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HomeBasketballNBANBA Power Rankings, Week 7: A new leader of the pack

NBA Power Rankings, Week 7: A new leader of the pack

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It’s an interesting week for the NBA.

The In-Season Tournament concludes with Saturday’s final. The last two teams will get there through games played Dec. 7. The teams still standing include the Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Pelicans, and LA Lakers. It’s a good group comprising teams that have had recent success, a league staple, and some teams that haven’t sniffed a title.

The tournament, while wildly entertaining, has presented the League with a bit of a scheduling quagmire. There were no games on Dec. 3. Only IST games are scheduled for the above dates. There are full slates set for Dec. 6 and Dec. 8. There are no games set for Dec. 10. The week’s schedule is set in part to ensure each team plays 82 games. When the tournament was originally implemented, it was believed that 22 of the League’s 30 teams may only play an 80-game schedule.

The tournament has been a success. It’s added interest in the League at a time when the focus is on football. The courts are a bit goofy looking, but they let viewers know IST games are happening.

The players seem motivated, too, and are playing with teammates in mind. It’ll be interesting to see how the winner reacts. Will they treat it like a regular game? Or act like they won the title?

There aren’t a lot of surprises remaining in the field. Every team is above .500. The Pacers, currently ninth in the East, are the only team left not in the top 6 of their respective conference.

That means you’ll likely find a lot of the squads near the top of this week’s Power Rankings.

Last week’s ranking is in parentheses.

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves (3): I’ve been reluctant to put Minnesota in this spot. Minnesota almost a quarter into the season is the best defensive team in the League. Anthony Edwards has taken The Leap. And Rudy Gobert has re-taken the throne as the most impactful defensive player in the game.
  2. Boston Celtics (1): Starting center Kristaps Porzingis has missed Boston’s last four games with a right calf strain. The Celtics are 3-1 in those games, but you can see some issues as far as depth when Boston doesn’t have its full complement of players.
  3. Denver Nuggets (5): The title still runs through Denver, but the Nuggets are currently last in the League in free throw shooting.
  4. Milwaukee Bucks (8): Giannis Antetoukoumpo is quietly shooting better than 60% from the field on nearly 20 shots a game.
  5. Oklahoma City Thunder (7): OKC is shooting better than 40% from 3 on 33 attempts a game — good for No. 1 in the league.
  6. Orlando Magic (3): Orlando’s franchise record-tying 9-game win streak was snapped on Dec. 2 by Brooklyn.
  7. Phoenix Suns (4): Could the Suns be whole soon? Bradley Beal is slated to return in a season that’s seen Beal limited to three games due to a nagging back injury.
  8. LA Lakers (10): After a Dec. 5 LA 106-103 win over Phoenix in the IST quarterfinals, Suns superstar Kevin Durant picked the Lakers to win the In-Season Tournament.
  9. New York Knicks (13): The Knicks are 10-3 over the last month of the season — second-best in the league behind Minnesota over that span.
  10. Philadelphia 76ers (6): The Sixers in close games could be a pretty sure bet. Philly so far this season is second in the league in team free throw shooting at 85.1% on 27.5 attempts a game.
  11. Miami Heat (9): It’s a bad sign that big man Bam Adebayo, playing the best ball of his career, says he has “no idea” when he’ll return from a hip injury.
  12. Dallas Mavericks (12): Retired Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki has great taste.
  13. Sacramento Kings (11): Kings guard De’Aaron Fox is betting on himself after reportedly turning down a two-year, $105 million max extension before the start of the season.
  14. New Orleans Pelicans (15): New Orleans is two wins away from taking the NBA Cup title. Could that give this seemingly jinxed group a jolt?
  15. Cleveland Cavaliers (16): The Cavs surprisingly, to me, have a negative point differential and a negative net rating.
  16. Indiana Pacers (14): Monday night’s Pacers win over Boston was the first time Indiana guard Tyrese Haliburton has played in a national TV game.
  17. Brooklyn Nets (21): Brooklyn put up 129 points in a Dec. 2 28-point win over Orlando, ending the Magic’s 9-game win streak. The Nets have won four out of five following a three-game skid.
  18. LA Clippers (20): Despite how bad a lot of people believe the Clippers to be, LA still boasts a top-5 defense.
  19. Atlanta Hawks (19): The Hawks are allowing opposing team’s to shoot 50.1% from the field, giving Atlanta the third-worst field goal defense in the League.
  20. Golden State Warriors (18): Another sign of the possible end of the Warriors’ run: Golden State last week blew two 20-point leads.
  21. Toronto Raptors (22): Toronto is a bad shooting team from two key spots. The Raptors so far this season are 28th in 3-point percentage and 29th in free throw shooting.
  22. Houston Rockets (17): The Rockets are the only team in the League without a road win.
  23. Utah Jazz (24): Utah has to do a better job of taking care of the ball. The Jazz average a league-worst 17.7 turnovers a game.
  24. Portland TrailBlazers (26): Portland is at the bottom of the League in five categories: made field goals, 2-point shooting, defensive rebounding, assists, and points per game.
  25. Chicago Bulls (25): The rumors are starting to heat up about possible trades for DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine.
  26. Memphis Grizzlies (27): The Grizzlies last week had their first win streak of the season with consecutive victories over Utah and Dallas.
  27. Charlotte Hornets (23): Miles Bridges since his return has played like an All-Star, averaging 20.5 points and 7 rebounds per game on .500/.444/.833 splits over eight games.
  28. Washington Wizards (28): Not surprisingly, Washington so far has the lowest attendance in the league. Hitting just about 85% of capacity over the team’s first seven games.
  29. San Antonio Spurs (29): Victor Wembanyama over San Antonio’s last four games is averaging closed to 22 points and 12 rebounds, but the Spurs went 0-4 in those contests.
  30. Detroit Pistons (30): The Pistons are on an 8-win pace. That would set a new mark for fewest wins in a full, 82-game season.
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