NBA Power Rankings: Where do Celtics stand among current playoff teams?
We're more than halfway through the 2018-19 NBA season, and the Boston Celtics are ... not where we expected.
The Celtics enter Wednesday with a 25-18 record and the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. Considering they entered the season as favorites to win the whole conference, that's a pretty big disappointment.
Boston gets a crucial test Wednesday night at home against the Toronto Raptors, who are seven games ahead of them for first place in the East. With that matchup looming, we'll rank the 16 teams (eight from each conference) that would qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today.
16. Charlotte Hornets (20-23, No. 8 in East)
The East is impressively top-heavy, but there's a pretty steep drop-off: The Hornets would be tied with the Dallas Mavericks for the third-worst record in the Western Conference.
15. Brooklyn Nets (22-23, No. 7 in East)
How about those Nets!?
The scrappy outfit in Brooklyn has won 14 of its last 19 games and is on pace to win more than 30 games in a season for the first time since Kevin Garnett was in town. Unfortunately, that just means the Nets get a worse draft pick.
14. Miami Heat (21-21, No. 6 in East)
The Heat have zoomed back into the East playoff picture by winning 10 of their last 15 games, but we don't really see them moving above the No. 6 seed, as the Celtics are 3.5 games ahead at No. 5.
13. Los Angeles Lakers (24-21, No. 8 in West)
Surprise! The Lakers are worse without LeBron James. L.A. is struggling to tread water without its star player, going 4-7 in the 11 games James has missed. The Lakers shouldn't rush LeBron back ... but they are now tied with the Utah Jazz for the final West playoff spot.
12. San Antonio Spurs (25-20, No. 7 in West)
Will the Spurs ever be irrelevant? San Antonio has gone 8-4 in its last 12 games, while DeMar DeRozan is hitting is stride as a playmaker, averaging 7.3 assists over his last eight games.
11. Los Angeles Clippers (24-19, No. 6 in West)
So begins the Clippers' descent back to earth. L.A. dropped its third consecutive game Monday thanks to more terrible defense -- Doc Rivers' club has allowed 120 points or more in three of its last four games.
10. Portland Trail Blazers (26-19, No. 5 in West)
Portland has feasted on the East this season (12-3) but has a sub-.500 record (14-16) against its own conference. That doesn't bode well for a strong playoff push.
9. Houston Rockets (25-18, No. 4 in West)
James Harden is the best basketball player on the planet right now, which is why the Rockets have launched back into contention despite Chris Paul's absence. Harden can't score 35-plus points every night ... right?
8. Boston Celtics (25-18, No. 5 in East)
The good news? Boston plays seven of its next games at home, where it boasts a 15-5 record. If a turnaround is in the cards, it had better happen now.
7. Philadelphia 76ers (29-16, No. 4 in East)
You knew the Sixers would rout the Minnesota Timberwolves in Jimmy Butler's revenge game. Philly appears to be finding its groove with Butler, too, scoring 120 or more points in four of its last five games.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder (26-17, No. 3 in West)
Who knew the Thunder would be better without Carmelo Anthony? (We're joking. Everyone did.) OKC has scuffled over the past week but still is on pace to host a first-round playoff series.
5. Indiana Pacers (29-14, No. 3 in East)
The Pacers have managed to keep, well, pace in the East in Myles Turner's absence thanks in part to the play of Domantas Sabonis, who's averaging a career-high 9.7 rebounds per game this season.
4. Denver Nuggets (29-14, No. 2 in West)
So, you want to be the best team in the West... The Warriors gave Denver a rude awakening Tuesday night in the form of a 142-111 blowout. The Nuggets are a very talented team, but they need to find a next level if they want to compete with Golden State in May.
3. Milwaukee Bucks (31-12, No. 2 in East)
The Bucks are the only team in the NBA without back-to-back losses this season. That's a testament to an impressively balanced starting five -- and Giannis Antetokounmpo's ridiculous talent.
2. Golden State Warriors (30-14, No. 1 in West)
Guess who's back... DeMarcus Cousins is expected to return Friday, and while he'll need a few weeks to shake off the rust, we're shuddering at the thought of an All-NBA player joining the No. 1 seed in the West.
1. Toronto Raptors (33-12, No. 1 in East)
... That said, the Raptors are the NBA's current best team until further notice. They're 4-0 since Kyle Lowry returned from a back injury, and Kawhi Leonard is quietly (of course) putting together an MVP-caliber season. It's going to be tough for any team to catch Toronto in the East this season.