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

16 Comments

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.

Kevin Garnett says first choice for 2007 trade was Kobe Bryant and Lakers

Celtics great Kevin Garnett and Lakers legend Kobe Bryant
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kevin Garnett didn’t have a no-trade clause when the Timberwolves were shopping him in 2007. But because he could either sign an extension with his new team or opt out in 2008, Garnett had massive leverage over where he went. Effectively, he could swing whether it was worth a team’s while to deal for him.

Four primary suitors emerged: Celtics, Lakers, Suns and Warriors.

Garnett’s initial top choice? Joining Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles.

Garnett on All The Smoke:

I’m just being honest with everybody. I wanted to link with Kobe.

Kobe and I had a different connect. When Kobe-Shaq went on their little thing, a lot of people went with Shaq. A lot of people didn’t even f— with Kob. You know, Kob, whatever. One of the very few to just stay with him. I was a neutral guy, anyway. I show everybody love.

I tried to link with him, and I couldn’t get him on the line.

Garnett was working out at the time with Tyronn Lue, who was close with Bryant and encouraged Garnett to call back. Garnett did, but Bryant still didn’t return the call.

This only reinforces the notation that Bryant cost the Lakers stars. As singularly great as he was, Bryant just wasn’t about recruiting.

Bryant and Garnett would have been a fascinating pairing. They definitely had the talent to compete. Maybe the two notoriously intense stars would have meshed over a shared approach. Or maybe they would’ve driven each other crazy, a lack of balance between them.

The Lakers even had a trade framework in place involving Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom.

But Bryant’s unavailability created an opening for Boston.

Garnett:

Danny Ainge flew in, and he just got right to it and showed the vision, the vision he was seeing. You ever have somebody talk to you and as they’re talking to you, you can see what they’re seeing, so much that you’re not even looking at them no more but you see it? That’s how he was painting it. And he was a Picasso. And this is Danny Ainge’s greatness, in him being able to lure you in, his charming ass. You know what I’m saying? I didn’t even know he was finessing me.

Garnett told the Celtics to keep Rajon Rondo, who was apparently initially part of the package going to Minnesota. They did, and it worked out extremely well. Boston won the 2008 title – over Bryant’s Lakers. (The Lakers won the next two championships, including over the Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals.)

What about Phoenix, which – featuring Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion – was the best of the four teams at the time?

Garnett:

I actually called Steve Nash just as a courtesy, and I guess the call he hit me back with was, “Yo, if you come down here, we need you to take a major pay cut.” And I was like, “OK, if I come down there, I’m playing with you and Amar’e right?” He’s like, “Yeah, I think they’re going to give Amar’e up for you and Shawn.” And I said, “So, who is it going to be? Just me and you?”

As for Golden State, which – featuring All The Smoke hosts Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes – had just pulled a historic upset of the top-seeded Mavericks:

I was seeing how y’all was, but I needed a superstar.

Report: John Paxson to remain in power with Bulls

Bulls executive John Paxson
Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Bulls are reportedly looking for a general manager to replace Gar Forman.

But the other half of GarPax – Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson – apparently isn’t going anywhere. And of course neither is president/CEO Michael Reinsdorf, son of owner Jerry Reinsdorf.

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

A source familiar with the situation told the Sun-Times on Wednesday that there could be multiple people hired, as the power structure is still being determined.

Paxson and Reinsdorf are still running the show, with Paxson still considered to have a valuable seat at the table no matter what title they come up for him.

Even if it appears that Paxson will be taking a background approach, the source said don’t believe it. The Reinsdorfs still have 100 percent faith in him leading the direction of this organization.

Evaluating individual members of a front office can be extremely difficult from the outside.

But Paxson didn’t cover himself in glory when he effectively declared the Bulls, after going 27-55 in 2017-18, were done tanking. Chicago went 22-60 last season and is 19-36 this season.

The Bulls need an honest assessment of where they are. They’re not good and probably not that close to being good. They have a few interesting young players – Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr. But even with a high pick in this year’s draft, Chicago’s young core isn’t strong enough to assume it will rise into a quality team.

Though Paxson has supported Jim Boylen, the Bulls could probably use a new coach.

More importantly, they must understand that remaining at the bottom and securing more high picks is their best path forward. Drafting well would accelerate the process, but drafting is hard. Sometimes, you need more bites at the apple.

Of course, that will require a patience Chicago has rarely shown.

Knicks’ former player, G-League GM Allan Houston could get promotion

Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald
Leave a comment

There was a time when former Knicks All-Star player Allan Houston was seen as the rising front office star of the team. Since then, he has risen to assistant GM (before the Phil Jackson era), survived multiple management changes, and bounced around to different roles, most recently as the GM of the G-League Westchester Knicks.

Now he could be seeing a promotion under soon-to-arrive team president Leon Rose, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

As Leon Rose prepares for his imminent takeover, Garden constant Allan Houston has emerged as a candidate for a front office promotion, a league source told the Daily News…

According to a source, Craig Robinson, the current Knicks’ vice president of player development, has already had his responsibilities cut. Robinson, who is Michelle Obama’s brother, was hired by his Princeton buddy Steve Mills to oversee a comprehensive player development initiative…

The future of GM Scott Perry is unknown but it’s worth noting he has a strong relationship with Rose’s confidante, William Wesley.

Nobody knows exactly what the Knicks front office will look like after Rose officially takes the reins (he is still finishing up commitments to his CAA clients before coming over). We know William “World Wide Wes” Wesley will not have a role with the team, staying with CAA, but he will likely still have Rose’s ear. There will be a host of changes.

A deep house cleaning is in order in New York as the Knicks need to change their culture, not just their players. There is a lot of work to be done to develop players and build a foundation that will attract star players — right now the Knicks are not that kind of draw.  Houston apparently is going to get a chance to be part of whatever is next.

Steve Kerr says Stephen Curry will play this season once healthy

Leave a comment

“What’s the point? The Warriors have 12 wins, the worst record in the NBA, and are not sniffing the playoffs this season, so why bring Stephen Curry back this season at all? Why risk the injury? Why not tank?”

Steve Kerr has no use for that attitude.

Curry started practicing with the Warriors again on Wednesday. He will be re-evaluated the first week of March and could return to play soon after — and Kerr wants that. He wants Andrew Wiggins to get used to playing with Curry. Kerr defended the idea at Warriors practice on Wednesday (quotes via Monte Poole at NBC Sports Bay Area).

“It’s important for Steph and Andrew to get to know each other and to play together,” coach Steve Kerr said Tuesday night after practice at Chase Center. “It’s important for Steph to play without all of the guys we’ve lost who are not going to be back next year: Kevin (Durant) and Andre (Iguodala) and Shaun (Livingston). Steph in many ways has depended on those guys as sort of a giant security blanket.

“For a guy who is so skilled and talented, this has still been a team effort over the years. And he’s been blessed with some of the smartest players and most talented players in the league…

“He’s perfectly healthy. If the point is he might get hurt, what’s the point of ever playing anybody? I guess the argument is we’re not making the playoffs. So, are we not trying to entertain our fans?”

Kerr wants to build some familiarity and some momentum heading into next season. They might win a few more games, but with the flattened out draft lottery odds that’s not going to hurt the Warriors in terms of position. Beyond that, this is a down draft — in our podcast last week, NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster described it as the top three picks in this draft would be 6-10 most seasons — so Warriors fans may want to temper expectations about how much help this draft can provide.

Curry wants to play, he’s healthy, he should play. Load management has a role in the league, but this is not it.