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.

Watch Joel Embiid’s game-winning dunk lead 76ers past Cavaliers 98-97

Leave a comment

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The shots weren’t falling for the Philadelphia 76ers, so they clamped down on defense.

Joel Embiid scored 27 points, including the go-ahead dunk with 13.2 seconds remaining, and Philadelphia held Cleveland without a point for the final 3 1/2 minutes in a 98-97 win over the Cavaliers on Tuesday night.

Josh Richardson added 17 points and Ben Simmons had 15 for Philadelphia, which won despite missing 30 of 38 3-point attempts. Tobias Harris missed all 11 of his 3-point tries.

“You better guard if you’re not going to make shots,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “We knew if we were going to do anything, we had to play defense – and defense we played.”

Jordan Clarkson and Kevin Love each had 20 points to pace Cleveland. Collin Sexton added 18 points and Tristan Thompson had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers trailed for most of the contest, but took advantage of Philadelphia’s poor shooting in the fourth quarter, going up by as many as five points on three occasions.

“We gave them life and were in a fistfight,” Brown said. “You can just feel it. We had a chance to discourage them and we didn’t. Certainly a hard-fought game and we’re lucky to get away with it.”

Cleveland led 97-92 with 3:34 remaining after Sexton’s driving layup, but the Cavaliers wouldn’t score again. Harris pulled Philadelphia within 97-94 with a follow layup and then hit a 17-footer on the ensuing possession to make it a one-point game with 1:42 left.

Cleveland had chances to build the lead after that, but Love missed a close-range shot before a shot-clock violation on the Cavaliers’ next possession.

“I think our defense was pretty OK,” Embiid said. “We just didn’t make shots.”

The 76ers were having their own trouble scoring with Richardson and Embiid failing to convert on consecutive possessions.

After a timeout with 26.6 seconds left, Brown called a high-percentage play with Harris finding Embiid close to the basket. Embiid slammed it home to give the 76ers their first lead, 98-97, since early in the fourth quarter.

“It was a great play-call by coach and we did the rest,” Embiid said.

Cleveland had a chance to win it, but Love’s 3-point attempt from the top of the key rimmed out.

“Kevin is a great shooter, not a good shooter,” Cleveland coach John Beilein said. “He took his time but just didn’t nail it. It’s one of many looks I’ll take at that time.”

 

Warriors two-way guard Damion Lee breaks bone in right hand

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
1 Comment

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Yet another member of the Golden State Warriors is injured, with two-way guard Damion Lee now out because of a broken right hand.

The injury occurred during Golden State’s 122-108 home loss to the Jazz on Monday night. Lee underwent an MRI exam Tuesday morning that revealed a nondisplaced fracture of the fourth metacarpal. The team said he will be reevaluated in two weeks.

“Hopefully just a few weeks,” coach Steve Kerr said before the team flew to Los Angeles, where the Warriors play the Lakers on Wednesday night.

Lee joins a long list of injured players on the depleted Warriors, who are 2-9 following five straight trips to the NBA Finals.

Stephen Curry had surgery on his broken left hand, which he injured Oct. 30, and will need another procedure next month to have pins removed. He said Monday that he expects to be playing again come spring.

The two-time MVP joins Klay Thompson, who is recovering from a July 2 surgery on a torn ACL in his left knee suffered during Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Thompson could miss the entire season.

Kevon Looney, who is dealing with a nerve issue that has kept him out since a brief appearance in the season opener, is going through more extensive workouts but is still not ready to return, while guard Jacob Evans III is still dealing with a strained inner thigh muscle and also will miss Wednesday’s game. Kerr said he is likely still at least a couple of weeks from playing again.

Backup center Omari Spellman was listed as doubtful to face the Lakers because of a sprained left ankle and already sat out Monday’s loss to the Jazz.

Kerr, who took over coaching the Warriors in 2014-15 and immediately won an NBA championship, has never had this short a bench with so few healthy bodies to mix and match rotations.

“We’ll just see how it plays out,” Kerr said. “We’ll figure out who’s ready to go and we’ll go from there. It’s challenging. It’s been kind of the theme so far. It’s not exactly ideal but it’s the reality. You don’t spend a whole lot of time lamenting anything. You just keep going.”

Bulls big man Cristiano Felicio out 4-8 weeks with broken wrist

Getty Images
Leave a comment

This is not going to impact the Bulls’ rotations — Cristiano Felicio has yet to touch the court for the Bulls this season — but it’s a setback for a player trying to prove he belongs in the NBA.

Felicio fractured his wrist during the Bulls practice Monday and will be out at least a month, reports K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

Cristiano Felicio, who has yet to land on the active roster this season, broke his right wrist after falling in Monday’s practice, according to coach Jim Boylen. The Bulls’ coach said Felicio will miss four to eight weeks with the injury.

“We had the X-ray. It did not show up on the X-ray. Then we had the CT scan and it showed up on the CT scan,” Boylen said. “We’re going to do an MRI (Wednesday) just to let them give us a little more certainty on maybe how much separation there is in there and how much time it will be.”

The Bulls gambled on Felicio a couple of years ago and signed him to a four-year, $32 million contract. That roll of the dice has come up snake eyes so far, with Felicio playing a limited role the first two seasons — and this season no role at all.

It is expected the Bulls will try to use Felicio’s salary in any trade packages they put together closer to the deadline, this injury would not impact that.

Asked about getting stabbed in back, Chris Paul says trade from Rockets

6 Comments

Chris Paul has gotten traded three times in his career.

New Orleans sent him to the Clippers – but only after David Stern nixed a deal with the Lakers – in 2011. In 2017, Paul engineered a trade to the Rockets by opting in. Then, in an unprecedented star swap, Houston dealt Paul to the Thunder for Russell Westbrook last summer.

Paul recently discussed trades with comedian Kevin Hart.

Hart:

Why is it always such a crazy time when it comes to these trades and whether they’re happening. You’ve been part of some big conversations. Is it at a point where it’s just business, or is it becoming personal?

Paul:

Every situation is different. But the team is going to do whatever they want to do. They’ll tell you one thing and do a smooth nother thing.

Hart:

That’s the business side.

Paul:

Exactly.

Hart:

Do you feel like there’s been times where, “Damn, that’s a little eye-opening. I got stabbed in the back”?

Paul:

Absolutely. This last situation was one of them. The GM there in Houston, he don’t owe me nothing. You know what I mean? He may tell me one thing but do another thing. But you just understand that that’s what it is.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is an easy target right now. Many people around the NBA resent him tweeting support for Hong Kong protesters (who are trying to maintain and expand their freedoms) and costing the league significant revenue in China.

But, in this case, Morey brought it upon himself. He said in June he wouldn’t trade Paul then did so, anyway.

Maybe that was to protect Paul’s feelings if he stayed in Houston. In that case, Morey could tell Paul he believed in him all along. There’d be no way to know Morey was fibbing. Now that Paul is gone, Paul being upset is someone else’s problem. It’s a common tactic by executives.

Paul reportedly requested a trade from the Rockets, but he denied it. I don’t necessarily believe Paul. There was plenty of evidence of tension between him and Harden. It’d be pretty conniving to request a trade then throw Morey under the bus for making the trade.

But Paul’s denial of a trade request is on the record. So is Morey’s declaration that he wouldn’t trade Paul.

Morey must own that.