Most NBA teams have approximately 15 games left in their
regular-season schedules. Even if some squads are still
mathematically in the postseason hunt, we can start to distinguish
the desperate bids from the real races.
In the Eastern Conference, the Washington Wizards (despite how
things look on the court) continue to chase the Charlotte Hornets
and are three games back of an East Play-In spot. The Los Angeles
Lakers, New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers and San
Antonio Spurs all hold some grip onto the Western Conference
Play-In battle. But as the games wind down, the intensity ratchets
up, and every loss can feel like a brick wall.
If you're new to the Sour Rankings, here's a refresher: Unlike
the typical "power rankings" that repeat themselves throughout
sports media, Sour Rankings are a bizarro-world counter. These
rankings highlight the top-10 most frustrating NBA franchises
throughout the season, and they will be updated every week to match
the twists and turns of the league.
This is not merely a bottom-10 of your typical best-to-worst
outlooks. You will see championship contenders and playoff hopefuls
mixed in with struggling squads. Teams well under .500 may never
touch the Sour Rankings because they are on track with their
respective processes. Injuries, drama, transactions and generally
underwhelming play will earn you a spot on this list.
The central question is ultimately this: How good should you
feel about the direction of each franchise? Let's get going.
Escaping the Sour Rankings: The Toronto
Raptors are riding a three-game win streak that includes quality
victories over the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets. They now sit
just one game back of the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers for the
all-important sixth seed and definitely have enough momentum to
take it with 15 games left in the regular season.
10. Golden State Warriors (46-22)
The Warriors rallied with a massive week highlighted by two
double-digit wins against the Nuggets and a Saturday primetime
victory against the Milwaukee Bucks. The win over the Bucks was
particularly impressive because Stephen Curry attempted just 7
field goals; Klay Thompson (38 points), Jordan Poole (30 points)
and Andrew Wiggins (21 points) carried the scoring load. Golden
State has looked rudderless at times without Draymond Green, but
hopefully this three-game hot stretch inspires confidence.
(Last week: 7)
9. Houston Rockets (17-51)
Jalen Green is still playing superb basketball, but KJ Martin
has come alive with a longer leash as Houston wades through its
rebuilding season. Mark Schindler wrote a fantastic
article over the weekend on Martin's mini-breakout. The
21-year-old is up to 43.8% from three-point range since the break
and is much more than a slasher, as Mark illustrates. This is what
you hope happens amidst all the losing, and if it continues,
Houston might get out of the rankings altogether next week.
(Last week: 8)
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (38-29)
It's been a rough post-All-Star run for Cleveland, who is just
3-6 since the break. Jarrett Allen's finger fracture has impacted
the Cavs' top-tier defense; it's now ranked 25th over the past two
weeks. Caris LeVert, Lauri Markkanen and Rajon Rondo have also
dealt with their own injuries. Cleveland is now just a single game
up on Toronto in a tightly-packed East playoff race. The overall
picture is still bright, but the recent downturn is simply a bummer
for a franchise that can feel a tangible post-LeBron playoff
appearance within its grasp.
(Last week: Unranked)
7. Charlotte Hornets (33-35)
Last week I attempted, for the second time this season, to point
out a solid defensive stretch by the Hornets. Once again, they made
me look like a buffoon. Charlotte gave up at least 115 points in
all three of its games this past week, going 1-2 against the Boston
Celtics, Brooklyn Nets and Pelicans. At least Isaiah Thomas got in
a nice game with 14 points against New Orleans. No matter how you
feel about his viability as an NBA player, it's impossible not to
root for Thomas.
(Last week: 9)
6. Brooklyn Nets (35-33)
Nets Twitter (and I presume the rest of Nets fandom) positively
exploded with joy in Brooklyn's dominant 129-100 win over the
Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday. The triumph is perhaps the
highlight of the season to date and hopefully a spark plug, as
Brooklyn has rattled off three consecutive victories. We also need
to keep talking about Bruce Brown, who is averaging 14.4 points,
6.0 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game since the All-Star
(Last week: 1)
5. New York Knicks (28-40)
I'm an absolute sucker for Deuce McBride propaganda, so here you
New York went 2-2 this week, but with some respectable losses to
the Memphis Grizzlies and Miami Heat. More importantly, we're
seeing meaningful time and flashes from young talents, whether it
be McBride, RJ Barrett, Jericho Sims or Immanuel Quickley. That's
all that matters over the final weeks.
(Last week: 2)
4. Los Angeles Lakers (29-38)
LeBron James has now dropped multiple 50-bombs out of the
All-Star break and continues his lopsided battle with Father Time.
Also lopsided? The Lakers are 2-0 since the break when James scored
at least 50 points and 0-7 when he doesn't. That's... not exactly a
desirable bar for success. Los Angeles now looks ahead at 6 games
in 10 days with five against current playoff teams. I would not be
surprised if they entered a March 27 contest against New Orleans
behind the Pelicans in the standings.
(Last week: 3)
3. Sacramento Kings (24-45)
Sacramento stands four-and-a-half games behind a Play-In spot,
is 2-7 since the All-Star break and has bottom-10 metrics on both
ends of the floor during that span. The Kings are giving up the
ninth-highest frequency of three-pointers to opponents per Cleaning
the Glass, and those teams are shooting a strong 38.2% from the
floor. Sacramento has the playoff-bound Chicago Bulls, Bucks,
Celtics and Suns next on tap, which doesn't bode well for them
stopping the current four-game slide.
(Last week: 4)
2. Portland Trail Blazers (26-40)
Despite sitting 11th in the West and just one game behind the
Pelicans, Portland simply can't put enough quality games together.
The Blazers finally earned a 127-118 win over the Wizards to snap a
six-game skid on Saturday. Anfernee Simons is down with a knee
injury and will be re-evaluated in 1-to-2 weeks, meaning Portland
loses its most coveted young player for the short-term future.
Props to Josh Hart for his 44-point explosion though.
(Last week: 5)
1. Washington Wizards (29-37)
Mark Schindler highlighted the rotation discord in Washington,
and it's pretty baffling. Corey Kispert is playing 39 minutes? Deni
Avdijia is playing 13 minutes? Washington should either be making a
last-ditch playoff push (three games out of 10th right now) or
committing to playing the more experienced young lottery talents it
has added over the past few years. Yet somehow, neither is
(Last week: 6)