A. Sherrod Blakely's NBA Power Rankings
NBA players on teams that are well-positioned for a spot in the postseason have been preaching the “one-game-at-a-time” anthem most of this season. But with the playoffs only six weeks out, it’s impossible to ignore what is among the usual end-of-the-season story lines encompassing the league.
There are the title contenders, those good enough to maybe get past the first round, and others who are just happy to be the sacrificial lamb for one of the league’s top teams in the first round. Here’s a look at the NBA power rankings based on games played up through Sunday.
30. NEW YORK KNICKS (13-50)
Enough salary cap space for a pair of max-salaried players and a roster that’s good enough to compete but not win most nights. This is some next-level tanking on the part of the Knicks.
29. PHOENIX SUNS (13-51)
There’s an undeniable culture of losing within this organization that’s unlikely to change anytime soon unless they start adding players who come to compete night-in, night-out (paging Kemba Walker).
28. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (18-46)
The good news is Kevin Love is back and playing relatively well. The bad news? Kevin Love is back and playing well, the last thing a back-of-the-pack team like the Cavs wants.
27. ATLANTA HAWKS (22-42)
Trae Young (pictured) is going to be a star in this league, but John Collins (19.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 56.9 percent from the field) should not be slept on.
26. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (25-39)
Following the gutting of their roster, the grit-and-grind Grizzlies are now more like grin-and-bear-it cubbies.
25. DALLAS MAVERICKS (27-35)
In a season that began with such promise, the Mavericks are poised to miss the playoffs for the third straight year.
24. WASHINGTON WIZARDS (26-37)
The three-year, $170 million extension for John Wall that kicks in next season will be the death of this franchise.
23. CHICAGO BULLS (18-46)
The Zach LaVine-Lauri Markkanen tandem may be chasing opponents now, but the duo is going to cause headaches for many years to come.
22. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (29-34)
The Timberwolves continue to be one of the most underachieving teams in the NBA.
21. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS (29-36)
The one positive with Anthony Davis’ trade demand? It shines a well-deserved spotlight on Jrue Holiday (pictured with Jayson Tatum), who is one of the most underrated two-way guards in the NBA.
20. LOS ANGELES LAKERS (30-33)
LeBron James will play no more than 64 games this season (second-fewest in his career), a clear sign that while still immensely talented, Father Time has taken away one of LeBron’s most overlooked strengths: His recuperative powers.
19. DETROIT PISTONS (31-31)
The Pistons will continue climbing up the standings with a relatively easy schedule, which has helped them come out of the All-Star break with wins in five of their six games.
18. CHARLOTTE HORNETS (29-34)
The Hornets have lost 8 of their last 11 games, and a big reason for those struggles has been their 3-point shooting. During the last 11 games, Charlotte has shot 31.8 percent on 3’s, which ranks 29th in the league.
17. MIAMI HEAT (28-34)
Facing the 10th toughest remaining schedule in the NBA, Miami will be hard-pressed to string together back-to-back playoff berths for the first time since the 2013-2014 seasons.
16. ORLANDO MAGIC (30-35)
You can win at Toronto, beat Golden State and Indiana, but lose to New York and Cleveland? I have no idea what to make of the Magic this season.
15. BROOKLYN NETS (32-33)
Losers of their last three and six of the last nine, the Nets’ recent slump could not come at a worst time as they try and make a playoff push.
14. SACRAMENTO KINGS (31-31)
The play of Buddy Hield (20.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 44.3 percent three-point shooter) this year has been among the many reasons why the Kings are well-entrenched in the playoff race out West.
13. SAN ANTONIO SPURS (35-29)
Releasing Pau Gasol made a lot of sense. He’s an aging player hoping for one last shot at winning a title, something that is not going to happen this year for the Spurs.
12. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (36-29)
Gotta give Doc Rivers some credit for what he has done this year, to keep the Clippers well-entrenched in the playoff race despite the team parting ways with key players of the past like Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and most recently, Tobias Harris.
11. BOSTON CELTICS (38-25)
There's still have time, but the Celtics are looking very much like the NBA’s most overrated team this season based upon expectations and how well -- or woeful -- they have played this year.
10. UTAH JAZZ (36-26)
Don’t be surprised if the Jazz continue to climb the Western Conference standings and make a run at home-court advantage in the first round.
9. HOUSTON ROCKETS (38-26)
The Celtics saw first hand how lethal the Rockets can be offensively. Their defense, or lack of defense, will be their downfall if they’re not careful.
8. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS (40-23)
Even with increased depth, Joel Embiid’s left knee tendinitis is reason to be concerned especially for a team that’s trying to secure home-court advantage at least through the first round of play.
7. INDIANA PACERS (41-23)
Losing Victor Oladipo for the season and still finishing potentially as a top-3 seed? Coach Nate McMillan has done arguably his best coaching job ever, with this team and should be rewarded with strong consideration for the league’s coach of the year award.
6. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (39-24)
Adding Enes Kanter to the roster was one of the better, sneaky-good moves by the Blazers.
5. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (39-24)
The emergence of Paul George into a legitimate MVP candidate has been so vital to the continued growth of the Thunder into a serious threat out West.
4. TORONTO RAPTORS (46-18)
Ok, we all know how awesome Kawhi Leonard is. But can we start showing some love for Pascal Siakam (pictured), who has been playing like a borderline All-Star for most of this season?
3. DENVER NUGGETS (42-20)
The Nuggets have size, versatility, shooters and they defend at a high level. Whoever they face, prepare for a long night.
2. MILWAUKEE BUCKS (48-15)
Adding Pau Gasol -- who won’t play much, if at all -- speaks to how the Bucks are intent on bolstering their roster for what they anticipate will a long playoff run.
1. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (44-19)
The Warriors have some bad losses under their belt, the bench isn’t quite as deep as past teams and there are other teams with a better record. But having won a couple titles already, this team is built to “flip a switch” and remind us all why they are the reigning NBA champs each of the last two seasons.