Welcome to my NBA Power Ratings, which will be updated weekly here at The Betting Predators website.
You can spend an hour hearing why cream cheese isn't a cheese - but wouldn't you rather just get your dang credit card back from the cashier and be on your way to a quiet morning breakfast?
That's how I feel about the NBA.
I love basketball. Basketball is the goods. It is America's "beautiful game". The NBA - and especially its coverage - is the store. I tolerate it. Y'all can miss me a lot of the time with 90% of your non-basketball related NBA content, and I surely don't care what player X "owes" city Y. He doesn't owe anything by the way, no more than I owed Uber Chicago when I drove for them that one summer. I'm into the game of basketball at the highest levels (i.e. NBA, some Olympic matchups, the Drew League, etc), and I love breaking it down, shot by shot, quarter by quarter. Who's good? Who's struggling? Is everyone rowing the same boat? A lot of thought, and a ton of research goes into these numbers that you will see below.
Special hat tip to Cleaning the Glass for their "Garbage Time Filter" - Lord knows a lot of possessions in the NBA have zero predictable value. The rest is simply left up to the "eye test" - that's right, I'm watching you, Donovan Mitchell (Show me something). And by the way, did you know? Mr. Mitchell's Utah Jazz have improved by one and a half points (by my numbers) since the start of the 2021 NBA regular season.
Now without further adieu, let's dive into my official NBA power ratings as of Saturday, January 23rd, 2021. I plan to update these once a week on Friday's. Any questions? Hit me on Twitter @MackenRivers.
Los Angeles Lakers (+6.5 = 6.5 points better than average team)
LeBron James is smartly playing farther from the rim in the later parts of his career, knowing that the playoffs we will be more physical. LeBron is taking his lowest percentage of shots at the rim since 2011 (31%) and his highest percentage shots from three-point shots in his entire career (36%). When he makes 5+ threes, like he did against the Milwaukee Bucks, then Lakers are borderline unbeatable.
Los Angeles Clippers (+5.5)
The Clippers' defense is still only ranked 22nd by filtered Defensive Net Rating. Their offense, however, is ranked #1 in the NBA with a bullet. Kawhi is 40/1 (consensus) to win the MVP right now, and I honestly don't think I would pick any player over Kawhi right now to win one game or one series in this league.
Milwaukee Bucks (+5.5)
41-6 last year. 9-6 this year. If these Bucks can’t beat the Nets in one game, then it's hard for me to imagine they can beat them in 4 out of 7 once Brooklyn gets revved up. I thought they would have some early pain working in Holiday in order to reap long term gains, but they seem to lose every big matchup.
BK Nets (+4.5)
Expect struggles with the Nets' "Big 3" early on, combined with especially high variance with lots of three point shots being taken. I am bullish on this team in the long term, but bearish vs. the market right now.
Philadelphia 76ers (+4.5)
Joel Embiid playing at MVP, DPOY level.
Utah Jazz (+4)
In the second year of Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell in the backcourt, this Utah team has tremendous upside. The Jazz indeed had a shot at the buzzer to beat the Denver Nuggets in Game 7 of last year's playoffs, and I believe that the market would be much higher on them if that shot had actually went in.
Boston Celtics (+3.5)
The Celtics without their starting PG (Kemba Walker) this year are 8-3 SU. With Kemba, they are 0-2. This trend has been true for the Celtics for the past 3 years (2 with Kemba, 1 with Kyrie). I don't think this is because Kemba/Kyrie are bad players necessarily. Rather, I think it's more challenging to incorporate a high-usage guard onto a team centered around SG's/SF's in Tatum and Brown. The Celtics will improve as the season progresses. Losing Tatum to COVID, however, makes it more difficult to quickly build cohesion.
Dallas Mavericks (+3)
This Mavericks' offense has gone from being the most efficient regular season team ever last year to now being just the 17th most efficient team in the league this season. Believe it or not, a lot of it has to do with not having Seth Curry (yes, that Curry) at guard and not having the same dynamism from their bench.
Denver Nuggets (+2.5)
Despite being 7-7, the Nuggets have an elite Net Rating (5th by Cleaning the Glass). Jokic is a dark-horse MVP candidate, leading the second best offense in the NBA. As a center, however, a huge part of Jokic's job is defense, and that's where this Denver team will need to improve in order to return to top tier status.
Phoenix Suns (+2.5)
Chris Paul's teams the last two years are a combined 55-35 ATS; The Suns are 8-5 SU & ATS. Paul's game is relatively unreliant on his physical speed, making his prime possibly longer than the likes of former great PG's such as Allen Iverson. He can also teach SG Devin Booker and help the young'n go from good to great.
Miami Heat (+2)
Difficult team to read with so many players in and out. As long as they're in the playoff dance, however, they will be a tough out. Adding WAS SG Bradley Beal could make them an NBA Finals contender yet again.
Toronto Raptors (+1.5)
F Pascal Siakam has regressed, being asked to do more. His production and efficiency have thus declined.
GS Warriors (+1)
After Draymond’s first game back (where they were blown out at home by POR), the Warriors went 6-3 before losing to the New York Knicks this past week. Draymond has not been "good" (just look at his overall shooting & turnover numbers), but he has been steadily improving, and so has this Warriors team.
Houston Rockets (+0)
Major improvement from the start of the year without the distraction of disgruntled former franchise star and now Brooklyn Net James Harden, and with the addition of Victor Oladipo, who is probably Houston's best overall player. This team has had the hardest SOS so far, and there could be value playing on them.
Indiana Pacers (+0)
Levert is a small downgrade at SG compared to Victor Oladipo, mostly because he's not an elite defender.
Atlanta Hawks (-0.5)
Jekyll & Hyde team. Great start to the year, then a loss to the Knicks and the Hornets back to back. Seem to be better as a dog than as a favorite – which would be consistent for this young Trae Young-led team.
New Orleans Pelicans (-1)
There was a recent article from Sports Illustrated titled, "It's Time for New Orleans to Play Zion Williamson at Center". I believe that has to be the ultimate goal here, and if his defense keeps improving, then the Pelicans can "swing" sooner rather than later. If Zion can be a Draymond Green with twice the athleticism - and can actually put the ball in the basket, too - that Could be a key element to a championship team.
Portland Blazers (-1)
Losing C Jusif Nurkic and SG CJ McCollum within one week is absolutely brutal for the franchise. Damian Lillard will either be overworked or protected - this Portland Trail Blazers team suffers either way.
SA Spurs (-1)
The veteran duo of LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan just might be plateauing at the perfect time here, a time for this San Antonio Spurs young core to grow into bigger roles for the future of the franchise.
So much more talented than their current performance level. Watching Kings games, it looks like only De'Aaron Fox is the only one on the team that cares. Makes sense they are 30th on defense (DEAD LAST)
Orlando Magic (-2.5)
Since Markelle Fultz went down, the Magic went 1-6 and have by far the worst offense in the league with a 99 net rating (3-points worse than next on the list). I'm wondering if they think playing Cole Anthony as their starting PG through this tough patch will help them in the long term. It's surely not working right now.
Memphis Grizzlies (-2.5)
Big win recently over the Phoenix Suns, with Ja Morant looking back to 100%. Unfortunately, the Memphis Grizzlies' season will now be put on hiatus for at least the next three games due to COVID-19 tracing.
Washington Wizards (-3)
Terrible team with explosive guards - these Washington Wizards could beat anyone on a given night.
Chicago Bulls (-3.5)
#1 ATS team in the league at 10-4 against the spread…and I am still not that impressed. Great shooting days and big wins over the Mavericks & Rockets recently, but we always knew this Chicago team had a ton of offense. If Chicago's defense can ever get outside of the bottom five, they will be one to contend with. That is a tall order, however, with Colby White as their starting PG and Zach LaVine as their starting SG.
Charlotte Hornets (-4)
Michael Jordan finally got a top pick right with LaMelo Ball, who should win the NBA's Rookie of the Year. Already arguably better than his brother, LaMelo does everything well and has a great feel for the game.
Cleveland Cavs (-4.5)
A good defense should be expected when you spend $40M on laboring Centers and Power Forwards. That said, the fact the Cavaliers are #3 in the league is pretty impressive considering the youth in the backcourt.
Detroit Pistons (-4.5)
Good ATS record and weird vibe with Blake Griffin low-key mailing it in like the aforementioned Harden.
NY Knicks (-4.5)
I've been calling the Knicks phonies all year – never wavering, especially after they pulled upsets over some top tier teams. Now I’m thinking I was wrong not to upgrade them significantly sooner. Their offense is still terrible, sure, but at the time of this writing they are 5th on defense somehow, after being 23rd last year. Turns out this Tom Thibodeau guy still has his fast ball as a defensive-minded head coach in the NBA.
OKC Thunder (-5)
Came into the season as the lowest-rated team, and that never felt right. They were the #1 ATS team in the league last year - and I still believe that they might be underrated given the growth and potential of ShaI Gilgaeus-Alexander. SGA may in fact be as good as Ja Morant, albeit with one fifth of the fame.
Minny Timbers (-7)
A simply disastrous season in Minnesota. Karl Anthony-Towns was finally working his way back from a wrist injury that kept him out two weeks in late December/late January, only to then get COVID-19.