30. Houston Rockets, 10-36
The Rockets have now lost thirteen games in a row and will almost certainly have the worst record in basketball this season if they continue to play like this. They have the worst offense in basketball (offensive rating of 109.9) and their defensive rating of 117.7 (ranked 28th in the NBA) isn’t much better. Jalen Green (21.7 points per game with an abysmal eFG% of 47.9 and PSA of 107.5, ranked in the 35th percentile for combo guards) has been one of the most inefficient players in the league this season despite having a multitude of opportunities to improve.
The Rockets drafted Green to be their franchise player, and though he is still very young, it is evident that he hasn’t made enough progress this season to confidently maintain that career trajectory. Luckily for the Rockets, Green’s fellow 2021 draft-mate Alperen Sengun (15.2 points, 9 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game with a TS% of 62 and a PSA of 124.7, ranked in the 57th percentile for bigs) is showing flashes of offensive greatness and has been compared to a young Nikola Jokic. Even if Green and 2022 first-rounder Jabari Smith Jr. don’t pan out to be franchise players, the Rockets organization can sleep easy at night knowing they hit the lottery with Sengun. Nonetheless, the Rockets will have the highest chance to get the #1 pick in next year’s NBA Draft to add another cornerstone player to this young core.
29. Detroit Pistons, 12-36
The Pistons‘ week ended early with a 126-108 loss to the Bulls in the NBA Paris Game last Thursday. Talented rookie Jalen Duren (7.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game with a TS% of 64.4) hadn’t played since January 6th but made the trip to Paris (once he got a new passport) and put up a line of 11 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 blocks in his return. Despite prized rookie Jaden Ivey‘s (15.2 points and 4.3 assists per game with a TS% of 51.5) underwhelming and inefficient start to the year, Duren has shined as already one of the team’s best players.
Perhaps moving Bojan Bogdanovic (21.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game with a 3PT% of 41.2, a TS% of 62.7, and a PSA of 126.5, ranked in the 88th percentile for forwards) for more assets to accelerate the rebuild would benefit the team long-term since they aren’t going anywhere this season. Nonetheless, the Pistons have an offensive rating of 111.5 (ranked 27th) and a defensive rating of 119 (ranked 29th in the NBA), and will be in the running for yet another top pick in next year’s NBA Draft.
28. San Antonio Spurs, 14-32
The Spurs have lost six out of their last seven games and have the worst defense in basketball (defensive rating of 119.8). Though the team is tanking for a top pick in next year’s NBA Draft, there has been promising progression from first rounder Jeremy Sochan (9.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game with a steal percentage of 1.3, ranked in the 62nd percentile of forwards), who has showed flashes of defensive dominance and is improving on the offensive end of the floor as the year goes on (15+ points in three straight games).
The Spurs also have a valuable trade piece in Jakob Poeltl (12.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game with a TS% of 63.4 and a block percentage of 2.3, ranked in the 75th percentile for bigs) who they can move at the deadline for some more assets to accelerate the rebuild.
27. Charlotte Hornets, 13-34
Mason Plumlee (11.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game with a PSA of 133.1, ranked in the 82nd percentile for bigs) exploded for 25 points and 11 rebounds in the Hornets surprising win over the Hawks without Lamelo Ball (who sprained his ankle yet again last week). Plumlee is establishing himself as one of the most underrated players in the league with timely scoring and high-level passing and rebounding for a big (AST% of 17.7%, ranked in the 92nd percentile for bigs).
If he continues to play like this, the Hornets could trade him along with Terry Rozier and possibly Gordon Hayward to secure a multitude of assets in return. Despite making the Play-In Tournament last season with an offensive rating of 113.6 (ranked 8th in the NBA), the Hornets have suffered immensely on offense without Miles Bridges this season, indicative of their 29th-ranked offensive rating of 110.4. Furthermore, the Hornets are going into full rebuild mode and will try to accumulate as many assets as possible by the trade deadline to improve for next season.
26. Orlando Magic, 17-29
Franz Wagner (20.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game with a TS% of 60 and an extremely impressive PSA of 121.4, ranked in the 85th percentile for wings) has taken a major leap this season and is the clear best player on the Magic. Wagner, still just 21 years of age, has an innate ability to create his own shot at 3-levels efficiently and get others open at a high rate as well. It would be shocking if Wagner was not a perennial All-Star by 2025.
Fellow front-court mate Paolo Banchero (20.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game with a TS% of 54.9 and an atrocious PSA of 109) has impressed as a rookie, but has severely lacked efficiency as evident in his PSA. Though scoring 20+ points per game as a rookie is extremely difficult regardless of how efficient a player is, Banchero has a 28.4% usage percentage as a rookie and is taking close to 16 field goal attempts per game. So when people continue to spread this narrative that “Banchero is the best rookie since LeBron” because of his scoring average, they have to understand how many shots he takes per game and how inefficient he is from the floor.
Nonetheless, Banchero has proven to already be a cornerstone player in year 1 regardless of whether or not he is even the best young player on his team. The Magic have an offensive rating of 111.5, (ranked 26th) and a defensive rating of 115.3 (ranked 24th), but are getting defensive anchor Jonathan Issac back tonight to sure up the defense.
25. Toronto Raptors, 21-27
Though the Raptors are the unluckiest team in basketball with a Win Differential of -3.4 despite their 19th ranked Efficiency Differential of +.3, they should be much better than they are with a core of Pascal Siakam (25.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game with a TS% of 57.1 and an AST% of 27.8, ranked in the 97th percentile for bigs), Scottie Barnes, Gary Trent Jr., Fred VanVleet, and OG Anunoby. Win Differential is the difference between how many games a team has won and how many wins should be expected of them based on their Efficiency Differential.
The Raptors defense forces the most turnovers in basketball (on 17.2% of opposing team’s possessions) but they have just the 19th ranked defensive rating of 114.5. Why is that? Well, though the Raptors force a lot of turnovers, opposing team’s have an eFG% of 56.7% (the second-highest mark in the NBA) and a 3PT% of 37.8 (the third-highest mark in basketball). Furthermore, the Raptors need to start defending the 3 better because this team cannot get to where it wants to be without playing elite defense.
24. Washington Wizards, 20-26
Bradley Beal (22.5 points and 5.2 assists per game with a TS% of 61.9 and a PSA of 125.7, ranked in the 93rd percentile for combo guards) hadn’t played since January 3rd before returning last week to lead the Wizards to two victories against the Knicks and Magic. Despite the 20-26 record, the Wizards have an offensive rating of 113.2 (ranked 22nd), a defensive rating of 114 (ranked 15th in the NBA), and an Efficiency Differential of -1 (ranked 22nd), and should be a little better than they are.
This is indicated in their Win Differential of -2.2, the third worst mark in basketball. Furthermore, with serviceable trio of Beal, Kyle Kuzma, and Kristaps Porzingis, the Wizards have enough star-power to possibly squeeze into the Play-In Tournament.
23. Chicago Bulls, 21-24
The Bulls won their only game of last week against the Pistons in the NBA Paris Game last Thursday. Zach LaVine (24.1 points per game with a TS% of 59 and a PSA of 118.6, ranked in the 71st percentile for wings) continued his stellar scoring stretch with another 30 point game and Demar DeRozan (26.1 points per game with a TS% of 59.6 and a PSA of 120.8, ranked in the 75th percentile of forwards) returned from a three game absence and finished with 26 points. Though LaVine and DeRozan have been great this season, Nikola Vucevic (17.5 points and 11 rebounds per game with a TS% of 60.6) has been the key to this Bulls team.
When Vucevic dominates on offense, it alleviates pressure off of LaVine and DeRozan and allows for a smoother offensive team game, leading to many victories. Despite having just an offensive rating of 113.8 (ranked 19th) and a defensive rating of 114 (ranked 14th in the NBA), the Bulls have played better as of late and should continue to do so if Vucevic can keep up his offensive production.
22. Indiana Pacers, 23-25
Since Tyrese Haliburton (20.2 points, 10.2 assists, and 1.8 steals per game with a TS% of 61.3 and a PSA of 124.4, ranked in the 90th percentile for point guards) went down with an injury on January 11th, the Pacers have gone 0-7 and look like the worst team in the NBA.
The once 5 seed Pacers are spiraling down the Eastern Conference standings and both their offensive and defensive ratings of 113.2 and 114.9 have gotten dramatically worse during that span as they now both rank 22nd in basketball. Perhaps the Pacers can salvage this week by winning at least one of their upcoming games against the Bulls, Magic, Bucks and Grizzlies.
21. Portland Trailblazers, 21-25
The Trail Blazers got outscored 75-41 by the Lakers in a second half meltdown on Sunday night to fall to 13th in the Western Conference standings and have lost three straight games. Despite having an offensive rating of 114.8 (ranked 12th in the NBA) and three 20+ point per game scorers in Damian Lillard (29 points and 7.3 assists per game with a TS% of 62.1 and a remarkable PSA of 125.7, ranked in the 97th percentile for point guards), Jerami Grant (21.6 points per game with a 3PT% of 42.8, a TS% of 62.1, and a PSA of 125.1, ranked in the 85th percentile for forwards), and Anfernee Simons (21.8 points per game with a TS% of 58.1 and a PSA of 116, ranked in the 65th percentile for combo guards), the team can’t string together many wins lately.
The Blazers have lost eight out of their last ten games and have the third-worst Win Differential in basketball. However, even with them being one of the most unlucky teams in the league, they need to take care of business and piece together some wins this week with games against the Spurs, Jazz, and Raptors.
20. Oklahoma City Thunder, 23-24
The Thunder have won five out of their last six games and are only one game out of the 6 seed in the Western Conference. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (30.7 points, 5.5 assists, and 1.7 steals per game with a TS% of 62.4 and a PSA of 125.6, ranked in the 95th percentile for point guards) has become a bonafide Superstar and a top ten player in the NBA, while rookie Jalen Williams (11.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1 steal per game with a TS% of 57) and defensive anchor Luguentz Dort (14.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1 steal per game with a TS% of 52.8) have catapulted the Thunder to a defensive rating of 112.7 (ranked 9th in the NBA).
However, what has taken this team over the top recently has been second-year guard Josh Giddey (20 points, 9 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game with a TS% of 59 over his last 7 games) and his stellar performances on a nightly basis. If Giddey continues to keep up this kind of production alongside SGA, Williams, and Dort, then this team has a chance to make the Play-In Tournament.
19. Utah Jazz, 24-25
The Jazz have won four out of their last six games and boast the fourth-best offensive rating of 116.9 in basketball. Lauri Markkanen (24.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game with a 3PT% of 42.7, a TS% of 66.6, and an otherworldly PSA of 134.2, the best mark in the league for a forward with a high usage percentage) continues to take his scoring up a notch and single-handedly will the Jazz to victories, and Jordan Clarkson (21.2 points, 4 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game with a TS% of 57.1 and a PSA of 116, ranked in the 65th percentile for combo guards) is playing the best basketball of his career.
Another reason for the Jazz’s recent success has been them playing rookie Walker Kessler more, who has averaged 11.5 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game over his last 6 games. Kessler was acquired in the Rudy Gobert trade and, on a per 40 minute basis, has been more efficient and productive than Gobert this season.
The Jazz won last offseason with their acquisitions of Markkanen, Kessler, and a slew of first-round picks, but with the 9 seed in the Western Conference and the trade deadline coming up, they need to ask themselves if they want to continue to compete or go into full on tanking mode to accelerate the rebuild.
18. Los Angeles Lakers, 22-25
The Lakers have orchestrated two comeback wins in a row against the Grizzlies and Trail Blazers, and are only two games back of the 6th seed Clippers, who they play on Tuesday night. The Grizzlies had an 11 game win streak entering the contest vs. the Lakers and the Trail Blazers had a 25 point lead at halftime before an epic collapse. In fact, the Lakers are the first team in the shot clock era to lose a quarter by 32 points or more and end up winning the game.
Thomas Bryant was fantastic yet again, becoming only the 3rd Laker in the last 40 years to record 30+ points and 14+ rebounds on 80%+ shooting in a game, and Dennis Schroder (16.6 points and 3.9 assists per game with a TS% of 58.7 over his last 10 games) continued to play winning basketball finishing with 24 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists.
Though the Lakers only have an offensive rating of 113.7 and a defensive rating of 114.6, both ranked 19th in the NBA, LeBron James (29.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 6.9 assists per game with a TS% of 58.5) is looking like he is still in his prime at 38 years of age, and Anthony Davis (27.4 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game with TS% of 66.2 and a PSA of 132.6, ranked in the 82nd percentile for bigs) could return at the end of the week. Things are looking up for the Lakers right now and they just traded for Rui Hachimura (13 points per game with a 3PT% of 34 and a TS% of 55.8), a 24 year old 6-8 wing/forward with a knack for scoring, to bolster their depth.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves, 24-24
Anthony Edwards (24.1 points, 6 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.7 steals per game with a TS% of 56.7 and an AST% of 18.5, ranked in the 89th percentile for wings) has been spectacular this season and is coming off of superb performance where he scored 44 points and registered 6 blocks+steals. Edwards has led to the Timberwolves to three wins in their last five games despite still being without Karl Anthony-Towns (who has been injured since November 28th).
The Timberwolves have an offensive rating of 113.7 (ranked 19th) and a defensive rating of 114 (ranked 13th) and have the 8 seed in the Western Conference. Despite underperforming as a team this season (they had an offensive rating of 113.8 last season, ranked 7th in the NBA) Jaden McDaniels (11.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game with a 3PT% of 39.9, a TS% of 61.6 and a PSA of 124.2, ranked in the 85th percentile of forwards) has been another bright spot alongside Edwards in an otherwise disappointing season.
16. Atlanta Hawks, 24-23
The Hawks have won five out of their last six games and are now creeping up the Eastern Conference standings with an improving offensive rating of 113.9 (ranked 15th, their offensive rating was ranked 19th just a few weeks ago).
Trae Young (27.1 points and 9.8 assists per game with an improving TS% of 56.4 and PSA of 112.9, ranked in the 65th percentile for point guards) looks like an offensive Superstar again and Dejounte Murray has averaged 22 points, 5.7 assists, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game over his last 10 games. The Hawks have a great chance to keep the momentum going this week with games against the Bulls, Thunder, Clippers, and Trail Blazers.
15. Golden State Warriors, 23-24
The Warriors finally won two road games last week to improve their road record to 6-18. However, those two wins came against a bad Wizards team and a Cavaliers team without Donovan Mitchell (though they beat the Cavs without their three best players as well). The Warriors also orchestrated two second-half collapses against the Celtics and Nets last week (two games they should have won) and are now one game under .500 and are 10th in the Western Conference standings.
Though the return of both Stephen Curry (29.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game with a TS% of 65.3 and a remarkable PSA of 134.4, the best mark in the league for a point guard) and Andrew Wiggins (17.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game with a TS% of 57) will help the Warriors string together more wins, the team still has just an offensive rating of 113.9 (ranked 15th) and a defensive rating of 114.3 (ranked 18th in the NBA). Last year’s title team had a defensive rating of 106.6, which was the second-best mark in the NBA. If the Warriors want to get where they want to be, they will undoubtedly need to drastically improve their defense.
14. Phoenix Suns, 24-24
Cameron Johnson (13.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game with a 3PT% of 39.3 and a TS% of 58.4) returned last week from a meniscus tear and hasn’t missed a beat, and Mikal Bridges (16.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game with aTS% of 57) and Deandre Ayton (17.5 points and 9.9 rebounds per game with a TS% of 60.8) have willed this team to three straight wins over the Nets, Pacers, and Grizzlies without Devin Booker .
Now sitting at 7th in the Western Conference, the Suns own an offensive rating of 114 (ranked 14th) and a defensive rating of 113.3 (ranked 11th in the NBA), and once Booker returns, should be back to a top tier team in the Western Conference.
13. Miami Heat, 26-22
The Heat have finally put it together winning five out of their last seven games and now have the 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. The big 3 of Bam Adebayo (21.4 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 3 assists per game with a TS% of 58.8 and an AST% of 14.6, ranked in the 86th percentile for bigs), Jimmy Butler (21.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 5 assists per game with a TS% of 62.4 and an incredible PSA of 126.8, ranked in the 89th percentile for forwards), and Tyler Herro (20.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game with a 3PT% of 37.3 and a TS% of 57.7) have continued to lead the way.
However, the key to this team’s recent success has been the resurgence of Victor Oladipo, who has flourished off of the bench over the last couple of weeks. With an elite defensive rating of 111.2 (ranked 3rd in the NBA) the Heat have the ability to thrive in the playoffs, but they will need to improve their 27th-ranked offensive rating of 111.4 to do so.
12. Los Angeles Clippers, 25-24
The Clippers are coming off of one of their best road victories of the season against a talented Mavericks team led by Luka Doncic. Kawhi Leonard (26.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game with a TS% of 65.9 over his last 10 games) finished with 30 points and 9 rebounds, and Paul George (23.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game with a TS% of 59 and a PSA of 118.9, ranked in the 73rd percentile for wings) finished with 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists.
Head Coach Ty Lue is finally playing Terance Mann and Robert Covington more and that is starting to pay dividends. However, the Clippers once top 3 defensive rating now ranks 10th (defensive rating of 113) and their offensive rating of 112.1 (ranked 24th in the NBA) hasn’t gotten much better. To reach their ceiling, the Clippers must get their defensive rating back into the top 5 since their offense can’t carry them.
11. New York Knicks, 25-23
The Knicks have lost four straight games, but still boast an impressive offensive rating of 115.9 (ranked 5th) and a defensive rating of 113.9 (ranked 12th in the NBA). Julius Randle (24.4 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 4 assists per game with a TS% of 57.7) is dominating on the offensive end of the floor this season, and Jalen Brunson (22.5 points, 6.3 assists, and 1 steal per game with a TS% of 57.5) could be heading to the All-Star Game in a few weeks. They have a tough schedule ahead with games against the Cavaliers, Celtics, and Nets this week, but they could pull off a few upsets.
10. Dallas Mavericks, 25-23
Despite Luka Doncic averaging 33.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 8.7 assists per game with a TS% of 60.7 and a PSA of 123 (ranked in the 89th percentile for point guards), the Mavericks have only won one out of their last five games and now have a defensive rating of 115.4 (ranked 24th in the NBA).
Why is this concerning? The Mavs’ success last season was contingent on good defense as they got to the Western Conference Finals with a defensive rating of 109.1 (ranked 7th in the NBA). Nonetheless, the Mavs boast an offensive rating of 115.8 (ranked 6th in the NBA) and can outscore a lot of their opponents. Either way, the Mavs need to improve their defense to get to where they want to go.
9. Brooklyn Nets, 29-17
Since Kevin Durant (29.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game with a TS% of 67.3 and a PSA of 137, ranked in the 88th percentile for bigs) went down with an injury on January 8th, the Nets have gone 2-4 with back-to-back wins coming against the Jazz and Warriors to end last week.
Ben Simmons (7.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.4 assists, and 1.5 steals per game with a TS% of 56.2), Royce O’Neal (9.4 points, 5 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per per game with a TS% of 54.8), and Nicolas Claxton (12.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game with a TS% of 70.1) have anchored the 7th-best defense in basketball (defensive rating of 111.9) and have kept the Nets in games without Durant. Defense has been this team’s calling card as of late, and when Durant returns, the Nets will subsequently return to championship contention.
8. New Orleans Pelicans, 26-21
The Pelicans have suffered immensely since Zion Williamson (26 points, 7 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game with a TS% of 65.2 and a PSA of 131.4, ranked in the 79th percentile for bigs) went down with an injury on January 2nd, winning just three out of ten games since.
The team has still managed to maintain a top 13 offense (offensive rating of 114.5, ranked 13th) and a top 7 defense (defensive rating of 111.9, ranked 7th) despite all of the losses without their Superstar big man. The Pelicans need Williamson and Brandon Ingram to come back soon before they lose too much ground in the Western Conference.
7. Sacramento Kings, 26-19
The Kings suffered a brutal 2 point loss to the Emibiid and Harden-less 76ers on Saturday night, but that should not deter anyone from what this team has accomplished. They now have the second-best offense (offensive rating of 118.4) and the third-best team eFG% of 57 in the NBA.
Domantas Sabonis (18.8 points, 12.6 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game with a TS% of 67.2 and an impressive PSA of 134.5, ranked in the 84th percentile for bigs) and De’Aaron Fox (24.2 points and 6 assists per game with a TS% of 59.3 and an impressive PSA of 119.9, ranked in the 84th percentile for point guards) have been spectacular on a nightly basis and will both be heading to the All-Star Game in a few weeks.
They have won six out of their last seven games and now hold the 3 seed in the Western Conference. Despite their atrocious defensive rating of 115.5 (ranked 25th in the NBA), they have a dominant enough offense to win on any given night against anyone. The Kings are looking like a top team in the Western Conference this season.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers, 28-19
Evan Mobley (15.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game with a TS% of 60) struggled to get his offensive game going to start the year, but has averaged 21.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game over his last 6 games. Mobley also exploded for 38 points without any 3-pointers or free throws in a win on Saturday night against the Bucks.
The Cavaliers have an offensive rating of 115 (ranked 9th) and a defensive rating of 110.4 (ranked 2nd in the NBA) and have been without Superstar Donovan Mitchell (28.4 points per game with a TS% of 62.3 and an impressive PSA of 126.7, the best mark in the NBA for a combo-guard with a high usage percentage) the last 3 games. The Cavaliers will need Mitchell back soon to compete against the top tier teams, but they are defensively sound enough to stay in games without him.
5. Milwaukee Bucks, 29-17
Giannis Antetokounmpo (31 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game with a TS% of 58.4) has been out since January 11th and Khris Middleton has been out since December 15th, so it is hard to fully judge this team until they are at full strength. The Bucks have an offensive rating of 112.4 (ranked 23rd in the NBA) but that will undoubtedly improve once Middleton and Antetokounmpo get their feet under them (they are returning tonight vs. the Pistons).
However, Antetokounmpo does need to improve his abysmal PRA of 116.8, ranked in the 32nd percentile of bigs, for the Bucks to reach their ceiling and compete for another title. Their defensive rating of 111.4 (ranked 3rd in the NBA) is elite and Jrue Holiday (19.6 points, 7.5 assists, and 1.4 steals per game with a TS% of 57.5) continues to be fantastic on both ends of the floor, but this team still has a ways to go before they can toe to toe with the Celtics in the playoffs again.
4. Philadelphia 76ers, 30-16
The 76ers just keep on winning. Even without Joel Embiid (33.6 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game with a TS% of 64.4 and a PSA of 129.5, ranked in the 69th percentile for bigs) and James Harden (21.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 11.2 assists per game with a TS% of 61 and a PSA of 123.6, ranked in the 92nd percentile for point guards) on Saturday night, the 76ers still found a way to beat the 3 seed in the Western Conference (who was at full strength with De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis).
Tyrese Maxey (21.1 points per game with a TS% of 56.5) led the way with 32 points and 6 assists, and De’Anthony Melton contributed 14 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals as well. With the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, a great offensive rating of 115.3 (ranked 7th), and an elite defensive rating of 111.4 (ranked 4th in the NBA), this is the best 76ers team since the Allen Iverson days. Let’s see if Doc Rivers (who has a history of choking in big playoff games) has it in him to take them to the promised land.
3. Memphis Grizzlies, 31-15
After an 11 game win streak, the Grizzlies ended last week with two losses to the Lakers and Suns, but they still have the second-best record in the Western Conference and the best defense in basketball (defensive rating of 109.5). Jaren Jackson Jr. (16.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per game with a TS% of 62.1 and a block percentage of 6, the best mark in the NBA) continues to dominate on the defensive end and should win the Defensive Player Of the Year award.
Ja Morant (27.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 7.9 assists per game with a TS% of 55.5) and Desmond Bane (21.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists per game with a TS% of 59.3 and a PSA of 119.9, ranked in the 67th percentile for wings) continue to carry the load on the offensive end of the floor and the Grizzlies sport some of the best depth in the NBA. With a dominant defense and enough offensive star-power in Morant and Bane, the Grizzlies have a chance to get to the NBA Finals this season.
2. Denver Nuggets, 33-14
Nikola Jokic (25.1 points 11 rebounds, and 9.9 assists per game with a TS% of 69.8, and a PSA of 140.9, which is the best mark in the NBA for a big with a high usage percentage) appears to be running away with his third-straight MVP award after two 30+ point efficient triple-doubles last week and the Nuggets now being the best offense in the NBA (offensive rating of 118.6). Just two weeks ago the Nuggets defensive rating was ranked 27th and is now incrementally rising up the ranks (defensive rating of 114.2, ranked 17th in the NBA).
What is even more impressive about this team is that even when Jokic is out, they find ways to win on the backs of Jamaal Murray (18.9 points and 5.7 assists per game with a TS% of 56.) and Aaron Gordon (16.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game with a TS% of 64.1) as evident in two weeks ago’s win over the Clippers and Saturday’s victory over the Pacers. Nonetheless, with the best player and best offense in the NBA, this is the Nuggets’ best shot to come out of the Western Conference.
1. Boston Celtics, 35-12
The Celtics have won nine straight games and are now 4.5 games ahead of the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference. Jayson Tatum (31.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game with a TS% of 61 and a PSA of 123.7, ranked in the 82nd percentile for forwards) and Jaylen Brown (26.9 points, 7.1 assists, and 3.3 assists per game with a TS% of 58.9 and a PSA of 118.6, ranked in the 70th percentile for wings) have continued to lead the way, but Malcolm Brogdon (14.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game with a 3PT% of 45.5, a TS% of 62, and a PSA of 123.6, ranked in the 88th percentile for combo guards) has been that guy that has catapulted this team into the juggernaut it is today.
Last season, the Celtics were missing a high-level shot creator and playmaker that could lead the offense off of the bench, which led them to acquire Derrick White at the trade deadline. Though White is one of the more underrated players on both ends of the floor in the NBA, he couldn’t do everything for the second unit by himself.
The Celtics needed another high-level shot creator and playmaker to pair with White in the second unit to put them over the top, and Brogdon appears to be that guy. With a dominant offense (offensive rating of 118.3, ranked 3rd) and an elite defense (defensive rating of 112, ranked 7th in the NBA), the Celtics are going to be very hard to beat in a 7 game series and have to be considered the heavy favorites to win this year’s NBA Championship.
Note: Advanced Statistics used in this article are gathered from Cleaningtheglass.com, Statmuse.com, and NBA.com and are updated as of Monday January 22nd, 2023