PBT’s NBA Power Rankings: Things still golden for Warriors at top of the list

9 Comments

This early in the season, the power rankings feel like small sample size theater. Teams move up and down quickly as we try to get a feel for how good they really are (and we don’t have the data to really know that yet). There are teams in this list I think will fall as we move along, others that will rise (hello San Antonio), but where is where I have things as of the second week of the season.

 
source:  1. Warriors (5-1, Last Week No. 1). After their win over the Rockets Saturday coach Steve Kerr came down hard on his team speaking to the media — that’s a smart coach trying not to let a hot start go to their heads (they lost the next night to Phoenix). But also he was right, they have had sloppy moments early they just survived. David Lee is out but Draymond Green has been a rock solid fill in — 12.8 points a game, .576 true shooting percentage and 7.4 rebounds a game. Good time to do it, he’s a restricted free agent next summer.

 
source:  2. Rockets (6-1, LW 4). Easy for the Rockets to dismiss the loss to the Warriors — no Dwight Howard, Patrick Beverley or Terrence Jones and it was still tied midway through the fourth. They need Howard on offense to really work inside out. Three winnable games this week (Timberwolves, Sixers, Thunder).

 
source:  3. Grizzlies (6-1, LW 10). That impressive record looks a little shaky upon closer inspection — they are 21st in the NBA in offense and their bench has been nonexistent. But they have their next seven at home so look for the wins to keep piling up.

 
source:  4. Raptors (6-1, LW 11). Winners of four in a row thanks to the backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, they are building up a nice early cushion in the East toward their goal of at least one playoff round at home (and with that advancing to the second round or beyond). They are in the middle of a seven-game home stand so expect them to pad that cushion a little more.

 
source:  5. Bulls (5-2, LW 9). Early on this feels like the Bizzaro Bulls team — they are fourth in the league in offense but middle of the pack (17th) on defense. You know that will change over time, but Tom Thibodeau is trying to lean on his bench guys more and they are not playing good defense, that is what is hurting the numbers.

 
source:  6. Kings (5-2, LW 12). They swept a home-and-home with struggling Denver then beat Phoenix, but they way they played in a loss to OKC Sunday has me thinking this ranking may be generous. We’ll have a better sense of this team after this week when they are at Dallas, at Memphis then host the Spurs.

 
source:  7. Heat (5-2, LW 3). This is a fun team to watch on the offensive side of the ball because they share it — they have the most assists per 100 possessions in the NBA this season. That ball movement helped get them a nice win over Dallas on Sunday. But their defense isn’t going to win them games, they need to outscore teams.

 
source:  8. Clippers (4-2, LW 7). The least impressive 4-2 team in the league, their defensive rotations and their energy level have just not been impressive in any game. Plus, Lob City has taken fewer shot attempts in the restricted area than any other team in the NBA so far this season.

 
source:  9. Wizards (5-2, LW 13). That’s a nice record considering the offense has yet to find a good groove without Bradley Beal in the lineup. They’ve done it with a top five defense and could pad that record with only Detroit and Orlando on the schedule this week.

 
source:  10. Trail Blazers (4-3. LW 18). They are +7.4 points per 100 possessions as a team, meaning they are playing better than their record indicates. Good news for them that what looked like it could have a bad injury for Nicolas Batum is just a contusion.

 
source:  11. Nets (4-2, LW 15). They have the second best points per 100 possessions differential in the East (trailing only Toronto) — they also have played a very soft schedule. Let’s see how they look after this week on the road in Phoenix, Golden State and Portland.

 
source:  12. Mavericks (4-3, LW 6). They have the best offense in the NBA this young season gut have ugly losses to the Heat and Blazers because their defense has been terrible. Dirk Nowitzki should pass Hakeem Olajuwon for ninth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list at home against the Kings this week.

 
source:  13. Suns (4-3, LW 10). There are moments Isaiah Thomas has looked like the sixth man of the year this season, there are moments (like against his former team the Kings) when he can’t seem to find a rhythm off the bench. It’s a good thing he’s had big nights because Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe have looked pedestrian and have yet to really find a rhythm this season.

 
source:  14. Pelicans (3-2, LW 19). Anthony Davis made the late driving layup to lift the Pelicans over the Spurs this week, and that felt a little like a “we have arrived” moment for New Orleans. We’ll see if they can continue that momentum Monday taking on the Cavaliers on the road.

 
source:  15. Spurs (2-3, LW 5). Kawhi Leonard says his sight isn’t fully right yet, and they miss Tiago Splitter inside, he’s been out injured. That beautiful Spurs offense we saw last season is bottom five in the league right now, but does anybody expect that to last? Didn’t think so. Good road tests against the Clippers and Warriors this week as they take on all the California teams.

 
source:  16. Cavaliers (2-3 LW 8). They are going to miss Matthew Dellavedova (out six weeks with an ACL sprain), he was getting a lot of run and they don’t have a replacement as good as him. The offense shows moments of finding itself but that 27th ranked defense is the real issue and thing that needs to improve.

 
source:  17. Celtics (3-3, LW 25). Good news that Marcus Smart is only out a couple weeks, he’s been a rookie to watch. A team leaning on Evan Turner and Jeff Green is as unpredictable night-to-night as you would expect (and with Smart out we get more Turner).

 
source:  18. Jazz (3-4, LW 26). They picked up an exciting win over the Cavaliers on a Gordon Hayward game winner, plus Dante Exum is coming along a little faster than expected. Put this team on your League Pass watch list, they play hard and their games are entertaining.

 
source:  19. Hornets (3-4, LW 21). One of the most disappointing teams in the early going. They lack shooting from the outside (29 percent from three and their offense has no spark, ranked 25th in the league. They lost to the Lakers and that was the easy part of the road trip, now they get Portland, Phoenix and Golden State.

 
source:  20. Bucks (3-4, LW 24). They’ve had a soft schedule so it was a little hard to read them, then the Bucks went out and handed Memphis its only loss. This has looked like a strong defensive team, but that will get tested by Miami this week.

 
source:  21. Hawks (2-3, LW 16). You know the game plan every team has for the Hawks includes the line “don’t help off Kyle Korver at the arc” yet he gets open and is shooting a ridiculous 61.3 percent from three to start the season. Also, young German point guard Dennis Schroder is starting to look like a guy Mike Budenholzer can lean on in the rotation.

source:  22. Timberwolves (2-4, LW 23). Ricky Rubio has been key to the couple of Timberwolves wins — he shot 47.6 in those games and was a +15. He struggled with his shot in their losses. Fans may love rookie Zach LaVine but he is a big drop off from Rubio and it’s going to show while the Spaniard is out.

 
source:  23. Pistons (2-4, LW 27). Stan Van Gundy started the Josh Smith/Greg Monroe/Andre Drummond trio and it wasn’t terrible (they have played 38 minutes together and are +5). But I’m far from sold they can sustain that, especially as the competition gets tougher this week (Bulls, Wizards and Grizzlies all on the road).

 
source:  24. Knicks (2-5, LW 14). They have dropped four in a row, the offense has more resembled a trapezoid, and their defense has been atrocious. On the bright side they are home this week with some winnable games (Orlando, Denver), plus New Yorkers can still get the best bagels anywhere. That should be some consolation.

 
source:  25. Thunder (2-5, LW 17).. There were signs of hope in the win over the Kings Sunday, the best game the Thunder have played so far this season. This week they face a few other struggling teams (Bucks, Pistons) and maybe can pick up some wins and try to tread water until the help arrives next month.

 
source:  26. Nuggets (1-5, LW 20). Kenneth Faried told PBT this week that the slow starts for the Nuggets is all about them trying to get guys back from injury all together on the same page. Said it’s been a challenge as small injuries have had guys in and out of lineup, but he also said in the West they know they have to figure it out sooner rather than later.

 
source:  27. Magic (2-5, LW 29). They picked up a couple of wins and rookie point guard Elfrid Payton seems to be learning from being thrown into the fire, he’s had a couple solid games. Tobias Harris is dangerous with the ball in his hands at the ends of games.

 
source:  28. Lakers (1-5, LW 28). They picked up a nice win over struggling Charlotte (five days rest helped), which was a good one because the schedule is not kind for the next couple weeks. Byron Scott needs to play Ed Davis and Jeremy Lin more and together.

 
source:  29. Pacers (1-6, LW 22). Nice game by Donald Sloan dropping 31 on the Wizards but the injury gods continue to show the Pacers no mercy, now with Roy Hibbert going to play through a sore knee. Their only win is against the Sixers but with Utah and Denver at home this week maybe that changes. Maybe.

 
source:  30. 76ers (0-7, LW 30). The last winless team in the Association, but at least Tony Wroten is putting up numbers — he is putting up 21.9 points a game, by far the best on the team. He’s a guy that really worked to improve his game (we could see the improvement at Summer League) and now it’s paying off.

Mark Cuban’s plan for a restart, “I don’t think we can go the old tried and true way”

Leave a comment

Wild, fanciful ideas for restarting the NBA that would never fly in a typical year — 1-16 seeding, or maybe a soccer World Cup-style group stage — are getting an airing this season because everything is on the table. As the NBA moves closer to a restart plan, countless ideas are being floated.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has his own plan.

Shocking, I know. But it’s interesting.

“What I proposed is that we extend the playoff format to 10 teams from each conference, and play at least five games prior to going into playoffs,” Cuban said laying out is plan to NBC’s Mike Tirico on “Lunch Talk Live.” And if we do that, every team in the Eastern Conference would have a chance to make the playoffs, and all but two in the Western Conference would do it [Ed. note: Golden State and Minnesota].

“Then, what I would do, once we got 10 and 10, I would reseed them, and 17 would play 20, and 18 would play 19, in a one-game series. The winner then would take on the eighth-place seed in a five-game series, while the No. 1 seed in each conference would get a bye. Then you go ahead normally from there.

“That gives us a chance to have more meaningful games, it gives almost every team a chance when we come back for whatever is left of our regular season. I think we’ve got to change it up some, I don’t think we can go the old tried and true way.”

Cuban later added, speaking to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, that he wants to see all 30 teams come to Orlando for regular season games, building excitement for the NBA’s return in every market. This dream, however, seems a long shot, and Damian Lillard spoke for a lot of players when he said he’s not playing if there is not a path to the playoffs for Portland.

Cuban’s point that this is the year to try something different, not to play it safe, has real validity. This season is already upside down due to the corona

Cuban’s plan is a long shot, but is it any longer a shot than any of the other ones out there?

 

Wizards’ Bradley Beal: Thunder considered trading James Harden for me on draft day 2012

Leave a comment

The first three picks of the 2012 NBA Draft, which was held in June:

1. New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans): Anthony Davis

2. Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets): Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

3. Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal

That August, the Thunder reportedly offered to trade James Harden to Washington for Beal. Washington reportedly rejected the offer due to Harden’s desire for a max contract extension (which Wizards owner Ted Leonsis denied). The Rockets were more than willing to pay Harden, and Oklahoma City dealt him to Houston that October.

Apparently, Washington had a chance to land Harden earlier that offseason.

Beal on “All The Smoke:”

We’re sitting in the draft room. Sure enough, my agent is tapping me. He’s like, “It’s possible you might go to OKC.” I said, “Damn, how am I going to go there? I ain’t even worked out for OKC.” I only worked out for three teams – Washington, Cleveland and Charlotte.

So, the deal was to trade James to Washington, right? OKC gets the third pick. It was either the second or third pick. They were going to trade up to 2 or 3, get me, trade James to Washington.

I would have been in OKC with KD and Russ.

That was a last-minute decision. It was almost done.

I can’t tell whether Beal is also revealing a Harden-to-Charlotte offer or just got mixed up on which teams held the Nos. 2 and 3 picks. Obviously, if Beal was the main prize to the Thunder, they would’ve cared only minimally whether they got him with the No. 2 or No. 3 pick. So, there might have been trade talks with Charlotte, too.

But I’m not convinced Oklahoma City valued Beal that way.

The Thunder were a championship contender. They had just lost in the 2012 NBA Finals to the Heat. Oklahoma City couldn’t have depended on a rookie Beal to contribute on that level.

That’s why – in addition to picks/young player acquired from the Rockets for Harden – the Thunder also got Kevin Martin. The veteran Martin was much better than Beal in 2012-13. (Ironically, the open title window was also a strong argument for just keeping Harden, whatever his contract status).

But the 2012-13 season didn’t go as planned for Oklahoma City. Russell Westbrook got hurt early in the playoffs, and the Thunder lost to the Grizzlies in the second round. Martin left for a lucrative contract with the Timberwolves the following summer.

Even with the long runway Kevin Durant and Westbrook provided, Oklahoma City never got back to the Finals. Beal could have grown into a third star whose shooting complemented the duo. The Thunder might have won a championship with this trade (or, again, just keeping Harden).

The Wizards almost certainly would have won more. Harden has perennially gotten the Rockets to the playoff. (They’ve gone further in years he has had more help.) Beal hasn’t singlehandedly carried Washington like that.

So, this is an interesting “what if?” – if you take it at face value.

Beal’s agent warning him of a trade possibility means something. But we don’t know which other pieces were involved.

The Thunder didn’t trade Harden until just before the rookie-scale-extension deadline, suggesting they wanted to give themselves time to extend him themselves before taking the drastic step of trading him. Would Beal have been enough of a return to give up in June (or even August) on keeping Harden? Maybe. Harden didn’t fully blossom until reaching Houston. But I’m skeptical. At minimum, Harden had already established himself as young and good. Beal was young, promising and under greater team control. There’s significant value in the certainty of a player being at least a near-star, and Harden – not Beal – had that.

Even in hindsight, we’re still revisiting the situation with only limited information.

Report: NBA games could resume in August, not July

Bucks center Brook Lopez and Raptors center Marc Gasol
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Leave a comment

A week ago, the NBA was looking to resume games in July at Disney World.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

In fact, there’s a possibility the first games played in Orlando could be in August, not July, sources said.

It’s good the NBA is being flexible on a start date. The coronavirus presents so much uncertainty.

The league is approaching its most lucrative time – the playoffs. The NBA should make every effort to play the postseason, whenever that can be done safely.

Everyone can figure out next season later, especially because there’s a willingness to delay the start.

Report: Pistons searching for new general manager

Pistons executive Ed Stefanski
Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Pistons hired Ed Stefanski as a senior advisor to owner Tom Gores in 2018. Among Stefanski’s duties: Assist in the ongoing search for a new head of basketball operations. But it quickly became clear Stefanski would just run the front office himself.

Now, two years later, Detroit is finally getting around to that general-manager search.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Detroit Pistons are opening a search to hire a general manager to work with senior advisor Ed Stefanski, sources tell ESPN.

Stefanski will be working with Pistons and Palace Sports Vice Chairman Arn Tellem on the process to hire a GM, sources said.

Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

If Stefanski is still running the front office, a new general manager would be the No. 2 – equivalent to assistant general manager on many teams.

After taking over an inflexible roster left by Stan Van Gundy, Stefanski couldn’t do much. Stefanski’s big move was trading Andre Drummond to the Cavaliers just before the trade deadline. That positioned Detroit to have major cap space next offseason, but it’s unclear how much will actually materialize. The salary cap could drop due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pistons must determine whether they’re still building around Blake Griffin, the 31-year-old due $36,810,996 and $38,957,028 the next two years. Last season, he returned to stardom and carried Detroit into the playoffs. This season, he missed most of the year due to injury.

If they’re trying to win now with Griffin, the Pistons are short on quality complementary players. If Detroit is ready to rebuild, its pool of young talent – Luke Kennard, Sekou Doumbouya, Bruce Brown, impending free agent Christian Wood, its own first-round pick – is hardly assured of success.

After years of being stuck on a path charted under the Van Gundy regime, the Pistons can soon pick a new course. This is the time get the front office up to full staffing.