NBA Power Rankings - Risers and Fallers
NBA Power Rankings – Risers and Fallers
Welcome to the 10th edition of Risers and Fallers for this season's NBA 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 - 1/11/18. 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 three risers and fallers in the rankings, despite their initial position.
Don't look now, but we're already halfway to the end of the regular season. Our top five this week remains unchanged from last, as Golden State perches at the top and looks out upon their kingdom. The Warriors remain #1 in the league in offensive efficiency and aren't much further down the defensive list at #3. Since the beginning of December, the reigning champs are 17-3 and a perfect 9-0 on the road. Minnesota is our second ranked Western Conference team and third overall this week. They've won 10 of 13 games including lopsided victories against the Pelicans (116-98), Cavaliers (127-99), and Thunder (104-88) in their last three games, who are currently ranked 9-11th in this week's rankings. Boston, Toronto, and Washington land in second, fourth, and fifth, respectively, and are statistically outshining the Cavaliers and the rest of the East at the moment. Boston remains atop the East with a 33-10 record. They're first in defensive efficiency and the only team in the league allowing less than a point per possession. Toronto continues to impress as they're the only team alongside Golden State to be in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Posting a 17-4 record since November 25th has helped the Raptors move into second place in the East, and they're just one win behind the Rockets for third-best record in the NBA. The Wizards remain fifth in our rankings this week. They've won six of nine games and join the Warriors and Raptors as the only NBA teams to be in the top 10 in offensive and defensive efficiency.
Overall, this week provided little change to our rankings, so I'll only feature two teams each in our Risers and Fallers sections. Let's get into it.
The loss of James Harden knocked Houston all the way down to tenth last week, but they've recovered a tad and find themselves in sixth this time around. They're 3-2 since the superstar went down and have scored at least 114 points in four of the five games (Pistons held them to 101). Chris Paul has been dynamic in his absence, posting 22.6 points, 11 assists, and 7.2 rebounds over the last five games. Gerald Green has played a much larger role than most expected without Harden as well, pouring in 21 points per game off the bench on 49.1% shooting from three. The man I believe is worthy of the most praise, however, is Eric Gordon. Seen as strictly a scorer his entire career, Gordon has come in and done just that for Houston, averaging 23.2 points per game without Harden, but he's become a distributor and secondary ball-handler as well. Despite averaging 3.0 assists or fewer in five of his ten NBA seasons (and fewer than 4.5 in all 10), Gordon is dishing out 6.4 helpers per game without Harden on the court. He's no longer just a spot-up shooter to spread the floor, but a dynamic offensive player who can take it to the rack and create his own shot (as well as his teammate's) better than ever before. It's clearly been a team effort to replace one of the front-runners for MVP, but these three guards have done an exceptional job scoring and distributing the basketball in the Beard's absence.
Much like the Rockets above, Indiana took a tumble last week thanks to the injury to Victor Oladipo. With Dipo now back in the lineup, Indiana jumps back up to the top half of our rankings this week. The most improved player award has almost been locked up by Oladipo so far, as he's having a career year and blowing his career stats out of the water. To showcase just how much he's grown in each category, I'll list this year's stats alongside his from last year, followed by his career average. PPG: 24.6 this/15.9 last/16.8 career, AST: 4.1/2.6/3.8, REB: 5.3/4.3/4.5, STL: 1.9/1.2/1.6, BLK: 0.9/0.3/0.5, FG%: 49.1/44.2/44.2, and 3P%: 41.0/36.1/35.7. As you can see, his numbers are up across the board with an especially stark contrast in his scoring and shooting numbers, up over 8.0 ppg from last season and shooting a full five percentage points better from the field and three. Without him, the Pacers would likely be a bottom-feeder in the East with no shot at the playoffs, but he changes that whole scenario. And while I failed to mention anyone else on the roster, all you need to know is that Oladipo makes the Pacers relevant and a team Eastern conference opponents can't overlook.
The Nuggets couldn't handle their position in our top 10, dropping three of four games last week including two against the Kings and Hawks. Their ninth-ranked offense sputtered over that stretch, eclipsing 100 points just once (a loss to the Warriors). Their depth remains the strength of their team, but head coach Mike Malone insists on playing veteran Wilson Chandler second-most on the team at over 31 minutes per game. While Chandler has been a solid producer over his 10-year career, he holds the worst player efficiency rating on his team and is the lowest of ANY starter this season in the Western conference. His value added to the team has been negative, and is tied with Ian Mahinmi, a bench player for the Wizards who has played less than half of Chandler's minutes on the season. It's highly doubtful Malone will change the rotation anytime soon since Chandler has started all 37 games he's played in this season, but those 31 minutes could easily go to Trey Lyles and Mason Plumlee, or anyone else on their roster. Hopefully the return of Paul Millsap after the All-Star Break will help shake things up, but until then Denver won't be reaching its full potential on the court.
Just when the Clippers were back to full strength with their superstar at the helm, the injury bug struck again. Blake Griffin lasted just four full games before he went down with a concussion, while the now-starting point guard Milos Teodosic has missed the last three games after missing a 22-game stretch earlier this season. The lengthiest injury was suffered by Austin Rivers, however, as he will miss at least the next two weeks with a heel injury, limiting their back-court depth even further. All of these injuries have given rookies more minutes and offered G-League players the chance to show their worth. Tyrone Wallace is the newest face in LA, benefitting from the new two-way contracts the NBA put in place allowing players to move to and from their G-League affiliates. Wallace has averaged 28 minutes over his three games, posting a very respectable 15.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in those games. The Clippers can just never seem to shake their injury woes or catch the right break, which might lead to even further dismantling of the current roster. The removal of DeAndre Jordan from this squad would put the finishing touches on Lob City's disintegration, leaving Blake Griffin as the only remaining survivor.