Fantasy, hardwood

Power Rankings (11/18-11/24)

1) Houston Rockets (14-4): Chris Paul returned last Thursday for the Rockets. Since then they have scored 142 points against the Suns and followed it up with 105 and 125 against the Memphis Grizzlies and the Denver Nuggets, respectively. Paul and with superstar guard James Harden have combined for 51 assists in their games this week. Paul has adjusted well to playing off the ball and on a three-point heavy offense as he has taken 10 three-pointers per game and made 45.5 percent of them. While this has only occurred in a small sample size of 4 games, it is clear that Paul is capable of playing off-ball.
2) Golden State Warriors (14-5): Despite the loss to the Thunder, the Warriors still had a good week. After allowing a 47 point first quarter to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Warriors stormed back with 47 in the third quarter. The absence of Kevin Durant did not matter in the Warriors win over the Nets. While the Warriors have been better on defense lately, they have continued to struggle with the ball. They average 17.1 turnovers per game, better than only the 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers.
3) Boston Celtics (17-3): The Celtics great win streak came to an unfortunate end in the loss to Miami. The Celtics have games against the Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons, and Philadelphia 76ers before the end of November. Boston does not face an upper-echelon team again until December 28 the against the Houston Rockets.
4) Cleveland Cavaliers (12-7): Just when it seemed the Cavaliers would not be able to dominate with an old roster; LeBron comes rushing out to R-E- L-A- X the crowd. Over the Cavs 6 game win streak, LeBron has averaged 27.1 points-per-game with 7.1 assists per game while shooting 55 percent from the floor with an outstanding 51.4 percent from three-point range. With only three games against over .500 teams in the Cavs next 10, we could be seeing a Cavs team at the top of the conference by Christmas.
5) Toronto Raptors (11-7): The Raptors blew a big lead to the Knicks after a 28-0 run by the Knicks following halftime. This snapped a strong run of games by the Raptors who have been improving as the season has gone on. Toronto aimed to increase three-point attempts this season and has succeeded in doing this as they have in turn cut down on mid-range attempts. Last year 15.8 percent of scoring was from mid-range jumpers. That figure has fallen to 10 percent this year.
6) Oklahoma City Thunder (8-10): The Thunder showed up against the Warriors, forcing them into 22 turnovers while constantly frustrating the Warriors players (3 technicals). While this has been their standout game this year, the Thunder will need to stop blowing late leads. The Thunder were outplayed in the second half by the Pelicans and lost the game 114-107. The Thunder need to continue improving their offense as their second-ranked defense has not been a problem.
7) Philadelphia 76ers (10-7): The 76ers blew a big lead against the Warriors, but followed it up with blowout wins over the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz. The 76ers continue to have problems with turnovers as they average 17.5 per game. While Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have carried the team, the Sixers will need improvements from J.J. Redick and Dario Saric. Redick is down to 38 percent from three-point range while Saric is shooting 37.4 percent from the floor.

8) Minnesota Timberwolves (11-8): The Timberwolves started the week strong in Dallas and then followed that up with losses against the Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Hornets. They beat the freefalling Orlando Magic on Wednesday to finish an uneven week. They continue to have starters playing very big minutes while being outplayed defensively. After holding Detroit and the Mavericks to respectable numbers they gave up 118 to both the Hornets and Magic. The defense will need to clean up if they hope to make noise.
9) San Antonio Spurs (11-7): The Spurs continue to stay afloat without point guard Tony Parker and 2-time defensive player of the year Kowhai Leonard. ESPN writer Michael Wright spoke with Popovich who said he has “never” seen an injury quite like Leonard’s quad injury. Great coaching and LaMarcus Aldridge’s outstanding play will be able to keep the Spurs in the picture while Leonard is out, but this is something to continue to monitor.
10) Washington Wizards (10-8): The Wizards had a tough week as they lost to Miami, Toronto, and an overtime loss to the Hornets. John Wall missed the Sunday game against Toronto. It is imperative for the Wizards to continue easing Markieff Morris back into game shape. He is averaging only 22.7 minutes-per-game.
11) Portland Trail Blazers (11-8): The highlight of the week for Portland is clearly the feud between Orlando Magic Guard Evan Fournier and Blazers star C.J. McCollum. During their brush up, McCollum blew kisses towards Fournier. McCollum appeared on the Flagrant Two podcast and through more insults at Fournier. He said described Fournier as “sweet and soft, just like those crepes (Fournier) eats.” Portland’s next matchup against the Magic will be on December 15
12) New Orleans Pelicans (11-8): Following the drubbing by the Nuggets, New Orleans
rebounded well with a comeback win against the OKC Thunder and a win against the Spurs. The Pelicans have struggled against better teams so far this year. Jrue Holiday has struggled to live up to his massive contract so far. He is averaging only 14.4 points-per- game while shooting a ghastly 22 percent from three-point range.
13) Detroit Pistons (12-6): Detroit is 1-3 in their last 4 games with all three coming against Eastern Conference foes. Detroit has no player scoring more than 20 points per game and only 4 players averaging more than 10 points per game. It may end up being very tough for the Pistons to continue winning if they do not add another scorer. Maybe the Clippers sell Lou Williams?
14) Indiana Pacers (11-8): The Pacers continued their 5 game win streak over the last week. Victor Oladipo continues his breakout season as he averaged 21 points per game over the win streak. Myles Turner continue to have strangely low playing time as he is averaging 285 minutes-per- game over his last 10 games.
15) New York Knicks (10-8): The Knicks looked solid this week as they followed up a 107-84 blowout to the Toronto Raptors by beating the Clippers and then getting revenge against the Raptors. Courtney Lee and Tim Hardaway combined for 23 of the 41 points the Knicks scored in that quarter.
16) Charlotte Hornets (8-10): The Hornets followed up a bad loss to the Chicago Bulls with a three game win streak over the Clippers, Timberwolves, and Wizards. The Hornets have only three wins against teams with over .500 records. However, following the return of Nicholas Batum has given Kemba Walker some relief.
17) Denver Nuggets (11-8): The Nuggets finally looked like they had hit their stride over the last few weeks as they went 6-2 the loss to the Lakers on the 19 of November. The Nuggets lost Paul Millsap early in the Los Angeles game. He is rumored to be out three months with a wrist injury. The Nuggets will struggle without the defensive presence of Millsap.
18) Milwaukee Bucks (9-8): Eric Bledsoe made his return to Phoenix and helped lead the
Giannis-less Bucks to a 113-107 overtime victory. Bledsoe scored 30 while Kris Middleton
scored 40. The Bucks have struggled to produce enough points through secondary scorers.
19) Miami Heat (9-9): The Heat had two wins over top 4 east playoff teams from last year in the last week, ending the Celtics win streak and getting a close win over the Washington Wizards. The Heat will travel to Cleveland on Tuesday to face Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and a flaming hot Cavs team.
20) Memphis Grizzlies (7-11): The Griz have now lost seven games in a row following the loss of Mike Conley. The NBA’s most underrated player was in the midst of a bad season as he was shooting 38.1 percent from the floor, a career worst. The Achilles injury had been nagging him throughout the early parts of the season. The Grizzlies will need Chandler Parsons and others to step up while Marc Gasol and Tyreke Evans continue their good seasons.

21) Utah Jazz (8-11): The Jazz have struggled without Rudy Gobert as they have wins against only the Chicago Bulls, Magic and Brooklyn Nets since Gobert sustained a bone bruise on his right leg. The Jazz have a tough schedule coming up with games against the Thunder, Washington Wizards, Houston, Cleveland, and Boston in December. They will slip out the playoff race quickly if they cannot pull out wins against good teams.
22) Los Angeles Lakers (8-11): The Lakers have strangely put up an elite defense as they are 4 in the league in defensive ratings. Losses to the Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings spoiled what could have been a very strong week with a win against the Bulls and Nuggets. The main thing for the Lakers has been the play of young players like Kyle Kuzma and Julius Randle. Kuzma has averaged 18 points-points- per game as a starter for the Lakers while Randle had 24 points and 7 rebounds off the bench against Denver.
23) Orlando Magic (8-11): The Magic started the season 8-4 and have completely collapsed. They are giving up the 5th most points per game and do not have reliable defensive big men. The Magic end their road trip with games against Philadelphia and Indiana.
24) Phoenix Suns (7-13): The Suns had a very competitive week as they had wins over the Bulls and Lakers before falling in Overtime to the Milwaukee Bucks. Devin Booker struggled to shoot well against the Bucks and Bulls as he shot 13-39 (33.3 percent) from the floor. T.J. Warren continued his trend of early season scoring while averaging 20 points-per- game over his last three.
25) Los Angeles Clippers (6-11): The early season success seems to have happened months ago as the Clippers finally snapped their 9 game losing streak with a win against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. After a MVP-type start to his season, Blake Griffin has cooled down and is shooting only 37.9 percent from the floor over his last 10 games. Patrick Beverly is out for the season and Milos Teodosic is not close to his return. Add this to the DeAndre Jordan trade rumors and it appears the Clippers season may already be over.
26) Brooklyn Nets (6-12): Following the injuries to Jeremy Lin and DeAngelo Russell, the Nets have Spencer Dinwiddie starting at point guard. The Nets beat Utah before falling to Golden State and Cleveland. Brooklyn travels to Memphis followed by Houston, then Dallas.
27) Sacramento Kings (5-13): Willie Cauley-Stein has seen a rebirth since he started coming off the bench for the Kings. He has averaged 17 points and 7.5 rebounds per game since he was benched last week. Cauley-Stein spoke to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee and said that being able to “play the four (power forward)” has been good for him. The Kings will need to see which of their prospects can pan out during the season.
28) Chicago Bulls (3-14): The Bulls had a tough week after winning against Charlotte. They dropped three straight to the Suns, Lakers, and Jazz. Both Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen had great games this week. Markkanen scored 26 points and added 13 rebounds while shooting 4-10 from three-point range. Dunn led the Bulls to victory against the Hornets scoring 22 points and adding 7 assists and 5 rebounds.
29) Dallas Mavericks (4-15): Dallas picked up two wins this week against Memphis and
Milwaukee and blew a late lead against the Celtics. Dirk Nowitzki picked up his first double-double of the season against Boston with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Nerlens Noel has almost completely disappeared from the team as he had only 13 minutes over the last 4 Dallas games.

30) Atlanta Hawks (4-15): Atlanta had a rough game as they went 0-3. They also lost to the Clippers, ending their 9-game losing streak. Atlanta plays against Toronto and Cleveland to end November.

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