NBA Power Rankings: How things change after All-Star weekend
BOSTON -- The 69th NBA All-Star delivered something we haven’t seen in quite a while - a competitive game.
The final score, a 157-155 win for Team LeBron, underscores how the NBA found the cheat code in balancing entertaining basketball with a legitimately competitive game.
There will likely be some tweaks made for next year’s game (suggestion: Games have to end on a field goal made, and if a team fouls a player when the game is within one possession, the player has to go to the bench for the rest of the game).
Now that the All-Star game is in the rearview mirror of the season, the focus for many shifts almost entirely towards the postseason.
The last week leading up to the All-Star break did little to shake up the upper chambers of the NBA standings, but the jockeying among teams with middle-of-the-pack status, as well as those on the outside of the playoff picture looking to get in, will provide much of what we saw in the All-Star game - a competitive, entertaining brand of basketball.
29. Golden State Warriors (12-43)
Rank last week: 30
Being as bad as they are this season has allowed the Warriors to develop young talent like former lottery pick Marquese Chriss, who has revitalized his career after entering the league with lofty expectations.
28. Atlanta Hawks (15-41)
Rank last week: 26
Trae Young had an active all-star weekend competing in three different events and tallied a double-double in Sunday’s All-Star Game with 10 points and 10 assists.
27. New York Knicks (17-38)
Rank last week: 24
Another rough stretch is on the horizon for New York with three of their next four coming against playoff-caliber teams.
26. Detroit Pistons (19-38)
Rank last week: 22
The potential of Christian Wood as a stretch big softened the rebuild of the Pistons after trading Andre Drummond. As a starter for Detroit, the 6-foot-10 Wood has averaged 18.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists while shooting 51.7 percent from the field and 40.9 percent on 3’s.
25. Charlotte Hornets (18-36)
Rank last week: 27
The Hornets finally got some good news on the basketball front with Miles Bridges taking MVP honors during the Rising Stars Challenge by scoring 20 points.
24. Minnesota Timberwolves (16-37)
Rank last week: 28
The Timberwolves have been one of the worst shooting teams in the NBA, but it’s not due to a lack of trying. Despite ranking third in the NBA in 3-pointers taken (39.7) per game, Minnesota ranks second-to-last in the NBA in 3-point percentage (33.2 percent)
23. Chicago Bulls (19-36)
Rank last week: 23
Changes are coming to the Bulls front office, which is a good thing considering how they have consistently failed to put together a roster that can compete with, let alone beat, the best in the East.
21. Sacramento Kings (21-33)
Rank last week: 21
Buddy Hield’s 3-point shooting was validated this weekend by him winning the NBA’s 3-point shooting contest.
20. Washington Wizards (20-33)
Rank last week: 19
It has been a rough season for the Wizards, but 3-point shooting has been a strength to build on next year. They are currently shooting 36.4 percent from 3-point range which ranks 10th in the league.
19. New Orleans Pelicans (23-32)
Rank last week: 17
The emergence of Zion Williamson has brought about hope not just for the Pelicans’ future, but also their chances of making the playoffs this season.
18. San Antonio Spurs (23-31)
Rank last week: 18
The Spurs' 21-year run as a playoff team is looking very much like it’ll end this season.
17. Brooklyn Nets (25-28)
Rank last week: 16
The schedule is not Brooklyn’s friend in the coming days with six of their next seven games on the road.
16. Orlando Magic (24-21)
Rank last week: 20
The Magic have put together back-to-back wins, doing what teams fighting for one of the last playoff spots are supposed to do - beat the teams that are worse than you.
15. Portland Trail Blazers (25-31)
Rank last week: 15
Upon the completion of this season, the Blazers will look hard at radically revamping their roster which has a very fluid core group.
14. Memphis Grizzlies (28-26)
Rank last week: 14
Ja Morant’s runaway lead for Rookie of the Year has taken a noticeable dip with the emergence of a healthy Zion Williamson in New Orleans.
13. Dallas Mavericks (33-22)
Rank last week: 12
Both Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis have missed significant time this year, setting the Mavericks up to be a wild card team no one wants to see in the first round of the playoffs.
12. Indiana Pacers (32-23)
Rank last week: 13
Look for Victor Oladipo’s minutes - and overall play - to be on the rise for the rest of the regular season as well as into the playoffs.
11. Oklahoma City Thunder (33-22)
Rank last week: 11
The leadership and veteran savvy of Chris Paul are among the main reasons why the Thunder will be no easy-out in the first round of the playoffs.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (34-21)
Rank last week: 9
Having Al Horford come off the bench was a key to Philly’s win over the Clippers before the break. We’ll see soon if it was to better match up against the Clippers, or whether they will look to bring Horford off the bench going forward.
9. Houston Rockets (34-20)
Rank last week: 10
The Rockets continue to double-down on their small(er)-ball ways, reportedly signing former Celtic Jeff Green and DeMarre Carroll.
8. Miami Heat (35-19)
Rank last week: 8
It’ll be worth keeping an eye on first-time All-Star Bam Adebayo, whose progress this season will be one of those below-the-radar keys to Miami’s success going forward.
7. Utah Jazz (36-18)
Rank last week: 7
The Jazz have the potential to move up quickly with their next five games all at home where they rank among the NBA’s best with a 20-5 record.
6. Los Angeles Clippers (37-18)
Rank last week: 6
The more you watch them play, the more it feels as though they are in cruise control with the ability to “flip a switch” and become a great team.
5. Boston Celtics (38-16)
Rank last week: 4
Often overlooked, Kemba Walker reminded all as to why he’s an All-Star by dropping a below-the-radar 23 points on Sunday and shared the postgame podium with the reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
4. Toronto Raptors (40-15)
Rank last week: 3
The Raptors have the perfect balance of talent and edginess within their roster, a big reason why the defending champs are very much in the thick of things in the East.
3. Denver Nuggets (38-17)
Rank last week: 5
If you blinked, you might have missed Nikola Jokic at Sunday’s All-Star game. He had five points while playing a team-low 11 minutes for Team Giannis.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (41-12)
Rank last week: 2
Important stretch coming up for the Lakers against three of the hottest teams in the game now - Memphis, Boston and New Orleans.
1. Milwaukee Bucks (46-8)
Rank last week: 1
The Bucks continue on a torrid pace in terms of wins, on track to register the franchise’s first 70-win season.