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NBA Power Rankings: Houston Rockets Back Are The Best Team In The League


One of the most exciting days of the NBA, in-season, is drawing near and it will be interesting to see what teams make moves.

We have already seen one blockbuster move that could ultimately affect the bottom seeds of both conferences with the Clippers sending Blake Griffin along with Willie Reed and Brice Johnson to the Pistons for a package that includes Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris as well as a first and second-round draft pick.

Cleveland, Boston, OKC, San Antonio and Washington are among the top teams that could make impact moves prior to the deadline.

Here is the ninth edition of my NBA Power Rankings.

1. Houston Rockets (38-13): +3 spots

The Rockets, currently on a four-game winning streak, have won 11 of 13. James Harden became the first player in NBA history to score 60 points while producing a triple-double as he also doled out 11 assists and grabbed 10 rebounds in win over Orlando on Tuesday. Chris Paul, who is averaging 8.5 dimes a game -- the lowest mark since his rookie season in 2005-06 --, surpassed Andre Miller for ninth place on the NBA’s all-time career list in assists on Saturday.

2. Golden State Warriors (41-12), -1 spot

The Warriors, who have lost two of three, had their 37-game winning streak snapped when leading heading into the fourth quarter on Saturday. Kevin Durant has gotten off to an excellent start in February, pouring in 64 points -- on 24-of-33 shooting (72.3%) -- along with 10 rebounds and 13 assists over two games. Golden State, which has allowed its opponents to score at least 100 points in 11 straight games, owns the highest winning percentage when giving up at least 100 points at 75.0% (30-10).

3.Boston Celtics (36-15), no movement

The Celtics won their fourth in a row with a 97-96 victory (Sunday) over the Trail Blazers as Al Horford knocked down a 15-foot buzzer beater. Terry Rozier, who had a triple-double in his first career start on Wednesday, has scored in double-figures in each of his last three games -- where he averaged 19.6 points a game. Boston, which has overcome a double-digit deficit 10 times, improved to 9-11 when trailing heading into the fourth quarter with the victory over Portland.

The Celtics, who could use some interior scoring and rebounding help, has reportedly added Greg Monroe. Monroe was waived by the Suns recently. He also was with the Bucks earlier this year.

4. Toronto Raptors (36-15), -2 spots

The Raptors have won four of five. Jonas Valanciunas has scored in double-figures in a season-high seven straight games. Toronto has the highest home winning percentage (21-4) at 84.0% along with the highest home point differential at 11.4.

5. San Antonio Spurs (34-21), -1 spot

The Spurs, a-half game up on the Timberwolves for third place in the Western Conference, is 9-9 in 2018. LaMarcus Aldridge, who has topped the 30-point mark 10 times this year, has led the Spurs in scoring a league-high 40 times. San Antonio, second in the league in defensive rating (101.6), has permitted a league-low 23 opponents to top the century mark.

6. Minnesota Timberwolves (34-22), up 1 spot

The Timberwolves are 5-6 in their last 11. Jimmy Butler, who has scored 20-plus points in 13 of 15 games in 2018, is averaging a league-high 8.1 fourth-quarter points a game since Jan. 1. Karl-Anthony Towns, the league leader with 47 double-doubles, has posted a double-double in six straight games.

7. Indiana Pacers (30-24), up 8 spots

The Pacers have won four of five. Lance Stephenson, who is averaging 14.5 points a game in February, has scored in double-figures in six straight games. Indiana, the third-best shooting team in the league at 48.5%, has made 49.5% of its shots in 2018.

8. Oklahoma City Thunder (30-24), -3 spots

The Thunder have lost four straight which is their longest since losing that many since Nov. 3-9. Paul George has been highly effective over the last five games, tallying 28.6 points on 54.2% shooting from the field and 45.0% from beyond the arc. OKC is 1-4 and has given up 112.6 points per game since Andre Roberson was ruled out for the season as a result of a ruptured left patellar tendon.

9. Washington Wizards (30-22), -1 spot

The Wizards are 4-0 since John Wall, expected to be out six-to-eight weeks, injured his left knee. Tomas Satoransky, who tallied a career-high 19 points in Saturday’s win over Orlando, is averaging 11.0 points along with 3.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists in his last four games. Washington, which ranks 17th in the league in free throw percentage at 76.5%, has made 92 of its 103 free throws (89.3%) over the last five contests.

10. Milwaukee Bucks (29-23), +2 spots

The Bucks have won six of seven. Jabari Parker, who made his season debut on Feb. 2, has scored in double-figures in each of his first two games of the season. Milwaukee, 11-14 away from home, began a four-game road trip with a victory in Brooklyn on Sunday.

11. Portland Trail Blazers (29-24), +2 spots

The Blazers have lost two straight after winning four in a row. Mo Harkless, who had 20 points in his previous eight games, knocked down five-career triples on his way to a 20-point night on Sunday. Portland had its streak of 17 straight games of reaching the century mark in its 97-96 loss to Boston on Sunday.

12. Miami Heat (29-24), +2 spots

The Heat have lost three straight and seven of 11. Kelly Olynyk, who has scored in double-figures in 11 straight games, is producing career-highs in points, rebounds, assists and three-pointers per game. Miami is 9-10 in games without starting center Hassan Whiteside, who missed Saturday’s game due to illness.

13. Los Angeles Clippers (26-25), +5 spots

The Clippers, currently ninth in the Western Conference, are 9-4 in their last 13 games. Tobias Harris, averaging a career-high 18.1 points a game, scored 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting in his debut for Los Angeles. The Clips are expected to get Austin Rivers, out since Dec. 31 with a strained Achilles tendon, back when they began a seven-game road trip on Feb. 9.

14. Denver Nuggets (28-25), no movement

The Nuggets have won five of seven. Nikola Jokic, who has two triple-doubles in his last five contests, posted his third triple-double of the season with 29 points along with 14 assists and 13 rebounds in win over OKC on Thursday. Denver, 21-7 at home, set a franchise attendance record at the Pepsi Center with an announced crowd of 20,103 on Saturday.

15. New Orleans Pelicans (28-24), +2 spots

The Pelicans have lost three of four. Anthony Davis is averaging 32.3 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in four games since DeMarcus Cousins’ season-ending Achilles injury.

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New Orleans has made several moves recently. The Pelicans acquired Nikola Mirotic from the Bulls on Friday. They also have signed Emeka Okafor, the No. 2 pick in the 2004 draft, to a 10-day contract and DeAndre Liggins to a two-year contract.

Mirotic posted his fifth double-double of the season in his debut with the Pelicans on Saturday. The 6-10 forward tallied 18 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and came away with four steals in the loss to Timberwolves. He made 6-of-13 shots from the field and 3-of-8 from beyond the arc.

New Orleans sent a lightly protected 2018 first round selection, Omer Asik, Jameer Nelson and Tony Allen to Chicago for Mirotic and a second-round draft pick that was previously the Pelicans.

Liggins averaged 4.3 points on 77.8% shooting from the field and 75.0% from long-distance in four contests for the Pelicans while he was on a 10-day contract. Liggins has also been with the Bucks this year, contributing 1.8 points and 1.6 rebounds in 31 games.

16. Cleveland Cavaliers (30-21), -10 spots

The Cavs are 6-12 since Christmas Day, having been outscored by an average of 7.9 points a game which is tied for the second most in the league. Kevin Love is expected to miss eight weeks after breaking his hand in Tuesday’s loss to Detroit. Since Dec. 25, Cleveland owns the third worst defensive rating (111.0) and part of the reason is the Cavs are not defending the paint well, permitting the third most paint points (51.1) during this period.

17. Detroit Pistons (25-26), -8 spots

The Pistons have won three straight, marking their first winning streak in 2018. Griffin has made an immediate impact for the Pistons, accumulating 40 points along with 19 rebounds and 12 assists over his first two contests with the team. Andre Drummond had 23 points, 20 rebounds, four blocks and four steals on Saturday becoming the first player since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1989 to post such numbers.

18. Los Angeles Lakers (21-31), +7 spots

The Lakers, who are five victories short of matching last year’s total of 26, have won two straight and six of eight. Josh Hart has posted half of his four double-doubles in the last two games. Los Angeles, allowing 110.1 points a game, has given up three points (107) less than its season average over the last eight contests.

19. Utah Jazz (24-28), +7 spots

The Jazz have moved to within 3.5 games of the eighth spot in the Western Conference, thanks to a current league-high five-game winning streak. Ricky Rubio, who scored a career-high 34 points against San Antonio on Feb. 3, is averaging over 23 points on 64.1% shooting from the field over the past three games.

20. Charlotte Hornets (23-29), +3 spots

The Hornets have matched their season-high three-game winning streak that was set from Nov. 18-22. Nic Batum, who recorded his first triple-double of the season on Wednesday, threw in 22 points in Sunday’s victory over the Suns to give him three games of 20-plus points over the last four contests. Charlotte improved to 6-18 when trailing at halftime on Sunday as they had its biggest comeback of the season, overcoming a 21-point second-half deficit.

21. Philadelphia 76ers (25-25), -5 spots

The 76ers have lost four of five. Joel Embiid played in his first set of back-to-back games of his career on Friday and Saturday, combining for 41 points along with 21 rebounds and seven assists. All five of Philadelphia’s starters, which accounts for 75.11% (80) of the the Sixers 106.5 points a game, scored in double-figures for the 17th time on Saturday.

22. New York Knicks (23-31), -3 spots

The Knicks are on their six three-game losing streak of the season. Each of their last two losses have been by three or less points. New York is now 2-6 in games decided by three or less points.

New York is one of the best shooting teams in the league, knocking down 46.7% of its shots which ranks eighth in the league. The problem for the Knicks, who rank 20th in the league in offensive rating, offensively is three-point shooting and turnovers. The Knicks rank 12th in three-point accuracy at 36.3%, but they are making the second-fewest trifectas in the league at 7.9 a game on a league-low 21.8 attempts. New York is 22-11 when they shoot a higher percentage than their opponents.

Kristaps Porzingis has recorded a block in a career-high 22 consecutive games, which is the longest current streak in the league. Porzingis is second in the league, behind Utah’s Rudy Gobert. with 2.4 swats a contest.

23. Chicago Bulls (18-34), -3 spots

The Bulls have lost six in a row. Zach LaVine, who has made just 34 of his last 89 shot attempts (38.2%), has scored in double-figures in five of his past six contests which includes three 20-point games. Chicago traded Nikola Mirotic and a second-round draft pick to New Orleans in exchange for a lightly protected 2018 first round selection along with Omer Asik, Tony Allen and Jameer Nelson.

24. Memphis Grizzlies (18-34), +4 spots

The Grizzlies have lost three straight and five of six. Marc Gasol, who has scored 19 or more points in each of his last three contests, averaged a season-low 16.5 points in the month of January. Memphis has been whistled for an NBA-high 23.2 fouls a game.

25. Brooklyn Nets (19-35), -3 spots

The Nets have lost six of seven. DeMarre Carroll, averaging a career-high 13.0 points, has scored in double-figures in 13 of 14 contests. Brooklyn is forcing a league-low 12.5 turnovers a game and a big reason is that the Nets are coming up with just six steals a game which ranks last in the league.

26. Phoenix Suns (18-36), -5 spots

The Suns have lost 13 of 17. Josh Jackson has topped the 20-point plateau in each of his last four games, which is his longest such stretch through the rookie now has three four-game stretches of double-figure scoring. Devin Booker has set a franchise single-season record by making 60 free throws in a row and is just 14 short of the team’s all-time record of 74 consecutive makes from the charity stripe that was spread over the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons.

27. Dallas Mavericks (17-36), -3 spots

The Mavericks snapped a five-game skid with a 106-99 victory over the Kings on Saturday to give them just their second victory in the last 10 games. Dirk Nowitzki, who has scored in double-figures in four straight games, needs to be on the floor just six more minutes to join the 50,000 minute club. Dallas, 20th in defensive rating, is 13-10 when holding opponents to under 100 points.

28. Atlanta Hawks (16-37), -1 spot

The Hawks are 6-11 in 2018. Kent Bazemore, who has scored in double-figures in four straight games, knocked down a three-pointer with 6.7 seconds left to give the Hawks a 99-96 win over New York on Sunday. Atlanta is forcing the second most turnovers in the league at 15.8.

29. Sacramento Kings (16-36), -2 spots

The Kings have lost three of four. De’Aaron Fox, who tallied a season-best 14.1 points as he shot 42.5% from beyond the arc in January, has scored in double-figures in five consecutive games. Sacramento’s bench leads the league with 46.5 points per game, although the reserves have been outscored by a league-high 2.6 points per contest.

30. Orlando Magic (15-36), no movement

The Magic have lost five of eight. Mario Hezonja has reached double-figures in three straight games as he has made 10 of 14 three-pointers during this stretch. Orlando, which owns the league’s worst record, has not strung together consecutive wins since No. 10.