No big, flowery introductions to our Power Rankings this week.
20. Brooklyn Nets (Steady)
(20-26) Last week: 2-2
Since Christmas, the Nets have suffered losing streaks of seven and five games. Despite that, they remain a full three games clear of Chicago for the final playoff spot in the East. Wouldn't it be nice to be in Brooklyn's world, where dramatic troughs in the team's form don't really have a consequence?
Kyrie Irving, for all his foibles, remains one of the best shot makers in the NBA. Next season, with Kevin Durant back, Irving should fall in to what he hopefully accepts is his NBA destiny: the #2 option on a contending team.
KYRIE IRVING HOW!? 😱 pic.twitter.com/wu0dS9VPLm— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 26, 2020
19. Phoenix Suns (Steady)
(20-27) Last week: 2-1
Phoenix haven't sent a representative to All Star Sunday since Steve Nash back in 2012. Devin Booker should break that unwanted streak. The 5th year guard is averaging 27.1 points and 6.4 assists a night, with an excellent 63.4% True Shooting percentage.
The Suns might soon have a 2nd All Star on their hands in DeAnde Ayton. The young big has improved dramatically on the defensive end, with a Defensive Rating a full 6 points better than his rookie campaign. He's been excellent in January with nightly averages of 18.7 points, 11.9 boards and 1.9 blocks.
18. Portland Trailblazers (Steady)
(21-27) Last week: 2-1
Last week, I mentioned that the biggest impediment the Blazers have in trying to tank, wears #0.
Damian Lillard has certainly done nothing to dispel those thoughts. As his team crumbles around him, Lillard continues to fight the good fight. He's averaging 33.1 points and 8.3 assists in January. Whilst there have been flourishes, such as the 61 points he hung on the Warriors last week or the 50 point, 13 assist masterclass against Indiana, his consistency has perhaps been even more impressive: Lillard has only scored below 30 points once since the turn of the year.
17. Orlando Magic (Down 2)
(21-27) Last week: 0-3
The Magic need a shake up.
They're almost Spursian in their ability to take care of the teams in the lower reaches of the standings, going 16-6 against teams with a sub .500 record. The maths geniuses out there will deduce that against better than .500 teams Orlando have a woeful 5-21 record. They're so mid-table it hurts.
So who to trade? The obvious answer seems to be the struggling – and perhaps just not that good – Aaron Gordon. He has a season after this one remaining on his $20 million per year contract. There are surely teams out there that think they can unlock something in him.
16. San Antonio Spurs (Down 2)
(21-26) Last week: 1-3
The Spurs are somewhat of an enigma. They took out the streaking Jazz in their last game, yet have lost to Chicago and Phoenix this week. They held of a charging Pelicans team in Zion's debut last week and defeated Miami, yet lost to Atlanta.
On the personnel front, DeMar DeRozan is both an outside chance of being an All Star, and seemingly expendable. LaMarcus Aldridge is either antiquated, or the Texan Splash Mountain, depending on the night. Whilst the Spurs are in the playoff hunt, don't expect them to make wholesale changes, but come season's end, we could see a raft of moves.