NBA Power Rankings: 2/28/18
As the All-Star break passes, teams are beginning their playoff pushes. Who rises and who falls in this week’s power rankings installment?
(Team’s record, Change in ranking from last week. No change in ranking this week, since this is the first week by this author. Records as of 2/26/18)
30. Phoenix Suns (18-44)
The Suns continue their slide as the worst team in the NBA. Losers of 10 straight games, Phoenix looks ahead to the draft lottery, where they will hope to land the number one pick and turn their franchise around.
29. Memphis Grizzlies (18-41)
The Grizzlies are another team that has lost ten straight games. Maybe even worse than the Suns, Memphis is a team with no direction and no young star to carry them. Memphis, like Phoenix, looks ahead to the draft.
28. Brooklyn Nets (20-41)
The Nets, sitting at 2-10 over their last 10 games, are once again, another team looking towards the NBA draft. Truthfully, the bottom seven teams in this ranking are all interchangeable, as they will compete for the number one pick in the NBA’s great tank-off.
27. Atlanta Hawks (18-43)
The Hawks have the second best odds to land the number one pick at this point, trailing only Phoenix. Losers of four straight, the Hawks have a tough stretch against the Warriors and Pacers this week.
26. Dallas Mavericks (19-42)
The Dallas Mavericks, after their win against the Pacers, have a measly 19 wins. In this season’s NBA, that atrocious record, if the season were to end today, gives them only the SIXTH best odds to win the number one pick. Tank harder, Dallas.
25. Orlando Magic (18-42)
After their hot start at the beginning of the year, the Magic have fallen back down to earth and have met their expectation. Losers of six straight games, the Magic look to land a franchise-changing player next offseason.
24. Sacramento Kings (18-42)
The Kings may be the best team at the bottom of the NBA’s barrel. Rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic won the rising stars game MVP, which will be the only piece of hardware that they will come to Sac Town in quite some time. Back to the drawing boards, I guess.
23. New York Knicks (24-38)
With the New York Knicks, we have finally exited the waste pit that is the NBA’s bottom seven. Finally! Before Kristaps Porzingis’ injury, the Knicks were in competition for a playoff spot. Now, the Knicks sit firmly out of the playoff race, having lost nine out of the Knicks’ last 10 games.
22. Chicago Bulls (20-40)
Bobby Portis dropped 38 points on the 76ers on Thursday. Besides that explosion, things have been mostly negative in the Windy City. The Bulls have the fourth worst net rating in the NBA over the last 10 games and went 2-8 during that stretch. The Bulls were expected to be one of, if not the worst team in the league this season. They have exceeded expectations by a bit, but are still not anywhere near playoff contention. And let’s be honest: do they really want to be in playoff contention anyway?
21. Miami Heat (31-29)
The Miami Heat sit in the eighth seed, with a three-game cushion over the Pistons, but have not looked like a playoff team as of late. The Heat have lost eight of their last 10 games, posting the seventh worst offensive rating in the NBA. A team that has no true star like the Heat needs to play good team basketball, on offense and defense. The Heat will have to get back on track if they want to retain the eight seed in the East.
20. Los Angeles Lakers (26-34)
From seemingly out of nowhere, the Lakers have turned everything around in the blink of an eye. After trading for Isaiah Thomas, the Lakers have been on fire, winning seven of their last 10 games. The Lakers sit a whole seven games out of the eight seed; their playoff chances are slim. But if they continue to play this brand of basketball, they may have a shot to sneak into the postseason.
19. Detroit Pistons (28-32)
After trading for Blake Griffin, the Pistons were on fire. They have cooled off as of late, going 4-6 over their last 10 games, and losing three straight. The Pistons are bottom 10 in the NBA in offensive rating over those ten games and bottom 15 in defensive rating. Detroit currently sits at ninth in the east, three games behind Miami. The Pistons will need to pick it up if they want to make the playoffs.
18. Charlotte Hornets (27-33)
After not trading Kemba Walker, the Hornets have quietly been alright as of late. They are 6-4 over their last 10 and have won four games in a row. The Hornets have the ninth best offensive rating over the last ten, and Kemba Walker has been playing well. The Hornets likely won’t make the playoffs and will be stuck in “no man’s land,” between the playoffs and the lottery.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves (38-26)
The tragic injury to Jimmy Butler really, really hurts the Wolves’ chances of doing anything in the playoffs. Butler was the team’s defensive anchor; he compensated for Towns and Wiggins being one of the worst defensive duos in the NBA. Jimmy Butler was the veteran leader that Minnesota needed to take them to the playoffs. Although they will make the playoffs, I seriously doubt that they will be able to go anywhere.
16. Los Angeles Clippers (31-27)
The Clippers are in a strange position. They are a respectable 7-3 over their last ten games and sit only one game out of the eighth seed. Without Blake Griffin, they lack a true star but have a very well rounded team. Los Angeles could easily sneak into the playoffs and maybe escape the first round.
15. Portland Trail Blazers (34-26)
Damian Lillard dropped 40 and 10 rebounds on Saturday against the Phoenix Suns, and the Blazers won a big game prior against the streaking Jazz. Portland stays smack dab in the sixth seed, winning a respectable six out of their last 10 games.
14. Milwaukee Bucks (33-26)
The Bucks sit at a respectable 10-5 since firing Jason Kidd and are 6-4 over their last ten games. Their success going forward will rely on the health of former rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon. The Bucks have been very good on defense as of late and will need to continue this stretch into the playoffs. Jabari Parker and Malcolm Brogdon will need to play vital roles taking stress off of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
13. Philadelphia 76ers (32-26)
The 76ers have been excellent this season, especially without Markelle Fultz. Over their last 10, Philly is 8-2, and have posted the second-best defensive rating in the NBA. The Sixers are only the seventh seed in the east, but if they keep winning like this, they will move up quickly.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (35-27)
The Thunder sit at 5-5 over their last ten games and are in a very confusing position for sure, There have been highs, such as their close win over the Warriors, and lows, such as their embarrassing blowout loss to the Warriors. Over the last ten, Russell Westbrook, despite averaging a triple-double, has shot 14.3% from three. Yes, you’re reading that right. This team has little to no direction and needs to gel better heading into the postseason.
11. Denver Nuggets (33-27)
The Nuggets are in the process of making the jump from a young, exciting team to a legitimate playoff contender. Denver clings to the eighth seed, and are 7-3 over their last ten games. Over this stretch, Nikola Jokic is averaging 21.3 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 9.4 assists. Remember, he is a center!
10. Indiana Pacers (34-26)
Victor Oladipo has been a pleasant surprise for the Pacers this season, making his first all-star game and averaging 24.1 points per game. Oladipo is doing all of this without Myles Turner’s ascension to stardom that many expected this season. The Pacers are 7-3 over their last 10 games and are top 10 in offensive, defensive, and net rating over that streak.
9. Utah Jazz (31-30)
After Utah’s 11 game win streak, they have lost 2 out of their last three, albeit to the Rockets and Blazers. To add to Donovan Mitchell’s historic rookie season, his usage rate of 28.7 leads all rookies and is the second highest of any rookie since 1996. The only player to have a higher usage rate as a rookie was Joel Embiid, at an otherworldly 36.3
8. New Orleans Pelicans (34-26)
After DeMarcus Cousins’ season-ending injury, most thought that the Pelicans’ season was all but over. Despite those doubts, they traded for Nikola Mirotic to stay afloat. The Pelicans are winners of six straight, and Anthony Davis has been on an inhuman tear. Over those games, he has averaged 41.5 points and 15 board per game. In the month of February, Davis has put up an absurd 35.9 points and 12.8 rebounds, making a serious MVP push in the process. If the New Orleans Pelicans continue to play like this, they will make the playoffs this year.
7. San Antonio Spurs (36-25)
Gregg Popovich has been masterful this season coaching a team whose second best player is… well, Rudy Gay? Although the Spurs are 4-6 over their last 10, they sit comfortably in the fourth seed. If this team does manage to get Kawhi Leonard back at some point, watch out. Over the regular season, the Spurs rank second in defensive rating, but over the last ten, they sit at 19th.
6. Washington Wizards (35-25)
Let’s play a game. All you have to do is name the Washington Wizards’ star point guard. Did you say Tomas Satoransky, because if you did, that’s correct! In all seriousness, Satoransky has provided the Wizards with a better John Wall replacement than they could have ever ask for. He has averaged 12.3 points and six assists over the last 10 games, and the Wizards are 7-3 over that stretch. Bradley Beal is playing the best basketball of his career, and will hopefully continue his hot streak into the playoffs.
5. Boston Celtics (43-19)
The Celtics are 6-4 over their last ten games and have won three straight after their three-game slide last week. Boston ranks in the bottom ten in assists this season, which is uncharacteristic of a Brad Stevens offense. We all know that Kyrie Irving is not an elite playmaker, but when your leading assister on the year only averages 5.1, and your center is second with 4.9, there is an issue there.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (35-24)
After overhauling any roster as drastically as the Cavaliers did, there are going to be growing pains. We saw the potential of this roster after their blowout win over the Celtics, and have seen their downfalls after their 14 point loss to the Spurs on Sunday. At this point, the Cavaliers may well be the favorites to make the NBA finals despite all of their troubles this year.
3. Toronto Raptors (42-17)
The Raptors have quietly been the best team in the East this season, and are 8-2 over their last ten games. Their bench has been on an absolute tear, posting the highest net rating of any bench this season. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry can afford to rest because of their prolific bench, which is a large advantage heading into the postseason.
2. Golden State Warriors (47-14)
The Warriors sit second in these power rankings, but are still, by large, the favorites to win the title. The Dubs are 7-3 over their last ten games and seem to be in a bit of a funk. Despite this, they are still the Warriors. Golden State had an excellent showing against Oklahoma City, only allowing 80 points and holding their big three to a combined 43 points. Big wins against top teams like these are what the Warriors need to finish off the year.
1. Houston Rockets (47-13)
Houston is tearing up the NBA as of late, winning 13 straight games. Over their streak, James Harden is making his best MVP case, averaging 32.5 points, 8.4 assists and 6.5 rebounds. Clint Capela has been a revelation for the Rockets this season, as he has turned into the Dwight Howard that never was. Now, the question to be asked: Can the Rockets actually beat the Warriors in a seven-game series?
Ben Pfeifer is the Managing Editor of the Colts for Full Press Coverage, the AFC South Division Editor, and head NBA editor. Want to continue the discussion? Contact Ben Pfeifer on Twitter @Ben_Pfeifer_ and @FPC_Colts.