No big, flowery introductions to our Power Rankings this week.
15. New Orleans Pelicans (Up 4)
(19-29) Last week: 2-1
Forget the games this week – although the win over Boston was very nice – and focus on the freight train that is Zion Williamson.
There was a thought that it might take a few weeks for Zion to acclimatise to NBA hoops, given his long layoff. That acclimatisation process took about 12 minutes of game time. Since his 4th quarter explosion against the Spurs, Zion has been very, very good. He's giving the Pellies 18 points and 8.3 rebounds a night, and is already displaying solid play making instincts. He isn't setting the tone on defense yet – what rookies truly do? – having only blocked a single shot in his 4 games so far. But what a block it was!
14. Memphis Grizzlies (Up 2)
(24-24) Last week: 4-0
The trade deadline dealings of the Grizzlies will be fascinating. Their perfect week has given them a 1.5 game lead over San Antonio for the 8th seed in the West. Ja Morant is already an elite closer, sitting behind only James Harden, Trae Young and Giannis Antetokounmpo in 4th quarter points. Jaren Jackson Jr, Dillon Brooks and Jonas Valanciunas have fallen into line as capable lieutenants.
Yet the Grizzlies have a decision to make. It looks increasingly like Andre Iguodala will be a buyout candidate, rather than traded. But Jae Crowder is a player capable of improving a raft of contenders, notably the Clippers, Mavericks and Rockets. Should they trade him, it signals that the playoffs are not a priority this season.
13. Dallas Mavericks (Steady 2)
(29-18) Last week: 2-2
The Mavericks addressed their sudden need for a rim running, speedy centre in acquiring Willie Cauley-Stein from the Warriors. Willie Trill has physical talent to burn, but has he been damaged beyond repair from the unfortunate fate of spending his developmental years with the Kings? If there is a coach who can turn the big man around, it's surely Rick Carlisle.
Dallas still has Courtney Lee's expiring $12 million contract, and an $11.8 million trade exception from last season's Harrison Barnes deal, so they might not be done tinkering, just yet.
12. Houston Rockets (Steady)
(29-18) Last week: 2-2
James Harden is in an almighty slump.
Look at these numbers:
Harden has fallen away across the board, except for one very important number: Usage.
The Beard, despite his vicious slump, isn't adapting his game. On a team with Russell Westbrook and the returned Eric Gordon (welcome to the season, EG) it would surely make sense for Harden to perhaps play off the ball a little, and let colleagues in better form take the wheel while he regains his mojo.
11. Indiana Pacers (Steady)
(31-17) Last week: 2-1
Victor Oladipo returned for the Pacers this week. Understandably, given he's spent a full 12 months away from an NBA floor, he looked rusty in his 20 minute cameo. His Pacers teammates have been superb in his absence, with the team a very solid 30-17 prior to his return. Malcolm Brogdon has fitted in seamlessly. Domantas Sabonis has emerged as a star. What the team was missing, however, was a closer. A shot maker that could bail them out of late game situations. Oladipo is that man.
Oladipo hit the deep three to force OT! 😮 pic.twitter.com/Q97SnDNmEn— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 30, 2020