Last week in the NBA, the Western Conference stayed relatively static, the Eastern Conference is dynamic and Donovan Mitchell (last week’s rookie watch) scored a Utah Jazz rookie record 41 points. There are lots of fun, young, unproven teams in the East while you pretty much know what you’re getting in the West. We’ll start off with my top six teams in the league in the sixth edition of the Power Six. Then we’ll take a look at a cross-conference Game of the Week, the early playoff picture, updated scoring leaders, an uber-athletic rookie and revised MVP race standings.
1. Boston Celtics (20-4). Last week: 1st
No, they aren’t on a ridiculous winning streak anymore, but the Kyrie Irving-led Celtics are still on top. They did only go 2-1 last week, with a loss against a team that dropped off these rankings, but Boston still has the best record in the NBA. They hold the first spot in the Power Six for the fourth straight week.
2. Houston Rockets (18-4). Last week: 3rd
One of the biggest surprises in this week’s rankings are the Rockets leaping the Warriors. Last week I stated that I felt like the Warriors were holding back a little until the postseason. Well, it seems a little unfair to punish Houston based off hypotheticals and, frankly, they’ve been playing better than Golden State. They’ve won seven straight and Chris Paul is providing passing and defense while James Harden continues to shoot the lights out. Houston hasn’t been outside of the top three in these rankings all year.
3. Golden State Warriors (18-6). Last week: 2nd
The Warriors have won 75 percent of their games so far this year. That would be a great percentage for every other team, but the Warriors have won 84.1 percent (207 of 246) the past three years combined. Players are losing their cool (Shaun Livingston and Kevin Durant), they lost to the Sacramento Kings (granted without Durant and Stephen Curry) and almost lost to the Los Angeles Lakers. I’d be concerned if it was any other team. But this is the Warriors.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (16-7). Last week: 4th
Cleveland’s season narrative has changed drastically these past few weeks. 5-7 has changed to 16-7 in a flash. Speaking of flash, Dwayne Wade seems to have a little something left in the tank. It seems pretty simple as to what’s behind the Cavaliers turn around. LeBron James is, well, LeBron James, Kevin Love is averaging a triple-double and Kyle Korver is making everything. Oh and don’t forget they are still waiting for Isaiah Thomas to return.
5. San Antonio Spurs (15-8). Last week: 6th
This was their chance! San Antonio had an opportunity to move into the top four for the first time this season. Then they lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder last night. A win would’ve given them their fifth straight and an argument to be in the Cavaliers spot. Regardless, they are holding the fort down sufficiently with the ongoing absence of Kawhi Leonard.
6. Toronto Raptors (14-7). Last week: Unranked
The Raptors return to the rankings for the second time after reaching the fifth spot in the fourth Power Six rankings. They are one of four Eastern Conference teams to be included this year along with the Celtics, Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons. Detroit has gone 5-5 in their last 10 and were passed by the Cavaliers and Raptors in the East this week. The Raptors have a lethal backcourt with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry and will look to stay in the top six as the season continues.
Dropped out of rankings: Detroit Pistons
Game of the Week
The Spurs host the Celtics this Friday at 9:30 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN. It will be a battle between two top-three teams in their respective conferences. The game will likely be a chess match as two storied franchises with shrewd head coaches face off. Keep an eye on the Al Horford–LaMarcus Aldridge match-up. They’ve both been playing well this season. I think whichever big man has the better game will be a key component in determining who comes out with the victory.
- Boston Celtics
- Cleveland Cavaliers (3.5 GB)
- Toronto Raptors (4.5 GB)
- Detroit Pistons (5 GB)
- Philadelphia 76ers (6 GB)
- Milwaukee Bucks (6.5 GB)
- Washington Wizards (7 GB)
- Indiana Pacers (7.5 GB)
In the hunt: New York Knicks (8 GB), Miami Heat (8.5 GB).
- Houston Rockets
- Golden State Warriors (1 GB)
- San Antonio Spurs (3.5 GB)
- Denver Nuggets (5 GB)
- Minnesota Timberwolves (5 GB)
- Portland Trail Blazers (5.5 GB)
- Utah Jazz (6.5 GB)
- New Orleans Pelicans (6.5 GB)
In the hunt: Oklahoma City Thunder (8 GB), Los Angeles Clippers (10 GB).
Stat of the Week: Leading Scorers (per game)
- James Harden, HOU, 31.7
- Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL, 29.4
- LeBron James, CLE, 28.3
- Stephen Curry, GS, 26.1
- Kristaps Porzingis, NY, 25.8
Take a look at how the leading scorers have changed since the first NBA Weekly.
Rookie Watch: Dennis Smith Jr.
Maybe Donovan Mitchell has started a trend. If NC State product Dennis Smith Jr. breaks the Dallas Mavericks rookie scoring record this week, I may be on to something. You might’ve heard LeBron James talk about the Mavericks athletic point guard back in November, but have you seen him play?!? He has thrown down some of the most jaw-dropping dunks out of anyone in the league in his first season. His shooting could use a lot of improvement across the board, but that’s something that can be taught. Athleticism can’t. He’s averaging 14.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists so far this season. Seriously, check this out.
LeBron stays as the favorite to win MVP this week. James Harden and Kyrie Irving are right behind him. Irving is second cause his team has the better record. Chris Paul’s return might also take some assist numbers away from Harden. The only change from last week is Giannis Antetokounmpo and Stephen Curry switching spots because Golden State has three other All-Stars on their roster.
- LeBron James
- Kyrie Irving
- James Harden
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Stephen Curry
See you next week.