A. Sherrod Blakely's NBA Power Rankings
Teams are gearing up for the playoffs and there’s a clear shift in intensity across the league. Even lottery-bound clubs like the Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns are playing with a level of competitiveness you love to see young teams bring to the floor this time of year.
And this week’s power rankings reflect the changes that have come about this week in the league, one in which we have seen the almighty powerful look downright dreadful and the downtrodden suddenly rise up and look as though they could care less about tryin’ for Zion Williamson . . . which we all know is on the minds of every front office that will be selecting in the lottery this season.
30. NEW YORK (13-54)
Knicks owner James Dolan felt disrespected when a fan yelled at him to sell the team. There are 29 NBA owners who like things just the way they are, thank you.
29. CLEVELAND (16-50)
The Cavs are one of three NBA teams (New York and Phoenix are the others) already eliminated from playoff contention.
28. ATLANTA (23-45)
They’re not very good, but the Hawks have shown a good compete level, losing three of their last four games by a total of 10 points.
27. L.A. LAKERS (30-36)
LeBron James is on minutes restriction, Brandon Ingram is done for the season and the list of injured players goes on and on which won’t be said about the Lakers when the regular season -- and their season for that matter -- is over.
26. PHOENIX (16-52)
The Suns are heating up, with wins in five of their last seven games which includes beating two of the league’s best teams (Milwaukee and Golden State).
25. DALLAS (27-39)
The Maverick free fall continues, with a losing streak that now stands at five in a row.
24. MEMPHIS (28-40)
The Grizzlies, winners of three straight, have road games coming up against fellow lottery-bound opponents Atlanta and Washington.
23. WASHINGTON (27-39)
Bradley Beal (25.8 points, 5.2 rebounds 5.5 assists) is ballin’ out this season. The rest of the Wizards? Not so much.
22. CHICAGO (18-46)
Zach LaVine has had a bunch of bumps and bruises this season, which makes you wonder when will the Bulls seriously consider shutting him down.
21. NEW ORLEANS (30-39)
With or without Anthony Davis, the Pelicans are going nowhere fast this season currently riding a three-game losing streak.
20. MINNESOTA (32-35)
A rough season will only get tougher with road games coming up at Denver, Utah and Houston followed by a home date with Golden State.
19. MIAMI (31-35)
Of the teams currently holding down one of the top eight playoff spots in their respective conferences, Miami is the only squad with a losing record (15-19) at home.
18. CHARLOTTE (30-36)
Trailing Miami by one game for the eighth playoff spot while holding a 2-1 series lead over the Heat, their March 17 matchup could be the difference-maker in them getting into the postseason this year.
17. ORLANDO (31-37)
Nikola Vucevic continues to be one of the NBA’s best scoring/rebounding machines with 49 double-doubles this season, which is fourth in the NBA.
16. SACRAMENTO (33-32)
The Kings’ push for the playoffs is fueled by their ability to push the pace and get to the free-throw line. Since the All-Star break, they rank third in the NBA in free throws made (22.0) per game.
15. BROOKLYN (35-33)
Brutal stretch coming up for the Nets with seven of their next eight games on the road, and six of those foes would be in the playoffs if they started today and a seventh, Sacramento, just on the outside looking in.
14. DETROIT (34-31)
Our biggest mover on the power rankings poll this week, the Pistons have won five straight and have the best record (8-1) among teams in the East since the All-Star break.
13. INDIANA (42-25)
Losers in five of their last seven games, it’s only going to get rougher for the Victor Oladipo-less Pacers. They face six of their next nine on the road.
12. L.A. CLIPPERS (38-29)
A key to the Clippers’ success of late has been their 3-point shooting, which stands at a league-best 42.5 percent during their current four-game winning streak.
11. SAN ANTONIO (38-29)
Death. Taxes. Spurs in the playoffs. Winners of five in a row, San Antonio is back to doing San Antonio-like things.
10. UTAH (37-28)
The Jazz want no part of one-possession games, evident by their league-worst record of 0-6 in games decided by three points or less this season.
9. PHILADELPHIA (42-25)
After an eight-game absence, Joel Embiid returns in a win over Indiana to tally double-double No. 49 out of 55 games played this season.
8. BOSTON (41-26)
Plane ride to the West Coast has the Celtics soaring high these days with wins in each of their last three games -- all on the road.
7. PORTLAND (40-26)
Damian Lillard continues to be the most underrated player in the NBA, averaging 26.1 points this season while shooting a career-best 44.9 percent from the field.
6. OKLAHOMA CITY (40-26)
One of the more stealth studs for the Thunder this season has been Steven Adams, who's averaging career highs in scoring (14.4 points) and rebounds (9.7) this season.
5. HOUSTON (41-25)
With an engaged James Harden (pictured), they’re good. And if Chris Paul can stay healthy - and that is a huge, ginormous IF - they have a roster that can dethrone the Golden State empire out West.
4. GOLDEN STATE (45-21)
Home losses to Boston and Phoenix highlight what has been a lackluster regular season for the Warriors, who will be the latest defending champ who will try and flip a switch and play better come playoff time.
3. TORONTO (48-19)
The way Toronto has handled Kawhi Leonard’s workload this season is the blueprint for how “strategic rest” should be done when dealing with a superstar talent.
1. MILWAUKEE (50-17)
One of the more telling stats that speaks to how good the Bucks have been this season, is their 11-11 record when trailing at the half of games. They’re the only team in the NBA with a .500 or better record under those conditions.