4/4/18

Who rises and who falls in this week’s NBA power rankings installment?

(Team’s record, Change in ranking from last week. Records as of 4/3/18)

30. Phoenix Suns (20-59, -)

The Suns finally broke their 14 games losing streak with a win over the Sacramento Kings. Josh Jackson has looked like a star recently, averaging 23.8 points on 38.5% from three and two steals over the last week of play.

29. Memphis Grizzlies (21-56, -)

By the way of some kind of dark magic, the Grizzlies beat the Timberwolves and Trail Blazers in back to back games. They have come back down to earth though, losing the last two in a row to the Blazers and Jazz.

28. Atlanta Hawks (22-56, -)

Despite putting playing without Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore, the Hawks put up a fight against the Miami Heat, losing 101-98.

27. Orlando Magic (23-54, -1)

Over the last week, the Magic have randomly been the third best defensive team in the NBA (95 DRTG), but the second worst offensive rating in the NBA (94.9).

26. Dallas Mavericks (23-54, +1)

The Mavericks scraped out an impressive win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday. Check out this insane play by Dennis Smith Jr.:

25. Brooklyn Nets (25-53, -)

The Nets are the only one of the bottom barrel picks that don’t have a first-round pick to look forward to this June. Thanks, Billy King.

24. Sacramento Kings (25-54, -)

De’Aaron Fox hit another clutch shot against the Lakers on Sunday. He has the highest field goal percentage in the NBA during the last minute of the game with at least a three-point difference at 64%.

23. New York Knicks (27-51, -1)

Over the last week, Michael Beasley has been playing like a second overall pick. He has averaged 27 points, six rebounds and a block in two Knick losses.

22. Chicago Bulls (27-51, +1)

The Chicago Bulls seem to not care one bit about the tank, as they are on a three-game win streak. Lauri Markkanen is continuing to blossom into a star, averaging 20 points on 57.9% from three and seven rebounds over the streak.

21. Charlotte Hornets (34-45, -2)

The Hornets have lost four games in a row and have the worst defensive rating in the NBA over that stretch (115.9).

20. Los Angeles Lakers (33-44, +1)

The Lakers are on a three-game losing streak, but Kyle Kuzma has been playing very well. In those losses, he has averaged 22 points, 7.7 boards, and 1.3 steals.

19. Los Angeles Clippers (42-36, -1)

The Clippers keep on fighting. After being down big in the first quarter to the Spurs, they rallied back to win the game by three. Lou Williams scored 15 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter. The Clippers are only 1.5 games out of the eighth seed and still fully in the Western Conference playoff hunt. They travel to Utah in their next game, in what will be a crucial game for the Clippers’ playoff hopes.

18. Detroit Pistons (37-40, +2)

The Detriot Pistons are currently on a five-game win streak, but it is likely too little, too late. They sit 4.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Bucks, the only Eastern Conference team left to clinch a playoff spot. In order for Detroit to make the Playoffs, have to win out, and the Bucks need to lose out. Unfortunately for them, they play the red-hot 76ers and Toronto Raptors to end the year.

17. New Orleans Pelicans (43-34, -6)

There was a point where the Pelicans sat as high as the fourth seed, and Anthony Davis looked like an MVP candidate. They are currently in the eighth seed, on a four-game losing streak, fighting for a playoff spot. Only a game separates them and the ninth-seeded Nuggets, who beat the Pacers on Tuesday. They have two easy matchups against the Grizzlies and Suns coming up but finish the season tough against the Warriors, Clippers, and Spurs.

16. Denver Nuggets (43-35, +1)

After beating the Pacers, they put themselves in a great position to make the playoffs. They sit only half a game behind the ninth-seeded Pelicans. To show just how tight the West is, they sit only two games behind the fourth-seeded Jazz. Over the last week, in true Nuggets fashion, they ranked first in the NBA in offensive rating (113.4) but second to last in defensive rating (113.1). They will need to improve their defense, especially if they sneak their way into the playoffs. Nikola Jokic has been incredible over the last week, averaging 29.3 points, 12.8 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.8 blocks.

 15. Miami Heat (42-36, -)

The Heat clinched a playoff berth after a nailbiting, three-point win over the Hawks. Miami makes it back to the postseason for the second time in four years since LeBron James left for Cleveland. They have not missed the playoffs in consecutive years since 2003.

14. Milwaukee Bucks (42-36, -)

Sitting in the eighth seed, the Bucks are the only Eastern Conference team to have not clinched a playoff berth. They are a comfortable 4.5 games ahead of the Pistons and likely will make the playoffs. They are 3-2 over the last week and play only one playoff team (Philadelphia) to end the year.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves (44-34, +3)

Karl Anthony Towns has been playing like a superstar at the right time for the Timberwolves, averaging 32.2 points and 14 rebounds over the last week, where the Timberwolves went 2-1. They are currently the seventh seed in the West, and could potentially fall out of the playoffs. They have two vital games against the Nuggets to end the year, two games that could very well determine which teams make the playoffs. Jimmy Butler is “this close” to returning; he has been a full participant in practice. His return is vital if the Wolves want to make the playoffs for the first time in 14 seasons.

12. Utah Jazz (45-33, -3)

The Jazz have climbed all the way up to the fourth seed after a win against the Lakers. despite this, they sit a mere three games ahead of the 10th seeded Clippers. The Jazz, over the last week, have the second-best offensive rating in the NBA (112.7) and the ninth best defensive rating (102.2). They have three very tough games remaining, against the Clippers, Warriors, and Trail Blazers. If they win a few of these games, they will make the playoffs despite all odds.

11. Oklahoma City Thunder (45-34, -3)

The Thunder fell to the Warriors on Tuesday, marking their third straight home loss. Russell Westbrook’s 44 points and 16 rebounds were not enough to dethrone the beat up Warriors. Over the last three games, the Thunder ranked bottom 10 in defensive rating (106.9).

10. Washington Wizards (42-36, +3)

The Wizards clinched a playoff berth in the game that All-Star point guard John Wall returned to the court. Tomas Satoransky did a good job filling in for Wall but having Wall back will be an inestimable boon going forward for Washington. Wall racked up a double-double in his first game back, scoring 15 points and assisting 14 times. Washington has been sliding in the standings a bit as of late, but with Wall back, could be a very tough matchup for a high seed in the first round of the playoffs.

9. Indiana Pacers (46-32, +3)

Indiana lost an away game to the Nuggets on Tuesday, who are notoriously difficult to beat at home. Their stretch to end the year doesn’t get any easier; they face one of the hardest back-to-backs you can face for their next two. They play the Warriors at home and fly to Toronto to take on the Raptors the next day. The Pacers then play the Hornets twice to end the year. Despite this, the Pacers are likely locked into the fifth seed or higher; they sit a full four games above the sixth-seeded Heat. They could get as high as the three-seed, as they are two games behind the third-seeded Cavaliers.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers (48-30, -1)

The Cavaliers picked up an impressive home win over the first-seeded Toronto Raptors on Tuesday. LeBron James (27, 10) and Kevin Love (18, 15) both recorded double-doubles, as the Cavs take sole possession of the third seed in the East. Reaching the second seed is likely out of question, as they sit 5.5 games behind the Celtics. This will likely be the first season since 2007-08 that a LeBron James led team will finish outside of the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference.

7. San Antonio Spurs (45-33, +3)

The Spurs went 3-11 in the previous 14 game stretch and looked like they would fall squarely out of the playoff picture. Over the last 11, they have completely turned thing around with an 8-3 record over that stretch. LaMarcus Aldridge has turned back the clock to the Portland days, being the go-to scorer that the Spurs have so desperately missed. Over the last 11 games, Aldridge has averaged X. The Spurs will not eclipse the 50 win mark for the first time in 18 years. They have not clinched a playoff berth due to the Nuggets victory and a loss to the Clippers but can clinch a berth in the following days.

6. Golden State Warriors (57-21, -)

Golden State fought out a tough win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday, 111-107. Russell Westbrook put up 44 points and 16 rebounds on Golden State. They have struggled to guard elite guards and will struggle against talented backcourts without Stephen Curry. A team like Denver or Oklahoma City could give them serious trouble in the first round without Curry. Since Curry’s most recent injury, the Warriors have been turning the ball over an uncharacteristic amount; they rank 20th in TOV% (14.8%) in Curry’s absence.

 5. Portland Trail Blazers (48-30, -)

Portland has cooled down a bit as of late, going 6-4 over their last 10 games and losing to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday. They are three games clear of the Jazz for the third seed and barring a late-season collapse, project to stay there. Portland is one of only three Western Conference teams to have clinched a playoff berth (Golden State, Houston). They have gone 3-1 over the last week and Damian Lillard is putting up MVP level numbers (28.5 PTS, 8.5 AST, 12.5 plus-minus).

4. Boston Celtics (53-24, -1)

The short-handed Celtics upset the Toronto Raptors, bringing the heated race for the number one seed down to only two games. Jayson Tatum showed his point-forward abilities, and Brad Stevens even brought out the rare 2-3 zone to try and stymie Toronto’s high powered offense. The Celtics rematch Toronto in Toronto on Wednesday, in what will be a hugely important game in terms of playoff position.

 3. Philadelphia 76ers (47-30, +1)

The Philadelphia 76ers have officially taken the title as the NBA’s hottest team after their victory over the Nets today. The 76ers are on an 11 game win streak, the longest active winning streak in the NBA right now. Markelle Fultz’s return will surely help Philly in the postseason; Joel Embiid could return in time for the NBA playoffs. They only play two teams over .500 in their remaining five games (Cavaliers, Bucks) and could easily finish the year on a 16 game winning streak. First the Eagles, then Villanova, now the Sixers? Something is in the air in Philadelphia.

2. Toronto Raptors (55-22, -)

The Raptors have been slipping a bit lately, going 5-5 over their last 10 games and on a two-game losing streak. They lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday on the road. Over the last week, they’ve had the third worst defensive rating in the NBA (112.7). Their number seed is definitely not locked up; they sit two games ahead of the Celtics and play Boston again to end the season.

1. Houston Rockets (63-15, -)

The Spurs blew out the Rockets by 17 on Sunday, ending their 11 game win streak. They are still 28-2 over their last 30 games and the best team in the NBA heading into the postseason. James Harden has the MVP all but locked up and the Rockets have their sights set on the NBA playoffs.

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_, @FPC_NBA and @FPC_Colts.

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