NBA power rankings: Where all 30 teams stand as playoffs approach
NBA Power Rankings
With the NBA diving deep into the fourth quarter of its season and visions of rings floating through the minds of a few franchises, the final 39 days can be distilled to two real races.
There is the group scrambling for postseason seeding, and those jockeying to improve lottery odds.
Teams not in either of these categories are living in the opaque limbo of irrelevance.
In an effort to shed light, here are our latest NBA Power Rankings.
30. Minnesota Timberwolves (19-44)
They’re 9-19 without Karl-Anthony Towns, 10-25 with him. They’re piling up more points than anybody else lately, but they’re allowing them as if that’s the goal. Hello, Lotto.
29. Detroit Pistons (20-45)
Are they again guilty of using February as a vacation-planning month? Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we submit a 13-point fourth quarter against the Knicks. Jockey on.
28. Atlanta Hawks (20-46)
Patience City. They’re waiting to grow up, waiting to add another Lotto talent, waiting on Trae and JC to evolve to mimic Nash-Stoudemire, which is not inconceivable.
27. Chicago Bulls (21-43)
Jim Boylen is not the guy and having “not the guy” is typical. Only one coach since Phil Jackson was “the guy,” and Thibs is enjoying his tour as an NBA fly on the wall. Ping-pong balls, baby.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers (19-45)
John Beilein was 14-40 when he was fired. J.B. Bickerstaff is 5-5 as interim. So, they’re trending from awful to OK. In Cleveland, that’s called “winning.” Lotto awaits.
25. New York Knicks (20-44)
Yes, they’ll be in the lottery. Again. If the hoop gods have their way, no first overall pick will be sentenced to a few dog years of Jim Dolan’s rampant dysfunction.
24. Charlotte Hornets (22-42)
They’ve turned Nicolas Batum into a leaner Udonis Haslem -- without South Beach. This is MJ’s seventh trip to the lottery. His teams made six trips to The Finals.
23. Washington Wizards (23-40)
While John Wall has progressed to light G League workouts, Bradley Beal is fattening his stats in vain. If any team needs Lotto Luck, it’s this bunch.
22. Phoenix Suns (26-38)
Coach Monty Williams' first-season goal was to “build good habits,” a coaching bromide since Naismith put up the peach basket. It’s also code for “embracing the lottery.”
21. San Antonio Spurs (26-36)
Too slow to stop anybody. Too proud to surrender. They’ve become the boxer who stays despite his fade, fast approaching the corner of Opaque and Yesteryear.
20. Warriors (15-49)
The simple explanation for this steep rise from the basement subfloor is the return of Steph. Most teams are delighted these guys are careening toward the lottery,
19. Orlando Magic (29-35)
They’re staggering toward their 10th consecutive season without winning a playoff series. No club accepts its nondescript existence better than Team Disney World.
18. Portland Trail Blazers (28-37)
The 10-month plummet from Western Conference finals to isolated insignificance sounds the alarm. There’s only Damian Lillard. And that raised white flag they don’t want him to see.
17. Brooklyn Nets (29-34)
Coach Kenny (Atkinson) gets whacked. Has a “South Park” ring to it, eh? The lottery too low to reach, the playoffs too high a bar to succeed. Until next season, it’s all trivia.
16. Kings (28-36)
When you’ve gone 13 years without the postseason, an eight-seed is like a flight to heaven. Any seed is considered favorable. Rally on. Playoff experience matters.
15. New Orleans Pelicans (28-36)
We’re on record as craving a LeBron-Zion first-round clash, and a 12-6 finish might do it. With zero top-tier opponents over the final 15, there is a window.
14. Memphis Grizzlies (32-32)
They’re two years ahead of any reasonable schedule because Ja Morant won’t have it any other way. They’re not inclined to give away that eight-seed. Can anybody take it?
13. Philadelphia 76ers (38-26)
They’ve lost to (deep breath) the Warriors, Cavs, Hawks, Wizards and Suns. The stripes on Brett Brown’s rump are grill marks. Good for a steak, bad for a coach.
12. Dallas Mavericks (39-26)
When they drop to their knees at bedtime, they plead for a seed between three and six. The playoffs need Luka, and he needs a chance to escape the first round.
11. Indiana Pacers (39-25)
They’re 1-3 vs. both the Bucks and the Raptors. So, they want No. 5 or No. 6. Yo, if you like double-doubles, you’ll love Domantas Sabonis. He has 50. Only Giannis has more.
10. Houston Rockets (39-24)
That mini-lineup was cute when it was winning. Is it losing because scouts figured it out, or because Russ and The Beard are dodging the treacherous three/four-seed spots?
9. Oklahoma City Thunder (40-24)
No, we didn’t see this coming and neither did you. But they’re decidedly second tier, which means they’re fighting to avoid the seven/eight-seed death traps.
8. Miami Heat (41-23)
Debate it if you like, but Bam Adebayo is our Most Improved Player. This is a No.7 seed without him. With him, they will win a playoff series for the first time since 2016.
7. Utah Jazz (41-23)
The myth of them being a great defensive team is dying ever so slowly. They’re 24th in defensive rating since the All-Star break. Not every Western Conference playoff team can tank its way out of the three and four seeds.
6. Milwaukee Bucks (53-12)
The deepest team in the league loses one player and goes into an immediate tailspin. They’ll recover, but those teams dreaming of Giannis have to love this revelation.
5. Denver Nuggets (43-21)
There’s a price paid for losing at home to the pre-Steph Warriors, and it’s not offset by beating the no-Giannis Bucks. Good luck the next two weeks, because you’ll need it.
4. Boston Celtics (42-21)
They haven’t won at home since the All-Star break despite holding double-digit leads in their last four at TD Garden. This is a fine team that always seems one injury away from a six-seed.
3. Toronto Raptors (46-18)
A 4-1 road trip through the Western Conference is impressive under any circumstance, but it still was surprising to see the defense stay so strong without Fred VanVleet.
2. Los Angeles Clippers (43-20)
If there is such a thing as a moral defeat, it came Sunday. Losing to the Lakers, ending any chance of a season sweep, is good for their collective soul. Promotes hunger.
1. Los Angeles Lakers (49-13)
Fawn over LeBron, who might play until he’s 50. Be amazed by AD, because he is amazing. But don’t forget to give props to perhaps the most effective coaching staff in the league