Monday, January 12, 2015

2014-15 NBA Power Rankings Week 12

Since moving into the No. 2 spot of our NBA Power Rankings last week, the Atlanta Hawks have continued to play great basketball as they finished the week with a 4-0 record despite some difficult matchups.

Three of their four wins were against teams that are more than 10 games above .500 -- Clippers, Grizzlies and Wizards. The other win was against the Pistons, who have played much better since releasing Josh Smith. In fact, the Pistons have won eight of nine games without Smith with the loss to the Hawks being the exception.

Since November 28th, the Hawks have posted a 22-2 record.

The Hawks will begin a four-game road trip starting on Tuesday against a couple of beatable Eastern Conference teams (Philadelphia and Boston) and then a couple of matchups (Toronto and Chicago) against two fellow teams in the top-three of Eastern Conference standings.

Although they may lack well-known superstars, they have played efficient, team-first basketball.

Not only does Atlanta rank third in three-point percentage (.383) and fifth in shooting percentage (.467), but they also rank eighth in opponent's three-point percentage (.339) and sixth in opponent's shooting percentage (.438).

In addition, the Hawks rank third in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.89) behind only the Clippers and Mavericks.

The final All-Star ballots will be announced on January 22nd, but the Hawks don't have any players in the top 10 and Paul Millsap currently ranks 13th in voting among Eastern Conference forwards.

Who's the worst: Sixers, Knicks and Celtics?

The Sixers opened the 2014-15 NBA season with 17 consecutive losses and it seemed as though they wouldn't win any games this season.

For the second time this season, however, the Sixers have a two-game winning streak with wins over the Nets and Pacers this past weekend and they have now won three of their past four games.

While their competition for the most lottery ping-pong balls is increasing within the division, the Sixers will host the 29-8 Hawks on Tuesday so it's highly unlikely that they get their first three-game winning streak of the season.

Perhaps the Knicks will shut down Carmelo Anthony for the season, but they have now lost a franchise-worst 15 consecutive games and currently own the league's worst record (5-35, .125). In addition, they have won only one of their past 26 games.

Aside from Anthony's injury, the Knicks have traded J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to the Cavaliers and released Samuel Dalembert as they try to improve their salary-cap situation going forward.

Earlier in the season, the Celtics traded away point guard Rajon Rondo to the Mavericks. One of the players acquired in that trade, Brandan Wright, has since been traded away as the Celtics work to stockpile draft picks.

The next player on the move will be the team's leading scorer, Jeff Green, in a trade that is expected to be completed on Monday.

In a race to not be mediocre, but instead to be as bad as you can, which one of these Atlantic Division teams is the worst?

Cavs on five-game losing streak, lost eight of nine games

It takes time for a new trio of superstars playing for a first-year head coach to gel. Making the situation more challenging is the fact that LeBron James has missed the past eight games with a knee injury.

The injury isn't too serious and he should be back soon. In fact, he has noted that he would have played if it were the playoffs.

That said, the Cleveland Cavaliers have now lost five consecutive games and eight of their past nine.

With the Cavs ranking in the bottom half of the league in team defense, they have made some moves that should help bolster their defense. Not only is newly-acquired Iman Shumpert one of the league's more talented perimeter defenders, but they acquired Timofey Mozgov from the Nuggets. Mozgov played for coach Blatt on the Russian National Team.

Despite dropping to .500 as we near the midpoint of the season, Vegas still has the Cavs installed as the favorite to win the 2015 NBA Finals at 5/1 odds. (The Warriors are a close second at 11/2 odds.)

Turnaround coming for the Hornets?

Expectations were high in the preseason for the Charlotte Hornets, who were coming off their second playoff appearance in the past decade.

Despite starting the season with a 10-24 record, the team is now on a five-game winning streak.

If the season were to end today, the Hornets would be tied with the Pacers at the No. 9 seed in the Eastern Conference, but both teams are only two games behind the Heat and Nets for the eighth seed.

Not only has Lance Stephenson been out since last playing on December 17th, but Al Jefferson has now missed seven consecutive games. With Stephenson and Jefferson out, Kemba Walker has put the team on his back.

During their five-game winning streak, Walker has averaged 30.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game.

Here are my NBA Power Rankings heading into Week 12:

1. Golden State Warriors (Record 29-5, Last Week 1)
2. Atlanta Hawks (Record 29-8, Last Week 2)
3. Portland Trail Blazers (Record 30-8, Last Week 3)
4. Memphis Grizzlies (Record 26-11, Last Week 4)
5. Chicago Bulls (Record 26-12, Last Week 5)
6. Houston Rockets (Record 26-11, Last Week 7)
7. Toronto Raptors (Record 25-11, Last Week 8)
8. Dallas Mavericks (Record 26-12, Last Week 6)
9. San Antonio Spurs (Record 23-15, Last Week 13)
10. Washington Wizards (Record 25-12, Last Week 9)
11. Los Angeles Clippers (Record 25-13, Last Week 10)
12. Phoenix Suns (Record 22-18, Last Week 12)
13. Oklahoma City Thunder (Record 18-19, Last Week 11)
14. New Orleans Pelicans (Record 18-18, Last Week 14)
15. Cleveland Cavaliers (Record 19-19, Last Week 15)
16. Brooklyn Nets (Record 16-21, Last Week 16)
17. Milwaukee Bucks (Record 20-19, Last Week 17)
18. Denver Nuggets (Record 17-20, Last Week 19)
19. Miami Heat (Record 16-21, Last Week 18)
20. Charlotte Hornets (Record 15-24, Last Week 26)
21. Sacramento Kings (Record 16-21, Last Week 20)
22. Indiana Pacers (Record 15-24, Last Week 21)
23. Orlando Magic (Record 13-27, Last Week 22)
24. Detroit Pistons (Record 13-24, Last Week 23)
25. Boston Celtics (Record 12-23, Last Week 24)
26. Utah Jazz (Record 13-25, Last Week 25)
27. Los Angeles Lakers (Record 12-26, Last Week 27)
28. Philadelphia 76ers (Record 7-29, Last Week 29)
29. Minnesota Timberwolves (Record 5-31, Last Week 28)
30. New York Knicks (Record 5-35, Last Week 30)

Also, check out our Fantasy Basketball Rest-of-Season Rankings

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