This week’s biggest busts: Nuggets -7, Mavericks -6, Cavaliers -5
This week’s biggest successes: Bulls +5, Clippers +4, Hornets +4, too many teams +3
1. Golden State Warriors (62-14, 4-0 this week) (last week: #1 [3-0] +0)
If the Warriors could move up any further in my OFFICIAL POWER RANKINGS, they would, because they just beat the Grizzlies, the Spurs, and the Rockets (twice) all in one week. That’s like one of the best weeks of basketball played by any team this season. But at the beginning of this long, torturous journey I decided to do conventional power rankings and not try to do something overly complicated like a custom ELO-based rating system, so there’s nowhere to go once you’re at the top. Instead I have to fawn all over them like a sycophant just so people understand how well they played this week.
2. San Antonio Spurs (58-17, 2-1 this week) (last week: #2 [4-0] +0)
Joel Anthony averaged zero points and zero rebounds in zero minutes per game this week, numbers that are roughly in line with his career averages. Those are also numbers that match up exactly with what Tim Duncan is averaging this year. I don’t want to go so far as to say that Joel Anthony is just as good as the immortal legend Tim Duncan; I’m just pointing out what the numbers are telling us. You can interpret the numbers however you want. But here’s the thing: numbers don’t lie. Humans lie. Numbers contain within them the very essence of truth.
3. Boston Celtics (49-27, 2-1 this week) (last week: #3 [3-1] +0)
Remember at the beginning of the season when it looked like the Raptors would be the only team that even had a chance of taking the #1 seed away from the Cavaliers? It was a simpler time. A time when the Cavs’ dominance of the East was a forgone conclusion. A time when Isaiah Thomas wasn’t seriously in the conversation for best scorer in the league. A time when Jae Crowder hadn’t run his mouth one too many times and gotten burned from all possible angles. A time when it was thought that Al Horford might sometimes be able to grab one – just one, mind you – rebound in his hands. I miss those times.
4. Los Angeles Clippers (47-31, 3-1 this week) (last week: #8 [3-1] +4)
You would think that a team beating the Sacramento Kings by eighteen points with five minutes left would have no problem putting the game away. Especially if said team had multiple superstars on it and was one of the best offenses in the league. You would think that game would be over, and that any team capable of giving up such a lead could never possibly advance to, say, the conference finals. What if I told you that the team in question was the Clippers, and that they did in fact blow such a large lead against the lowly Kings? I want Chris Paul to go the WCF as much as everybody, but with this one game, I’m convinced it won’t be this year.
5. Houston Rockets (51-25, 1-3 this week) (last week: #4 [2-0] -1)
The bad news is Harden probably won’t even win MVP this year. The good news is he’ll probably get chosen to be on an All-NBA team. One accomplishment is significantly more noteworthy than the other, but any accolade is a good accolade. Speaking of accolades, Lou Williams has a good chance to clinch 6MOTY of the year honors, Mike D’Antoni is in the running for COTY of the year, and I think I’m going to invent an award for Kyle Wiltjer just so he doesn’t feel any more left out than he already is. I might call it the “Duje Dukan Trophy for Total Irrelevance”.
6. Utah Jazz (47-29, 3-0 this week) (last week: #9 [1-2] +3)
How good would the Jazz be if they had prime (AKA last year’s) Derrick Favors? This year he’s been slumping if he hasn’t been injured, but last year he legitimately seemed like a top ten power forward in the league. It’s safe to say that the 2015 version of Favors would contribute a lot more to wins than nowadays Favors. Since predictions by rule are not required to be accurate, I now officially present you DTB’S OFFICIAL JAZZ WIN COUNT PREDICTION IF DERRICK FAVORS WAS HEALTHY AND STILL GOOD: 68.
7. Toronto Raptors (46-30, 2-1 this week) (last week: #6 [4-0] -1)
I wonder if P.J. Tucker ever thought to himself during his long stint in Europe “One day I will be traded mid-season to a fringe NBA championship contender and single-handedly change their fortunes.” I’m guessing a thought like that never crossed his mind as he dined on cabbage soup in the Ukraine, but you never know. Some of these NBA guys have confidence that doesn’t quite match up to their skills. Also, I actually DO plan to ignore Serge Ibaka for the entirety of this power ranking. Thanks for asking.
8. Washington Wizards (46-30, 1-2 this week) (last week: #5 [3-1] -3)
John Wall looked like he was about to put together the best week for a point guard not named Russell Westbrook after dropping 34/14 on the Lakers followed by 41/8/7 against the Clippers. Then, the powerful jaws of the Jazz defense clamped right onto his scrotum, and he contributed a disappointing 16/5 line as the Wizards (the fifth-best offense in the league) went on to score 88 points. Bradley Beal probably punched him after that game because they still hate each other, right? I bet they had a fistfight right there in front of all their teammates.
9. Milwaukee Bucks (40-36, 3-1 this week) (last week: #11 [3-0] +2)
The Terrence Jones era has ended in Milwaukee after he played six total minutes for them. If karma existed (it doesn’t you superstitious moron), this would be karma for him stomping a random homeless dude just for fun all those years ago. Also, apparently Thon Maker has never randomly stomped a homeless dude, because he just scored 23 points, and karma would never let something nice like that happen to a renowned stomper of homeless dudes. Maybe the Bucks can use the extra roster spot to sign a literal homeless dude and collect all the spare karma that’s floating around in the universe.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder (43-32, 2-2 this week) (last week: #10 [1-1] +0)
If you think about it, Russell Westbrook has way more triple-doubles than all of his teammates combined, EVEN IF YOU COMBINE ALL HIS TEAMMATES INTO ONE SUPER-PLAYER. Dude. Just think about it for a second. None of his teammates have ten assists in a game this year (Oladipo had seven though). So even if you wanted to take the best statistical totals from all his teammates and put them together like they were all accomplished in one game, you wouldn’t even be able to manufacture one triple-double. Well, it blew MY mind at least.
11. Memphis Grizzlies (42-34, 2-2 this week) (last week: #12 [0-2] +1)
OFFICIAL ANDREW HARRISON FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE WATCH: Andrew Harrison is currently shooting 32.4% from the field, which is a small but ultimately insignificant improvement from the last time I looked at his stats (which is a form of punishment for me). He shot 34% from the field in March, which is progress I guess. Surprisingly, his on-off stats aren’t terrible and he actually ranks in the top third of PG’s in ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus, a stat we know is valid because it hates Semaj Christon.
12. Cleveland Cavaliers (48-27, 1-2 this week) (last week: #7 [2-2] -5)
After Dion Waiters left the team, I never thought the Cavaliers would have another players-only meeting, but here we are. I imagine how it went down is the whole team was having a serious honest discussion about the problems with the team and then J.R. Smith staggered in, obviously high on drugs, holding a gigantic bong in his hand. He giggled about how everybody was being all stern and then LeBron lost it and grabbed the bong out of his hand and smashed it over J.R.’s head because honestly J.R. has been garbage and is the main reason the Cavs are struggling. Sources.
13. Portland Trail Blazers (38-38, 4-0 this week) (last week: #15 [3-1] +2)
The much-vaunted Nurkic vs. Jokic, Bosnia vs. Serbia, Blazers vs. Nuggets battle ended strongly in Nurkic’s/Bosnia’s/the Blazers’ favor, with Nurkic scoring a career-high 33 points (this was before he got injured in case the timeline of events is confusing you). You can call it a “revenge” game or whatever, and maybe there was some component of revenge in Nurkic’s dominating performance, but my guess is that Nurkic was playing extra hard because he knew that a million Serb and Bosniak eyeballs would be on him. Now when he goes back to his homeland he’ll have even less of a problem attracting females.
14. Miami Heat (37-39, 2-2 this week) (last week: #14 [1-2] +0)
How devastated would Heat Nation be if the Heat missed the playoffs after mounting such a rousing, inspiring comeback in the standings? This is assuming that Heat Nation still exists after the departures of LeBron, Wade, and Bosh. I’m guessing that there would be some tears, some gnashing of teeth, and a lot of fans wishing that the playoff push had never been mounted in the first place. To avoid that fate, I kidnapped Adam Silver and made him personally place a phone call to every single ref instructing them to rig games in the Heat’s favor. I would have made the calls myself but let’s just say my Adam Silver voice isn’t very convincing.
15. Charlotte Hornets (35-41, 3-1 this week) (last week: #19 [2-1] +4)
The Hornets are making a late winning push for no reason except to chase after Vegas’ over/under win total for them, which was 39.5. It’s like they’re telling the world, “Yeah, we definitely would have made the playoffs easily if you ignore that 1-12 stretch we inexplicably had in the middle of the season”. Does Michael Jordan have a bunch of money riding on the fact that he expected them to get forty wins? We already know he has a gambling problem so this wouldn’t even be a surprise really. This actually the most sensible, logical thing I’ll write in this entire power ranking.
16. Atlanta Hawks (39-37, 2-2 this week) (last week: #16 [0-3] +0)
Losing to the Nets used to be the most shameful thing that could happen to a team, but now that the Nets are a semi-competent basketball team at least some of the time, a team can pull off the feat and not be the immediate recipient of my unending derision. However, a schedule of Nets-Suns-Sixers-Bulls should result in more than two wins, and the wins should be by a greater total margin than just nine points. DTB’S OFFICIAL HOT TAKE: The Hawks aren’t legit, and they haven’t looked legit since the calendar switched from 2016 to 2017. Can we blame Dwight now?
17. New Orleans Pelicans (33-43, 3-1 this week) (last week: #20 [2-1] +3)
So it turns out that Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins CAN use their combined forces to win some games for their team, but that’s not as much fun as when it seemed like they lost whenever Cousins got big minutes. The narrative of Cousins as a collector of empty stats would have had much more weight behind it if the Pelicans hadn’t gone 3-1 this week while looking like one of the league’s top offenses. Why do players always have to barge in and ruin my narratives about them? If they just conformed to my pre-formed opinions of them, I would look a lot smarter when writing these things.
18. Chicago Bulls (37-39, 3-0 this week) (last week: #23 [1-2] +5)
“As good as gone” is how one anonymous GM summed up Jimmy Butler’s future in Chicago. But we’ve heard that line before from nebulous “sources” and, last time I checked, Butler was still playing for the Bulls. My own sources, which are just as reliable as other people’s sources because they’re just as likely to be fabricated, say that Dwyane Wade is actually the one who’s as good as gone. They also say that Jalapeno Cheddar 3D Doritos will be back on US store shelves within the next year. I love my sources.
19. Minnesota Timberwolves (30-45, 2-1 this week) (last week: #22 [0-4] +3)
Ricky Rubio’s scoring has improved to the point where he’s only a minor liability in that facet of the game, not a major liability like he has been his whole career. However, there are still many things that need to happen before Rubio can be considered a truly elite PG: 1.) Average fifteen assists per game 2.) Play on a team that wins fifty games and/or makes the playoffs 3.) Not have such sexy eyes 4.) More crossovers. Lots more crossovers 5.) None of the previously listed things will count of Karl-Anthony Towns is still on the team because he is too good and Ricky’s accomplishments won’t be his own.
20. Denver Nuggets (35-40, 0-3 this week) (last week: #13 [2-1] -7)
A tough three-loss week, including one loss to a direct competitor in Portland, has the Nuggets on the outside of the playoff picture. It’s now time to tank the rest of the games to undo the damage done by the late playoff push and, secondarily, evaluate the core of the future. The definitive core currently stands at two players: Gary Harris (duh) and Nikola Jokic (double duh). Juan Hernangomez is an optional part of the core. Emmanuel Mudiay is decidedly non-core. Jamal Murray’s core status is “probable”. Mason Plumlee’s core status is “get out of here you’re ruining Jokic’s development by making Malone give you minutes”.
21. Indiana Pacers (37-39, 1-3 this week) (last week: #18 [1-3] -3)
Lance Stephenson. Back on the Pacers. It might be fun to speculate on the ramifications of this move, but declarations such as “he will rip the team apart and prompt Paul George to flee” or “he will take this team to the ECF after injecting them directly with his swag” would be irresponsible to proclaim at this time. There has been major roster turnover in Indiana since Stephenson left the first time, and you can’t just stick him in, give him thirty minutes per game, and expect him to be Lance of old. Or you could, because that’s the only way the Pacers will ever make any noise in the playoffs.
22. New York Knicks (29-47, 2-1 this week) (last week: #25 [0-4] +3)
The vulture with the head of Jeff Hornacek turns its attentions to me, but recognizes that I am an intruder on this world, and ignores me. As has been the case for my entire visit to this odd world, I am reduced to the role of observer as the vulture greedily devours bits of Derrick’s body. All of a sudden, the ground is wracked by a violent earthquake, and the ground begins to upheave in great, ocean-like waves of apocalyptic magnitude. I allow myself to believe for the first time that this grotesque nightmare has an end.
23. Dallas Mavericks (31-44, 0-3 this week) (last week: #17 [2-2] -6)
“Hey Cubes, I’ve been thinking about my future with the team,” Dirk Nowitzki began, sitting down in the chair in front of Mark Cuban’s desk. “And when I see what we’re building here, the kinds of guys we’re bringing in, I’ve come to realize that maybe I don’t want to be a part of that future.” Mark Cuban stared in shock at his veteran player, not believing what he was hearing. His face turned red and the beginnings of tears started to form in his eyes. Then, Dirk’s face broke into a large Germanic grin. “APRIL FOOLS CUBES! I GOT YOU GOOD!” he yelled, “IN REALITY I’M WAITING UNTIL NEXT YEAR TO RETIRE! HAHA! DIRK OUT.”
24. Detroit Pistons (35-42, 1-3 this week) (last week: #21 [1-3] -3)
The Pistons are getting further and further from the playoff picture, throwing into doubt the viability of their core group of players, but on the bright side, they do have two dudes with topknots on their team. I only recently learned what that “mini pontail on the top of the head” hairstyle is called and I’m using this opportunity to flaunt my knowledge. Beno Udrih is not the best candidate for that particular hairstyle, but he spent his first decade of his NBA career with a haircut that wasn’t even a style. It was just hair.
25. Sacramento Kings (30-47, 3-2 this week) (last week: #27 [0-3] +2)
I thought it was a little funny when the Kings announced that they were shutting down Malachi Richardson. Not that injuries are funny, of course (except when they are), but Richardson was injured for a while and it’s kind of assumed that if he’s not 100% healthy and you’re not competing for anything, you’re not gonna risk it by putting him out there. It’s like if the Timberwolves announced two weeks before the end of the season that they were shutting down Nikola Pekovic.
26. Philadelphia 76ers (28-48, 1-3 this week) (last week: #24 [2-2] -2)
There’s some kind of curse afflicting the 76ers. Now Robert Covington, one of the remaining legitimate players on the team and perhaps the best non-big defender in the league, has a minor tear in his knee somewhere and has to miss the rest of the season. Was their arena built on a sacred Native American cheesesteak burial ground? Or did the Sixers somehow awaken even earlier cheesesteak entities that have resided there since before man emerged from the primordial ooze? To appease whatever malevolent cheesesteak forces have been stirred, more cheesesteaks must be consumed. Please mail some to me so I can help too.
27. Brooklyn Nets (17-59, 2-2 this week) (last week: #30 [2-2] +3)
It couldn’t be avoided. The Nets are no longer at the bottom of my OFFICIAL POWER RANKINGS because they have gone almost .500 over their last sixteen games. They also have five losses in that same span decided by five points or fewer, albeit against middling teams like the Sixers and Mavs. Having a real point guard (Jeremy Lin) running the team is the most obvious explanation for the Nets’ sudden, confusing competence, but there’s also the fact that other teams are currently tanking their brains out while the Nets have no reason to tank. Who cares though? Being in 27th place has gotta feel sweet.
28. Orlando Magic (27-50, 0-4 this week) (last week: #26 [2-1] -2)
The Magic succeeded in squandering late leads to both the Thunder and Celtics, proving that their tank is the most robust out of all qualifying Eastern Conference teams. Or that their team is, and always was, a random assortment of mismatched parts assembled by the mind of one Rob Hennigan, a mind driven to insanity by unceasing win-now mandates from ownership. At least Aaron Gordon had a good game (32 points!) to earn him some goodwill from fans who probably should be getting tired of him by now.
29. Phoenix Suns (22-55, 0-4 this week) (last week: #29 [0-4] +0)
Tyler Ulis in March: averaging 12/8. Tyler Ulis before March: averaged 3/2. Tyler Ulis in April: average 15/10 in forty minutes per game? The way things are going, I’d say this isn’t the dumbest prediction I’ve ever made. There’s basically no cap on the amount of minutes you can play him because he’s young and his body can take it. And with Suns possessing so few active players that can make plays with the ball, somebody like Ulis is guaranteed to get stats whether or not they’re actually good. Topic for discussion: is Tyler Ulis actually good?
30. Los Angeles Lakers (21-55, 0-4 this week) (last week: #28 [1-2] -2)
It might be time to dust off Corey Brewer and see if he can score fifty again. He’s not significantly worse right at this very moment than he was when he actually did score fifty for the Wolves. The Lakers’ strategy of playing young players exclusively and aiming for losses while doing so is all well and good, but we’re talking about Corey Brewer here. He’s not going to be around for much longer, and if you think having one fifty-point game makes his career an odd historical anomaly, think about how crazy it would be if he had TWO fifty-point games in his career. Future NBA historians would be so confused.