The 13th week of this NBA season was mostly about very good teams flexing their muscles. Squads like the Golden State Warriors, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz had great weeks.
Of course, many of their victims were the league’s lottery teams. So what we’re seeing right now is a growing divide between many of the top teams and the bottom-feeders. Let’s discuss the biggest changes in team trends over the past week.
NBA Week 13 Risers
Philadelphia 76ers (30-16, No. 4 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 3-0)
It’s pretty remarkable how a lot of things this season have felt like a disappointment for the 76ers but the team is still on pace for 53 or 54 wins.
Ben Simmons’ jump shot hasn’t progressed at all. 2017 No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz has been sidelined for two months with neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome. The bench is below-average and there have been reported chemistry issues since star wing Jimmy Butler was acquired.
Even so, the 76ers are in a pretty good spot to challenge for the East’s top seed. Jimmy Butler has been an efficiency monster since returning from an upper respiratory infection six games ago and Simmons is nearly averaging a triple-double in January. Joel Embiid has been playing through a back injury, but you wouldn’t know it with the MVP level at which he’s playing.
Utah Jazz (26-21, No. 7 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 4-0)
The Jazz are finally finding consistency and playing up to their potential. Utah has faced an admittedly easy schedule in its six-game winning streak, but the team is definitely looking good and beating many opponents by wide margins.
Rudy Gobert remains uber-efficient close to the rim and he has firmly thrust himself in the discussion to win his second straight Defensive Player of the Year award. Utah is moving up the defensive efficiency rankings almost nightly, it seems.
Second-year guard Donovan Mitchell’s bounce-back after a poor start to the season has been great to watch. Mitchell is handling the ball a lot more with injuries to multiple Jazz point guards and he has responded with great scoring consistency. He now has eight straight games of at least 24 points. His previous career high in that statistic was four.
Golden State Warriors (32-14, No. 1 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 4-0)
The Warriors are a tough team to read in the regular season. Obviously, they have the talent and chemistry to make the other 29 teams in the league blush, but they don’t always show it.
In their current seven-game winning streak, the Dubs are doing their best to show how much better they are than their opponents. Golden State’s most impressive victory was a 31-point drubbing of the Denver Nuggets in Denver to seize first place in the West from none other than the Nuggets.
The Warriors’ ball movement has been on point as of late. When Golden State’s stars are all on the same page and playing unselfishly, it is basically over for the opponent.
Now, All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins is back from his Achilles rehabilitation and the Warriors’ All-Star starting lineup is officially complete. The Warriors will tear through the rest of this regular season if they feel inclined to do so.
NBA Week 13 Fallers
Los Angeles Clippers (24-21, No. 9 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 0-4)
The Clippers just went 0-for-4 on a four-game home stand. They didn’t have the easiest set of opponents (Detroit Pistons, New Orleans Pelicans, Utah Jazz and Golden State Warriors), but a team with playoff aspirations has to win at least one or two contests in this situation.
Now, Los Angeles finds itself ninth in the Western Conference and with just the 11th-best net rating out West. The Clippers are now dealing with some significant injuries, too. Lou Williams and Danilo Gallinari (a combined 37.7 points per game) have recently hit the shelf and Los Angeles isn’t the deepest team in terms of scoring weapons.
We will see how coach Doc Rivers and his squad respond to this stretch of adversity. However, even if the team staggers to a 40-win season, no one should be too disappointed. The Clippers’ talent level simply doesn’t stack up to most of the teams in the Western Conference’s top eight.
Oklahoma City Thunder (26-18, No. 4 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 1-2)
The Thunder played well in their first game of the week, a 10-point home win against the San Antonio Spurs. However, their next two games were inexcusable: a 16-point road loss to the Atlanta Hawks and a 10-point home loss to the LeBron-less Los Angeles Lakers.
OKC’s defense has fallen off a cliff as of late and now ranks third-worst in the NBA over the last six games, a stretch in which the team has gone 1-5. What’s going on? The Thunder have been without a couple of key defenders in Andre Roberson and Nerlens Noel for most of their recent stretch, but the squad was doing fine without them before. They still have an amazing group of very athletic players.
Chances are, the recent play on defense is just a result of a lull in effort over a long NBA season. However, the team needs to get back on track quickly.
Memphis Grizzlies (19-26, No. 14 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 0-4)
For most of this season, there has been a pack of decent teams clustered between about 8th and 14th in the Western Conference above the lowly Phoenix Suns.
The Grizzlies are threatening to break free from that pack, but in a bad way. Memphis has had a tough stretch of opponents in its last three weeks, but it is never good for a team to lose four games in a row to go 1-10 in a stretch of 11 games.
Memphis was never supposed to be good this season and the team is showing why right now. There is not enough offense and too much money was invested in Marc Gasol and Mike Conley (a very unspectacular duo) for the team to get more top-shelf talent.
There are rumors surfacing that Memphis is interested in trading Gasol, which isn’t a bad idea. The soon-to-be 34-year-old will only get worse and the Grizzlies really need to think about how they can optimize their roster to be a contender in the future.