Dan Favale | Fri 29/12/2017 - 04:26 EST

NBA Power Rankings: Pre-New Year's Edition

If you want to check out last month's edition of our power rankings, you can do so here. All championship odds for this latest look at the NBA come via TopBet and are accurate as of Thursday, December 28.

1. Golden State Warriors (-200)

warriors

Previous Rank: 3

No Stephen Curry? No problem. Seriously. Though the Golden State Warriors' offense has dipped a little bit in his absence, they're propping up the league's best defense through 11 games without him. They're also a stout 9-1 as he recovers from his ankle injury, with the NBA's highest point differential per 100 possessions.

Ergo, don't be shocked if the Warriors squat here, at No. 1, for the rest of the season. After all, if they're this good without Steph, while also battling other injuries, just think of how dominant they'll be at full strength.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers (+500)

Previous Rank: 4

Recent loss to the Sacramento Kings notwithstanding, the Cleveland Cavaliers have earned this No. 2 billing. Their defense remains a mess, and falling to the Curry-less Warriors on Christmas Day doesn't bode well for their expected NBA Finals return, but they continue to figure things out on offense and boast one of the NBA's deepest benches.

When's the last time we've been able to say that about a LeBron James-led team? Um, that would be never. Best of all, the Cavaliers should get even scarier, relative to every team that isn't the Warriors, once Isaiah Thomas makes his season debut sometime in January. 

3. Boston Celtics (+1400)

Previous Rank: 2

While the Boston Celtics have slipped off following their scorching-hot start to the year, they are far from irrelevant. They are still one of the league's most dangerous teams in crunch time, Al Horford deserves some MVP love, Jayson Tatum has very clearly been the NBA's second-best rookie, and they're holding firm at second in defensive efficiency. 

4. San Antonio Spurs (+1800)

Previous Rank: 5

Kawhi Leonard isn't all the way back just yet. The San Antonio Spurs have him on a minutes restriction and aren't playing him on one end of back-to-backs. This should matter. But it doesn't. The Spurs have the NBA's fourth-best defense and are hovering right around 10th in offensive efficiency. That they're on track to secure 57 victories despite Leonard's absence and, now, gradual return is absolutely ridiculous.

5. Houston Rockets (+500)

rockets

Previous Rank: 1

So much for the Houston Rockets running away with the "Second Best Team in the NBA" title. They've dropped four straight games, and their most recent collapse, against the Celtics on Thursday, saw them completely melt down in crunch time. James Harden remains an MVP favorite, but his penchant for checking out on the defensive end can be detrimental. This squad needs Chris Paul back from his latest leg injury in a big way.

6. Toronto Raptors (+3300)

Previous Rank: 6

Dropping consecutive games to the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder could be construed as a red flag. But we're not going there. The Toronto Raptors brandish a much-improved shot profile, as well as an overall offensive system that should fare them well in the postseason. Sprinkle in DeMar DeRozan's passing, OG Anunoby's three-and-D stylings as a rookie and an uber-deep second unit, and you have a team fixing for a top-three playoff seed.

7. Oklahoma City Thunder (+2800)

Previous Rank: 14

Have the Thunder figured out all their problems? Not quite. They still need to generate more off-ball movement on offense from their stars. Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Russell Westbrook continue to take too many breaks when they don't have the ball. The Thunder are, however, suffocating on defense and shooting better overall. Their 11-4 record through the past 15 games is no coincidence. 

8. Minnesota Timberwolves (+8000)

Previous Rank: 12

Trusting the Minnesota Timberwolves is still a patented risk. Their defense remains crap, and they've pieced together a top-five offense while championing one of the NBA's absolute worst shot profiles. But Jimmy Butler is balling out at both ends of the floor—so much so the Timberwolves play above-average defense whenever he's in the game. Though Jeff Teague's injury could sink them, Tyus Jones is a worthy backup. They'll amble in and out of the top 10 all year, but from the looks of things, they're finding their sweet spot. Now all they need to do is stay healthy.

9. Denver Nuggets (+15000)

Previous Rank: 10

Let's put the whole "Nikola Jokic is not a good defender" trope to bed. He is by no means spectacular. Let's make that clear. But the Denver Nuggets are allowing fewer points per 100 possessions when he's on the floor, and they're finding ways to pick up quality wins, like one over the Utah Jazz, despite Paul Millsap's extended absence. Ninth place might seem a little ambitious now. It won't for much longer.

10. Milwaukee Bucks (+6000)

bucks

Previous Rank: 12

The Milwaukee Bucks should be higher than this. They have almost all the makings of a powerhouse—including a quartet of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe and Tony Snell that blitzes opponents by more than 15 points per 100 possessions when it's in the game. Still, the bench isn't good, and the Bucks could use some size to replace Greg Monroe, who they shipped to the Phoenix Suns as part of the Bledsoe deal. Some additional outside shooting wouldn't hurt either. Jabari Parker's return (in February) will remedy some of these issues, but overall, the Bucks seem to be one piece short from making a real run.

11. Indiana Pacers (+10000)

Previous Rank: 13

Losses to the Dallas Mavericks and Detroit Pistons hurt the Indiana Pacers' stock quite a bit, but they're still an offensive revelation relative to expectations. Victor Oladipo seems to be for real, as does Domantas Sabonis. Their collective three-point clip can even be accepted as reality now. The question: Can they keep scoring at this rate while launching the most long mid-range jumpers of any other team? 

12. Washington Wizards (+5000)

Previous Rank: 11

Something feels off about the Washington Wizards. Maybe John Wall isn't all the way back from his knee injury. Maybe Markieff Morris' uneven play has become infectious. Maybe the bench is too much of a wild card. Maybe the starting lineup won't match the dominance it achieved over each of the past two season. All of these maybes should make you uncomfortable. That the Wizards are over .500 anyway, though, suggests they'll grow as time wears on.

13. Miami Heat (+12500)

Previous Rank: 15

Could someone get the Miami Heat a dynamic scorer? Please and thank you. Dion Waiters was supposed to be that guy, and he isn't. And not only that, but he's dealing with an ankle injury that could require surgery at season's end. Hassan Whiteside's return will shore up the defense long term, but the Heat figure to struggle on the more glamorous end all year.

14. Detroit Pistons (+10000)

Previous Rank: 7

Losing Reggie Jackson for the next six to eight weeks comes as a huge blow to the Pistons. They average noticeably more points per 100 possessions when he's in the lineup. Are Ish Smith and Langston Galloway up to the task of replacing him? We'll have to wait and see.

15. New Orleans Pelicans (+20000)

pelicans

Previous Rank: 16

Same story, different day: The New Orleans Pelicans embody mediocrity. Their offense is fine, and both Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins will ensure they punch a playoff ticket, but they aren't going very far without a complete defensive reinvention.

16. Portland Trail Blazers (+15000)

Previous Rank: 9

Please don't ask me how a team with both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum is struggling so mightily on the offensive end. The Portland Trail Blazers are 28th in points scored per 100 possessions over their past 10 games. Lillard has missed three of those, but still: Portland needs to find a way to manufacture more points, lest they end up disappearing from the Western Conference's playoff picture.

17. Philadelphia 76ers (+10000)

Previous Rank: 8

Is it time to panic about the Philadelphia 76ers' stock following a loss to the Lillard-less Blazers? Yes. Yes, it is. They tend to be keep their heads above water or flat-out dominate when Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Robert Covington share the floor, but an inexperienced bench is starting to betray them.

18. Los Angeles Clippers (+50000)

Previous Rank: 3

Milos Teodosic is showing the Los Angeles Clippers what it means to play meaningful basketball again. They have the NBA's fourth-best defense over their past 10 games, during which time they're 6-4. They're now inside four games of the West's eighth and final playoff spot, with Blake Griffin's return imminent.

19. New York Knicks (+20000)

Previous Rank: 19

The New York Knicks still only have two wins on the road, making them one of the NBA's worst teams when playing away from home. With 15 of their next 19 games coming in hostile territory, don't be surprised if and when they start to tumble down these rankings.

20. Utah Jazz (+50000)

jazz

Previous Rank: 27

Rudy Gobert is injured. Again. Which means the Jazz's playoff hopes are seemingly dashed. Again. Except, this time, it feels real. The Jazz don't have the offensive shot creators to forge an offensive identity, and Gobert's absence strips them of their defensive face. They're now a low-key late-season tanking candidate.

21. Dallas Mavericks (+200000)

Previous Rank: 24

The 2017-18 Mavericks: Much better than their shoddy record suggests. That is all.

22. Chicago Bulls (+200000)

Previous Rank: 30

So, um, wow. Nikola Mirotic has changed everything for the Chicago Bulls. They're 9-2 since his return and pummeling opponents by nearly nine points per 100 possessions whenever he's on the court. Performances from Kris Dunn, David Nwaba, Bobby Portis and Lauri Markkanen have helped too, but he seems to be the impetus behind it all. Just don't expect this climb from the Bulls to last for long. They'll regress to the mean in due time. And if they don't, you can bet they'll trade away some impact players ahead of the Feb. 8 trade deadline for the sake of the tank.

23. Los Angeles Lakers (+50000)

Previous Rank: 20

The Los Angeles Lakers are no longer riding Cloud 9 at either end of the floor. They are still the NBA's worst three-point-shooting team and have seen their hot start on the defensive fade into nothingness. Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball are turning heads, but this outfit seems to be too young, inexperienced and sloppy to contend for more 23 to 25 victories. 

24. Brooklyn Nets (+200000)

Previous Rank: 25

Most people will opt out of watching the Brooklyn Nets because of their record. I beg you, though: Don't do that. They aren't much better than their record suggests. They'll probably end up winning fewer than 30 games. But they are absolutely, positively fun to watch and have a knack for catching quality opponents off-guard. 

25. Charlotte Hornets (+50000)

hornets

Previous Rank: 17

This stat has been delivered ad nauseam, but it bears repeating: Based on net rating, the Charlotte Hornets play like one of the NBA's seven best squads whenever Kemba Walker is on the floor. Once he steps off, though, they turn in the league's worst point differential by a country mile. 

26. Phoenix Suns (+200000)

Previous Rank: 28

Devin Booker has returned from his adductor injury, and the Phoenix Suns are looking spunky. They're 5-5 over their last 10 games, with a defensive rating that ranks a pleasantly surprising 15th. If they're not careful, they may have to shut Booker down after the All-Star break to prevent themselves from winning too many games in advance of the draft lottery.

27. Atlanta Hawks (+200000)

Previous Rank: 29

Props to Dennis Schroder for helping the Atlanta Hawks flirt with a league-average offense. And even more props to rookie John Collins for all his bounce. That's about all we have to say on the Hawks. They remain one of the NBA's foremost organic tankers. You shouldn't expect anything more from them than what you've already seen.

28. Sacramento Kings (+200000)

Previous Rank: 26

Despite being 5-5 and over their past 10 games, the Kings still have the NBA's fourth-worst net rating. That says all you need to know about their season. They'll be fortunate to tally 25 wins.

29. Memphis Grizzlies (+150000)

Previous Rank: 23

Has Marc Gasol been a top-50 player this season? The answer is a resounding no. And the Memphis Grizzlies are screwed as a result. It doesn't matter how well Mike Conley plays upon his return from Achilles issues. They aren't making the playoffs. 

30. Orlando Magic (+200000)

Previous Rank: 21

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The Orlando Magic are 4-20 since starting the season 8-4, during which time they're getting outscored by a league-worst 10.4 points per 100 possessions. Though we could say better days are around the corner, we'd be lying. Injuries have decimated the Magic's roster, claiming Nikola Vucevic, Jonathan Isaac, Terrence Ross and Aaron Gordon for extended periods of time. If this team sniffs the 25-win mark, it should consider itself lucky.

*All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference or NBA.com and are accurate leading into games on Dec. 28.

Category : Sports Betting News

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