/NBA Power Rankings: Lakers Are Hot but Not Leagues Best Team

NBA Power Rankings: Lakers Are Hot but Not Leagues Best Team

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30. New York Knicks (29)

Did you get a parking ticket this week? Miss out on a promotion to district manager? Spill coffee on your favorite pants?

Sorry, friend, but you didn’t have a bad week.

The Knicks, though? They had a bad week—one that started with a 44-point loss to the Bucks on Tuesday, followed by a desultory effort in another drubbing on Thursday, this one a 37-point defeat at home against Denver. They became the seventh team in NBA history to lose consecutive games by at least 35 points, and given the lack of engagement from most of the roster, they were lucky not to lose both contests by 50.

Unsurprisingly, the Knicks fired head coach David Fizdale on Friday, as reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. We’ve been critical of Fizdale in this space, but he was only a small part of the problem. You don’t flail around aimlessly for 20 years, pivoting from one shortsighted plan to the next because you have the wrong coach.

The 4-19 Knicks’ woebegone plight is the result of top-down, systemic rot.

           

29. Cleveland Cavaliers (27)

According to a report from The Athletic’s Joe Vardon and Shams Charania, Cavs head coach John Beilein has lost a significant portion of the locker room, largely because some members of the team aren’t on board with Beilein’s collegiate approach and terminology.

Considering Beilein spent 40 years coaching in college, and the unavoidable frustration that comes with losing, very little of this was hard to see coming.

Cleveland has lost six straight and 12 of its last 13 overall, with Saturday’s total no-show of a 141-94 defeat in Philadelphia screaming that much of the team had thrown in the towel.

           

28. Golden State Warriors (28)

The Warriors are getting healthy bodies back on the floor, but extra resources are mostly leading to weirdness. Kevon Looney, Willie Cauley-Stein and Draymond Green shared the floor Wednesday in a supersized grouping that would have been unheard of in their dynastic heyday.

D’Angelo Russell returned from a nine-game absence in that 106-91 loss to Charlotte, looking none the worse for wear. He scored 18 points on 14 shots and continued what’s quietly been his most productive season. Better still, Glenn Robinson III contributed 20 points and the go-ahead dunk in Saturday’s 100-98 win over the Bulls in Chicago, getting Golden State to 5-19 on the year.

Even before beating the Bulls and ending their four-game slide, the Dubs were in no danger of slipping to 30th in our rankings. The Knicks are just as bad and roughly 6,000 times more dysfunctional, and Cleveland is coming undone.

It’s not a high bar to clear, but the Warriors seem likely to rank above those two franchises for a while.

        

27. Atlanta Hawks (30)

The Hawks’ 104-79 win over the Warriors last Monday was their first since Nov. 12. Golden State was playing the second leg of a road back-to-back, rested Draymond Green and turned it over 23 times while shooting 3-of-17 from deep.

Atlanta will still take it, though, along with Sunday’s bench-fueled 122-107 success in Charlotte. Beggars can’t be choosers.

Kevin Huerter returned to action in Wednesday’s loss to Brooklyn after missing the previous 11 games, but he’ll be on a minutes restriction for the foreseeable future and won’t address the Hawks’ prime ailment: shoddy defense.

In more encouraging news, Cam Reddish actually made some baskets! He went 10-of-17 for 25 points against Brooklyn after failing to make half his shots in all but two of his previous 18 games. The rookie is still on pace to post the third-lowest true shooting percentage (among players taking at least eight shots per game) in the three-point era, but credit where credit’s due.

        

26. Memphis Grizzlies (26)

De’Anthony Melton has looked like a reliable rotation contributor since seeing his role increase this month. In four December games, he’s averaging 9.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists. There are positives to Ja Morant’s back spasms.

The most encouraging news, though, is that Morant may be nearing a return. He participated in some elements of Memphis’ practice on Friday, and though he didn’t end up playing in Saturday’s 126-112 loss to the Jazz, there was at least some possibility of him suiting up, according to Michael Wallace of Grizzlies.com.

Memphis is 1-9 in its last 10 games, but in keeping with the theme of silver linings around dark clouds, Jaren Jackson Jr.’s aggression on offense has been a plus. His three highest shot-attempt totals on the season all came this past week, and he’s gotten up at least five threes in 13 of his last 14 outings.

His development into a premier floor-stretching big is vital to the Grizzlies’ future. So far, so good.