Author's Note: For the complete Google Doc/spreadsheet of my updated NBA 2021 Power Ratings, which include each team's net rating, offensive rating, defensive rating and current record, just click here.
In order to create a betting line between two of the teams listed below, simply find the difference between the two teams' power rating and give the home team an additional 1.5 points for home court advantage.
Example - the Los Angeles Lakers play the Golden State Warriors in L.A., and the Lakers are 6 points better according to the power rankings. The Lakers are also home, which is worth 1.5 points. The line in this case should be Lakers -7.5 (6 points added for PR difference + 1.5 points added for HCA). Each week I will also highlight notable movements between NBA teams and their new power rating scores listed here below:
NBA Power Ratings Change Log: (From 2.4.21 to 2.11.21)
2.5 Point Moves
- LA Clippers DOWN 2.5 (from +6.5 to +4) – Paul George injury
1.5 Point Moves
- Charlotte Hornets UP 1.5 (From -4 to -2.5) – LaMelo Ball’s ascension
- Houston Rockets DOWN 1.5 (from +1 to -.5) – Christian Wood’s injury
1 Point Moves
- Spurs UP 1.0 (from -1 to 0)
- Kings UP 1.0 (from -2 to -1)
- Timberwolves UP 1.0 (from -6.5 to -5.5) – Karl Anthony Towns return
- Bulls DOWN 1.0 (from -3.5 to -4.5) – Lauri Markkanen’s injury
- Cavaliers DOWN 1.0 (from -2.5 to -3.5)
0.5 Point Moves
- Bucks UP 0.5 (from +5.5 to +6)
- Jazz UP 0.5 (from +5 to +5.5)
- Suns UP 0.5 (from +2 to +2.5)
- Heat UP 0.5 (from +0.5 to +1)
- Hawks UP 0.5 (from -0.5 to 0)
- Pelicans UP 0.5 (from -1 to -.5)
- Grizzlies UP 0.5 (from -1.5 to -1)
- Knicks UP 0.5 (from -4 to -3.5)
- Celtics DOWN 0.5 (from +2.5 to +2)
- Pacers DOWN 0.5 (from +0.5 to 0)
- Wizards DOWN 0.5 (from -3 to -3.5)
- Pistons DOWN 0.5 (from -5 to -5.5)
LA Lakers +6.5 (*6.5 points better than average team)
The Los Angeles Lakers are struggling to put away bad teams as of late. L.A. played a total of four overtime sessions against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Detroit Pistons over its last three games. That said, give credit to LeBron James' 2021 Lake Show for managing to eke out a win in each of those three contests.
Milwaukee Bucks +6
Starting to get revved up something serious here. So far, in February, the Milwaukee Bucks are 5-1 SU & ATS with a +22 Net Rating in "non-garbage time." Although less cohesive and less deep than the Bucks teams of the past two seasons, I believe that with Jrue Holiday in toe this year's squad has better upside than last year's version. And we are starting to see that potential come to fruition, just 25 ball games in.
Utah Jazz +5.5
A 16-1 SU & 15-1-1 ATS run is mighty impressive, especially considering Mike Conley & Donovan Mitchell have both missed games during this stretch. It would be easy to say that the Utah Jazz and their 40% mark in three-point accuracy (2nd in the NBA) will not last. However, their current hot shooting form is actually not that far from last year, when the Jazz led the NBA in overall three-point shooting percentage (38%).
Philadelphia 76ers +5
Among the top 5 teams in my current power ratings, there are only two sides of the ball (offense/defense) that are not top 10 in the league. One that everybody knows is the Brooklyn Nets' defense (26th). The other one is less obvious: Philadelphia only has the 15th best ranked offense in the league. To me, that is telling of their limited upside. When they get into the playoffs and face the same teams over and over, when the rubber hits the road, do the Sixers have the shot makers to keep pace with the best of the best?
Brooklyn Nets +4.5
Why do I subscribe to the conspiracy theory that the NBA is purposefully keeping Kevin Durant out due to COVID-19 "protocols," really just to trip up his 2021 MVP campaign? 'Cause it's fun. Either way, the "Slim Reaper" has hardly missed much action this season, looking likely to join Steph Curry as the only players ever to throw up a 50/40/90 season while scoring 30 points per game or better. KD's Brooklyn Nets are 11-6 when he plays, and 4-6 when he does not. I can’t wait to see Durant back on the court this week.
LA Clippers +4
Paul George is 6th in the NBA with a +14 Net Rating. His absence has and will be felt. The Los Angeles Clippers have yet to provide a timeline for his return, so in the meantime, I have docked them 2.5 points.
Denver Nuggets +3
Much like the Celtics, this team is too good to be 12-11. Denver's defense ranked dead last (30th) in the month of February, which illustrates this team's limited upside despite Nikola Jokic's stat-sheet heroics.
Phoenix Suns +2.5
The kiddos from Phoenix stepped up without old faithful on Monday night, earning a comeback win over a scrappy Cleveland Cavaliers team despite not having the services of Chris Paul. They followed that up with one of their best wins of the season on Wednesday in another comeback win, this time over Milwaukee.
Boston Celtics +2
With a loss to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, the Boston Celtics fell to 3-7 SU so far this year when Kemba Walker plays. Compare that to 9-4 for the C’s this season without Walker in the lineup. Walker is also shooting 36% from the field, and the Celtics are getting outscored in aggregate by 8 points per 100 possessions when he is on the floor. After years of poor results when their starting PG's play, it may be time for the C's to scrap the idea of a high-volume scorer at their point guard position. In the meantime, something to keep in mind when live-betting Boston: the generally excellent Celtics have been terrible when Walker has been on the court in 2021, too. Walker is their only starter with a negative rating (-8).
Dallas Mavericks +2
Despite famously playing 97 games for club & country as a teenager in Spain, Luka Doncic may be showing signs of wearing down this season. When playing a back-to-backs, the Mavericks have the worst net rating in the league (-12.1 per 100 possessions). Luka in these games has a net rating 20 points lower than his performance in every other game, alongside a lower usage rate and even worse efficiency. Luka struggled statistically in back-to-backs in his first two years in the league as well, albeit to a lesser degree.
Toronto Raptors +1.5
Every time I see Fred VanVleet listed at SG, I do a double take. 'Wait, he's a PG, no?' The problem is, along as he's there, it's Kyle Lowry that will be the nominal starting point guard of the Toronto Raptors franchise, for better or worse. It looks like the Raptors' brass feels the same way, too, and reports have been coming out this past week that Lowry has put his house for sale and expects to be moved in the coming days.
Miami Heat +1
In the last edition of these power ratings, we challenged coach Eric Spoelstra to finally start winning now that the Miami Heat had all of their best players back. Cue his team's recent winning streak – you are welcome, Miami. In reality, the Heat are 7-5 with Jimmy Butler playing, and the defending Eastern Conference champs look poised to re-enter the playoff picture now that he's back on a nightly basis.
GS Warriors +0.5
The Golden State Warriors are incredibly thin at the moment without centers Kevon Looney and Jason Wiseman available. Both Steph Curry & Draymond Green have an excellent +10 net rating so far in February, but due to the Warriors' lack of depth, they only have a 2-3 SU record to show for it.
Indiana Pacers 0
The Indiana Pacers seem to be in that uncomfortable position where they simply cannot get the best out of their front court players all at the same time. Playing Domantas Sabonis at PF limits some of his versatility and dynamism, but playing Sabonis at C makes their usual starter, Myles Turner, irrelevant.
Atlanta Hawks 0
The young, upstart Atlanta Hawks are now a top 10 defensive team in the NBA, a shocking development for a squad built around Trae Young. Give credit also to the addition of center Clint Capela and rookie forward DeAndre Hunter, who is shaping up to be a high end 3-and-D player in this league already.
San Antonio Spurs 0
"Never forget Dejounte Murray is youngest player in NBA History to make an All-Defensive Team" - a great and telling line from the social media handle "@MjsGoat" about the emergence of the San Antonio Spurs' starting point guard. With Murray racking up a couple of steals per game, this San Antonio defense is starting to fuel the up-tempo offense that head coach Gregg Popovich & Company want to play.
Houston Rockets -0.5
The Houston Rockets looked to be surging before C Christian Wood went down with an ankle injury that should keep him out several weeks. Wood has been a favorite for Most Improved Player of the Year all season, and losing him seems to have taken the air out of this team's sails. Since Wood went down, the Rockets have lost three straight, including the worst two of losses of the season in their last two games.
New Orleans Pelicans -1
The New Orleans Pelicans rank third in the league in first-quarter scoring margin, a testament to both the unusual power and speed of franchise player Zion Williamson. These Pelicans seem to be catching other teams off guard, and Zion's limited conditioning also seems to be catching up to him later in games.
Memphis Grizzlies -1
Another massively impressive win by the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night over the Charlotte Hornets. If Jaren Jackson Jr returns this month and regains his excellent form from last year, then this young Grizz team could knock a quality Western conference team out of the 2021 playoff picture.
Sacramento Kings -1
Four consecutive (very) impressive victories by the Sacramento Kings over the New Orleans Pelicans, Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets, followed by a close loss the Philadelphia 76'ers.
Portland Blazers -2
Despite missing two of their best three players, the Blazers have maintained their playoff positioning through playing a relatively easy schedule. Portland now faces an uphill battle to end the first half of the season with home games vs. Philly and Golden State and a brutal road trip with games in L.A. & Dallas.
Charlotte Hornets- -2.5
Rookie first-rounder LaMelo Ball posted an eye-popping +29 as the Charlotte Hornets (12-14) ran away with a victory over the Houston Rockets on Monday. No other Hornets starter had better than a +12.
Cleveland Cavs -3.5
The Cleveland Cavaliers' stats and record are now starting to resemble what the market and I both expected coming into the 2021 season. I also expect Cleveland to be sellers going into the trade deadline.
NY Knicks -3.5
Thibs has a top 5 defense and Derrick Rose. What year is this?
Washington Wizards -3.5
Russell Westbrook would be the firs to tell you that he has not played well this season. But he would not have to tell even a mild NBA observer that fact. His awful shooting is one thing, but the team results with & and without him on the court are stark: with Westbrook, the Wiz are 2-13 SU; they are 4-3 when he sits.
Chicago Bulls -4.5
Zach Lavine threw up an incredibly efficient 46 points in the first Bulls game since Lauri Markkanen went down. Look for him to carry the offensive load to a similarly high degree throughout Markkanen's absence.
OKC Thunder -4.5
Oklahoma City players will be bummed to lose back-to-back overtime games to the defending champion Lakers. Thunder management brass, however, will be thrilled with the result. OKC played just well enough to encourage their fans with their performance, but not well enough to mess up their draft position.
Detroit Pistons -5.5
Rose is probably 0.5 points better than Dennis Smith Jr. However, Smith at his age may provide more upside by this next time next year as he gels with a younger squad. Watch out: Blake Griffin trade’s is next.
Minny Timbers -5.5
Karl Anthony Towns returned on Wednesday vs. the Los Angeles Clippers and looked okay in his first game back from COVID, posting 18 and 10. With the playoffs now out of reach, I suspect a gradual reintroduction of Minnesota's multi-all star franchise center. No reason to play Towns extended minutes this season.
Orlando Magic -6
The Orlando Magic are now 3-14 SU and 4-13 ATS since starting PG Markelle Fultz went down for the year with an injury in early January. I expect the Magic to be sellers before the trade deadline (March 25).