This week’s biggest busts: Timberwolves -5, Jazz -3, Thunder -3
This week’s biggest successes: Hornets +4, Wizards +3, Raptors +3, Clippers +3, Trail Blazers +3, Mavericks +3
1. Golden State Warriors (58-14, 3-0 this week) (last week: #1 [3-0] +0)
There was a brief period there where we were all scared that Stephen Curry was permanently regressing and it was the end of the short-lived Warriors dynasty. Nobody ever said it out loud but you know everybody was thinking it. You KNOW it. Curry was missing all his threes and it was like, what if he never goes back to making all his threes? What if he’s never again a legit MVP candidate? Now things are back to normal and the Warriors are romping over all their opponents, but those were some scary times.
2. San Antonio Spurs (56-16, 4-0 this week) (last week: #2 [1-2] +0)
How’s this for a hot take: if Coach Pop is going to rest his players, why doesn’t he rest HIMSELF for those same games? Damn! Spicy take alert! There’s a difference between an old guy sitting on the bench yelling at his players and a bunch of spry young Adonises leaping around the court, but it’s not that much of a difference since they’re all essentially getting paid to take part in a children’s game. Besides, Pop is probably more injury-prone standing courtside than half of the players on his team, who are muscular and durable. We have to make sure Pop stays healthy for the playoffs.
3. Boston Celtics (47-26, 3-1 this week) (last week: #4 [3-0] +1)
The most notable thing the Celtics did this week was be present while Devin Booker scored 70 points against them. The entire game was garbage time thanks to the Celtics jumping out to a 22-3 lead, but nobody will remember that part of it. They’ll only remember how Jae Crowder got bamboozled by Booker so thoroughly that Crowder then took to Instagram (what’s that) to let off some steam but then got roasted (I don’t know what that term means but I’m using it anyway) by the same guy he was trying to roast. That will be the historical legacy of that game – the Instagram beef that occurred afterwards.
4. Houston Rockets (50-22, 2-0 this week) (last week: #3 [3-1] -1)
I have officially created a new tier in the West. This new tier resides between the “contender” tier (Warriors, Spurs) and the “good team tier” (Clippers, Jazz, Thunder). I have called it the “Contender if the Real Contenders Get Injured” tier, or CITRCGI tier for short. James Harden and his triple-doubles could theoretically make the finals if his role-players are firing on all cylinders, but more importantly if D’Antoni grows back his mustache and learns how to properly harness his mustache power. Once his face collects enough of the mustache power he can distribute it to his players; after that, they can maybe beat the Warriors if certain key players are injured.
5. Washington Wizards (45-28, 3-1 this week) (last week: #8 [1-3] +3)
Who’s worse: Trey Burke or Brandon Jennings? The numbers all point to Jennings being the worse out of the two, given his negative win-shares and his sub-20% three-point shooting. However, his assist rate is by far a career-best, so he’s kind of like an ultra-budget Rajon Rondo, except it’s a Rondo that once scored 55? Meanwhile, Trey Burke is so bad that he doesn’t even get to play, despite putting up numbers that are okay on the surface. If he was truly better than Jennings, Jennings would be the one who didn’t get to play. DTB’S OFFICIAL CONCLUSION: the Wizards really, really wish they had a better backup point guard. And a better backup everything else while we’re at it.
6. Toronto Raptors (44-29, 4-0 this week) (last week: #9 [2-1] +3)
DTB’S IRRATIONAL HATE FOR DEMAR DEROZAN LEVEL: After back-to-back forty-point games, my hate level is higher than it should be, because in the first of those games he took 37 shots to score 42 points. I also hate that he’s proving that he can lead the Raptors to wins without Lowry. Luckily, I’m upfront about the fact that my hate for DeRozan is irrational, so I don’t have to explain my reasons in a way that makes sense. I wonder what would happen if he won a championship one day. I would probably die.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers (47-25, 2-2 this week) (last week: #5 [2-2] -2)
If the Cavaliers somehow relinquish the one-seed in the East, it will be J.R. Smith’s fault. It’s not LeBron’s fault that J.R. can’t shoot anymore. If it’s anybody’s fault (other than J.R. himself) it would be Kyrie because Kyrie doesn’t pass and doesn’t elevate the play of those around him. But really it’s on J.R. to be able to shoot three-pointers at an acceptable rate (hint: one-for-eighteen from deep over a three game stretch in no way is an “acceptable rate”). At least he’s probably still better than his brother.
8. Los Angeles Clippers (44-30, 3-1 this week) (last week: #11 [1-3] +3)
“I am an elite point guard,” Chris Paul whispered to himself while stabbing a picture of DeAndre Jordan with a knife. “I made your career…I MADE IT! And as easily as I made it, I can unmake it.” For a moment he simply stared at the devastated, punctured picture, which featured a goofily smiling DeAndre, then whispered again, “I am an elite point guard.” He tossed the picture to the side and picked up a different one which depicted Doc Rivers. “Behind every great coach is a great point guard,” he snarled, before setting his blade to the image of his coach.
9. Utah Jazz (44-29, 1-2 this week) (last week: #6 [2-2] -3)
Adam Silver was pleasantly surprised to see a large gift basket on his desk when he walked into his office. It was stuffed to overfilling with various delectable foods, as well as an attractive wrought-iron model of the Eiffel Tower. Picking up the envelope that was affixed to the side of the basket, he withdrew the card inside and read: “Dear Commissioner: I should have been an All-Star this year. This is your punishment. R.G.” Adam was just puzzling over this cryptic note when the basket suddenly exploded, obliterating his desk and sending shards of the destroyed figurine hurtling into his face and chest. Screaming in agony as the improvised flak grenade ripped apart his flesh, he fell to the floor clutching his bleeding face, and that was where his secretary found him two hours later.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder (41-30, 1-1 this week) (last week: #7 [3-0] -3)
Russell Westbrook got a triple-double while shooting a perfect 6-of-6 from the field, which is not notable for its perfection so much as the fact that Russell Westbrook only took six shots in 27 minutes. Did anybody do a mental health evaluation on him after the game? Because he’d have to be depressed or something to suddenly find no enjoyment in the one thing that brings him joy in life, which is shooting shots. A world in which Andre Roberson attempts four more field goals than Russell Westbrook in a game is not a world that I want to reside on.
11. Milwaukee Bucks (37-35, 3-0 this week) (last week: #13 [2-2] +2)
The Bucks are the fifth seed now, but that’s the highest they can go, right? Even if they continue their current streak, the teams above them need to lose a LOT of games simultaneously in order for the Bucks to make headway towards the fourth seed. Coming back from six games behind with ten games to go is such an unlikely event that it’s not even worth considering. Instead, we can consider this: Giannis Antetokounmpo is a superstar RIGHT NOW and he’ll be even more unstoppable when he gets to play with a point guard that’s above backup-quality.
12. Memphis Grizzlies (40-32, 0-2 this week) (last week: #10 [4-0] -2)
The Toney Douglas era might have ended in Memphis, but with the conclusion of one era, another era begins, and that era is the…Wayne Selden era? Selden came in and started for the Grizzlies in his second game, which definitely counts as the beginning of an era even if it’s not an especially notable era. In the future, NBA thinkers will probably use the “Pau Gasol era” and the “Marc Gasol era” when talking about the Grizzlies, but that will just prove how they’ve limited their thinking to only consider established stars when defining eras. If I wrote a book about basketball it would absolutely have an entire chapter dedicated to the Wayne Selden era.
13. Denver Nuggets (35-37, 2-1 this week) (last week: #14 [2-1] +1)
Can you say “Revenge Game?” Emmanuel Mudiay rebounded from two straight DNP-CD’s with a sizzling eight-point effort against Houston. Mudiay wasn’t exacting revenge on the Rockets, though; no, he was exacting revenge on HIS OWN COACH. Everybody wants to pretend like Nikola Jokic beasting on LeBron James or Gary Harris pretty much averaging 20 PPG for the week are the storylines of note for the Nuggets, but in this case, those people are wrong. It’s Mudiay playing himself back into the “PG of the future” talks by getting zero assists in ten minutes.
14. Miami Heat (35-37, 1-2 this week) (last week: #12 [2-1] -2)
The Heat had BETTER make the playoffs after starting the season 11-30. They just HAVE to. I don’t know what the record is for worst winning percentage halfway through the season and still making the playoffs, but the Heat have to be close. They went 1-2 this week but they’ve got some games against the Knicks coming up so those should be free wins, right? I think what I secretly desire most is for the Heat to win a game in the first round and for Dion Waiters to say in the post-game presser “we never would have won this game if that loser Justise Winslow was still playing” and not be sarcastic while all the reporters laugh nervously.
15. Portland Trail Blazers (34-38, 3-1 this week) (last week: #18 [3-1] +3)
OFFICIAL LIST OF WAYS JUSUF NURKIC TURNED AROUND THE BLAZERS: 1.) He gave them the legitimate post presence they had been craving 2.) He gave them the attitude and intimidation factor that you just don’t get from a Soundcloud rapper like Damian Lillard 3.) He gave them a third core piece, rather than just Lillard + McCollum + a whole lotta scrubs 4.) He regularly brings in huge boxes of donuts for everybody to eat 5.) There’s probably some X’s and O’s reason that he’s transformed their offense but nobody can ever know because nobody actually understands that stuff even if they pretend they can.
16. Atlanta Hawks (37-35, 0-3 this week) (last week: #15 [0-3] -1)
Uh oh. The Hawks’ latest losing streak is at six games, reminiscent of their collapse in mid-November. There are many parties to blame, and I have attempted to list them starting with more blame-worthy to not quite as blame-worthy. 1.) Dwight Howard. He’s been the scapegoat for every single thing that has ever gone wrong on any of his teams. 2.) Dennis Schröder. Three words: not enough wienerschnitzel. 3.) Coach Bud. Has he lost the locker room? If I have to ask the answer is yes. 4.) Kent Bazemore. Self-explanatory. 5.) The arena organ guy whose name starts with “sir”. 6.) Mike Muscala. 7.) Al Horford.
17. Dallas Mavericks (31-41, 2-2 this week) (last week: #20 [1-2] +3)
Nerlens Noel somehow played 21 minutes against the Nets and didn’t attempt a shot. This would make sense if he was going up against a defensive stud like Rudy Gobert, or a cloned version of himself that stayed behind in Philadelphia, but against the Nets? He should be throwing down dunks on Slowpez all day and changing Justin Hamilton’s name to “Gettin’ Jammedon”. Maybe he was trying to send a message to Dirk, like “I’m the star of this team now old man, so stop taking all these shots that I should be taking and just retire already.” The more I think about it the more certain I am in this conclusion.
18. Indiana Pacers (36-36, 1-3 this week) (last week: #16 [2-1] -2)
The Pacers have been stuck at a near-.500 record for the whole season. They are so mediocre that I yawn when I think about them and I practically pass out when I have to write yet another paragraph about the latest mediocre week they managed to put together. I sort of want Paul George to call out the team in front of reporters so that there’s something cool to write about. Or maybe Monta Ellis could crash his moped into Alan McMillan during a charity event and everybody gets suspended. Anything. Please.
19. Charlotte Hornets (32-40, 2-1 this week) (last week: #23 [1-2] +4)
The Hornets won some games this week but it’s way, way too late for that. Or maybe it isn’t because the other teams on the fringe of the Eastern Conference playoffs are fading fast. Or maybe it is because at some point you have to give up on the playoffs so you don’t end up as the ninth seed, which is the worst place to be. Or maybe it isn’t because somebody has to finish with the ninth seed, and why not the team who was supposed to make the playoffs this year and who still have a positive point differential? I wonder if Michael Jordan is making that funny crying face right now.
20. New Orleans Pelicans (30-42, 2-1 this week) (last week: #22 [2-1] +2)
Solomon Hill was perhaps one of the most egregious overpays of the off-season, however, in one glorious confluence of circumstances that occurred over the course of 48 minutes, he managed to score thirty points and dish seven assists in a game. That was last week. Flash forward to this week and Hill, entrusted with a larger role after his superb performance, scored five points in 33 minutes against the Grizzlies. Nobody really thought he would keep it up, but, man, he really didn’t keep it up at all. At least Cousins was there to bail him out by scoring 41.
21. Detroit Pistons (34-39, 1-3 this week) (last week: #19 [0-3] -2)
The best part about the Pistons losing a bunch of games is that Stan Van Gundy always has the most excellent reactions when something is going wrong on the court. Whether it’s throwing his arms up in disgust, pacing back and forth with arms crossed and a perpetual frown on his face, or yelling in the huddle about wall-building tactics, you can always count on SVG to soundly defeat the opposing coach when it comes to out-gesturing them. Unfortunately for the Pistons, SVG is the only guy on the team who can consistently come out and outperform his direct opposite.
22. Minnesota Timberwolves (28-44, 0-4 this week) (last week: #17 [1-2] -5)
DTB’S OFFICIAL RICKY RUBIO SHOOTING OVER 40% WATCH: Ricky Rubio is currently shooting over 40% from the field. But even if he fails to maintain his shooting percentages as the season draws to a close (it already looks like he’s flagging again after starting March super hot), he will most likely finish with a career-high FG%. DTB’S OFFICIAL RICKY RUBIO FACIAL BEAUTY INDEX: Ricky Rubio’s beautiful face is currently a nine on the facial beauty index scale. You know, just for your reference and stuff.
23. Chicago Bulls (34-39, 1-2 this week) (last week: #21 [2-3] -2)
Robin Lopez tried to punch Serge Ibaka and almost succeeded. It was a pretty good punch, and if it had connected, he might have been looking at a longer suspension than just one game. However, he was totally punching the wrong guy. There were at least ten different people in the arena at the time of the fracas that deserved a punch more than Ibaka did, including Fred Hoiberg, Dwyane Wade (punch the roids right out of his jaw), Jimmy Butler, Rajon Rondo, DeMar DeRozan, Bruno Caboclo (I’m assuming that he was with the team and not back in the D-League), and any of the three refs. Talk about wasted opportunities.
24. Philadelphia 76ers (27-45, 2-2 this week) (last week: #24 [2-1] +0)
A win against Boston? That’s what’s called a “quality win”. The Sixers’ other win this week, a victory over the Bulls, would have counted as a “quality win” had it happened earlier in the season, but it definitely is not a quality win anymore. Still, one “quality win” in a week is a lot more than the 76ers usually get. Their last “quality win” was right after the All-Star break when they took down the Wizards. How many times to I have to use the term “quality win” before I don’t have to surround it in quotes anymore? Let’s test it out: quality win. Nope, doesn’t look right.
25. New York Knicks (27-46, 0-4 this week) (last week: #26 [1-2] +1)
Derrick Rose has reappeared, his flesh rotted, his skin peeling. The triangles grow and become pointier, like hundreds of little blades, and all of a sudden they charge at once towards Derrick’s vulnerable body. I can only stand by and watch in horror as his body is sliced into quivering, bloody cubes. Phil Jackson has abandoned his attempts to wrench himself from this disturbed nightmare-world like I attempted to do so many times, and has now commanded his army of triangles to butcher his secondary star. An odd vulture-like bird lands nearby and began to pick up the slaughtered remains of Derrick’s body in its beak. The bird has the face of Jeff Hornacek.
26. Orlando Magic (27-46, 2-1 this week) (last week: #28 [1-2] +2)
Magic GM Rob Hennigan might be on the hot seat. His crime? Constantly aborting the rebuild process too early and then finding out that his “win-now” teams can’t even win 35 games. His other crime? Constantly getting fleeced in trades. His third crime? Failing to draft any star-quality young talent except for Aaron Gordon maybe. His fourth crime? Going to Disney World in the middle of the night with a backpack full of improvised explosives and trying to steal the magic from Magic Mountain so he could take it back to his players and have them make magic amulets out of it.
27. Sacramento Kings (27-45, 0-3 this week) (last week: #25 [2-1] -2)
The Kings are now looking a lot like the 76ers circa two years ago. It’s not yet time to call them the Western Conference version of the Sixers, but it’s getting close. They have a lot of young talent that looks good individually and has a lot of potential, but it turns out that potential by itself doesn’t win games in the NBA. Neither does having a new arena filled with great fans, and neither does having Rudy Gay on your roster (injured or uninjured, doesn’t matter). Somebody should step in and make sure Ty Lawson isn’t being allowed to be the veteran voice of wisdom in that locker room.
28. Los Angeles Lakers (21-51, 1-2 this week) (last week: #29 [0-4] +1)
The Lakers were close to beating the full-strength Cavaliers earlier in the week, but then gave up 43 points in the fourth quarter because the tank is unassailable. They have exactly one win since mid-February and that would have been their second. At this point, wins are the enemy, and the Cavs were actually a good team to tank against because you can just point at their roster and say “their superstars simply overwhelmed our crop of inexperienced young’uns”. Nobody can doubt you because it sounds true and maybe is even true in reality.
29. Phoenix Suns (22-51, 0-4 this week) (last week: #27 [0-3] -2)
Who cares about anything the Suns have done this year or will do the rest of the year or will do next year? Is there even any other player on the Suns besides Devin Booker AKA the first person to score seventy points in an NBA game since Kobe dropped 81? I’m trying to recall the names of any other Suns players and I’m just drawing blanks. My mind keeps turning back to Devin Booker and how he’s the next Kobe except he’s more physically attractive (sorry Kobe). I thought I succeeded when I came up with “Devin Booker” but it turns out I already thought of him. He’s the one who scored seventy.
30. Brooklyn Nets (15-57, 2-2 this week) (last week: #30 [2-2] +0)
I really wanted to move the Nets up a spot in my OFFICIAL POWER RANKINGS just so they wouldn’t spend the entire year at the bottom. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. They’ve only been at the bottom for two-thirds of the year. At the beginning of the season there were some flashes of competence from the team. We’re getting some of those flashes now as well, as they went 2-2, but we can now say with certainty that these glimmers of good play are a phenomenon that could be compared to rigor mortis. The Nets are dead, but in their final thrashing death throes they can sometimes look like they’re an okay team.