Who rises and who falls in this week’s power rankings installment?
We welcome our guest power rankings author this week, Travis Baker. Follow him on Twitter @SportsFollower0.
(Team’s record, Change in ranking from last week. Records as of 3/20/18)
30. Memphis Grizzlies (19-51, -)
The Grizzlies have lost 19 of their last 20 games. Their sole win came against an uninspired Nuggets team.
29. Orlando Magic (21-50, -1)
Remember when people thought the Magic were going to make the playoffs this year? Well, now their 21-50 and have lost four of their last five games.
28. Phoenix Suns (19-53, +1)
I’m convinced the Suns are going to continue to tank until the league is forced to give them the Number one overall pick. But hey, you still have Devin Booker.
27. Atlanta Hawks (21-50, -)
Despite Dennis Schroder’s 41 points and Atlanta’s close win against a playoff-bound Jazz team, they are still one of the leagues worst teams with a bleak future. The idea of letting Teague go and giving Schroder the reigns to the offense wasn’t ridiculed at the time. But at this point, you have to wonder what they plan to do with him. His career timeline doesn’t match with their team at all, and he’s only getting older. It’s very much like the Eric Bledsoe situation.
26. New York Knicks (26-45, -)
Despite picking up back-to-back wins against the Hornets and Bulls, you have to think the Hornacek era is coming to an end in New York. Over his two-year coaching tenure in New York, Hornacek is 57-97 with no playoff appearances. However, due to Kristaps Porzingis’ injury, it is possible the front office will agree to give him one more year to figure things out.
25. Brooklyn Nets (23-48, -)
Although this season hasn’t gone particularly well for Brooklyn, the future is bright. Winning two of their last five games, the Nets are no longer the laughing stock of the league and can actually stay competitive with playoff teams. Four of the Nets last five games have had a margin of 10 points or less.
24. Chicago Bulls (24-47, -1)
Losing four of their last five, the Bulls only win was by just one-point against the dreadful, Memphis Grizzlies. At this point, it’s safe to say that Chicago’s front office is more worried about ping pong balls than actual games.
23. Dallas Mavericks (22-49, -1)
Following a 13 point victory over the New York Knicks, the Dallas Mavericks have now dropped three straight including a 12 point loss to the Brooklyn Nets. And with all the turmoil that has surrounded the Mavericks organization this season, one can only feel bad that Dirk Nowitzki’s final season ended in the way it did.
22. Sacramento Kings (23-49, +2)
Despite losing two straight, the Sacramento Kings went on a quick spurt in which they beat two playoff-bound teams including the leagues defending champions (and yes, I know most the Warriors starters didn’t play). Now obviously this entire season was contributed towards developing their young players, but it is a promising sign that Sacramento is at least staying competitive with teams and not getting blown out every single night. The future is bright for Californias capital.
21. Milwaukee Bucks (37-34, -3)
Dubbed as the leagues most disappointing team, The Milwaukee Bucks have sported no impressive wins as of recent. Over their last ten games, Milwaukee has beaten just one playoff contender in the Philadelphia 76ers while also losing six of those ten games. Currently sitting five games up on the ninth-seeded Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee is likely safe from falling out of the playoff picture. But if they don’t get their act together, they will be an easy first-round exit.
20. Detroit Pistons (32-39, +1)
Other than Milwaukee, one can look at Detroit as another underwhelming team. Sporting an all-star caliber front court in Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, the Pistons have poured basically their entire cap space and future into those guys. A dangerous move considering Blake has injury problems, and Drummond is known for being an inconsistent player. Well, know the Pistons playoff hopes are all but gone with little to no direction for the future. They not only have no point guard but also no cap space to pay one. The Stan Van Gundy era has taken an odd turn.
19. Charlotte Hornets (31-41, +1)
I can’t be the only one that forgot the Hornets are still an NBA team, right? Well, regardless of the Hornets relevancy, they have won just two of their last five games, including a six-point win over the Brooklyn Nets in which Dwight Howard scored not just 30 points, but nabbed another 30 rebounds in the process.
18. Los Angeles Lakers (31-39, -2)
Despite dropping three straight games, the Los Angeles Lakers still have a chance to finish the season at .500 or better. And for a team that sports that many rookies and sophomores in their rotation, that would be a huge accomplishment. Because despite what Lavar Ball said, no one expected the Lakers to make the playoffs this season.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves (41-31, -)
Following the Jimmy Butler injury, it, for a while, seemed the Timberwolves were going to miss the playoffs for what would have been the 14th straight year. But after managing to put together a string of wins, they now sit as the seventh seed in the West. With little chance that they will fall out of the playoff picture, it is now all about seeding.
16. Denver Nuggets (39-33, -2)
The Nuggets were a team that never was able to find a true identity this season. After bringing in Paul Millsap for some much-needed defense, he was left injured for most the season. However, with his absence, the Nuggets decided to just try and outscore everyone, and it worked. They grinded their way into the playoff picture. But since his return, they have struggled to implement him into their system and are somehow worse on defense. Losing three of their last five games, they have given up a combined 577 points during that stretch.
15. Los Angeles Clippers (38-33, -6)
Fighting for a playoff position, the Los Angeles Clippers have not helped their case as of recent. Dropping four straight games at one point, the Clippers have allowed four of their last five opponents to score at least 120 points. With their playoff dreams becoming bleaker and bleaker, it is unclear whether Los Angeles will blow it up, or try and add different pieces through free agency.
14. Miami Heat (39-33, +5)
Coming off of three straight wins, and winning seven of their last ten games, the Miami Heat are securely slotted as the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. However, with no true superstar on their roster, it is hard imagining that Miami will make any sort of big run in the postseason. And with less than a month left in the season, the Heat are going to have to grind for home-court advantage. Because when you’re a superstar-less team, the fans can often time become that much-needed X-factor.
13. Washington Wizards (40-31, -)
A bit of an up and down team, the Wizards have won just two of their last five games. Ranked fifth in assists per game and fourth in three-point percentage, Washington is capable of blowing teams out of the water from deep. And with the ongoing absence of John Wall, any extra points help.
12. Indiana Pacers (41-31, -5)
In a bit of a slump, the Pacers have lost three of their last five games with their only win coming against the Los Angeles Lakers. However, four of their last five opponents have had a .500 record or above and with Indiana basically locked into the playoffs, lack of motivation and fatigue could be affecting them late.
11. Philadelphia 76ers (40-30, -)
Currently, on a five-game win streak, the red-hot 76es will look to ride this high all the way to the playoffs. And to be fair, the 76ers have had a rather easy schedule as of recent, but that is to take nothing away from this rising Sixers team. With playoffs on their horizon, this team has the chance to make some noise.
10. New Orleans Pelicans (43-30, -)
Due to a canceled game earlier in the year, the Pelicans just played three games in four nights. And won all of them. An incredibly tough feat, the Pelicans are finally getting their role players to perform at the level they need. Especially if they plan on making a second-round appearance in the postseason. Because, in my opinion, Rajon Rondo’s play has been one of the most underrated storylines of the year.
9. Utah Jazz (41-31, -1)
Winning nine of their last ten games, the Utah Jazz have once again put together a sporadic win streak. Led by Rudy Gobert, the Jazz’s defense has allowed 100+ points in just one of their last ten games. An inspiring accomplishment, Utah’s grind it out style of play reminds one of the Grizzlies Grit-N-Grind era.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder (43-30, -2)
Following a six-game win streak that featured some impressive wins, the Thunder suffered a heart-breaking loss to the Boston Celtics in a 100-99 thriller. However, this loss is nothing to sulk about as, in the end, the ball just didn’t bounce their way. But with only a few games remaining, this loss could be what keeps them from home-court advantage in a first-round series.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers (42-29, +5)
Following a tough span of games, the Cavaliers came out ready this week winning three straight games, including a 132-129 victory over the Toronto Raptors. However, it wasn’t all good news for the Cavaliers organization this week. Due to the death of his brother, Kirk, Kyle Korver will be taking a leave of absence from the Cleveland organization to be with his family. Obviously horrible news, who knows when Kyle will feel ready to come back. An intricate part of Cleveland’s offense, his presence will be heavily missed.
6. San Antonio Spurs (42-30, +9)
How can we be so dumb? Every year we do the exact same thing. The Spurs go through a mid-season slump and we all immediately write them out of our playoff picture. When will we learn? POP DOESN’T MISS THE PLAYOFFS! After losing four of five games, the San Antonio Spurs have now raddled off five straight wins against playoff caliber teams (and the magic). With Kawhi’s return becoming imminent, it is only right that the Spurs limp into the playoffs only to annihilate everyone in their path (until they play the Warriors).
5. Boston Celtics (48-23, -)
Riddled with injuries, The Boston Celtics are limping their way to the playoffs. However, despite these injuries, the Celtics are coming off of a 100-99 win over the streaking Oklahoma City Thunder. And with so little time left in the season, these injuries could be a blessing in disguise for Boston. It gives time for some of their veterans time to rest and recover from fatigue in time for Bostons playoff push.
4. Golden State Warriors (53-18, -1)
Although the Warriors have dropped in my rankings, let’s be honest, is anyone truly worried about them? This is a team that has played in June every year for the past three years. They’re obviously getting bored of the regular season. It’s no coincidence that out of the blue, all four of their all-stars go down with “injuries”. It’s a month before playoffs, Golden State’s taking no risks after the 73-9 fiasco. They’re still the clear favorite to win the championship and the leagues scariest team.
3. Toronto Raptors (53-19, -1)
Winning 12 of their last 15 games, it’s clear this is a different Toronto Raptors team. With both Lowry and DeRozan producing offensively, the Raptors also own the leagues best bench lead by Fred VanVleet. However, over the past few games, the Raptors have allowed, not one, but two games in which their opponent scored 132 points. A hazardous amount of scoring, Toronto’s defense is likely going to need some fixing before the postseason.
2. Portland Trail Blazers (44-27, +2)
The Trail Blazers can finally play defense! Ranked seventh in the league in defensive rating, an issue that has plagued this Blazers team for years is finally solved. And although seventh doesn’t jump out to you, it is just good enough to allow their offense to carry them the rest of the way. Because Portlands offense was never in question. With one of the leagues best backcourts in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, everyone knew the Blazers could score. But with this new found energy on defense, Portland is now capable of beating good teams when the offense sputters.
1. Houston Rockets (57-14, -)
Winning 24 of their last 25 games, the Houston Rockets truly are something else. Not only are they scoring over 113 points per game, but they are also eighth in defensive rating. They are not only getting contributions from their superstar backcourt, but from guys like PJ Tucker, Gerald Green, Clint Capela, and many more. A few months ago, Gerald Green didn’t even have a job. Now he’s getting meaningful minutes on the leagues best teams. However, there is still one looming question that surrounds the Rockets organization. Can they perform when it matters? Led by two guys (Chris Paul and James Harden) who are both famous for falling apart in the playoffs, one can’t help but wonder if this team has the mental toughness it takes to survive two months non-stop “survive and advance” scenarios. But at the end of the day, no one will know the answer to this question until the time comes.