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NBA Tier List: Warriors, Suns remain the cream of the crop

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With health and safety protocols taking centre stage around the NBA, precisely judging how good or bad teams actually are has become more of a crapshoot than anything else.

So, to make things easier, we’re primarily judging clubs based on how they’ve performed in their most recent games to try to keep things as fair as possible.

Here’s how we view the league right now in the latest edition of the NBA Tier List.

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Tier 1: The NBA’s Fab Five

No changes at the top from last week as these five squads remain the cream of the NBA’s crop.

In particular, the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns look to be the two teams to beat this season and their highly-entertaining Christmas Day contest over the weekend really did feel like an early preview of what this season’s Western Conference Final will be like.

Tier 2: Just a tad outside top tier

The four sitting here in the second tier could very well make a run at the top tier sooner than later with no bigger surprises than the Cleveland Cavaliers and Memphis Grizzlies.

The Cavs are 11-3 in their last 14 games and have done so without Colin Sexton, who is out for the season with a knee injury, leading to a huge step up from his backcourt-mate Darius Garland, of whom is making a major all-star push.

Rookie sensation Evan Mobley and key centre Jarrett Allen are both in health and safety protocols at the moment, so things may get a little tougher for the Cavs this week, but a 20-13 record on the season doesn’t lie. They are for real.

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Similarly, the Grizzlies sports a 20-14 record on the season, and while they’ve recently lost three of their last four games, their 11-4 record in their last 15 games is good enough evidence that they have the right personnel to get the job done on a nightly basis.

There’s an adjustment period that Memphis is going through again with Ja Morant’s return to the lineup, as well as Dillon Brooks entering health and safety protocols, but there’s no reason to think they won’t be alright.

Tier 3: Decent teams of late

Kemba Walker was notoriously benched by New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau at the end of November, leading to him missing 10 straight games. However, with the Knicks dealing with COVID like much of the rest of the league, Thibodeau had no choice to rescind his decision and inserted Walker back into the lineup and it’s resulted in a 2-2 Knicks record that’s seen Walker explode for a 26-point, seven-assist per game average over those last four games, including a 44-point eruption against the Washington Wizards.

Looking elsewhere at this tier, the San Antonio Spurs have quietly won four of their last five games and have crept up into a play-in tournament spot at No. 10 in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, reigning MVP Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets is actually putting up better numbers this season than he did than a season before and his 32.72 PER is actually on pace to become the highest in NBA history.

Tier 4: The true moribund middle

There are 10 teams here at the fourth tier, and as the subtitle suggests, this is where the actual “middle of the pack” of the league lies. It just so happens, though, that the NBA’s middle at the moment is incredibly uninspiring with most of the teams at this level mired in slumps.

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The best example of this: the Los Angeles Lakers, who have lost five straight including their last four where LeBron James has averaged an obscene 35 points, 9.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game on 58.2 per cent shooting.

It’s a tired narrative, as it’s one that’s been talked about for seemingly his entire career, but with Anthony Davis still expected to miss another month of action and Russell Westbrook as infuriatingly inconsistent as ever, you have to wonder if James does, in fact, need more help again.

Tier 5: The NBA’s Failing Five

Of the five teams down here in the basement, the most disappointing to see are the Portland Trail Blazers, although given how their season has unfolded it’s not altogether unexpected.

From the investigation to the eventual firing of general manager Neil Olshey, to all the trade speculation that was swirling around Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, to the bombshell news that McCollum had suffered a collapsed lung (although, thankfully it’s been reported that his lung has fully healed), it’s been a season of nightmares for the Blazers, who have now won only three times in their last 14 games.



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College football rankings: Ohio State, TCU have earned spots in final four

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Michigan and Georgia are clear playoff teams. We’ll soon find out who the CFP Selection Committee thinks deserves a spot beside them.



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No. 11 Utah Utes take down the No. 4 USC Trojans for the PAC 12 Championship | Number One CFB Show

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RJ Young reacts to the No. 11 Utah Utes taking down the No. 4 USC Trojans for the PAC 12 Championship.



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Canucks’ Luke Schenn passes Brooks Orpik for most hits by an NHL defenceman

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Luke Schenn of the Vancouver Canucks, after a six-hit night, has been crowned the hit king amongst NHL defencemen, passing Brooks Orpik for most hits since the stat has been recorded.

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Some 2,947 hits later, the journeyman hasn’t stopped doing what he does best and is now able to say he stands at the peak of his craft. He hit the mark in 888 games.

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A couple of days ago Schenn told Sportsnet that he “didn’t really think too much of it,” and that he “doesn’t really care too much about the number,” however as he broke the record, the fans in attendance made sure to let him know how much they cared.

Chants of “LUKE! LUKE!” broke out at Rogers Arena in Vancouver for the new leader in the category.

The 33-year-old has played for seven teams throughout his career and won two Stanley Cups during his time with the Tampa Bay Lightning. On every team he’s been on, he’s done what he does best. Hit.

Five forwards still remain above him on the hits leaderboard: Milan Lucic, Alex Ovechkin, Matt Martin, Dustin Brown, and the recently coronated Cal Clutterbuck sits atop the rankings with 3,647.

It was a celebratory day for the Schenn family, as brother Brayden played in his 800th NHL game across the country as his St. Louis Blues took on the Pittsburgh Penguins. But Brayden still has a ways to go if he wants to catch up to Luke’s physical domination, as the centre only has 1,700 hits to his name.

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