NBA Power Rankings: Suns rise, Knicks still in the playoff mix?
1. San Antonio Spurs (60-17 Previous: 1) - With the Spurs just a couple of wins away from earning home court advantage throughout the playoffs, Tony Parker will miss a few games with a sprained facet joint (back). His health is the biggest question mark for San Antonio heading into the playoffs, which begin on April 19.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (55-21, Previous: 2) - The Thunder snapped the Spurs’ crazy winning streak, but dropped the next two on the road to the Rockets and Suns. Can they hold off the Clippers for the No. 2 spot?
3. Los Angeles Clippers (55-23, Previous: 3) - We’ll find out a great deal about which team deserves the second slot when the Thunder invade Los Angeles. The Clippers will be rested (unlike OKC) and at home, so there’s no excuse to drop this one.
4. Miami Heat (53-23, Previous: 4) – The Heat had lost all three meetings against the Nets heading into Tuesday night’s showdown in South Beach. This is one storyline to watch closely over the next few weeks. A second round playoff series could be very interesting, perhaps a bit too interesting for the defending champs.
5. Houston Rockets (51-25, Previous: 5) - Dwight Howard (ankle) has missed eight of his team’s last 10 games and wasn’t expected to go last night against the Lakers. Telling you how important he is to Houston’s chances this spring would be insulting your intelligence.
6. Indiana Pacers (53-25, Previous: 6) – They’re 3-8 in their last 11 games, with the most recent being a 107-88 loss to the Hawks at home. If only they had a veteran leader like Danny Granger to help right the ship. This is a team trending in the wrong direction at the worst possible time.
7. Portland Trail Blazers (50-28, Previous: 8) - The Blazers clinched a playoff berth, but based on the way their season started, they’re looking to do much more than just that. As it stands, they’d play the Rockets in the first round.
8. Golden State Warriors (48-29, Previous: 7) – Mark Jackson’s assistant coaches are getting the boot one by one, and if the Warriors don’t make any noise in the playoffs, he could be the next one to go.
9. Phoenix Suns (46-31, Previous: 10) - After two losses to the Lakers and Clippers, the Suns made sure to get back on track with wins over the Blazers on the road and Thunder at home. Those are two big statement wins, and with a three-game road trip through Texas, they needed ‘em.
10. Chicago Bulls (45-32, Previous: 9) - With the bad teams that remain on the Bulls’ and Raptors’ schedule, whoever loses just once could end up as the No. 4 seed.
11. Toronto Raptors (45-32, Previous: 12) - Jonas Valanciunas is charged with drunk driving … Really, bro? Now? Go to the game, then go home. Go to practice, then go home. And do it sober. It ain’t that hard.
12. Dallas Mavericks (47-31, Previous: 13) - One thing the Suns and Griz don’t have? A stone cold killer in Dirk Nowitzki. This is when having a talented leader pays off the most.
13. Memphis Grizzlies (45-32, Previous: 11) – Currently one game out of the playoffs, let’s assume the Griz go 2-1 over their next three games (vs. Heat, vs. Sixers, at Lakers). That sets up the pivotal games against the Suns and Mavericks that will most likely determine the odd team out.
14. Brooklyn Nets (42-34, Previous: 14) - Still no Kevin Garnett, but releasing him out into the wild just before the playoffs could be another big momentum swing in Brooklyn’s favor. This may be KG’s last hurrah.
15. Washington Wizards (40-37, Previous: 15) - Big news in D.C. as Nene is back practicing with the team after six weeks on the sidelines with a sprained knee. He could even play Wednesday night in a big game seeding-wise against the Bobcats, who are currently one game behind the seventh-seeded Wizards. Washington went 12-9 without Nene.
16. Charlotte Bobcats (39-38, Previous: 16) - A first round matchup with the Pacers doesn’t look as bad now as it did a month or two ago. At the least, it should be interesting.
17. New York Knicks (33-45, Previous: 17) - Are the Knicks going to come up short? After storming ahead and making a run at the final playoff spot, they’ve dropped the last two and are now two games behind Atlanta.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves (38-38, Previous: 18) - Dante Cunningham has been arrested not once, but twice in the same week. One for alleged domestic abuse, and again for “terroristic threats” against the same woman.
19. Denver Nuggets (33-44, Previous: 20) - You have to wonder what the Nuggets plan is for Kenneth Faried in the near future. Will they lock him up? Will they look to trade him? Decisions, decisions.
20. Atlanta Hawks (34-42, Previous: 21) - Hanging on, just barely, to that final playoff spot. Hey, at the very least they get an all expenses paid trip to Miami for a few days.
21. New Orleans Pelicans (32-45, Previous: 19) – Five straight losses for the Pelicans is the longest losing streak in the Western Conference. And yes, that came right after five straight wins.
22. Cleveland Cavaliers (31-47, Previous: 22) - Even Josh Gordon of the Browns is trying to break this team up. Have to wonder if there actually is drama in their locker room based on the way the season has gone.
23. Sacramento Kings (27-50, Previous: 23) - It’s time to let the kids play, which is why rookies Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum are logging big minutes lately. McLemore is averaging 37 minutes over the last five games while McCallum is averaging 45.8. McCallum, who was drafted with the 36th overall pick in the NBA Draft, is proving he belongs in the NBA.
24. Detroit Pistons (28-49, Previous: 24) - Andre Drummond’s 402 offensive rebounds in a season is the most since New Jersey’s Jayson Williams (443) and Chicago’s Dennis Rodman (421) during the 1997-98 season. Impressive, but this is likely because the Pistons miss so much from the field.
25. Utah Jazz (24-53, Previous: 26) - The big signing in Utah this week is rookie and former Bulls bench mainstay Erik Murphy. His averages of 0.3 points and 0.3 rebounds makes him an instant contender for one of the starting forward spots.
26. Boston Celtics (23-54, Previous: 25) - They currently own the longest losing streak in the NBA – when it matters most, too. Just one game behind the Magic for third-worst record. You can do it, fellas!
27. Los Angeles Lakers (25-52, Previous: 27) - Just when most thought they couldn’t possibly hate the Lakers any more … hello John Calipari!
28. Orlando Magic (22-55, Previous: 28) - Victor Oladipo has scored in double figures in 13 straight games, and will most likely finish to Michael Carter-Williams as the runner-up for the ROY award.
29. Milwaukee Bucks (14-63, Previous: 29) - Can you really blame Larry Sanders for wanting to smoke a little pot? I mean, it’s gotta be painful having a front row seat to all of these Bucks games.
30. Philadelphia 76ers (17-60, Previous: 30) - The win over the Celtics probably sealed their fate as the No. 2 worst record in the league this season. But don’t worry, Philly, we’ll still keep you as our worst.