NBA Power Rankings
30. Golden State Warriors (15-49) (Last week: 30)
Boy, it sure was fun watching Steph Curry play against Toronto last Thursday after missing over 50 games because of a broken hand. The new Chase Center was jumping for the first time since the home opener as Curry scored 22 points in 27 minutes and kept the undermanned Warriors competitive against the defending NBA champs. Curry missed Saturday’s game against Philadelphia because of illness, but Warriors fans can look forward to watching Steph do his thing over the final six weeks.
29. Atlanta Hawks (19-46) (Last week: 25)
Not a good week for the Hawks, who got blown out at home against Memphis on Monday, losing by 39 points even though the Grizzlies were playing without their top two power forwards, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke. The Hawks then lost a rematch in Memphis with Trae Young shooting 1-for-10 from 3-point range.
28. Cleveland Cavaliers (19-45) (Last week: 28)
The Cavs came up with an unlikely win on Saturday, knocking off the slumping Nuggets in Cleveland, 104-102. Second-year guard Collin Sexton is thriving with more freedom under new head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, including a 41-point game against Boston last week.
27. New York Knicks (20-44) (Last week: 26)
The Spike Lee drama created most of the headlines in Gotham City last week. Lee pledged not to attend any more games this season after being asked not to use the employee entrance to access the arena in the future, which caused a confrontation with Madison Square Garden security. Skipping the rest of the season sounds like a win for Lee, even though he’s paying a small fortune for those courtside seats.
26. Detroit Pistons (20-45) (Last week: 27)
As if things aren’t bad enough in the Motor City, Derrick Rose is sidelined for a couple weeks because of a sprained ankle. Rose is really the only drawing card for a bad Pistons team, which means he’ll probably be back next season to team up with Blake Griffin as the rebuild begins in earnest.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (19-44) (Last week: 29)
Minnesota scored back-to-back victories last week, knocking off the Pelicans in New Orleans then coming back the next night to beat the Bulls at Target Center. Malik Beasley continues to produce in a starting role after being acquired in a multi-team trade at the deadline. Beasley is averaging 22 points in 12 games with the Timberwolves.
24. Chicago Bulls (21-43) (Last week: 24)
The Bulls finally have their starting frontcourt back, with Lauri Markkanen re-joining Wendell Carter Jr. and Otto Porter Jr. Porter is still coming off the bench and scored 23 points in a close loss at Brooklyn on Sunday. Head coach Jim Boylen told reporters he’s leaving the door open on starting rookie guard Coby White, who continues to put up big numbers in a reserve role.
23. Charlotte Hornets (22-41) (Last week: 20)
The Hornets jumped out to a 20-0 lead on Saturday against visiting Houston before hanging on for a 108-99 win. Charlotte shot 53% from the field and 47% from 3-point range against the defenseless Rockets, with all five starters finishing in double figures.
22. Washington Wizards (23-40) (Last week: 22)
The Wizards finished a West Coast trip with losses in Sacramento and Portland. Bradley Beal then helped them get a win in their first game back in the nation’s capital, scoring 35 points against the slumping Hawks. 2019 lottery pick Rui Hachimura apparently has hit the rookie wall, scoring zero and three points in his last two games.
21. San Antonio Spurs (26-36) (Last week: 19)
With the Spurs’ record playoff streak about to end at 22 years, the offseason figures to be fascinating in San Antonio. Will Gregg Popovich return to lead a rebuild or retire after coaching the U.S. Olympic team this summer? Will the Spurs explore deals for high-priced scoring leaders DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge? Everything figures to be on the table this offseason for one of the most stable franchises in professional sports.
20. Portland Trail Blazers (28-37) (Last week: 21)
All-Star Damian Lillard returned from a groin injury last week, helping Portland to a 2-2 week. Starting center Jusuf Nurkic told reporters he plans to make his season debut on March 15 after rehabbing from a broken leg and Zach Collins also could be back from a shoulder injury before the end of the month. But is there enough time to catch Memphis for the final playoff spot in the West?
19. Phoenix Suns (26-38) (Last week: 23)
The Suns closed a six-game homestand with impressive wins over Portland and Milwaukee. Big man Aron Baynes hit a franchise-record nine 3-pointers and scored 37 points in the win over the Trail Blazers, while Devin Booker paced a balanced scoring attack with 36 points in the upset of the Bucks, who were playing without Giannis Antetokounmpo.
18. Brooklyn Nets (29-34) (Last week: 18)
Stunner out of Brooklyn over the weekend with highly-regarded Kenny Atkinson stepping down as head coach in what’s being called a “mutual decision.” Reports have already surfaced that Atkinson wasn’t too excited about coaching head-strong superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving next season, with Irving already pushing for his former coach in Cleveland, Ty Lue.
17. Orlando Magic (29-35) (Last week 17)
The Magic continue to control one of final playoffs spots in the East after a 2-2 week. 2018 lottery pick Mo Bamba is starting to contribute for Orlando off the bench, even knocking down a few threes in recent games. Bamba was taken one pick ahead of Wendell Carter Jr. in the 2018 draft.
16. New Orleans Pelicans (28-36) (Last week: 14)
Veteran point guard Jrue Holiday had his best game of the season on Sunday, scoring 37 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out eight assists in a win over Minnesota. Zion Williamson continues to make a late charge for the Rookie of the Year award. He’s averaging 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in his first 18 NBA games.
15. Sacramento Kings (28-36) (Last week: 16)
The Kings have been playing really good basketball lately, but they’ll need a big finish to catch Memphis for the final Western Conference playoff spot. Sacramento’s shooting guard tandem of Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield combined for 49 points in a win over Portland on Saturday.
14. Memphis Grizzlies (32-32) (Last week: 15)
The shorthanded Grizzlies took advantage of a soft spot in the schedule, beating up on the disinterested Hawks twice and routing the Nets by 39 in Brooklyn, which may have led to the departure of head coach Kenny Atkinson. The schedule gets tougher over the final six weeks for Memphis, but the Grizzlies should get a boost from the return of injured forwards Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke.
13. Philadelphia 76ers (38-26) (Last week: 12)
The Sixers are trying to keep their heads above water until All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons return from injury. Bad loss in San Francisco on Saturday against a Warriors team that was playing without Steph Curry and Draymond Green. The one bright spot of late has been the improved play of veteran big man Al Horford, who put up 22 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists against Golden State.
12. Dallas Mavericks (39-26) (Last week: 9)
Becoming only the second plus-.500 team to lose to the Bulls this season is enough to drop the Mavs a few spots this week. Bulls’ two-way rookie Adam Mokoka shut down MVP candidate Luka Doncic in the fourth quarter, holding him to just two points. Dallas is hoping to have both Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis healthy for the stretch run. Both players have been in and out of the lineup because of injuries.
11. Indiana Pacers (39-25) (Last week: 13)
Another rash of injuries for the Pacers, including a hip ailment that could keep starting point guard Malcolm Brogdon out of the lineup for some time. All-Star big man Domantas Sabonis continues to play at a high level, including a 24-point, 12-rebound performance in the Pacers’ win at the United Center on Friday.
10. Houston Rockets (39-24) (Last week 6)
Just when we were starting to think the small-ball philosophy might work, the Rockets lost all four games last week, including embarrassing setbacks to the lowly Knicks and Hornets. Houston allowed at least 120 points in three of the four losses, and their inability to defend inside continues to be a major problem.
9. Miami Heat (41-23) (Last week: 10)
A positive week for Miami, starting with a decisive 16-point win over the conference-leading Bucks. The Heat followed that up by knocking off the Magic, thanks to a franchise-record 22 3-pointers, nine of them coming from Duncan Robinson. Miami continues to lead the race for the final home court advantage spot in the opening round of the playoffs.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder (40-24) (Last week: 8)
The Thunder continue to defy the experts, winning three out of four games last week, capped off by a one-point win at Boston. Chris Paul has been slowed by a sore knee, but backup point guard Dennis Schroder came up with a steal and layup for the winning points against the Celtics.
7. Denver Nuggets (42-21) (Last week: 7)
Something is clearly wrong in the Mile High City, where the Nuggets have split their last 10 games, including ugly losses to the Warriors and Cavs last week. Mike Malone continues to juggle his bench rotation, trying to find the right combination of players to support All-Star center Nikola Jokic. Hard to see the Nuggets making a deep playoff run.
6. Utah Jazz (41-22) (Last week: 11)
Stop me if we’ve said this before (because we have), but it looks like Mike Conley is finally starting to get comfortable running the offense in Utah. The Jazz have won five in a row to move up to fourth place in the West. Conley had a turn back the clock 25-point, 5-assist effort in a win at Boston and is averaging 17 points and 5.5 helpers over his last five games. If Conley is healthy and productive, Utah could be a tough out in the playoffs.
5. Boston Celtics (42-21) (Last week: 4)
The Celtics took a step back last week, losing close games at home to Oklahoma City and Utah, and blowing a big lead against Brooklyn when Caris LeVert scored 37 points combined in the fourth quarter and overtime periods. Bench production continues to be an issue for Brad Stevens, especially with Marcus Smart moving into the starting lineup in place of injured guard Jaylen Brown.
4. Toronto Raptors (45-18) (Last week: 5)
Toronto took advantage of Western Conference tail-enders Phoenix and Golden State last week. Marc Gasol and Fred VanVleet sat out those games, continuing a trend of the Raptors playing shorthanded for most of the season. Norman Powell poured in a career-high 37 points in the win over the Warriors.
3. Los Angeles Clippers (43-20) (Last week: 3)
The Clippers lost out on a chance to beat their Staples Center arena-mates for the third straight time this season on Sunday. Still, the arrow is pointing up for Doc Rivers’ team now that just about everyone is healthy. Paul George scored 31 points in the loss to the Lakers, and the Clippers still have six weeks to build some chemistry heading into the playoffs.
2. Milwaukee Bucks (53-11) (Last week: 1)
How things can change in the course of a week. Talk of becoming the third team to win 70 regular season games went out the window as the Bucks lost at Miami, Los Angeles (to the Lakers) and Phoenix last week. Now, the Bucks are concerned with how long Giannis Antetokounmpo will be out after suffering a minor knee sprain against the Lakers. Milwaukee will have homecourt advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, but it doesn’t sound like any of the other contenders are intimidated by the thought of meeting up with the Bucks in the postseason.
1. Los Angeles Lakers (49-13) (Last week: 2)
LeBron James is building support to win his fifth MVP award after leading the Lakers to impressive victories over the Bucks and Clippers over the weekend. All of a sudden, the Lakers only trail Milwaukee by two games in the loss column for the best record in the NBA with James putting on a spectacular closing run at the age of 35. Two weeks ago, most analysts assumed the MVP award belonged to Giannis for a second straight year, now it looks like a close race.