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NBA Power Rankings: The Spurs are as good as any team in the league, just like they always are

They’re quietly dominating while most pay attention to other teams. Again.

NBA: Preseason-Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The San Antonio Spurs managed to quietly win 67 games last year, trapped in the shadow of the record-breaking Golden State Warriors. The Warriors aren’t going to hit 73 again this year, yet San Antonio remains in relative anonymity while on pace to win 65.

It’s absurd how good the Spurs continue to be without Tim Duncan and with Tony Parker entering the twilight of his career. Kawhi Leonard is now a perennial MVP candidate. He lacks the gaudy box scores of a James Harden, Russell Westbrook, or even LeBron James, but he still makes an obvious, measurable, and massive impact on his team.

A single MVP candidate does not a 65-win team make. The Spurs have no right to be this good.

LaMarcus Aldridge won’t be an All-Star in all likelihood, but he’s setting a career high in shooting efficiency for the second straight season. This is a player who starred next to peak Brandon Roy and later Damian Lillard. He doesn’t have that level of guard talent to help relieve pressure on him in San Antonio. But he has Kawhi, he has Gregg Popovich, and he has the impeccable Spurs culture of sharing and playing smart. Aldridge has assimilated.

The Spurs are No. 3 in shooting efficiency, the most important factor in offense (where the Spurs rank No. 4 overall). San Antonio has four players taking at least three triples per game. All of them are shooting better than 40 percent from deep. Leonard’s the only star in that set, and the No. 3 scorer on the team is Pau Gasol at less than 12 per game. But all of those points count.

San Antonio’s defense is essentially tied for the league lead with Utah and Memphis, and there’s no mystery in that. Leonard is an all-timer, Popovich is a defensive genius, and there are good defenders laced throughout the roster.

The offense is what really impresses you, since there isn’t really a single key player who wastes possessions. While Golden State and Houston rate highly on offense due to spectacular scoring fireworks, San Antonio is right behind them with ruthless efficiency. It’s mighty impressive.

Because the Clippers and Thunder have ejected the Spurs before a showdown with the Warriors in the past two postseasons, many remain skeptical Golden State has a worthy challenge here. If the Spurs can’t even get themselves to the showdown, how could they win it?

But the data says that San Antonio is right there with the Warriors, poised to challenge them at the end. Let’s hope we finally get that battle this year.

With that, here are this week’s NBA Power Rankings.

SBNation.com NBA Power Rankings (1/12/2017)

Rank Team W L WP% OffRtg DefRtg Rating+
Rank Team W L WP% OffRtg DefRtg Rating+
1 Golden State Warriors 33 6 0.846 113.2 101.7 0.3
2 San Antonio Spurs 30 8 0.789 110.6 101.5 2.7
3 Toronto Raptors 25 13 0.658 113.1 105.7 4.4
4 Houston Rockets 31 10 0.756 112.3 105.8 5.3
5 LA Clippers 27 14 0.659 108.8 103.2 6.2
6 Utah Jazz 24 16 0.6 106.3 101.4 6.9
7 Cleveland Cavaliers 28 10 0.737 109.4 104.9 7.3
8 Milwaukee Bucks 19 18 0.514 107.4 104.6 9
9 Boston Celtics 24 15 0.615 108.5 105.8 9.1
10 Oklahoma City Thunder 24 16 0.6 105.5 103.8 10.1
11 Charlotte Hornets 20 19 0.513 105.8 104.4 10.4
12 Memphis Grizzlies 24 17 0.585 102.1 101.5 11.2
13 Atlanta Hawks 22 16 0.579 102.3 102 11.5
14 Indiana Pacers 20 18 0.526 104.7 105 12.1
15 Washington Wizards 19 19 0.5 105.6 106 12.2
16 Chicago Bulls 19 20 0.487 104.1 104.6 12.3
17 Minnesota Timberwolves 13 26 0.333 106.4 107.4 12.8
18 Detroit Pistons 18 22 0.45 103.3 104.4 12.9
19 Portland Trail Blazers 18 23 0.439 107.3 108.9 13.4
20 New Orleans Pelicans 15 24 0.385 101.4 103.8 14.2
21 Sacramento Kings 16 22 0.421 104.3 108 15.5
22 New York Knicks 17 22 0.436 104.3 108.1 15.6
23 Miami Heat 11 29 0.275 100.3 104.5 16
24 Denver Nuggets 14 23 0.378 105.8 110.2 16.2
25 Phoenix Suns 12 26 0.316 102.4 107.4 16.8
26 Los Angeles Lakers 15 27 0.357 104.3 109.6 17.1
27 Orlando Magic 16 24 0.4 100.5 105.8 17.1
28 Dallas Mavericks 11 27 0.289 101.6 107.1 17.3
29 Philadelphia 76ers 11 25 0.306 98.4 105.2 18.6
30 Brooklyn Nets 8 29 0.216 100.9 108.5 19.4
NBA: New York Knicks at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

A NEW ANTI-CHAMP

In the two weeks since our last Power Rankings, the Sixers have climbed out of the No. 30 spot and exceeded their 2015-16 win total. Our new anti-champ: your Brooklyn Nets, who have no incentive to tank out and no ability to prevent themselves from tanking out.

We have just under six weeks until the trade deadline. The Nets are going to be awful enough to give the Celtics a top-four pick regardless of what they do. It’ll be interesting to see if this reality frees GM Sean Marks to trade a player like Brook Lopez for prospects and/or picks ... if there’s even a serious market for Lopez. If you’re going to be this bad, why not go all the way? What’s the risk?

FOOL’S GOLD?

The Wizards dropped from No. 14 to No. 15 in Net + over two weeks despite briefly climbing above .500. There’s no question that Washington has improved since November, when the team was dreadful.

But it’s fair to wonder if they’ve topped out as a .500 team. Their offense is middle of the pack with little upside outside of trades or quick improvement from underperforming vets. Their defense is getting there, but there doesn’t seem to be another level. Washington badly needs a roster shake-up in the frontcourt to see meaningful improvement at this point.

HERE COMES PORTLAND

The Blazers do have real upside, though. Their defense was artificially low as Al-Farouq Aminu missed time. He’s back, and Portland’s defense has improved by leaps and bounds. It’ll not likely to be good without a defensive talent infusion, but a team with Aminu, Ed Davis, and Maurice Harkless should be able to get by. The C.J. McCollum-Damian Lillard defensive duo problems will persist, but this isn’t a bottom-third defense altogether.

The Blazers are probably two weeks or so from running away with the West No. 8 seed, much to the dismay of the actually mediocre Kings, Nuggets, and Pelicans.