NBA Power Rankings 2019: Warriors, Kings slipping as playoffs near
30) Knicks (13-52)
They’re 3-23 since Jan. 4, earning all of it. Above despair is the thinnest layer of hope for tomorrow. We loved coach Fizdale’s description of Knicks-Suns before tipoff in Phoenix: “Two desperados fighting for crumbs on the table.”
29) Cavaliers (16-49)
This is worse than Minnesota ever was, eh K-Love? The Browns are much better at football than the Cavs are at basketball. The Browns might also be better at hoops.
28) Suns (15-51)
How on Arizona’s brown desert earth have these guys swept the season series with Milwaukee? No franchise in the West is messier. With Booker and Ayton, it’s going to take a special kind of ineptitude to dim this future.
27) Mavericks (27-37)
Losing eight of nine, the bottom is falling out. Fortunately, there isn’t far to drop. We still love Luka. Another year, Dirk? Say it ain’t so.
26) Hawks (22-44)
Trae Young is closing hard on Luka in the Rookie of the Year race. Coolest moment of the week: Kevin Huerter’s postgame jersey swap with Heat legend Dwyane Wade.
25) Bulls (19-47)
Zach LaVine is averaging 28.8 points per game since the break. His heart is on full display and it’s large.
24) Grizzlies (26-40)
One quality win over the last seven weeks and that’s probably more than should be expected. But we see Ivan Rabb doing things that tell us he’s going to be repping Oakland in the league for a while.
23) Hornets (29-35)
One quality win since mid-January. Good night, Sweet Charlotte. And one more thing: Free Frank the Tank.
22) Timberwolves (30-35)
KAT is averaging 36.4 points over his last five games. Terrific. Some guys are built to be more productive on a team going nowhere.
21) Pelicans (30-37)
This team’s descent may be the weirdest story of this season. I‘d feel bad for Alvin Gentry, a good coach in quite the predicament, but his bank account helps him smile.
20) Wizards (27-37)
Once again, going nowhere sideways, without a cohesive roster or coherent plan. If they were a department store, they’d be Sears.
19) Magic (30-36)
They beat the Warriors and followed that up with a win over the Pacers in Indy – in between losses to the Knicks and Cavs. Oh, the tricks they play over in the Magic Kingdom.
18) Lakers (30-35)
We loved Magic Johnson the point guard. We’re puzzled by Magic the Lakers president. Surrounding LeBron with unreliable kids and a motley crew of unreliable misfit vets begged for failure. No playoffs for you. Sorry, Luke.
17) Heat (30-34)
Dwyane Wade’s relentlessness, Goran Dragic’s craftiness and Erik Spoelstra’s ingenuity will ensure this bunch gives a team nightmares in the playoffs.
16) Nets (34-33)
Every time we see Spencer Dinwiddie destroy a defense, we marvel. He is one of those second-round picks that seem determined to make scouts look inept.
15) Kings (32-32)
The biggest step to shedding years of incompetence is, after acquiring talent, allowing it to feel the pain of defeat. Playoffs or not, this team is absorbing lessons that will make it better next season.
14) Clippers (37-29)
How are they doing it? Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams are making shots, Patrick Beverley is impolitely intruding and Montrezl Harrell is doing beastly work in the paint.
13) Pistons (32-31)
They’ve won 10 of 12 by playing as a team. Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond are punishing teams. At some point, Reggie Jackson will put a halt to this momentum.
12) Spurs (37-29)
The rodeo road trip is behind them and Gregg Popovich has coached Derrick White into believing he can make a difference on defense. He is and, boy, did this team need some D.
11) 76ers (41-24)
Jimmy B is restless, which means nobody is comfortable. That’s usually a good thing, but not on a club with more nerve endings than most. Their breakdowns in close games result in losses, heating up Brett Brown’s seat.
10) Thunder (40-25)
Eight games over the next 15 days include matchups with the Clippers, the Jazz, the Nets, the Pacers, the Warriors and two against the Raptors. Breaking even would be successful.
9) Pacers (42-24)
They have become what the Grizzlies once were, a plucky bunch determined to dig up victory no matter how much dirt is plowed. Nate McMillan is one of three men in the Coach of the Year sprint.
8) Trail Blazers (39-26)
Speaking of coaches, Terry Stotts is the best anonymous coach in the league. The Blazers went 5-2 on a rough seven-game roadie over 11 days. Five of the next eight are at home. A top-four seed remains in sight.
7) Jazz (37-27)
They’re always good at home. Of their nine remaining road games, eight are against teams with losing records. This team is primed to make a move.
6) Nuggets (43-21)
They’re showing signs of slippage, which can happen when the road games pile up. They’re healthy, though, and that counts for something. How much will it matter if they’re at No. 2 and the Rockets are at No. 3?
5) Celtics (40-26)
Can you hear them now? Gordon Hayward is looking more as was expected when he signed 20 months ago. Kyrie achy thigh should cause problems, but they’re won seven straight with him out of the lineup.
4) Warriors (44-20)
Not since 2014 have they so quickly reached loss No. 20. Their bottom-five (lately) defense is equal parts apathy, negligence and detachment. The diplomacy and healing powers of Stephen Curry have never been so tested.
3) Raptors (46-19)
Despite consecutive losses to the two hottest teams in the league, this bunch is still deep and dangerous. They’re a lofty place considering Kawhi Leonard misses every fourth game.
2) Bucks (49-16)
We’re barely fazed by the first two-game losing streak of the season. They’ve added new toy Pau Gasol. Giannis continues his MVP campaign and the shooters just keep coming. They’re the only team likely to win 60.
1) Rockets (39-25)
Surprised? Don’t be. Clint Capela is back, CP3 is healthy and The Beard is torching defenses designed to contain him. They’ve beaten the Warriors, Celtics and Raptors since the break. Who in the league is scarier right now?