Most teams played just two times in Week 18 due to the All-Star break and trade deadline, but there was still a lot of movement and there’s plenty to talk about. For NBA news and fantasy advice, find me on Twitter here!
1.) Warriors (49-9) Previous rank: 1
The Warriors have won three straight games including wins over the Clippers and Nets in Week 18. The Warriors were trailing to the Clippers at the half, but scored 50 points in the third quarter which has happened only 11 times in NBA history. The Warriors stood pat at the trade deadline, but they are expected to add Jose Calderon once the Lakers buy out his contract. They are the first team to already qualify for the playoffs and they look like the heavy favorites to bring the title back to Golden State.
2.) Spurs (45-13) Previous rank: 2
The Spurs are on a four-game winning streak and beat the Clippers and Lakers in Week 18 by a combined 29 points. Kawhi Leonard is the only player in the NBA averaging 20 points, five rebounds and two steals per game over the past three seasons, and once he scores 30+ points again, he will become just the fourth spur to ever have 20 games with 30 or more points in a single season (h/t ESPN).
3.) Rockets (42-18) Previous rank: 4
The Rockets won both of their games in Week 18 against the Pelicans and Wolves, and they scored a season-high 142 points vs. the Wolves. Coach Mike D’Antoni said that he wants the Rockets to shoot 50+ 3-pointers a game going forward, and they were able to do that against both the Pelicans (51 treys) and Wolves (58 treys). They acquired Lou Williams from the Lakers in exchange for a first-round pick and he has hit the ground running, averaging 22.0 points, 4.5 3-pointers, 3.0 assists and 1.5 steals in his first two games. The Rockets now have the two best bench scorers in the NBA this season in Williams and Gordon.
4.) Cavaliers (40-17) Previous rank: 3
The Cavs took care of business against the Knicks behind a triple-double by LeBron James with 18 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds, but he missed their game against the Bulls with an illness and the Cavs lost by 18 points. Still, there’s a lot of reason for optimism in Cleveland as they have acquired Deron Williams after he was bought out by the Mavs, and they are also expected to add a backup center in either Andrew Bogut or Larry Sanders.
5.) Jazz (37-22) Previous rank: 7
The Jazz “quietly” shopped Derrick Favors at the deadline, but they decided to hang onto their core and look like a legitimate top-4 team out West. Favors has looked a little better after the break with averages of 14.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks, so they probably made the right call by not selling low. They picked up two impressive road wins over the Bucks and Wizards in Week 18, and the important thing is that they are finally healthy. With the third ranked defense in the NBA, no one should be excited if they draw Utah in the postseason.
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6.) Raptors (35-24) Previous rank: 8
The Raptors have turned things around with four straight wins including two over the Celtics and Blazers in Week 18. New acquisitions Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker are fitting in seamlessly, but their only concern right now is the health of Kyle Lowry’s wrist. Tests came back clean and the swelling is down, so it sounds like he could be back soon. DeMar DeRozan will keep them afloat and he scored a career-high 43 points against Boston, joining Vince Carter as the only other Raptor with multiple games of at least 40 points, 5+ rebounds and 5+ assists (h/t @Statsmuse).
7.) Celtics (38-21) Previous rank: 5
The Celtics started their week with a loss to the Raptors, but bounced back with a win over the Pistons. The Celtics targeted Jimmy Butler and Paul George at the deadline and were willing to give up at least two of their first-round picks (via Brooklyn), but GM Danny Ainge stood pat yet again to the dismay of Boston fans. While the Cavaliers and Raptors both took that next step, the Celtics missed out on a golden opportunity to close the gap at the top.
8.) Wizards (34-23) Previous rank: 6
The Wizards lost both of their games in Week 18 to the 76ers and Jazz, but they made an important move at the deadline by acquiring Bojan Bogdanovic to improve their second unit — the Wizards’ bench is ranked 29th in points per game. They are likely one or two pieces away from challenging the Cavaliers, but I could see them advancing to the conference semi-finals and they have one of the most exciting young trios in the NBA in John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter. Speaking of Beal, he became the first Wizards player with four 40-point games in a season since Gilbert Arenas a decade ago (h/t @Statsmuse).
9.) Thunder (34-25) Previous rank: 11
The Thunder won both of their games against the Lakers and Pelicans in Week 18, and not only did they acquire Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott at the deadline, they also got Enes Kanter back from his arm injury a couple weeks early. Russell Westbrook now has 29 triple-doubles on the season and he dropped 21 points in the fourth quarter of their win over the Pelicans (the most he’s scored in the 4th quarter in his career). He also became the third player in the last 40 years to score 17+ points with 17+ rebounds and 17+ assists in a game, joining Magic Johnson and Rajon Rondo.
10.) Clippers (36-23) Previous rank: 10
The Clippers lost their first two games of the week against arguably the two top teams in the Warriors and Spurs, but picked up an overtime win over the Hornets on Sunday. The Clippers had a quiet trade deadline, but Chris Paul (thumb) beat his timetable by a couple weeks and and the Clippers should be able to rise up the rankings now.
11.) Grizzlies (35-25) Previous rank: 9
The Grizzlies split a pair of games in Week 18, beating the Nuggets and losing to the Pacers. Mike Conley had his sixth 30+ point game of the season on Sunday, an impressive feat considering he had five such games in his first nine NBA seasons combined (h/t Grizzlies PR).
12.) Heat (27-32) Previous rank: 16
The Heat have won 16 out of their last 18 games and have completely ruined Pat Riley’s plan to tank away the season. They picked up two wins over the Hawks and Pacers in Week 18, and they have scored 100+ points a franchise-high 16 straight times.
13.) Bulls (30-29) Previous rank: 17
The Bulls have won four straight games including wins over the Suns and Cavaliers in Week 18. They tried to take their first step towards a rebuild by trading away the expiring contract of Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott for Cameron Payne and Joffrey Lauvergne, but you can’t tank with a guy like Jimmy Butler on the roster. Butler recorded his first triple-double of the season against the Cavs with an 18-10-10 line, and the trade rumors surrounding him have been quieted at least until the NBA Draft comes around.
14.) Hawks (32-26) Previous rank: 12
The Hawks are losers of three straight games including defeats to the Heat and Magic in Week 18. The Hawks took a risk by not dealing Paul Millsap at the deadline as he can walk as a free agent this summer just like Al Horford did, but they did upgrade their second unit for a playoff push by adding Ersan Ilyasova to the mix.
15.) Pistons (28-31) Previous rank: 14
The Pistons were able to beat the struggling Hornets to start their week, but then dropped a game to the Celtics by six points. Reggie Jackson is shooting 37.9 percent from the field in February and the Pistons couldn’t get anything in return for him at the deadline, but impending restricted free agent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is going to be a wealthy man this summer. KCP had 33 points, nine rebounds, three assists and seven triples in the win over the Hornets, becoming the second Detroit player since 1985 to have 7+ triples and 7+ rebounds in the same game, joining Rasheed Wallace (h/t @Statsmuse).