NBA Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers (03/14/17)
NBA Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers
As we are now less than a month away from the end of the NBA Regular season (April 12), we bring you another edition of Risers and Fallers based on this week's Power Rankings. Our Power Rankings are developed using players on the active depth chart, which causes fluctuation week-to-week based on injuries and who is in and out of the lineup. To see a full description of how our Power Rankings are created, as well as this week's full list of rankings, please visit NBA Rankings - 3/14/17.
Within our rankings every week, there are noticeable risers and fallers throughout. The goal of this article is to identify who has gained or lost the most ground in the Association, whether it be due to injury, roster changes, or just a decline in team performance. Each article will include the Top 3 risers and fallers in the rankings, despite their initial position.
The Spurs find themselves atop our Power Rankings for the second week in a row as they are officially the #1 seed in the Western Conference as of this morning. Their 2-0 record against the Warriors gives them the edge in a tie-breaker scenario, as they only face Golden State one more time this season. The Jazz make their way back into the Top 5 with the return of George Hill. They've also won 5 of 6, including games against the Rockets, Clippers, and Pelicans, all teams who are in our Top 10 in this week's rankings. The Cavaliers remain in the 8th spot for this week as J.R. Smith returned and Kyle Korver headed to the sideline with his own injury. Cleveland is still waiting on Kevin Love to return to re-enter the Top 5. There is still a considerable amount of movement in the lower portion of the rankings as well, so let's first take a look at the Top 3 risers in this week's rankings.
Top 3 Risers
Utah Jazz - #11 up to #5
As I mentioned above, the Jazz have won 5 of their last 6 games and have enjoyed the return of George Hill from a short stint out of the rotation. Derrick Favors is currently out with a knee contusion, but he's had an underwhelming and inconsistent season, so they won't suffer too much in his absence. Utah still boasts the best PPG defense in the league, as they only allow 96.6 per game, and they currently sit at third best in opponent's field goal percentage at 44.2%. Gordon Hayward continues to have a career year for the Jazz as he's averaging 22 points per game, more than six points higher than his previous career high at 15.5. With their win over the Clippers last night, the Jazz are now two games ahead of them for the 4th spot in the West, and that will likely be their best possible position as they still look up at the Rockets who are currently four games ahead of them in the 3rd spot.
Memphis Grizzlies - #10 up to #7
The Griz have had a tough start to March, as they are 1-5 and just got their first win last night on the shoulders of Vince Carter. Their rise in our rankings likely comes from the fact that Chandler Parsons is now out indefinitely with a partially torn meniscus in his left knee, and Parsons has been detrimental to the Grizzlies' efforts this season. Parsons is shooting under 40% in effective field goal percentage and is -4.0 in Box Plus/Minus (BPM) and -2.7 in Real Plus/Minus (RPM). The players that are replacing him in Troy Daniels and Vince Carter are much more efficient, as Carter is positive in both BPM and RPM and showed what he could do last night scoring 24 points on 8-8 shooting. Memphis gets stronger on the defensive end without him as well, as they move up three spots in our Defensive Efficiency Rankings. The Grizzlies are battling with OKC for the 6th spot in the West, but have a tough remaining schedule with 8 of their next 11 games on the road, along with three games remaining with the Spurs and one with the Warriors. It will be a battle down the stretch for the Griz, but the injury to Parsons seems to help them at this point in time.
Miami Heat - #23 up to #18
The Heat continue to play well and push for the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference. Miami has started March with a 5-2 record, including back-to-back wins over the Cavaliers last week. The Heat are currently without point guard Goran Dragic, who missed the last game and a half due to a right orbital contusion that caused his eye to be completely swollen shut before Sunday's game. Other than that and their season-ending injuries to Justise Winslow and Josh McRoberts, the Heat are fully healthy for the first time in a while. After starting the season 11-30, Miami has gone 21-5 to move within a half game of the 8th spot in the East. Players seem to be loving the culture in Miami as Dion Waiters, who has averaged over 19 points per game in their current run, has fully expressed his desire to return to the Heat next season. Whatever they're cooking up in South Beach is tasting awfully good to their players, so don't be surprised if the Heat are able to lure another superstar down there this offseason.
Top 3 Fallers
New Orleans Pelicans - #6 down to #10
It isn't quite time to announce the Pelicans as dead in the water, but New Orleans finds themselves 5.5 games back of the 8th spot in the West with three other teams between them and the Nuggets. The Boogie Cousins experiment seems to be failing in NOLA, as the Pelicans have been more successful with him off the court than they have been when just Anthony Davis is out there, illustrated by Alvin Gentry sitting Cousins for the final 17 minutes in the Pelicans most recent victory against the Hornets. And why would you want to put someone out there who will just disrupt the Brow from getting 46 points and 21 rebounds? Jrue Holiday has been underwhelming as the third member of the big three, as he's scored under 10 points in four of the nine games New Orleans has played with Cousins. It's a sad reality that Boogie and the Brow might not be able to co-exist, but hopefully they'll be able to figure it out over the last month and make one final push for the 8th spot in the West.
Oklahoma City Thunder - #12 down to #16
OKC seems to find their way on this list every week, as they're constantly shifting anywhere between 10 and 20 in our rankings. Russell Westbrook continues to carry the Thunder with an extremely high usage rate, which currently sits at 42.3% according to foxsports.com. It's a tough balance for Westbrook, whose team is 26-6 when he records a triple double and 11-23 when he doesn't, but they are also 0-4 on the year when he scores more than 45 points. It appears as if the team needs his contribution to assists and rebounds more than points, so we'll see if Westbrook adjusts to these concerns down the stretch. OKC finds themselves in a great spot with less than a month to go, however, as they've overtaken the 6th spot in the West, which would allow them to play the Rockets or Jazz in the first round instead the Warriors or Spurs. The Thunder will likely remain in the middle of the pack of our rankings for the rest of the season, but it's always fun to talk about Westbrook on his path to history, so maybe they'll jump back up to the low teens next week.
Toronto Raptors - #18 down to #23
Toronto clearly misses their starting point guard in Kyle Lowry, as they've slipped all the way to #23 in our rankings this week. DeMarre Carroll is also currently sidelined with an ankle injury, so the Raptors fall to 20th and 21st in our Offensive and Defensive Efficiency rankings, respectively. The Raptors have been able to sustain a decent 6-4 record without Lowry, but four of those wins came against the Pelicans and teams 20th or lower in our rankings. Toronto likely won't be able to catch the Wizards or Celtics down the stretch, which means they'll end up as the 4th or 5th seed and have to play Cleveland in the second round of the playoffs. The biggest void Lowry leaves for the Raptors is on the offensive end. In their 10 games without him, they've averaged 99.7 points per game, but were averaging 108.5 before Lowry's injury. Serge Ibaka has turned out to be a solid acquisition, as he's averaging 14.2 points, 6.8 boards, and 1.9 blocks per game since coming over, and has helped stretch the floor by shooting 40% from three. However, the Raptors still need their facilitator back in Lowry, so until that happens they'll continue to be low in our rankings.