Power Ratings: Hawks and others making a push

Our Zach Harper breaks down SportsLine's latest Power Ratings, which sees little movement at the top but plenty of contenders emerging.

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We're about at the halfway point of the season for every team, and that's usually a good marker for trying to figure out what's going to happen the rest of the season.

The method behind the Power Ratings
SportsLine's Power Ratings are based on a team's Neutral Win%. To calculate a team's Neutral Win% we simulate them playing every other team in the league thousands of times on a neutral court. Teams are rated in descending order of Average Neutral Win% vs. the other 29 teams.

SportsLine's Power Ratings are objective and numbers based, vastly different from subjective power rankings. Our method gives all teams the same schedule and we remove any bias from the analysis.

Our Power Ratings are based on healthy rosters. Any player not out for the season is assumed to be 100 percent. This method allows us to compare their actual Win% to their Neutral Win% and determine which teams have over or under performed relative to their talent. 

Neutral Win% is not consistent between rankings. For example, the difference between the No. 3 and No. 4 team could be wider than the difference between No. 15 and No. 20. While our sequential ranking is how we display, we provide the Neutral Win% so you can really identify how much of a gap there is between teams and whether the gap between two teams is really significant or not.

What we've seen happen and what we think will happen from here on out could be two very different things.

While the Eastern Conference has been better than the Western Conference so far, the West looks to have multiple title contenders as everybody in the East outside of Cleveland is looking far up at the Cavaliers.

We've had teams like the Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets look apathetic too many times in the first half of the season, but they may be primed to make a run in the second half.

The Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers looked really awful in the first half of the season but in the second half of the season ... OK, maybe some of the first half stuff carries over to the second half of the season.

As we head into the second half of the 2015-16 NBA season, let's take a look at what we've definitely learned about each team and what we project for their second half of the season based on SportsLine's Power Ratings.

SPORTSLINE'S NBA POWER RATINGS
RANK TEAM NEUTRAL WIN% WIN PROJ. ATS% PLAYOFF%
1
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors were the biggest story of the first half of the season because they seem capable of challenging the best record of all time. And considering our neutral percentage has them above 80 percent and projected for 70 wins, they're special. They've tailed off a bit but made quite a statement Monday in Cleveland. It won't be worth going for 73 wins if you aren't ready to take on the Spurs in May.
80.6% 70.9 60.0% 100%
2
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs seem just as dominant as the Warriors and you can see it in their historic point differential, their perfect road record, and them covering spreads 68.3 percent of the time, which is tops in the league. They're the only other 60-plus win team projected and it doesn't matter if they rest guys. Everybody has a ridiculous net rating on this roster.
74.5% 64.9 69.1% 100%
3
Oklahoma City Thunder
OKC is confusing. The record is great. The net rating is third best in the NBA. They have a lot of the makings of a team that can move their way up to being a real title contender, despite the presence of the Spurs and Dubs. But only Chicago is worse against the spread of SportsLine's top 15 teams. Do books overestimate them or are they underperforming while still being great?
69.2% 55.9 42.9% 100%
4
Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs being so bad against the spread is easy to explain considering their first half injuries. And still the Cavs are far and away the class of the Eastern Conference with LeBron James looking mad and rejuvenated. But shouldn't they start putting up more dominant numbers? Monday's home humiliation raises a few questions.
68.2% 59.3 46.0% 100%
5
Atlanta Hawks
Maybe they're not on pace to win 60 games like last year, but 50 games is still pretty impressive considering they can't shoot 3s this season. They are 19th in the NBA in 3-point accuracy, Paul Millsap is under 30 percent, and Kyle Korver is a pedestrian 36 percent. So what happens when they start hitting? They're not just a jump shooting team, but they're dangerous when they are. A second-half surge is coming.
63.2% 50.7 48.7% 99.8%
6
Toronto Raptors
This looks exactly like the same team as last season and with DeMarre Carroll out until sometime in March, we may not see much difference at all this season. The good news for them is they seem better prepared to withstand any dips in production for now. Will they still hunt out free throws in the playoffs? We don't know yet. But they're not a nave team like last season, just the same style of play.
58.8% 50.9 53.9% 99.8%
7
Boston Celtics
Halfway through the season and I have no clue what I'm supposed to have learned about the Boston Celtics. They're good but are they seventh best in the NBA good? I've struggled in buying into them the same way SportsLine has most of the season. For the rest of the season, I expect to remain confused while I just politely nod and smile as they play.
57.9% 46.1  55.0% 92.6%
8
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers and their resiliency are quite impressive. Either Blake Griffin or Chris Paul has missed significant time in each of last three seasons and the Clippers haven't missed a beat. This team looks like it can catch the Thunder by season's end, but the Clippers still probably won't be resilient against tougher foes in the postseason. There is only so much they end up overcoming.
57.0% 49.5 48.7% 99.7%
9
Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis is getting going right now and looks to be a much tougher foe than at the start of the season. They still turn you over a lot while taking care of the ball and getting to the free throw line. But they can't make shots and they're not great at stopping shots from going in. The very real ceiling is still present for them, but do you want them beating you up during a seven-game series?
54.3% 45.8 48.8% 99.0%
10
Indiana Pacers
The Pacers are currently hanging on but they're mostly reliant on playing at home and hitting 3-pointers if they want to win games. Nothing else seems to work for them. I doubt we see the team that went 11-2 in November again this season but with Myles Turner coming back, the frontcourt has some much-needed depth back in the lineup.
53.8% 44.8 53.7% 88.3%
11
Chicago Bulls
Bulls fall three spots as we hit the halfway point and it has something to do with Joakim Noah being out for the next 4-6 months, I'm sure. He was struggling but he helps provide the ball movement Fred Hoiberg wants to see. Unless someone unlocks their offensive potential magically (looking at you, Bobby Portis), they'll continue to get shredded against the spread the rest of the season.
55.0% 47.4 38.5% 95.8%
12
Detroit Pistons
As Stan Van Gundy teaches this Pistons team, they're getting by on defense and 3-point shooting. Mostly the 3-point shooting. In wins, they're above 37 percent from deep. In losses, they're below 29 percent from downtown. The return of Brandon Jennings makes them dangerous the rest of the way. I'd say they have a better chance of finishing in the top 4 than Boston, Indiana, and maybe even Chicago, who inexplicably win tight games.
52.5% 44.5 57.9%  84.1%
13
Houston Rockets
SportsLine has remained pretty confident in the Rockets turning this around throughout the Malaise Festival the first half of the season has been, and it may have been right all along. Houston looks much more competent in late December and the month of January. I'm not going to buy in but at least Houston looks absolutely playoff bound (92.5 percent). Baby steps to competency.
51.9% 42.3 40.5% 92.5%
14
Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz got Rudy Gobert back and all of a sudden they look like a really dangerous defensive team again. They still need to get Derrick Favors and Alec Burks to return from injury, but being where they are after all of these first half injuries is encouraging. What do they do in the second half of the season? Get healthy and make a run at the No. 6 seed is ideal. Making the playoffs is more realistic.
49.5% 39.8 53.9% 68.6%
15
Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs' ATS percentage (sixth in the NBA) probably sums up their first half pretty perfectly. They've been one of the best teams at surprising us against expectations all year. It's tough to trust their health or depth because of recent history, but if they remain healthy the rest of the season, this is an offense nobody wants to play. Mavs being a spot lower than Utah is an interesting projection.
48.9% 42.8 57.1% 93.9%
16
Miami Heat
SportsLine has been slow to buy into this Heat team all season, and the easy schedule early on was probably a good reason to be hesitant. They've had some good highs this season and now we're experiencing some lows in the tough schedule of January. The depth of the East has playoffs in question for Miami, which is not something anybody expected to say.
48.1% 43.0 50.0% 65.2%
17
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans are perfectly rated by SportsLine. They're projected as a top 17 team in this league but the early-season struggles through all of those injuries leave us with 33 wins on the table and a 6.4 percent chance of making the playoffs. Pels can be dangerous the rest of the season but they should see if Anthony Davis would represent them at the lottery.
48.2% 33.6 38.5% 6.4%
18
Washington Wizards
The Wizards have done a decent job of hanging on the last month and a half despite their injuries. This team also lives and dies by the 3-point shot (42.5 percent in wins, 31.4 percent in losses). We're still wondering if and when this team can make a run at not just the playoffs, but also as a seed that avoids the Cavs and gives them a chance to have that first-round upset magic.
47.4% 40.6 53.9% 38.3%
19
Phoenix Suns
How are they 19th? How? How are they not 29th or 30th? Tell me, SportsLine! I do not understand. This team quit in the first half of the season and they're not going to have much life in the second half of the season. They lost to the Wolves by 30. The Wolves! The 0.2 percent playoff odds should move them way down here. I'm not buying neutral site here because they don't care in any environment.
41.3% 28.6 38.1% 0.2%
20
Orlando Magic
The Magic are another team SportsLine has been slow to buy into, and with their upcoming schedule it makes sense. It's not that things have been easy for them so far. They're scrappy. They're competitive (see that ATS percentage). You don't really want to deal with them. But it's about to become a tough road and this may knock them out of the playoff picture.
47.5% 39.0 60.5% 15.8%
21
Portland Trail Blazers
We expected them to have these splits but this is another team with a cavern between 3-point percentages in wins and losses. 40.1 percent when they win. 32.4 percent when they lose. Important for them is they've found a running mate for Damian Lillard in the backcourt with C.J. McCollum. I don't expect much of a playoff push from them and neither does SportsLine, but they're dangerous with that shooting ability.
45.3% 36.0 51.2% 21.8%
22
Sacramento Kings
SportsLine isn't buying the Kings just yet, but they should start creeping up here. The Kings are trying to find consistency and the West standings are allowing them to do that while still remaining in the playoff race. The defense is so bad though. Probably need to climb from 25th to top 20 to make the postseason.
44.5% 35.7 47.5% 17.2%
23
Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets were a great story in November and then they were hanging on in December and now they're falling quickly in January. They're the best in the league at taking care of the ball, but they're missing some defensive consistency. If they can get Al Jefferson healthy, maybe they'll have enough to overcome it and make the playoffs. But the East is crowded.
44.1% 37.5 46.2% 9.2%
24
New York Knicks
Why won't SportsLine buy the Knicks? It teased us over the last two weeks when it looked like New York was finally climbing up the Power Ratings. They're still stuck in the bottom 7, though, and it's a bit frustrating. The defense is still a bit shaky and they need to correct that the rest of the season, but the Knicks have a real shot at the playoffs.
43.6% 38.0 59.5% 10.6%
25
Milwaukee Bucks
How do you have all of this length and wingspan and size, and yet still remain the worst defensive rebounding team in the NBA? Third worst defense. Don't take care of the ball. Can you count on the Bucks to get it together in the second half of the season? There is no deer to fear anymore. It's been hunting season this entire time.
40.7% 33.4 53.5% 0.6%
26
Denver Nuggets
The win over the Warriors helped them climb two spots in the Power Ratings and it shows they might be a team a lot of squads don't want to play the rest of the season. When healthy, they have a lot of depth. Will Barton and Danilo Gallinari are a great combination right now. Emmanuel Mudiay is back. They get to build something the rest of the season.
37.2% 31.0 48.7% 0.7%
27
Minnesota Timberwolves
If you just focus on Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, you feel really good about the Wolves so far this season. If you start getting into the other stuff, then you're left with a lot of questions. It's a really bad team with promise in the coming years. Ideally, they'd become Utah of the second half of last season, but they're probably a year or two from that.
38.1% 25.1 41.5% 0.0%
28
Brooklyn Nets
I'll say this about the Nets. There isn't much hope now or in the near future. They're a really bad team. They have key injuries, which doesn't help make anything better. But they're still above 50 percent against the spread, and that does mean there's some competitiveness there. Maybe it's also not giving them credit when the lines are made, but that's still something you can hang your hat on.
37.0% 24.7 51.2% 0.0%
29
Los Angeles Lakers
I've been able to see this Lakers team in person twice this season and only the recent Suns have looked more checked out than what Byron Scott's squad offered up in terms of effort. The rest of this season is just living with an ex while you wait for the lease on an apartment to run out because neither of you can go anywhere else.
23.8% 16.4 41.9% 0.0%
30
Philadelphia 76ers
I'm not sure I buy this team as the worst in the league anymore. It's the Lakers, the Suns, or the Wolves for me. The Sixers are doing what they always do under Brett Brown: they're building toward being scrappy in the second half of the season. They'll surprise a few unsuspecting foes. The Sixers aren't the worst in my mind. Sorry, Sam Hinkie.
18.1% 12.0 43.9% 0.0%
RANK TEAM NEUTRAL WIN% WIN PROJ. ATS% PLAYOFF%
1
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors were the biggest story of the first half of the season because they seem capable of challenging the best record of all time. And considering our neutral percentage has them above 80 percent and projected for 70 wins, they're special. They've tailed off a bit but made quite a statement Monday in Cleveland. It won't be worth going for 73 wins if you aren't ready to take on the Spurs in May.
80.6% 70.9 60.0% 100%
2
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs seem just as dominant as the Warriors and you can see it in their historic point differential, their perfect road record, and them covering spreads 68.3 percent of the time, which is tops in the league. They're the only other 60-plus win team projected and it doesn't matter if they rest guys. Everybody has a ridiculous net rating on this roster.
74.5% 64.9 69.1% 100%
3
Oklahoma City Thunder
OKC is confusing. The record is great. The net rating is third best in the NBA. They have a lot of the makings of a team that can move their way up to being a real title contender, despite the presence of the Spurs and Dubs. But only Chicago is worse against the spread of SportsLine's top 15 teams. Do books overestimate them or are they underperforming while still being great?
69.2% 55.9 42.9% 100%
4
Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs being so bad against the spread is easy to explain considering their first half injuries. And still the Cavs are far and away the class of the Eastern Conference with LeBron James looking mad and rejuvenated. But shouldn't they start putting up more dominant numbers? Monday's home humiliation raises a few questions.
68.2% 59.3 46.0% 100%
5
Atlanta Hawks
Maybe they're not on pace to win 60 games like last year, but 50 games is still pretty impressive considering they can't shoot 3s this season. They are 19th in the NBA in 3-point accuracy, Paul Millsap is under 30 percent, and Kyle Korver is a pedestrian 36 percent. So what happens when they start hitting? They're not just a jump shooting team, but they're dangerous when they are. A second-half surge is coming.
63.2% 50.7 48.7% 99.8%
6
Toronto Raptors
This looks exactly like the same team as last season and with DeMarre Carroll out until sometime in March, we may not see much difference at all this season. The good news for them is they seem better prepared to withstand any dips in production for now. Will they still hunt out free throws in the playoffs? We don't know yet. But they're not a nave team like last season, just the same style of play.
58.8% 50.9 53.9% 99.8%
7
Boston Celtics
Halfway through the season and I have no clue what I'm supposed to have learned about the Boston Celtics. They're good but are they seventh best in the NBA good? I've struggled in buying into them the same way SportsLine has most of the season. For the rest of the season, I expect to remain confused while I just politely nod and smile as they play.
57.9% 46.1  55.0% 92.6%
8
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers and their resiliency are quite impressive. Either Blake Griffin or Chris Paul has missed significant time in each of last three seasons and the Clippers haven't missed a beat. This team looks like it can catch the Thunder by season's end, but the Clippers still probably won't be resilient against tougher foes in the postseason. There is only so much they end up overcoming.
57.0% 49.5 48.7% 99.7%
9
Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis is getting going right now and looks to be a much tougher foe than at the start of the season. They still turn you over a lot while taking care of the ball and getting to the free throw line. But they can't make shots and they're not great at stopping shots from going in. The very real ceiling is still present for them, but do you want them beating you up during a seven-game series?
54.3% 45.8 48.8% 99.0%
10
Indiana Pacers
The Pacers are currently hanging on but they're mostly reliant on playing at home and hitting 3-pointers if they want to win games. Nothing else seems to work for them. I doubt we see the team that went 11-2 in November again this season but with Myles Turner coming back, the frontcourt has some much-needed depth back in the lineup.
53.8% 44.8 53.7% 88.3%
11
Chicago Bulls
Bulls fall three spots as we hit the halfway point and it has something to do with Joakim Noah being out for the next 4-6 months, I'm sure. He was struggling but he helps provide the ball movement Fred Hoiberg wants to see. Unless someone unlocks their offensive potential magically (looking at you, Bobby Portis), they'll continue to get shredded against the spread the rest of the season.
55.0% 47.4 38.5% 95.8%
12
Detroit Pistons
As Stan Van Gundy teaches this Pistons team, they're getting by on defense and 3-point shooting. Mostly the 3-point shooting. In wins, they're above 37 percent from deep. In losses, they're below 29 percent from downtown. The return of Brandon Jennings makes them dangerous the rest of the way. I'd say they have a better chance of finishing in the top 4 than Boston, Indiana, and maybe even Chicago, who inexplicably win tight games.
52.5% 44.5 57.9%  84.1%
13
Houston Rockets
SportsLine has remained pretty confident in the Rockets turning this around throughout the Malaise Festival the first half of the season has been, and it may have been right all along. Houston looks much more competent in late December and the month of January. I'm not going to buy in but at least Houston looks absolutely playoff bound (92.5 percent). Baby steps to competency.
51.9% 42.3 40.5% 92.5%
14
Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz got Rudy Gobert back and all of a sudden they look like a really dangerous defensive team again. They still need to get Derrick Favors and Alec Burks to return from injury, but being where they are after all of these first half injuries is encouraging. What do they do in the second half of the season? Get healthy and make a run at the No. 6 seed is ideal. Making the playoffs is more realistic.
49.5% 39.8 53.9% 68.6%
15
Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs' ATS percentage (sixth in the NBA) probably sums up their first half pretty perfectly. They've been one of the best teams at surprising us against expectations all year. It's tough to trust their health or depth because of recent history, but if they remain healthy the rest of the season, this is an offense nobody wants to play. Mavs being a spot lower than Utah is an interesting projection.
48.9% 42.8 57.1% 93.9%
16
Miami Heat
SportsLine has been slow to buy into this Heat team all season, and the easy schedule early on was probably a good reason to be hesitant. They've had some good highs this season and now we're experiencing some lows in the tough schedule of January. The depth of the East has playoffs in question for Miami, which is not something anybody expected to say.
48.1% 43.0 50.0% 65.2%
17
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans are perfectly rated by SportsLine. They're projected as a top 17 team in this league but the early-season struggles through all of those injuries leave us with 33 wins on the table and a 6.4 percent chance of making the playoffs. Pels can be dangerous the rest of the season but they should see if Anthony Davis would represent them at the lottery.
48.2% 33.6 38.5% 6.4%
18
Washington Wizards
The Wizards have done a decent job of hanging on the last month and a half despite their injuries. This team also lives and dies by the 3-point shot (42.5 percent in wins, 31.4 percent in losses). We're still wondering if and when this team can make a run at not just the playoffs, but also as a seed that avoids the Cavs and gives them a chance to have that first-round upset magic.
47.4% 40.6 53.9% 38.3%
19
Phoenix Suns
How are they 19th? How? How are they not 29th or 30th? Tell me, SportsLine! I do not understand. This team quit in the first half of the season and they're not going to have much life in the second half of the season. They lost to the Wolves by 30. The Wolves! The 0.2 percent playoff odds should move them way down here. I'm not buying neutral site here because they don't care in any environment.
41.3% 28.6 38.1% 0.2%
20
Orlando Magic
The Magic are another team SportsLine has been slow to buy into, and with their upcoming schedule it makes sense. It's not that things have been easy for them so far. They're scrappy. They're competitive (see that ATS percentage). You don't really want to deal with them. But it's about to become a tough road and this may knock them out of the playoff picture.
47.5% 39.0 60.5% 15.8%
21
Portland Trail Blazers
We expected them to have these splits but this is another team with a cavern between 3-point percentages in wins and losses. 40.1 percent when they win. 32.4 percent when they lose. Important for them is they've found a running mate for Damian Lillard in the backcourt with C.J. McCollum. I don't expect much of a playoff push from them and neither does SportsLine, but they're dangerous with that shooting ability.
45.3% 36.0 51.2% 21.8%
22
Sacramento Kings
SportsLine isn't buying the Kings just yet, but they should start creeping up here. The Kings are trying to find consistency and the West standings are allowing them to do that while still remaining in the playoff race. The defense is so bad though. Probably need to climb from 25th to top 20 to make the postseason.
44.5% 35.7 47.5% 17.2%
23
Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets were a great story in November and then they were hanging on in December and now they're falling quickly in January. They're the best in the league at taking care of the ball, but they're missing some defensive consistency. If they can get Al Jefferson healthy, maybe they'll have enough to overcome it and make the playoffs. But the East is crowded.
44.1% 37.5 46.2% 9.2%
24
New York Knicks
Why won't SportsLine buy the Knicks? It teased us over the last two weeks when it looked like New York was finally climbing up the Power Ratings. They're still stuck in the bottom 7, though, and it's a bit frustrating. The defense is still a bit shaky and they need to correct that the rest of the season, but the Knicks have a real shot at the playoffs.
43.6% 38.0 59.5% 10.6%
25
Milwaukee Bucks
How do you have all of this length and wingspan and size, and yet still remain the worst defensive rebounding team in the NBA? Third worst defense. Don't take care of the ball. Can you count on the Bucks to get it together in the second half of the season? There is no deer to fear anymore. It's been hunting season this entire time.
40.7% 33.4 53.5% 0.6%
26
Denver Nuggets
The win over the Warriors helped them climb two spots in the Power Ratings and it shows they might be a team a lot of squads don't want to play the rest of the season. When healthy, they have a lot of depth. Will Barton and Danilo Gallinari are a great combination right now. Emmanuel Mudiay is back. They get to build something the rest of the season.
37.2% 31.0 48.7% 0.7%
27
Minnesota Timberwolves
If you just focus on Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, you feel really good about the Wolves so far this season. If you start getting into the other stuff, then you're left with a lot of questions. It's a really bad team with promise in the coming years. Ideally, they'd become Utah of the second half of last season, but they're probably a year or two from that.
38.1% 25.1 41.5% 0.0%
28
Brooklyn Nets
I'll say this about the Nets. There isn't much hope now or in the near future. They're a really bad team. They have key injuries, which doesn't help make anything better. But they're still above 50 percent against the spread, and that does mean there's some competitiveness there. Maybe it's also not giving them credit when the lines are made, but that's still something you can hang your hat on.
37.0% 24.7 51.2% 0.0%
29
Los Angeles Lakers
I've been able to see this Lakers team in person twice this season and only the recent Suns have looked more checked out than what Byron Scott's squad offered up in terms of effort. The rest of this season is just living with an ex while you wait for the lease on an apartment to run out because neither of you can go anywhere else.
23.8% 16.4 41.9% 0.0%
30
Philadelphia 76ers
I'm not sure I buy this team as the worst in the league anymore. It's the Lakers, the Suns, or the Wolves for me. The Sixers are doing what they always do under Brett Brown: they're building toward being scrappy in the second half of the season. They'll surprise a few unsuspecting foes. The Sixers aren't the worst in my mind. Sorry, Sam Hinkie.
18.1% 12.0 43.9% 0.0%