Monday, March 3, 2014

How Puzzling Are the Warriors? (Power Rankings, Week 18)

This week NBA fans witnessed Hurricane Boogie, Derecho Stephenson, and Winter Storm Westbrook.

In this week's power rankings, the Heat and Pacers took the top two spots, and eight Western Conference teams filled out the top 10. Meanwhile, Philly tightened its grip on the No. 1 spot in the Tanking Rankings, as the Sixers ran their losing streak to 14 games.

Below are the complete power rankings, followed by deeper looks at the up-and-down Golden State Warriors and the streaking Washington Wizards.

Here are my Week 18 Power Rankings, with all records current through Sunday:
30. Philadelphia 76ers (15-45)
29. Milwaukee Bucks (11-47)
28. Los Angeles Lakers (20-39)
27. Boston Celtics (20-40)
26. Sacramento Kings (20-39)
25. New York Knicks (21-39)
24. Utah Jazz (21-38)
23. Orlando Magic (19-43)
22. Denver Nuggets (25-33)
21. New Orleans Pelicans (23-36)
20. Detroit Pistons (23-36)
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (24-37)
18. Atlanta Hawks (26-32)
17. Charlotte Bobcats (27-32)
16. Brooklyn Nets (28-29)
15. Minnesota Timberwolves (29-29)
14. Washington Wizards (31-28)
13. Toronto Raptors (33-26)
12. Chicago Bulls (33-26)
11. Memphis Grizzlies (33-25)
10. Dallas Mavericks (36-25)
9. Portland Trail Blazers (38-18)
8. Phoenix Suns (35-24)
7. Golden State Warriors (36-24)
6. Houston Rockets (40-19)
5. San Antonio Spurs (43-16)
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (45-15)
3. Los Angeles Clippers (41-20) 
2. Indiana Pacers (46-13)
1. Miami Heat (42-14)

Golden State Warriors
(Photo via nydailynews.com)
Brooklyn native Mark Jackson's squad torched my Knicks on Friday, handing New York its 11th loss in 13 games. (The woeful 'Bockers lost to Chicago on Sunday, making it 12 defeats in the last 14 games.) The Warriors dropped 38 points in the first quarter, displaying just how high-powered their offense can be.

It's puzzling and surprising, then, that Golden State scores at a pretty pedestrian rate overall. For the season, the Dubs sit in a tie for 11th in offensive efficiency, behind most of the West's playoff teams. Grantland's Zach Lowe has detailed how the offense often becomes stagnant, as it did in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss in Toronto. Still, it's jarring to watch a game like Friday night's and envision the team's potential. It's up to Jackson to unlock more of it before the stretch run.

On the other end of the floor, Golden State trails just stingy Indiana and Chicago in defensive efficiency. That's pretty goshdarn* good when you consider that most people expected the Warriors to play an ABA style of ball.

*Copyright: Sarah Palin.

I still have faith that Golden State will have its share of moments in the playoffs, if only because Stephen Curry has made me a believer several times already.





Washington Wizards
 
(Photo via csnwashington.com)
John Wall is playing like one of the top 10 players in the league. During Washington's current six-game winning streak, John Calipari's former pupil is scoring 21.2 points and dishing out 10.8 assists per outing. He's the engine, the wheels, and the steering wheel for a below-average Washington offense that doesn't feature any other players in the top 80 in Player Efficiency Rating. In Thursday's barn-burner against the Raptors, Wall scored or assisted on six of the Wizards' seven baskets during the decisive third overtime. He's become as fun to watch in the NBA as he was at Kentucky.

While the offense is extremely Wall-centric, the Wizards have been playing great team defense. They've crept into the top 10 in defensive efficiency (102.1 points per 100 possessions) after finishing 23rd in that stat last season. An early-season trade for Marcin Gortat helped shore up the frontcourt. Gortat blocks a couple shots in most games and disrupts many others. Meanwhile, Wall is turning into a shut-down defender, and Trevor Ariza and Nene provide disruptive length.

Washington is two games behind Chicago in the race for a top-four seed, but this week's Gilbert Arenas sighting has to be a good omen for the Wiz. Here's to hoping that we eventually see a seven-game series between them and the high-scoring Raptors.


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