Dan Favale | Tue 30/01/2018 - 04:56 EST

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Houston Rockets Better Than the Golden State Warriors?

Championship odds come via TopBet. Make sure you're confirming these lines before deciding on any wagers. And if you're interested in checking out last month's evaluation of the NBA, you can do here.

1. Golden State Warriors (-250)

warirors

Previous Rank: 1

Something about the Golden State Warriors feels uncomfortably human this season: their shooting. Aside from their key snipers—Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant—they're remarkably average, if worse off than that. They'll need Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala specifically to start hitting more of their treys.

Of course, it may not matter. The Warriors have a four-game hold on the league's best record and look primed to win another championship anyway, potential spacing hiccups and all. 

2. Houston Rockets (+700)

Previous Rank: 5

Chris Paul and James Harden are healthy again...at the same time. Luc Mbah a Moute is right there with them. Ergo, the Houston Rockets are an all-encompassing terror. 

Yes, their defense has slipped outside the top 10 in efficiency, but they score so much, and so efficiently, it doesn't matter. Plus, they still have the personnel—i.e. knockoff Death Lineup combinations—to give the Warriors appreciable fits.

3. Toronto Raptors (+2000)

Previous Rank: 6

Steady is the hand that guides the Toronto Raptors. They're one of the NBA's deepest teams and getting a career performance from DeMar DeRozan. Their defense has quietly climbed to third in points allowed per 100 possessions, outpacing even their top-five offense.

Assuming DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have outgrown their usual postseason cold streaks, the Raptors could wind up being the scariest team in the Eastern Conference. 

4. Oklahoma City Thunder (+2000)

Previous Rank: 7

Losing Andre Roberson for the rest of this year will threaten to cripple the Oklahoma City Thunder. He doesn't provide much, if anything, at the offensive end, but he's crucial to their defense.

Consider this: When Steven Adams, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Russell Westbrook—the other four starters—play with Roberson, the Thunder have a 95.9 defensive rating. That's akin to the league's best mark. Without Roberson, though, those four notch a defensive rating of nearly 115—which would by far and away be the NBA's worst mark.

Oklahoma City gets a top-five nod anyway. George might be able to prop up the defense on his own, and the offense has shown too much improvement, along with the record, to be completely down on them. But keep an eye on their championship chances. You shouldn't invest in them until they slide closer to +3000.

5. San Antonio Spurs (+1800)

spurs

Previous Rank: 4

Kawhi Leonard is once again out indefinitely as he tries to get his right quad in working order, and it seemingly doesn't matter. The San Antonio Spurs are still on pace to win more than 50 games and own the league's second-best defense.

Consistent offensive output can be a problem, but they're scoring like an above-average team with LaMarcus Aldridge in the game, and newly crowned starting point guard Dejounte Murray has shown flashes. They're going to be fine. 

6. Boston Celtics (+1000)

Previous Rank: 3

All is well with the Boston Celtics—for the most part.

While they still have the NBA's best defense, they've posted a bottom-five offensive clip since Dec. 15. They need to trade for another shot creator—Rodney Hood or Tyreke Evans anyone?—to give Kyrie Irving a more tried-and-true safety valve.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves (+3500)

Previous Rank: 8

Continue to treat the Minnesota Timberwolves with caution. Their standing is buttressed by hyper-efficient accuracy on low-quality jumpers and a fast-improving defense that looks like a mirage.

Still, they have Jimmy Butler. And given how favorably they've ranked on the offensive end all year, this figures to be closer to their normal than not.

8. Milwaukee Bucks (+5000)

Previous Rank: 10

Firing Jason Kidd has, apparently, done wonders for the Milwaukee Bucks. They're on a four-game winning streak and check in at eighth in points scored per 100 possessions.

With Jabari Parker, last year's second-leading scorer, on his way back from an ACL injury, the Bucks are a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference. And they'll be even more menacing if they can get their hands on some extra defensive rebounding and another shooter in advance of the trade deadline. 

9. Cleveland Cavaliers (+650)

Previous Rank: 2

This feels both too high and too low for the Cleveland Cavaliers, if we're being honest.

Do they deserve any praise whatsoever for their craptastic defense, which ranks 28th in points allowed per 100 possessions? Not at all. But would we also pick them to win a seven-game series right now against any team in the East? Probably.

That we cannot say most definitely more than 50 games into the season, however, qualifies as a major hitch in their giddy up. They should be viewed as vulnerable unless they make a major defensive-oriented splash at the trade deadline. 

10. Miami Heat (+7500)

heat

Previous Rank: 13

Defense continues to be the construct on which the Miami Heat lay their hopes. They're hovering around the bottom five in offensive efficiency when running half-court sets, and they need a second combination playmaker and floor general to complement Goran Dragic.

None of which hurts their stock. Quite the opposite, in fact. They're up to seventh in defensive efficiency and taking full advantage of an Eastern Conference that still wants for patented superpowers.

11. Indiana Pacers (+15000)

Previous Rank: 11

The Indiana Pacers remain one of the league's greatest revelations. They're seventh in points scored per 100 possessions and tallying the point differential of a fringe contender when Victor Oladipo is on the court. 

Look for them to be semi-active ahead of the trade deadline. The Detroit Pistons are gearing up for stretch-run warfare in the Central Division, and the Pacers have some nice chips to dangle. If they can acquire a wing or upgrade the point guard position they'll have a good chance of floating around the top 12 for the rest of this year.

12. Portland Trail Blazers (+15000)

Previous Rank: 16

Have the Portland Trail Blazers hammered out all their offensive issues? Not even close. But they're getting better. They're a pleasantly shocking third in points scored per 100 possessions since Jan. 1, and their conservative, drop-back defensive scheme is still yielding win-friendly results.

Franchise cornerstone Damian Lillard recently met with owner Paul Allen about the Blazers' big-picture direction. Perhaps that has something to do with the team's recent uptick. Or maybe they're on the verge of shaking things up. We'll have to wait and see. For now, they're making miniature sleeps by the week.

13. Philadelphia 76ers (+8000)

Previous Rank: 17

It's the same story, different month, for the Philadelphia 76ers: They need to flesh out their bench. They cannot function when Joel Embiid and any one of their other starters steps off the court. And even their three-starter lineups have been known to struggle.

Unless the Sixers pick up another wing and/or playmaking scorer to do some work off the pine, they won't be making their way any further up this ladder.

14. Denver Nuggets (+20000)

Previous Rank: 9

More Nikola Jokic and Trey Lyles lineups. Less Nikola Jokic and Mason Plumlee lineups. That is all.

15. Washington Wizards (+5000)

wizards

Previous Rank: 12

Okay, nobody panic, but the Washington Wizards rank 24th in defensive efficiency since the turn of the calendar.

Actually, strike that. Panic a little bit. The Wizards don't have the second-unit offensive depth to survive this drastic of a defensive slide.

16. New Orleans Pelicans (+15000)

Previous Rank: 15

Consider this a gift New Orleans Pelicans fans. They probably aren't rising any higher for the rest of the year.

Such is the impact DeMarcus Cousins' season-ending Achilles injury has on this team. The Pelicans had a case to vault themselves into the top 12. Instead, they're left scrambling to pick up the pieces of their second-best player's absence.

Anthony Davis has the superstar mojo to maybe secure them a playoff spot. Beyond that, though, they're nothing more than first-round stepping stones.

17. Los Angeles Clippers (+15000)

Previous Rank: 18

The Los Angeles Clippers' recent winning streak suggests they should be higher. But they just traded Blake Griffin, their best talent, to the Detroit Pistons for a collection of role players.

Who knows, over the long haul, they might be better off without Griffin as a collective. There's no way of be certain about that now. We also have to account for them possibly moving on from both DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams as a result of Griffin's exit. Keeping them outside the top 15 is a necessary hedge.

18. Utah Jazz (+75000)

Previous Rank: 20

Could the Utah Jazz generate some offense? Any offense? Seriously, any offense whatsoever? Pretty please? With sugar on top?

No? Well, okay then.

In all seriousness, head coach Quin Snyder needs to abandon this whole Ricky Rubio experiment. He's killing the Jazz's offensive output. They're better off running with Donovan Mitchell at the 1 from here on if they want to sneak back into the playoff picture.

19. New York Knicks (+50000)

Previous Rank: 19

Be prepared for the New York Knicks to fall even lower. They're now almost five games off of the East's final playoff spot and fading fast.

Kristaps Porzingis wants them to be buyers at the trade deadline. We know better. And the Knicks should know better, too. They're set up to be primo sellers in support of a late-season tanking agenda. 

20. Detroit Pistons (+15000)

pistons

Previous Rank: 14

Are we really sliding the Pistons down six pegs after they acquired a bona fide All-Star in Blake Griffin? You're damn right we are.

Not only have the Pistons lost eight games in a row entering this batch of power rankings, but they're guaranteed nothing with the arrival of Griffin. His fit with Andre Drummond in the frontcourt is awkward at best, and Detroit doesn't have the necessary shooters around these two to make their partnership worthwhile. Don't be surprised if they dip even further as the season presses on. 

21. Brooklyn Nets (+200000)

Previous Rank: 24

Public service announcement: The Brooklyn Nets have a top-10 defense since Christmas and remain a general pain in the butt for teams hoping to rattle off easy wins against lottery-bound opponents.

22. Los Angeles Lakers (+100000)

Previous Rank: 23

Lonzo Ball's return from a knee injury should only help the Los Angeles Lakers' stock. Despite his on-again, off-again struggles, he instills a sense of calm and structure and effort into the offense. 

Whether that will allow the Lakers to continue staving off bottom-five status, however, remains to be seen. 

23. Charlotte Hornets (+35000)

Previous Rank: 25

Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan is apparently against trading All-Star point guard Kemba Walker. This is a mistake.

The Hornets are on the fast track to nowhere, and they're taking a bloated payroll with them. Dealing Walker is their way—mind you, their only way—of lopping off some of their most damaging salary elsewhere. Ipso facto, this No. 23 finish might be a little generous. They're playing better of late, particularly on offense, but if they know what's best for their future, this shift won't last.

24. Dallas Mavericks (+200000)

Previous Rank: 21

Watch the Dallas Mavericks, and you'll think they should be better than their 16-35 record suggests. They try hard on defense, while both Harrison Barnes and rookie Dennis Smith Jr. provide regular flashes of offensive superstardom.

But this is what happens when a team turns over the keys of its offense to a first-year point guard. And the Mavericks, given that they own the rights to their own draft pick, have every incentive to keep enduring these growing pains.

25. Atlanta Hawks (+200000)

hawks

Previous Rank: 27

Someone explain to me why the Atlanta Hawks don't shoot more threes. Asking for a friend. 

Nothing? Whatever. John Collins is fun. DeAndre' Bembry and Taurean Prince are going to be good. The Hawks will be bad until further notice. The end.

26. Chicago Bulls (+30000)

Previous Rank: 22

The Chicago Bulls have crashed back down to earth following their explosive play in the aftermath of Nikola Mirotic's return. Fortunately for them, rookie Lauri Markkanen has yet to cool off, and Zach LaVine, the centerpiece of last summer's Jimmy Butler trade, has returned to the floor from his ACL injury.

Unfortunately for them, their tank still isn't strong enough to compete with those from the Hawks, Orlando Magic and Sacramento Kings. They need to trade Mirotic as soon as possible.

27. Phoenix Suns (+200000)

Previous Rank: 26

Silver linings aren't hard to find for the Phoenix Suns, despite their rather helpless position.

Devin Booker has upped his efficiency while increasing his volume. They're getting more consistent contributions from young big men Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender. Best of all, rookie Josh Jackson is starting to look like a real NBA player.

28. Memphis Grizzlies (+150000)

Previous Rank: 29

Better efforts over the past couple of weeks should give the Memphis Grizzlies enough juice to leap frog a couple of teams in front of them. But Mike Conley is officially done for the year after needing surgery, and the team has begun to implement a subtle tanking program by resting key starters for games at a time.

The question now for the Grizzlies isn't how far they can rise through these ranks this year. It's how far can they fall, in the name of their lottery odds. 

29. Orlando Magic (+200000)

Previous Rank: 30

Sitting through Magic games has become an increasingly cruel form of torture. Do yourself a favor if your job doesn't depend on it and pass on the chance to watch them whenever you can. As far as this season goes, they're utterly hopeless.

30. Sacramento Kings (+300000)

Previous Rank: 28

Congratulations to the Kings! At this writing, they own the NBA's worst offensive, defensive and net ratings. That's truly, ridiculously, impressively tough to do.

The Kings truly are a work of tanking art, and their lottery odds should trounce all others as a result.

Results / FixturesNBA

All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference or NBA.com.

Category : Sports Betting News

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