We have now cruised into the All-Star Break with a relatively small amount of COVID-19 related hiccups. They’re still playing, which means they’ve succeeded thus far. Speaking of success, how have teams fared up to this point? Let’s find out.
30. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves have been just plain bad. On pace for just 14 wins, it’s clear they’re the worst team in the league at this point. Top overall pick Anthony Edwards has shown flashes but has been largely inconsistent. This is evident when you look at his shooting numbers: 37/30.2/80.5 isn’t great.
Karl-Anthony Towns has been just about the lone bright spot in Minnesota this year. His 22 points and 10.9 rebounds (not to mention 3.9 assists from the center spot) are quite strong. He’s slashing a stupendous 49.4/37.5/90.9 this year, but he’s only been available for 16 of the 36 games.
29. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons find themselves at the very bottom of the Eastern Conference. Jerami Grant’s ascension to stardom with 23.4 points per game this year is one of the few solid showings coming out of Detroit.
They traded their second-leading scorer in Derrick Rose and have bought out the fourth leading scorer in Blake Griffin. Things are not likely to change anytime soon for the Motor City.
28. Orlando Magic
Oh, how the once briefly mighty have fallen. Orlando started out 4-0, the longest unbeaten start for any team this season. Since then, it’s been nothing but bad news. They’re 9-23 since then and that’s not changing any time soon.
They’ve experienced a litany of devastating injuries, namely a torn ACL for what was looking like a truly revitalized Markelle Fultz. On the bright side, Nikola Vucevic has found his name on the trade block, and if any team should be so lucky as to land him, Orlando would fetch quite the price, perhaps setting them up well for next year.
27. Houston Rockets
The Rockets have a paltry 11 wins thus far, which is a far cry from the Western Conference contender they used to be. Losing James Harden (who didn’t truly want to be there anymore anyway) stings and hurts the record, obviously.
The good news? Christian Wood is playing at an All-Star level and John Wall appears to have recovered from his Achilles injury, which is no small feat. Wall is averaging 21 points and 6 assists this season.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers have good pieces, it just isn’t translating to on-court success. Collin Sexton has come into his own at 24.1 points per game, and Darius Garland is averaging a hair under 6 assists a game. They acquired a talented center from the Brooklyn Nets in Jarrett Allen and Larry Nance, Jr. was playing well before getting hurt.
Andre Drummond’s 13.5 rebounds are good for second in the NBA. That might not be for much longer, though, because it’s likely Drummond gets moved by the time the Trade Deadline has passed.
25. Sacramento Kings
The Kings should be better than this. De’Aaron Fox is having a career year, Richaun Holmes owns the second best field goal percentage in the league and Buddy Hield just made NBA history by being the fastest to hit 1,000 threes.
Look no further than Sunday night’s debacle against Charlotte as a microcosm of their season. Fox, Hield, Barnes, and Bagley all had over 20 points and they held an 8 point lead with 55 seconds left, and they lost. Embarrassing.
24. Washington Wizards
Long the owners of the bottom spot in most power rankings, the Wizards have actually come alive lately. In their last 11 games, they’ve gone 8-3, including a five-game win streak.
Bradley Beal continues to league in points per game at 32.9. That probably won’t change, as Beal has reiterated he desires to stay in Washington and not seek a trade.
23. Oklahoma City Thunder
It’s been Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or bust for the Thunder this year. SGA, for short, has 23.2 points per game to go along with 6.2 assists and 0.7 blocks, all team highs.
After that, there’s not much going on. Al Horford has been the next highest scorer with just 14 and only 5 players on the roster average over 5 rebounds a game.
22. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks, currently at 16-20 and losers of 11 of their last 17, believe that they are in fact better than this. The Hawks fired head coach Lloyd Pierce earlier this week.
Trae Young continues to be excellent, however. 26.4 points to go along with 9.4 assists is stellar. Clint Capela leads the world with 14.2 rebounds a game. Don’t be surprised if they manage to sneak back into the playoff hunt. The talent is there.
21. New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans, despite having one of only four 20-year olds to ever average over 25 points per game (Zion Williamson), find themselves on the outside looking in a loaded Western Conference. Having a down year might not kill your chances in the East on any given year, but the West is historically a much stronger conference.
Williamson and Brandon Ingram have been stellar with both averaging over 20 points. Lonzo Ball is having a quietly strong year, averaging 14.5 points, 5.1 assists, and 4.2 rebounds. Aside from those three, Eric Bledsoe is the only other player with over 10 points per game.
20. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls, who sit just .001 win percentage out of the 8th spot in the East, have been led by electric first-time All-Star Zach Lavine. Lavine’s 28.7 points per game are 6th in the league. Lauri Markkanen and Coby White have both improved, putting the Bulls in a good position to compete in the crowded East.
Lavine and, surprisingly, Thaddeus Young have both posted Player Efficiency Rating’s (PER) of over 20. Expect Chicago to hang around as the second half rolls on.
19. Indiana Pacers
Despite housing three 20 point scorers, the Pacers find themselves falling behind in a tightly contested Eastern Conference. They’re the current 10th seed, but they’re only 2.5 games out of 4th place.
Those 20 point scorers? Malcolm Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo. Sabonis is averaging a double-double with over 11 rebounds a night. Oh, and Myles Turner is far and away from the NBA’s block leader, with an absurd 3.4 a game.
18. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors got off to a really slow start, but have managed to scrape and crawl their way back into the playoff race. Toronto holds the 8th seed but is just two games out of 4th. The Raptors, with their wealth of playoff experience, can be dangerous if they make it there.
The Raptors are led by Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, both scoring 20.1 points per game.
17. Miami Heat
Much like the Toronto Raptors, the Heat was too good to keep losing. The defending Eastern Conference champions were 7-13 before going 11-5 to get back to .500 and reaching the 6th seed in the East.
Bam Adebayo is playing exceptionally in his contract year. He is top two for the Heat in points (19.2), rebounds (9.5), assists (5.4), and blocks (1.0). Jimmy Butler has also been stellar with 20.5 points and 7.8 assists.
16. Charlotte Hornets
LaMelo Ball has been a revelation and is the odds-on favorite to win Rookie of the Year. Ball’s flashy play and basketball IQ have sped up the timeline for Charlotte’s rebuild, but he’s not the only reason.
Gordon Hayward’s return to form, Malik Monk, and Terry Rozier’s vastly improved shooting, and the overall team passing have put Charlotte squarely in the playoff hunt. They currently hold the 7th seed and are just 1.5 games out of the 4th seed.
15. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies, despite being .500 with zero games played from Jaren Jackson, Jr., are on the cusp of contention in the West. The Grizzlies find themselves just three games behind the 6th seeded Denver Nuggets. It’s a tough conference, but Memphis is right there.
Ja Morant’s play has been a big reason why. He leads the team with 19.8 points and 7.7 assists. Jonas Valenciunas has been good, also, averaging a double-double so far.
14. New York Knicks
Who would have guessed that the Knicks would waltz into the All-Star Break with the fifth seed? Not many people. They’ve played at just over .500, 19-18, which is good enough to put them squarely in the playoffs.
Perhaps the biggest reason why is Julius Randle has averaged a stellar 23.2 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 5.5 assists. Those are all team highs and he’s got the Knicks where most people would be surprised to see them.
13. Golden State Warriors
Speaking of surprises, going into the season, many folks would have been surprised to see the Warriors in the 9th spot in the West. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, and the 2nd overall pick (used on center James Wiseman) had some people fearful of another strong run by Golden State.
However, losing Klay Thompson has been a huge blow, despite replacing him with Kelly Oubre, Jr. The Warriors are just barely on the outside looking in, despite Curry having nearly identical numbers to his unanimous MVP season.
12. Boston Celtics
The Celtics have not lived up to their billing thus far. They do have two All-Stars, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but they’re hovering around .500 and have been slipping in and out of the postseason thus far. Kemba Walker’s inconsistent return from a knee injury might be a key reason.
With that said, they really can only go up from here. They’re not performing as well as they could be, and still own the 4th seed.
11. Dallas Mavericks
Much like the aforementioned Boston Celtics, the Mavericks too found themselves floundering at the onset of the season. The Mavericks were 9-14, before going 9-2 to close out the first half and sneak into the 8th spot in the West.
A big reason why is Luka Doncic. Doncic’s averages of 28.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 9.0 assists are all team highs. He’s had to do much of it without Kristaps Porzingis, who’s played in just 20 games.
10. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs machine just keeps ongoing. These Spurs are a far cry from the Parker, Ginobili, and Howard Spurs that won so many championships. Also, they’re not the Kawhi Leonard Spurs, either. But the Spurs just keep winning.
They’re currently 18-14, the 7th seed in the West. They have been buoyed by strong years from DeMar Derozan and Dejounte Murray, both with PER’s of over 17.
9. Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers sit at 21-14 after a strong first half. They trail the Lakers by two games for the third spot. They’ve been led, as usual, by Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Those two are the only pair of teammates to both have a PER over 25.
However, they’re not the only reasons for Portland’s success. Enes Kanter, averaging 11.9 points and 11.9 rebounds, has a PER of over 22, as well.
8. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets have made it to this point largely on the strength of their best player. Nikola Jokic, with 27.1 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 8.6 assists (and 1.6 steals) has staked his claim as the Nuggets best player.
However, that’s not all for Jokic. If you ask PER, Jokic has not only been the best player Denver has. Jokic’s PER of 31.61 puts him as the best player in the entire league, just edging out Joel Embiid.
7. Milwaukee Bucks
In a quiet bid for his third consecutive MVP award, Giannis Antetokounmpo has posted a PER just below Embiid or Jokic with 29.03. His 29.0 points per game ranks fifth in the league.
Antetokounmpo is one of just three players to score over 20 points a game and shoot higher than 55% from the floor. He leads those players in points per game.
6. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are just a half-game behind the Lakers in the battle for LA and the third seed. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have been spectacular, but the Clippers may have found an unsung hero in the offseason.
Once an afterthought in Charlotte, Nicolas Batum signed in LA this offseason to little fanfare. However, since arriving, he’s been quietly very good. Batum’s offensive rating of 118.1 is 15th among NBA players who’ve played in more than 20 games.
5. Los Angeles Lakers
They’ve faltered a bit in Anthony Davis’ absence, but the Lakers are still quite good and in a good position. LeBron James might not win, but he’s putting together a strong MVP resume at age 36.
However, they’ve got to figure it out until Davis’ return. LeBron can carry a team, no question. But at his age, how much of a good idea is that? If the Lakers want to repeat, and they do, they’re going to have to figure it out and soon. Getting blown out by Utah can’t be what the rest of the season holds for the Lakers.
4. Philadelphia 76ers
Joel Embiid has been either the best or the second-best player in the NBA this season, depending on who you ask. His PER is second in the league, as is his scoring.
Embiid has been wildly efficient, too. He’s taken fewer shots per game than anyone in the rest of the top 10 scorers this year. Ben Simmons averaging 7.6 assists and 7.9 rebounds goes a long way towards putting Philly at the top of the East.
3. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets were a good pick to make it out of the East this season. Then they traded for James Harden. The trio of Harden, Kyrie Irving, and a healthy Kevin Durant have been exceptional.
Irving leads the league in offensive rating at 122.0. Not too far behind him, though, is second place Kevin Durant with 120.8. And don’t forget about Harden, one of the game’s best scorers who happens to also average 11.1 assists a game, the best in the league.
2. Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns have caught fire in the first half. Adding Chris Paul to a roster that already featured All-Star Devin Booker and strong center DeAndre Ayton has proved to be one of the best moves this offseason.
However, it’s someone you might not consider that’s been quite good this season and has played a big role in propelling the Suns to second place in the West. Dario Saric’s offensive and defensive ratings of 120.3 and 96.8 are incredible.
1. Utah Jazz
Don’t let the fact that neither Kevin Durant nor LeBron James drafted either Jazz All-Star till the last two picks get in your head. The Utah Jazz is legit. They’re by far the best team in the league this year, evidenced by their 25 point stomping of the Lakers (perhaps some bitterness on the part of LeBron).
Donovan Mitchell, Jordan Clarkson (a good pick for the 6th man of the year at this point), Rudy Gobert, and Mike Conley all have a PER of over 18.80. That’s how you get to be the best team in the league.