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NBA Power Rankings: Pistons Are A Serious Contender In The Eastern Conference

NBA Power Rankings: Pistons Are A Serious Contender In The Eastern Conference

We’re just a little over one month into this 2017-18 NBA season, and some teams are starting to separate themselves.

There was quite a bit of movement in my fourth edition of power rankings. Only five teams remained at the same spot as last week. So, without further adieu here is my new power rankings.

1. Boston Celtics (18-4), no movement

The Celtics have lost two of four since having their winning streak end at 16 straight games on Wednesday by the Heat. The C’s loss to the Pistons marked the team’s sixth in nine days in six different cities.

Kyrie Irving has been amazing since suffering a facial fracture. And he has upped his production over the last six games. Irving is averaging 28.8 points on 58.8% shooting from the field and 46.6% from beyond the arc over the last five games.

Jayson Tatum has continued his solid play, scoring in double-figures in 10 straight games. He has scored 10 or more points in 19 games this season. Tatum’s November numbers are similar to his October numbers with the exception of rebounds which has dropped from 7.0 a game in the opening month to 4.7 in November.

Terry Rozier, who was held to three points in loss to Detroit, has pumped in 43 points in his last three games while shooting 69.5% (16-of-23) from the field. He has scored in double-figures in two of his last three games. Marcus Smart has picked up his offensive production despite his still ugly shooting percentage. Smart has scored in double-figures in four of his last six game, which includes a season-high 23 points on Monday.

Boston has the highest winning-percentage after trailing by double-figures this year at 75% (6-2).

2. Houston Rockets (16-4), + 1 spot

The Rockets are off to the third-best start in franchise history. Houston was a +15 in 20 minutes with James Harden and Chris Paul on the court together versus Brooklyn, their best plus-minus of the season. The Rockets entered the game a minus-9 when the duo were on the floor at the same time.

Chris Paul doled out a season-high 14 assists against the Nets, giving him his fifth game of double-digit assists. The Rockets, who are 6-0 with Paul in the lineup, are averaging 121.3 points a game in those games.

Veteran Luc Mbah a Moute recorded a NBA-record plus +57 plus-minus rating in the Rockets victory over the Nuggets on Wednesday. Houston has won a league-high 12 wins by double-digits.

3. Golden State Warriors (15-6), -1 spot

The Dubs suffered their third loss in the last seven games, falling to the Kings on Monday as they were without Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. Golden State had previously won eight straight and 19 of 22 against Sacramento.

Klay Thompson has topped the 20-point plateau in three straight games and four of five. Thompson led the way against Sacramento with 21 points to give him 511 points for his career versus the Kings, which is his highest total against any opponent.

Curry missed the game against the Kings with a bruised hand and Durant has missed four of the last five games with an ankle injury.Curry is expected to return on Wednesday while Durant’s status is unclear.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers (14-7), +3 spots

The Cavaliers have won a league-high nine in a row and 10 of 12. Their victory over Philadelphia improved their record to 13-1 against the Sixers which includes 10 in a row, which is the longest active streak over an opponent. They are now 34-8 against Atlantic Division teams since the start of 2014-15.

LeBron James is finally getting rewarded for carrying the Cavs this season. James pumped in 22 of his game-high 30 points, on 12-of-22 shooting, in the Cavs win against the 76ers on Monday. The 30-point effort marked his second this past week and fourth in the past six contests. More remarkably, the King has made at least 50% of his shots in seven straight games while draining two or more three-pointers a game during the stretch.

James is currently averaging 30.8 points, 8.6 assists and 8.2 rebounds while shooting 57.7% from the field and 42.9% from beyond the arc this month. He also has picked up his eighth double-double of November against the Sixers by adding 13 rebounds and six assists. James posted his second triple-double of the season and 57th of his career on Friday in a one-point win over Charlotte.

Dwyane Wade has continued his rejuvenation coming off the bench. Wade has scored in double-figures in three straight games and four of five, which is his longest stretch of 10 or more points this season. Since moving to the bench 11 games ago, Wade is producing 11.1 points along with 4.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists a game.

Wade led a bench unit that featured three players in double-figures and outscored the Sixers second unit 57-30. Wade added four rebounds and five dimes. Jeff Green, who posted his first double-double of the season (14 points, 10 boards) and Channing Frye (12 points) were the others that reached double-figures.

Cleveland’s bench, which is fifth in the league in scoring at 40.1 points a game, has topped the 40-point mark in six of the eight games during the winning streak. Kyle Korver, who is averaging 11.7 points during the winning streak, is the fifth player in NBA history to make 2,100 triples.

Iman Shumpert returned to the floor on Monday after missing the last three games with a knee injury. While JR Smith and Jose Calderon played in their 800th and 700th career games. In the meantime, Tristan Thompson (calf), Isaiah Thomas (hip) and Derrick Rose (leave of absence) remain out.

The Cavaliers schedule is pretty friendly over the next 10 games as they have seven home games. Also, seven of their opponents during this stretch possess losing records.

Update: Last night they beat Miami Heat 108-97.

5. San Antonio Spurs (13-7), no movement

The Spurs have won 9 of 12. LaMarcus Aldridge posted his third double-double in six games in the win over the Mavericks as he tallied a season-high 33 points and 10 rebounds. Tony Parker made his season debut against the Mavs on Monday.

Kyle Anderson, who has scored in double-figures in five straight games, averaged 12.2 points along with 5.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists over the past three during this stretch. He also recorded two double-doubles.

San Antonio, the league’s third-lowest scoring team (47.9) in the first half, has been worse in the opening 24 minutes over the last three contests producing just 42.7 points a game.

6. Detroit Pistons (13-6), +2 spots

The Pistons, who went 2-1 this past week, are off to their best start since 2007-08. Andre Drummond, the league’s rebound leader, had season-highs with 26 points and 22 rebounds in win over the Celtics on Monday. Drummond added six assists and four steals to become the first player to post those numbers since Charles Barkley in 1990.

It was Drummond’s first 20-20 game of the season and the third time he has grabbed at least 20 rebounds.The 24-year-old moved into fourth place on the franchise all-time rebound list earlier this week.

Detroit ranks eighth in scoring defense (102.2), but are 25th in opponent shooting percentage (47.0%). A big reason for that is they are last in the league in contested shots.

The Pistons are 8-5 against teams with a non-losing record, which is the second most in the league. The Pistons have victories over Celtics, Pacers, Warriors and Timberwolves (2).

7. Toronto Raptors (12-7) -3 spots

The Raptors closed out a three-game road trip with a victory over the Hawks to improve to 1-2 during the three-game stretch and 6-6 away from Air Canada Centre. Demar DeRozan, the team’s leading scorer at 22.9 points a game, finished with just two points on Saturday, thus snapping his consecutive streak of scoring in double-figures at 113.

8. Portland Trail Blazers (13-8), +3 spots

The Trail Blazers are on their first three-game winning streak of the season. The Blazers went 4-1 on their recently concluded road trip to improve to 6-4 away from home. Portland, which is 20th in scoring (103.2 ppg), has reached the century mark in five its last six games.

Damian Lillard has poured in 29 or more points in four straight games and averaged 29.2 points and 5.2 dimes while 45.9% from the field and 37.8% from beyond the arc during the five-game road trip. Lillard, who moved past Rod Strickland on the franchise’s all-time assist list and into fourth place, joined Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter as the only players in franchise history in the top 10 in scoring and top five in assists.

While Portland has struggled on the offensive end at times, the Blazers defense has been on point. The Trail Blazers have held their opponents to under the century mark 12 times this season, and are 9-3 in those contests. They rank in the top-four in the league in scoring defense, defensive rating and defensive rebounds.

Reserver Pat Connaughton has scored in double-figures in consecutive games for the first time. Connaughton, who is averaging 6.5 points a game, has now tallied at least 10 points four times this season.

9. Indiana Pacers (12-9), +3 spots

The Pacers, who had their season-high five-game winning streak ended by the Celtics on Saturday, are 6-1 in their last seven games. Indiana has topped the century mark in each of its wins during the stretch. The NBA’s sixth-highest scoring team, at 108.9 ppg, improved to 11-4 on the season when scoring at least 100 points with their 121-109 victory over Orlando on Monday.

Lance Stephenson has stepped up his production lately, reaching double-figures in scoring in three straight games and four of six overall. Stephenson, who averaged 5.7 points per game and 26.7% from the floor in October, is producing 8.8 points per game and shooting 52.2% from the field this month.

Victor Oladipo returned to the lineup after a one-game absence and diced the Magic, his former team, up to the tune of 26 points -- on 11 of 14 shooting -- along with six rebounds, five dimes, four blocks and two steals. Oladipo, who missed the Pacers loss to the Celtics, has topped the 20-point mark in each of his last three contests.

Indiana has made 11 or more treys in six of its last nine games. For the season, the Pacers average 10.1 3pters a game.

10. Philadelphia 76ers (11-8), +6 spots

The 76ers are 3-2 during their current six-game homestand with a game against the Wizards next (Wednesday).Philadelphia, 5-4 at home, has shot better on the road this season. The Sixers, who rank ninth in scoring at home (109.0 ppg), is in the bottom third of the league in shooting percentage at home as they are making 45.6% of their field goal attempts and just 35.0% of their three-pointers following their 3 for 28 performance from 3-point range against Cleveland.

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Joel Embiid picked up his 10th double-double of the season against the Cavs on Monday, compiling 30 points and 10 rebounds.However, he also failed to pick up a single assist, steal and block in the game, marking the first-time he has failed to do so this year. The 23-year-old, 7-footer has four-30 point games and now has scored in double-figures in all 17 of his appearances.

Rookie Ben Simmons, who left the Cavs game after spraining his ankle, also has pumped in double-figures in each of his 18 games.

The 76ers have reportedly lowered their asking price for Jahlil Okafor to a second-round draft pick.

11. Denver Nuggets (11-9), +4 spots

The Nuggets are 3-3 in their last six games. Starting power forward Paul Millsap has missed the last three games and could be out three months with a wrist injury, though it is not a sure thing he will opt for surgery. Denver’s bench, which has the lowest free throw percentage in the league at 61.7%, has been whistled for the second-fewest fouls (6.8) in the league while also drawing the sixth most fouls (8.4).

12. Minnesota Timberwolves (12-9), -6 spots

The Timberwolves are 5-5 in their last 10 contests. Reliable “big man” Taj Gibson picked up his seventh double-double of the season with 16 points and 14 rebounds in the Wolves’ win over the Suns on Sunday. Minnesota is off to its best start through 20 games since 2005-06 when they posted the same record.

13. New Orleans Pelicans (11-9), no movement

The Pelicans had their three-game winning streak end with a loss to the Warriors on Saturday. Anthony Davis, who has led the team in scoring the past four games, has topped the 20-point plateau in each game and produced a double-double in three of the four contests. New Orleans ranks third in the league in assists (25.9) and is tied for third in field goal percentage (47.8).

14. Miami Heat (10-10), +7 spots

The Heat have won three straight and four of five. Reserve James Johnson, who is on pace to dole out the most assists in his career, has recorded five rebounds and five assists for the fifth time this year against Chicago on Sunday. Miami is last in the league in third quarter scoring with just 20.2 points a game.

15. Milwaukee Bucks (10-9), -5 spots

The Bucks have lost three of four. Khris Middleton poured in 40 points in a win over the Suns on Wednesday for his second 40-point game of the month. Milwaukee is giving up the fewest fast break points in the league at 6.7 a game.

16. New York Knicks (10-10), -2 spots

The Knicks have blown huge first quarter leads in two of their last three games though they didn’t have to worry about that against the Blazers Monday night as they never led in the game. The Knicks have now lost three straight, matching their longest losing streak of the season.

With Enes Kanter (back spasms) out for a third straight game, Joakim Noah made his season debut on Monday. Kanter has been cleared to practice on Tuesday and could play against the Heat Wednesday.

New York is 1-6 away from home this season and has been outscored by 12.3 points a game in contests away from MSG.

17. Washington Wizards (11-9), -8 spots

The Wizards have lost four of five. Bradley Beal, who is averaging 26.2 points per game in November, has topped the 20-point plateau in six straight games. Washington is expected to be without John Wall for about two weeks with inflammation in his knee, which may not bode well for the Wiz.

Washington has gone 1-2 without their all-star point guard this year and 7-9 when he has been unavailable since the beginning of 2014-15.

18. Utah Jazz (10-11), +5 spots

The Jazz are on their first winning streak since winning three straight (Oct. 28-Nov. 1). Derrick Favors has filled in admirably for injured starter Rudy Gobert, averaging 15.9 points along with 8.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in eight games. Utah is 4-4 since Gobert has been out with a bone bruise in his right knee.

19. Los Angeles Lakers (8-12), +1 spot

The Lakers are 3-4 in their last seven. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is shooting very efficiently this year, has tallied 20 points in each of his last three games to give him four such games for the season.

Brandon Ingram is still working his way up to being a star. Ingram has scored in double-figures in six straight games and 11-of-13. The 20-year-old is contributing 15.1 points and 6.2 rebounds a game while shooting 46.8% from the field in November.

Rookie Kyle Kuzma, who is averaging 20.0 points and shooting 50.7% from the field as well as 50% from the 3pt line in his last five games, has continued to play well. While fellow Lonzo Ball, who is shooting 24.5% from the 3pt line, and Josh Hart have struggled with their shots.

Power forward Larry Nance returned to the lineup after missing nine games and contributed 9 points along with eight rebounds and four steals against the Clippers.

20. Charlotte Hornets (8-11), +4 spots

The Hornets have lost two straight and 8 of 11. Dwight Howard, who is fourth in the league with 12.8 boards a game, has grabbed the most rebounds in franchise history through the first 19 games with 244. Charlotte, which fell to 0-3 this year in games decided by three points or less with its 100-99 loss to Cleveland on Friday, has lost its last 12 contests that has been decided by one possession.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder (8-11), -4 spots

The Thunder have lost four of five. Paul George, who sat the entire fourth quarter against Dallas, finished with two points on 1-of-12 shooting, marking his lowest total since his final game in 2014-15. OKC has been a better team in the first half of games then the second half this season, outscoring their opponents by 5.9 points in the opening half while being outscored by 2.1 points in the second half.

22. Phoenix Suns (8-14), no movement

The Suns have lost 10 of 13. Rookie Mike James, who poured in a career-high 26 points on Sunday in a loss to the Wolves, has struggled this month as he is averaging just 9.4 points a game while shooting 33.1% from the field and 18.2% from the three-point line. Phoenix will play its next five games on the road, where they are currently 3-5 this season.

23. Brooklyn Nets (7-13), + 3 spots

The Nets are only 4-7 in their last 11 games, but they already have seven victories, which they didn’t achieve last year until Dec. 14. Isaiah Whitehead, who has played in six games this season, matched his career-high with 24 points against the Rockets. Whitehead made 10-of-16 shots in the game and was 3-of-4 from the foul line.

DeMarre Carroll is having a career season, scoring and rebounding the basketball, and has already produced two double-doubles, which is one short of his career-high.

Brooklyn is 2-5 without leading scorer D’Angelo Russell, who is out indefinitely following arthroscopic surgery on his knee.

24. Los Angeles Clippers (8-11), -1 spot

The Clippers have won three in a row for the first time since starting the season on a four-game winning streak. The Clips have defeated the Lakers 11 straight times following their win on Monday night.

Lou Williams, who pumped in a season-high 42 points against the Lakers, has been very good in his increased minutes this month. He has scored in double-figures in 12 of 13 November games, averaging 21.2 points a game while shooting 46.5% from the field and 40.2% from beyond the arc.

Blake Griffin suffered a knee injury on Monday and his status is currently unknown. Three other Clippers are currently out of commission including Patrick Beverley, who will miss the rest of the season. Danilo Gallinari (glute) has missed the last seven games and is expected to be out another week to week-and-a-half. In the meantime, Milos Teodosic has not played since the second game of the season due to a foot injury.

25. Dallas Mavericks (5-16), +5 spots

The Mavs saw their first winning streak of the season come to end with a loss to the Spurs on Monday. Dirk Nowitzki has scored in double figures in four-straight games for the first time since October and has reached that figure in seven of his last nine contests.

Dallas has made at least 10 3-pointers in 16 of 21 games this season. The Mavericks are averaging 11.8 3pters a game, which ranks third in the league while attempting the third most (33.2) though they are only making them at a 35.4% clip (21st).

Dallas has held its opponents to under the century mark in all five of their wins.

26. Orlando Magic (8-13), -7 spots

Orlando suffered its ninth straight setback in the loss to Boston, which is currently the longest streak in the league. The Magic, 28th in defensive scoring (111.0), have surrendered 110 or more points in seven of their last nine losses. They have lost 12 of their 15 contests they surrender at least 100 points overall.

Jonathon Simmons has fallen off his blistering pace that he set in October, although he is still on pace to have the best season of his three-year career. Simmons’ 21 points against Orlando was the most points he has scored in November and gave him four double-figure scoring nights in the last five contests. He is averaging 13.1 points while shooting a respectable 46.9% from the field in November.

Elfrid Payton recorded season-highs in points (22) and rebounds (eight) in a loss to Philadelphia on Friday. Orlando is just 3-9 in games that Payton, who missed nine games due to injury, has appeared in this year.

Orlando has made at least one 3-pointer in 841 consecutive games, which is the fifth-longest streak in the NBA. The Magic currently ranks fourth in the league with 11.7 triples and fifth in 3-pt% at 38.3.

27. Memphis Grizzlies (7-12),- 9 spots

The Grizzlies are on their longest current winless stretch since Feb. 11-March 3, 2009. Memphis has lost four of their games during the losing streak by double-figures and two by three or less, dropping their records to 3-4 and 1-3 in the respective categories.

The Grizzlies fired head coach David Fizdale on Monday. Fizdale was 50-51 in 101 games. JB Bickerstaff will serve as interim coach. Bickerstaff went 37-34 in the same capacity with the Rockets in 2015-16.

28. Sacramento Kings (6-15), -1 spot

The Kings snapped their nine-game road losing streak with a 110-106 victory over the Warriors on Monday. Sacramento shot 53.2% from the floor against Golden State becoming the first team to shoot at least 50% in a game against the Warriors.

Buddy Hield has thrived since coming off the bench, averaging 13.1 points while shooting 50.5% from the floor and 58.5% from beyond the arc in 11 games. Sacramento leads the league in bench scoring (49.5), field goal mades and assists.

29. Atlanta Hawks (4-16), no movement

The Hawks are 2-4 in their last six games. Miles Plumlee, who came over in the Dwight Howard trade, did not record any stats besides one turnover in nine minutes of action in his season debut on Sunday. In an oddity, Atlanta has produced the second-highest offensive rating (117.6) and second-highest efficient field goal percentage (58.8%) in games that they have won. This means when they are victorious, they are really good, since they have the second-fewest victories in the league.

30. Chicago Bulls (3-16), -2 spots

The Bulls have lost five in a row and are just 2-11 in November. Second-year pro Denzel Valentine has produced double-figures in scoring in five of his last seven games, including a season-high 18 points on Nov. 17.

Chicago recently concluded a winless four-game road trip to drop to 1-10 away from home. The Bulls have been outscored by 101 points during the current losing streak to give them the worst scoring margin in the NBA at minus-12.6 points per game.