Many people see Christmas as the real beginning of the NBA season. From that point, playoff races really start to heat up and we see the real identity of the league’s players and teams.
However, we have been tracking all 30 teams in the NBA ever since mid-October. All of the squads have gone through their ups and downs this season.
Let’s check in with the latest group of teams that have either been on the rise or on the decline over the past week.
NBA Week 10 Risers
Houston Rockets (19-15, No. 7 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 3-0)
The Rockets are back. Houston’s 11-14 start raised some eyebrows, but the team is now 8-1 since then, with six of the wins against teams above .500.
What’s the biggest reason for their surge? James Harden. It may seem overly simplistic, but the reigning MVP is averaging 39.2 points per game in the last nine games and is getting to the free-throw line basically at will.
Houston is also bludgeoning teams on the glass to control possession. The Rockets haven’t been blowing teams out on their current win streak against strong teams, but they’ve outrebounded their opponents by 11 rebounds per game in the three contests.
Philadelphia 76ers (23-13, No. 4 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 2-1)
The Sixers had a very poor game against the San Antonio Spurs last Monday, losing by 27 points. Since then, though, they’ve responded with three wins in four games, winning by an average of 21.7 points and losing in overtime on the road against the Boston Celtics.
In the stretch, though, Philly has been powered heavily on both ends of the floor by its Big Four of Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons and J.J. Redick. All four of them are averaging at least 15.8 points per game, but no one else is averaging more than eight points per game in the last four contests.
It is great that the team has its stars playing so well. However, you have to wonder how this team will fare if it faces poor injury luck later on this season. Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, T.J. McConnell, Jonah Bolden, Landry Shamet and Furkan Korkmaz are not necessarily the types you want to rely on for big minutes.
Los Angeles Clippers (20-14, No. 4 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 2-1)
The Clippers have halted a cold stretch of six losses in seven games by winning three of their last four contests, all against teams with a record of 16-17 or better.
Los Angeles’ lesser-known team just comes at you in waves on offense. Tobias Harris is the steady No. 1 option, but Danilo Gallinari is an uber-efficient No. 2. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell are both nightly threats to score 20 to 25 points off the bench. Even 20-year-old rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is in double-figure scoring now (10.6 points per game) with a pretty shooting slash of 49.1/37.3/80.2.
I still have major concerns about the Clippers’ lack of a major star for when the playoffs roll around. Los Angeles has the 23rd-ranked defense in the NBA. For now, they’re a fun team, though, and head coach Doc Rivers deserves some love for Coach of the Year.
NBA Week 10 Fallers
New Orleans Pelicans (15-20, No. 14 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 0-3)
The Pelicans’ 4-0 start seems so long ago. New Orleans is currently on a five-game losing streak, and the squad hasn’t won consecutive games in almost six weeks.
If there’s one thing the Pelicans’ season is proving, it’s that depth matters in today’s NBA, especially in the Western Conference. Having a superstar (Anthony Davis) and a couple of other stars (Jrue Holiday and Julius Randle) is great, but it hardly means anything if no one else can play at even a serviceable level next to them.
Right now, injuries to Elfrid Payton and Nikola Mirotic are really killing the team and exposing just how few quality players the Pelicans have on their roster. Time is running out for this franchise to prove to Davis that he should want to stay there for the long term.
New York Knicks (9-27, No. 14 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 0-3)
It has become free-fall time for the Knicks, who are rounding into the team that they were supposed to be with star Kristaps Porzingis rehabbing his torn ACL. New York has now lost six games in a row and 11 of its last 12 contests. The Knicks only came closer than seven points in one of their losses.
It’s officially time for the Knicks to focus on next season. It appears as if the organization has gotten the message, because team president implied on Thursday that the Knicks aren’t opposed to ruling Porzingis out for the season. Also, raw rookie Kevin Knox is taking on the No. 1 option role on offense, which has produced mixed results.
Knicks fans, if you had any dreams of the team making the playoffs this season, it’s time to give them up. Just sit back, enjoy watching your young prospects develop and hope that the draft and free agency go well next summer.
Golden State Warriors (23-13, No. 2 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 2-2)
The Warriors are mostly healthy again, aside from DeMarcus Cousins, but they just don’t look like the real Warriors anymore. Golden State is on pace to win 52 games after averaging more than 66 wins over the previous four seasons.
Golden State had a four-game home stand this past week. You’d think that the squad would use the time to figure things out and gain some momentum. That didn’t happen. The Warriors got two narrow, uninspiring wins over the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers. In their next two games, they got blown out by the Los Angeles Lakers (who were without LeBron James much of the game) and lost to the Portland Trail Blazers in overtime.
Two particular players are not doing their normal work for the Warriors: Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Both guys have been perennial All-Stars as of late, but neither player is anywhere near that level on either side of the ball right now.
I may look stupid in six months for doubting this team, but there’s a real chance that the Warriors don’t make the Finals this season for the first time since 2014.