Home NBA Power Rankings, Week 8: Lakers return to No. 1; Jazz continue to rise – NBA.com

Power Rankings, Week 8: Lakers return to No. 1; Jazz continue to rise – NBA.com

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LeBron James and the Lakers have the league’s No. 1 defense over the first seven weeks.

Every week, just before we get into the rankings, we make note of the league average in pace (possessions per team per 48 minutes) and offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions). And a little over a week ago, the league hit a milestone in regard to the latter.

Last season was the most efficient in NBA history, with teams averaging 110.1 points scored per 100 possessions. This season, with the schedule a little less than 33% complete, the league has already surpassed that mark, scoring 110.7 per 100 through Sunday.

Maybe it’s the empty gyms. Maybe the lack of practice time has made it harder for teams to get on the same page defensively. Maybe the more condensed schedule is making it tougher to players to expend the requisite energy on on that end of the floor. And maybe, players are just more skilled every year.

It’s probably a combination of all that. But NBA offense has never been as efficient as it has been this season. And in the last two weeks, we’ve seen six of the highest individual scoring games of the season. Fred VanVleet had 54 on Tuesday, and then Nikola Jokic and Stephen Curry had 50 and 57, respectively, on the same night. Both of their teams lost because the opponent’s offense was better.

With all this offense, the No. 1 spot in the Power Rankings is back in the hands of the team with the league’s No. 1 defense. The Clippers and Sixers failed to hold onto their spots in the top two, so the champs are back in the top spot, with the red hot Utah Jazz right on their heels.

Plus-Minus Players of the Week

Teams of the Week

  • Make It Last Forever: Sacramento (4-0) — The Cardiac Kings have won seven of their last eight!
  • Something Just Ain’t Right: Denver (0-2) — Life is tough in the Western Conference.

East vs. West

Schedule Strength through Week 7

  • Toughest: 1. Detroit, 2. Denver, 3. Dallas
  • Easiest: 1. Philadelphia, 2. Orlando, 3. Milwaukee
  • 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: Sacramento (+13), New Orleans (+6), Utah (+3)
  • Free falls of the week: Memphis (-5), Atlanta (-5), New York (-4), Oklahoma City (-4)

Week 8 Team to Watch

  • Utah — The Jazz have the best record in the NBA and are in Salt Lake City for what could be a very fun and competitive, four-game homestand. It begins with a visit from the Celtics on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET, TNT) and after two days off, continues with a Friday-Saturday back-to-back, with the Bucks and Heat in town. And it concludes next Monday with a visit from the Sixers.

Previous Power Rankings

  • This time last year: Minor moves could have major impact on playoff races — The biggest trade at the deadline took place between the 14th and 15th-place teams in the Western Conference, with the Wolves trading Andrew Wiggins and a first-round pick to the Warriors for D’Angelo Russell. The Cavs got Andre Drummond for basically nothing, while the Heat acquired two guys – Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala – who would help them reach The Finals. The Rockets went all-in on center-less basketball and the Clippers won the Marcus Morris Sweepstakes. The Wizards beat the Mavs with an inbounds play, the Jazz ended a five-game losing streak when Rudy Gobert got away with goaltending a Damian Lillard layup, and two nights later, Bojan Bogdanovic hit one of the craziest game-winners of the season.

Stats Key

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 100.2 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 110.7 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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