The biggest move up in the NBA Power Rankings belonged to the Oklahoma City Thunder after a 3-0 Week 9. But the Milwaukee Bucks are undisputed at No. 1.
Week 9 in the NBA featured a showdown between the top two teams in the HoopsHabit NBA Power Rankings, with the Milwaukee Bucks getting the upper hand on the Los Angeles Lakers with a 111-104 victory on TNT Thursday night.
But the biggest move up in the NBA Power Rankings for Week 9 belonged to the surprising Oklahoma City Thunder. Written off after trading away Paul George and then Russell Westbrook over the summer, the Thunder have won three straight games and have gotten to the .500 mark all season.
Now in seventh place in the Western Conference, Oklahoma City bounced up three spots in the rankings this week. There was also one change in the top five, with the Philadelphia 76ers plummeting out of the elite group and replaced by the LA Clippers, despite their come-from-ahead loss to the Houston Rockets on Thursday night.
The Thunder are doing it despite being in the bottom 10 in the NBA in pace, averaging 99.76 possessions per game (a figure which would have led the NBA as recently as 2014-15, just for the record).
They also pulled off two of the largest comebacks the team has ever managed, erasing a 26-point deficit to beat the Bulls on Monday before having to come back from 24 down against the Grizzlies two nights later.
Oklahoma City is having to swim upstream in one category, with an offensive rebounding rate of just 22.3 percent — dead last in the NBA — countered by their opponents grabbing offensive boards at a 27.6 percent rate, 20th in the league. That could be a concern going forward for the Thunder as a key part of getting a stop is finishing the possession with a defensive rebound.
Meanwhile, the Bucks-Lakers game lost a little bit of its shine with both teams losing their previous game. Milwaukee had its 18-game winning streak ended by the Dallas Mavericks on Monday and L.A.’s 14-game road winning streak ended the next night at Indianapolis.
Milwaukee has managed to keep rolling through the absences of two starters at different times. Khris Middleton was out for seven games in November with a thigh bruise and the Bucks were 7-0 while he was out. Eric Bledsoe went down with an avulsion fracture of his right fibula and has missed the last three games, with Milwaukee going 2-1 thus far.
Bledsoe is expected to miss another week at a minimum while on the mend, which means he will miss the Bucks’ Christmas Day matchup at Philadelphia, the second consecutive year the club has gone on the road on the NBA’s biggest holiday (they were in New York last season).
Having a superstar helps with getting selected for those high-profile games and reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo fits the bill. This year will be just the sixth time in franchise history that Milwaukee has played on Christmas Day, but their appearance last Christmas was the club’s first since 1977. The Bucks haven’t played at home on Christmas Day since 1968.
More magic from Giannis and more deep postseason runs might change that.
With that, let’s dive into the countdown for the Week 9 edition of the NBA Power Rankings.
Atlanta Hawks 6-24
Last rank: 29th
Last week: Lost to Lakers 101-96, lost at New York 143-120, lost to Utah 111-106, lost at Brooklyn 122-112
This week: Monday at Cleveland, Friday vs. Milwaukee, Saturday at Chicago
It’s been a rough five weeks for the Atlanta Hawks, who were bagel-and-4 last week. Atlanta has now lost seven in a row, eight of nine and are just 2-18 since Nov. 14. The Hawks don’t perform consistently on offense, ranking 27th per Cleaning the Glass in offensive rating, but they make up for it by being really bad at the other end, with a 28th-ranked defensive rating of 114.5.
Trae Young keeps putting up other-worldly numbers for Atlanta, but they aren’t translating into wins. Last week, he averaged 37.3 points, 7.3 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 39.8 minutes per game on 44.0 percent shooting, hitting 34.0 percent on 11.8 3-point attempts per game. In Saturday’s loss at Brooklyn, Young had 47 points, but the Hawks blew an 18-point lead.