injury hurts, as the lack of outside shooting eventually will catch up with this team.

 
source:  3. Heat (3-0, LW 17). LeBron who? The Heat offense has been impressive to start the season and they picked up wins over Toronto and a depleted Wizards team. Chris Bosh is averaging 25.7 points and 11.3 rebounds a game, reminding you he is a No. 1 offensive option. Interesting tests with the Rockets, Bobcats and Mavericks on the docket this week.

 
source:  4. Rockets (4-0, LW 8). Trevor Ariza has shot the ball well so far, 17.3 points a game plus hitting 59.3 from three. The Rockets play 7 of their first 11 on the road, but the first week was soft (Lakers, Jazz, Celtics, Sixers). That’s about to change — Heat, Spurs and Warriors are up this week.

 
source:  5. Spurs (1-1, LW 1). Not the most impressive first week for the champs, which nobody is reading anything into. What, you doubt this team will find a groove? They have Kawhi Leonard back, Tim Duncan has looked strong, and by the way Tony Parker is knocking down threes (6-of-6 this season so far). Houston ad New Orleans up this week.

 
source:  6. Mavericks (3-1, LW 6). Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki have quickly found their groove from last season while Chandler Parsons is averaging 18.8 a game and shooting 44.4 percent from three. Their only loss was a tight one on the road to the Spurs. Still questions about their defense, but they are winning.

 
source:  7. Clippers (3-1, LW 3). They haven’t really impressed so far. They have lapses of interest and effort (third quarter against the Jazz Monday for example). Do that in the showdown against Golden State on Wednesday and they will get crushed. That said good record to start as they have eight of their first nine games at Staples Center and don’t leave California until Nov. 19.

 
source:  8. Cavaliers (1-1 LW 2). One good, one bad game from LeBron, but the fact he has played 42.5 minutes a night early on catches your eye. That’s a lot of burn. Three games on the road this week, including an interesting one in Portland.

 
source:  9. Bulls (2-1, LW 4). Derrick Rose’s injury had his detractors saying “I told you so” but he came down on Kyrie Irving’s foot, a fluke thing, and he will be back playing on Tuesday. I don’t get why some in Chicago are so eager to hate their own best player. Soft schedule this week.

 
source:  10. Suns (2-1, LW 12). It may be a work in progress, but the Suns three-guard lineup — Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas — sparked the late run that gut them a win over the Spurs. Then they lost to Utah. Up and down team early.

 
source:  11. Raptors (2-1, LW 14). That loss to Miami should have the Raptors looking in the mirror — 15 missed free throws and defensive lapses down the stretch. This team is just not the same when Amir Johnson isn’t in the lineup (he missed against the Heat). Another showdown with Washington Friday night.

 
source:  12. Kings (3-1, LW 22). Three quality wins — the Clippers, the Trail Blazers, and in Denver on the second night of a back-to-back — has people thinking the Kings are going to be better than projected. They’ve got the Suns this week and could steal that team’s “surprising young team in the West” moniker if they keep playing like this.

 
source:  13. Wizards (2-1, LW 15). They had some nice games from Otto Porter (21 the night Paul Pierce got ejected) and the team looks good when John Wall is on the court. Interesting game with the Raptors Friday but a fairly soft schedule early, which is good for them with Bradley Beal still out.

 
source:  14. Knicks (2-1, LW 21). They picked up about as quality a sin as it gets in Cleveland and when they share the ball they offense seems to click. The defense is still a concern, it needs to improve or there will be some ugly losses to balance out their scales.

 
source:  15. Nets (2-1, LW 19). It’s fun to watch owed Mikhail Prokhorov take shots at Jason Kidd, but what really matters is they got Brook Lopez back in the rotation Monday in the win over OKC. Showdown with the Knicks this week but very winnable games on the schedule to get them off to a fast start.

 
source:  16. Hawks (1-1, LW 16). The Hawks are strong where you’d expect — Kyle Korver is knocking down threes and Al Horford remains very good at everything — but they are getting bat on the boards early. As expected, this team just hangs in the middle of the pack in the East so far.

 
source:  17. Thunder (1-3, LW 5).. The schedule maker was not kind to the Thunder to start the season: Already they have seen the Trail Blazers, Clippers and Nets with Brook Lopez back, this week they get the Raptors, Grizzlies and surging Kings. They are bottom five in offense and defense early on.

 
source:  18. Trail Blazers (1-2. LW 9). Rough start to the season for Damian Lillard who is shooting 26.8 overall and has a true shooting percentage of just .439 (it was .568 last season). He’s taking more threes this season — 53.7 percent of his attempts so far — and is hitting just 31.8 percent of those. He’s also just shooting 37.5 percent inside three feet.

 
source:  19. Pelicans (1-2, LW 11). Anthony Davis is a freak, averaging 23.7 points and 13.3 points a game, not to mention 4.3 blocks a night. The problem on the bayou is the rest of the New Orleans offense has all the spice of a rice cake — Tyreke Evans is shooting 39.2 percent, Eric Gordon 25 percent, Ryan Anderson 34 percent and so on.

 
source:  20. Nuggets (1-2, LW 13). It’s early, but this offense should be better than just 94.1 points per 100 possessions, 27th in the league. They are still playing with good pace but just not making plays or knocking down the open looks they do get.

 
source:  21. Hornets (1-2, LW 18). Lance Stephenson’s arrival has not boosted the Hornets offense so far, in fact he frustrated coach Steve Clifford enough to be benched in the fourth against Memphis. He was better against the Knicks, and Al Jefferson is putting up numbers as always, but this team still has a long way to go on that end of the court.

 
source:  22. Pacers (1-2, LW 23). The schedule makers were kind to a team they didn’t know would be broken down, giving them the Sixers, Bucks and Celtics in their first six games. Hasn’t helped them win, although Roy Hibbert has looked more like the guy from a couple years ago.

 
source:  23. Timberwolves (1-2, LW 24). Minnesota has actually outscored its opponents by 1.8 points per 100 possessions through three games, yet struggled late in contests. Meet the new Timberwolves, same as the old Timberwolves.

 
source:  24. Bucks (1-2, LW 27). Defensively, these Bucks are a pretty good team. A surprisingly good team — fifth best in the NBA right now. The offense is the side that needs work, starting with limiting turnovers — 20.8 percent of their possessions have ended in a turnover this season. You can’t just throw away one in five trips down the court.

 
source:  25. Celtics (1-2, LW 28). Impressive win over the Nets to start the season, but then they threw up a brick against Houston. Almost literally, going 1-of-25 from three. What really matters is Rajon Rondo has looked solid (that’s good news whether you’re in the “keep him” or “trade him” camp).

 
source:  26. Jazz (1-3, LW 26). The schedule maker has done no favors for Utah early, they have already played Houston, Dallas, Phoenix and the Clippers, then this week host LeBron and the Cavaliers, then Dallas, then they head out on the road for six of seven.

 
source:  27. Pistons (0-3, LW 20). Detroit’s offense has just been a mess, and it’s not all Josh Smith’s fault (he’s taking fewer threes, but he’s oddly struggling to hit around the rim this week). Stan Van Gundy went out trying to find shooting this summer but with Jodie Meeks injured you get a lot of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (2-of-16) and D.J. Augustin (3-of-13) as the guys who have taken the most threes, and that’s not good.

 
source:  28. Lakers (0-4, LW 25). Their 0-4 start is the worst the franchise has seen since 1957. In Minneapolis. Where the Lakers name made some sense. The reason is their defense, which is 8.7 points per 100 possessions worse than any other team in the league so far. Small sample size alert, but that is crazy bad.

 
source:  29. Magic (0-3, LW 29). There have been flashes, like Nikola Vucevic putting up good numbers and rookie Elfrid Payton having good nights. Still no wins. The schedule maker did them no favors to start the season: 19 of 28 on the road to start the season.

 
source:  30. 76ers (0-4, LW 30). If you want a bright spot, in each of the Sixers four losses they held the lead at one point in the third quarter. But that’s about it, save for Nerlens Noel shutting down James Harden at the rim.

Atlanta G League affiliate promotes Tori Miller, first female GM in league

Tori Miller
Photo courtesy College Park Skyhawks
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The Atlanta Hawks aren’t just talking about progress and giving Black women a chance. They are acting.

The College Park Skyhawks, Atlanta’s G-League affiliate, has promoted Tori Miller to general manager. She is the first female GM in the G-League.

Miller, who grew up in Decatur (a city next to Atlanta), had worked for the team in Erie (when they were the Bayhawks) and followed the team with its move closer to its parent franchise. Miller served as an assistant GM last season before being promoted.

G League front office positions can be a stepping stone into an NBA front office.

The Hawks progressive move comes just as the team’s WNBA franchise, the Dream, has players trying to oust co-owner Kelly Loeffler, a Republican Georgia U.S. Senator, because she advocated against the league supporting Black Lives Matter. Loeffler has said she will not sell. It’s a problem not going away anytime soon.

Missouri U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley calls for NBA to put more politics into sports

Missouri U.S. Senator Josh Hawley
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Americans are increasingly inviting progressive politics into sports. Football players kneeling the national anthem are no longer an easy target. Even President Donald Trump has softened his tone on Colin Kaepernick.

So, some Republicans are pushing for MORE politics – their politics – in sports (sometimes under the guise of less politics in sports).

Missouri U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, like Tennessee U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn, has criticized the NBA for its relationship with China. It’s grandstanding while the United States itself has a trade deal with China.

Now, Hawley is objecting to the NBA’s pre-approved list of social-justice messages players can wear on their jerseys.

Hawley press release:

Today Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is sending a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver blasting the league’s apparent decision to strictly limit messages players can wear on their jerseys to a few pre-approved, social justice slogans while censoring support for law enforcement officers or the military and any criticism of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Senator Hawley writes that, as the NBA is now sanctioning political messages, they must stand up for American values and make clear where they stand on China’s human rights abuses.

Senator Hawley writes, “The truth is that your decisions about which messages to allow and which to censor – much like the censorship decisions of the CCP – are themselves statements about your association’s values. If I am right – if the NBA is more committed to promoting the CCP’s interests than to celebrating its home nation – your fans deserve to know that is your view. If not, prove me wrong. Let your players stand up for the Uighurs and the people of Hong Kong. Let them stand up for American law enforcement if they so choose. Give them the choice to write ‘Back the Blue’ on their jerseys. Or ‘Support our Troops.’ Maybe ‘God Bless America.’ What could be more American than that?”

OF COURSE the NBA was going to limit jersey messages to a pre-approved list. The league doesn’t want the pressure of censoring players’ individual choices. Nor does the league want to condone messages that would offend offend customers and jeopardize revenue. Support for Hong Kong protesters would definitely qualify as financially perilous.

The NBA – a business trying to make money – wants to support its employees and appeal to its audience. These relatively benign phrases accomplish those goals.

That doesn’t prevent NBA players from criticizing China. I take NBA commissioner Adam Silver at his word (especially after the Daryl Morey controversy) that the NBA endorses its employees right to speak out.

The NBA just isn’t going to allow players to give just any message through their jerseys.

Some players are understandably bothered by that limitation. But the biggest pushes for change aren’t going to come through multi-billion-dollar corporations. That’s just reality.

Likewise, though Hawley raises legitimate concerns about China’s treatment of Uighurs and Hong Kongers, scolding an American company for legally acting in its best financial interest is… um… certainly a choice for a U.S. Senator.

Also, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski sent a profane two-word response in response to Hawley’s press release.

Wojnarowski:

NBA executive predicts every team will lose money next season

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The NBA is launching an unprecedented and ambitious operation – hosting the rest of its season in a centralized location with frequent testing – because that’s what’s necessary to play amid the coronavirus pandemic.

What about next season?

Coronavirus will likely remain a danger on Dec. 1, when the league hopes to begin. That threatens fan attendance. Heck, that could undermine teams playing at all in their home markets. All 30 teams, rather than just 22, adds complications.

Even if the season gets off the ground, there will be financial issues.

Brian Windhorst and Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

“The truth is, things are changing so fast that, when it comes to next season, the best we can do is put a stake in the ground and make a guess,” an Eastern Conference team president said. “The reality is nobody is probably going to operate in the black next season.

“The only question is how much each of us are going to lose.”

NBA owners love to cry poor. The actual math often reveals a different picture. There are complexities that teams can hide.

Some teams have already cut employees salaries. But some teams are also doing extravagant things like shipping their courts to Disney World for practice:

Still, NBA commissioner Adam Silver estimated 40% of league revenue comes from ticket sales and other game-day sources. If teams are ever believable about losing money, it’d be now. Coronavirus has wrecked so many sectors of the economy.

Revenue falling significantly would be felt by players, who – per the Collective Bargaining Agreement – receive about half of Basketball Related Income. (That 50-50 agreement supersedes players’ stated salaries in their contracts.)

It’s undecided how and when players would suffer those losses.

The 2020-21 salary cap could be reduced. But that would put the burden on players – free agents, draft picks – signing new contracts next offseason.

That’s why the salary cap is reportedly expected to remain roughly flat. There are a couple options within that scenario.

Players could have a larger share of their salaries withheld (as they’re doing this season). Then, at the end of the season, owners would return whatever money is necessary to reach the 50-50 split. However, that would reduce players’ spending power during the season.

Or players could collect their usual salaries with an artificially high salary cap. However, that would likely mean they get more than their entitled 50% share and the salary cap would be reduce in future seasons to offset. Current players – some of whom won’t be in the league in future years – would probably love that. Owners likely wouldn’t accept paying players more sooner.

Increased withholding from player salaries is probably the best option. But there’s plenty to decide about the exact withholding amount and how long the money is held. To ensure enough money is withheld, the percentage should initially be fairly high. Then, as the revenue picture becomes clearer, the withholding amount could decrease in future paychecks.

Of course, that assumes the league finds a safe way to play. Which is the biggest challenge.

Report: Wizards’ Thomas Bryant and Gary Payton II test positive for coronavirus

Wizards players Thomas Bryant and Gary Payton II
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Bradley Beal not playing sunk the Wizards’ for the NBA’s resumption, anyway.

If that and Davis Bertans sitting out weren’t enough, Washington is also without Thomas Bryant, Gary Payton II and Garrison Mathews.

Ava Wallace of The Washington Post:

The NBA announced 25 players tested positive from June 23-29. It’s unclear whether Bryant and Payton were among that group or additional positive cases.

It’s also unclear whether Bryant, Payton and Mathews will join the team at Disney World.

Bryant would be a particularly significant loss. His optimism and energy in tough situations are exactly what the Wizards need right now.

With the Nets severely shorthanded and the Magic looking uninspiring, Washington still has a path to the playoffs.