Published On: Tue, Mar 6th, 2018

30 Words for 30 Teams: Rockets still lead the pack in NBA Power Rankings

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Welcome to theScore’s biweekly NBA Power Rankings, where you’ll find roughly 30 words on all 30 teams every other Tuesday throughout the season.

1. Houston Rockets

It speaks to James Harden’s brilliance, Mike D’Antoni’s coaching, and Daryl Morey’s roster construction that Houston has outplayed the Warriors through three quarters of the season despite injuries to key players. – Joseph Casciaro

2. Golden State Warriors

The reigning champions are a flawless 5-0 since returning from the All-Star break, and have trailed for just 21 minutes combined across those five outings. Golden State has got its groove back. – Chris Walder

3. Toronto Raptors

Toronto remains on pace for a franchise-record season, Jonas Valanciunas has hit treys in eight of the last 13 games, and the NBA’s best bench is giving DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry some breathing room. – John Chick

4. Boston Celtics

The All-Star break came just in time for the Celtics, who’ve gone 5-1 after losing three straight. The upcoming stretch will be a test, though, as Boston’s next seven opponents own a combined 242-163 record. – Jonathan Soveta

5. Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard, who single-handedly beat the Lakers last night, is averaging 26.6 points, 6.5 assists, and 4.5 rebounds on 45/37/91 shooting for the NBA’s fifth-best team. Those are borderline MVP credentials. – Casciaro

6. New Orleans Pelicans

Anthony Davis has produced legendary numbers – 37.3 points, 14.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, three steals, and 2.8 blocks – during New Orleans’ eight-game winning streak. – Walder

7. Oklahoma City Thunder

On the surface, the Thunder should be better. Still, they’re just one game out of third in the West and seem to have stemmed their free fall in the wake of Andre Roberson’s season-ending injury. – Chick

8. Denver Nuggets

Precariously hanging onto the West’s final playoff spot, Denver will face the Cavs on Wednesday and then won’t meet another winning team until March 19. That, and the return of Paul Millsap, could help them sneak in. – Soveta

9. San Antonio Spurs

Kawhi Leonard’s strange injury-plagued season has been a disaster for both player and team, Pau Gasol may now be sidelined, and the Spurs are just two games clear of ninth. Are there cracks in the foundation? – Casciaro

10. Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland’s defensive woes weren’t cured at the trade deadline, and with injuries piling up, it could be a while until we see whether the Cavs are a true threat at full strength. – Walder

11. Utah Jazz

Since Rudy Gobert returned, Utah’s had the NBA’s best defense and posted a 16-4 record. The Jazz now sit just 1.5 games out of eighth, with 10 of their last 18 matchups coming against current lottery teams. – Chick

12. Minnesota Timberwolves

Minnesota was sitting third at the start of March, but is now sixth and only two games clear of ninth. Jimmy Butler can’t help turn it around, either. Uh oh. – Soveta

13. Indiana Pacers

Indiana, widely pegged as a cellar dweller in October, sits fourth in the East and is a half-game behind Cleveland for Central Division supremacy. Nate McMillan deserves some love. – Casciaro

14. Washington Wizards

Washington’s done an admirable job of keeping the ship afloat without John Wall, but needs its star point guard back. The Wizards have dropped three straight home games, and have lost their grip on a top-four seed. – Walder

15. Milwaukee Bucks

Having lost five of six, Milwaukee’s dropped into an eighth-place tie and would be in danger of falling out of the East playoff picture if not for the ineptitude of the teams below. – Chick

16. Philadelphia 76ers

Trust the buyout market. Philly was the most active team before the playoff eligibility deadline, adding Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli, who’ve averaged more than 10 points apiece since coming aboard. This is the lower playoff seed nobody will want to face. – Soveta

17. Los Angeles Clippers

Despite trading their franchise player and giving regular rotation minutes to a cast of no-names, the Clippers have the league’s fourth-best record (23-10) since Dec. 20, behind only Golden State, Toronto, and Houston. – Casciaro

18. Miami Heat

Miami has rebounded nicely against weaker opponents with four wins in its last five games, although an 18-point drubbing courtesy of the Lakers was really ugly. – Walder

19. Los Angeles Lakers

Lonzo Ball has looked great since returning, and over the last couple months, the Lakers and their 11th-ranked D have recorded impressive wins over San Antonio (twice), Boston, and OKC (twice). – Casciaro

20. Charlotte Hornets

It’s been feast or famine for Charlotte, which has lost three in a row after winning five straight. Prior to that, it was a four-game losing streak. – Chick

21. Detroit Pistons

Detroit’s about to miss the playoffs for the eighth time in nine seasons, and will owe Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Jon Leuer, Langston Galloway, and Eric Moreland roughly $98 million … TWO YEARS FROM NOW. – Casciaro

22. Sacramento Kings

Skal Labissiere was the hero against the Nets on Thursday, but he may have hurt the Kings in the long run. They’re now 1.5 games above the worst team in the league in the tank race. – Soveta

23. New York Knicks

If there’s a formula to win without Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks have yet to find it. They’re 1-8 since the Unicorn went down with a season-ending ACL injury. – Walder

24. Brooklyn Nets

Reality is setting in after a cute first half. The Nets have lost 15 of 17, D’Angelo Russell has hit a wall, and the team will soon say goodbye to another lottery pick. – Chick

25. Chicago Bulls

You know you’ve had a tough week when you make headlines for not being able to score against a team with only four players on the court. – Soveta

26. Dallas Mavericks

Are the Mavs trying to tank, or are they just so overmatched that it appears they are? At least there’s been Dirk Nowitzki milestones and Dennis Smith Jr. dunks to get excited for. – Walder

27. Orlando Magic

Unless they go 10-8 or better down the stretch (highly unlikely), the Magic will finish with less than 30 wins for the fifth time in six seasons. – Chick

28. Atlanta Hawks

The bad news is the Hawks are absolutely dreadful. The good news is they’re firmly in the running for the No. 1 pick, and could potentially own two more first-rounders in June. – Soveta

29. Phoenix Suns

Who’s it gonna be for Phoenix? Deandre Ayton? Luka Doncic? Or another Jackson perhaps, in Jaren Jr.? – Chick

30. Memphis Grizzlies

Make that 14 straight losses for the worst team in the Association, which hasn’t tasted victory since the end of January. The franchise’s star isn’t a happy camper these days. – Walder

(All photos courtesy Getty Images)

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