NBA Power Rankings: Separation at the top
BOSTON — With several marquee matchups the past couple of weeks in the NBA, the gridlock at the top is starting to loosen up.
Analytics-driven analysis has been the basis for many of the team comparisons as far as which teams are the best.
But the past week has seen many of the upper echelon teams square off, which has taken away some of the guesswork involved in determining the best teams.
Because of that, there is a noticeable shift at the top of the power rankings this week.
30. Golden State Warriors
(15-49, rank last week: 30)
Stephen Curry’s return generates some much-needed buzz for the Warriors and the NBA. But this team’s back-of-the-pack status is secure, with or without Curry in the lineup.
29. Atlanta Hawks
(19-46, rank last week: 25)
Hawks CEO Steven Koonin’s idea about starting the season in December as opposed to October does have some merit as far as generating increased attention and improving ratings. Did I also mention the Hawks were 4-16 prior to December this season?
28. Minnesota Timberwolves
(19-44, rank last week: 27)
It has been a rough season for the Timberwolves, one that will only get more bleak in the coming days with six straight road games with most of their opponents battling for playoff position.
27. Cleveland Cavaliers
(19-45, rank last week: 29)
The Cavs have been a near-.500 team since J.B. Bickerstaff took over, giving Cleveland fans hope that better days are on the horizon.
26. Detroit Pistons
(20-45, rank last week: 26)
The Pistons continue to sink to new depths of disappointment this season, now having lost 11 of their last 12 games.
25. New York Knicks
(20-44, rank last week: 28)
Do not be surprised if recently fired Brooklyn Nets coach Kenny Atkinson emerges as a strong candidate this summer to lead New York’s rebuilding efforts.
24. Phoenix Suns
(26-38, rank last week: 24)
One of the highlights of an otherwise dismal season for the Suns has to be ex-Celtic Aron Baynes (37 points, 16 rebounds, nine made 3’s) joining James Harden as the only players in NBA history to score 30-plus points, grab 15-plus rebounds and make at least eight 3’s in a single game.
23. Chicago Bulls
(21-43, rank last week: 22)
Even with the Brooklyn Nets' anticipated slide now that now-ex head coach Kenny Atkinson has been fired, the Bulls’ recent three-game losing streak all but knocked them out of making a legit run at the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
22. Charlotte Hornets
(22-41, rank last week: 23)
With four of the next five games on the road, the Hornets will be challenged in avoiding slippage into bottom-five status in the league.
21. Brooklyn Nets
(29-34, rank last week: 20)
Firing Kenny Atkinson officially cemented this as a lame-duck, redshirt season for the Nets, who still are likely to get into the playoffs.
20. San Antonio Spurs
(26-36, rank last week: 18)
The fact that Cleveland swept the season series from San Antonio tells you all you need to know about how bad this season has been for the Spurs.
19. Portland Trail Blazers
(28-37, rank last week: 19)
There are a handful of teams that you would consider among this year’s biggest disappointments. The Blazers are at or near the top of such a list.
18. Sacramento Kings
(28-36, rank last week: 17)
It’s hard to make out whether the Kings want to make a push towards the playoffs or continue to pace the non-playoff squads like they have done for so many years.
17. New Orleans Pelicans
(28-36, rank last week: 14)
Looking to make up four games with 18 to play, the chances of the Pelicans leap-frogging past Memphis are not looking very good right now.
16. Washington Wizards
(23-40, rank last week: 21)
From All-Star snub to All-NBA player in the same season? Yes, Bradley Beal has been that good lately for Washington.
15. Orlando Magic
(29-35, rank last week: 16)
If the Magic are to make a run for things, it’ll be now with seven straight games against teams with a below-.500 record.
14. Memphis Grizzlies
(32-32, rank last week: 15)
Ja Morant’s strong play continues to fuel Memphis’ push towards the playoffs and his own position as the league’s Rookie of the Year.
13. Indiana Pacers
(39-25, rank last week: 13)
With wins in six of their last seven games, the Pacers’ defense has been among the NBA’s best during that span.
12. Philadelphia 76ers
(38-26, rank last week: 11)
The one bright spot in Philly, even with the Sixers losing three of their last four games, has been Tobias Harris emerging as more of a go-to scorer.
11. Houston Rockets
(39-24, rank last week: 7)
Teams have seemingly adjusted to Houston’s micro-ball lineups, with the Rockets losing four straight.
10. Dallas Mavericks
(39-26, rank last week: 12)
The Mavs haven’t been too happy with officiating lately. First Mark Cuban gets hit with a $500,000 fine and now Luka Doncic speaks out about officiating that may lead to him cutting a check as well.
9. Oklahoma City Thunder
(40-24, rank last week: 10)
Winners in eight of their last 10 games, the Thunder have been fueled by strong shooting (48.8 percent) from the field which ranks second in the league during that span.
8. Miami Heat
(41-23, rank last week: 9)
The Heat average 14.4 made 3-pointers in wins, which ranks fifth in the NBA.
7. Boston Celtics
(42-21, rank last week: 4)
Kemba Walker’s return to action has featured a series of struggles for the four-time All-Star.
6. Denver Nuggets
(42-21, rank last week: 5)
Bad losses to Cleveland Golden State highlights the recent struggles for the Nuggets.
5. Utah Jazz
(41-22, rank last week: 8)
The Jazz are the hottest team in the game, winners of five straight games, including a quality road victory at Boston.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
(43-20, rank last week: 3)
The Lakers loss notwithstanding, the Clippers are starting to show signs of gearing up for what looks to be a long playoff run.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
(49-13, rank last week: 2)
LeBron James delivering dominant performances in wins over Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Clippers strengthens the case for James as league MVP.