Associated Press

NBA Power Rankings: Familiar faces from Bay Area back on top

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A familiar face is back on top of the power rankings, the Golden State Warriors, who flipped the switch in a couple of key games (Houston, Oklahoma City) to remind us of their status as the team to beat. The Bucks only slide down one spot.

 
Warriors small icon 1. Warriors (48-22, last week No. 4). Steve Kerr called last week’s loss to the Suns “a wake up call” for Golden State, and the team responded with wins against Houston and Oklahoma City, holding each of them to less than 40% shooting. All without Durant. Andrew Bogut is back and in his debut showed he can give the Warriors a few quality minutes behind DeMarcus Cousins (once Boogie gets back from his mild ankle injury) and that’s all they need from the Australian.

 
Bucks small icon 2. Bucks (53-18, LW 1). Malcolm Brogdon is going to be out for a while, likely into the first round of the playoffs (at least), and the loss to Philadelphia on Sunday showed how much the Bucks will miss him. Brogdon is both a threat to shoot the three (he’s shooting 42.6% from deep but takes fewer than four per game) and his straight line drives to the rim to create shots. The loss to the Sixers may be an anomaly but it was the realization of the worst playoff fears for the Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo went off for 52 (a chunk of that late) but the other Bucks shot 31% from three and didn’t step up under pressure. That can’t happen in the postseason.

 
Nuggets small icon 3. Nuggets (47-22, LW 5). The Nuggets still have a shot at the best record in the West (they are just half-a-game back of the Warriors and are tied in the loss column) but they are going to have to get some tough wins on the road to do it — 6 of Denver’s next 8 games are on the road, and the teams left on its schedule have a much higher winning percentage than who Golden State faces (the teams play each other April 2). However, the win in Boston shows the Nuggets can get the needed wins. They just need more plays like this Nikola Jokic game-winner against Dallas.

 
Sixers small icon 4. 76ers (46-25, LW 6). Philadelphia is 6-1 when their dream five start the game. That lineup is besting teams by 17.2 points per 100 possessions when on the court together, dominating on both ends. However, the key in the postseason will be finding lineups with bench players that work while starters rest (and are staggered in with the bench). Against the Bucks Sunday the fivesome of Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler, Mike Scott, T.J. McConnell, and Boban Marjanovic was +12 in just under 11 minutes. The Sixers need more of that.

 
Rockets small icon 5. Rockets (45-26, LW 2). Houston has won games where it shot poorly recently (except against the Warriors) because the team is finally defending well again — the Rockets have a defensive rating of 107.7 in their last 15 games, eighth best in the league in that stretch. The Rockets need those wins to hang on to the three seed, Portland is just 1.5 games back and seeds 3-8 in the West are separated by just 3.5 games. Winners of 11-of-12, the Rockets have 4-of-5 coming up on the road, but only two of those games are against playoff teams.

 
Raptors small icon 6. Raptors (50-21, LW 3). Toronto is 12.5 points per 100 possessions worse when Kyle Lowry sits and the Raptors offense falls apart (the offense scores less than a point per possession when Jeremy Lin is on the court). It was evident in the loss to Detroit, but the Raptors thought Lowry would only be out two games until Michell Robinson fell on his ankle Monday, now he’s out for a while longer, although it doesn’t look to be a severe ankle injury. Toronto could use him in the upcoming home-and-home against Oklahoma City. The Raptors remain pretty much locked in as the two seed in the East, injury or no.

 
Celtics small icon 7. Celtics (43-28, LW 7). Boston GM Danny Ainge called his team “inconsistent” right now, and that’s pretty spot on. They have won 5-of-7 including thrashing the Warriors, but losses to the Clippers and Nuggets raised questions about how far they can really go. Another concern is the struggles of the starting lineup in recent weeks. With plans to rest Al Horford a few games as well as other starters down the stretch (with an eye toward having them fresh for the playoffs), will Boston make up the half game it is behind Indiana and get home court in the first round?

 
Spurs small icon 8. Spurs (42-29, LW 11). After that dreadful rodeo road trip, we kind of wrote the Spurs off, but that’s always a mistake. San Antonio has won nine in a row and the Spurs have a shot at home court in the first round of the playoffs (San Antonio is the five seed, just 1.5 games back of Portland and home court). In the last 9 games the Spurs have a +9.1 net rating. While the offense has been good during the streak (top 10) it is the defense — which has struggled much of the season — returning to elite status that has made the big difference (103.1 defensive net rating in those 9 games, third best in the league).

 
Blazers small icon 9. Trail Blazers (43-27, LW 9). Not having C.J. McCollum for at least a week — and likely longer, McCollum told NBC Sports he’s taking it week by week but he doesn’t have a timeline — will make it challenging for Portland to hang on to the four seed and home court in the first round. San Antonio, OKC, Utah, and the LA Clippers are all within two games of the Blazers. Portland leaned heavily on its starting five to win games, now it needs more out of Jake Layman and Rodney Hood to win enough to keep home court.

 
Jazz small icon 10. Jazz (41-29, LW 13). Winners of four in a row and with the easiest schedule in the NBA the rest of the way, as long as the Jazz take care of business they will climb higher than the seven seed, and home court is not out of the question (although it’s a long shot at two games back with 11 to play). The Jazz are doing it with their old formula: They have the best defense in the NBA over the last 10 games and held a few teams to less than a point per possession, then they are getting just enough offense from Donovan Mitchell and company. But that pedestrian offense remains the thing holding them back.

 
Clippers small icon 11. Clippers (42-30, LW 10). Doc Rivers is deservedly going to get a lot of Coach of the Year votes, and Steve Ballmer and the Clippers understand when you have something good you don’t let it go, so he locked Rivers up (no Lakers in Rivers’ future). The Clippers have been a well-run basketball operation for a few years now and extending Rivers fits with that. Another something that works in L.A.? Lou Williams. He has made a strong Sixth Man of the Year push and shots like this help.

 
Pacers small icon 12. Pacers (44-28, LW 12). The Pacers keep playing great defense to stay in games, then getting spurts of offense that spark dramatic comeback wins. Any fan of basketball has to admire the grit and tenacity with which this team plays. Nothing speaks to the fight in these Pacers like coming from 19 down against the Thunder, setting up the Wesley Matthews game winner.

 
Thunder small icon 13. Thunder (42-29, LW 8). Oklahoma City has lost three in a row — because their offense has gone missing, having the second-worst net rating in the league during the last 10 games — and is now tied with San Antonio for the 5/6 seed in the West, with the 7/8 seeds (Jazz, Clippers) both just half a game back. Why should those four bunched-up teams concern Thunder fans? Because OKC has the toughest remaining schedule of any West playoff team (starting with a home-and-home against Toronto starting on Wednesday) and the Thunder could fall farther down the standings in the West.

 
Heat small icon 14. Heat (34-36, LW 17). They have won 7-of-9 against a tough schedule, including beating the Pistons and Hornets in the past week. The wins have come in bunches with Bam Adebayo starting and Hasaan Whiteside coming in with energy off the bench, that rotation has helped the Heat defense. All those wins has kept Miami 1.5 games clear of Orlando for the final playoff slot in the East, but the Heat are on the road this week (and the Magic have a very soft schedule the rest of the way).

Pistons small icon 15. Pistons (36-34, LW 15). Would the real Detroit Pistons please stand up? Please stand up? Is it the team that got blown out by the Nets and Heat, and Monday lost to the Cavaliers? Or, is it the team that beat Raptors twice this month (Dwane Casey revenge games)? The Pistons are inconsistent because Reggie Jackson has been off his game (Blake Griffin has struggled with his shot of late, too). That loss Monday in Cleveland was the first of a five-game road trip for Detroit.

 
Nets small icon 16. Nets (37-36, LW 14). The Nets have gone 1-3 to start a seven-game road trip (although the win was a dramatic comeback against the Kings that could turn the trip around). The blame for the stumbles falls on the team’s offense, third worst in the NBA over the last 10 games. Specifically, it falls on their guards — D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and company have gone cold of late — at least until Russell in the fourth quarter against the Kings Tuesday. The Nets have slid down to the seven seed and are just three games away from falling out of the playoffs entirely. Add to that they have the toughest schedule in the NBA the rest of the way and Brooklyn needs to find some wins to stay in the dance.

 
Kings small icon 17. Kings (34-36, LW 16). Sacramento’s long-shot bid to make a run to the playoffs took a punch to the gut Tuesday night with the worst loss of the team’s season: blowing a 25-point fourth quarter lead to the Nets. Sacramento’s playoff dreams were put on their death by a recent 1-3 road trip where all the losses were in games the Kings were within five points in the final five minutes but couldn’t close it out. The Kings’ goal now should be to finish the season 8-4 and be above .500 for the campaign for the first time since 2006 (or at least 7-5 and get to .500).

 
Magic small icon 18. Magic (33-38, LW 19). The Magic have the softest schedule of any team fighting for a playoff spot in the East, but that only helps if the team wins games — Orlando is 3-4 in its last seven with losses to Cleveland, Memphis, and Washington. The Magic are still just 1.5 games back of the heat and have won the first two of a five-game homestand, but that has to be just the start. Orlando needs more out of Terrence Ross and the bench to make this run.

 
19. Timberwolves (32-39, LW 18). Minnesota is turning heads with the amazing play of Karl-Anthony Towns sparking an offensive resurgence, but the team is 3-7 in its last 10 because it has the worst defense in the NBA by far in that stretch, a defensive net rating of 121.2. On the bright side, rookie forward Keita Bates-Diop is looking like he could be a rotation player.

Pelicans small icon 20. Pelicans (31-42, LW 20). Elfrid Payton has had a triple-double in five straight games. The only other players in NBA history to do that? Russell Westbrook, Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, and Michael Jordan. That’s elite company. Of course, the Pelicans lost the first four of those, in part because they are one of the worst clutch teams in the NBA (15-26 in games within five points in the final five minutes). Which is why the win over Dallas in OT Monday was a nice change of pace.

 
Wizards small icon 21. Wizards (30-41, LW 23). Bradley Beal has thrived without John Wall next to him and, barring a collapse, will be just the 12th guard in NBA history to average 25 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. Beal is averaging 29.9 points per game since the All-Star break and had a pair of 40-point games last weekend. Beal could make the All-NBA team, which shows how impressive he’s been in spite of the team’s struggles.

 
Hornets small icon 22. Hornets (31-39, LW 21). Charlotte’s playoff chances are not dead yet, but the prognosis is not good. Sunday’s loss to Miami, where Charlotte scored just 75 points, likely did them in. The Hornets are three games back of he Heat with 12 to play and likely need to go at least 8-4, maybe 9-3, the rest of the way to get an invite to the dance. Not impossible, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

 
Grizzlies small icon 23. Grizzlies (28-42, LW 22). Given some extra run since coming over in the Marc Gaol trade, Jonas Valanciunas has reminded teams he can get them some points. Valanciunas has averaged 17.9 points on 58.2% shooting plus is grabbing 8 rebounds a game since joining the Grizzlies. He has a player option on his contract for next season for $17.6 million and it seems likely he will pick that up (unless he’s looking for a longer deal with more security, which is not likely out there). Expect his name to come up in trade talks, but wherever he plays next season he has value.

 
Lakers small icon 24. Lakers (31-40, LW 24). Los Angeles has clearly let go of the rope on the rest of this season — they are bottom 10 in the league in both offense and defense in their last 10 games, with an -8.1 net rating over that stretch. That’s why the focus in Los Angeles has already shifted to the off-the-court moves from the team this summer, starting with who the next head coach will be. That’s not decided, the only thing we know is it will not be Doc Rivers. By the way, LeBron James can still do this.

 
Hawks small icon 25. Hawks (24-48, LW 25). Despite the losses piling up and Hawks fans watching NCAA Tournament games this weekend on scouting expeditions, the Hawks remain one of the most entertaining teams to watch down the stretch. Trae Young is shooting from anywhere in the building and is electric to watch, John Collins is going to be a stud, but maybe the most fun part is 42-year Vince Carter still making plays and being a part of the action.

 
Mavericks small icon 26. Mavericks (28-42, LW 26). Luka Doncic is going to win Rookie of the Year and continues to impress, but his game has slipped a little as the long season has ground him down. It has been most evident his high 13.4 turnover ratio in his last 10 games (his assist ratio is still at 20%). Congrats to Dirk Nowitzki for passing Wilt Chamberlain for sixth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

 
Bulls small icon 27. Bulls (20-52, LW 28). Chicago has played poorly of late, even for them. On one end their defense has been one of the worst in the NBA, while on the other end Lauri Markkanen has gone into a scoring slump. The only time that changed was the one game the Bulls could have stood to lose, their defense showed up in a win over the Suns, meaning the Bulls almost certainly will enter the draft lottery in the No. 4 slot.

 
Suns small icon 28. Suns (17-55, LW 27). The Suns picked up a key loss Monday in Chicago. Going into that game the Suns had the third worst record in the NBA but had won 6-of-10, while the Bulls were the fourth worst record. If the Suns won that game the Bulls would have had a real shot at one of the three worst records in the league, with each of those teams getting a 14% chance of Zion Williamson, er, the top pick in the draft at the lottery. The Bulls won and now are three games better than the Suns and will not make that up, meaning the Bulls will have a 12.5% shot at Zion. Not a huge difference, but when you’re talking about a franchise player every little bit helps.

 
Cavaliers small icon 29. Cavaliers (18-53, LW 29). Maybe Monday is the Cavaliers’ night. This past Monday Cleveland beat playoff-bound Detroit, the Monday before that they beat Toronto, but they lost the three games in between those contests. Collin Sexton has come on as a scorer lately, having scored at least 23 points in six straight games as he starts to feel more comfortable with the NBA three (and that means fewer midranges).

 
Knicks small icon 30. Knicks (14-57, LW 30). Knicks fans, don’t just watch Duke and drool at the possibilities in the NBA draft, don’t forget to check out Ja Morant from Murray State, the kind of scoring point guard New York might want. Also, D’Andre Hunter from Virginia is the kind of defensive wing who can get out in transition and hit threes who would look good with the Knicks next season. Jarrett Culver of Texas Tech also would be a good fit.

Giannis Antetokounmpo becomes record 11th player with 50-point game this season

AP Photo/Aaron Gash
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During the entire 2012-13 season, three players scored 50 points in a game.

By the end of last October, four players – Blake Griffin, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Derrick Rose – already had 50-point games this season.

James Harden has since scored 50 six times. Kemba Walker, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard also dropped 50 in a game.

Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s 52-pointer yesterday made him the 11th different player to score 50 points in a game this season – a record. Ten players scored 50 in a game each of the last two seasons.

This is definitely a record geared toward modern times. Scoring is up. There have never been more games (30 teams playing 82-game schedules). Those conditions give individuals a chance to shine.

And so many of them have taken advantage with a big scoring night, at least once.

Harden is the only player with multiple 50-point games this season, so this year won’t come close to the record for total 50 point games. The 16 this season are fourth-most all-time – behind 1961-62 (57), 1962-63 (34) and 2006-07 (18). Wilt Chamberlain alone had 45 in 1961-62 and 30 in 1962-63. Kobe Bryant had 10 in 2006-07.

But in terms of variety of 50-point games, this season is unmatched.

Here are how many different players had a 50-point game each season, followed by a list of them all:image

2018-19: 11

James Harden (HOU), 6

LaMarcus Aldridge (SAS), 1

Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL), 1

Damian Lillard (POR), 1

Derrick Rose (MIN), 1

Klay Thompson (GSW), 1

Stephen Curry (GSW), 1

Blake Griffin (DET), 1

Kevin Durant (GSW), 1

LeBron James (LAL), 1

Kemba Walker (CHA), 1

2017-18: 10

James Harden (HOU), 4

C.J. McCollum (POR), 1

Lou Williams (LAC), 1

DeMar DeRozan (TOR), 1

Anthony Davis (NOP), 1

Kevin Durant (GSW), 1

Damian Lillard (POR), 1

Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN), 1

LeBron James (CLE), 1

Bradley Beal (WAS), 1

2016-17: 10

Russell Westbrook (OKC), 4

James Harden (HOU), 2

Jimmy Butler (CHI), 1

Devin Booker (PHO), 1

Damian Lillard (POR), 1

Anthony Davis (NOP), 1

Isaiah Thomas (BOS), 1

DeMarcus Cousins (SAC), 1

John Wall (WAS), 1

Klay Thompson (GSW), 1

2015-16: 8

Stephen Curry (GSW), 3

Damian Lillard (POR), 2

DeMarcus Cousins (SAC), 1

Kemba Walker (CHA), 1

Jimmy Butler (CHI), 1

Anthony Davis (NOP), 1

Kobe Bryant (LAL), 1

James Harden (HOU), 1

2014-15: 6

Kyrie Irving (CLE), 2

James Harden (HOU), 2

Klay Thompson (GSW), 1

Mo Williams (MIN), 1

Stephen Curry (GSW), 1

Russell Westbrook (OKC), 1

2013-14: 5

Kevin Durant (OKC), 2

Terrence Ross (TOR), 1

Carmelo Anthony (NYK), 1

LeBron James (MIA), 1

Corey Brewer (MIN), 1

2012-13: 3

Kevin Durant (OKC), 1

Stephen Curry (GSW), 1

Carmelo Anthony (NYK), 1

2011-12: 3

Kevin Durant (OKC), 1

Kevin Love (MIN), 1

Deron Williams (NJN), 1

2010-11: 2

Carmelo Anthony (DEN), 1

LeBron James (MIA), 1

2009-10: 3

Andre Miller (POR), 1

Carmelo Anthony (DEN), 1

Brandon Jennings (MIL), 1

2008-09: 7

Dwyane Wade (MIA), 3

LeBron James (CLE), 3

Kobe Bryant (LAL), 1

Kevin Martin (SAC), 1

Tony Parker (SAS), 1

Jamal Crawford (GSW), 1

Brandon Roy (POR), 1

2007-08: 3

LeBron James (CLE), 2

Kobe Bryant (LAL), 2

Allen Iverson (DEN), 1

2006-07: 6

Kobe Bryant (LAL), 10

Gilbert Arenas (WAS), 3

Michael Redd (MIL), 2

Jamal Crawford (NYK), 1

Ray Allen (SEA), 1

Richard Hamilton (DET), 1

2005-06: 6

Kobe Bryant (LAL), 6

LeBron James (CLE), 2

Paul Pierce (BOS), 1

Dirk Nowitzki (DAL), 1

Vince Carter (NJN), 1

Allen Iverson (PHI), 1

2004-05: 6

Allen Iverson (PHI), 3

Damon Stoudamire (POR), 1

Jermaine O’Neal (IND), 1

Amar’e Stoudemire (PHO), 1

LeBron James (CLE), 1

Dirk Nowitzki (DAL), 1

2003-04: 4

Tracy McGrady (ORL), 2

Jamal Crawford (CHI), 1

Rashard Lewis (SEA), 1

Allen Iverson (PHI), 1

2002-03: 4

Kobe Bryant (LAL), 3

Allan Houston (NYK), 2

Jamal Mashburn (NOH), 1

Tracy McGrady (ORL), 1

2001-02: 6

Allen Iverson (PHI), 1

Kobe Bryant (LAL), 1

Tracy McGrady (ORL), 1

Shareef Abdur-Rahim (ATL), 1

Michael Jordan (WAS), 1

Tim Duncan (SAS), 1

2000-01: 7

Allen Iverson (PHI), 2

Antawn Jamison (GSW), 2

Chris Webber (SAC), 1

Tony Delk (PHO), 1

Stephon Marbury (NJN), 1

Jerry Stackhouse (DET), 1

Kobe Bryant (LAL), 1

1999-00: 4

Clifford Robinson (PHO), 1

Vince Carter (TOR), 1

Allen Iverson (PHI), 1

Shaquille O’Neal (LAL), 1

1997-98: 3

Tracy Murray (WAS), 1

Karl Malone (UTA), 1

Shaquille O’Neal (LAL), 1

1996-97: 2

Michael Jordan (CHI), 2

Allen Iverson (PHI), 1

1995-96: 5

Hakeem Olajuwon (HOU), 1

Alonzo Mourning (MIA), 1

Michael Jordan (CHI), 1

Karl Malone (UTA), 1

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (DEN), 1

1994-95: 7

Michael Jordan (CHI), 1

Dana Barros (PHI), 1

Glen Rice (MIA), 1

Jim Jackson (DAL), 1

Jamal Mashburn (DAL), 1

Cedric Ceballos (LAL), 1

Willie Burton (PHI), 1

1993-94: 2

David Robinson (SAS), 2

Shaquille O’Neal (ORL), 1

1992-93: 4

Michael Jordan (CHI), 4

David Robinson (SAS), 1

Nick Anderson (ORL), 1

Reggie Miller (IND), 1

1991-92: 2

Michael Jordan (CHI), 2

Dominique Wilkins (ATL), 1

1990-91: 5

Bernard King (WSB), 2

Vernon Maxwell (HOU), 1

Michael Adams (DEN), 1

Patrick Ewing (NYK), 1

Charles Smith (LAC), 1

1989-90: 8

Michael Jordan (CHI), 3

Karl Malone (UTA), 2

Tom Chambers (PHO), 2

Terry Cummings (SAS), 1

Patrick Ewing (NYK), 1

Hakeem Olajuwon (HOU), 1

Larry Bird (BOS), 1

Dale Ellis (SEA), 1

1988-89: 3

Michael Jordan (CHI), 5

Clyde Drexler (POR), 1

Alex English (DEN), 1

1987-88: 2

Michael Jordan (CHI), 4

Dominique Wilkins (ATL), 2

1986-87: 3

Michael Jordan (CHI), 8

Dominique Wilkins (ATL), 3

Moses Malone (WSB), 1

1985-86: 3

Larry Bird (BOS), 1

Dominique Wilkins (ATL), 1

Alex English (DEN), 1

1984-85: 5

Bernard King (NYK), 3

Larry Bird (BOS), 1

Kevin McHale (BOS), 1

Purvis Short (GSW), 1

Moses Malone (PHI), 1

1983-84: 3

Bernard King (NYK), 2

Kiki Vandeweghe (DEN), 2

Purvis Short (GSW), 1

1982-83: 4

Kelly Tripucka (DET), 1

Larry Bird (BOS), 1

Joe Barry Carroll (GSW), 1

Adrian Dantley (UTA), 1

1981-82: 4

Moses Malone (HOU), 1

George Gervin (SAS), 1

Ray Williams (NJN), 1

Adrian Dantley (UTA), 1

1980-81: 4

Adrian Dantley (UTA), 3

Bernard King (GSW), 1

Moses Malone (HOU), 1

Billy Knight (IND), 1

1979-80: 5

George Gervin (SAS), 2

Freeman Williams (SDC), 1

Larry Kenon (SAS), 1

Adrian Dantley (UTA), 1

Mike Newlin (NJN), 1

1978-79: 3

George Gervin (SAS), 1

Truck Robinson (NOJ), 1

John Drew (ATL), 1

1977-78: 5

Rick Barry (GSW), 2

Calvin Murphy (HOU), 1

George Gervin (SAS), 1

David Thompson (DEN), 1

John Williamson (NJN), 1

1976-77: 2

Pete Maravich (NOJ), 4

Phil Smith (GSW), 1

1975-76: 2

Bob McAdoo (BUF), 2

Phil Smith (GSW), 1

1974-75: 4

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (MIL), 2

Rick Barry (GSW), 1

Gail Goodrich (LAL), 1

Bob McAdoo (BUF), 1

1973-74: 3

Rick Barry (GSW), 3

Bob McAdoo (BUF), 1

Fred Brown (SEA), 1

1972-73: 5

Tiny Archibald (KCO), 3

Geoff Petrie (POR), 2

Rick Barry (GSW), 1

Spencer Haywood (SEA), 1

Phil Chenier (BAL), 1

1971-72: 4

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (MIL), 5

Pete Maravich (ATL), 2

Tiny Archibald (CIN), 1

Chet Walker (CHI), 1

1970-71: 4

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (MIL), 2

Dave Bing (DET), 1

Walt Wesley (CLE), 1

Elvin Hayes (SDR), 1

1969-70: 2

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (MIL), 1

Lou Hudson (ATL), 1

1968-69: 2

Wilt Chamberlain (LAL), 2

Elvin Hayes (SDR), 1

1967-68: 3

Wilt Chamberlain (PHI), 4

Earl Monroe (BAL), 1

Willis Reed (NYK), 1

1966-67: 2

Rick Barry (SFW), 6

Wilt Chamberlain (PHI), 1

1965-66: 4

Wilt Chamberlain (PHI), 5

Jerry West (LAL), 2

Sam Jones (BOS), 1

Rick Barry (SFW), 1

1964-65: 3

Wilt Chamberlain (SFW/PHI), 9

Oscar Robertson (CIN), 2

Jerry West (LAL), 1

1963-64: 3

Wilt Chamberlain (SFW), 9

Hal Greer (PHI), 1

Bob Pettit (STL), 1

1962-63: 2

Wilt Chamberlain (SFW), 30

Elgin Baylor (LAL), 4

1961-62: 7

Wilt Chamberlain (PHW), 45

Elgin Baylor (LAL), 5

Jerry West (LAL), 2

Richie Guerin (NYK), 2

Cliff Hagan (STL), 1

Rudy LaRusso (LAL), 1

Bob Pettit (STL), 1

1960-61: 3

Wilt Chamberlain (PHW), 8

Elgin Baylor (LAL), 5

Bob Pettit (STL), 1

1959-60: 4

Wilt Chamberlain (PHW), 5

Elgin Baylor (MNL), 2

Jack Twyman (CIN), 1

Richie Guerin (NYK), 1

1958-59: 4

Bob Pettit (STL), 2

Jack Twyman (CIN), 1

Elgin Baylor (MNL), 1

Dolph Schayes (SYR), 1

1957-58: 2

George Yardley (DET), 2

Bob Pettit (STL), 1

1953-54: 1

Neil Johnston (PHW), 1

1951-52: 1

George Mikan (MNL), 1

1949-50: 1

George Mikan (MNL), 1

1948-49: 2

George Mikan (MNL), 2

Joe Fulks (PHW), 1

Otto Porter valued in Chicago

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DETROIT – Bulls guard Zach LaVine summarized the scouting report on the Wizards the last couple years.

John Wall and Bradley Beal: “A lot of the shots were going that way.”

Otto Porter: “He was just stuck in the corner.”

Porter is spreading his wings now. After getting traded to Chicago last month, Porter is filling a bigger role on a team pleased to have him.

The Bulls, especially after trading Justin Holiday, were desperate at small forward. Denzel Valentine has missed the entire season due to injury. Chicago’s option for a bigger wing were oversized (Jabari Parker), undersized (LaVine, Wayne Selden) or inexperienced (Chandler Hutchison).

“Every team needs a guy like Otto,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. “But we definitely did.

“He comes in, and it’s like a calming of the sea.”

Chicago is 7-6 with Porter and 12-44 without him. Even just since acquiring Porter, the Bulls have outscored opponents by 1.2 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and gotten outscored by 9.0 points per 100 possessions without him.

Importantly, Porter has thrived with Chicago’s other healthy core players. The Bulls are +6.6 points per 100 possessions when Porter, LaVine and Lauri Markkanen share the court.

Effectively, Porter was an early free agent addition for Chicago. The Bulls dealt two players with expiring contracts – Parker (who definitely wasn’t returning) and Bobby Portis (who might’ve returned) – and a 2023 second-rounder to Washington.

The reason Porter was available: His large contract. He’s earning $26,011,913 this season and due $55,739,815 the next two years.

The tax-dodging Wizards were ready to move on. After stumbling with Parker, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo as big additions in free agency recently, Chicago wanted the known quantity.

Porter’s $26,011,913 salary is now the third-highest by a Bull. Only Michael Jordan ($33,140,000 in 1997-98 and $30,140,000 in 1996-97) earned more.

Here are the highest salaries by anyone on Chicago’s roster in the given season:

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The Wizards’ financial commitment to Porter was brief and forced upon them. Porter signed a four-year max offer sheet with the Nets in 2017. Coming off its best season in nearly four decades, Washington matched.

Yet that same offseason, Wall openly courted Paul George as an upgrade over Porter. This January, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said his team wouldn’t trade Porter then obviously did anyway.

Porter said the Wizards never told him their intentions had changed before trading him.

“It was all business,” Porter said. “It was nothing personal.”

Porter seems more welcomed by Chicago. LaVine lights up when discussing Porter. Asked whether Porter appears to be enjoying his expanded role, LaVine offered an enthusiastic “Hell yeah!”

In Washington, Porter contributed quietly. He shot well from the perimeter and spaced the floor. He avoided mistakes. He usually played sound defense. Teams need someone to create, but Porter looked like an ideal complementary player.

Porter has been tasked with much more in Chicago. He’s averaging 18.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game with the Bulls. His usage percentage (21.7) is 3.3 percentage points higher than it ever was with the Wizards. He has already finished more plays as pick-and-roll ballhandler in Chicago (75) than he did in Washington (64) this season.

“Anything that I can bring to this team, I’m going to do it,” Porter said. “There’s no holding back.”

I’m not sold on Porter having the ball in his hands so much long-term. It makes sense with these Bulls, but better teams will likely have other players more suited for creating shots. Still, this experience should at least aid Porter’s development for Chicago’s next phase – whatever that is.

The Bulls are in line for a high draft pick and project to have about $20 million in cap space this summer. Nail those opportunities – especially by upgrading at point guard, where Kris Dunn hasn’t been the answer – and Chicago could be onto something.

Porter said he loves playing for the Bulls. He has gotten a fresh start and a leadership position.

The 25-year-old Porter has played more playoff games (31) than any other Bull. Heck, he has played nearly as many as the rest of the roster combined. Robin Lopez (28 games), Wayne Selden (six games) and Cristiano Felicio (six games) are the only other Bulls with postseason experience.

“I don’t have all the answers,” Porter said. “But the thing that it is, we can grow together, learn together.”

The Bulls needed a competent small forward. They got one much better.

Porter doesn’t solve all Chicago’s problems, but he has already improved the team’s dynamic. Young players develop better in steadier situations. The addition of Porter should help now and down the road.

“He’s a winning person and a winning player,” Boylen said, “and we’re really thankful for him.”

Bradley Beal’s late surge lifts Wizards to 121-115 win over Kings

Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Bradley Beal scored 21 of his 27 points after halftime, helping the Washington Wizards beat the Sacramento Kings 121-115 on Monday night despite twice giving back double-digit leads.

Beal added nine rebounds and nine assists on the night.

With the win, the 11th-place Wizards moved within 3 1/2 games of the eighth Eastern Conference playoff spot currently held by idle Miami.

Jabari Parker added 18 points off the bench and Bobby Portis had 17 points and 13 rebounds as Washington began a five-game homestand.

De'Aaron Fox scored 23 points for the Kings, who started Monday four games back of three teams tied for the last three Western Conference playoff spots.

Reserve Nemanja Bjelica added 15 points and 12 rebounds for Sacramento, which has lost six straight in Washington dating back to 2013.

After erasing all of the Wizards’ 14-point, first-half lead by the break, the Kings did the same to the Wizards’ 12-point edge in the second.

Buddy Hield‘s transition layup gave Sacramento its first lead after halftime with 3:41 to play, capping a 6-0 spurt and making it 112-111.

Jeff Green and Beal each hit a pair of free throws to answer before Beal followed with a tough contested layup to stretch it to 118-112 with 51 seconds left.

The Kings hit just one of their last seven shots after Hield’s layup.

 

Optimism with the Wizards? Thomas Bryant supplies it

Rob Carr/Getty Images
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DETROIT – Thomas Bryant is usually cheery.

“I don’t like being upset, sad, mad about anything,” Bryant said. “I always want to be happy. I always want people around me to be happy.”

So much so, it could seem the attitude comes naturally to him.

“Hell no,” Bryant said. “It ain’t easy at all.”

It didn’t come easy when Bryant slipped to the second round of the NBA draft in 2017, a year after he returned to Indiana for his sophomore season despite looking like a probable 2016 first-round pick. He went No. 42 to the Lakers.

It didn’t come easy when the Lakers assigned him to their minor-league affiliate much of his rookie season. “You start getting overseas people following you on Instagram and DMing you,” Bryant said. “Like, ‘Hell nah.'”

It didn’t come easy when he barely played while with the Lakers. When got on the court, he usually struggled.

And it especially didn’t come easy when the Lakers waived him last summer.

“That one really got to me,” Bryant said. “I felt like I did everything right. I felt like I gave it my all, and then I went down like that.”

Bryant didn’t know what it meant for his future. He spoke to his agent, trying to get answers. But in those trying moments, he really likes to get away from basketball and watch cartoons like “Family Guy,” “Rick and Morty,” and “Tom and Jerry.”

He also gave himself a pep talk.

“C’mon, you gotta keep swinging, man,” Bryant said he told himself. “There’s a lot more left in the tank for you. You’re young. So, you’ve got to keep trying to get through it.”

The Wizards claimed Bryant off waivers, and he has brought his positivity – and far more production than expected – to Washington. Bryant has been one of the biggest bright spots in the Wizards’ dismal season.

Washington entered the year shooting for 50 wins and the conference finals. Instead, the Wizards (25-36) are barely hanging in the sad Eastern Conference playoff race.

Among the many reasons Washington has disappointed: Starting center Dwight Howard has missed nearly the entire season due to injury. But that opened the door for Bryant.

Bryant has been a revelation. He’s an aggressive rim-runner who converts the numerous close opportunities he creates. His 81% shooting at the rim leads the NBA (minimum: 100 attempts). He has also shown range, making 21-of-55 3-pointers (38%).

In 43 starts, Bryant was averaging 10.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in 21.0 minutes per game. He recently got pulled from the starting lineup because, as Wizards coach Scott Brooks said, “We have to see what we have” in Bobby Portis, who was acquired for Otto Porter shortly before the trade deadline. But in the two games since, Bryant’s minutes (25.3), points (20.5) and rebounds (8.5) per game are up. This doesn’t seem like a big demotion.

Which should keep Bryant in strong consideration for Most Improved Player ballots.

In arguing De'Aaron Fox should be running away with the award, I cited his increase in box plus-minus from -4.4 to +0.8 – a jump of 5.2. Bryant’s box-plus minus increase has been even larger – from -4.2 to +1.8, a jump of 6.0.

But Bryant played just 72 NBA minutes last season. That’s not a reliable sample. Fox fully demonstrated how bad he was last year.

Still, limited playing time usually indicates inadequacy. Bryant seizing a larger role shows just how much he has improved.

Bryant’s increase in win shares of 3.8 (0.1 to 3.9) is the fourth largest in the NBA this season, behind only Monte Morris (another Most Improved Player-ballot candidate), Fox and Malik Beasley.

Here are the biggest increases in win shares (middle) from a prior career high (left) to the current season (right):

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Bryant’s contributions are especially surprising, because the Wizards might have had an ulterior motive to claim him off waivers. Sure, the 21-year-old Bryant had basketball potential. But because he signed his current contract as a draft pick, he also counts less toward the luxury tax than a minimum-salary free agent would have. Washington has shown its tax leeriness by keeping roster spots vacant throughout the season then making trades to dodge the tax entirely.

Bryant will become a restricted free agent this summer. Though he has shown great progress, there are still major questions about him long-term – particularly defensively.

The Wizards are one of the NBA’s worst rebounding teams. It’s a whole-roster problem, but they aren’t much better with Bryant on the court. A solid individual rebounder, he isn’t diligent about boxing out.

With Bryant on the floor, Washington allows opponents to get 38% of their shots at the rim and shoot 67% on them. Essentially, Wizards’ opponents turn into the Bucks, the league’s best team near the basket. It’s hard to build a sound defense when the center provides such little rim protection.

Still, Bryant’s flaws rarely stem from laziness. He’s kinetic on defense, just often flying to the wrong spot.

Bryant is nothing if not energetic.

In describing why it’s important for him to set a tone for his team, Bryant winds up going through the entire roster. He wants to lift the veterans because they can get fatigued by a long season. He wants to lift the benchwarmers because he has been there before. Most of all, he wants to lift Bradley Beal because the star has carried the largest load.

“It’s great,” Beal said. “I tell him every game I need it.”

Beal especially appreciates Bryant’s pre-game routine in the locker room.

“He has his headphones on, and he’s jumping up around, dancing back and forth through the locker room,” Beal said. “So, imagine a 6-10 dude doing all the latest dances. So, it’s pretty fun and funny to watch, but it gets everybody going.”

Bryant knows he’s making his mark.

“They start dancing sometimes, too, and smiling,” Bryant said. “So, it’s all positive.”