NBA Power Rankings Week 11: Preparing For The Rebuild In Detroit

Things aren’t going very well in Detroit right now, including in the standings. After a rough patch, the Pistons are 13-24 and trailing the No. 8 spot by four games in the Eastern Conference. Even with the obvious excuse of Blake Griffin’s injury status, Detroit’s performance has been underwhelming and, as such, the whispers have increased in volume that a rebuild might be in the offing.

The Pistons won 37 games or more in four straight seasons prior to 2019-20, making two playoff appearances and projecting an overall feeling of competence. Detroit’s ceiling never felt terribly high but, with Griffin and Andre Drummond in the fold, the Pistons’ floor also didn’t feel incredibly low. This year, though, that has changed, with Griffin appearing in only 18 of the 37 games and struggling mightily when he plays. The latest reports indicate that the former All-NBA forward will see a specialist with an ailing knee but, even if he is able to resume a normal schedule, the Pistons simply can’t afford to have Griffin at anything less than full strength.

Perhaps in tandem, Drummond is now reportedly on the trade block, with the Pistons potentially seeing the writing on the wall for a rebuild in the near future. If the Pistons were playing as expected in a season where Las Vegas projected the team for 37.5 victories, Detroit may have put off the inevitable. In fact, the Pistons were 11-15 a few weeks ago and, in the East, that felt like a strong enough position to make some noise. Since then, however, the Pistons are a league-worst 2-9 with an unsightly -9.9 net rating and the optimism is fading fast.

It should be noted that Detroit is underperforming its point differential so far, indicating that luck hasn’t been too favorable for the Pistons. For good measure, the Pistons have one of the ten easiest remaining schedules in the NBA and the bar for playoff inclusion seems to be quite low in the East. Still, the Drummond buzz might be signaling a changing of the guard in Detroit and, if they elect to send the All-Star center elsewhere, the Pistons may have no choice but to tear most of the roster down with hopes of a relatively quick build.

Where do the Pistons line up against the rest of the NBA in this week’s DIME power rankings? Take a look.

1. Milwaukee Bucks (32-6, Last week — 1st)

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There was an actual debate for No. 1 this week, if only because the Bucks (rather inexplicably) lost by 22 in San Antonio on Monday. If that loss swings anyone’s opinion on which team should be in the top spot, I’d understand it. Milwaukee still has the best record and by far the best net rating in the NBA. They need to lose a few more to fall out.

2. Los Angeles Lakers (29-7, Last week — 2nd)

The Lakers are just taking care of business. Los Angeles made things interesting at the top with five straight wins but, if you look a little bit closer, those victories won’t blow you away in terms of strength of schedule. All any team can do is win the games it is assigned, though, and the Lakers are doing that.

3. Utah Jazz (24-12, Last week — 5th)

Utah started with a 13-11 record that was certainly disappointing. Since then, the Jazz are 11-1 with a league-best net rating and all seems to be right with the world. That includes a three-game road sweep to end this week and that was another positive statement from Quin Snyder’s bunch.

4. Denver Nuggets (25-11, Last week — 3rd)

This is where the rankings became difficult. We’ll default to Denver based on previous track record and a couple of road wins this week. Even then, the Nuggets lost by double figures to the Wizards and got pushed a bit by the Hawks on Monday. The next tier is very close together.

5. Miami Heat (26-10, Last week — 6th)

Miami, like Denver, has been spotty at times lately. If you take a wider look, though, the Heat have won seven of nine with victories over the Sixers (twice), Jazz and Raptors. That’s a pretty strong selling point.

6. Boston Celtics (25-9, Last week — 7th)

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The Celtics would’ve been a solid fourth if not for a loss to the Wizards on Monday evening. Recency bias aside, Boston has done a solid job operating without Kemba Walker at times lately, and the Celtics just keep collecting wins.

7. L.A. Clippers (26-12, Last week — 4th)

I know the Clippers were short-handed over the weekend. I get it. L.A. also lost by 26 (!) at home to the Grizzlies in a game that featured Kawhi Leonard, Lou Williams, Landry Shamet and Montrezl Harrell. It wasn’t as if the Clippers had no one available. Doc Rivers did get his team to wake up after an early deficit against the Knicks but, despite an overall belief that the Clippers remain awesome, it wasn’t a great week for that.

8. Houston Rockets (24-11, Last week — 10th)

Houston recently dropped a pair of games to the Warriors and Pelicans, creating a bit of unrest. In bounce-back fashion, the Rockets just toppled the Nuggets and Sixers at home in succession. That’s the way to right the ship and rise on the ever-important rankings board.

9. Toronto Raptors (24-12, Last week — 11th)

This is probably too high for the Raptors, at least when you remember that Pascal Siakam isn’t playing. Still, Toronto has done a solid job with a 5-4 record in his absence, and they deserve credit for that.

10. Dallas Mavericks (23-13, Last week — 9th)

Dallas is still fielding an all-time great offense (at least by the numbers) and Luka Doncic is quite good at basketball. The Mavericks aren’t playing quite as well now, though, with three losses in the last five games.

11. Philadelphia 76ers (24-14, Last week — 8th)

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Mercifully, the Sixers snapped their four-game losing streak with a badly needed win over the Thunder on Monday. Even then, Philly may have lost Joel Embiid for a while with an ugly finger injury and it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder (20-16, Last week — 13th)

The Thunder just ran into a better team in Philly on Monday and there’s nothing wrong with that. Prior to that defeat, the Thunder won five in a row and OKC is comfortably in the playoffs right now. It’s quite a story.

13. Indiana Pacers (23-14, Last week — 12th)

It wasn’t the greatest stretch for the Pacers, losing four of five games. Indiana did pick up a much-needed win over Charlotte on Monday but, in general, it is probably safe to say that this is a team that doesn’t feel as potent as its record indicates.

14. San Antonio Spurs (15-20, Last week — 14th)

At this very moment, the Spurs are in the playoffs. That would’ve been unthinkable not too long ago and, even if the blowout win over Milwaukee felt fluky on Monday, it is a win that San Antonio can build on in the future.

15. Orlando Magic (17-20, Last week — 20th)

On the bright side, the Magic are 3-1 in their last four games and Markelle Fultz scored a career-high 25 on Monday evening. Unfortunately, Orlando’s short-term future took a hit with a long-term injury for Jon Isaac. The Magic need him badly.

16. Memphis Grizzlies (15-22, Last week — 19th)

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As crazy as this sounds, the Grizzlies could make the playoffs. Memphis definitely isn’t supposed to do that right now but, with only one game separating them from the No. 8 spot, it’s now a plausible scenario for an exceptionally young team.

17. Minnesota Timberwolves (14-21, Last week — 23rd)

It felt like Minnesota was dead recently but after four wins in six games they are very much alive. That stretch was admirable with Karl-Anthony Towns on the shelf but the jury is very much still out on whether this squad can hang around for the long haul.

18. Portland Trail Blazers (15-22, Last week — 21st)

The Blazers have goodwill built up from multiple years of overachieving, but there is plenty of reason to be skeptical. Portland has lost six of seven and, in general, this doesn’t feel like a team that is ready to make a big run without making some moves ahead of the deadline.

19. Brooklyn Nets (16-19, Last week — 18th)

Kyrie Irving still isn’t back and the Nets have lost six in a row. Brooklyn still projects as a (very) likely playoff team in the East but that doesn’t mean the team is playing well.

20. Washington Wizards (12-24, Last week — 24th)

It is truly a Jekyll and Hyde experience in the nation’s capital. On some nights, the Wizards look awful. On others, they look unguardable. Washington just beat the Nuggets and Celtics (without Bradley Beal) but, before that, lost to the Blazers and Magic in lopsided fashion. Nobody has any idea.

21. New Orleans Pelicans (12-25, Last week — 15th)

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The Pelicans aren’t scalding hot anymore, but they did enough to make things interesting. This week’s losses (to the Lakers and Jazz) weren’t damning by any stretch and New Orleans feels like an actual threat despite their record.

22. Phoenix Suns (14-22, Last week — 16th)

The good? Phoenix is only 1.5 games out of the No. 8 seed. The bad? The Suns just can’t afford to lose at home to Memphis like they did on Sunday.

23. Sacramento Kings (14-23, Last week — 29th)

If nothing else, the Kings didn’t lose all of their games this week. That is progress from the previous stretch of time captured in this space.

24. Chicago Bulls (13-24, Last week — 17th)

The positive mojo is waning for the Chicago after an ugly week. To be fair, the Bulls’ four-game losing streak came against a quartet of playoff teams in Milwaukee, Utah, Boston and Dallas. There is no great shame in falling to those opponents but they need some quality wins to climb out of the early hole they dug themselves.

25. Charlotte Hornets (15-24, Last week — 28th)

After a very rough stretch to facilitate Charlotte’s crash in the rankings, the Hornets did win back to back games this week. That should bring some solace, although Charlotte’s available roster still isn’t anything terribly exciting.

26. Detroit Pistons (13-24, Last week — 27th)

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The final decisions on Griffin and Drummond will make or break the season for Detroit and both could arrive soon. Buckle up.

27. New York Knicks (10-26, Last week — 26th)

The Knicks have been competitive lately. New York won three in a row and, despite two losses since then, Mike Miller’s team wasn’t embarrassing against the Suns and the Clippers. Baby steps, folks.

28. Cleveland Cavaliers (10-26, Last week — 25th)

The Kevin Love saga has been the central story in Cleveland lately. To make things worse, the Cavs have lost four in a row and, even with some encouraging signs from the young players, the vibes aren’t great.

29. Atlanta Hawks (8-29, Last week — 30th)

It feels like the Hawks are rounding into form a bit. Is this is a good basketball team? No, it isn’t. But Atlanta is 2-2 in the last four and both losses came by single digits against top-tier teams in Boston and Denver. Lloyd Pierce’s team is a lot better when they actually have their best players available.

30. Golden State Warriors (9-29, Last week — 22nd)

Not long ago, the Warriors won four straight games and felt legitimately competitive. Now, they’re on a five-game winning streak and, even if the Hawks have the worst record, Golden State earned this landing spot.