It’s obvious from just watching the games that the Golden State Warriors (44-4) are dominating the entire NBA, however, when one looks at how much they are winning by (+12.7 points), their incredible record versus winning teams (+17 games) and the best road record (+18 games) in the league by an improbable margin, it makes even the Spurs 68 win pace seem very pedestrian indeed.
Our NBA simplified power ranking as of the end of January takes into account the number of games over .500 for each team as a .500 record defines mediocrity (thanks Houston), points differential as a guide to squeaking by versus dominating, net wins versus +.500 teams because a winning record against winning teams is what defines a good team, and net road wins because the ability to win on the road is essential. The top teams will always stand out in these categories and the middle of the pack will separate themselves from the rest here.
2. San Antonio Spurs 39-8
The Spurs seem to be hanging with the Warriors until one looks at the difference between the two teams records against winning teams and on the road. The Spurs are the second best in the NBA, but its a distant second.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers 34-12
The Cavs nudge out the Thunder based on a better record against winning teams, but it’s close and their real lead on the surging Raptors is shrinking fast as well.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder 36-13
The Thunder can blow out their opposition and enjoy the third best points differential in the Association, but at 11-9 versus winning teams, they aren’t scaring anyone in the top six just yet.
5. Toronto Raptors 32-15
Toronto has the NBA’s third best record against winning teams, but they have yet to make up for some early season struggles against the -.500 crowd despite a current franchise record setting 11-game winning streak. The gap between them and the Eastern Conference’s front running Cavs was closing fast right up until Cleveland started a winning streak of their own four games ago.
6. Los Angeles Clippers 32-16
The Clippers enjoy a solid win-loss record and are solidly ahead of the rest of the field thanks to a 16-3 run, but they don’t do so well against winning teams and their last two losses were against the Raptors (now 0-2) and the Cavs (0-1). They have also lost to the Warriors (0-2), Thunder (0-1) and the Spurs (0-1).
7. Chicago Bulls 26-20
There is a big drop off to the inconsistent Bulls who are now 5.5 games out of second place in the East and the reasons are obvious. They don’t win by much on average, they are below .500 on the road and they just barely have a winning record against winning teams.
8. Miami Heat 27-21
The Heat have stopped their slide into obscurity with a four game winning streak, but they are still below .500 against winning teams and on the road. Injury issues may form part of the excuse, but 48 games into a season and you are your record.
9. Memphis Grizzlies 28-20
The Western Conference’s fifth place Grizzlies symbolize just how far the West has fallen since last season. Yes the Grizz have turned their season around and now sport a solid +.500 record, but they are still being outscored on average by almost two points and their record against winning teams ans on the road is subpar for a playoff bound team.
10. Atlanta Hawks 27-22
It’s been an up and down season for Atlanta, but at no time this year did anyone think that was the dominating 60-win Hawks of last season out there on the court. The rumors are they might even consider selling at the trade deadline and start a rebuild.
11. Boston Celtics 27-22
The Celtics are a really good young team that’s just not quite ready to hang with the big boys. Energy, effort and the ability to beat up on the sub-.500 crowd mercilessly. The right trade deadline deal and this team could surprise in the playoffs.
12. Dallas Mavervicks 28-22
The Mavs retooled again this past summer and in a weakened Western Conference they are putting together a decent season, but when they have to play against winning teams, they are a very sad 8-16. There’s no real threat here.
13. Indiana Pacers 25-22
Another up and down team in the East. The Pacers are doing okay with Paul George back in the lineup, but their road record isn’t very good (10-15) and they keep stubbing their toe against winning franchises (12-14).
14. Detroit Pistons 25-23
There isn’t a lot of difference between the eighth-place Pistons and the seventh-place Pacers. Both teams have the same road record.
15. Washington Wizards 21-24
The Wizards were supposed to be better. Injuries may be part of the problem, but this team hasn’t been consistent this season at any point and it’s their losing record (10-15) at home that’s keeping them out of the playoff picture. Eight games below .500 against winning teams, the Wiz are 0-4 against the Raptors and Celtics.
16. Houston Rockets 25-25
The Rockets have improved to the epitome of mediocre at 25-25 on the season and seventh place in the West where a sub-.500 record should garner a playoff spot this season.
17. Charlotte Hornets 23-25
It was mid-December when Charlotte had just hammered the Grizz 123-99 in Memphis to improve to 14-8 on the season. That seems like forever ago now. The Hornets can’t win on the road (-10) and can’t beat winning teams (-7).
18. Utah Jazz 21-25
The new West where a 21-25 record is just a half game out of a playoff spot. The Trail Blazers, Jazz and Kings are in a fight for eighth place and the Pelicans are hoping to join in. All of these teams have poor road records and don’t do well against winning teams. The Jazz, however, are somehow outscoring their opponents by a point per game on average,
19. Sacramento Kings 20-27
Two games out of eighth and falling out of a playoff spot do to a four game slide, the Kings are an enigma. The production from Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins says this team should be better and they’ve beaten some good teams, but? There always seems to be a but.
20. New York Knicks 23-27
There’s hope in New York again, but overall, the Knicks can’t beat winning teams and don’t play well on the road.
21. Portland Trail Blazers 23-26
A four-game winning streak has the Trail Blazers in a playoff spot even if all of those wins came against struggling teams. The Blazers are a lot better than expected, but their 5-16 record against winning teams is the worst of any club hoping to get a postseason berth.
22. Orlando Magic 21-25
Currently in a 2-12 slump, the Magic are watching their season slide away. They can’t beat teams with winning records.
23. Denver Nuggets 18-30
Two long losing streaks and no winning streaks have put Denver in a hole.
24. Milwaukee Bucks 20-29
The Bucks have played an unfairly long road schedule to-date and it’s eaten them alive (7-21).
25. New Orleans Pelicans 18-28
It seems like every year a poor season is blamed on injures, but at some point your record speaks for itself. Even a 7-3 run hasn’t made up any ground on the hotter Trail Blazers and only one of those wins was against a team with a winning record.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves 14-35
That 8-8 start is but a distant memory that a 3-19 run has all but erased.
27. Brooklyn Nets 12-36
Not much was expected and that’s just what the Nets have delivered. Road kill at 4-18 away from the Barclays Centre.
28. Phoenix Suns 14-35
On a four game losing streak and winners of just two of their past 21 games, the Suns have fired their head coach and waived the white towel on the season.
29. Los Angeles Lakers 9-41
It would be hard not to suggest the Kobe Farewell Tour hasn’t been fun and it provides a great distraction to the Lakers current 10 game losing streak as they fight to hold onto their first round draft pick that will go to the 76ers if it falls out of the top three picks in this June’s draft.
30. Philadelphia 76ers 7-41
The 76ers are a perfect 0-28 versus winning teams this season. Even the Lakers have managed (against their better judgement) to win twice against +.500 teams.