NBA Power Rankings: Free-falling Raptors need an upgrade, and there's a new No. 1

You have to keep perspective at this point in the NBA season. For some reason, if you have a losing streak in November, that's not a big deal. Yet if you have a losing streak in January, it's the end of the world. The Raptors are in a free fall and the panic is high, but if you look at their losses, most of them are explainable and acceptable. They just happened to bunch up together.

That's not to say that the Raptors are, or will be, totally fine; they desperately need to pull the trigger on a trade for an upgrade at power forward. But the Raptors haven't totally forgotten how to be a good team in a matter of days.



Meanwhile, the Pacers, Heat and Mavericks, are on long winning streaks. And while their play is indicative of what they can do when they're at their best, the ability to play at that level consistently is what teams struggle to develop.

So yes, Cleveland, Toronto and Minnesota are on a slide and Miami, Dallas and Indiana are on a roll. But the big picture still matters.

That's why the Wizards' run seems important. It's not 10 games, it's their last 30 games. It's not a good stretch of games, but a revelation of what kind of team they really are. Unless they go in the tank again. That's the point. You have to wait until the end of the season to really know if a stretch is meaningful or not.

Here are this week's power rankings.

BIGGEST MOVERS
10 HEAT
5 RAPTORS
RK
TEAMS
 
CHG
RCRD
1 SpursSan Antonio doesn't own the No. 1 spot, but they've invested in a time share here for years so they pretty much have the run of the place. They have a key to the sauna room, they get valet comped, they get a special table and the best local restaurants. But they're not locals anymore.139-11
2 WarriorsHey, look, you lose to the Kings, you drop a spot. I don't make the rules. Granted, it took the worst game from Kevin Durant since he was unable to purchase beer legally, but it happened.143-8
3 WizardsSome teams are on winning streaks because of the schedule and a series of random outliers happening at once. The Wizards are on this insane streak because they are legitimately playing that well. They are 20-6 since December 15. Maybe, just maybe, Scott Brooks who took the Thunder to three conference finals is a good coach? Maybe? We ready to let go of bad narratives about him yet?--30-20
4 CelticsIsaiah Thomas continues to be a one-man rainstorm. Boston picked up big wins through a tough part of its schedule and now it gets softer until late in the year. The Celtics have a legit chance to build a buffer between them and the pack for the 2-seed, which would be a big accomplishment.--33-18
5 CavaliersThe Cavs have stabilized. They still need that backup guard LeBron keeps talking about, but the free fall has stopped. However, they have three road games vs. playoff teams this week, so expect another CW drama moment from the King and Co. Hey, you have to keep yourselves entertained through the winter in the NBA somehow.--34-15
6 HeatLook, 10 in a row with wins over the Hawks, Bulls, Rockets and Warriors? How much more power would they need to justify this ranking? Just a terrific job by Erik Spoelstra to find answers to problem in-season, and by Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters and Hassan Whiteside to step up so that this team can completely destroy its chance at a franchise-changing draft pick. They are a lot of fun to watch, though.1021-30
7 GrizzliesJaMychal Green needs to start getting more attention. Zach Randolph fouled out against the Wolves and there was a sense the Grizzlies could cough up the lead with Karl-Anthony Towns beasting on Saturday. Instead, Green went in and beat him on five possessions, beating him for rebounds, off the dribble, everything. He's now shooting 38 percent from 3 and is a great defender. This guy's going to get paid.131-22
8 JazzUtah's just really solid overall and has a bunch of ways to beat you. It should be noted, though, that the Jazz's offensive numbers skew toward things that can be stopped in a playoff series (transition points, cuts, etc.) They're good in the pick and roll, but bad at spot-up shooting. If anything sinks their playoff run, it's going to be their offense, which is still very good.132-19
9 RocketsThe Rockets' 3-point shooting is becoming concerning. They shot 33 percent from deep in January, and are down to just 31 percent in February so far. Sure, their schedule has been downright nasty, which has sapped their legs, but if they don't rediscover their shooting stroke collectively, their offense just won't be able to blister teams the way they could in December. They have to relocate their range.237-17
10 HawksDennis Schröder's game is nails on a chalkboard to me, but the rest of this squad plays Mike Budenholzer's disciplined brand of basketball. Tim Hardaway Jr. deserves credit for washing the Knicks stink off him to become a productive player.430-21
11 PacersThe Pacers have had a great run. They have proven they're capable of being a really good team. I hope that's enough because their schedule from now until March 6 is a flaming death gauntlet born from the nightmares of demons. They play the Wizards twice, the Spurs twice and the Cavs. The weakest team they face is Miami, which has won 10 straight. They are about to plummet down the standings.428-22
12 MavericksYogi Ferrell going all Linsanity has been awesome fun. It'll be interesting to see how long it takes before the scouting report on him gets around. The Blazers, who constantly went under the screen on him as he went for 32 points, clearly had not read one.1020-30
13 ThunderOKC is 29th in jump shot points per possession, league-wide via Synergy Sports. The Thunder's offense is just not good enough if they face any playoff team with muscle. It's tough because they like the trajectory of their young guys, but the only way they can get an offensive upgrade is by trading one of them. It's a tough spot.230-22
14 Clippers"Hey, maybe we should sacrifice all of our depth for a ball-dominant, high-usage star who doesn't defend," is an idea being floated, which shows you how bleak their prospects are with what is still a very talented core. Imagine if this team was in the East. How good would they feel about their situation?231-20
15 RaptorsThe city of Toronto should be trying to drop subliminal messages of "Go get a power forward" all over the city in Masai Ujiri's path. It should be on his dry cleaning tag, on billboards, skywriting, everywhere. The Raptors need an upgrade or they are going home early in May.531-21
16 BullsWell, their chemistry is rotten, they seem to have very little backing for their coach, their offense can be downright horrible at times, so of course their record is ... one game under .500? In the seventh spot? Wait, why is this team freaking out? You don't have to get along, you just have to get through this season. Everyone needs to have a Coke and a smile and chill out.425-26
17 NuggetsThe Nuggets have the talent to pull it off from time to time, but they need so much to go right nightly for them to get a win because their defense is ground beef left in a hot car overnight. If they're going to make the playoffs they have to find a more sustainable formula through adjustments or trade.422-28
18 Trail BlazersMaking the playoffs is fine. It's easily better than not making it. But at this point, this season is a dramatic step back, barring a trade that reconfigures the whole setup. It's looking more and more like these Blazers will be a cautionary tale of the dangers of unexpected success in a rebuilding season.422-30
19 KingsOf course they lost to the Suns and then beat the Warriors on a back to back. Of course. Why wouldn't they? They're the Kings. So very Kings.420-31
20 PistonsThe Pistons appeared to have a plan. This season is what happens when that plan gets its foundation uprooted. So the question now is do you tweak the plan or clear the drawing board?123-28
21 76ersTwo things happened simultaneously: Joel Embiid missed time with an injury, and the Sixers fell back to Earth. They're a better team, which is more than enough for this season, but they have a long way to go to be good. Time, thankfully, is on their side.418-32
22 KnicksCarmelo Anthony seems to be getting worn out on the drama. It's basically a game of chicken between Melo and Phil Jackson with Knicks fans caught in the crossfire.422-30
23 BucksThey went from two games over .500 to seven games under in 20 days. Their defense just got caught in a sinkhole and fell into the earth. There's time for them to pull out of it, but has to start now, when they have one opponent over .500 between now and the All-Star break.122-28
24 MagicIf the Magic could just play the Raptors every game, they'd be the 5th seed. (Note: They do not play the Raptors every game.)320-33
25 HornetsThe Hornets are going to have to find some sliver of good fortune, because everything turned against them in a hurry. The East isn't running away from them, but they've lost seven in a row, and have won a total of four games since January 1.423-28
26 PelicansWatching the Pelicans is like watching someone try and turn over a car whose battery died. And they're just willing it to start, and it keeps not clicking and the frustration is real.--19-32
27 SunsI've come to enjoy the annual "the Suns really like their pieces!" interviews before the deadline. They're 16-35. Probably shouldn't like them that much.116-35
28 TimberwolvesThe metrics kind of tell you they're not that bad. They're 13th in offense and only 24th in net points per 100 possessions. But they are 6-18 vs. teams over .500, and 13-14 vs. teams under .500. They lose to bad teams, and lose even more to good teams. The Zach LaVine injury is just brutal. He wasn't their best player this season, but he was having the best season of any guy on the team.319-32
29 LakersTheir November was some kind of sugar to make the medicine of the next four months go down. The Lakers are bad in so many areas: defense, turnovers, assist ratio, shooting even. They're 23rd in effective field-goal percentage. So at least they are incredibly versatile in the way in which they are terrible.117-36
30 NetsIt took until February 5, which is later than most years for the worst team in the league, but I've officially run out of things to say about the Nets. I'm out. They're bad. Check back later for more info.19-42

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