This week’s biggest busts: Pacers -4, Bucks -3, Hawks -2, Hornets -2, Magic -2
This week’s biggest successes: Kings +4, Raptors +3, Mavericks +2, Lakers +2
1. Golden State Warriors (46-8, 3-0 this week) (last week: #1 [3-1] +0)
Draymond Green became the first player to ever record a triple-double without scoring ten points. That’s cool, but it’s definitely not cooler than a quad-double would have been had he gotten the required ten points. We shouldn’t even be congratulating him for this so-called “achievement”. We should be mocking him for not scoring enough points. Join me in my mockery and perhaps you too will gain fulfillment in your life by making fun of NBA players.
2. San Antonio Spurs (41-12, 2-1 this week) (last week: #2 [3-1] +0)
The Spurs had their lowest scoring output of the season by a considerable amount when they scored just 74 points against the Grizzlies, who have a good defense, but, come on, you’re the Spurs! Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan were out, which didn’t help matters, but LaMarcus Aldridge utterly failed to step up to the plate when he scored thirteen points on nineteen shots. I wonder what Pop said in the locker room after the game. He probably just stared at his team in silent disappointment and then walked away while everybody felt guilty and awkward.
3. Boston Celtics (35-19, 3-1 this week) (last week: #3 [3-0] +0)
For once, Isaiah Thomas (the player who will be a superstar once the NBA removes the height requirement) didn’t have an insane fourth quarter, and the result was a Celtics loss to the Kings by sixteen points. Take note, IT: three points is not really enough to get the job done when your teammates have a reduced scoring mindset because they expect you to do all the scoring for them. You really think Al Horford is capable of picking up the slack? Do you really think that?
4. Houston Rockets (40-17, 3-0 this week) (last week: #5 [2-2] +1)
James Harden shot poorly in the Rockets’ first two games this week (14 of 42 from the field), but predictably rebounded against a defense-less Suns team that was without Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler for some reason (does blatant tanking usually start in early February?). As a team, the Rockets took care of their business in their three games against bad squads, and it is again acceptable to start considering them a “contender”, something that was difficult to justify when they were losing to teams like the Bucks and Wolves. Actually, it’s still difficult to justify considering how unstoppable the Warriors seem to be. OFFICIAL ROCKETS CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDER STATUS: REVOKED
5. Cleveland Cavaliers (37-16, 3-1 this week) (last week: #4 [3-1] -1)
OFFICIAL LEBRON JAMES COASTING WATCH: I’m starting to think that LeBron’s not even gonna get to coast until maybe the last two weeks of the season. He averaged forty minutes per game this week and is taking as many shots as ever. I’m all for playing hard each and every game, but does Tyronn Lue not realize that he needs to ease off LeBron for a bit to ensure that LeBron dominates through the entire playoffs? Somebody should forward him my OFFICIAL LEBRON JAMES COASTING WATCH so he can be aware of the error of his ways. Besides, I’m sure James Jones wishes he could get more minutes sometimes.
6. Washington Wizards (32-21, 2-1 this week) (last week: #7 [4-0] +1)
I wonder if Bradley Beal and John Wall still hate each other’s guts even now that the Wizards are winning and are a legit good team. I can’t really imagine a scenario in the locker room after a win where Beal goes up to Wall and says “hey you played great and we had awesome chemistry yet again but I still wish you would get traded so I can be the main guy.” Take either one of Wall or Beal off this team and they have half the wins, so hopefully they learn to deal with the each other’s in-game tendencies. Or just abandon all the facades and escalate into undisguised hatred (possibly with physical violence).
7. Utah Jazz (34-21, 2-2 this week) (last week: #6 [2-0] -1)
The Utah Jazz have the most stifling defense in the league. Their snails-pace offense is 28th in points per game but 11th in offense rating. The question is: why do they hate their fans so much? Fans don’t want to watch slow dudes run slow half-court plays that more often than not result in a good shot. They want to watch fast dudes run quickly up the court and shoot three-pointers as soon as somebody is even slightly open. Luckily for the Jazz organization, there is no nearby competition for professional sports dollars, so it’s either go to Jazz games or go see the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for the hundredth time.
8. Memphis Grizzlies (33-23, 2-1 this week) (last week: #9 [3-1] +1)
The Grizzlies are currently good, which means that Chandler Parson’s poor production-to-contract-size ratio isn’t a big deal right now. However, at some point, paying twenty-two million dollars to a guy who averages six points per game on 37% shooting will have negative repercussions. It doesn’t matter how physically attractive he is. Unless he’s attractive enough that you can convince ten million teenage girls to pay two bucks each for an autographed picture of Parson’s face, that contract will never be positive value. Ever.
9. Toronto Raptors (32-22, 2-1 this week) (last week: #12 [1-3] +3)
Things were looking up for the Northern Dinos until a loss to a rising Timberwolves team recalled the on-and-off losing streak they’ve been struggling with since New Year’s. Now it’s not just the Celtics, but the Wizards and Hawks as well who are jostling with the Raptors for second place in the conference. Dwayne Casey is the most obvious target for blame, with a side helping of “blame DeMarre Carroll” and “blame DeMar DeRozan”, but the real scapegoat is somebody you would never expect: Kyle Lowry. If he would average forty points and fifty assists instead of whatever pathetic numbers he’s currently averaging, the Raptors would never lose another game.
10. Atlanta Hawks (31-23, 1-2 this week) (last week: #8 [3-1] -2)
The Hawks were one Darren Collison game-winner away from being 2-1 this week. Instead, they went 1-2, which looks a lot worse. Just two points separated them from having a disastrous 33% winning percentage and having an excellent 66% winning percentage. That hardly seems fair. From now on I’m going to pretend that any game that ended with a margin of less than ten points was a tie. That way I only make judgements based on real instances of teams beating other teams by virtue of being better than them rather than just getting lucky.
11. Oklahoma City Thunder (31-24, 2-2 this week) (last week: #11 [1-3] +0)
“Dear Diary, today all the fans in Oklahoma City booed me when I touched the ball. The joke was on them though because we totally destroyed them and Westbrook was acting like a bitch the whole time. Being part of a super team is awesome! If OKC had Steph and Draymond I totally would have come there instead and all the fans would love me. But since I went to the Warriors they’re mad that I’m going to get a ring before they do. They must not understand that I’d rather play with an MVP than a guy who chases triple-doubles at the expense of wins. Anyway, that’s all for now, diary. You’ll never get irrationally over-attached to me like some people have done. -KD”
12. Los Angeles Clippers (33-21, 2-2 this week) (last week: #13 [1-1] +1)
You know what would be cool? If the Clippers slipped to the seventh seed (it’s quite possible at this stage) and then got back a healthy Chris Paul and knocked out the Spurs in the first round. Of course, their chances of winning a first-round series would be better if they maintained a higher seed, but their current roster has proven that they are incapable of playing .500 ball without CP3 leading the way. The Thunder and Grizzlies should overtake them in the standings soon enough.
13. Miami Heat (24-31, 3-1 this week) (last week: #14 [3-0] +1)
The winning streak has ended at thirteen. The Heat didn’t quite ride it all the way into a playoff seed, but they came pretty close, and they traveled way further up the standings than anybody expected. When the season ends with the Heat in the ninth seed, fans of the team are going to look back on this streak and wonder “why did Spoelstra let that happen? Why did he allow the tank to be sabotaged from within?” And if fans aren’t going to think it then I’ll think it for them.
14. Indiana Pacers (29-25, 1-3 this week) (last week: #10 [4-0] -4)
The Pacers still don’t have much of an identity (are they defense-first? or offense-first?), but for an identity-less team, there sure are good. Or are they? Their SRS as provided by basketball-reference indicates that they should be below .500 right now. OFFICIAL MONTA ELLIS WATCH: Monta Ellis scored just two points in twenty-two minutes against the Thunder, which was a win for the Pacers. Subsequent games which featured more scoring from Mr. Have it All were losses for the Pacers. Food for thought.
15. Detroit Pistons (25-29, 2-1 this week) (last week: #16 [2-2] +1)
The Pistons performed as expected this week, beating up on the bad teams (Lakers, Sixers) and losing to the good team (Spurs). Is it a rule that I have to write something for every team every week? Because I don’t really have anything more to say about the Pistons other than what I already have said. I guess it’s interesting that the core group of five starters is all averaging between 14 and 17 points, making everybody wonder who the leader on the team is or if there is indeed any leader at all. There. That’s enough on the Pistons. Moving on…
16. Chicago Bulls (26-28, 1-2 this week) (last week: #15 [2-1] -1)
Michael Carter-Williams walked through his front door, but he didn’t turn on the lights as he usually did when he entered his home. Instead, he navigated his way through the dark living room until he reached the place where he knew it would be. He gingerly picked up his Rookie of the Year trophy and cradled it as he collapsed onto the sofa. “None of those mean people can take you away from me,” he murmured to it, pressing his forehead against the cool metal. “They can say all the mean things in the world, but I’ll always have you no matter what happens.”
17. Dallas Mavericks (22-32, 2-2 this week) (last week: #19 [4-0] +2)
Yogi Ferrell is now the official and sole owner of the DTB OFFICIAL MOST UNEXPECTED THIRTY-POINT GAME trophy. Last year the winner was one of Derrick Williams, Norman Powell, or Alex Len; I don’t quite remember. It doesn’t matter now though. None of those guys hit NINE (count ’em NINE) three pointers like Yogi did. And none of those guys were unbelievably CLUTCH like Yogi was. There’s no reason to expect Yogi to ever replicate this performance again in his career, but there is one thing we can expect: Nets fans staring in disbelief as the guy they cut for no real reason turns out to be a better scorer than anybody currently on their roster.
18. Denver Nuggets (24-30, 2-2 this week) (last week: #17 [1-3] -1)
The Denver Nuggets have ceased being the Denver Nuggets. They are now the Denver Jokics. Nothing that any other Nuggets player does means anything anymore. It is only background noise in the radio show of Nikola Jokic’s dominance. Emmanuel Mudiay should be sending Jokic a thank-you card every single day for being so talented that everybody has forgotten what a bust Mudiay is. A thank-you card and a bouquet of flowers, but they should be manly flowers.
19. New Orleans Pelicans (21-33, 2-1 this week) (last week: #20 [0-3] +1)
At what point is it acceptable for the Pelicans to say “Anthony Davis has a sprained big toe and will be out for the rest of the season?” Davis has been sustaining small injuries for the entire year and could really use a break from carrying his team. Normally I would say keep playing him so he can maybe be MVP, but we all know that he’s not gonna be the MVP this year so you might as well mothball him and tank properly. Then you can start Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca alongside each other for maximum hilarity. I’m giggling to myself right now just thinking about it.
20. Charlotte Hornets (24-30, 1-2 this week) (last week: #18 [0-3] -2)
When you only beat the Nets by four points you know that you suck. Not only do you know you suck, but a victory by such a small amount against such a bad team even calls into question your playoff-worthiness, especially when it’s your only win in the past ten games. Of note in that game was Frank “The Dank” Kaminsky taking seventeen shots and only making four of them. In what universe is it acceptable for that dude to take that many shots if he’s obviously colder than a penguin’s butt at the south pole? Kemba Walker I can understand because he’s a known volume-scorer, but Kaminsky? If we are indeed residing in a universe where such occurrences are acceptable, I’m going to start looking for a different universe to inhabit. Maybe it will be one where I’m not burdened by writing these things EVERY SINGLE WEEK.
21. Sacramento Kings (22-32, 2-1 this week) (last week: #25 [1-3] +4)
Who needs Rudy Gay? In the Kings’ last four games, they’ve beaten the Warriors, Celtics, and Hawks. They also lost to the Bulls, but I’m not going to let that one fluke loss get in the way of my narrative that the Kings are a HOT and UP-AND-COMING team right now. Ben McLemore (or, as I have taken to calling him, Ben McLebust) is showing signs of life, the Lawson-WCS connection is stronger than ever, and Cousins has gone quite a long time without going to a nightclub and throwing a dude through a table while yelling about “RESPECT”.
22. Portland Trail Blazers (23-31, 1-2 this week) (last week: #21 [1-2] -1)
It seems like the Blazers and Nuggets are the most solid contenders for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Both teams are offense-oriented, but the Nuggets’ defense is league-last while the Blazers are merely third from last. The fact that the Blazers displayed an improved defense in January bodes well for them, even if they haven’t been able to carry over that improvement into the month of February. Whatever team it is, we’re going to be watching the Warriors score 130 points per game in the first round this year.
23. Minnesota Timberwolves (20-34, 1-2 this week) (last week: #24 [1-3] +1)
All that talk of maybe trading Ricky Rubio died down once he started scoring in double-digits pretty much every game. Not only that, but he’s been shooting over 40% in January and February while also averaging nearly ten assists per game. Who would want to trade a player like that? If the Timberwolves wanted to trade something they could trade the coffin containing Nikola Pekovic’s remains to a team that has extra knee ligaments lying around that they’re willing to ship out. That way they can just use those instead of trying to fix the ones that Zach LaVine already has.
24. Philadelphia 76ers (20-34, 2-2 this week) (last week: #23 [1-4] -1)
T.J. McConnell has hit multiple game winners recently so now it’s time for us to ironically pretend that he’s some kind of ultra-clutch player or something. How cute. Baby’s first irony. “McConnell is more clutch than Kobe LOL” says the internet. “McConnell is the clutches player alive” says Joel Embiid. Meanwhile I’m writing about McConnell in a way that transcends irony. It might even be meta-irony. You don’t know if I’m being serious or not right now. The fact of the matter is I don’t have very much to say about the Sixers but contract obligations require me to write at least a few sentences about each team.
25. Milwaukee Bucks (23-30, 1-2 this week) (last week: #22 [1-2] -3)
Jabari’s done for the next twelve months, but he might actually be done done. Like “never going to be a star again” done. Maybe. So where do the Bucks go from here? Given that twenty points per game just vanished out of the lineup in a puff of severed ligaments, the obvious answer would be to tank. In the draft the Bucks can pick up somebody who can be a complementary star for Giannis. A Shaq for their Kobe. Or a Kobe for their Shaq. Or a Jamison for their LeBron. Or something like that. They could go that route or they could fight for the playoffs and likely end up with the 10th seed and achieve absolutely nothing just like they’ve made a habit of doing for the past decade and a half.
26. New York Knicks (22-33, 0-3 this week) (last week: #26 [1-3] +0)
The naked man withers as I watch, and the progression is disturbingly quick. There are additional million-dollar bills sprouting from the newly-formed cracks in his desiccated skin. This man apparently has great value to the Knicks’ organization; either that, or the opposite: he is a great detriment to the team. Suddenly, his eyes open as he wakes from his seeming sleep, and his mouth attempts to make words in defiance of his dry, uncooperative throat. After struggling and gasping for several minutes, during which time I can do nothing but feel sympathy and repulsion, he finally croaks, “Maybe Dolan will ban me next.” Then his eyes close again, leaving the meaning of his words unexplained.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (19-37, 2-1 this week) (last week: #29 [1-2] +2)
At first blush, the Lakers dropping 47 points in one quarter seems completely unreasonable. They’re not a great offensive team. But then you look more closely at the cirumstances: the Lakers have some players that can heat up from three, and if they all heat up at once, 47 points is not so unattainable after all. Especially if you’re doing it against a Milwaukee defense that cannot handle three-point shooting teams at all. The Lakers parlayed that 47-point first quarter into a real-life victory, one of their two real-life victories this week. Does Luke Walton know it’s tanking season now?
28. Phoenix Suns (17-38, 1-3 this week) (last week: #28 [1-3] +0)
Dragan Bender’s underwhelming rookie season looked like it might be over after an ankle surgery, but then there was some good news: he’ll only be out for four to six weeks! That means he can come back at the end of March and still not have Watson play him! And then in the last game of the season he can get forty ironic minutes and score twelve ironic points! I’m looking forward to this so much that I’ve circled April 11th on my calendar. If Derrick Jones doesn’t get at least one dunk in that game I’m done with the NBA.
29. Orlando Magic (20-36, 0-3 this week) (last week: #27 [2-3] -2)
If, before the season started, you were approached by a stranger purporting to be a time-traveler who told you that Damjan Rudez would get almost as much playing time as Mario Hezonja would in the upcoming season, what would your reaction be? Would you kick him in the nards? Would you laugh in his face? Would you run in terror? Would you rip off his time-travel helmet to reveal a creature rendered only semi-human in appearance due to repeated sojourns through the fabric of spacetime? Whatever you reaction would be, you certainly wouldn’t accept his words as fact. But here we are in the present time and place, and Damjan Rudez gets almost as much playing time as Mario Hezonja does. Huh.
30. Brooklyn Nets (9-45, 0-4 this week) (last week: #30 [0-3] +0)
The Nets have actually been within ten points in each of their last seven losses. For any other team that not a good thing, but for the Nets, it’s encouraging that they’re not getting absolutely BTFO in every single game. If you look closely, there are some signs of life, as much as we would like to pretend that the Nets franchise has flatlined. Brook Lopez is still averaging twenty points per game and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson continues to spaz out on a regular basis. And, you know, they took the Wizards to overtime, so that counts for something even if it doesn’t help improve their ranking.