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NBA Power Rankings Heading into 2017 All-Star Game

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2017

NBA Power Rankings Heading into 2017 All-Star Game

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    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Change is afoot as we head into the unofficial halfway point of the 2016-17 NBA season.

    Even if the absolute top spots in our power rankings aren't shifting, we've got a new entrant into the top five and several shifts in the top 10. Down a bit lower, it's looking like a few protracted slides have all but ended once-promising seasons. (Sorry about that, Charlotte Hornets.)

    A couple of trades have also jostled things, and we'll get more shakeups with any deadline deals coming shortly after the break.

    As always, rankings are based on advanced stats, team record, team-wide trends and health. Recent performance matters most, as the goal is to organize all 30 teams into an order that reflects current potency.

    Before you settle in to enjoy the All-Star festivities, get a handle on this week's power rankings.

30. Brooklyn Nets

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    TFW you play for the Nets
    TFW you play for the NetsMike Stobe/Getty Images

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    Unsurprising update: The Brooklyn Nets did not win a game this week.

    Losers of 14 straight and 25 of their last 26, the Nets have settled into a groove of uninterrupted awfulness. But if you've been checking in on them in this space all year, you already knew that.

    Perhaps unknown to you, though, is Brook Lopez's place in the history books. While falling to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, Lopez blocked eight shots and made six threes. According to Basketball-Reference.com, nobody's ever done that before. In fact, nobody's ever even posted a seven-block, five-triple game.

    The immortal Raef LaFrentz managed to block six shots and hit at least four treys on three different occasions. Because of course he did.

    So there you have it. The Nets are terrible, Lopez is not the reason why, and LaFrentz was a basketball god.

29. Los Angeles Lakers

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    ↓ 2 Spots

    We begin with Nick Young being Nick Young—not because it has much to do with the Los Angeles Lakers losing ground, but because it's fun.

    "I was like young Magic Johnson out there," he said of his massive and out-of-character four assists in the first quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks last Friday. (Johnson is now on board with the franchise as an adviser, which makes the comment topical. And Young has totaled four assists in an entire game just one other time this season, which makes it hilarious.)

    Meanwhile, the Lakers went 1-2 this week and turned in a real stinker during Wednesday's 137-101 loss to the Phoenix Suns, prompting head coach Luke Walton to tell reporters, "When we give in like that and don't play with a certain competitive level, that's not right for anybody that's involved."

    Except it is. By losing to the Suns, L.A. moved closer to finishing with the league's second-worst record, which will only help retain that top-three protected first-rounder.

    Losing is winning sometimes, is what I'm saying here.

28. New York Knicks

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    ↑ 1 Spot

    If you can figure out where the defense that limited the San Antonio Spurs to 36.3 percent shooting on Sunday came from, please report immediately to the New York Knicks' front office with your information.

    You might be greeted there by Latrell Sprewell or Larry Johnson, so, bonus!

    The Knicks' outlier of a 94-90 win helped improve the tone for an otherwise terrible week. And it's worth mentioning New York's D still ranks 25th in the league; Nothing's fixed here.

    Carmelo Anthony will make the All-Star Game after all, with Kevin Love sidelined by knee surgery, though Melo probably could have used the time off.

    "The last thing that I talked to my family about was spending time and taking this break,” he told Scott Cacciola of the New York Times. "Then all of this happened. I don’t want to make it a downer. I’ll enjoy the weekend."

    With the losses mounting, trade speculation a constant and hope hard to find, maybe he'll actually find the circus in New Orleans soothing.

27. Orlando Magic

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    ↓ 1 Spot

    From an asset-management perspective, the Orlando Magic did well to get Terrence Ross and a first-rounder for Serge Ibaka, a sunk cost who was almost certainly going to leave for nothing in free agency. And though Ibaka's offensive contributions were vital to a scoring-challenged squad, you could still argue the on-court product will benefit from his absence.

    Not immediately, but down the line.

    Aaron Gordon should get more time at power forward, which we've harped on as a necessity here all season. And Ross could juice three-point shooting and athleticism in a substandard backcourt.

    Still, without a floor-spacing big knocking down threes at a 38.8 percent clip, we should expect Orlando's offensive rating to slip even further down the ranks. And there's not much more room to fallonly the Philadelphia 76ers' full-season offensive rating is lower.

    The Magic beat the surging Miami Heat this week, but losing one of their best players still results in a one-spot drop.

26. Phoenix Suns

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    We've figured out how to unlock the Suns' dormant offensive attack, how to get the worst passing team in the league to move the ball, how to turn Eric Bledsoe's individual numbers into collective success.

    Just play the Lakers.

    Phoenix posted its best offensive game of the season against L.A. on Wednesday, setting season-highs in points per 100 possessions, true shooting percentage, effective field-goal percentage and assist rate (h/t Positive Residual).

    And Bledsoe's 25 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds actually came during a win, which underscores a surprisingly strange trend: Of Phoenix's 18 wins this season, Bledsoe has scored at least 25 points in only five of them. Put another way, lower scoring totals from Bledsoe have tended to coincide more closely with the Suns' success.

    Winning more often when your "best player" contributes less kind of signals you've identified the wrong guy as your alpha.

    But hey, the Suns went 2-2 this week, and we're not going to dig against their flaws too deeply. (That's what the rest of the season's for.)

25. Charlotte Hornets

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    ↓ 3 Spots

    Things really went south for the Charlotte Hornets on Jan. 23, when they lost to the Washington Wizards by 10 points at home. Charlotte has since gone 1-11 with the fourth-worst net rating in the NBA, and only the Nets (0-13 in that same stretch) have posted a lower winning percentage.

    So when the Hornets blew a 17-point fourth-quarter lead against the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, scoring just 10 points in the entire period, it shouldn't have been surprising.

    This is a squad in total freefall, and the reason for the death spiral was right there in plain sight against the Raps: Charlotte can't score.

    Even during this horrendous run, the Hornets have gotten stops at a roughly league-average rate, ranking 15th in defensive efficiency since the slide began. On the other end, they've ranked 27th in scoring efficiency.

    Cody Zeller's absence is a killer, Kemba Walker's burdens are too heavy, and the decline of virtually every wing on the roster has rendered the Hornets offense punchless.

24. Portland Trail Blazers

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    ↓ 6 Spots

    Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 first-round pick have more value to the Portland Trail Blazers than Mason Plumlee and a second, mainly because Plumlee was headed for restricted free agency. Getting younger and adding an asset made sense for a Blazers team that isn't currently close to contention.

    But the Blazers are going to get worse in the short term because Nurkic doesn't address any of their main weaknesses on defense, and he's nowhere near the facilitator Plumlee was.

    That said, he's going to play plenty. Or at least he should.

    Nurkic came off the bench to score 13 points and grab seven rebounds on 5-of-5 shooting from the field during his Blazers debut against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday. His plus-18 looked pretty good against Meyers Leonard's minus-30 and Ed Davis' minus-36.

    Portland is 1-5 in February, and even if it hurts to hear, moving Plumlee was the right thing to do in what's looking like a lost season.

23. Sacramento Kings

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    ↑ 1 Spot

    "Our fight and our heart is undeniable," DeMarcus Cousins told reporters after the Sacramento Kings climbed out of a 22-point hole to beat the Atlanta Hawks last Friday.

    What's also undeniable is the razor-thin margin for error that will define the rest of Sacramento's season.

    Whether it's Cousins facing suspensions for every two technical fouls incurred or the Kings' penchant for slow starts (which generally precede those furious fight-and-heart-fueled comebacks), this team is living on the brink.

    That's part of the reason Sacramento only gains one spot after a 3-1 stretch. Two of those wins were one-point affairs, and when set alongside the absolute beating Sacramento suffered against the Warriors on Wednesday—a 109-86 result defined by a dominant 22-0 Warriors run—it's hard to put too much faith in the Kings' solid recent record.

22. New Orleans Pelicans

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    ↑ 3 Spots

    Just when you thought it was safe to give up on the New Orleans Pelicans, they go and close out the pre-break schedule with a 3-1 road trip culminating in a victory against the playoff-bound Memphis Grizzlies.

    Solomon Hill showed actual signs of life against Memphis, scoring a season-high 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting, but the Pels' success stemmed mainly from the Anthony Davis-Jrue Holiday pairing.

    In 134 minutes together last week, those two posted a plus-8.9 net rating, which is a hugely encouraging sign considering they're only at plus-0.1 on the season.

    Davis and Holiday have to be dominant in order to offset the roster's lack of depth. And if they can crush opponents like they did this past week, New Orleans will get away with the minus-3.1 net rating (good for 19th in the NBA) its bench produces.

    Also helpful: The Pelicans own the third-best defensive rating in the league since Feb. 10.

21. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Sorry, but I'm never going to stop being delighted by the Sixers finding ways to win.

    Their T.J. McConnell-led defiance is similarly endearing.

    "We don't mean any disrespect, but you're not going to overlook us," McConnell said after the Sixers beat Charlotte on Monday, something Nicolas Batum guaranteed wouldn't happen. "We're not a guaranteed victory for the other team. If you guarantee stuff, you better back it up. We're a damn good team, and we just gotta keep fighting."

    Despite Joel Embiid continuing to sit out with a knee contusion and slightly torn meniscus, the Sixers have won three of their last four games. And though Philadelphia always takes the ultra-cautious approach with its injuries, it was encouraging to hear head coach Brett Brown tell reporters he expects both Embiid and rookie Ben Simmons to play this season.

    It's hard to know what Simmons might bring, but Embiid's contributions are well understood. If he makes it back and looks healthy, Philly could easily win 30-plus games. Still, the possibility of a protracted absence is priced into Philly merely standing pat in the rankings after a solid stretch.

20. Milwaukee Bucks

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    ↑ 3 Spots

    This is going to be an uncomfortable conversation, and Jabari Parker is a wonderful talent whom we should all be rooting for as he recovers from a second torn ACL.

    But it's entirely possible the Milwaukee Bucks get better after the All-Star break without him. And that's got more to do with Khris Middleton finding his form than anything else, even if Parker's suspect defense compromised Milwaukee's integrity on that end.

    Middleton is a proven three-and-D weapon who can operate with or without the ball. In many ways, he makes more sense alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo than Parker did because he can space the floor better and handle smaller, quicker matchups on defense.

    He's still facing minute restrictions, and his rhythm isn't all the way back yet, but Middleton put up 20 points and seven assists in 26 minutes against the Nets on Wednesday, which helped run the Bucks' winning streak to three. With additional victories over the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacerswho are both currently in playoff positionthe Bucks are quietly rebuilding momentum in the postseason chase.

    They'll head into the break just a game back of the No. 8 spot and can only expect Middleton's contributions to increase.

19. Dallas Mavericks

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    You've got to respect the candor.

    "Tough losses the last week or so," Dirk Nowitzki told reporters after the Dallas Mavericks lost to the Pistons on Wednesday. "But it's been overall not really consistent enough to deserve a playoff spot. We got to put a little string of wins together if you want to be able to sneak in, and we haven't caught enough momentum to really get going and make this a race."

    Dallas fell behind by as many as 27 points against Detroit, ultimately losing 98-91 to complete a 1-2 week before the break.

    The Mavs reside three games back of the No. 8 Denver Nuggets in the West, which isn't an insurmountable deficit. But as Nowitzki explained, Dallas' inconsistency and uneven performances against teams it needs to beat (see: losses to Denver and Portland on Feb. 6 and 7) make a run seem unlikely.

18. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    ↑ 2 Spots

    It's Andrew Wiggins Week here on the Minnesota Timberwolves slide, which is only fitting after the 21-year-old wing became just the fourth player to ever post back-to-back games with at least 40 points prior to his 22nd birthday.

    Wiggins put up 41 against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, then added 40 more to help beat the Nuggets the very next night.

    The outburst was really just the culmination of a pre-break scoring surge that saw Wiggins average 32.5 points on 55.6 percent shooting (including 46.2 percent from long distance) over his last six games before All-Star weekend.

    Actually, the real capper was probably this vicious throwdown on Nikola Jokic.

    Minnesota managed a 2-2 record this past week, and it hits the midseason hiatus with a better net rating than the playoff-bound Thunder, Pistons and Nuggets. That doesn't mean a late-season run is imminent, but it suggests the Wolves have the star power and underlying numbers to make things interesting.

17. Chicago Bulls

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    ↓ 2 Spots

    The Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson is among the league's most reliable beat writers, but he might be getting a little obsessed with the number 15.

    After all, he noted on Feb. 11 that the Chicago Bulls had gone 15 straight games with single-digit three-point makes. And then he relayed how Jimmy Butler made 15 free throws for the fourth time this season on Feb. 14, something only Michael Jordan has ever done in Bulls history.

    (How he managed to miss the fact that Chicago lost three straight games last week by at least 15 points for the first time since 2009 is beyond me.)

    Numerology aside, Chicago has been in a tough spot lately. Wins over the Raptors and Celtics stopped the three-game skid, but this is still a team heading into the break with injury concerns surrounding Dwyane Wade and no clear point guard.

16. Detroit Pistons

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    ↑ 3 Spots

    The Detroit Pistons aren't really great at anything, ranking 23rd in offense and 11th in defense on the season. But they've managed to win six of their nine games in February anyway.

    Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stroking late-game treys has helped. He nailed one such dagger with 13.2 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to help beat the Raptors on Sunday. And bolting ahead of the Mavs by as many as 27 points on Wednesday will send Detroit into the break on a high note—even if Dallas made a game of it in the second half.

    "You just put it in the win column, go to our break, relax a little bit and move on," head coach Stan Van Gundy told Rod Beard of the Detroit News. "I’m not going to sit up here and give a lot of negative stuff and I’m also not going to make excuses—it was a bad (second) half."

    Amid reports from ESPN.com's Zach Lowe that both Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson are available in trades, the version of the Pistons that returns after a week off could look very different.

    Of course, with Drummond and Jackson producing a minus-7.1 net rating when sharing the court, maybe change will be a good thing.

15. Denver Nuggets

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    "I’ve played with some great big men," Jameer Nelson told Matt Moore of CBSSports.com. "Dwight. Dirk. I’ve never played with a big quite like (Nikola Jokic)."

    That's big praise, but in a week where Jokic posted a line of 17 points, 21 rebounds and 12 assists in leading his Nuggets to a 132-110 win over the Warriors, it's hard to disagree with the idea that Denver's center is something special.

    The Nuggets also tied an NBA record by hitting 24 triples against Golden State, and it feels fair to say they wouldn't have generated so many clean looks without their big man whipping the ball around the floor.

    Oh, and Jokic also scored 40 points to beat the Knicks last Friday. He's not just a passer, folks.

    If alternating wins and losses counts as consistency, the Nuggets are rock steady over their last nine games. Still, crushing the Warriors—no matter how disinterested the league-leading Dubs seemed—is enough for a move up the rankings.

    If head coach Mike Malone persists in starting Mason Plumlee alongside Jokic, killing spacing and cramping Jokic's style, expect punitive treatment next week.

14. Indiana Pacers

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    ↓ 3 Spots

    Thaddeus Young isn't a superstar, but he's been irreplaceable on the Indiana Pacers roster—which is why the time he's spent sitting out to nurse a sore wrist has coincided directly with a 2-6 stretch. Thanks to their ugly skid, which has all but undone the gains from a seven-game winning streak from Jan. 26 to Feb. 6, the Pacers take a tumble for now.

    But to be fair, the Pacers have hit a rough patch in the schedule: Their current six-game slide includes two losses to Cleveland, two to Washington and one to San Antonio. There aren't many teams capable of making it through that slate unscathed, even at full strength.

    Indy hits the break as the No. 6 seed in the East, and considering the fifth-seeded Hawks have gotten by with some good fortune in close games, it's possible we'll see the Pacers climb another spot or two eventually.

    Young will have to get healthy, and Jeff Teague must continue his quietly excellent season, but there's hope here for another move up the standings.

13. Miami Heat

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    ↑ 1 Spot

    I'm not going to let a little two-game losing streak shake the faith created by a 13-game run—especially not after the Miami Heat corrected their short slip-up with an inspiring win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.

    There are real reasons to believe Miami is a legitimate playoff threat, not the least of which being its stellar defense. Since Jan. 17, the Heat are 14-2 and own the third-best defensive rating in the NBA.

    On the year, Miami has defended better than all but five teams.

    So even if Dion Waiters cools off and Goran Dragic stops shooting over 50 percent from three (two main drivers of success in Miami's run), the Heat will still have that stopping power to rely on. Perhaps even more encouraging, it doesn't seem like Hassan Whiteside's petulance is going to derail this group.

    Because even when he's gotten a little chippy with his head coach, the production hasn't waned.

    "[Spoelstra] just took me out because the guy got a rebound," Whiteside told reporters Monday night. "It went over my head. It happens, man. I lead the league in rebounds the last time I checked. So I know how to rebound. It just went over my head. We talked about it and I came back in and I led both teams in rebounds."

    Whiteside indeed finished with 19 boards in that game, then snatched 14 more during Miami's win against Houston.

12. Atlanta Hawks

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    ↓ 2 Spots

    When you're somehow maintaining playoff position despite owning the league's No. 26 offense, wasting even a single possession is a problem.

    Allowing the Los Angeles Clippers to snatch 18 steals, then, was an unmitigated disaster.

    Atlanta stumbled into the break with a 99-84 loss marked by those 18 live-ball giveaways, the franchise's highest total since the 1999-2000 season. Paul Millsap will apparently be around through the trade deadline, and Dennis Schroder is averaging 17.0 points and 5.5 assists in February, so there are reasons to be optimistic about Atlanta's chances.

    But there should also be some concern about sustained scoring.

    If the Hawks can't find ways to generate reliable offense and their late-game luck (note the 32-24 record despite a minus-0.4 net rating) runs out, a decline could be in the offing.

11. Toronto Raptors

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    ↑ 1 Spot

    Here's hoping Serge Ibaka is everything the Raptors need him to be.

    Sitting at 3-5 in February, Toronto is a team with serious issues. And let's not forget that modest mark includes single-digit wins over Brooklyn and Charlotte, both of which are effectively performing at D-League levels these days.

    In theory, Ibaka shores up the Raptors defense and stretches the floor with his 38.8 percent accuracy rate from deep. In practice, it's hard to know how he'll perform in a new setting and under significant pressure to succeed. Remember, even though it's possible the Raps will make Ibaka part of their future with a new deal this summer, the team's window is only open as long as Kyle Lowry is a star.

    That means Ibaka needs to make an impact immediately. Otherwise, the worries Lowry has voiced lately will only grow.

    "Keep getting in the same situations over and over and not being successful, something's got to give. Something's got to change," Lowry told reporters after the Raptors blew a lead to the Pistons on Sunday. "I'm starting to get worried, yeah. It's not going the way it was supposed to be going."

    Stay tuned: Toronto might get interesting down the stretch—for better or worse.

10. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    ↓ 1 Spot

    Russell Westbrook hit the Knicks for 38 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists on Wednesday, giving him 27 triple-doubles on the season, a total that already ranks third-highest in league history. He needs 14 more during his final 25 games to tie Oscar Robertson for the single-season record, which is a big ask.

    As a consolation, he only needs five more to surpass Wilt Chamberlain's second-place total of 31. That shouldn't be a problem.

    OKC is 21-6 in Russ' triple-double games this season, but just 11-19 when he's fallen short. Perhaps it's not a coincidence, then, that the Thunder's only victory this past week came against New York.

    Both the Warriors and Wizards smashed the Thunder, helping clarify any remaining doubt that Westbrook's team is only a second-tier outfit this season.

9. Memphis Grizzlies

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    ↓ 1 Spot

    The Grizzlies have struggled to find a rhythm of late, and their 1-2 record this past week was reflective of a broader inconsistency—one whose source has been tough to isolate.

    Chris Herrington of the Memphis Commercial Appeal may have cracked the case, though. It turns out the Girzzlies should just stop resting Marc Gasol:

    Maybe Marc Gasol really is an indestructible basketball cyborg who should never rest. (Note: He’s had significant injuries in two of the past four seasons; this is not true.)

    Gasol took a rest game the Saturday before last in Minnesota. In the 10 games before that, he’d averaged 28 points a game on 55/45 shooting. In the three games since getting a breather, Gasol has averaged 17 points on 38/22 shooting. 

    Gasol snapped out of his theoretically rest-driven funk by averaging 17 points, 10.5 rebounds and 8.5 assists during his next two games, which Memphis split with the Nets and Pelicans. So maybe there's no clear cause after all.

    The Memphis Grizzlies: The NBA's great ongoing mystery.

8. Los Angeles Clippers

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    ↑ 5 Spots

    Is it possible surgeries make Blake Griffin stronger?

    This is something we need to consider, as it's otherwise tough to explain how he's keeping the Los Angeles Clippers afloat without Chris Paul.

    Griffin averaged 24.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists on 50 percent shooting from the field (and from three-point range!) during his final five games before the break. For his efforts, he was named the Western Conference Player of the Week.

    Well deserved, as L.A. went 4-1 while also leading the league in defensive rating since we last ranked.

    Oh, and remember those 18 steals against Atlanta? That total gave the Clips the highest single-game steal rate this season.

    The ceiling still depends on CP3's return, but the floor is looking pretty stable with Griffin in charge.

7. Utah Jazz

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    ↓ 3 Spots

    Why must you do this to our trust, Jazz?

    Why must your offense occasionally resemble the kind one expects to see at a fourth-grade CYO tournament?

    Why must Trey Lyles and Boris Diaw continue sowing doubts about their abilities to stay on the floor come playoff time?

    Why must you drop three in a row after climbing all the way up to No. 4 in our power rankings, forcing us, yet again, to restrain the enthusiasm we so desperately want to turn loose?

    And why must you insist we not panic about any of this?

    "A lot of us are still going through the process of being a playoff team," Jazz forward Gordon Hayward told reporters after a brutal 88-72 loss to the Clippers on Monday. "The veterans have told us what to expect after the break. The teams that are making a playoff run start gearing up, and the teams that aren't start falling off a bit." 

    And finally, why must you rekindle our belief with dominant wins like Wednesday's 111-88 thrashing of the Blazers?

    You're difficult to love, Jazz. But we love you anyway.

6. Houston Rockets

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    ↑ 1 Spot

    "We have great chemistry in the locker room and we have enough to win," Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni said, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. "I'm sure Daryl will be diligent as every general manager has to answer the phones and talk. That's their job. But I'm real happy with our group. We have a good group of guys. It's been fun, really a lot of fun to coach them."

    You can never be sure, but it sounds like this is the Rockets team we'll see for the stretch run. And D'Antoni has every reason to be satisfied with that.

    Houston won four of its last five games ahead of the break, seems locked into the West's No. 3 seed with a 40-18 mark and owns the league's second-best offensive rating after posting a ridiculous 120.5 points per 100 possessions this past week.

    James Harden is averaging 35 points, 10 assists and 9.4 rebounds over his last five games.

    So, yeah, the Rockets are in good shape.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    ↑ 1 Spot

    We may someday reach a point when LeBron James is playing three different positions at once, flying the Cavaliers' charter plane and preparing diet-specific meals for every player on the roster (Kyle Korver probably doesn't do gluten). And maybe then when the Cavs ask him to do more, he won't be able to.

    But we're not there yet.

    So even with Kevin Love out six weeks following knee surgery and the demands mounting, James isn't close to overwhelmed.

    "I'll rest when I retire," James told reporters. "As long as I'm in the lineup, we've got a chance."

    #FactsOnly: Cleveland went 3-0 this week while scoring 123 points per 100 possessions.

    Sure, Toronto adding Ibaka matters, and yes, the Celtics and Wizards are rising. But with James showing verve like he did this past week—averaging 25.3 points, 9.3 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game while whipping the pass of the year through Andrew Wiggins' legs to find a cutting Derrick Williams—it's hard to get too concerned.

    The mounting minute totals matter, but a breakdown doesn't seem imminent.

4. Boston Celtics

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    ↑ 1 Spot

    Isaiah Thomas is setting records all over the place, but doing things like breaking John Havlicek's franchise record for consecutive 20-point games doesn't seem to have distracted him from bigger agendas.

    "We're always looking forward, and that's the team ahead of us," Isaiah Thomas told reporters after Boston beat the Mavs Monday. "So my sights are definitely on Cleveland."

    Winners in four of their last five outings (and 11 of 12), Thomas and the Celtics are overcoming everything from Avery Bradley's lingering Achilles-related absence to the pitfalls of a tough schedule. According to Boston play-by-play man Sean Grande, NBA teams win 36 percent of their back-to-back road games, but the Celtics have won five straight and 72 percent overall.

    This seems to be a team on a mission—one that still stands to improve once it gets fully healthy.

3. Washington Wizards

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    ←→ No Movement

    At first, it seemed like the Wizards weren't going to hold this spot down for long. But here we are three weeks later, and they're still here.

    Owners of the best mark in the East since Jan. 1, the Wizards are also tied with the Cavs and Warriors for the league lead in home wins (24).

    And even if we've all long since moved on from points per game as the most useful metric for scoring potency, you've got to appreciate the following stat provided by Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic: "The Wizards have scored 100+ points for the 21st straight game. Only 10 other teams this century (2000-present) have accomplished that feat."

    Make it 22 straight after the Wizards cracked the century mark against Indiana on Thursday.

    Boston is right there, but Washington just refuses to slip.

2. San Antonio Spurs

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    Monday's win over the Pacers assured the Spurs of a winning record, which is partly impressive because it came in mid-February. But the truly remarkable aspect is this: San Antonio has done this for 20 straight seasons.

    Nobody's ever done that before.

    Pau Gasol will be back from a broken finger just after the All-Star break, and he'll rejoin a club that has hardly missed a beat without him. San Antonio is 10-4 since Gasol went down.

    If there's anything to be disappointed about with this team (and you've got to look really hard), maybe it's Kawhi Leonard breaking his streak of four consecutive games with at least 30 points—a run that ended mainly because the Spurs were beating the Magic so badly on Wednesday that Leonard only had to play 27 minutes.

    Let's not overlook the details, though. Leonard is only the 10th player in the last quarter-century to get at least 30 points in four straight road games.

    San Antonio stays steamrollin'.

1. Golden State Warriors

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    ←→ No Movement

    The Warriors laid that egg in Denver, but reaffirmed they still had their quick-trigger, tidal-wave dominance by destroying the Kings with a 22-0 run during a five-minute span in the third quarter of Wednesday's 109-86 walkover win.

    Times have been a little tougher lately with David West and Zaza Pachulia still sidelined, but fans have gotten longer looks at JaVale McGee, which is always exciting. He can't be consistently trusted on defense, but the vertical element he adds to the Dubs' offense as a roll-man and throw-it-anywhere lob finisher is undeniable. He averaged 9.8 points and 6 rebounds in his last five games before the break.

    Oh, and Draymond Green had maybe his most Draymond Green week ever, becoming the first player in NBA history to record a triple-double without scoring 10 points and then getting tossed just before halftime of the Kings win for demonstratively shouting at the officials.

    Very on-brand.

    The Warriors have the top record, net rating and offense in the league. But they've fallen to No. 2 in defense.

    Slackers.

     

    Follow Grant on Twitter @gt_hughes and Facebook.

    Stats courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated and are accurate through games played Thursday, Feb. 16.

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