NBA Power Rankings: Warriors losing grip on No. 1 spot?
Monday, Jan. 11
The Committee of One gets it.
The Committee of One gets it.
We understand the push in some corners to finally shuffle things at the top and give the San Antonio Spurs a turn at No. 1 in ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings. Especially since the Spurs were so dominant in December, when they outscored the opposition by 20.4 points per 100 possessions in compiling a 14-2 mark that set a new franchise record for the month.
But the Golden State Warriors simply won't allow it. The Warriors' defense has undeniably slipped in recent weeks, as they've been dealing with a variety of small-scale injuries, but the Warriors still boast an average nightly point differential of plus-12.2, which remains almost as gaudy as San Antonio's plus-13.9.
It's too close in that category, in other words, to drop Golden State out of the top spot just for the sake of the season's first shakeup. No Warriors fatigue here when they've overcome a number of obstacles in the first half of the season -- and still don't have the services of head coach Steve Kerr -- to record the best 37-game start in league history.
The Dubs, after all, are one game ahead of Chicago's 34-3 mark at the same stage of the 1995-96 season in which the Bulls went 72-10 ... and they've only lost one game with Steph Curry in uniform. With apologies to the Spurs, who are still two weeks away from their first crack at these Warriors, we saw no alternative but to keep Curry & Co. at the top for the 13th successive edition of this season's rankings.
A deeper discussion about the thinking that went into arranging this week's ladder can be found, as always, via Stein Line Live. Thanks to Micah Adams and all of our friends within the NBA wing of ESPN Stats & Information, as well as the Elias Sports Bureau, for the trusty data assistance they provide your faithful Committee week after week to help us in all of our calculations. You can comment on the latest 1-to-30 order below.
|2015-16 Power Rankings: Week 11|
|RANK||TEAM / RECORD||TRENDING||COMMENTS|
Last Week: 1
|You have to go back to 1976 for the last time Golden State had three All-Stars: Rick Barry, Jamaal Wilkes and Phil Smith. The Committee contends that the Dubs have to have three again considering that they're approaching the season's midpoint on a 78-4 pace: Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, who just averaged 29.3 PPG on 51 percent shooting in another 4-0 week.|
Last Week: 2
|Only six teams in NBA history have managed to start a season by winning their first 23 home games. The most recent: LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers in 2008-09. Guess who comes to the Alamo City on Thursday with the Spurs sitting at 22-0 at home and on pace for the gaudiest nightly point differential (plus-13.9) of all time. Who else but LeBron's Cavs?|
Last Week: 4
|We've been giving him a hard time about it, so it's only proper to note that LeBron James' perimeter shooting is coming around, presumably helped by the extra attention attracted by Kyrie Irving. Over the past seven games, James has shot 45.8 percent outside the paint. In his first 27 games this season, LeBron actually ranked among the league's five worst shooters outside the paint at 28.6 percent.|
Last Week: 3
|The home defeat to Sacramento that began the week came with an alibi: Kevin Durant sat out with a sprained big right toe. The late fade Sunday night in Portland was harder to take, with Durant and Russell Westbrook side-by-side, but OKC is a rather solid 23-8 when KD is in uniform while trailing only the Warriors and Spurs in nightly point differential (plus-7.7).|
Last Week: 5
|Las Vegas seems convinced that the Jimmy Butler-led Bulls, after going 7-2 without the injured Joakim Noah, have established themselves as the East's biggest threat to the Cavs. Old school plus/minus, which is calculated by subtracting home losses from road wins, points to Toronto, which awoke Monday at a robust plus-7 compared to Chicago's paltry plus-1. Who you got?|
Last Week: 6
|The Committee just received word that we're officially Toronto-bound in a month as part of ESPN Radio's All-Star Weekend team. So we were secretly giddy as we toiled in the rankings dungeon ... right up until we spied a few late Sunday tweets reminding us that the London-bound Raps are headed to a city we love even more when it comes to international travel. Jealous!|
Last Week: 9
|There will be nothing close to a 17-0 January this time for #EvenTheHawks, but Saturday night's home drubbing of the red-hot Bulls -- who were not on the second half of a back-to-back set -- was arguably the most notable W we've seen from these guys since a late November win over Oklahoma City. (Still can't believe Kyle Korver recently missed 20 3s in a row. Just can't!)|
Last Week: 9
|Any win without Blake Griffin is a good win, which is why the Clips -- now 8-0 without him -- have justifiably returned to our top 10 after crashing to No. 17 when they initially lost him. Yet there's no ignoring the fact that all eight of those Griffin-less wins came against teams currently under .500, which is what keeps you from saying they belong in the Warriors/Spurs tier.|
Last Week: 7
|Last Friday marked the start of an incredibly challenging stretch for the Heat that takes them all the way into the All-Star break. The lowlights: 14 of 16 games on the road, eight of them against teams at or above .500, away dates with the Warriors, Clippers, Thunder and Bulls ... and then home dates with the Clippers and Spurs when they're done with all the travel.|
Last Week: 8
|Sunday night's duel in Houston played out pretty predictably for two of the league's five teams that have already played four overtime games. The Rockets, flanking James Harden with both Corey Brewer and Trevor Ariza, found a way to escape and improve to 4-0 in OT. The Pacers, meanwhile, squandered a late 13-point lead and dropped to a frustrating 0-4 in OT games.|
Last Week: 11
|One area where the West is definitely not down: West coaches still face the usual glut of worthy frontcourt contenders for All-Star berths. Dare we say that Dirk Nowitzki is one of the prime troublemakers, too, averaging nearly 18 points and 7 boards in 30.7 MPG, still the best player, at 37, for a team three or four slots higher in the standings than anyone expected.|
Last Week: 14
|He won't be eligible until he's played in more than half of his games as a reserve, but Zach Randolph is apparently intent on barging his way into the NBA's Sixth Man award race judging by the wreckage we saw from Z-Bo last week in wins over Portland, Denver and Boston. Also encouraging for the Griz: They're almost back in the league's upper half in defensive efficiency.|
Last Week: 15
|After an 11-game run in which he averaged just 11.4 PPG, Dwight Howard might finally be regaining a slice of prominence in the Rockets' orbit. In his past five outings, Howard has averaged 22.0 PPG, 14.2 RPG and, perhaps more notably, 38.8 MPG. We should also note, though, that Houston is 11-4 when James Harden scores 30-plus points, compared to 8-15 when he doesn't.|
Last Week: 17
|Where does Andre Drummond leading Carmelo Anthony in All-Star voting rank in terms of this season's big upsets? Another question: Can Detroit take advantage of a shot at the Spurs on Tuesday night that looks about as favorable as it gets? San Antonio will be on the second night of a road back-to-back ... with Thursday's home date with Cleveland to think about it.|
Last Week: 18
|The Jazz were in sole possession of the West's No. 7 seed when defensive anchor Rudy Gobert went down with a knee injury. They went 7-11 during the month-plus wait for Gobert's return, with considerable slippage on D and injuries to Derrick Favors, Alec Burks and Rodney Hood as well, but such is the state of the still-underwhelming West that Utah fell only one spot.|
Last Week: 19
|Go easy on Jose Calderon. He was only the third player all season who even had the chance to make a go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter at San Antonio when he missed that corner jumper. Kristaps Porzingis, meanwhile, surely needed that big night against the Spurs; he's scored 20+ points now only twice in his last 17 games after doing so five times in his first 22 games.|
Last Week: 12
|The Celts have slipped below .500 at home and, worse, are now 0-5 in games decided by three points or fewer, which is the league's worst record in such situations. In the final minute of the fourth quarter this season, when the score is within three points, Boston is shooting just 4-for-16 from the field and has recorded more turnovers (three) than assists (two).|
Last Week: 13
|We gave you what you wanted, Magic Kingdom. We gave in and finally nudged Orlando into the upper half of these rankings ... and look what happened: Narrow home losses to East teams nearby in the standings (Indy and Washington) followed a road drubbing in Detroit to begin the week. The Magic would be winless in the new year if not for a W at lowly Brooklyn.|
Last Week: 20
|Bradley Beal said during the Wizards' TV broadcast Saturday night that a firmer read on his return should be available "within the next week or two." The Wiz are 7-8 in the 15 games Beal has missed since we last saw him in a Dec. 9 home loss to Houston and have no games left with the Magic, whom they've already beaten twice in 2016 and 12 times in a row head-to-head.|
Last Week: 16
|It wasn't that long ago that A) Charlotte enjoyed a stunning five-week stay in our top 10 and B) you heard regular whispers about how the Hornets actually didn't mind the absence of Al Jefferson because it allows them to play faster. Yet it's all a memory now after a 3-12 nosedive, helped along by a rough West Coast trip that dropped Charlotte to 0-6 in 2016.|
Last Week: 22
|A game 4-3 effort while Damian Lillard was out battling a nagging case of plantar fasciitis has enabled Portland to hang around the last playoff spot in this weird, weird Western Conference of 2015-16. Then Lillard's eight 3s to surprisingly take down scorching-hot OKC on Sunday night delivered a happy ending to a week mostly spent lamenting a costly "clerical error."|
Last Week: 24
|Last week's double-OT loss in Dallas not only stretched the Kings' losing skid in Big D to 22 games but also came by way of the Mavs' league-leading fifth game-winner at the buzzer over the last three seasons. All in all, though, it wasn't the worst week, given what Boogie Cousins did in Oklahoma City and the fact Sacramento didn't completely squander that Lakers game.|
Last Week: 27
|Rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay is back after an ankle injury cost him 14 games. Danilo Gallinari is back from his own ankle woes cost him six games and has averaged a heady 25.8 PPG in January since returning. Trouble is, Steph Curry is also coming back to Denver on Wednesday night. The same Steph Curry who is a lifetime 66-percent shooter on 3s at Pepsi Center.|
Last Week: 21
|Jabari Parker continues to put up modest numbers in his recovery from knee surgery while Giannis Antetokounmpo, on top of everything else going with the Bucks, has encountered a chilly start to 2016. Milwaukee is a respectable 5-6 since losing its road rematch with Golden State on Dec. 18, but the push to get more games with the Warriors has gone nowhere.|
Last Week: 23
|Losing at home to the Mavs' second string, followed by another setback for Anthony Davis, extinguished any momentum New Orleans hoped to build after winning in Dallas in its first game of the new year. The schedule has done them no favors and will get easier, but it's realistically too late to keep fantasizing about the playoffs. Even in this jacked-up West.|
Last Week: 29
|Friday's return of Goran Dragic to the desert, when times are already tough, was an unneeded reminder that The Dragon is the only Sun to crack an All-NBA team in the 5+ seasons since Amar'e Stoudemire bolted in free agency in the summer of 2010. At least Phoenix managed, by beating Charlotte at home, to halt the longest non-Philly losing streak in the league this season.|
Last Week: 25
|There was a time working for the Nets appealed to big names because there were no limits to what Mikhail Prokhorov would spend. Now? The situation is far more dire than it was after their 12-70 season in 2009-10, because Prokhorov's presence is so rarely felt and cap space this summer is all they have left after all those draft picks were so carelessly squandered.|
Last Week: 26
|How young are the Wolves? Minnesota gets nearly half its points from players 20 or younger (Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns) when 13 teams in the league haven't received a single point from 20-or-younger players. Towns, though, is off to a slightly quieter 2016 after becoming the first rook since Blake Griffin in 2010-11 to rack up six 25-and-10 games before Jan. 1.|
Last Week: 28
|We saw some good evidence last week that D'Angelo Russell is finding ways to develop even though this season, as Mitch Kupchak explained with refreshing candor, is all about Kobe, Kobe, Kobe. We also saw Lou Williams' first 40-point game, offering some distraction from the fact L.A. is the only team in the bottom five of both offensive and defensive efficiency.|
Last Week: 30
|Ish Smith has reached the 10-assist plateau in four of his nine games as a Sixer. In their first 31 games pre-Ish, Sixers players combined for just three 10-assist games. And for those of you still keeping track of the bigger picture: Philly didn't win two games in a row in its infamous 9-73 slog in 1972-73 until the 63rd and 64th games of the season ... and still hasn't done so this season.|
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