NBA East Power Rankings: Feb. 4, 2019

Welcome everyone to the first edition of our Eastern Conference Power Rankings. This is Jorge, and alongside Vaughan, we’ll release a weekly list of the East teams ranked according to their performances. Hopefully, these rankings will help us all get a better picture of where our Miami Heat stand in the Playoff race and how hot has the competition been as of late. Make sure to share your thoughts about our rankings on social media! Without further ado, here are Feb. 4th’s East Power Rankings.

 

15. Cleveland Cavaliers

Overall record: 11 – 42

Last week’s record: 1 – 1

Jorge’s Rank: 15th

“The Cavs snapped their 6-game losing streak after a home win over the Washington Wizards last Tuesday. The Wiz struggled mightily in that game and Cleveland ended up escaping with a three-point win. They went back to their usual ways last Saturday in a loss to a short-handed Mavericks team. Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, and Trey Burke were all inactive for Dallas in this one. It didn’t matter, though, as they still took a double-digit win in the Cavs’ home floor. I believe they are the worst team in the league, as they do not seem to have a clear direction. Any ideas on where they are going?”

Vaughan’s Rank: 14th

Is Collin Sexton good? No, absolutely not. The young Cav peaked when he weirdly flexed his arms in the Summer League. With a lot of concerns earlier this year that Sexton doesn’t actually know how to play basketball, the Cavs have shown that they very much do not know how to play basketball. They also just traded Rodney Hood for Nik Stauskas and Wade Baldwin IV, two players that certainly don’t know how to play basketball very well, and two draft picks from a successful organization. This seemed to be more of a trade for Hood’s benefit, who hasn’t looked himself since leaving the Utah Jazz. The Cavs are bad, and that’s all there is to it. But, at least they’re looking towards the future.”

 

14. New York Knicks

Overall record: 10 – 42

Last week’s record: 0 – 4

Jorge’s Rank: 14th

“They might have lost all of their games this past week, but they made headlines nonetheless. Trading an injured Kristaps Porzingis away in order to create enough salary cap space for two marquee free agents deserves some credit. Yes, I understand Porzingis was the guy they were supposed to build around and whatnot. But who knows how the Latvian Unicorn will play when he recovers from a torn ACL? Do the Knicks know some unfortunate information regarding Porzingis’ recovery status? New York snagged DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews in the aforementioned deal and could find them new homes on Playoff contenders in exchange for future assets. Don’t forget they got Dennis Smith Jr. too, a player the Knicks highly coveted leading to the 2017 Draft. I have them at 14 this week; they’re still bad but made a positive move with an eye towards the future.”

Vaughan’s Rank: 15th

Yikes. Unless they have KD or Kyrie LOCKED UP in the offseason, the Knicks might have just made the worst trade in a very very long time. Like almost as bad as Brooklyn giving up their future for old Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Trading a disgruntled franchise superstar for expiring contracts and draft picks from 2021 and 2023? This franchise is weird and frustrating and I don’t really want to talk about it anymore. Dennis Smith Jr., the centerpiece of the trade for the Knicks (and also a guy they could have drafted instead of Frank Ntilikina, who they’ve been shopping for months), underwhelmed in his debut for New York, and the team lost to a Grizzlies team that’s been flat out bad. The Knicks secured their sixth straight losing season on Sunday, and things don’t seem to be getting any better any time soon.”


 

13. Chicago Bulls

Overall record: 12 – 41

Last week’s record: 1 – 2

Jorge’s Rank: 13th

“Their only win this week actually came against the Heat. If you watched that game, you know it was one of those nights where everything went wrong for Miami. Not only that, but Chicago capitalized and had a great game themselves. They seem to be building something and have intriguing young players. GarPax is hoping for good luck in the lottery, and they will really need it. They’re 13 for me this week, as the best team out of the miserable bottom echelon.”

Vaughan’s Rank: 13th

What a wasted season for talented players like Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine. It feels odd to say, but I thought the Bulls would do much better. But, they fired Fred Hoiberg and replaced him with a coach that thinks he’s coaching a high school team, making them run suicides and wind sprints the day after a back-to-back. It seems like the whole team wants out, especially Jabari Parker and his horrendous contract, who have been doing a lot of bench riding as of late.”

 

12. Atlanta Hawks

Overall record: 17 – 35

Last week’s record: 2 – 2

Jorge’s Rank: 12th

“Trae Young has been leading the flock as of late and got two wins since last Monday. They beat the Clippers in LA and repeated the feat against Phoenix. Beating the Suns is certainly not as surprising as beating the Clippers, but a win is still a win. Do not forget three of Atlanta’s 17 wins have come at the mercy of the Heat. All things considered, this team knows how to work as a unit and can cause problems to anyone. They are not making the Playoffs this season, but they are getting reps with what looks like a very promising young core. I have them at 12 this week.”

Vaughan’s Rank: 12th

Is Trae Young good? This is a question we all must ask ourselves after making fun of the Hawks for drafting him. Over his last 10, he’s averaging 22.6 points on 47.2% (!) shooting with 8.1 assists and 4.4 rebounds. That’s solid. Not to mention the Hawks have put themselves apart from the true cellar of the conference. They’ve got a ton of potential. They may buy long-term players at the deadline. That would be interesting.”


 

11. Washington Wizards

Overall record: 22 – 30

Last week’s record: 1 – 2

Jorge’s Rank: 11th

“Their only win this week came against an Oladipo-less Pacers and they dropped two other games at Cleveland and Milwaukee. There is only so much Bradley Beal can do to push this team over the hump. Injuries and chemistry issues have derailed this franchise’s potential, but their execution also leaves a lot to be desired. The Wizards are still pushing for a Playoff run even with John Wall shut down for the season. That does not look like a smart move, but missing the Playoffs would be a massive disappointment considering the pre-season expectations. Losing to the worst team in the East deserves a penalty, and Washington stays just out of my top 10 as a result.”

Vaughan’s Rank: 10th

I often think to myself, ‘how bad can the Wizards be, really?’ They have Bradley Beal, Markieff Morris, Thomas Bryant, who has been amazing this season, Tomas Satoransky, a solid guard to put next to Wall. Then I watch the team play, and I understand. They’re just so disjointed on both ends of the floor. They beat a Dipo-less Pacers this week, but lost to the Cavaliers the game before that. The players have enough talent to drag the team, kicking and screaming, into the playoffs. But, they need to turn it around now if that’s going to happen.”

 

10. Detroit Pistons

Overall record: 22 – 29

Last week’s record: 1 – 2

Jorge’s Rank: 10th

“Their only win this week came in unimpressive fashion. They barely beat a Mavericks team with no Luka Donic, DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews or Dennis Smith Jr. Things are getting ugly in Motor City and Blake Griffin appears to be frustrated. The Pistons had built some early season momentum, and that’s the only thing that has kept them near Playoff contention. They’re two games behind the 8th seeded Miami and will most probably not make it even with Blake Griffin playing at an All-Star level. I was debating between having the Wizards ahead of them, but Detroit is half a game ahead of them in the standing. They get a pass as no. 10 in my list.”

Vaughan’s Rank: 9th

“How is a team with Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond 22-29? Oh, wait. Their point guard is Reggie Jackson. That’s why. They gave up a 25-point lead and completely collapsed in the second half against the Clippers, and haven’t beaten a team over .500 since they beat the Clippers three weeks ago. Their wins since then have come against the Magic, Heat, Pelicans, and Mavericks. Not super impressive. The Pistons have a lot of talent at the forward slots, but watch them use some of their wing talent to find a decent point guard to replace Reggie Jackson at the deadline.”

 

9. Miami Heat

Overall record: 24 – 27

Last week’s record: 0 – 3

Jorge’s Rank: 9th

“Perhaps I’m being too generous with Miami at 9th. A disastrous week that saw them fall to the Chicago freakin’ Bulls and to a shorthanded Pacers team was disappointing. Things do not get easier for the Heat, who are headed for a very tough Western Conference road trip. We won’t be back home until after the All-Star break. In the meantime, we’ll have to face all of the Blazers, Kings, Warriors, and Nuggets on the road. Buckle up, because we might get knocked off the Playoff picture if we do not win at least one of these matchups.”

Vaughan’s Rank: 8th

The Heat can’t score above 110 points in a single basketball game. I may be overly critical due to the amount I watch, but that’s definitely a problem. They’ve lost three straight, including one to the Bulls, and their stretch of games doesn’t get any easier until they play the Suns in two weeks. Miami, we have a problem.”

 

8. Orlando Magic

Overall record: 22 – 31

Last week’s record: 2 – 1

Jorge’s Rank: 7th

“The Magic is still bad, but they managed two wins against Playoff contenders and took a close L from the Thunder. Nikola Vucevic was also selected by coaches as a reserve in the All-Star game. This was a nice week for them in what has otherwise been yet another forgettable season. They’re ranked at 7th in my list despite being 11th in the East standings.”

Vaughan’s Rank: 11th

“This team is the prime candidate to buy at the deadline. With players like Aaron Gordon on long-term contracts, and players like All-Star Nikola Vucevic not on contract and needing proof that the franchise is actually going somewhere, the Magic will look for a point guard to head their strangely decent offense. DJ Augustin isn’t going to cut it. The team has potential and has picked up an odd win here and there lately as if they don’t know they should be tanking, but it seems like they’ve kind of whiffed on rookie Mo Bamba with the fourth pick, especially if they’re not even going to give him devoted floor time.”


 

7. Indiana Pacers

Overall record: 33 – 19

Last week’s record: 1 – 3

Jorge’s Rank: 6th

“Losing Victor Oladipo has hurt more than what most people expected. They would have picked up a 5th straight loss in as many games without Oladipo had Miami played with any passion or desire last Saturday. Bad losses to the Wizards and Magic have brought them down. They started the week firmly in control of the East’s no. 3 seed but fell to 5th ever since. This trend figures to continue, as Oladipo, the 2018 Most Improved Player, is out for the season.”

Vaughan’s Rank: 7th

If you haven’t heard, the Pacers lost Victor Oladipo (one of my favorite players in the league) for the rest of the season. He’s a superstar level talent, and it definitely bums me out that he’s not going to be playing. It also hurts the Pacers severely on both ends of the floor, because starting Tyreke Evans is a significant offensive and defensive downgrade. They’ve been sliding heavily lately, with just one win (against the Heat, because of course) without Oladipo.”

 

6. Brooklyn Nets

Overall record: 28 – 26

Last week’s record: 1 – 3

Jorge’s Rank: 8th

“The Nets cooled off this week after winning their previous six games. Close losses to Boston and San Antonio give them hope they will make the Playoffs. This is an extremely well-coached team and its players are showing up. Look no further than D’Angelo Russell being named Victor Oladipo’s All-Star game replacement. Despite losing Caris LeVert to a gruesome injury, Brooklyn deserves some credit for remaining alive. They own the 6th seed in the East, a spot Miami held on for most of the season. I have them at 8th because they lost to the Magic; a win in Orlando would have pushed them above.”

Vaughan’s Rank: 5th

This is awesome. The Nets are fantastic, and they’re missing two of their three best players, Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie. D’Angelo Russell, fresh off an All-Star selection (as a replacement player, but still), is playing like a Super Saiyan and everybody loves to watch it. After basement dwelling for years, the Nets have finally put something fun together, and they’re looking to make it last.”


 

5. Charlotte Hornets

Overall record: 26 – 26

Last week’s record: 3 – 1

Jorge’s Rank: 5th

“The Hornets quietly grabbed hold of the 7th seed in the East. They’re 1.5 games ahead of the Heat in the standings and winning their easy games this week is a big reason why. While wins against the Knicks, Grizzlies, and Bulls might not look like a big deal, those are must-wins if they plan on remaining in Playoff chase. They are playing much more like a team as of late, and that’s what has allowed them to take care of business. Relying too much on Kemba Walker has not turned out well for them, so seeing his teammates show up is a nice look for the 2019 All-Star Weekend hosts.”

Vaughan’s Rank: 6th

Mostly due to Kemba Walker’s otherworldly play to start the year, the Hornets are in the playoffs. They’ve said once again that they’re not looking to deal Kemba, a free agent this offseason, before the deadline. They’ve won quite a few games recently, only losing to the Bucks and Celtics since last Wednesday, and are looking to climb above .500 this week. Look for them to be buyers at the trade deadline to try and round the roster out.”

 

4. Boston Celtics

Overall record: 34 – 19

Last week’s record: 4 – 0

Jorge’s Rank: 3rd

“The Celtics went undefeated this past week, enough to secure the 3rd spot in my rankings. None of the teams, other than the OKC Thunder, were real competition for Boston. But still, winning four games in seven nights deserves major props. They were able to perform well on the court despite all the rumors surrounding Kyrie Irving’s impending free agency. These will continue to accompany the Celtics until their last game, so they better get used to it. Danny Ainge is known to be a willing mover as the trade deadline comes closer. We’ll have to keep an eye on what he decides to do, or if he just stands pat.”

Vaughan’s Rank: 4th

Amidst Anthony Davis’s dad saying mean things about them, and Kyrie Irving saying things that have clued everybody in on the fact that he’s probably not resigning in Boston, the Celtics have been playing much better. Hayward has some of his athleticism and defensive ability back, they kept it close with the Warriors last Saturday and knocked off the Thunder the next Sunday, they’ve won nine of their last 10 to slowly tie for third place in the conference.”


 

3. Philadelphia 76ers

Overall record: 34 – 19

Last week’s record: 2 – 1

Jorge’s Rank: 4th

“It was a rollercoaster week for the Sixers. They went to LA and Oakland and grabbed decisive wins over the Lakers and Warriors. After that, they inexplicably lost to the Kings. I mean, there is an explanation, it just doesn’t make any sense after two strong road outings. That loss to Sacramento has Philly tied with the Celtics in overall record. Boston holds the season tiebreaker, however, thus pushing Philadelphia to the 4th seed in the East. Their goal this week is having another strong stretch of ball games.”

Vaughan’s Rank: 3rd

How do you lose to the Kings and beat the Warriors in the same week? This team is a mystery, but so far this season, they’ve put it together. They’re in on the Davis sweepstakes for this season, Joel Embiid is playing like an MVP, and Landry Shamet has proven to solve the backup point guard situation they’ve been trying to fix. Despite whiffing on Fultz last year, the talent on that roster is fantastic, and they’ve matched up well against some of the league’s best. They play the Raptors on Tuesday, so that should be a wonderful spectacle. Keep an eye out for that.”

 

2. Toronto Raptors

Overall record: 38 – 16

Last week’s record: 0 – 1

Jorge’s Rank: 2nd

“The Raptors’ only game this week was a disappointing loss to the first seed in the East, the Milwaukee Bucks. Toronto’s offense struggled while Milwaukee put on a balanced act that saw seven Bucks score in double-digits. The Canadian squad is just 1.5 games behind the Bucks in the standings. Winning all four of their games this week is a must if they want to rest calmly during the All-Star break.”

Vaughan’s Rank: 2nd

Despite a loss to the Bucks this week, the Raptors are still a solid team. Two All-Stars, a solid bench, a first-year head coach that’s doing a fantastic job in Nick Nurse. So far, they’ve been dominant on the defensive end, and they have several offensive weapons to use as well. Pascal Siakam has been an incredibly pleasant surprise for the franchise, and the way they’re playing could convince Kawhi Leonard to stick around.”

 

1. Milwaukee Bucks

Overall record: 38 – 13

Last week’s record: 3 – 0

Jorge’s Rank: 1st

“The Bucks dominated this past week with convincing wins over the Pistons, Raptors, and Wizards. Their revolutionary offense built around Giannis Antetokounmpo is taking the league by storm. The Greek Freak is my favorite to win the MVP award by this year’s end; if he can continue leading Milwaukee to consistent success, there is no doubt he’ll own the hardware in due time. Quick shoutout to Khris Middleton, who was named to his first All-Star team this past week.”

Vaughan’s Rank: 1st

Mike Budenholzer is an amazing head coach. Giannis is the perfect franchise player. Khris Middleton was just named an All-Star for the first time. The Bucks beat the Raptors this week. Everything is lining up for them, and I can’t justify putting them anywhere but number one.”

 

Follow @miamisportswave on Twitter/Instagram and @vaughanjasu and @CantuNBA on Twitter for more Miami Heat and NBA content.

 

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