NBA Power Rankings: Week 18

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1. Milwaukee Bucks
Record: 46-8

The Bucks’ loss to the Pacers last Wednesday snapped their nine-game winning streak, but their league-best record of 46-8 record is tied for the six-best start in league history. In addition, Milwaukee is outscoring its opponents by 12.4 points per game this season, which remains on pace to be the highest point differential in NBA history.

2. Los Angeles Lakers
Record: 41-12

Anthony Davis sunk the game-winning free throw in Sunday night’s All-Star Game, as the «Elam Ending» was a huge success, and it’s safe to assume it’s here to stay. Playing for «Team LeBron,» Davis stuffed the stat sheet on Sunday, finishing with 20 points, nine rebounds, one dime, three steals and three blocks in 20 minutes.

3. Toronto Raptors
Record: 40-15

The Raps finally lost, as the Nets ended Toronto’s incredible 15-game win streak Wednesday in Brooklyn. Nonetheless, the Raptors still hold a 1.5 game lead over the Celtics in the Eastern Conference standings.

4. Denver Nuggets
Record: 38-17

The Nuggets enter the second half with a one-game lead over the third-place Clippers out West. The Lakers have a significant four-game lead over Denver and are the clear favorites to secure homecourt advantage through the Western Conference playoffs. 

5. Boston Celtics
Record: 38-16

You wouldn’t be able to tell by his babyface, but this is Brad Stevens’ seventh season in Boston. And, earlier this month, in a victory over Orlando, Stevens notched his 300th career win. He joined Red Auerbach, Doc Rivers, Tommy Heinsohn and K.C. Jones as the only other head coaches in Celtics franchise history to record 300+ wins.

6. L.A. Clippers
Record: 37-18

Paul George re-injured his left hamstring in Thursday’s loss to the Celtics. It’s the third hamstring strain he’s suffered this season. On Friday, coach Doc Rivers admitted he was worried. «I’m a little concerned about that one because that’s the second time now, maybe third. Listen, I don’t know what to do, but I know rest you have to do and we’ll see,» said Doc. The Clippers have arguably the highest ceiling of any team in the league, but they haven’t yet shown they can stay healthy at the same time. 

7. Utah Jazz
Record: 36-18

Both Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell were named All-Stars as two of the seven Western Conference reserves chosen by the coaches. Gobert played very well on Sunday, tallying 21 points (on 10-of-11 shooting) and 11 boards in 19 minutes. It’s the first-time multiple Jazzmen appeared in the All-Star game since 2007, when Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur both played in the game.

8. Miami Heat
Record: 35-19

It was quite a productive weekend for the Heat in chilly Chicago. First, Bam Adebayo beat Spencer Dinwiddie, Pascal Siakam and Domantas Sabonis to win the Skills Challenge at All-Star Saturday Night. Then Derrick Jones Jr. beat Aaron Gordon in the final round of an epic (if controversial)  Dunk Contest.

9. Oklahoma City Thunder
Record: 33-22

Dating back to Thanksgiving, the Thunder has posted a sparkling 27-11 record. That’s tied with Toronto for the second-best record in the NBA during that stretch, behind only the Bucks. Not bad for a team that most pundits predicted would be a lottery team in 2019-20 after trading away Russell Westbrook and Paul George this past offseason. 

10. Houston Rockets
Record: 34-20

Speaking of Westbrook, he’s been a beast of late for Houston. Over his final 16 appearances before the All-Star break, Westbrook averaged 32.8 points and 7.4 assists while shooting a scorching 52.2% from the field, with a 57.1% True Shooting percentage.

11. Philadelphia 76ers
Record: 34-21

The good news: The Sixers are 25-2 at home this season. That’s the best home record of any team in the NBA in 2019-20 (one game better than the Bucks). The bad news: The Sixers are 9-19 on the road this season. That means they have the same road record as the Knicks and a worse road record than the Hornets. 

12. Dallas Mavericks
Record: 33-22

Luka Doncic (right ankle) returned from a seven-game absence on Wednesday and certainly didn’t look rusty. He racked up 33 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, four turnovers and three 3-pointers in 31 minutes against the Kings during a 130-111 win.

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13. Indiana Pacers
Record: 32-23

It looked like the Pacers would limp into the All-Star break in the worst way imaginable. They had lost seven straight games and were hosting the seemingly unbeatable Bucks in their final game before the week-long respite. However, Indy was able to pull off a surprising and desperately needed, 118-111 victory. They open the second half of the season Friday in New York. 

14. Memphis Grizzlies
Record: 28-26

William Guillory of The Athletic reported over the weekend that is likely a «foregone conclusion» that the Pelicans will be signing Brandon Ingram to a max contract this summer. It certainly makes sense, as Ingram is averaging career-highs across the board and is on pace to become the second player in NBA history age 22 or younger to average at least 25 points per game while shooting over 45% from the field, 40% from 3-point range and 85% from the free-throw line, joining Kevin Durant (2008-09).

15. Portland Trail Blazers
Record: 25-31

Damian Lillard strained his right groin against the Grizzlies on Wednesday. He underwent an MRI on Thursday, which confirmed the injury, that carries with a 1-2 week recovery period. However, the Blazers don’t play again until Friday vs. New Orleans. If Lillard is back within the one-week time frame, he won’t miss a single contest. If the injury sidelines him for a full two weeks, he could miss up to three games. We’ll likely have another update after Portland’s first practice. 

16. New Orleans Pelicans
Record: 23-32

Zion Williamson has scored at least 20 points in eight of his first ten career NBA games. The last rookie to do that was some dude named Micheal Jordan in 1984. Zion’s FG percentage (57.6%) is the highest among all players of their first ten contests. 

17. Brooklyn Nets
Record: 25-28

We should get a status update on Kyrie Irving (right knee) by the middle of the week, at the latest. Speaking with reporters last Thursday, coach Kenny Atkinson said that Kyrie could return to practice after the All-Star break. He also hinted that he might utilize more small-ball lineups over the final 30+ games of the season, with Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert as a closing trio to finish off games.

18. San Antonio Spurs
Record: 23-31

The Spurs have advanced to the postseason in each of the last 22 years. However, their unimaginably long streak is very much in jeopardy this year. San Antonio is five games behind the Grizzlies in the race for the eighth and final playoff seed. 

19. Orlando Magic
Record: 24-31

The Magic are currently sitting in the eighth seed in the East. Obviously, the first order of business is holding off the Wizards, who are just three games back. However, Orlando undoubtedly is focused on securing the seventh-seed. The difference between seven and eight this year in the Eastern Conference is immense, as one team gets to avoid the Bucks in Round One. 

20. Phoenix Suns
Record: 22-33

Deandre Ayton (left ankle) sat out the Suns’ final two contests before the break and was unable to play the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night. Phoenix’s next game is Friday at Toronto, so Ayton will have had nearly two weeks to rest and rehab the troublesome ankle. 

21. Sacramento Kings
Record: 21-33

Buddy Hield rang up 27 points in the final round to win the Three-Point Contest at All-Star Saturday Night in Chicago, beating out 2018 champion Devin Booker (26 points) and Davis Bertans (22). However, there have been recent reports that Buddy Buckets is unhappy in Sacramento. Hield was bumped to the bench for the final ten games before the break. 

22. Washington Wizards
Record: 20-33

Bradley Beal is currently averaging 29.1 points per game over his 46 appearances in 2019-20. Why is that number significant? Because Beal is the first player in NBA history to average more than 29 points and not be named to this All-Star team. (The previous record-holder was World B. Free, at 28.7 PPG). 

23. Chicago Bulls
Record: 19-36

It sounds like we may have seen the last of  Kris Dunn (sprained right MCL) in 2019-20. According to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports, there’s a «growing belief» that Dunn will miss the remainder of the season. Coby White, who was selected with the 7th overall pick in the 2019 draft, could see a significant uptick in playing time going forward. 

24. Detroit Pistons
Record: 19-38

Sometimes, the biggest fantasy «winners» at a trade deadline are players that aren’t actually traced. For instance, in the four games since Detroit dumped Andre Drummond, Christian Wood has averaged 20.0 points, 10.8 boards, 2.3 dimes, 1.0 blocks and 2.0 treys in 33.4 minutes per game. 

25. Minnesota Timberwolves
Record: 16-37

The Wolves are 21 games under .500, and things could get even worse over the remaining third of the season. Karl-Anthony Towns was a late scratch and missed Minnesota’s final contest before the All-Star break due to a mysterious left wrist injury. He also expected to miss «multiple» games on the other side of the break as well.  

26. Charlotte Hornets
Record: 18-36

Miles Bridges closed out the first half in fine fashion, averaging 20.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 2.3 triples over his final seven contests. Then, on Friday night, was named the MVP of the Rising Stars Game.

27. New York Knicks
Record: 17-38

Some squads already have one eye on next season. According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, the Knicks scouting staff has been instructed the «top priority is a scoring point guard» in the 2020 NBA draft.  LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton, Cole Anthony, Killian Hayes and Nico Mannion are among the PG prospects expected to go high in the upcoming draft.

28. Atlanta Hawks
Record: 15-41

Hopefully, we will get to see the «Big 3» of Trae Yong, John Collins and Clint Capela on the floor during the second half of the season. A heel issue and plantar fasciitis have sidelined Capela since late January. We last heard from him back on February 9th, when he said his goal was to come back after the break. 

29. Cleveland Cavaliers
Record: 14-40

Word out of Cleveland is that the Cavs and John Beilein have discussed the possibility of him stepping down. According to The Athletic, whether it is this week or at the end of the season, Beilein is expected to be on the way out as head coach.»

30. Golden State Warriors
Record: 12-43

We know Steph Curry (broken left hand) will miss the rest of February, but he has begun going through 5-on-0 workouts, and he will be re-evaluated on March 1. Coach Steve Kerr said that Curry’s rehab has been going smoothly, and while he still hasn’t taken contact, he has been able to work on his conditioning. Thus, it’s possible that Curry may be cleared to play quickly.