The Golden State Warriors are back on a 70-win pace and enter the All-Star break with the league's best record for the third successive season.
You'll have to scroll down to the No. 10 slot if you're looking for some suspense in the latest edition of ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings.
The Committee (of One) decided to invoke its executive powers and bump the Miami Heat up to the highly coveted 10th spot as a reward for the Heat's completely unexpected 13-game winning streak.
Nor does it matter if the Heat eventually slide back into the bottom half of the rankings or miss the playoffs.
With a slew of teams around them (Atlanta, Utah, Indiana, Toronto and Oklahoma) all enduring a tough week, we decided to honor the Heat's impressive achievement in part because we feel we've somewhat underplayed it to this point, as explained further when you scroll down to Miami's comment.
Read on for the rest of our 1-to-30 order. And stay tuned for a special invite to get involved with these rankings like never before.
Profuse thanks, as always, go to ESPN Stats & Info and the Elias Sports Bureau -- with ESPN research ace Micah Adams running the point -- for the considerable background data they all supply to assist the Committee (of One) in its efforts to arrange things here properly.
Amid all of the understandable focus on Saturday night's events in Oklahoma City, let's not overlook what the Warriors achieved in their Friday night victory at Memphis. Led by Draymond Green and a triple-double performance for the ages that couldn't have illustrated his Defensive Player of the Year worthiness much better, Golden State quietly set an NBA record for the most wins -- 237 -- in a span of 300 regular-season games. The previous league high was 236, established by the Showtime Lakers (1984-88) and tied a decade later by Michael Jordan's Bulls. The 123-92 rout of the Bulls two nights earlier marked the Warriors' eighth victory by at least 30 points this season, which is the NBA's highest total for any team since the 1987-88 Celtics rung up eight of their own. The only other team in history to record eight such blowouts before the All-Star break was the 1971-72 Bucks, who were led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson and lost in the Western Conference finals to the 69-win Lakers. (No joke: Milwaukee really was a Western Conference resident in those days).
On one hand, we probably shouldn't make too much of this because A) Cleveland won't see any back-to-backs in the playoffs, and B) Kevin Love is suddenly dealing with knee trouble (if you're really looking for something Cavs-related to fret about). On the other hand ... Cleveland's loss Thursday night at Oklahoma City dropped the reigning champs to 0-7 on the second night of a back-to-back on the road this season. Given how talented they are, that stat has to be at least somewhat troubling. Especially so when that defeat left the Cavs as one of only four winless teams league-wide in that situation along with Brooklyn, Indiana and Dallas (all of whom are also 0-7). Interesting bit of trivia on the side: Derrick Williams' arrival on a 10-day deal means the Cavs now have three of the top four picks (No. 1 Kyrie Irving, No. 2 Williams and No. 4 Tristan Thompson) from the draft that followed LeBron James' first full season in Miami.
We wrote it a few years ago in our Spurs e-book in advance of the 2014 NBA Finals. And Gregg Popovich confirmed it earlier this month when he set a new league record for the most regular-season coaching victories (1,128) with one franchise. It is the idea that the Spurs, in the early days of the Pop era, looked upon the Stockton/Malone/Sloan Jazz as their role models. So you have to believe that the Spurs -- even though they're only off to a humble 2-2 start on their annual Rodeo Road Trip -- are proud of this one, too: Friday night's victory over Detroit assured San Antonio of its 20th consecutive .500 or-better season. Which is one shy of the league-record 21 consecutive such seasons established by (who else?) Team Blueprint in The SLC from 1983-84 through 2003-04.
James Harden is up to nine 40-point games this season after Saturday night's dismantling of the Suns, tying him for the league lead with Russell Westbrook. Harden also comfortably remains on course to record the first double-digit assists per game season in Rockets history, easily trumping the 9.4 APG recorded by John Lucas in 1977-78. The consolation for Luke: At least he has a wonderful seat to see Harden at work in his first season back with the team as director of basketball operations. The Rockets, meanwhile, are quietly 7-1 this season on the second night of a back-to-back on the road, second in the league only to San Antonio's 8-0 mark.
You surely know by now that John Wall is one of just three players in the whole NBA averaging more than 20 PPG and 10 APG this season, alongside Harden and Westbrook. You're likely just as aware that Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr. and even Markieff Morris are playing as well as we've ever seen offensively. But did you know that the much-maligned Washington bench, through Friday's win over Indy, ranks eighth in the league in net rating over the past 20 games? It's probably no coincidence that the Wiz are 16-4 in that stretch, which easily could have been 17-3 if they had closed with more conviction in last Monday's epic showdown with LeBron James and his Cavs.
Must have been quite a moment for Isaiah Thomas to get that text from Tom Brady suggesting that it's Thomas' turn "next" to taste a championship. The reality, though, is that the law of averages has to be against the Celtics when you consider all the winning that has been happening in Boston in the new millennium. The Patriots' Super Bowl comeback accounted for the 10th championship -- TENTH! -- snagged by Boston-area franchises in North America's recognized Big Four major sports leagues since 2001. Thomas, though, just keeps doing his thing. The Celts' little big man is averaging a league-best 10.7 points per game in fourth quarters this season; Kobe Bryant's 9.5 PPG in fourth quarters in the 2005-06 season was the previous NBA high over the past 20 seasons.
The Grizzlies still hold the top mark this season in terms of biggest comeback with that unforgettable rally from 24 points down on the Warriors' floor on Jan. 6. Dallas has to settle for the season's second-biggest comeback in the second half, thanks to its rally from three touchdowns down in the third quarter against visiting Utah. The Grizz can also still claim a 2-1 mark in the season series with mighty Golden State despite the blowout inflicted Friday night on Memphis' floor by our top-ranked team. You have to believe Toney Douglas, meanwhile, has earned a rest-of-the-season deal in Memphis, judging by the Grizzlies' 10-2 record when Douglas gets on the court.
Gordon Hayward certainly hasn't slowed down since earning his maiden All-Star nod; Hayward has cracked the 30-point plateau in four of his past five games and remain on course to record the highest scoring average by anyone in Jazz colors since Karl Malone's 23.2 PPG in 2000-01. Utah's week, however, ended with a double thud after it hiked its record to 15 games over .500, thanks to blowing that 21-point lead in Dallas and a home loss Saturday night to Boston, suffered despite George Hill's 22 points. The Jazz are now 12-1 when Hill scores at least 20 points ... as well as 19-5 when both Hill and Hayward are in the lineup. Without Hill? The Jazz are 12-13.
Just days before the Super Bowl, Atlantans were celebrating the Hawks' rally from 20 points down with 8:25 to go in Houston to stun the Rockets, which marked the NBA's first comeback from 20 points down in the fourth quarter since Indiana turned the tables on Cleveland in April 2013. NBA teams had lost (you can look it up) 1,306 consecutive times in that situation before the Hawks' epic resurrection. Since then, though, Atlantans have to be wondering if any lead is safe. On top of the Falcons' Super Bowl collapse, they were also just forced to endure the Hawks' failure to hold onto a 22-point edge in Sacramento on Friday night.
The most improbable 13-game winning streak in the history of the NBA is over. Just three of Miami's 13 victims -- Houston, Golden State and Atlanta -- were .500-or-better teams. The streak also included a 10-game stretch that, according to ESPN's Basketball Power Index, will rank as the second-easiest span of 10 games for any team all season long. How much do you downgrade Miami's achievements based on those realities? Not much here. We want to go the other way and hat-tip these guys because all the February drama we've seen league-wide (Melo vs. Phil, Oak vs. Dolan, KD vs. OKC) kept the Heat's crazy win streak more under the radar than it should have been ... no matter who they were beating.
After all the buildup leading into Friday's trip to the nation's capital, Indiana endured a deflating reality check that spoiled the whole weekend, losing narrowly to the Wiz before returning home on tired legs and absorbing a 16-point pounding from struggling Milwaukee. The Pacers entered that showdown with Washington at 13-5 since Jan. 1, good for the league's fourth-best record in 2017 to that point. Yet they also had played the league's easiest schedule to that point, according to ESPN's Basketball Power Index, with Indy not-so-coincidentally now just two games into a 10-game stretch that serves up eight teams with .500-or-better records. The two games against sub-.500 opposition in that stretch, in case you're wondering, are Saturday's date with the Bucks that Indy just lost ... and a Feb. 25 visit to the increasingly inhospitable Heat.
The Raptors were ranked No. 1 in the league in offensive efficiency, even ahead of the mighty Warriors, through Jan. 17. But they've been a bottom-10 team in the month since (No. 23 to be exact) and have dropped 10 of 14 to grease their slide to No. 4 in the East. (Amazingly, though, Toronto is actually favored by ESPN's Basketball Index in all but two of its remaining 27 games this season.) We touched on this last week and nothing has changed in the interim: DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are bound for New Orleans and a (presumably) fun dose of distraction at All-Star Weekend festivities, but the prime curiosity emanating from north of the border is what Toronto plans to do in the 10 days before the trade buzzer sounds. Do the Raps make a move for Serge Ibaka? For Danilo Gallinari? Someone else?
The Clippers start the last week before the All-Star break in Salt Lake City in what, at the present, would represent a first-round playoff preview with Utah at No. 4 and L.A. at No. 5 in the West. (The Jazz, incidentally, are only 3-8 against the Warriors, Spurs, Rockets, Clippers and Grizzlies ... so it's also a biggie for them.) Pay particular attention to the fourth quarter, because the Clips are 0-13 on the road this season in games in which they trailed at any point in the final period. (Brooklyn, at 0-23, is the league's only other winless team in those situations.) Blake Griffin, meanwhile, is starting to work himself into a nice groove as he awaits Chris Paul's return, averaging better than 25 PPG over his last seven games.
The Thunder have now lost their three encounters with Golden State this season by 26, 21 and 16 points and have sunk to 1-6 against the West's top three teams. So who even wants to see them slip to the West's No. 8 seed and open the playoffs against Kevin Durant and his new team? Yes, folks, we're being facetious. Of course we'd love to see Angry Russ and KD square off in the first round (or any round) after the considerable animus that bubbled up when the teams tangled Saturday night at The Peake. Such was the hype for Durant's return that we didn't hear a single word about OKC's stirring win over LeBron James & Co. from a mere two nights earlier during the Committee's whole weekend visit. Power Rankings Law also compels us to point out that Westbrook, after 11 turnovers in the 130-114 defeat, is up to five games this season with at least 10 turnovers. That's the most by any player in a single season since the league started tracking turnovers in 1977-78.
The Nuggets celebrated the Nikola Jokic Show at Madison Square Garden -- The Joker scored 40 points on (yikes) 17-for-23 shooting -- by making their second trade of the season. To add to the completely salary-cap-floor-related acquisition of Mo Williams, Denver will Monday complete a far splashier swap that sends Jusuf Nurkic to Portland (along with a first-round pick) in exchange for Mason Plumlee. How many more deals will we see from the Nuggets over the final 10 days of Trade Season until June? Our over/under is a solid one ... with Gallinari generating much of the buzz as we speak.
The latest reminder of how fast things can change in this crazy world: Mavs fans are suddenly asking themselves what happens to key cog Yogi Ferrell when J.J. Barea makes his expected return after the All-Star break, instead of wondering how on Earth they'll cope without Barea and the in-and-out Deron Williams. The Mavs are up to 11-5 since moving Seth Curry into the starting lineup and had the pleasure in the past week of A) watching Harrison Barnes advance his Most Improved Player campaign by leading the Mavs' comeback from a 21-point deficit against rugged Utah, and B) watching 38-year-old Dirk Nowitzki post his first back-to-back scoring games in the 20s this season.
The Blazers will certainly have to fight through the short-term emotional hit that comes with bidding adieu to poor Plumlee -- literally robbed the same day he was traded? -- but how could they have dared to say no to Denver's offer? The chance to increase their haul of 2017 first-round picks to three and test drive a talent (albeit an enigmatic one) like Nurkic made it impossible not to part with Plumlee, who was going to be expensive for the Blazers in restricted free agency this summer. Maybe this fun bit of history will help those win-now Blazermaniacs get over the fact that their team just made a trade for tomorrow: Miami's double-digit win streak was only the second in NBA history assembled by a team without a single All-Star on the roster. The first, of course, was fashioned by Brandon Roy-led Blazers in 2007-08. (Roy, however, did make the All-NBA team that season to make up some for his All-Star snub.) Don't forget, furthermore, that it's also possible Portland makes another trade in the next 10 days because of all those picks at its disposal.
The Pistons' rally from 16 points down entering the fourth quarter Sunday night at Toronto represents their largest such comeback in a regulation game since the team moved to Detroit in 1957-58. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was 1-for-11 from 3-point range before draining the game-winning corner 3 with 13.2 seconds to go; call it a nice early present for KCP in advance of his 24th birthday this coming weekend. Also notable from Detroit's successful rally: With Reggie Jackson averaging just 8.8 PPG and 5.5 APG over his past eight games while shooting 32 percent from the floor, Ish Smith logged 31 minutes against the Raptors ... compared to Jackson's 17.
The Kings were trailing by 11 points Sunday night at home when New Orleans' Buddy Hield was ejected for his groin strike on DeMarcus Cousins. The hosts outscored the Pels 66-49 thereafter to quietly secure their third successive win amid the understandable panic spawned by Cousins reaching suspension territory -- 16 technical fouls -- before Valentine's Day. The playoff-starved Kings have to be on edge knowing that Cousins will be suspended for every other technical he accrues over the season's final 27 regular-season games. Especially when Boogie happens to be one of only three players league-wide averaging at least 20 PPG, 10 PPG and 5 APG since Jan. 1, alongside Westbrook and Jokic. Click here, meanwhile, from some long-awaited goodness from Willie Cauley-Stein as chronicled by our own Zach Lowe.
We should be lasered in on the Jahlil Okafor trade saga. Or the Sixers' big win Saturday night over Miami to bring the Heat's thoroughly unforeseen 13-game unbeaten run to a halt. But you know us. It's always going to be tough for us to get through one of these comments without dissecting the Joel Embiid latest. And it comes from our pal Adam Reisinger, who reminds us that the fewest games total ever registered by a Rookie of the Year is Patrick Ewing's 50 games in 1985-86. Embiid, who's ailing anew, has played 31 games to date. The Sixers have 26 games left on their schedule after the All-Star break, but realistically only 21 of those will be available to Embiid when you factor in Philly's five remaining back-to-backs. Gonna be close!
Sunday got sobering for the Wolves real quick when the team announced details of Zach LaVine's impending knee surgery not long after Minnesota's resounding afternoon rout of Chicago. Something tells us Wolves fans will have little interest in hearing that the advanced metrics say Minnesota has actually been better this season when LaVine is off the floor. (The Wolves outscore the opposition by 3.7 points per 100 possessions without LaVine and are outscored by 3.5 points per 100 possessions when LaVine plays.) Andrew Wiggins, meanwhile, will be bidding Tuesday night for his first win against the team that drafted him; Cleveland takes a 5-0 record against Wiggins into 'Sota despite the 21-year-old's 27.6 PPG when facing the Cavs.
At the time of his latest ACL heartbreak, Jabari Parker was sporting the fourth-highest points-per-game increase in the league this season among forwards. Thanks to the hike in his average from 14.1 PPG to 20.1 PPG, Parker trails only Dallas' Harrison Barnes (plus-8.4 PPG), Miami's James Johnson (plus-7.3 PPG) and teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo (plus-6.6 PPG) in that category. But for the Jabari setback to occur on the same night Milwaukee welcomed back Khris Middleton, it means that the Bucks' three top players will have appeared in the same game just once in 82 chances in 2016-17. Depressing stuff any way you analyze it. (Ditto for the fact that the Bucks have allowed at least 100 points in 20 games in a row, sticking them with the league's second-longest such streak this season behind a 24-gamer endured by the Nets.)
According to the Real Plus/Minus defensive metrics ESPN maintains, Cody Zeller had been one of the league's 20 most impactful defenders for much of the season until sliding to his current rank of No. 31. No wonder, then, that Charlotte is 2-10 in games Zeller has missed in 2017. There's still time, of course, for the Hornets to right themselves and move back into playoff position, but the reality is that they sport the worst plus/minus at minus-4 -- calculated by subtracting home losses from road wins -- among the five teams realistically chasing the East's final two playoff spots (Milwaukee also is at minus-4). We'll have to see how Charlotte's recent struggles impact owner Michael Jordan's birthday celebrations; His Airness turns 54 on Friday.
The Knicks needed a win Sunday over now 41-13 San Antonio to avoid the first winless five-game homestand in franchise history. And here's the crazy part amid the various ongoing Melodramas and James Dolan's unwinnable feud with Charles Oakley: The Knicks got it despite the fact that, according to this crazy stat dug out by the Elias Sports Bureau, New York had gone 0-17 over the previous 50 (yes, fifty) years in games before the All-Star break against teams that entered the fray more than 25 games over .500. One win -- even over San Antonio -- won't be enough to lift the "cloud" over this team, as Carmelo Anthony calls it. Yet we still find ourselves marveling as Elias' resourcefulness ... even after all these years.
The increasingly injury-riddled Bulls sputtered to the end of a 2-4 road trip with three consecutive losses by at least 18 points ... and a rout inflicted by Minnesota that gave Tom Thibodeau an undoubtedly satisfying season sweep of his first two games coaching against the Bulls. Chicago is one of just three teams this season with multiple trips on its schedule spanning six games or more, along with Sacramento and Phoenix, but can count on plenty more bumps ahead -- home or road -- if Jimmy Butler (heel) and Dwyane Wade (wrist) don't heal quickly. As his All-Star starting assignment draws near, Butler has missed four of the Bulls' past five games.
The best week of New Orleans' season starts now with another round of All-Star festivities coming to town (coinciding with Mardi Gras, even) for the second time in a span of four years. Yet the unavoidable follow-up question, of course, is what happens after everyone leaves town? Even after Anthony Davis (42 points and 13 boards) outdueled Karl-Anthony Towns (36 points) for a helpful road win Friday night at Minnesota, New Orleans is still struggling to muster significant momentum in the five-team chase for the West's final playoff spot. Could a trade for Okafor really serve as the spark?
All eyes in Lakerland, honestly, are on the boardroom in the wake of Magic Johnson's revelation that, yes, "working to call the shots" is his aim in this new role as Lakers adviser to lead owner Jeanie Buss. So you're forgiven if you missed the notable on-court developments of the past week, which actually were pretty notable. The (long overdue) removal of high-priced offseason acquisitions Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov from the starting lineup was inevitably received as unspoken buyers' remorse from the Lakers for both signings, which surely only heaps more pressure on Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss. Friday night's 47-point first quarter at Milwaukee, meanwhile, hearkened back to some happy history for a change. It was the Lakers' most prolific first quarter in more than 30 years, right in the heart of Magic's heyday back in 1987.
Only five starting backcourts in the NBA house a pair of 20 PPG scorers. Along with Golden State, Portland, Toronto and Washington, Phoenix can make that claim with both Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker over the 20 PPG threshold. It's the first time that the Suns, believe it or not, have featured a pair of 20 PPG scorers since Stephon Marbury (22.3 PPG) and Shawn Marion (21.2 PPG) way back in 2002-03, two full seasons before Steve Nash returned to the desert to transform Phoenix into the high-octane squad that ushered in the pace-and-space revolution so prevalent throughout the league today. Phoenix's problem, of course, is that it has little else to trumpet for all its attempts to reload in the wake of Nash's departure in the summer of 2012. Won't be long now before a seventh successive season out of the playoffs is mathematically clinched.
It's not often that we have the opportunity to throw the Magic into the same Committee sentence as San Antonio, so permit us this rare indulgence when we make a (ridiculously) bigger deal than we probably should of the fact that the Magic are right there with San Antonio on the short list of teams sporting a better record on the road than they have at home. In real life, of course, this is nothing for Orlando to celebrate, given its status as a team well under .500 wherever it plays; 9-17 in Orlando and 11-19 on its travels. With Magic down to the 14th in the East, it's probably wisest to focus on what they might do deal-wise, amid increasing evidence that Serge Ibaka will be moved before the Feb. 23 trade deadline.
Perhaps no one is benefiting more from the unexpected, uh, relevance that we're getting from the Knicks in February than the Nets, who find themselves in a 1-23 funk that the Gotham tabloids don't have the time or space to recognize. Brooklyn's 12 consecutive defeats account for the franchise's longest skid since that unforgettable 18-gamer to start the 2009-10 season. The Nets, though, sure know how to inch closer to the Committee's good side. Love their move to honor 1984 Nets draftee Oscar Schmidt in a ceremony Monday night to pay homage to one of the greatest players we sadly never saw in the world's finest league.