PBT’s NBA Power Rankings: Warriors reclaim top spot with statement game


Golden State returns to the top of the charts after a couple week absence, asserting themselves with a win over the Spurs. Cleveland moved up a little, but after the Warriors the next five teams are fairly close. At the bottom of the rankings, the Suns are trying to fall back to last, but the Lakers will not let go of that slot.

source: 1. Warriors (44-4, last week No. 2). Made a statement with the blowout win over the Spurs, then were reminded even they cannot coast almost blowing a 19-point lead to the Sixers. They are at home for a big showdown against the Thunder Saturday night, but that’s one of only two home games for Golden State in February. And Stephen Curry may be more focused on his Panthers in the Super Bowl.

source: 2. Spurs (39-8, LW 1). They are 2-2 in the four games Tim Duncan has missed, with at least one more game where he sits (Monday vs. Orlando). Would Duncan have changed the losses to Golden State and Cleveland? Probably not, but you can see their defense is not quite the same without him. Still, this team has the best point differential in the league, and, do you really doubt the Spurs?

source: 3. Thunder (36-13 LW 3). They have won three in a row and 10-of-11, which is impressive even if some of the individual wins seemed like more work than they should have been. Interesting test Saturday night on the road against Golden State, these are the kinds of games OKC needs to win if they are really contenders.

source: 4. Cavaliers (34-12, LW 5). Best record in the East and only one Cavalier is representing at the All-Star Game, LeBron James? That’s not fair. And no, I’m not counting Tyronn Lue as a second. All that noise about Lue wanting the Cavs to run and them picking up double-digit fast-break points the last five games is a bit of an illusion — overall they have played 1.64 possessions per game slower under Lue than Blatt.

source: 5. Raptors (32-15, LW 4). How do you slide down a rankings spot in the middle of an 11-game win streak? Because the tie breaker for us is “who wins a seven-game playoff series” and Cleveland has that edge right now. Toronto’s strong bench and 11-game win streak will be tested with six games on the road the next two weeks.

source: 6. Clippers (32-16, LW 6). Winners of four in a row, and now they are 15-3 without Blake Griffin. You can argue that has come against a fairly soft schedule, and you’d be right, but that schedule continues on this week and through most of the month. Chris Paul continues to be phenomenal of late — 20 points and 10 assists a game shooting 43 percent from three his last 15 games.

source: 7. Celtics (27-22, LW 12). After being too low in my rankings for a while, they get a bump up this week, they looked good during a recent five-game winning streak. Isaiah Thomas deserved to make the All-Star team with his play carrying the Celtics offense this season.

source: 8. Grizzlies (28-20, LW 8). Winning three in a row and eight of their last 10 has them in the five seed, but even with the soft schedule ahead it’s not going to be easy to make up four games on the Clippers and snag get home court in the first round. Expect a lot of Courtney Lee trade chatter the next couple weeks.

source: 9. Bulls (26-20, LW 10). On Friday night against the Lakers, there seemed to be a real hope that Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler could play well together. By Sunday, after a couple days off in LA, they looked like a mess and Pau Gasol is calling the team undisciplined. That up and down nature continues to drive Bulls fans crazy, and Fred Holberg right along with

source: 10. Heat (27-21, LW 17). Tyler Johnson is out for a couple months with shoulder surgery, which could have Miami hitting the trade market looking for three point shooting (Gerald Green alone is not the answer). On the road most of the week, then return home to a tough test against the Clippers.

source: 11. Hawks (27-22, LW 7). They have lost five of six because their offense has decided to take a mid-winter vacation. Jeff Teague’s name has come up a lot in trade talks and while his on/off numbers this season aren’t good (the Hawks are 10.9 points per 100 possessions better without him this season) plenty of other teams think that is a mirage and that he is still a near All-Star level point guard.

source: 12. Pacers (25-22, LW 15). Myles Turner looks good in the starting lineup, and that combined with some good defense has racked up a couple wins. Cleveland is on the schedule this week at the start, but it’s the games on the back end against Detroit and Atlanta that are the bigger tests.

source: 13. Pistons (25-23, LW 9). Andre Drummond is a deserving All-Star and this is likely the first of a lot of trips to All-Star weekend for him. However, the losses to Cleveland and Toronto last week remind this team where they are in the pecking order in the conference. Both Boston and Indiana on the schedule this week.

source: 13. Mavericks (28-22, LW 13). Well played by Dallas on Sunday, getting the win over the lowly Suns while resting Dirk Nowitzki (something Rick Carlisle has done more recently). The schedule gets tougher this week with the Hawks, Heat, Spurs, and Grizzlies on the docket.

source: 15. Jazz (21-25, LW 20). Utah has found an offensive groove thanks to the return of Derrick Favors and his efficient scoring inside, and the emergence of Rodney Hood on the outside (averaging 22.8 points per game in his last five). They are just a game back of Portland for the final playoff spot in the West, and the Jazz have some winnable games up this week.

source: 16. Trail Blazers (22-26, LW 19). Portland has won four in a row and is 12-6 since Christmas, and the real key is Meyers Leonard shooting 45.7% from three since then — teams want to double/trap Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum off the pick, but when he pops and hits threes they can’t. Leonard opens everything up.

source: 17. Wizards (21-24, LW 14). When John Wall goes off, or when the offense just finds a groove (as it did Saturday in beating the Rockets), the Wizards can get a win, but they continue not to be able to pick one up thanks to their defense (which was their cornerstone last season). Tough start to the week the the Thunder and Warriors up.

source: 18. Rockets (25-25, LW 11). James Harden deserves to be an All-Star — he is the only Rocket consistently putting up points. And with the way their defense has fallen off it takes a lot of offensive firepower for them to win — they have the worst defense in the NBA in the last 10 games (111.8 points per 100 possessions). You know Darryl Morey will try to be active at the trade deadline, could he bring in a stretch four like Channing Frye?

source: 19. Pelicans (18-28, LW 22). They have won five of six, they have the second best offense in the NBA in their last 10, and it’s no coincidence that has happened as Jrue Holiday got healthy and started taking more and more of the playmaking away from Tyreke Evans. Is it time to start Holiday and Ryan Anderson next to Anthony Davis?

source: 20. Hornets (23-25, LW 21). Having Michael Kidd-Gilchrist back is a huge boost, and he’s provided some needed and surprising offensive punch. They are two games out of the playoffs in the East, and it’s games like Miami and Washington this week that will ultimately be key for them to make up that ground.

source: 21. Knicks (23-27, LW 18). The Knicks are trying to be active at the trade deadline and get someone like Jeff Teague — or, really anyone competent — to play the point, but they don’t have the assets to get a deal done. More likely a summer move. The Knicks showed real heart against the thunder over the weekend, but have still dropped five of six.

source: 22. Kings (20-27, LW 16). Losers of four in a row, and now DeMarcus Cousins could miss time with a sprained ankle (he is questionable for Monday). The Kings are 19-20 when Cousins plays this season (including a couple he had to leave early due to injury); they are 1-7 when he is out. Heavy run of Eastern Conference opponents coming up, can the Kings get wins there and get back into the Western Conference playoffs.

source: 23. Bucks (20-29, LW 24). They have gone back to struggling on defense, and with that have dropped four of five games, the playoffs seem out of reach, the Bucks are not likely to make a significant move at the trade deadline, but at least Bucks fans have Jabari Parker in the All-Star Weekend Rising Stars challenge to look forward to. So there is something.

source: 24. Nuggets (18-30, LW 25). It’s about building a culture and developing young talent in Denver this season, and we are seeing more and more signs of that lately. Emmanuel Mudiay is shooting better and figuring out how to attack in an NBA offense. This could be a team making a surprise move at the trade deadline, they have interesting assets, just something to watch.

source: 25. Magic (21-25, LW 23). They have lost 10-of-13 and have been pushed around in the paint the last few games (at least before an impressive second half against Boston). I like what I see from Aaron Gordon, and yes that means they should try to move Channing Frye at the deadline. Finally no, Nikola Vucivic was not snubbed from the All-Star Game, he didn’t earn a trip to Toronto.

source: 26. Timberwolves (14-34,LW 26). They have lost four in a row and struggled on defense (which makes the game against the Lakers on Tuesday potentially entertaining, if not good basketball). Reports of tension between the players and old-school coach Sam Mitchell make you wonder if he can keep his job after this summer.

source: 27. Nets (12-36, LW 27). Since Lionel Hollins was let go the Nets have the 20th ranked offense and 27th ranked defense in the NBA. So not a lot has changed. Another team with potential trade assets, but with Billy King out of the picture and no GM in the chair yet, it’s hard to imagine a meaningful deal getting done.

source: 28. 76ers (7-41, LW 29). That was a heck of an effort against the Warriors, coming back from 19 down at the half and not giving up (only to be beaten on a Harrison Barnes three). Brett Brown continues to platoon Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor, but does he need to play them together at some point?

source: 29. Suns (14-35, LW 28). Jeff Hornacek is out and… it doesn’t matter who is in. What matters for Suns is they pick a direction for the franchise to go in terms of style, get a coach who can execute that style, and start getting players who can fit it. Then Robert Saver needs to leave the plan alone for five years and be patient.

source: 30. Lakers (9-40, LW 30). Losers of 10 in a row and the fans at Staples Center are boing them. They are getting pushed around in the paint and can’t defend teams on the perimeter. Also, those D’Angelo Russell trade rumors came from outside LA — the Lakers have gotten calls, but you’d have to overpay to pry him away from the team right now.

Report: Wizards, Kristaps Porzingis talking contract extension

Washington Wizards v Philadelphia 76ers
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Despite the fact they are 34-42 and about to miss even the play-in, the Washington Wizards like their core of Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma. The Wizards have a solid +4.6 net rating when all three of them are on the court together (via Cleaning the Glass), the problem is that alone has not translated to winning (they are 4-10 in games with all three but not Delon Wright at the point; however, that trio with Wright is 12-9, notes by Josh Robbins at The Athletic).

Washington wants to lock up that core. Beal got his max contract (complete with a no-trade clause), and the Wizards have made moves to re-sign free agent to be Kyle Kuzma this offseason (there reportedly is mutual interest). That leaves Kristaps Porzingis, who has a $36 million player option for next season, and the sides are talking extension, reports Shams Charania at The Athletic.

Porziņģis and the Wizards have been seriously discussing a new deal in which he would opt out of his $36 million player option for the 2023-24 season and sign a new long-term deal, according to sources. The Wizards can offer Porziņģis a maximum of four years and $180 million if he opts out for next year and extends his deal. The deadline to reach such an agreement is in late June.

The Wizards are not going to max out Porzingis. That makes the questions what salary number and how many years do they want to give a player with his injury history? Porzingis played 65 games out of 76 so far this season (they may shut him down with no realistic chance at the play-in), but is it realistic to expect that in future years? He also put up impressive stats this season: 23.2 points a game with a 62.7 true shooting percentage, 8.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.5 blocks a night.

This is likely a case where Porzingis agrees to take less than his opt-in figure per year for the security of multiple years and more guaranteed money overall. The Wizards will want a number that keeps him as a valuable trade piece if things don’t go as planned (with Beal, specifically) and they have to pivot to a rebuild. Which if they have another season like this last one is a growing possibility.

Kevin Durant expected to make return to Suns Wednesday night


In the three games he played for the Suns, Kevin Durant was his vintage self: 26.7 points and 7.3 assists a game on an insanely efficient 80.8 true shooting percentage. Not so coincidentally, the Suns won all three games.

The Suns have gone 4-6 with Durant sidelined after he sprained an ankle in warmups before his fourth game (although that was good enough to hold off the Clippers and Warriors and keep the No. 4 seed and home court in the first round). Now Durant is expected back on Wednesday night against the Timberwolves — he is officially questionable, but multiple reports out of Phoenix say he will play if there is no setback in warmups.

A setback in warmups is how we got here in the first place.

Phoenix would have seven games left to hold on to that No.4 seed (they are five games back of the Kings at No.3, that’s not happening). More importantly, they would have seven games to build chemistry with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, for Monty Williams to look at lineups and tinker with rotations — they have seven games to figure it out before things get very serious.

Seven games could be enough in a wide-open West where plenty of teams are trying to figure things out. That road starts Wednesday night against a Timberwolves team playing its best ball of the season.

Three things to Know: Warriors’ comeback puts them back in top six


Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Warriors’ comeback puts them back in top six, Heat loss to Raptors does opposite

There were three games last night that impacted the playoff chase.

• Golden State was down 17 at the half to New Orleans and had looked sloppy again, with turnovers and missed opportunities. Then, giving life to the “they can flip the switch” crowd, Draymond Green lit a fire under the Warriors by getting chippy with Brandon Ingram and Herb Jones. Plus Stephen Curry — who finished with 39 points, eight rebounds and eight assists — started doing things that left Steve Kerr shaking his head (also, notice Klay Thompson‘s off-ball movement here, trademark Warriors stuff).

The Warriors picked up the 120-109 win and moved back into the No.6 seed in the West for a day by half-a-game over the Timberwolves (the two teams are tied in the loss column, and Minnesota has the tiebreaker). New Orleans, at 38-38, sits as the No. 8 seed but just half a game up on the Lakers (these teams are tied in the loss column). Every win will matter down the stretch for seeding in the bottom half of the West.

• Miami entered the day tied with Brooklyn for the 6/7 seed in the East but with a couple of problems. First, the Nets had the tiebreaker after beating the Heat last weekend. Second, Brooklyn has the easiest remaining schedule in the NBA the rest of the way. The Heat need some big wins down the stretch to overtake the Nets.

This is why a 106-92 loss to Toronto is a blow to the Heat’s chances to avoid the play-in. Jimmy Butler was out with neck soreness, and while Tyler Herro scored 33 on 13-of-21 shooting, the rest of the Heat shot 32.2% for the game and they took the loss. Now they head to New York for a tough road back-to-back.

With the win, Toronto (38-38) is tied with Atlanta for the 8/9 seed in the East. Scottie Barnes had 22 points and a career-best 12 assists in the win.

• Charlotte continues to wreak havoc on the West playoff chase — they beat Dallas twice last weekend, then on Tuesday helped out Dallas by knocking off the Thunder 137-134. The Thunder and Mavericks are now tied for the final play-in spot in the West.

2) Wade, Popovich, Nowitzki headline legendary 2023 Hall of Fame class

Saturday it will become official, but none of this is a surprise.

The 2023 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class is stacked: Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Gregg Popovich, Pau Gasol, Tony Parker and Becky Hammon. That is a very deep class out of the NBA/WNBA division, and there is no questioning the credentials of anyone in that class.

Wade is arguably the greatest shooting guard in NBA history (if you count Jordan as a small forward), winning three rings as a member of the Miami Heat, plus making eight All-NBA teams. Nowitzki is the guy with his statue outside the arena in Dallas, is an NBA champion and Finals MVP, plus he won the regular season MVP in 2007. Popovich, the legendary coach of the five-time champion San Antonio Spurs, also coached Team USA to the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Parker was the point guard for much of that Spurs run, is a four-time NBA champion and was Finals MVP in 2007. Gasol is a two-time NBA champion, four-time All-NBA and led Spain to the FIBA World Championship in 2006.

3) Lillard, Simmons officially shut down for season (Beal probably is, too)

Everyone knew it was already happening, but a couple of things became official on Tuesday.

The Trail Blazers have shut down Damian Lillard for the season. The Blazers are five games out of the final play-in spot, and are tied for the fifth-worst record in the league. We know where their focus should be.

No. We are not doing the Lillard trade speculation here. Until he asks for a trade — and he has never done so, in fact saying the opposite multiple times in this past year — it will not happen.

Also, Nets’ coach Jacque Vaughn made the worst kept secret in the NBA official, saying the Nets are shutting Ben Simmons down for the season, officially for his back impingement. He reportedly does not need surgery and will be ready to go by training camp next fall.

Watch Curry score 39, spark Warriors rally from 20 down to beat Pelicans


SAN FRANCISCO — Draymond Green yelled at the other bench, his own team and even his coach, and this time those intense emotions absolutely made the difference.

Steve Kerr loved it.

“We need his fire,” Golden State’s coach said.

“It was perfect, right, perfectly executed,” Green said with a grin.

Stephen Curry had 39 points with eight 3-pointers, eight rebounds and eight assists, Jordan Poole added 21 points with consecutive layups that gave Golden State the lead early in the fourth quarter, and the Warriors rallied past the New Orleans Pelicans 120-109 on Tuesday night in a testy, playoff-like matchup in late March.

Klay Thompson scored 17 and hit five 3s to set a new single-season career high of 278, which leads the NBA.

The Warriors moved up a spot into sixth place in the crowded Western Conference standings, a half-game up on Minnesota and 1 1/2 games ahead of New Orleans. Golden State lost 99-96 at home to the Timberwolves on Sunday, so coming back from 20 down to win this one was key as the defending champions try to avoid the play-in round. The top six teams are guaranteed playoff berths.

“We lost a heartbreaker the other night. We knew we had to bounce back,” Kerr said.

Brandon Ingram had 26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, Trey Murphy III scored 21 points and CJ McCollum added 15 for the Pelicans, who came in riding a five-game winning streak.

Green chirped and pushed the emotions and physicality all game, then threw an alley-oop to Jonathan Kuminga for a dunk with 7:09 left for one of his 13 assists and a 101-98 advantage.

“Draymond willed us to victory tonight,” Kerr said. “His frustration early with the way we were playing. Mad at the world. Yelling at everybody, their bench, our bench, me, and frankly we all deserved it.”

Green was whistled for a double technical for tussling with Ingram late in the second quarter – and Green’s foul was upgraded to a Flagrant 1. He already served a one-game suspension March 17 at Atlanta for his 16th technical.

Green committed an offensive foul moments later and players for both sides tangled, Green’s feet getting caught up with Herbert Jones’ head. A replay showed no additional infractions but Kerr briefly took Green out with tensions running high because of his “extreme energy” in that moment.

“We looked dead those first 18 minutes of the game,” Kerr said. “We had to find some energy somewhere. I knew it wasn’t just going to come.”

Three straight 3-pointers by Curry late in the third got Golden State within 89-83. Poole then stole the ball from Ingram and dunked on the other end as the Warriors trailed 89-85 going into the final 12 minutes.

Golden State started the third on an 8-0 burst fueled by Donte DiVincezo. He made a putback dunk over Ingram early in the second half then a three-point play before Thompson’s 3 at 10:44 made it 63-54.

McCollum’s 3 with 1:40 left before halftime put the Pelicans up 60-43, then Ingram made it a 20-point game with a 3 New Orleans’ next time down.

The Pelicans, coached by former Warriors assistant Willie Green and longtime Golden State assistant Jarron Collins on his staff, had won five straight after a 124-90 romp at Portland on Monday night.

The Warriors’ victory prevented the Sacramento Kings, coached by former top assistant Mike Brown, their first playoff berth since 2006 that would end the worst drought in NBA history at 16 years.