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Power Rankings, Week 24: Playoff chase gets a little clearer

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann NBA.com

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Mar 25, 2019 12:11 PM ET

The Magic and Celtics are scrapping to carve out a defined space in the East.

Every week, the playoff picture is becoming a little more clear.

In the Eastern Conference, we can be pretty sure that the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers will be the No. 1, 2 and 3 seeds, respectively. We can also be pretty sure that the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics will play in the No. 4 vs No. 5 series, even if we don't know where that series will start.

After that, things aren't so certain. The Orlando Magic (winners of four straight games) and Charlotte Hornets (winners of three straight) have kept it a five-team race for the final three playoff spots.

In the West, we know the eight teams in the postseason. The Sacramento Kings haven't been eliminated, but are now six games in the loss column out of eighth place. But no seed in the West is nearly as locked up as the top three seeds in the East. Golden State and Denver both have 23 losses, Houston and Portland both have 27, and teams No. 5-8 all have 30 or 31.

With apologies to those Western Conference video coordinators, we may not know who's playing whom until the last night of the season.

Of course, things can change quickly. The top five teams in the Power Rankings, however, are the same as they were last week.

Note: For the 12 teams no longer in the playoff picture (the bottom five in the East and the bottom seven in the West), it's time to start recapping the season. This week's notes for those teams will be focused on their offense, and we'll dig into their defense next week.

Previously...

Plus-Minus Players of the Week

Teams of the Week

  • Make It Last Forever: Charlotte (3-1) -- The Hornets kept their playoff hopes alive with miraculous, back-to-back wins in Boston and Toronto.
  • Something Just Ain't Right: Boston (0-4) -- The playoffs are less than three weeks away and the Celtics still haven't figured things out.

East vs. West

Schedule strength through Week 23

  • Toughest: 1. Phoenix, 2. New York, 3. Dallas
  • Easiest: 1. Milwaukee, 2. Brooklyn, 3. Indiana
  • Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.

Movement in the Rankings

  • High jumps of the week: Brooklyn (+2), Oklahoma City (+2)
  • Free falls of the week: Phoenix (-3), Boston (-2)

Week 24 Team to Watch

  • Orlando -- The Magic are just a game in the loss column behind the eighth place Heat, and just two games behind the seventh-place Pistons. They've won 10 of their last 11 games at home, but will play both of those teams on the road, visiting Miami on Tuesday and Detroit on Thursday. If they want to end the Eastern Conference's longest playoff drought (six years), those are the two biggest games of their season.

* * *

Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)

The league has averaged 100.7 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 109.5 points scored per 100 possessions this season.

* * *

NBA.com's Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man's opinion. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via Twitter.

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1
Last week:
1

Record: 50-23
Pace: 101.7 (10) OffRtg: 114.7 (1) DefRtg: 109.2 (15) NetRtg: +5.5 (2)

With MVP voters wondering how to fill out the No. 3-5 spots on their ballots, we got a reminder of what Stephen Curry means to the Warriors. On Saturday, Curry got a rest day and the champs got thumped by the Mavs, who had lost 15 of their previous 17 games. The champs are now 5-7 without Curry and have been 13.1 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor (scoring 118.5) than they've been with him off the floor (105.4). That's Curry's smallest on-off OffRtg differential of the last five seasons, but still the third-biggest among players that have played at least 1,000 minutes for a single team. Upon Curry's return, the Warriors had their second-best shooting game of the season, five days after registering the highest assist percentage (39 assists on 44 field goals) of the last two years. They're tied in the loss column with the Nuggets and have the much easier remaining schedule of the two teams.

Week 24: @ MEM, @ MIN, vs. CHA

2
Last week:
2

Record: 55-19
Pace: 103.1 (6) OffRtg: 113.5 (3) DefRtg: 104.4 (1) NetRtg: +9.1 (1)

Nikola Mirotic (fractured left thumb) and Pau?Gasol (ankle) have joined Malcolm Brogdon on the shelf. Of course, the health of Giannis Antetokounmpo remains paramount. So it will be interesting to see how many more games Antetokounmpo plays, having had an ankle-turn scare against Miami on Friday after missing the previous two games with a sprain. The Bucks have a four-game lead in the loss column over both the Raptors and Warriors for the league's best record, with two back-to-backs left on their schedule. They're 4-3 without Antetokounmpo, though most of those games have come against bad teams and only two of their final eight games are against teams that currently have losing records (Atlanta in both cases). With Brogdon out, the play of George Hill is more critical, and the back-up point guard had one of his best games with the Bucks on Sunday, shooting 7-for-8 in their win against Cleveland.

Week 24: vs. HOU, vs. LAC, @ ATL

3
Last week:
3

Record: 47-27
Pace: 98.2 (27) OffRtg: 114.2 (2) DefRtg: 110.8 (21) NetRtg: +3.4 (9)

A (mostly) healthy roster hasn't kept James Harden from putting up huge numbers. In the span of three days, he had games of 57 and 61 points, taking his season total of 50-point games to eight (twice as many as he had as the Kia MVP last season). The Rockets are 12-5 all-time when Harden has scored 50-plus and lost in overtime in Memphis on Wednesday, getting outscored by 12 points in his 7:23 off the floor. Their bench minutes haven't been as good over the last few weeks as they were previously, even though Danuel House has shot 49 percent from 3-point range since having his two-way contract converted to an NBA deal. They've still won 14 of their last 16 games as they head into a matchup of the two Kia MVP front runners on Tuesday.

Week 24: @ MIL, vs. DEN, vs. SAC

4
Last week:
4

Record: 49-23
Pace: 98.7 (25) OffRtg: 112.9 (5) DefRtg: 108.2 (10) NetRtg: +4.7 (4)

The Nuggets lost their hold on first place in the West when they got thrashed in Indiana on Sunday. But a 3-1 trip (with nine different guys scoring in double-figures in at least one of the four games) is a positive for the team that has the league's biggest home-road NetRtg differential (12.6 points per 100 possessions). They finished 8-7 on the road vs. the East and 8-4 on the road vs. the seven West teams that won't make the postseason. Their final five road games (including two this week) are against West playoff teams, and they've lost six straight road games (allowing almost 118 points per 100 possessions) against that group. They remain the only West team that ranks in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency overall.

Week 24: vs. DET, @ HOU, @ OKC, vs. WAS

5
Last week:
5

Record: 51-23
Pace: 100.6 (15) OffRtg: 112.3 (6) DefRtg: 107.3 (7) NetRtg: +5.0 (3)

Kyle Lowry says he's not (and won't be) 100 percent. But, after missing four of the previous five games, he played on Sunday and coach Nick Nurse had every player available for one of the first times this season. The result was one of the Raptors' worst defensive games of the year, even if you discount Jeremy Lamb's game-winning heave. The Raptors have scored 116.4 points per 100 possessions over their last five games (their best offensive stretch since January), with the top seven guys in their rotation all registering an effective field goal percentage better than 58 percent. But they've allowed more than 118 per 100 four times in the last two weeks, with none of those four opponents being top-10 offenses (though Detroit's offense ranks No. 1 since the break). Their three games this week are against the teams that rank 29th and 30th offensively, because we're not allowed to get a gauge on this team until May.

Week 24: vs. CHI, @ NYK, @ CHI

6
Last week:
7

Record: 45-27
Pace: 100.2 (18) OffRtg: 113.1 (4) DefRtg: 109.4 (16) NetRtg: +3.6 (8)

The Blazers have remained above the No. 5-8 fray in the West by going 3-0 without C.J. McCollum last week. And even though two of the opponents had better-than-average defenses, they scored almost 120 points per 100 possessions over the three games, with Damian Lillard averaging 30.3 points (shooting 14-for-25 on pull-up 3-pointers) and 12.0 assists. Jake Layman has started in McCollum's place, but Seth Curry has been the team's second leading scorer (15.7 points per game) over the three games, playing more than 25 minutes for just the third, fourth and fifth times this season. Curry has shot 49 percent on catch-and-shoot threes (the best mark among players who have attempted at least 100) and the Blazers are 17-3 (with 10 straight wins) when he's played 20 minutes or more. They have the West's best record (21-5) against the East and their win over Detroit on Saturday began a stretch of five straight games against the opposite conference.

Week 24: vs. BKN, @ CHI, @ ATL, @ DET

7
Last week:
6

Record: 47-26
Pace: 102.7 (7) OffRtg: 111.5 (8) DefRtg: 108.3 (11) NetRtg: +3.2 (11)

Twelve of the Sixers' 15 post-break games (including each of the last six) have been within five points in the last five minutes, and they're 9-3 in those close games. The big one was their win over the Celtics on Wednesday, which came with clutch buckets from four of their five starters. It also came with just nine turnovers, and better care of the ball has been a factor in the last five games being the Sixers' best offensive stretch (119.6 points scored per 100 possessions) since mid-January. But the games have been close because it's also been their worst defensive stretch (115.0 allowed per 100) since mid-December. They're healthy, but depth remains an issue. Against Boston, they were outscored by 13 points in about 13 minutes with two or more reserves on the floor.

Week 24: @ ORL, vs. BKN, @ MIN

8
Last week:
9

Record: 44-30
Pace: 102.4 (8) OffRtg: 111.3 (9) DefRtg: 110.0 (18) NetRtg: +1.4 (13)

The Clippers have had some close calls against bad teams (some missed free throws opened the door for a Jordan Clarkson game-winner that just missed on Friday), but they're a league-best 10-1 in March. They rank No. 1 offensively (116.5 points per 100 possessions) this month, because Danilo Gallinari (third in March true shooting percentage) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have almost matched the output of Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. Gilgeous-Alexander had an ugly few shooting games right out of the All-Star break, but has shot 53 percent (including 16-for-28 from 3-point range) and registered a 51/15 assist-turnover ratio as he's scored in double figures in 11 of the last 12. The Clippers?are, amazingly, in fifth place. After they complete their four-game trip in Minnesota and Milwaukee, they'll play five of their final six games at home, where they've won nine of their last 10 (including a road game vs. the Lakers).

Week 24: @ MIN, @ MIL, vs. CLE, vs. MEM

9
Last week:
8

Record: 43-31
Pace: 99.1 (22) OffRtg: 112.1 (7) DefRtg: 110.6 (20) NetRtg: +1.5 (12)

The Spurs' winning streak didn't come to an end at the hands of the Warriors. The improved San Antonio defense held up against the champs on Monday. Instead, it was the Heat that put an end to the streak two nights later and James Harden that dropped 61 (the most points scored by a player against the Spurs under Gregg Popovich) on Friday. The Spurs did recover to win in Boston on Sunday (their first road win since Jan. 7 over a team currently in playoff position), still rank in the top five defensively since the All-Star break, and will play seven of their final eight games against teams that currently have losing records. They're 28-10 (and 19-1 at home) when DeMar DeRozan has?six or more assists, which he's done in 11 of his last 12 games.

Week 24: @ CHA, vs. CLE, vs. SAC

10
Last week:
10

Record: 43-30
Pace: 100.8 (14) OffRtg: 109.5 (15) DefRtg: 105.2 (2) NetRtg: +4.3 (6)

The Jazz have mostly taken care of business against the league's weakest final month of schedule, and they rank second both offensively and defensively over a 6-1 stretch. But they blew a late, eight-point lead in Atlanta on Thursday, allowing the Hawks to shoot 6-for-8 over the final five minutes. Only Phoenix has played fewer clutch games than the Jazz, who have been better offensively (ranking third in clutch offense) than defensively (ranking 16th in clutch defense) with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime. Donovan Mitchell ranks seventh in overall usage rate (having used 30.9 percent of Utah's possessions while he's been on the floor), but second in clutch usage rate (44.6 percent). He hasn't shot particularly well in the clutch (he ranks 40th in clutch effective field goal percentage among 45 players with at least 50 attempts), but Rudy Gobert (17-for-26) and Joe Ingles (12-for-20) have, and Jazz have been the league's best offensive rebounding team on clutch possessions.

Week 24: vs. PHX, vs. LAL, vs. WAS

11
Last week:
13

Record: 43-30
Pace: 103.8 (3) OffRtg: 109.3 (16) DefRtg: 105.9 (4) NetRtg: +3.4 (10)

One game is just one game. But it was important for the Thunder and Dennis Schroder to break out of their offensive slump in a win in Toronto on Friday. Schroder had 26 points (and was a plus-17 in the seven-point win) and the team drained 20 3-pointers (their second-highest total of the season) in what was their most efficient game (116 points on 98 possessions) since the first game after the All-Star break. They still have the league's 29th-ranked offense (105.4 points scored per 100 possessions) since the break, ranking in the bottom six in post-break field goal percentage (30th), post-break 3-point percentage (25th), and post-break free throw percentage (28th). And the offense has been 10 points per 100 possessions worse with Russell Westbrook off the floor (96.8) than it's been with Westbrook on the floor (106.8), in part because Schroder has been one of the league's worst shooters since the break. In the ridiculously tight race for the No. 5-8 seeds in the West, the Thunder have the toughest remaining schedule. But their longest homestand of the season (five games) begins Wednesday and their only remaining road game against a team with a winning record is in Milwaukee on the last night of the season.

Week 24: @ MEM, vs. IND, vs. DEN, vs. DAL

12
Last week:
12

Record: 45-29
Pace: 98.7 (23) OffRtg: 109.1 (17) DefRtg: 105.2 (3) NetRtg: +3.9 (7)

The Pacers are 0-8 on the road over the last four weeks, having come up empty on a tough, four-game trip out West and having scored just 101.1 points per 100 possessions in?those?games. But they remain in position to begin the playoffs at home, because the Celtics have lost four straight games and the Pacers blew out Denver (scoring a season-high 72 points in the paint) upon returning to Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Sunday. They're almost certain to face the Celtics in the first round?and have a two-game edge for home-court advantage. But the two teams play each other twice more, with the first of those meetings on Friday in Boston, where the Pacers lost by 27 points in early January. It was their worst defensive game of the season (though they were without Myles Turner).

Week 24: @ OKC, @ BOS, vs. ORL

13
Last week:
11

Record: 43-31
Pace: 100.5 (16) OffRtg: 111.3 (10) DefRtg: 106.9 (5) NetRtg: +4.3 (5)

Even before it allowed the Sixers, Hornets and Spurs to score more than 120 points per 100 possessions over the last five days, Brad Stevens was concerned about his team's defense. He said before the Philly game that where the Celtics ranked defensively (fifth at the time) didn't match what he saw with his own eyes. "I just haven't seen us [take away the biggest threat on the floor] on every possession at the level we need to to be good and to have a chance to advance in the playoffs," Stevens said. The Celtics still rank fifth defensively, but they're the only top-five defensive team that doesn't rank in the top five against the league's top-10 offenses. Plus, they've lost eight of their last nine games against that group. They don't have any more regular-season games against those top 10 offenses and won't see one until next season unless they get through the 17th-ranked Pacers.

Week 24: @ CLE, vs. IND, @ BKN

14
Last week:
14

Record: 36-37
Pace: 98.5 (26) OffRtg: 107.2 (22) DefRtg: 107.4 (9) NetRtg: -0.2 (16)

The Heat haven't been very consistent on either end of the floor, but they're an East-best 9-3 in March and holding on to the No. 8 seed. They remain the only potential playoff team with a losing record at home, but they picked up three more road wins last week, with Goran Dragic totaling 48 points on 17-for-30 shooting in Oklahoma City and San Antonio. They're also one of just two potential playoff teams (Brooklyn is the other) that doesn't have a lineup that has played at least 200 minutes together. Justise Winslow's absence for the last five games means coach Erik Spoelstra has gone to a completely new starting group. But that group (with Derrick Jones Jr. in Winslow's place) has outscored its opponents by 13.7 points per 100 possessions in its 66 minutes. Dwyane Wade continues to be their go-to-guy down the stretch and, while he's 4-for-21 on clutch 3-pointers (the third-worst mark among players with at least 20 attempts), Wade has a clutch assist-turnover ratio of 16/4 after finding Kelly Olynyk for the dagger dunk in Washington on Saturday.

Week 24: vs. ORL, vs. DAL, @ NYK

15
Last week:
17

Record: 38-36
Pace: 101.3 (11) OffRtg: 108.6 (19) DefRtg: 108.9 (12) NetRtg: -0.2 (15)

If the Nets make the playoffs by one game (a scenario certainly within the realm of possibility), their win in Sacramento on Tuesday will be the one we remember. It featured a comeback from 28 points down, a career-high 44 points from D'Angelo Russell, a fourth-quarter lineup that included four power forwards and a game-winning (and contested) layup from the guy -- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson -- who has been one of the league's worst finishers in the restricted area. Even with their 45-point fourth quarter against the Kings, the Nets still rank 28th offensively since the All-Star break. But they've made up for the fourth biggest post-break drop in offensive efficiency (-4.0 points per 100 possessions) with the league's second-biggest improvement in defensive efficiency (-4.6), with their opponents having shot worse both in and outside the paint. The Nets got the two wins they desperately needed last week, but still have some work to do and play their next seven games against teams above them in the combined standings.

Week 24: @ POR, @ PHI, vs. BOS

16
Last week:
15

Record: 37-36
Pace: 98.2 (28) OffRtg: 108.6 (20) DefRtg: 109.0 (13) NetRtg: -0.4 (17)

The league's best post-break offense has traveled well, with seven guys averaging double-figures over the Pistons' five-game road trip that ends in Denver on Tuesday. But they're 1-3 on the trip, because the three losses have been their three worst defensive games of the season, with the Cavs, Blazers and Warriors combining to shoot an amazing 63 percent on 2-point shots and 48 percent on 3-pointers. The Pistons' post-deadline starting lineup hasn't been very good offensively, scoring just 108.7 points per 100 possessions in its 222 minutes together. But they've scored 119.8 per 100 since the break with Ish Smith, Langston Galloway and Luke Kennard all on the floor. That's the best mark among non-Portland three-man combinations that have played at least 250 post-break minutes.

Week 24: @ DEN, vs. ORL, vs. POR

17
Last week:
16

Record: 36-37
Pace: 104.4 (1) OffRtg: 108.8 (18) DefRtg: 109.5 (17) NetRtg: -0.7 (18)

The Kings have been the most improved offensive team in the league, scoring 5.8 more points per 100 possessions than they did last season. It starts with the league's second-biggest jump in effective field goal percentage, thanks, in part, to its fourth-biggest increase in the percentage of shots coming from the restricted area or 3-point range. But the Kings have also seen the league's third-biggest increase in free throw rate, with De'Aaron Fox having seen the fourth-biggest increase (from 24 to 39 attempts per 100 shots from the field) among 200 players with at 300 field goal attempts in both seasons. And in going from 30th to first in pace, the Kings have managed to commit 1.2 fewer turnovers per 100 possessions. All that and they've still been a worse-than-average offensive team. So there's a lot more room for continued improvement.

Week 24: @ DAL, @ NOP, @ HOU, @ SAS

18
Last week:
18

Record: 35-38
Pace: 98.7 (24) OffRtg: 106.9 (25) DefRtg: 107.1 (6) NetRtg: -0.2 (14)

Before the trade deadline, there was a thought that the Magic would get what they could for Terrence Ross (a desired shooter who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer). But the Magic had dreams of ending their six-year playoff drought, and on Friday, Ross kept that dream alive by shooting 8-for-12 from 3-point range and saving the Magic from a second loss to Memphis in the span of 13 days. The Magic have won 10 of their last 11 games at home, having allowed less than a point per possession over those 11 games, and they completed their five-game homestand against the Sixers on Monday. They play six of their final eight games on the road, where they've lost four straight (having scored less than a point per possession in three of those four losses). The most important of those six, of course, is Tuesday in Miami.

Week 24: vs. PHI, @ MIA, @ DET, @ IND

19
Last week:
20

Record: 34-39
Pace: 99.6 (19) OffRtg: 110.3 (13) DefRtg: 111.3 (22) NetRtg: -1.1 (20)

The Hornets went six weeks without winning two straight games, missing out on countless opportunities to put themselves in playoff position. They beat Minnesota on Thursday, but an 18-point, fourth-quarter deficit against Boston seemed to put their season on the brink two nights later. Then they outscored the Celtics, 30-5, over the final eight minutes (with 18 of the 30 points coming from Kemba Walker). And 24 hours after that, an even bigger miracle (Jeremy Lamb's 48-foot heave at the buzzer) gave them one of their best road wins and just their third three-game winning streak of the season. They played without four rotation guys over the weekend, but have scored more than 119 points per 100 possessions over the winning streak, with some hot 3-point shooting and Devonte' Graham (playing in place of Tony Parker) dishing out 17 assists with just one turnover. They remain just two games in the loss column behind the eighth-place Heat, but will need to get some more wins on the road, where they play six of their final nine games

Week 24: vs. SAS, @ LAL, @ GSW

20
Last week:
19

Record: 33-40
Pace: 100.8 (13) OffRtg: 110.6 (12) DefRtg: 111.7 (24) NetRtg: -1.1 (21)

Karl-Anthony Towns is a unique, prolific and efficient offensive player; He's the only player who has shot 65 percent or better on at least 200 restricted-area attempts and 40 percent or better on at least 200 3-point attempts. He's also one of three players that have averaged at least three offensive rebounds and three assists per game. But, even with Derrick Rose having more than just a throwback season (he shot 37 percent from 3-point range and was the league's third-most efficient isolation player), the Wolves saw the league's third-biggest drop in offensive efficiency (1.7 fewer points per 100 possessions) from last season. They've been a little more efficient in 33 games under Ryan Saunders (112.1 points per 100 possessions - 11th in the league) than they were in 40 games under Tom Thibodeau (109.4 - 15th). But only the Spurs have taken a lower percentage of their shots from the restricted area or 3-point range than the Wolves (64 percent), with Andrew Wiggins ranking as the league's second-worst high-volume mid-range shooter. Wiggins has seen a drop in true shooting percentage in each of the last three seasons (from 54.3 percent in his second season to 48.4 percent this season).

Week 24: vs. LAC, vs. GSW, vs. PHI

21
Last week:
22

Record: 32-41
Pace: 103.7 (5) OffRtg: 107.1 (23) DefRtg: 109.1 (14) NetRtg: -1.9 (23)

Playoff mode has officially been deactivated and the Lakers will be the first bottom-10 offensive team that LeBron James has ever played for. (His last 10 teams (starting with the 2008-09 Cavs) ranked no lower than sixth in offensive efficiency.) Though they have the greatest generator of open 3-pointers?in NBA history, the Lakers rank 29th in 3-point percentage (32.9 percent) and dead last in catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage (32.9 percent). Believe it or not, the only Lakers that have shot better than the league average (35.5 percent) on at least 25 3-point attempts have been Lance Stephenson (37.9 percent on 169 attempts) and Rajon Rondo (36.4 percent on 107 attempts). The Lakers were still pretty anemic offensively with James on the floor with either of those guys. They still rank second in fast break points per game, but haven't been as good in transition over the last few months as they were before James' injury.

Week 24: vs. WAS, @ UTA, vs. CHA, @ NOP

22
Last week:
21

Record: 30-44
Pace: 102.3 (9) OffRtg: 110.2 (14) DefRtg: 112.7 (27) NetRtg: -2.5 (25)

Offense has not been the issue for the Wizards, especially in the time since they lost John Wall for the season. The Wizards rank eighth offensively (112.4 points scored per 100 possessions) over the three months since Wall played his last game. The no-Wall lineup -- Tomas Satoransky, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Jeff Green and Thomas Bryant -- ranks as the?fourth-best offensive lineup (115.3 points scored per 100 possessions) among the 37 that have played at least 200 minutes together. Beal is averaging a career-high 5.6 assists per game, but has seen a drop in turnover percentage (from 9.7 to 9.4 per 100 possessions) with his increase in usage rate. Bryant has shot 80.5 percent in the restricted area, the best mark (by a wide margin) among 116 players with at least 200 restricted-area attempts. Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis, meanwhile, have combined for an effective field goal percentage of 55 percent.

Week 24: @ LAL, @ PHX, @ UTA, @ DEN

23
Last week:
24

Record: 26-48
Pace: 104.4 (2) OffRtg: 107.1 (24) DefRtg: 112.5 (26) NetRtg: -5.4 (26)

Though they turned their offense over to a rookie point guard, the Hawks have seen the league's eighth-biggest improvement in offensive efficiency, scoring 2.7 more points per 100 possessions than they did last season. The influence of coach Lloyd Pierce has been felt, with the Hawks being the only team that ranks in the top five in both pace (second) and the percentage of their shots that have come from the restricted area or 3-point range (third). Trae Young ranks second (behind Russell Westbrook) in total assists on 3-pointers and leads the league with 95 assists on corner 3-pointers. The Hawks have scored 110 points per 100 possessions in 1,310 minutes with Young and John Collins on the floor together, and the offense should only get better from here, especially if Young can cut down on the turnovers. He has, by a pretty wide margin, the highest turnover rate (13.6 per 100 possessions) among the 37 players with a usage rate of 25 percent or higher.

Week 24: @ NOP, vs. POR, vs. MIL

24
Last week:
23

Record: 31-44
Pace: 103.8 (4) OffRtg: 110.8 (11) DefRtg: 111.6 (23) NetRtg: -0.8 (19)

Was a lack of talent around Anthony Davis really the problem in New Orleans? At the time of Davis' trade request, the Pelicans had the league's fifth-ranked offense (113.0 points scored per 100 possessions), even though Davis himself had seen drops in effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage from last season. Their lineup of Elfrid Payton, Jrue Holiday, E'Twaun Moore, Julius Randle and Davis has scored 125.8 points per 100 possessions, the second-best mark among 117 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes together. But it's gotten just 116 minutes of floor time and both Holiday and Moore have missed the last eight games. Since the trade request, the Pelicans rank 27th offensively (106.5 per 100) and have even been below average offensively with Davis on the floor (108.4).

Week 24: vs. ATL, vs. SAC, vs. LAL

25
Last week:
25

Record: 29-44
Pace: 96.9 (30) OffRtg: 105.0 (27) DefRtg: 107.4 (8) NetRtg: -2.3 (24)

A healthy Mike Conley makes a huge difference offensively. In fact, the 97.5 points per 100 possessions that the Grizzlies have scored with Conley off the floor is the lowest off-court mark among players that have played at least 1,000 minutes for a single team this season. But even with a healthy Conley and a more engaged Marc Gasol, the Grizz ranked 29th offensively (103.9 points scored per 100 possessions) when they traded Gasol to Toronto and scored just 104.8 per 100 with both Conley and Gasol on the floor. The Grizzlies could have done themselves a favor by running more. They're the only team that ranks in the top five in effective field goal percentage in the first six seconds of the shot clock (62.8 percent - third in the league) and in the bottom five in the percentage of their shots that have come in the first six seconds (11.5 percent - 27th). The Grizzlies also rank sixth in steals per 100 possessions, providing plenty of opportunities to run. They have seen the league's biggest increase in pace (+4.3 possessions per 48 minutes) and its fifth-biggest increase in offensive efficiency (+5.4 points scored per 100 possessions) since the break.

Week 24: vs. OKC, vs. GSW, @ PHX, @ LAC

26
Last week:
27

Record: 29-44
Pace: 99.6 (20) OffRtg: 108.3 (21) DefRtg: 110.0 (19) NetRtg: -1.7 (22)

For the second straight season, the Mavs have been led in usage rate by a rookie. Luka Doncic's usage rate (29.2 percent) is tied (with 2004-05 Ben Gordon) for the highest rate for a rookie in the 23 seasons for which we have play-by-play data. According to Second Spectrum tracking, the Mavs have seen the league's biggest increase in ball movement, from 334 passes per 24 minutes of possession (24th in the league) last season to 348 (10th) this season. But that has come with the league's biggest jump in turnover percentage (1.9 more turnovers per 100 possessions than they committed last season) by a wide margin. They rank as the seventh-most improved offensive team overall (+2.9 points per 100 possessions), but if they stay where they are, it will be their third straight season in the bottom 10 in offensive efficiency, having ranked in the bottom 10 just once in Dirk Nowitzki's first 18 seasons.

Week 24: vs. SAC, @ MIA, @ OKC

27
Last week:
28

Record: 21-53
Pace: 99.4 (21) OffRtg: 104.6 (29) DefRtg: 112.4 (25) NetRtg: -7.8 (27)

The Bulls ranked dead last in offensive efficiency for 12 straight weeks in the middle of the season, and are still just a couple of ticks ahead of the Knicks, who moved into the basement last week. They rank 27th offensively (106.4 points scored per 100 possessions) since Jim Boylen's first game as coach and 13th (110.6) since Otto Porter's first game with the team, having scored 113.4 per 100 in 325 minutes with Zach LaVine, Porter and Lauri Markkanen on the floor together. Under Boylen, the Bulls have ranked last in the percentage of their shots that have come from 3-point range (28.2 percent), even though they have a power forward (Markkanen) who has attempted 6.5 3-pointers per game. Ranking 30th in offensive rebounding percentage and 26th in free throw rate has made it difficult for them to find additional offense in the margins.

Week 24: @ TOR, vs. POR, vs. TOR

28
Last week:
29

Record: 19-55
Pace: 97.4 (29) OffRtg: 106.7 (26) DefRtg: 116.1 (30) NetRtg: -9.4 (30)

The departure of LeBron James, along with Kevin Love's foot injury, has resulted in the league's biggest drop in offensive efficiency ... by a wide freaking margin. The Cavs have scored 5.3 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season, with no other team having seen a drop of more than 1.8 per 100. The offense has been ugly in more ways than one, with the Cavs one of two teams (the Rockets, who rank second offensively, are the other) that rank in the bottom five in both ball movement (309 passes per 24 minutes of possession - 27th in the league) and player movement (10.7 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession - 28th). There has been some promise with the return of Love and the development of both Collin Sexton (who has seen a huge jump in effective field goal percentage since the All-Star break) and Cedi Osman. The Cavs have scored 113.4 points per 100 possessions in 228 minutes with the three on the floor together since the break.

Week 24: vs. BOS, @ SAS, @ LAC

29
Last week:
26

Record: 17-57
Pace: 101.2 (12) OffRtg: 104.8 (28) DefRtg: 113.4 (29) NetRtg: -8.6 (28)

The Suns don't rank 30th offensively (like they did last season), so they've taken a small step forward on that end of the floor. A new coach didn't bring much change in their shot locations (they rank 20th in the percentage of their shots that have come from the restricted area or 3-point range) and they rank 30th in 3-point percentage for the second straight season. Devin Booker has seen the league's eighth-biggest drop (from 38.3 percent to 32.0 percent) among 100 players with at least 200 attempts both seasons. Booker has still registered career highs in both effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage, because he has shot much better (and much more often) in the paint, while also seeing an increase in free throw rate. He's one of four players that have shot better than 50 percent on at least 150 non-restricted-area shots in the paint. Of course, without him, the Suns' offense has been dreadful, scoring just 97.6 points per 100 possessions in his 1,508 minutes off the floor.

Week 24: @ UTA, vs. WAS, vs. MEM

30
Last week:
30

Record: 14-60
Pace: 100.3 (17) OffRtg: 104.4 (30) DefRtg: 113.2 (28) NetRtg: -8.8 (29)

The Knicks finally cleared themselves of and remnants of the triangle offense this season, but still took a big step backward offensively (only the Cavs have seen a bigger drop in offensive efficiency). Talent had something to do with it. The Knicks got 48 more games from Kristaps Porzingis last season than they did (before trading Porzingis) this season. But what talent the Knicks have had hasn't played very cohesively. They rank last in assist rate (having assisted on just 51.9 percent of their field goals) and have seen the league's third biggest decrease in ball movement (passes per minute of possession) from last season. They have seen the league's second biggest increase in drives per game (from 34.0 to 44.9), but rank last in field goal percentage (42.3 percent) and have almost as many turnovers (254) as assists (257) on those drives. Their two remaining games against the Bulls could determine who finishes 30th in offensive efficiency.

Week 24: vs. TOR, vs. MIA


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