by Andrew Fossett (@heyfossett)
The following are power rankings for the NNFBA (National Non-Finalist Basketball Association), updated weekly with all facts necessary to determine the hierarchy of a 28-team league that doesn’t include the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Golden State Warriors.
Kevin Durant’s injury: this changes nothing. Regardless of a mini-slump, the Warriors still have the major components of a the 73-win team from last year. By now, you’re probably tired of hearing that but it’s still true. Durant missing time now compared to Durant missing time in any other season of his career is trifling… but…
Unless you're actually the U.S. Olympic team, losing Kevin Durant is significant. The Warriors are only partially an Olympic team. Golden State was 21-4 in the 2017 before he got tangled up with Zaza Pachulia against Washington last Tuesday. They're 1-2 since he departed, the recent victory being an unimpressive win against the Knicks on the road. In that game, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson seemed to have slump-busting performances, although the two combined for just 20-86 on three-pointers last week. Durant's injury is even more concerning for the Warriors because he'll only be reevaluated in a few weeks an is not necessarily returning at that time.
Still, they won 73 games last year. Durant's arrival led to an adjustment period for the Warriors and his absence has done the same. Golden State will likely get into a groove over the next few weeks and when/if Durant gets back, things will go back to seeming extremely unfair for everyone else.
Speaking of everyone else,
Monday, March 6th:
1. San Antonio Spurs (2-0) | 1-0 vs CLE | 1-0 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = -16
-The Spurs appear to be the best equipped team to face both the Warriors and the Cavaliers. The individual talents of Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge along with the defense, shooting, and experience of a deep roster makes them the most legitimate threat in the NNFBA. It’ll be as good a time as any to play Golden State this Saturday. Kevin Durant’s absence has brought yet another adjustment period, and the Western Conference champions only broke a two game losing streak with a somewhat close victory over the lowly New York Knicks. San Antonio will be at home, increasing the likelihood that the Spurs will improve to 3-0.
2. Chicago Bulls (4-1) | 3-0 vs CLE | 1-1 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = -5.4
3. Memphis Grizzlies (3-1) | 1-1 vs CLE | 2-0 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = -1.2
4. Atlanta Hawks (1-2) | 1-1 vs CLE | 0-1 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 2
-Replacing Al Horford with Dwight Howard helped improve this team, but the departure of Jeff Teague and inconsistent play from Dennis Schroeder is holding the Hawks back. Still, Howard and Paul Millsap give this team a winning interior. Tim Hardaway Jr. is turning into a reliable scorer and nearly lead a comeback this past week against Cleveland when Atlanta was getting annihilated for most of the game. The last time they played Golden State was in November resulting in a five point loss. To do better this time, Atlanta will need Schroeder and Hardaway to match Curry and Thompson. It might be slightly easier than it sounds if Curry continues to struggle with his shot.
5. Milwaukee Bucks (1-4) | 1-3 vs CLE | 0-1 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 2
6. Miami Heat (2-2) | 1-1 vs CLE | 1-1 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 2.7
-A 28-point win over the Cavaliers on Saturday will be discounted because of rest days for Irving and James, as well as the continued absence of Kevin Love. There’ll be an opportunity for a rematch right away on Monday night in Cleveland. The Heat do have a win against a full-strength Golden State team on the resume and Erik Spoelstra is certainly getting the most from his squad. The guard-heavy rotation can work well against small-ball specialists, so don’t be surprised if Miami and Cleveland playing a close game for once.
7. Washington Wizards (1-2) | 0-2 vs CLE | 1-0 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 4
8. Boston Celtics (1-3) | 1-2 vs CLE | 0-1 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 6
-Al Horford was not the right player for Boston. The Celtics have gotten better but their new center won’t give them the post presence they need in the playoffs. They’re still 1-2 against Cleveland. Yes, Horford almost had a triple-double in a win over Cleveland last Wednesday. Even so, he looked almost absent at times while Tristan Thompson grabbed offensive rebounds at will. That will come back to bite Boston in a game where Cleveland is shooting better than 40.7% from the field. Throw Kevin Love into the mix of a postseason series, and the Celtics will find themselves severely outmatched in the paint. This week, against a less intimidating frontcourt at Golden State, Boston might actually find a better matchup. Much depends on the health of Avery Bradley.
9. New Orleans Pelicans (1-4) | 1-1 vs CLE | 0-3 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 6
10. Denver Nuggets (1-3) | 0-1 vs CLE | 1-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 6.5
11. Houston Rockets (1-2) | 0-1 vs CLE | 1-1 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 6.7
-With Lou Williams joining an already explosive Rockets team, Sunday night’s game against the Cavaliers should be a three-point contest. In their first matchup, not long after the start of the season, these two combined for 76 three-point attempts and 248 points. They’re comparable defensively, not in a good way, so those numbers could be exceeded. Unfortunately for Houston, Cleveland is probably more capable of ratcheting up the defense if they’re in the mood. Still, the absence of Kevin Love will probably be felt more in this game. Playing at home, the Rockets should get their second win of the season.
12. Utah Jazz (1-3) | 1-1 vs CLE | 0-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 7.25
13. Sacramento Kings (2-3) | 1-1 vs CLE | 1-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 7.8
14. Detroit Pistons (1-3) | 1-1 vs CLE | 0-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 8.5
-The lack of progress by the Pistons is somewhat confusing, but the most discernable factor is Reggie Jackson. He is certainly having his least productive season in Detroit and barely maintains his starting job ahead of Ish Smith. If this team manages to hold on to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, they’ll get to face Cleveland in the opening round for a second consecutive postseason. Consequently, games like the one they’ll have against the Cavs on Thursday night will be a great barometer for what we’ll see in a little more than a month.
15. Portland Trail Blazers (1-5) | 1-1 vs CLE | 0-4 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 11.7
16. Los Angeles Clippers (1-4) | 1-0 vs CLE | 0-4 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 13.4
17. Oklahoma City Thunder (1-4) | 1-1 vs CLE| 0-3 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 14
18. Los Angeles Lakers (1-3) | 0-1 vs CLE | 1-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 14.5
19. Dallas Mavericks (1-3) | 1-1 vs CLE | 0-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 15.2
20. Indiana Pacers (1-4) | 1-2 vs CLE | 0-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 17.4
21. Philadelphia 76ers (0-3) | 0-2 vs CLE | 0-1 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 5.3
22. Toronto Raptors (0-5) | 0-3 vs CLE | 0-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 5.4
23. Charlotte Hornets (0-5) | 0-3 vs CLE | 0-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 11
24. Orlando Magic (0-2) | 0-1 vs CLE | 0-1 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 13
-Serge Ibaka didn’t complete a single season with his new team, which makes trading Victor Oladipo almost pointless. The Magic have endured a frustrating season which has shown no progress from the previous year. Changing Aaron Gordon’s role from a power forward to a small forward has probably stunted his growth. The current starting point guard, Elfrid Payton, has been benched multiple times this year. It’s basically been a lost season. Orlando has enough talent to improve if the coach, Frank Vogel, could commit to some form of a consistent rotation. For now, they will remain an easy opponent for Cleveland.
25. Phoenix Suns (0-5) | 0-2 vs CLE | 0-3 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 13.4
26. Brooklyn Nets (0-5) | 0-3 vs CLE | 0-1 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 13.8
27. Minnesota Timberwolves (0-4) | 0-2 vs CLE | 0-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 14.2
-The Timberwolves last played the Warriors in December and actually held a 10 point lead going into the fourth quarter before being outscored 38-20 and losing by eight. Blowing leads would continue to be a theme for much of Minnesota’s season; a sign of inexperience. They were 6-18 after that defeat but are 19-19 since then. All this team needs to do is stick together. All the organization needs to do is not fire anyone. We’ll see what happens next year. In the meantime, they’ll show signs of things to come at home against the Warriors on Friday.
28. New York Knicks (0-6) | 0-4 vs CLE | 0-2 vs GS | AVG Margin of Defeat = 17.2
"Last week" (2/20):
Cleveland Cavaliers versus:
New York Knicks | Margin of Defeat = 8 (L)
Chicago Bulls | Margin of Defeat = 6 (W)
Golden State Warriors versus:
Los Angeles Clippers | Margin of Defeat = 10 (W)
Brooklyn Nets | Margin of Defeat = 19 (W)
Overall Record (ATS): 12-9
Miami Heat | Margin of Defeat = 8
@ Detroit Pistons | Margin of Defeat = -2
@ Orlando Magic | Margin of Defeat = 12
@ Houston Rockets | Margin of Defeat = -8
Golden State Warriors versus:
@ Atlanta Hawks | Margin of Defeat = 10
Boston Celtics| Margin of Defeat = 5
@ Minnesota Timberwolves | Margin of Defeat = 8
@ San Antonio Spurs | Margin of Defeat = -8