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PBT NBA Power Rankings: Even without Westbrook Thunder take top spot

Dec 30, 2013, 4:51 PM EDT

Houston Rockets v Oklahoma City Thunder Getty Images

It’s legitimate to question how well Oklahoma City will fair in the roughly 27 games they will play without Russell Westbrook, but so far so good and that slides the to the top of the last power rankings of 2013.

source:  1. Thunder (25-5, Last Week No. 2). They won all their games last week, but that’s not the story. With Russell Westbrook out until around the All-Star break Kevin Durant will be trying to keep the Thunder near the top of the standings. The good news is 15 of the estimated 27 games Westbrook will miss are against teams below .500. However, if they slip from a top seed to three or four (a real possibility) they make their playoff run that much more difficult.

source:  2. Pacers (24-5, LW 4). They lead the NBA in net point difference — they outscore their opponents by 9.6 points per 100 possessions. The reason remains a defense that is 4.1 points per 100 better than anyone in the league. Plus Lance Stephenson is playing well creating shots for others.

source:  3. Heat (23-7, LW 3). They have lost seven games this season, six of them to teams below .500. I think that says plenty about their focus night-to-night, or lack thereof. The one team above .500 to defeat them? Indiana.

source:  4. Trail Blazers (24-6, LW 1). They continue to win games with the best offense in the NBA — like the comeback win over the Clippers, another dramatic victory that makes this team entertaining to watch. But in their last 10 games they have given up 107.2 points per 100 possessions on defense, 26th in the NBA in that span. They will not win when it matters without better defense.

source:  5. Spurs (24-7, LW No. 6). Look for the Spurs to go on a little run. Why? Nine of their next 11 games are at home, and six of those are against teams with records below. 500. Also, while you weren’t paying attention to the Spurs, Manu Ginobili has played well.

source:  6. Warriors (18-13, LW 9). Here’s why I think Golden State could be more dangerous in the playoffs than Portland — since the return of Andre Iguodala they have played the second best defense in the NBA. You know they will score, if they defend they are dangerous.

source:  7. Clippers (21-12, LW 5). Don’t be shocked if they go after Andrew Bynum. The Clippers biggest need is depth up front and even with all his issues if the Clips could get Bynum to play 15 minutes a night off the bench he’s an upgrade over Ryan Hollins.

source:  8. Rockets (21-12, LW 8). They just completed a brutal stretch of the schedule — 7 games in 10 days. It showed in the loss to OKC Sunday night. Houston looked tired and slow. They have just three games in the next 11 and no team over .500.

source:  9. Suns (18-11, LW 7). Maybe the best showdown of the week is on their schedule — Eric Bledsoe takes on the Clippers. The Suns have won 9 of their last 11 and are fully capable of beating the Clippers behind Bledsoe.

source:  10. Mavericks (17-13, LW 12). Dallas is an entertaining team, one with a strong offense behind Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis, which usually is enough to make up for their defense. If they can improve the D just a little they would look more secure as a playoff team.

source:  11. Hawks (17-14, LW 11). Huge blow with the loss of Al Horford for maybe the rest of the regular season. Last time this happened to him (on the other side) he was out four months, which would have him back about when the playoffs start.

source:  12. Timberwolves (15-15, LW 13). Still keep waiting for this team to make a run and for their record to catch up with their point differential (+2.2 per 100 possessions, which suggests a 19-11 record). Win over Dallas Monday would help there against a team also in the bottom of the West playoff mix.

source:  13. Wizards (13-14, LW 14). My favorite stat of the week, courtesy my man Dan Feldman: Bradley Beal shoots 45 percent overall when Marcin Gortat is on the floor with him, 31 percent when Gortat sits. Beal’s three-point percentage jumps 9 percent also. Good screens matter.

source:  14. Raptors (13-15, LW 18). Your Atlantic Division leaders helped secure that position with a home-and-home sweep of the Knicks. Toronto is now 7-3 following the trade and you can argue they are the third best team in the East following the Horford injury.

source:  15. Pelicans (13-15, LW 19). I’m not sure Jason Smith is the long-term answer, but this team looks better with him next to Anthony Davis. Also, Tyreke Evans has averaged more than 20 points a game this past week.

source:  16. Nuggets (14-15, LW 10). They have lost six in a row and fallen out of the playoff picture in the West, but look for them to bounce back with six of their next seven at home. They need to make a little run here as the deep West is unforgiving to losing streaks.

source:  17. Bobcats (14-17, LW 16). Their defense has carried them this far and when it lapses even a little coach Steve Clifford is calling them out on it. Tough West Coast road swing that includes Clippers and Trail Blazers on tap this week.

source:  18. Lakers (13-18, LW 15). They have lost five in a row and Pau Gasol can’t shake an upper respiratory infection to get back on the court — and he looks like he’s giving 75 percent when he does. He is not helping his next contract get any bigger right now.

source:  19. Pistons (14-18, LW 17). That Mo Cheeks is calling out Josh Smith and benching him is a sign to me he has reached the “let’s try some gimmicks” stage of getting this to work. Pistons remain -6.6 per 100 possessions when Smith, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe share the court and the defense with all of them is terrible.

source:  20. Grizzlies (13-16, LW 20). Marc Gasol is getting close to returning and as he does Memphis has to make up 3.5 games and jump four teams just to get into the playoffs in the West. Doable, but far from easy.

source:  21. Celtics (13-17, LW 21). They are getting solid play from guys all around — Jared Sullinger and Jordan Crawford (even after he came back to earth) had strong Decembers. Still wonder what this roster will look like Feb. 21 (day after trade deadline).

source:  22. Bulls (11-17, LW 25). Luol Deng is close to returning, it could even be Monday night for Chicago. What Christmas Day showed is that unlike other teams beset by injuries and slow starts, the Bulls will still play hard.

source:  23. Nets (10-20, LW 23). Jason Kidd is calling them out and that seemed to help the effort a little. Kidd’s issues still fall to management — they put a first-time, no experience head coach in charge of a team with a very short window to be competitive.

source:  24. Kings (9-20, LW 26). They beat the Miami Heat, and while that is partially on the Heat (read their ranking above) it shows that there really is potential in this core group. They have four of their next six against the dregs of the East, it’s a chance to string some wins together.

source:  25. Cavaliers (10-20, LW 22). They have lost four in a row and now will have the Andrew Bynum rumors and distraction front and center for the next week as they try to trade him, and failing have to decide whether to waive him or just pay him $6 million to be a trade chip this summer.

source:  26. Knicks (9-21, LW 24). That sweep of a home-and-home over the weekend at the hands of the Raptors was a punch to the gut. James Dolan said there were no trades or coaching changes coming, we’ll take him at his word. Even if you do fire Woodson, getting a quality replacement into that zoo will not be easy.

source:  27. Magic (9-20, LW 28). Arron Afflalo has scored 20 straight points in six straight games, and while that is not is not going to get him into the All-Star Game (sorry Arron) is should up his trade value at the deadline. A lot of teams could use him.

28. Jazz (9-24, LW 27). Trey Burke is looking good as he finds his way in the NBA. He’s not the most explosive athlete, but he has the Damian Lillard style ability to get off his shot or find the right guy. Utah has something here.

source:  29. 76ers (9-21, LW 29). Sunday night’s win over the Lakers snapped a 13-game road losing streak, so we’ll forgive Evan Turner for the exclamation point dunk when he should have dribbled it out. They stay on the road against the West this season.

source:  30. Bucks (6-24, LW 30). Just as we were starting to see the Larry Sanders, John Henson combo would do together the Bucks have lost Henson for two weeks with an ankle injury. That’s just not fair.

  1. timberwolvesbrisin - Dec 30, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    Mine is as follows: 11. Phoenix 22. Lakers
    1. Miami 12. Denver 23. Kings
    2. Indiana 13. Memphis 24. Cavs
    3. OKC 14. New Orleans 25. Knicks
    4. San Antonio 15. Washington 26. Utah
    5. Portland 16. Detroit 27..Orlando
    6. Golden State 17. Atlanta 28. Brooklyn
    7. LA Clippers 18. Charlotte 29. 76ers
    8. Houston 19. Chicago 30. Milwaukee
    9. Timberwolves 20 Toronto
    10. Dallas 21. Boston

    • pbtunpaidwriter - Dec 30, 2013 at 7:22 PM


      I”M DONE READING AFTER SEEING OKC THERE. WOW you’re losing all credibility Kurt.

  2. money2long - Dec 30, 2013 at 5:22 PM

    during the off season i took some heat for a few things. one being that i said the thunder wouldn’t skip a beat after losing kevin martin. people starting feeling bad for okc. i tried to speak sense into ppl. and now look at where they stand now…

    a few other things i took heat for. i said klay thompson would prove to be the better pro athlete compared to harrison barnes. anyone care to change their minds now ?

    i also said, andrea bargnani would have life in new york after so many ppl buried him as a non factor. he proved to be a critical factor in the wake of chandler’s injury. so looks like he wasn’t a dead man. situations changes teams. and to the guy that was telling me past performance dictates future performance, i told him in sports, that doesnt always apply. circumstances change. and we must always factor in potential. which varies alot of things.

    • money2long - Dec 30, 2013 at 6:35 PM

      thumbs down because my points are inaccurate or because im saying they are not inaccurate .

      • timberwolvesbrisin - Dec 30, 2013 at 6:47 PM

        I didn’t thumb you down but OKC seems to be doing fine without Martin. Seeing him firsthand I’ve been disappointed in his overall game. He’s the definition of one-dimensional. Still glad we signed him but OKC is fine.

        Bargaini didn’t really help ny when chandler was out, just look at the record. He was better in Toronto, but isn’t completely useless in NY.

      • money2long - Dec 30, 2013 at 8:16 PM

        don’t focus on the team when talking about bargnani. one should focus on whether he had life. and he did. check his numbers. that was my only argument in the summer. that bargnani would show he can still do things. 99% of ppl left him for dead. and i was looked at like i was crazy giving him a chance to have any sort of impact. after carmelo, bargnani was the next guy on the knicks people hoped could make any noticeable blip on the knicks stat sheet.

      • borderline1988 - Dec 31, 2013 at 8:37 AM

        I never thought Bargnani was ‘dead’.

        He is what he is, and that’s the problem. Toronto gave him plenty of time and opportunity to develop, both as a secondary and primary option. He hit his ceiling and that’s all there is to it. I knew exactly what he would contribute to NY.

        – at his best playing good minutes, can get you 20 ppg
        – can be a matchup problem for other teams
        – good individual post defender

        – Bad rebounder for his size (averages 6rbg, awful for a 7foot centre averaging over 30mpg)
        – Terrible help defender
        – Lacks athletiscm
        – Shooting is very streaky
        – Overall efficiency is pedestrian; career 43% shooter, 3PT% at 35%
        – Has no reliable post game
        – Still hasn’t figured out how to drive to the rim without being called for a charge
        – Doesn’t run the floor well
        – Prone to mistakes; low basketball IQ overall
        – Offensive game is limited to catch and shoot, or put down one dribble and then pull-up

        Perhaps in the right situation, he could provide meaningful productive minutes. But this is not a guy you bring in to solve problems; he’s a guy you bring in to maximise an already productive system.

      • money2long - Dec 31, 2013 at 10:39 AM

        just stop it ! stop it now border ! i can’t believe what ur typing. first game he got boos in ny was it you that said u knew he would suck ? stop it now. alot of ppl said he was dead. alot of ppl said he could score or play basketball and looked at his percentages and just thought he was washed up and done. stop it with your stats and your novel u just wrote. alot of people on this website KNOW EXACTLY THE TRASH they talked about barg. dont come on here border and start defending cuz ppl see he can actually still play. i was in the minority and i didnt care that i took heat for it. now barg has shown YOU and other that yes, situations can change players !! eat your crow !! all of you

      • borderline1988 - Dec 31, 2013 at 3:58 PM

        First of all, calm down.

        He was the same player in Toronto; he hasn’t really gotten any better or worse. I don’t know why people would have thought his production would fall off a cliff or conversely why you seem to think that somehow he actually brings good value for this Knicks team.

        The point isn’t that he was washed up; rather that a player whose ceiling initially seemed to be endless (he was billed as the next Dirk) had maximised his potential which unfortunately isn’t that of a productive, efficient NBA player.

        He may go through stretches where he gets hot and his shooting gets better, but ultimately, from a skills and fundamentals perspective, he is what he is.

      • money2long - Dec 31, 2013 at 8:34 PM

        u miss the point.

        the point is, people pretty much said bargnani couldn’t play anymore.

        his stat sheets speak otherwise.

        that is ALL.

        he has put up numbers, and after carmelo, is the only guy on the knicks this yr that the team can count on for any sort of consistency/reliability.

        seriously, after carmelo, and don’t say JR, after carmelo this season, who is the only guy people were hoping could drop anything close to 20 points? also, bargnani has been getting his hands on some blocks as well.

        everything u keep saying is irrelevant. saying he is what he is, so what? thats not the point.

        the point was, people said the knicks got hoaxed in that deal sending who totoronto again? i can’t even remember, i think novak was one of them. people pretty much said bargnani was a 7 foot novak. or worse. seems like he’s playing just a tad better than novak you think ????

  3. nflcrimerankingscom - Dec 30, 2013 at 6:26 PM

    The top of the list is pretty similar to the Advanced Algorithm-based rankings (game-by-game point differential and opponent strength adjusted). OKC leads with a True Win % of 74%, with Indiana in 2nd with 72%. Spurs are ahead of Blazers and Clippers ahead of Warriors.

  4. timberwolvesbrisin - Dec 30, 2013 at 6:52 PM

    The warriors aren’t capable of being dangerous, they ARE dangerous. And Ryan Hollins is very effective with his minutes in LA, he meshes well with the players and scheme. Let’s look a little deeper guys.

  5. antistratfordian - Dec 30, 2013 at 7:09 PM

    The Pacers offense is too… average? …to be ranked that high. What Helin said about Portland – “They will not win when it matters without better defense” – also applies to Indiana and their offense.

  6. shanelsweet - Dec 30, 2013 at 7:27 PM

    Putting OKC at the top with Westbrook gone is ridiculous. Makes a mockery of the whole thing.

  7. jerdogthompson - Dec 30, 2013 at 9:27 PM

    My favorite line,

    Phoenix is very capable of beating the Clippers behind Bledsoe. Utah is capable of beating the Heat behind Al Jefferson.

    Don’t confuse “capable” with “probable or likely”. I would have thought they taught you that in journalism school. Can Phoenix beat the Clippers? Yes, just like any team can beat any other team. Is it likely Phoenix beats the Clippers? That would be a big negatory ghost rider.

    • sportsfan18 - Dec 30, 2013 at 10:57 PM

      The writer did NOT confuse capable with probable or likely.

      As YOU said, he used “capable”. So he didn’t confuse them.

      Now you are correct in that the odds aren’t in their favor to beat those teams, but as YOU also agreed, they are capable of beating those teams and THAT is what the writer said too (that they were capable as he didn’t write likely or probable).

      So what did the writer confuse exactly?

  8. themagicfanguy - Dec 30, 2013 at 11:02 PM

    The Knicks and Cavs are probably worse than Orlando at this point, just saying. Afflalo SHOULD be an allstar as well.

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