With the All-Star break just two weeks away, the playoff picture in both NBA conferences is beginning to shape form, as some teams are streaking and solidifying a postseason berth for themselves, while others seem to be headed for the lottery.
Lakers Nation examines the streaking and struggling teams in the NBA with our fifth edition of the NBA power rankings:
1. Golden State Warriors (43-8) – Even with Draymond Green out with an injury, the Warriors defeated the Los Angeles Clippers for the ninth consecutive time on Thursday. They currently rank first in offense and second on defense, making them the team to beat in the NBA.
2. San Antonio Spurs (39-12) – The Spurs are ready to embark on an eight-game road trip, which would be a concern for most teams, but not Gregg Popovich and San Antonio. They currently have the second best road record in the NBA at 20-5, and on this road trip last season they went 7-1.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (35-15) – Despite a poor stretch of play in January, the Cavaliers proved that the East still goes through them with Monday’s win over red-hot Washington in the game of the year so far. Despite endless trade rumors, Kevin Love continues to shine and Kyle Korver is finally starting to get comfortable in his new home.
4. Houston Rockets (37-17) – The Rockets got back on track this past week, as James Harden has scored more than 40 points in consecutive games. They are firmly locked into the No. 3 seed in the West.
5. Boston Celtics (33-18) – A perfect 4-0 week for the Celtics have them feeling real good about themselves. They have been linked to Carmelo Anthony recently, but the way they have been playing with Isaiah Thomas as their leader, there’s no reason to mess anything up by trading for Anthony.
6. Washington Wizards (30-21) – Even though Cleveland ended the Wizards’ winning streak in an unforgettable game Monday, Washington showed they are a team to be afraid of when the playoffs come. John Wall is on the fringe of the MVP race and the Wizards have climbed to within shouting distance of the East’s No. 2 seed.
7. Utah Jazz (33-19) – Unlike many other Western Conference teams, the Jazz excel on the defensive end of the floor, holding their opponents under 100 points per game. They have seemed to find the perfect mix of young players and veterans after adding George Hill, Boris Diaw and Joe Johnson in the offseason.
8. Atlanta Hawks (30-22) – Even after trading Kyle Korver, the Hawks still keep on winning. Last week they came back from being down by 21 in the fourth quarter to beat the Rockets. Dwight Howard is playing like him old self, and Paul Millsap continues to show why he has been named an All-Star each of the last three seasons.
9. Memphis Grizzlies (32-22) – The Grizzlies finally have all of their horses healthy, with Chandler Parsons getting back to his normal self, and Mike Conley playing at an All-Star caliber level. Also, Zach Randolph is one of the biggest bench threats in the league.
10. Toronto Raptors (32-21) – The Raptors recent struggles, losing eight of their last 10, has everything to do with All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan missing four games with an ankle injury (they lost all four of those games). They finally look to be getting back on track, having won their last two games.
11. Los Angeles Clippers (31-21) – The Clippers are currently facing their toughest stretch of the season, in the midst of 10 road games out of 11 overall, and they are still without Chris Paul. With Paul and Blake Griffin healthy the Clippers are one of the better teams in the West, but health seems to always be an issue for Doc Rivers’ team.
12. Indiana Pacers (29-22) – A 3-0 week was much-needed for the under achieving Pacers so far this season. Look for them to continue to elevate their play in the second half of the season.
13. Oklahoma City Thunder (30-23) – Russell Westbrook, the walking triple-double, continues to cause havoc on a nightly basis. However, Enes Kanter’s antics on the bench, resulting in a broken forearm, have the Thunder without one of their best finishers around the rim.
Hanging On The Cusp Of The Playoffs:
14. Chicago Bulls (26-26) – The Bulls continue to be one of the most drama filled teams in the NBA, but it seems a locker room meeting has them putting their differences aside for at least the remainder of the season. They currently are the seventh seed in the East with a two game cushion to work with.
15. Miami Heat (22-30) – Miami has been the biggest surprise so far in 2017, having won 11 straight games. They looked to be a sure fire lottery team, but have now entered the playoff picture as they are just two games out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
16. Portland Trail Blazers (22-30) – Despite their poor play the Trail Blazers still remain engulfed in the playoff picture. They have been extremely disappointing this season, but they have had one of the toughest schedules to date so things will get easier down the road for this young team.
17. Denver Nuggets (23-28) – The Nuggets have jumped into the eighth seed in the West, and continue to be impressive on the offensive end of the floor. They are the third-worst defensive team in the league though, giving up 111.8 points per game.
18. Charlotte Hornets (23-28) – The Hornets went winless this past week and have fallen back down to the pack, sitting at No. 8 in the East. They have struggled without injured center Cody Zeller, as they are 1-12 without him this season.
19. Dallas Mavericks (20-31) – A 3-0 week has Dallas back in the playoff picture. Without point guard Deron Williams they have given Yogi Ferrell an opportunity, and he has made the most of it. After draining nine three-pointers to beat Portland, he inked a two-year contract with Dallas.
20. Detroit Pistons (24-28) – The Pistons continue to tread water in the East, although if they really want to make a playoff push it seems that they will need to make an addition before the trade deadline. Andre Drummond had his fourth 20 points and 20 rebounds game of the season this past week.
21. Milwaukee Bucks (22-28) – The Bucks traded Miles Plumlee for Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes this past week, bolstering their front line off the bench. But as of now it still seems their a bit too young to make any sort of postseason run.
22. Sacramento Kings (20-32) – This past week the Kings lost to both the Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns, but then beat the Golden State Warriors. DeMarcus Cousins continues to play at a high level, but his temper still gets the best of him as he leads the league with 16 technical fouls.
23. Minnesota Timberwolves (19-33) – Minnesota was playing a lot better and have entered the postseason picture, but they took a big hit this past week losing guard Zach LaVine for the season to a torn ACL.
24. New York Knicks (22-31) – The Knicks seemingly gave up in Monday’s embarrassing performance against the Lakers. Whether or not Phil Jackson trades Carmelo Anthony before the trade deadline still remains to be seen.
25. New Orleans Pelicans (20-32) – After looking as if they belonged in the playoffs, the Pelicans took a big step back this past week losing four straight games. They have a tough schedule upcoming, so these next few weeks could be make-or-break for New Orleans.
The Lottery Sweepstakes:
26. Philadelphia 76ers (18-33) – Joel Embiid has missed five of the last six games and the 76ers are 0-3 so far in the month of February. The future is still bright for this young team, but it does not look as if they are quite ready to contend for a playoff spot.
27. Orlando Magic (20-33) – The Magic are actively trying to shop Nikola Vucevic and Serge Ibaka, and it may be in their best interest to trade one or both of them as future assets are in the best interest for this below-average Magic team.
28. Los Angeles Lakers (18-36) – Even though they fell to both Boston and Washington last week, the Lakers looked improved in pushing two of the East’s best teams to the limit on the road. Luke Walton has officially embraced the team’s youth movement and they made him look great with one of their best performances of the year against the Knicks.
29. Phoenix Suns (16-36) – The Suns have held their ground as the worst team in the Western Conference for quite some time, as the production from the trio of Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and Devin Booker haven’t exactly translated into victories. The recent play of rookie Marquese Chriss is one positive for a struggling team.
30. Brooklyn Nets (9-42) – The Nets enter the new week losers of nine straight, as the lowest salary in the NBA is having trouble accumulating talent. Jeremy Lin, who was thought of as a savior for the Nets, has struggled to see the court this season, and although the Nets will have to best chance at getting the top overall pick in the 2017 draft, that pick would be headed to Boston as a part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trade that will go down as one of, if not the worst trade in NBA history.