The Jump Ball’s January Power Rankings

We are getting to the good stuff now in the NBA, a few teams this month have chances to make themselves into playoff contenders or play themselves out.

1. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.45.32 AM Golden State Warriors The Warriors finished the month with 13 wins even with Stephen Curry out but it was very clear how vastly different the offense looks with him on the court versus him off.
2. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.47.27 AM   Toronto Raptors The Raptors rode an easy December schedule to 11 wins playing 12 out of their 14 games against teams with a losing schedule. The Raptors are seeing the payoff of tweaks to their offense, read Nekias Duncan’s piece for more.
3. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.45.37 AM  Houston Rockets The Rockets have stumbled a bit at the end of the month and now it appears James Harden will be out at least 2 weeks with a hamstring injury will make things tougher on the Rockets. One thing that should not go unnoticed is the play of Clint Capela, who was out for four of five games they lost at the end of the month.
4. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.45.09 AM Cleveland Cavaliers Cleveland has had a bit of a letdown after losing to the Warriors on Christmas day, losing three straight to the Kings and Jazz. The big news will be the return of Isaiah Thomas who could really help boost the Cavs offense but they’ll have to figure out how to defend him on the court.
5. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.44.42 AM   Boston Celtics After the amazing 16 game winning streak the Celtics have begun to come back to earth, the most interesting thing to pay attention to is their drop in their rebounding numbers in the month of December to 41 boards a night.
6. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.47.21 AM          San Antonio Spurs As always the Spurs just continue to roll, winners of 11 games in December. They are working Kawhi Leonard into the lineup and have the luxury to take it slowly. The biggest thing to watch for is how LaMarcus Aldridge plays once Kawhi is back in the swing of things, he was a key player in keeping the Spurs afloat while he was out.
7. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.46.23 AM Minnesota Timberwolves Thibs has the Wolves on pace to finally end the playoff drought but at what cost. The starters are averaging over 30 minutes a game and Jeff Teague is already out with injury putting more of a strain on Butler, Towns, and Wiggins.
8. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.46.45 AM Oklahoma City Thunder One of the biggest questions of the season is whether the Thunder was going to be able to put it all together? Well after a rocky start it seems they are beginning to figure out the offensive end. Before December the Thunder had an offensive rating 102.6 and then in the last month, their rating went up to 107.2.
9. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.46.16 AM Milwaukee Bucks Just a half game out of the fourth seed in the East, the Bucks should have homecourt for the playoffs as a goal of theirs. It is the perfect progression after pushing the Raptors in the first round last year. A lot of focus has been on the odd coaching decisions at the end of close games from Jason Kidd but he has gotten the Bucks 14 wins in close games out of 23 chances.
10. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.45.26 AM   Detroit Pistons It looked as if the Pistons were getting their groove back when they won five of their last six games but then Reggie Jackson went down with a grade three ankle sprain. With him and Avery Bradley out the Pistons are going to be in a tough spot to keep the good times going.
11. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.47.38 AM Washington Wizards Washington are the most enigmatic team in the NBA, they come up with a nice win on Christmas day on the road against Boston and follow it up with a loss to the Hawks. Bradley Beal has been great so far this season and now that they are healthy they are poised to make a run.
12. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.45.43 AM Indiana Pacers The Pacers have hit their first skid of the season, losing 7 of their last 10 games and now have lost Victor Oladipo for a few games with a sore right knee just adds to their struggles. If their slide continues the Pacers could find themselves on the wrong side of the playoff race.
13. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.45.20 AM Denver Nuggets Trey Lyles has been great for the Nuggets this past month averaging 14.7 points and knocking down 48.5% of his threes while attempting 4.4 a game. After a road-heavy December, the Nuggets will be home where they are 12-4, for 10 of their next 15 games.
14. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.46.29 AM   New Orleans Pelicans Not many were expecting the Pelicans to still be in the playoff race at this point of the season. They have been playing .500 basketball despite giving up 14 fast break points a night. If they find a way to improve their transition defense they can find themselves safely in the playoffs.
15. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.46.11 AM Miami Heat The Heat have the worst plus/minus of any team in the top eight in the East at -1.8, this doesn’t bode well for their playoff wishes with both the Knicks and Sixers making a run for the playoffs as well.
16. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.47.09 AM Portland Trail Blazers The Blazers flipped the script from last season and area top four defensive teams based on defensive rating (102.4) but have struggled on offense. If they can find a way to get their mojo back on that end of the floor they could make a run for the fourth seed in the West but they’ll have to get more than three guys averaging double digits in scoring.
17. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.46.35 AM    New York Knicks No one was expecting the Knicks to be in the midst of the playoff race, they are sitting a game out as of now and have been without Tim Hardaway Junior who was averaging 17.8 games. Frank Ntilikina is coming along slowly for them and is beginning to earn Coach Hornacek’s trust.
18. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.47.34 AM    Utah Jazz Donovan Mitchell has set the NBA on fire in the month of December, he’s averaging 23.1 points, shooting 50.7% from the field. His performance down the stretch in their win against the Cavs show his ability to be a lead a team to close out games.
19. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.45.52 AM        Los Angeles Clippers Getting Blake Griffin at the end of the month was huge for the Clippers. Especially with the most important stretch of the season coming up. They will play nine games against teams that are all ahead of them in the playoff race, now is the time to make up ground and get right back in the playoff race, if they don’t the February 8th trade deadline will loom large for the Clips.
20. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.46.57 AM Philadelphia 76ers The Sixers finished the month with two big road wins in Denver and Phoenix, the most interesting was the way Ben Simmons took over for the Sixers down the stretch of the Phoenix game. Something that has gone a bit unnoticed is the play of Dario Saric who is averaging 17.4 ppg in December up from 13.6 and hitting 38.8% from three up from his normal 36.6%
21. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.45.01 AM  Chicago Bulls No team has had as big a turnaround this season as the Bulls have had, after starting 3-17, they have gone 10-6 since. Nikola Mirotic is leading the way with a great December averaging 18.3 points and shooting 47% from three. In addition to that rookie Lauri Markkanen is turning heads and Kris Dunn is showing massive improvements.
22. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.44.56 AM Charlotte Hornets December has been rough on the Hornets, it started with Steve Clifford taking a leave of absence due to health issues. They did get a nice win against the Warriors behind a monster 29 point, 13 rebound, and 7 assist performance from Dwight Howard near the end of the month.
23. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.47.14 AM Sacramento Kings Zach Randolph turned the dial back a few years in the month of December averaging 18.1 points a game which is great in the short term for the Kings but every minute he gets on the court comes at the cost of a young player not getting development minutes.
24. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.47.02 AM Phoenix Suns Devin Booker is a scoring wizard, averaging 30 points since he returned from injury but the truth is if the Suns are going to build anything they must improve on their terrible defensive rating, that starts with Booker who is being molded into the team leader.
25. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.44.48 AM Brooklyn Nets The Nets are a fun watch with Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson doing a good job filling in for the injured D’Angelo Russell. They are another one of those teams that play hard on a nightly basis and can catch a team or two sleeping.
26. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.44.34 AM Atlanta Hawks The Hawks end the month of December pretty nicely winning 3 of their last 4 games including wins over the Blazers and Wizards. Rookie John Collins looks like a future double-double machine for them.
27. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.45.14 AM      Dallas Mavericks Dallas going 8-8 last month is a surprise considering they had only 5 wins on December 1st. Dennis Smith Jr has shown flashes of great things to go come but like most other rookies he’s been fairly inconsistent.
28. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.45.58 AM       Los Angeles Lakers The Lakers had a brutal schedule in December and have ended the month on a 6 game losing streak. Even though they’ve lost a ton in December, they continue to play hard on a nightly basis, just haven’t been able to turn it into wins.
29. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.46.51 AMOrlando Magic Orlando started so well but the wheels have come off the wins wagon pretty quickly but the bright spot is Aaron Gordon is still shooting 41.3% from three this season.
 30. Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.46.03 AMMemphis Grizzlies The Grizzlies chose Marc Gasol over David Fizdale and he consistently blasts his team’s effort in post-game comments. It feels more like there will be a trade request sometime in the next calendar year.

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