Steph Curry Breaks 3pt Record

NBA Power Rankings: Dubs Lead the Pack

1. Golden State Warriors (-)

Record: 23-5

Since the 1st: 5-2

The inevitable is official. Steph Curry is now the all-time league leader in three pointers made. Maybe now that the circus souring the record is set to die down Curry can build back his shooting percentage which dropped in recent weeks. Aside from Curry’s “slump” which we should state is still better than most the league, the Warriors are continuing to roll. Even while taking a pair of losses the Warriors finish the first half of December out scoring opponents by 8.6 points per game. They have continued their stellar defense where they lead the league in Defensive rebounds and limiting opponents effective field goal percentage.

2. Utah Jazz (↑2)

Record: 19-7

Since the 1st: 5-0

Utah has not lost in December at the month’s midpoint. A large part of their success has come though experimentation. First, we have trying to use Gobert off ball to bring help defense. A move which drew the ire of Pat Beverly but resulted in a 32-point victory. The second experiment comes form trying to switch more. When Rudy Gay is on the floor the Jazz have increased their switch-ability and it is looking good. Adding to those experiments has been the elevated success of Donovan Mitchell who is on a tare right now averaging 31 points on 53.3% from the floor 45.3% from deep and 90.5% from the line.

3. Brooklyn Nets (-)

Record: 20-8

Since the 1st: 5-2

It is amazing how Brooklyn continues to churn out victories despite missing bodies. If it was not for Skip Bayless taking any opportunity to take a shot at LeBron his Durant praise might actually be effective. What Durant did again Toronto needs to be appreciated. Brooklyn almost needed to forfeit due to missing too many guys then KD came off the injury list. He played 48 minutes dropping a 34 point 13 rebound and 11 assist outing. The Nets will continue to be one of the best teams in the league as long as Durant is playing. The real question is can Harden ramp up when he returns and will Kyrie come back.

4. Phoenix Suns (↓3)

Record: 22-5

Since the 1st: 4-2

After a season best win streak, it is easy to feel deflated by the Suns recent performance. Their victory over the Pistons was far too close with the Pistons as close as 6 points behind within the final 4 minutes. Portland pushed the Suns to overtime without CJ McCollum in Lillard’s second game back from his abdomen injury. Phoenix is still without Devin Booker who was injured in their November 30th victory over the Golden State Warriors.  

5. Memphis Grizzlies (↑6)

Record: 17-11

Since the 1st: 6-1

Since the loss of Ja Morant Memphis has gone 9-1. It is probably time we start the conversation about Memphis joining the dark horse contender group. All of these stats will be a bit twisted due to their 73-point victory over Oklahoma City. In the 9 games since Ja was injured Memphis is limiting opponents to 94.1 points per game and has an average margin of victory of 19.6. Jaren Jackson Jr has picked up the offensive load averaging 21.7 points post Morant’s injury when he was averaging 15.0 points per game pre the injury.

6. Milwaukee Bucks (↓1)

Record: 18-11

Since the 1st: 5-3

This has not been a particularly great stretch for the Bucks’ The franchise experienced their first pair of losses with all three of Giannis, Khris and Jrue in the lineup. However, they are till rolling. Giannis made sure that the Bucks would not lose to Houston posting an impressive 41 points 17 rebounds 5 assists 3 steals and 2 blocks in just 36 minutes. They are about to enter a stretch without the Greek Freak who has entered health and safety protocol. This could be a rough end to the month for Milwaukee. 

7. Cleveland Cavaliers (↑11)

Record: 17-12

Since the 1st: 6-2

The Cavaliers are legitimately better than last years Hawks. They are currently 4th in margin of victory and net rating. Garland has been a menace to opposing defenses scoring 19.6 points with 48% three-point shooting but even more importantly he is running the pick and role with Jarrett Allen to perfection. His short drive floater is almost indistinguishable from his short drive lob. To be honest sometimes it looks like Allen is confused whether he should touch the ball or not. Defensively the combo of Mobley and Allen are averaging 4.3 blocks per game in December.

8. Chicago Bulls (↓2)

Record: 17-10

Since the 1st: 3-2

The Bulls needed this respite from covid. Postponing a pair of games against struggling opponents is better than risking a loss to the Pistons or Raptors. Had Chicago continued to play they would be down to a starting line of Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, Nikola Vucevic, Devon Dotson who has played 5 games for them and Alfonzo McKinnie, who in is lone appearance played 29 minutes due to the lack of bodies. Provided they are able to return most guys at the end of this hiatus Chicago has a 4-game home stretch against lack lust competition.

9. Los Angeles Clippers (↑10)

Record: 16-12

Since the 1st: 5-2

The Clippers are starting to feel a little bit frisky. Still no news on Kawhi but they may not need him. They may not even need Paul George. Somehow the Clipper Bench has found a way to keep things rolling. BJ Boston had a break out game against the Boston Celtics. Terrance Mann has been 2 rebounds away from three straight double doubles. Luke Kennard had found the range converting 58.3% of his 6.9 three-point attempts per game. If Kawhi and George are healthy this supporting cast may be better than most big 3’s third man.

10. Miami Heat (↓3)

Record: 16-12

Since the 1st: 3-4

Without Bam the Heat are giving up 106.4 points to opponents after giving up just 103.3 prior to Adebayo’s injury. The scoring increase however fits the general trend of the league. As teams have adjusted to the rule reinterpretations offensive ratings have begun to rise and with those defensive ratings are looking worse. Miami actually improved their standing in defensive rating from 10th place on the 1st to 9th place now.

11. Philadelphia 76ers (↑5)

Record: 15-13

Since the 1st: 4-3

The 76ers have a winning record despite being 14th in offensive rating and 21st in defensive rating. They are barely winning when they win and getting blown out in losses. When Embiid rested against the Grizzlies, Philadelphia lost by 35. In the two Games they played the Hornets Embiid put up 75 points 23 rebounds and 11 assist. They need to make a Simmons trade soon because Embiid cannot be the sole reason why Philadelphia is above average.

12. Denver Nuggets (↑5)

Record: 14-13

Since the 1st: 4-3

On the Hoops Temple Podcast, we may have had some wild speculation that the Nuggets should tank away this season to try and better their odds for next season. Nikola Jokic is having none of that. In December he is averaging 27.3 points, 14.0 rebounds and 9.3 assists. Denver is following his lead as best they can. Hitting 37.3% of their three in December would be the third best percentage in the league if they continued it all season. 

13. Los Angeles Lakers (↑1)

Record: 15-13

Since the 1st: 3-2

Is Frank Vogel’s new starting five of Bradley, Horton-Tucker, LeBron, Westbrook and either Davis or Howard working? It is impossible to tell. We are half way through December and no Laker lineup has played more than 55 minutes. Even looking at 4-man units the highest minute quartet is still below 155 minutes and that line up is -6.1 points per 100 possessions. Still the Lakers are creeping over .500 by beating bad teams. With one of the hardest remaining strengths of schedule they need to figure out a workable long-term strategy.

14. Houston Rockets (↑10)

Record: 9-18

Since the 1st: 5-2

Did Houston actually figure this out? Sure, half this win streak came against the Magic, Pelicans and had a pair of victories over the Thunder but the Rockets are looking competent. The Rockets blew a double-digit lead against Milwaukee but that still means they had a double-digit lead against the defending champions. Houston has found itself a Small 3. Christian Wood might be auditioning to be traded but the audition is garnering some attention. Jae’Sean Tate has shown himself to be incredibly versatile. Garry Bird also known as Garrison Matthews may be a little over hyped, he is hitting 38.6% of his threes in December but the energy he brings to the floor is contagious.  

15. Boston Celtics (↓2)

Record: 14-14

Since the 1st: 3-4

It is so hard to know what to make of Boston. None of the players help make the offense move any better but when Tatum gets hot, they become very dangerous, just ask Milwaukee. Tatum’s 42-point line might not even be the most impressive stat of the night for the Celtics. Marcus Smart dished out 11 dimes with 0 turnovers. The rest of the month will tell us a lot about Boston. They will have to compete against Milwaukee, Golden State, Cleveland and Phoenix before the end of the month.

16. Toronto Raptors (↑9)

Record: 13-15

Since the 1st: 4-2

Toronto has figured out the Barnes Siakam Pairing. After some early negative results, the duo has shared the court for 439 minutes together and are up to a positive 1.61 net rating. Barnes’ shooting has been on the lower volume side of the scale from deep but he is converting a high enough percentage to keep defenses honest. After picking up a big win over Milwaukee one has to consider could these Raptors give teams trouble in the first round?

17. Charlotte Hornets (↓8)

Record: 15-14

Since the 1st:  2-4

Charlotte has been through their share of absences lately. Nothing in comparison to Chicago but missing Ball, Rozier, and Plumlee has taken its toll on the franchise. Ball’s play making makes the game easier for everyone else without him Charlotte has been searching for the hot hand. They found it against the Kings when Bouknight went 6-8 from deep. Still, they were a pair of missed free throw away from falling even further down these rankings. Good news is Ball and Plumlee entered health and safety on the 4th and should be back soon, Rozier has already returned.

18. Atlanta Hawks (↓11)

Record: 13-14

Since the 1st: 2-4

Last season the Hawks were 11-16 through their first 27 games. A big part of their struggle last season was the absence of Bogdan Bogdanovic, who missed 17 of those games. The Hawks went 6-11 without him. He has missed the last 6 for Atlanta and the Hawks are 2-4 without him, 2-5 if you count his earlier absence. He and Trae make a powerful back court combo but none of the Hawks other wing pieces bring enough shooting, playmaking and ball handling to the table to replace. 

19. Dallas Mavericks (↑1)

Record: 14-13

Since the 1st: 4-4

Dallas got a pair of wins without Luka Doncic. Yes, they were against the Thunder and Charlotte without LaMelo Ball or a real center in the rotation but seeing other players play make is a huge win for Dallas. Kristaps Porzingis has quietly started playing defense again. Against the shorter Hornets Porzingis swatted away five shots. Jalen Brunson was big in both games for Dallas. Could he develop into their missing piece? 

20. Washington Wizards (↓8)

Record: 15-13

Since the 1st: 2-5

Washington continues their slide down these rankings and the question we have all avoided is starting to become more prevalent now. What is wrong with Bradley Beal? After averaging 31.3 points per game last season and 30.5 the previous year, Beal is down to 20.9 in the month of December. New comers have also begun to regress. Harrell had a 27 point outing against the Wolves followed by scoring less than 10 points in 5 of his next 6 games.The Wizard’s only wins this month came against Detroit and Minnesota.  

21. Indiana Pacers (↑2)

Record: 12-17

Since the 1st: 3-3

For as much as the Pacers have been in the news not much has changed for the franchise. They racked up three straight wins over the Wizards, Knicks and Mavericks but are only 3-3 in December. Sabonis played well enough in those victories to be named player of the week dropping 75 points 31 rebounds and 18 assist. It is a small personal victory for the 2-time all-star who may be on the trading the block. 

22. San Antonio Spurs (↑4)

Record: 10-16

Since the 1st:  4-3

It is not sexy but Jakob Poeltl has been very solid for the Spurs. This season the big man is averaging 5.7 screen assist per game and contesting 13.1 shots per game. His block of a body has helped open up space for Dejounte Murray who in the month of December is showing off his playmaking as well as his scoring averaging 15.1 points and 9.1 assists per game

23. Sacramento Kings (↑4)

Record: 11-17

Since the 1st: 3-3

Playing .500 ball for the first half of a month is a win for the Kings. Their line ups are continuing to evolve with Bagley seeing his minutes increasing. In December Bagley caught his first start as well as scoring in double figures in 4 of his 5 appearances. More importantly Fox is looking more comfortable with Gentry running the ship. The ball is spending more time in his hands and his scoring is starting to increase. In December he is near his last year averages with 24.5 points per game.

24. New York Knicks (↓10)

Record: 12-16

Since the 1st: 1-6

Kemba may not have helped the Knicks win but he surely s not the only reason why they are losing. Julius Randle’s regression from last season has been even worse than expected. Last year Randle hit 41.7% of his catch and shoot three and 40% on pull ups. This season he is down to 33% and 36.2% in those respective categories. Last season Randle’s assist to turnover ratio was 1.76 to 1its down to 1.35 to 1. Walker was supposed to be the play making guard to cover Randle’s regression without him the flaws are shining bright.

25. Minnesota Timberwolves (↓)

Record: 12-15

Since the 1st: 1-5

After a nice little stretch against some weaker western conference opponents the Wolves bite off more than they could chew with a stretch of tougher primarily Eastern opponents. Their stretch included an 11-point loss to the Hawks, 17 to the Cavs and 32 to Utah. All three losses did come without D’Angelo Russell. Without his added spacing sophomore Anthony Edwards really struggled going 19 for 52 from the floor over those three games.

26. Portland Trailblazer (↓10)

Record: 11-17

Since the 1st: 0-6

Thank the basketball gods that Damian Lillard has returned. Things were looking far too dark with both Lillard and McCollum out. Without either player on the floor the Blazers have a negative net rating of -16.44. Their offense averages 93.56 points per 100 possessions without that duo. For perspective the difference between the Warriors and the Pelicans net offensive rating is about 7 points. The Blazers without their stars are 7 points per 100 possessions worse than the Thunder.

27. New Orleans Pelicans (↓)

Record: 8-21

Since the 1st: 2-4

The fact that the Pelicans messed up nicknaming Jonas Valanciunas, Dick Valanciunas instead of the significantly better Jonas Valanowitski should have been a clear sign that thins would fall apart quickly. After his 7 for 8 three-point shooting night the has gone 2-12 in his last 6 outings. Zion Williamson has had another injury set back. Jaxson Hayes is now “tradeable” if anyone is interested. It is time to trade Ingram and rebuild. Only question left is should the Pelicans have someone other than David Griffin make their next draft pick.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder (↑1)

Record: 8-18

Since the 1st: 2-4

It is hard to glean much from the Thunder December statistics due to their 73-point loss to the Grizzlies. That alone should have been enough for the Thunder to take the last spot but alas the Pistons and the Magic exist.

29. Orlando Magic (↑1)

Record: 5-23

Since the 1st: 1-5

Orlando started the year bad but with promise. The starting five of Anthony, Suggs, Wagner, Bamba and Carter had a positive 10.9 net rating. Inserting Harris in place of the injured Suggs has resulted in a positive rating of just 1.3. It may not be as effective but Wagner and Anthony have continued to look like real NBA level talent. In the month of December Anthony has averaged 22.7 points per game on 44.4% from the floor and 40.4% from three. Wagner is converting 588% of his threes in December.

30. Detroit Pistons (↓1)

Record: 4-22

Since the 1st: 0-5

The Pistons last win was almost a month ago against the Indiana Pacers on November 17th. It is so much worse than just their inability to score. With Isaiah Stewart as an undersized big being their only real rebounder they are getting bodies on the boards. With rookie and sophomore ball handlers they are missing cutters or when the cutters are found they are not ready for the pass. The Pistons are 28th in rebounding 24th in turnovers, 27th in assists, 30th in effective field goal percentage. Cade Cunningham’s counting numbers keep improving but he has a long way to go before he can lift this mess.

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Podcast host for Hoops Temple and blogger for Temple Entertainment and Media. Studied Kinesiology with an emphasis on sports psychology and coaching basketball at Michigan State University. Coached at the High School level for 8 seasons.

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