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 Friday, January 29th, 2021. I plan to update these once a week on Friday. Any questions? Hit me up on Twitter @MackenRivers.
LA Lakers +6.5 (6.5 points better than average team)
The distance between the Los Angeles Lakers and the rest of the league has been greatly exaggerated. The Lakers were > 3-point favorites on the road vs. Philly (the #1 team in the East) on Wednesday night. In hindsight, just looking at the two teams’ YTD stats on paper, that line should have been closer to pick'em.
LA Clippers +6
The Los Angeles Clippers' defense has been much improved. Over the last two weeks they have posted top 10 defensive efficiency numbers after being in the bottom five of the league to start the 2020-21 regular season. Unfortunately, their season is put on pause now until their big three comes back from COVID-19 protocol absences (Kawhi Leonard, Paul George & Patrick Beverley are all out indefinitely.)
Milwaukee Bucks +5.5
Giannis' scoring is down three points per game. In this case, the Milwaukee Bucks' best player scoring less may bode well for their actual playoff potential. But that's only if it translates into a more balanced and less predictable offensive attack. The Bucks earned a solid, well-balanced win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night with three players going over 20 points scored en route to 115-108 victory on the road.
Philadelphia 76ers +5
Despite the win, the end of the Lakers game will trouble any Philadelphia 76er's fan. It was a clear example as of why Philly's lack of an elite iso-scorer will make playoff success so difficult. Leading by 11 points with just three minutes to go, the Sixers offense completely stagnated against the Lakers with bad turnovers followed by contested step back jump shots. It makes me wonder why Daryl Morey wouldn't do all that he could to try to trade Ben Simmons for James Harden. I'm thinking maybe he did. My guess is that the Houston Rockets owner simply refused to work with Morey - but that is just my baseless speculation.
Utah Jazz +4.5
The Utah Jazz had been 2-6 ATS without Donovan Mitchell since his rookie year. A huge, dominating win over the Dallas Mavericks (without Mitchell) indicates that this team has taken a significant step up.
BK Nets +4
The Nets' defense is largely theoretical at the moment.
Boston Celtics +3.5
The Boston Celtics w/o Kemba Walker this year are 9-3 SU. WITH Kemba, the C’s are 1-4 SU. Sound familiar? Those results match last year's results – and also match the year before with Kyrie. Their best players - SG Jayson Tatum & SF Jaylen Brown - may simply need the ball in their hands more to succeed. If so, that is a shame. The benefit of having versatile players is that they can succeed in various and differing roles. The results just are not there, though especially considering that Brown has taken a huge leap into a top-20 level player so far this year. Coach Brad Stevens needs to figure out how to use his best players better together. If not, GM Danny Ainge ought to think about consolidating their backcourt talent.
Denver Nuggets +3
Their record is starting to mirror their stats more closely. This team is right back where they were last year, but with even more upside because of second-year scorer Michael Porter Jr. and an improved Nikola Jokic.
Dallas Mavericks +2.5
Adding Kristaps Porzingis has not kick-started this Dallas Mavericks offense the way Mavs fans would have hoped. The bloom has come off the rose of this quirky offense that devastated the league last year.
Phoenix Suns +2.5
This just in: shooting guard Devin Booker is valuable. The line moved five points in the Phoenix Suns' game against the Denver Nuggets when Booker was first announced out, from PHO -2.5 to PHO +2.5. The Suns are 0-2 SU w/o Booker, including losing as seven-point home favorites to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Miami Heat +1.5
Jimmy Butler cleared, but still out as of Wednesday. The Miami Heat probably have more leeway here, considering the bottom of the playoff picture in the East (the Cavs & Knicks) aren't exactly world beaters.
Toronto Raptors +1.5
Last year, Siakam made his first all-star team. This year, he has a 15.0 PER. That is exactly league average.
GS Warriors +1
Looney. Looney. Looney. There's no coincidence that GSW is 2-0 SU & ATS since C Kevon Looney replaced rookie James Wiseman in the starting lineup. Wiseman is a great prospect, sure, but the Golden State Warriors' efficiency numbers with Looney in the game vs. Wiseman is night and day at the moment.
Houston Rockets +0.5
Victor Oladipo, Christian Wood, John Wall, Eric Gordon & P.J. Tucker are five of the top 100 players in the league (maybe even 4 of the top 50 players). DeMarcus Cousins has been showing flashes as well. Yet the market is still pricing the Houston Rockets as a below average team. Houston remain underrated.
Indiana Pacers +0.5
Dougie McBuckets sighting this week! With a solid starting five already, getting splash scoring off the bench will be critical to the Indiana Pacers' success throughout the course of the 2020-21 season.
Atlanta Hawks -0.5
Top offense is not a surprise. Top 10 defense definitely is.
New Orleans Pelicans -1
Not a great sign for this season that David Griffin is already looking to flip Lonzo Ball and JJ Redick for picks.
SA Spurs -1
The Spurs are turning the corner as a defensive team, evident in their big home win over the Celtics. PG Dejounte Murray looks like his pre-ACL injury self, averaging well over one steal per game. Second year player Keldon Johnson is also seeing a huge jump in minutes as San Antonio's primary wing defender.
Portland Blazers -2
Watch out, CJ McCollum: Gary Trent Jr. may be coming for your job. Without any semblance of defense in Portland Trail Blazers games these days, expect Trent Jr. to score well over his year-to-date average.
Sacramento Kings -2
Sacramento: from exciting young team to 'also-ran' in the West, almost 100% because of a lack of defensive intensity. Kings coach Luke Walton may not have been the guy in Los Angeles after all.
Memphis Grizzlies -2.5
Team set to return Saturday from COVID-19 protocol-related extended lay off.
Cleveland Cavs -3
Solid defense, improving guards and possibly an emerging star in Collin Sexton. I have been too slow in upgrading this young Cleveland Cavaliers team, which as of this writing is 9-9 and tied for 6th in the east.
Chicago Bulls -3.5
Zach Lavine is quietly scoring 27 PPG. His defense has improved (112 defensive rating), but it hasn't translated to the Chicago Bulls doing their collective part on that side of the floor (115 defensive rating).
Washington Wizards -4
Bad teams need rotation players too. Even with Bradley Beal & Russell Westbrook in tow, this Washington team has a fat chance to win a game playing as many replacement level players as they do.
Orlando Magic -4
The Orlando Magic are 2-9 SU since they lost PG Markelle Fultz to season-ending injury, with one of those victories coming at the buzzer over the worst team in the league, the Minnesota Timberwolves. Betting this team would feel like trying to catch a falling knife. NBA Betting Disclaimer: do not try this at home.
NY Knicks -4
Thibodeau's intensity may wear out players eventually, but it currently has this team playing well above its weight. The Knicks have the #4 defense in the league without a standout defensive player - all heart.
OKC Thunder -4
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with a massive checkmark performance, beating his old sensei Chris Paul mono e mono as the Oklahoma City Thunder secured a 102-97 road victory over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.
Charlotte Hornets -4.5
While I understand the sentiment of Hornets fans who say 'This season doesn't matter, just give the ball to LaMelo Ball and watch him work' - I believe that is the wrong mentality. That is the attitude the Kings took with '09 ROY Tyreke Evans, which led to way too many bad habits. I like what CHA coach James Borrego said about Ball's playing time: "If you’re turning the ball over 5 times in 16 minutes, that ain’t gonna cut it for me. If you’re doing that on the offensive end, you better be bringing something defensively."
Detroit Pistons -5
Stats are much better than their actual record - unsure if these Pistons care about winning at the moment.
Minny Timbers -7
The Minnesota Timberwolves have given up 110+ points in 13 out of their past 15 games, including 8 games where they allowed over 120 points. The most recent? 123 points allowed to Golden State.