With the return of DeMarcus Cousins in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors are looking to solidify their position at the top of the NBA for the rest of the season. As one star enters back into the league it is unfortunate that another one is out for the season. Victor Oladipo is out for the season after rupturing a quadriceps tendon in his right knee. This hurts the Pacers a lot and will probably affect their playoff hopes. So as another month roles through and we are getting closer to the NBA All-Star game, here are your near NBA power rankings.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers (9-41)
I am still baffled that Cleveland is this bad. This team is heading for another historically bad season. There looks like there is little upside to this team, and there does not even look like the organization has a clue what direction they are going for. Alec Burks and Rodney Hood are the only players whose contracts are expiring after this season and neither of them are playing great basketball. This will be a huge offseason for the Cavs and if they are going to try to start from scratch, getting rid of Kevin Love will probably be on the agenda.
29. New York Knicks (10-37)
The Knicks are on an eight game losing streak and are 3-20 since Dec. 1. The team is imploding on the inside with Enes Kanter asking for a trade and Tim Hardaway Jr. does not care who hates him. The Knicks are another team with no identity. The only bright spots have been watching Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson grow. It seems like almost everyone is on the trade block and the organization and city can’t wait for Kristaps Porzingis to return.
28.Chicago Bulls (11-38)
Nothing has changed since the Bulls fired Fred Hoiberg. The team is still losing and are 1-9 in their last 10 games. The offense is bad and the defense has been worse since Hoiberg left. The team has a -10 point differential and now Wendell Carter Jr. is out for eight to 12 weeks after getting surgery on his left thumb.
27.Phoenix Suns (11-41)
The worst team in the western conference by far are the Phoenix Suns. They are currently on an eight game losing streak and after their last game against the Nuggets it was reported that they had a players only meeting. There are no huge expectations for the Suns this year, and them tanking is probably the plan throughout the entire organization. Devin Booker is really good though so that’s a plus.
26.Memphis Grizzlies (20-30)
The Grizzlies have basically announced that they are going to tank. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are apparently both on the trade block. After starting the season in decent shape the team has gone 5-21 since Dec. 8. They are seven and a half games back of the eight seed and are in no mans land at this point in the season. If they think trading their franchise players will solve their problems then good luck to them.
25.Atlanta Hawks (15-33)
The Hawks have been on one of their better streaks as of late. In their past 10 games they have gone 4-6. This is not great but for a team going through a rebuild any little thing is a positive. Speaking of positive, John Collins has put up great numbers, leading the team in points and rebounds. Trae Young is still learning, but for a young team all you can ask for is progress.
24.Orlando Magic (20-30)
It seems like every year the Magic have a great start, only to fizzle out before the All-Star break and becoming a lottery team. That is certainly the case for this season. Nikola Vucevic is having an incredible season and is in the top two on his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. Vucevic’s talents are wasted in Orlando, but the team is only four games out from the eight seed. If they can turn their current three game losing streak into a winning streak they will be right back in place for the playoffs.
23.New Orleans Pelicans (22-28)
Another team that is wasting the talents of a player are the New Orleans Pelicans. Anthony Davis is also apparently tired of doing everything for the Pelicans and wants to be traded. Since going out with an injury the team has struggled without him. They have dropped three in a row and are 4-6 in their last 10 games. Davis is leading the 13 seeded team with 29.3 points, 13.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 2.6 rebounds. The Pelicans will be drawing a lot of attention for Davis and it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
22.Detroit Pistons (21-27)
The Pistons are hovering around the eight seed, but Blake Griffin is visibly not happy about how the team is performing. Griffin is having an All-Star season averaging 26.5 points, 8.1 rebounds and leading the team in assists with 5.2 per game. His points per game production is his career best by 2.4 points. The Pistons organization is trying to win, but the on court production from others has been lacking. Griffin is doing everything for his team in his tenth season.
21.Dallas Mavericks (22-27)
Dallas has fallen off after the fast start and incredible production from rookie Luka Doncic. Doncic is still doing his thing, but the Mavs have gone 4-6 in their last 10 games. The return of Dennis Smith Jr. should actually help the team if they can work together. The west is starting to shape out and the eight seed might be pulling away without the Mavs.
20.Sacramento Kings (25-25)
5-5 in their last 10 games and three games back, the Kings are clawing their way into playoff consideration. If they don’t make it this year, fans should be happy with the team’s performance. They are one of the youngest teams in the league and are performing well ahead of expectations. De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield have led this team to respectability and if the core stays together, this team has a lot of potential for the future.
19.Los Angeles Lakers (25-24)
The team has struggled without LeBron James. They are 5-10 since he injured his groin against the Warriors and the weaknesses of the Lakers are no longer being masked by James. Lonzo Ball has also been out with an ankle injury. The team has slipped from the four seed to the ninth and until James returns the fall could get worse. Or maybe they get Anthony Davis.
18.Miami Heat (24-24)
The Heat are clinging onto the seventh seed in the east and as winners of two in a row they have tried to get back on track. they are 5-5 over their past 10 games and are giving hope to teams lower in the rankings. Miami also have the lowest point differential out of the teams in playoff contention.
17.Minnesota Timberwolves (24-26)
The Timberwolves have been up and down all season and have lost two in a row. Karl-Anthony Towns has returned to his dominant ways and Derrick Rose is continuing with his impressive season. They have a .1 point differential and are four games outside of the eight seed. Towns and Rose have to keep having their great season, but the team is still searching for their identity after firing Tom Thibodeau.
16.Washington Wizards (21-28)
The Wizards are a rare team that gets better when their star players are out. The team is 8-5 since John Wall’s season was ended because of surgery. Bradley Beal is averaging 28.2 points in January and is leading the team on this impressive streak. The Wizards have for years been a team that seems to hate each other and with Wall out Beal is making sure people know it is his team.
15.Charlotte Hornets (23-25)
The Hornets have played just well enough to get wins. Kemba Walker is having an amazing season and is an All-Star game starter. With Walker leading this team they are the eight seed and have a point differential of .5. This is exactly the play that can keep an eastern conference team in the playoff race.
14.Los Angeles Clippers (28-22)
Now we reach the first playoff team in the west. The Clippers are playing great team basketball. They are a starless team and if you wanted proof about their ability to play team basketball, Lou Williams had a 31 point triple double off the bench. They are currently the eight seed in the west and have a two and a half game cushion from the nine seed.
13.Brooklyn Nets (27-23)
The surprise of the season has been the Brooklyn Nets. I can’t believe they are the six seed in the east with a two game cushion and have the longest win streak in the conference at six games. They are also 8-2 in their last 10 games, but with Spencer Dinwiddie going out for three to six weeks
the Nets might slip. They have won one game since Dinwiddie went down, but their schedule without him will have a good mixture of tough teams and easier teams.
12.Indiana Pacers (32-16)
The Pacers are a competitive team, but the loss of their All-Star Victor Oladipo is going to hurt them. Oladipo is out for the season with a ruptured quadriceps tendon in his right knee. The Pacers will miss his 18.8 points per game, but the team strives on their defensive ability. If they stick with what they are best at and players step up they should not fall too far. They only allow 103.2 points per game which is the best in the league. Defense will be the only thing that keeps the Pacers in playoff contention.
11.San Antonio Spurs (29-22)
The Spurs are now on a two game winning streak without DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan has been out with knee soreness and the team is doing well without him. This doesn’t mean DeRozan is hurting them, it more shows the how deep the team is. As long as Gregg Popovich is leading the Spurs they will always be competitive.
10.Houston Rockets (29-20)
James Harden has done it all for the Rockets. He had back-to-back games with 57 and 58 points, he scored 61 in New York and after the game at MSG it made it 263 points he has scored without anyone assisting him. Harden is having a great January and the Rockets are 6-3 in the month and now Chris Paul is returning. The Rockets might seem low, but if Paul and Harden play like they did last year, they will be moving up quickly.
9.Utah Jazz (29-22)
The Jazz have stormed back from their terrible start to the season and are 9-1 in their past 10 games. They currently have a three game win streak and sit two games away from the four seed. The Jazz are going back to what made them great last year. Donovan Mitchell has been scoring prolifically, Rudy Gobert has been stellar and the defense in general has held teams to 105.1 points per game. With Mitchell having a great season and Gobert is having another Defensive Player of the Year season they Jazz are going to keep rising in the rankings.
8.Boston Celtics (30-19)
The Celtics have been up and down all season. When you think they are going to start winning consistently they go on a losing streak. Right now they are 6-4 in their last 10 games and look like they have figured things out. Kyrie Irving has been vocal about the teams youth and inexperience. The Celtics biggest problem is their depth. As shocking as this sounds, the team has so many good to great players that dividing up time for everyone has become a challenge. As long as egos don’t get too out of control, the Celtics have a legitimate chance at making it to the finals.
7.Portland Trail Blazers (31-20)
The Trail Blazers always seem to stick with the pack even though they lack the depth of most teams. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and Damian Lillard is still a beast. Jusuf Nurkic has helped a lot and C.J. McCollum has stayed great. The Blazers look like they have finally figured things out but the key will be consistent play from role players.
6.Oklahoma City Thunder (31-18)
The Thunders current five game win streak has a lot to do with Paul George and Russell Westbrook finally figuring out how to play with each other. George is having a great year and was named an All-Star game starter. The team started January off rough, but since losing five of six they have looked better in their five wins. The team’s defense has been its bread and butter, but they have looked a lot better on offense as of late. As long as Westbrook’s career low in three-point percentage does not affect their winning, the Thunder should continue to dominate.
5.Philadelphia 76ers (32-18)
The 76ers have suffered from inconsistent play and their star players egos all season. Jimmy Butler surprisingly does not seem to get along with anyone after being traded from the Timberwolves for not getting along with anyone. Shocker. Joel Embiid is starting to play better though. The team 121-93 win against the red-hot Houston Rockets proves that they can play defense well and score even without Jimmy Butler. Would it surprise anyone if he was actually their problem.
4.Denver Nuggets (33-15)
The Nuggets have been one of the best team basketball teams in the league. Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap and Gary Harris have all been playing great complementary basketball. Unfortunately, they can’t all stay on the floor at the same time. Jokic is out with a suspension, Murray hurt his ankle, but Millsap and Haris are finally healthy. When the vision starts coming together the Nuggets will return to top form, but it might not be enough against the western conferences best.
3.Toronto Raptors (37-15)
Toronto has proved all season that Kawhi Leonard is just a luxury at this point. The team has been great without him, and with him they are obviously better. Kyle Lowry has been playing great as a point guard but is still struggling from deep. The Raptors are 7-3 in their last 10 games and in a softer eastern conference it is probably their goal to be as healthy as possible entering the playoffs. They have the starters and the depth to go pretty far.
2.Milwaukee Bucks (35-13)
Before their most recent loss, the Milwaukee Bucks were on a six game win streak. They have one of the best point differentials in the NBA and Giannis Antetokounmpo is continuing to make his case for MVP. The Bucks are crushing teams and even after Thon Maker demanded a trade, the team has not fallen off. They are deep and have great consistent play from everyone and if it was not for the return of a curtain player, they would probably be number one.
1.Golden State Warriors (35-14)
10 wins in a row. This should frighten the league. Talk all year about if they had finally started to fall of has been silenced during this win streak. Oh and DeMarcus Cousins is back no big deal. Cousins gives the Warriors a big man who can spread the floor, pass, rebound and even run the offense if needed. Teams should be kicking themselves for allowing this to happen. Cousin has fit in almost flawlessly. Klay Thompson, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant have all looked better. The Warriors might just be unstoppable now.