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8/7 NBA Bubble Power Rankings

by Josh Mullenix | @TheJMULL_

We’re now a full week into the NBA restart and a full month into the life of the bubble in Orlando, Florida. Almost every team has played four games already and the Lakers have completed five of their eight seeding games as the countdown to the NBA playoffs continues.

The 110 Sports NBA Power Rankings is not an examination of just who has the best record in the bubble — that would be pointless. It’s also not an examination of who should be the favorite at that moment in time to win the NBA championship, but a combination of the two. Yes, the rankings will take into account performance in the bubble, but they will also be influenced by a team’s position in the league and not just the performance over the last week.

For example, the Phoenix Suns are the only team with four wins as of the morning of Aug. 7 and one of two undefeated teams. They will certainly be higher than anyone thought they would be, but they certainly won’t be cozied up to the Raptors, the other undefeated team, who are first in these rankings. Toronto has been one of the top performers in the bubble, and calling them a title contender is very legitimate hence the No. 1 ranking.

Make sense? OK, here we go.

  1. Toronto Raptors | (Bubble record: 3-0)

Nick Nurse, Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam have picked up right where they left off. They’ve held two of their three opponents to less than 100 points, Fred VanVleet continues to show he can be the guard next to Kyle Lowry and the Raptors have completely secured the two seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. 

Next game: vs. Boston (8/7)

  1. Milwaukee Bucks | (2-2)

Milwaukee has handled the two teams that are considered threats in the East in Boston and Miami. The Bucks lost to Brooklyn only because Giannis played just 16 minutes — he had an impressive 16 points on eight shots in that time. There are certainly questions about Milwaukee’s offensive balance, but they’ve showed up against the best teams in the East.

Next game: @ Dallas (8/8)

  1. Los Angeles Clippers | (2-2)

The Clippers are 2-2 largely because of a Devin Booker buzzer-beater and not being at full strength. They still haven’t seen Montrezl Harrell in action and Lou Williams is still trying to get his feet wet following his 10-day quarantine after leaving the bubble. With that being said, they’ve got wins over Dallas and New Orleans in dominating fashion. They’re the worst matchup for anyone in the NBA come playoff time.

Next game: @ Portland (8/8)

  1. Los Angeles Lakers | (2-3)

The Lakers stay in the top five because of their status at the top of the West and their undeniable chances of winning a championship with Lebron James and Anthony Davis. Yes, they are 2-3 and have scored 97 points or less in three of those games, but Lebron hasn’t been all that interested considering the games mean essentially nothing and the Rockets beat the JV version of the Lakers on Aug. 6. They’ll be fine, but there are real questions about who else is going to score after James and AD.

Next game: @ Indiana (8/8)

  1. Boston Celtics | (2-2)

Considering the gauntlet Boston has gone through in the bubble with the Bucks, Trail Blazers, Heat in its first three games, 2-2 is a very respectable start. After a tough beginning, Jayson Tatum has 34, 23 and 19 points in his last three games. Kemba Walker hasn’t played more than 27 minutes in a game and didn’t play against Brooklyn, but what the Celtics have done is maintain their 2.5-game lead over Miami for the three seed.

Next game: @ Toronto (8/7)

  1. Miami Heat | (2-2)

The Heat were sitting pretty to move to 3-1 before giving up a 23-point lead to the Bucks and losing by 14. They are exactly who we thought they were: a good team in the East who will compete with the best in the Eastern Conference but more times than not come up short. The highly anticipated matchup between Bam Adebayo and Antetokounmpo resulted in 33 points and 12 rebounds for Giannis on just 17 shots. 

Next game: vs. Phoenix (8/8)

  1. Houston Rockets | (3-1)

The Rockets now have wins over the Mavs, Bucks and Lakers. Yes, the Lakers starts played very few real minutes, but nonetheless Houston is still one of the few teams with three wins in the restart. They’ve taken at least 48 threes in every game in true Rockets fashion. Harden and Westbrook have taken turns being spectacular and Danuel House Jr. has been the next most consistent weapon after four games.

Next game: @ Sacramento (8/9)

  1. Denver Nuggets | (2-2)

When Jokic goes, Denver goes. He’s been phenomenal in their two wins and average in their two losses. Michael Porter Jr. is the story of the bubble for the Nuggets. He’s scored at least 27 points in their last three games and is reminding everyone why he was once considered a transcendent talent. 

Next game: vs. Utah (8/8)

  1. Oklahoma City | (2-1)

The Jazz have not been good and Houston has taken advantage and jumped into fourth, and the Thunder have a chance to do the same with a win against Memphis on Aug. 7. The Thunder have held two struggling offensive teams in the Lakers and Jazz to less than 95 points, but ran into 67 points combined from Michael Porter Jr. and Nikola Jokic. Paul, Gilgeous-Alexander, Gallinari and Adams have been very balanced through three games and CP3’s pull-up jumper is still gravy.

Next game: @ Memphis (8/7)

  1. Indiana Pacers | (3-1)

Every time Nate McMillan is faced with a challenge, he delivers. This time it’s playing without Domantas Sabonis, who is out with an injury. Sure, it helps when T.J. Warren can’t miss so far and the schedule has been easy, but Indiana has taken care of business thus far apart from running into the hottest team in the NBA, the Phoenix Suns. We are about to find out about the Pacers in the bubble. Their next three games go like this: Lakers, Heat, Rockets, Heat.

Next game: vs. LA Lakers (8/8)

  1. Philadelphia 76ers | (2-1)

After a loss to Indiana that only happened because T.J. Warren went for 53, the Sixers beat the Spurs in a shootout and handled Washington. Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid have been the best two players on the floor and Shake Milton has been exactly what they need him to be in their last two games (16 and 14 points and 5-of-9 from three). They’ve got a chance to move into a tie for fifth with Indiana once again with a win against Orlando on Aug. 7.

Next game: vs. Orlando (8/7)

  1. Portland Trail Blazers | (3-1)

Blazersmania is real around the NBA, and for good reason. Apart from a close loss to Boston, they’ve taken care of the Grizzlies, Rockets and Nuggets and now sit just half a game back of Memphis for the eight seed. Damian Lillard has been spectacular as always, but Gary Trent Jr., who is 22-of-35 from deep in Orlando, has been a pleasant surprise off the bench. Their matchup against the Clippers on Aug. 8 might end up being the best game in the bubble so far. 

Next game: vs. LA Clippers (8/8)

  1. Phoenix Suns | (4-0)

Yes, Phoenix is 4-0, has the most wins and is still only as high as 14th. No one thought the Suns would have a chance to be the nine seed, but that’s exactly what’s happening. They are just two games back of Memphis sitting in 10th and if the Grizzlies continue to free fall, Phoenix could overtake them. Devin Booker is leading the way, Ricky Rubio is playing very solid basketball and Dario Saric has been the consistent scoring presence off the bench. No, Phoenix ultimately won’t scare anybody this season, but maybe they are the bright future Suns after all.

Next game: @ Miami (8/8)

  1. Utah Jazz | (2-2)

Utah has struggled to score enough points and is really missing Bojan Bogdanovic in Orlando. They escaped with a win against New Orleans and one of the few teams in the West, Memphis, who has looked worse than the Pelicans. The schedule is fairly tame the rest of the way, so they might still end up finishing .500 in the seeding games, but they haven’t looked impressive in the slightest. At times, it just looks like it’s so hard to score for them right now.

Next game: @ San Antonio (8/7)

  1. Dallas Mavericks | (1-3)

How close are the Mavs to contending for a title? The answer to that question after four games is not all that close. They continue to be awful in crunch time and are now just 15-23 in games that are within five points in the last five minutes of the game this season. If Aug. 6’s game against the Clippers is any indication, it could be a very short series when the two teams meet in the first round of the playoffs.

Next game: vs. Milwaukee (8/8)

  1. San Antonio Spurs | (2-2)

The Spurs took care of the Kings and Grizzlies in their first two games and then lost to two significantly better ones, the Sixers and Nuggets, in their next two. They play the Jazz next, who will be without four starters. A win for San Antonio would bring them to a game behind Portland for the nine seed. Derrick White has scored 20 points or more in three of the four contests in the bubble.

Next game: vs. Utah (8/7)

  1. Orlando Magic | (2-2)

After four games, the Magic still trail Brooklyn by half a game. Now, the two teams are both guaranteed to make the playoffs with Washington now 7.5 games back of the eight seed, but the Magic would probably rather play Toronto in the first round instead of the Bucks if they can help it. Either way, Orlando continues to be average by beating bad basketball teams and always losing to the good ones.

Next game: @ Philadelphia (8/7)

  1. New Orleans Pelicans | (1-3)

The team with one of the easiest schedules is now dead last in the West after an abysmal 1-3 start. Clearly, they never had any intention of getting into a play-in game with their approach to Zion Williamson. You’ll be shocked to hear that he’s been good in the two games he’s played more than 15 minutes. At this point, it’s irrelevant because their chances of getting the nine seed don’t look good with four games left.

Next game: vs. Washington (8/7) 

  1. Brooklyn Nets | (2-2)

Brooklyn’s double-digit losses to Orlando and Boston make much more sense than their win over Milwaukee. For what it’s worth, no Bucks starter played more than 20 minutes in a clear light load day for Milwaukee. With that being said, the Nets are still the seventh seed as of the morning of Aug. 7, but the team they are putting on the floor is still largely a glorified G-League team.

Next game: vs. Sacramento (8/7) 

  1. Memphis Grizzlies | (0-4)

It’s been a really tough go for Memphis in the bubble. They lost two games they could’ve, and maybe should’ve, won and then Jaren Jackson Jr. goes down with a meniscus tear in his left knee. They’re now just a half game up on Portland for the eight seed and even playing in the play-in game is being challenged at this point. The worst part? They play Oklahoma City, Toronto, Boston and Milwaukee in their last three games.

Next game: vs. Oklahoma City (9/7)

  1. Sacramento Kings | (1-3)

Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 35 points to lift the Kings over New Orleans but that’s about the only good thing that has happened for this team. De’Aaron Fox has been phenomenal, but they aren’t healthy, so you still don’t really know what you have with this Kings roster. For right now, you know they aren’t a very good basketball team who doesn’t look like they are going to contend for that play-in spot.

Next game: @ Brooklyn (8/7)

  1. Washington Wizards | (0-4)

And finally, the Wizards. They managed to eliminate themselves from the playoffs very quickly losing four straight to begin the restart. They haven’t even seen a ton of inspiring play out of their young guys, specifically Rui Hachimura. The ninth overall pick in 2019 scored 21 points against Phoenix, but is just 8-of-29 from the field since and has scored a total of 26 points in three games.

Photos by: Keith Allison / Wikimedia Commons

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