NBA Power Rankings
(AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post/Getty Images)

2019-2020 NBA Power Rankings 3.0

This week has seen the slaying of a number of streaks: The winning streaks of the Bucks and Lakers. The losing streak of the Pelicans. The sucking streak of the Knicks.

But with death, comes new life. Who will go on the next big winning streak? Will the Timberwolves – losers of 9 straight – ever win again? Will the Hawks or Warriors take New York’s traditional last place in our Power Rankings?

Throughout the season, Vendetta Sports Media will be bringing you our NBA Power Rankings. These are not necessarily ranking based on records. This is a purely subjective assessment of how a team is progressing, projected and playing.

All records are as of Thursday night Australian time/Thursday morning American time.

30. Golden State (Down 1)

(5-21 Record) Last week: 1-2

The Warriors are playing solid defense on most nights, but continue to struggle with the ball. Their 103.8 points per 100 possessions is 29th in the league. It turns out that losing three of the greatest shooters in the history of the sport is tough to overcome. Who knew!

D’Angelo Russell is now eligible to be traded, but reports indicate that Golden State will wait until the off season before exploring trade opportunities. That may be a smokescreen to see what the likes of Minnesota or Miami might cough up.

29. Atlanta Hawks (Down 3)

(6-22) Last week: 0-3

John Collins’ suspension is up this week and oh boy do the Hawks need him.

His nightly 17 and 9 with a couple of blocks speak for itself, but it’s Collins’ activity and range on defense that this team is missing. For all that Jabari Parker gives the Hawks on offense, he’s balky knee (and general apathy) means he’s just not mobile at the other end.

De’Andre Hunter is showing signs of life – he’s averaging 15.2 points on a much improved 53.7% true shooting through December.

28. New Orleans Pelicans (Down 1)

(7-22) Last week: 1-3

A win over a similarly struggling Wolves squad finally broke New Orleans 13 game losing streak. With the Warriors up next, they have a legitimate chance to put together back to back wins. Not that it’s going to make a difference. Unless Zion returns sooner rather than later, and is a fully actualised hybrid of Karl Malone and Dominique Wilkins, the Pels are toast for this season.

Which begs the question: Do they trade away some of the veterans? The front office are apparently a hard keep on JJ Redick, and are saying that Jrue Holiday is off the market. That may be posturing, as Holiday would surely be a valuable addition to any team contending for the crown. David Griffin knows the game. He’ll get value, if it’s out there.

27. New York Knicks (Up 3)

(7-21) Last week: 2-1

Well, well. Looky here. We have a New York Knicks winning streak.

Winners of 3 of their last 4, the Knicks suddenly look somewhat competent. Admittedly, wins over the Warriors, Kings and Hawks isn’t exactly a murderers row (the loss was to Denver), but it’s exciting news for a side as adrift as this one was. The Hawks game was a real eye opener, with the Knicks hanging 143 on Atlanta’s ‘defense’.

The Knicks are back! Keep an eye out in local guides for parade dates.

26. Cleveland Cavaliers (Up 2)

(7-21) Last week: 2-2

Kevin Love wants out, folks. He’s given up caring. Even to the point of just standing in the key for as long as it takes to get the whistle against him.

There are some positives for the young Cavs. Collin Sexton and Kevin Porter Jr have both shown out this week with strong performances against the Spurs and Rockets respectively. The win in San Antonio halted an eight game skid.

25. Washington Wizards (Down 2)

(8-18) Last week: 1-2

The Wizards are struggling, losing 8 of their last 10 contests, despite their laser light show of an offense. It turns out that in a basketball game the other team are allowed to score, too. It’s probably been suggested to them, but maybe put some effort into trying to stop your opponent from scoring once in a while? Washington are giving up 121.8 points for game – last in the NBA by a full 3 points!

Still, it’s hard not to enjoy watching this team. In particular, Davis Bertans, who continues to shoot with a level of accuracy that would make Deadshot jealous. In a weak free agent market, Bertans is getting his money.

Things don’t get easier for the Wiz– Toronto awaits.

24. Chicago Bulls (Up 1)

(11-19) Last week: 2-2

A couple of great victories for Chicago this week. Firstly – and most notably – their 109-106 win over the Clips was a breath of fresh air. Sure, the Clips were shorthanded, but even so, they remain formidable. Very quietly, their win over Washington was just about as impressive. The Bulls trailed the Wizards by 18 points in the 4th quarter before rallying back to force OT and eventually get the win. I hear you. It’s only the Wiz! Well, you try outscoring Washington by close to 20 points in 8 minutes. The Wiz can hang 20 in 3 minutes, so the Bulls clamping down and making buckets of their own, showed a resilience that they haven’t always had.

23. Memphis Grizzlies (Up 1)

(10-18) Last week: 2-2

An impressive run for the Grizz over the past week and a bit, with 4 wins in 6. They played the Bucks and Thunder fairly close in the losses. Their win over Miami featured 15 points from Jaren Jackson Jr – all from 3 pointers. He’s been red hot through December, hitting 3.8 shots from deep per game, at 40.5%. In the loss to Milwaukee, the big man and his unusual release hit 9 (!) trey’s in a career high 43 point performance.

22. San Antonio Spurs (Down 2)

(10-16) Last week: 1-2

The Spurs must be sporting some tired legs this week.

After playing five OT periods in 4 consecutive matches, they found themselves in a nip and tuck contest with the Rockets. The Spurs have some old legs that wouldn’t appreciate that run.

The youth is starting to come through, though. Lonnie Walker IV is putting up 11.5 points in December – he averaged 1.0 and 1.8 points in October/November. Dejounte Murray is back in the swing after being in and out of the lineup with injuries. Derrick White is wildly inconsistent, but his good games are very encouraging. Throw in veteran Patty Mills – still doing things like this – and the guard rotation isn’t a problem for coach Pop.

21. Detroit Pistons (Steady)

(11-17) Last week: 1-3

If I told you the Pistons went 1-3 in a 4 game stretch against, Dallas, Houston, Washington and Toronto, you’d probably say that’s fair enough. What if I told you the win was against the Rockets in Houston and they lost to Washington at home?

The Pistons were switched on in Houston. They threw a constant stream of extra defenders at Harden and dared his teammates to beat them. With Russell Westbrook sitting, no other Rocket was able to take the game on. Derrick Rose did just that, for Detroit.

20. Charlotte Hornets (Up 2)

(13-18) Last week: 2-2

Nice wins over the Kings and Bulls for Charlotte this week. Their loss to Indiana is understandable, but losing to the Cavs? Oh, dear. The Hornets were just not at the races in this one. Even when they made big plays, like Terry Rozier getting a steal to start the 4th quarter, with the team in need of a boost, they botched it, like Terry Rozier blowing a fast break dunk after getting a steal to start the 4th quarter, with the team in need of a boost.

19. Minnesota Timberwolves (Down 3)

(10-16) Last week: 0-2

The Wolves continue to plummet down the standings. Now the proud owners of a league ‘best’ 8 game losing streak, the Wolves have fallen into familiar habits: no defense, no rebounding and poor shot selection.

We’ve all marvelled at the borderline MVP numbers Karl Anthony Towns puts up on a night to night basis. We’ve been delighted with the apparent progress in Andrew Wiggins’ decision making. But that only focuses on one of the floor. Minnesota are 23rd in the league in Defensive Rating, but they’ve been 28th in that measure through the losing streak.

18. Portland Trailblazers (Up 1)

(12-16) 2-1 Last week

The Blazers have benefited from a weak schedule in the past 7 days, losing to the Nuggets, but chalking up victories over the Knicks, Warriors and Suns.

This team still can’t play defense. They’re undersized on the perimeter and undisciplined inside. Name the standout defender on this team. Is is Kent Bazemore? Jeez.

Portland are in the bottom 4 of every opponent turnover metric you can think of – they just don’t create turnovers. The also allow the most opposition free throws in the league. They’re giving their opposition easy points and not creating any for themselves. That’s not a recipe for winning basketball games.

17. Phoenix Suns (Up 1)

(11-16) Last week: 0-3

The Suns are still just about hanging on to the coat tales of the playoff race. They’ve almost got their team back on the floor as well, with Aron Baynes back from injury and De’Andre Ayton returning from his suspension with 18 points and 12 rebounds in a loss to the Clippers. Unfortunately, Devin Booker is sitting with a forearm injury. Getting Booker – putting up 25 a night with 50/40/90 splits – back will tell us a lot about the Suns playoff chances. That’s assuming there’s not another injury around the corner for this somewhat snake bit squad.

16. Orlando Magic (Up 1)

(12-16) Last week: 1-3

That tough stretch of games we spoke about in last week’s Power Rankings? It didn’t go well for Orlando. They got blown out by the Rockets, before beating the struggling Pelicans. They’ve since lost to Utah and Denver.

Nikola Vucevic returned from injury in the Pels game and has looked solid so far. He’s putting up 21.3 points, 9 boards and 3.7 assists since his return.

15. Sacramento Kings (Down 1)

(12-15) Last week: 1-2

The Kings are whole again. De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley both returned from injury this week, giving the Kings enviable depth. With those two out, coach Luke Walton slowed the Kings from their breakneck pace to the NBA’s slowest side. To his credit, he’s righted the ship after the disastrous 0-5 start. It will be fascinating to see if Walton loosens the reigns with his whole team available again.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder (Up 1)

(13-14) Last week: 2-1

Winners of 5 of their last 7, the Thunder are back in the playoff hunt, currently sitting 7th in the Western Conference. This adds a serious level of intrigue to those keeping an eye on Sam Presti. He was expected to fire sale all of his veteran assets as the Thunder look to rebuild from the bottom. But Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams and youngster Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are starting to click. It’s still likely that Presti takes a good offer should it come up, and the possibility of a playoff push can only help his leverage in any trade negotiations.

13. Brooklyn Nets (Steady)

(15-12) Last week: 2-1

Brooklyn continue their strong recent form, with their only loss being to the Raptors in a game where their collective shooting touch deserted them. They bounced back with a 20 point thumping of the 76ers, led – again – by that man Spencer Dinwiddie. He’s averaging 23.9 points with 7.4 assists since being thrust into the starting lineup an month ago, when Kyrie Irving went down.

That Sixers game was over so quickly that Nets Coach Kenny Atkinson even dusted off former Sixer Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot for a season high 23 minutes. Hands up who’d forgotten he was still in the NBA?

12. Utah Jazz (Steady)

(16-11) Last week: 2-0

A steadying week for Utah. With Mike Conley back (although he left their match with Orlando early) the Jazz have kept Joe Ingles with the starters at Royce O’Neal’s expense. It’s kept Joe jinglin’ and his chemistry with Rudy Gobert has helped the Frenchman get easier buckets. The 5 man unit of Conley-Donovan Mitchell-Ingles-Bojan Bogdanovic-Gobert has struggled through the season, but looked stronger in recent games.

The Jazz’s depth – a perceived strength at the start of the season – remains a concern. Ed Davis is fine defensively, but hasn’t nearly begun to cover what Derrick Favors brought offensively. Emmanuel Mudiay is average at best, and Dante Exum, unfortunately, looks terrible in his limited minutes.

11. Indiana Pacers (Steady)

(19-9) Last week: 3-0

A perfect week as the Pacers got back in the groove, including an attention grabbing win against the all conquering Lakers. The work GM Kevin Pritchard has put in rebuilding his team is tremendous. Of the Pacers starters, only Myles Turner was drafted by the Pacers. Of their nine man rotation, rookie Goga Bitadze and 2nd year man Aaron Holiday were draft picks. The rest of the roster were either distressed or underappreciated assets that Pritchard saw something in. He deservedly took heat for his time in Portland, but Pritchard’s work with the Pacers has been outstanding.

10. Dallas Mavericks (Down 3)

(18-9) Last week: 2-2

My oh my has Luka Doncic’s ankle sprain come at a bad time for Dallas.

Just as they embark on an Eastern road trip taking in Miami, Milwaukee, Boston, Philly and Toronto, one after the other. The Mavs, of course, upset the Bucks, halting Milwaukee’s winning streak, but lost to the Heat and Celtics. If they can split the remaining two games, all things considered, it’s probably a par. Steal both games, without Luka, and the Mavs will be doing back flips.

9. Toronto Raptors (Up 1)

(19-8) Last week: 3-0

Toronto’s unlikely position near the top of the league has been a lovely story, given their off season defections. Those doubting the Raptors got some ammo in recent losses to fellow heavyweights in Miami, Houston, Philadelphia and the Clippers. So a relatively cupcake schedule of Brooklyn Cleveland and Detroit – all wins – has been most welcome.

Kyle Lowry has been fantastic since returning from injury, putting up a nightly 16 points and 8 assists. The 3 point shot isn’t falling, though: under 25% since his return.

8. Houston Rockets (Up 1)

(18-9) Last week: 2-1

There is a lot of hand-wringing amongst the NBA Illuminati about the gimmick defences teams throw at James Harden. However, results trump optics. The Cavs and Magic played Harden in single coverage this week and The Beard lit them up for 55 and 54 respectively in Rockets wins. The Pistons threw near constant double teams at Harden and whilst he still had his 39, the Rockets struggled overall and lost by 8. You can be assured that the rest of the NBA took notice.

7. Philadelphia 76ers (Down 3)

(20-9) Last week: 2-2

After winning 9 of 10, the Sixers got blitzed by the Nets in the 3rd quarter of their game setting up a 20 point Brooklyn win. With Embiid resting, the Nets played a quasi zone, daring the Sixers to beat them with jumpers – they couldn’t.

Ever the attentive tactician, Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra employed a similar tactic – closer to a regular zone – to similar effect, in the Sixers next game. Even with Embiid, Philly were held to 42% shooting.

For all their elite defensive play, the Sixers are going to need to hit some shots when teams dare them to shoot from outside. And on that note….

Did Ben Simmons hit a 3 this week? No.

6. Boston Celtics (Steady)

(18-7) Last week: 1-1

The Boston Celtics are a marvellous basketball team. They move the ball, get out on the break, hit 3’s, attack the basket and play hard defense. They have but one Achilles heel: size. Specifically, size that can play any sort of passable defense. Last week, they were torched by Joel Embiid for 38 points and 13 rebounds, Kristaps Porzingis took them for 23/13 and 3 blocks, on the back of Domantas Sabonis dominating them for 14 boards.

Daniel Theis is a nice player, but undersized. Robert Williams is raw. We all know about ‘Kant play’ Kanter’s defense. Is there a trade that Danny Ainge could make? Could Derrick Favors or Tristan Thompson be a target?

5. Miami Heat (Steady)

(20-8) Last week: 2-2

Losses to the Lakers and ….the Grizzlies? OK…..balance out nice wins against the Mavericks and Sixers. The schedule doesn’t get a whole lot easier, with the suddenly feisty Knicks up next followed by the Jazz and Pacers.

Bam Adebayo continues to develop at a rate of knots. A week after posting his 1st career triple double, he did it again, hanging an 18/11/10 masterclass on the Mavs, with a couple of steals and blocks thrown in. The hype wagon is well and truly rolling. Hope you bought your tickets – I got mine early.

4. Denver Nuggets (Up 4)

(18-8) Last week: 4-0

Nikola Jokic continues to struggle. His counting stats (17.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, 6.7 assists) look fine, but when you check his advanced stats, he’s down across the board in PER, VORP, Box +/- etc. He still looks doughy and off the pace. When you’re not 100% fit, two things that tend to fall away are your shooting numbers – Jokic is down in every shooting category – and ability to attack the basket. On that count, Jokic is on track to finish the season well down on 2018/19 in fouls drawn, And 1 baskets, and attempts blocked at the rim: all signs that he’s not getting to the hoop.

Despite this, the Nuggets continue to win, although a soft as butter schedule helped this week.

3. Los Angeles Clippers (Steady)

(21-8) Last week: 2-1

The Clippers continue to be able to handle a host of absences through either injury or planned rest, thanks to their unparalleled depth. The most recent returnee is young sniper Landry Shamet.

Interestingly, it seems that the one Clipper that the team struggles to cover is the 33 year old Lou Williams. The Clips chalked off ‘homecoming’ wins for their stars in Toronto and Indiana, but with Williams out, they suffered a shock loss to Chicago.

After the Eastern swing, a tough stretch for LA: Rockets, Lakers and Jazz in their next few games.

2. Los Angeles Lakers (Steady)

(24-4) Last week: 2-1

Consider this ranking closer to 1A that to an outright #2.

The Lakers 7 game win streak was broken in a surprising loss to the upstart Pacers, albeit without Anthony Davis. AD was being rested for today’s mouthwatering marquee match-up with the Bucks. A possible NBA Finals preview? It’s very likely. The Lakers are a complete team. LeBron has gone full MJ, taking the insinuation that he was washed to heart. He’s been absolutely devastating. AD hasn’t shot the ball well, but has otherwise been superb. The McGee/Howard centre pair have held their own. Danny Green has knocked down 3’s and played elite defense. Even Avery Bradley and Kentavous Caldwell-Pope have made positive contributions. Credit to Coach Frank Vogel for making all of this work.

1. Milwaukee Bucks (Steady)

(24-4) Last week: 2-1

Like the Lakers, the Bucks had their monumental winning streak snapped last time out. Their 18 game run was halted by a Dallas Mavericks team missing Luke Doncic.

Were the Bucks a little complacent in not having to face Luca? Could they have perhaps been looking ahead to the Lakers match up?

The circumstances have played out beautifully for this one. Both teams come into the game with league leading 24-4 records, yet both come into the game on the back of a loss.

Grab your popcorn, folks. This promises to be a doozy*

*Don’t blame me when it’s a 30 point blowout!