1. Golden State Warriors (66-15, Previous: 1) – In the final installment of Metro’s NBA Power Rankings, the Warriors go into the playoffs with the most power. Not much of a shock here, but this is the pick to win it all in 2015. Just too much talent.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (52-29, Previous: 4) – Well, this is why LeBron James went back to Cleveland, right? To be the hero and deliver a championship to the city.He’s got a great shot ofat least getting to the NBA Finals as injuries and lack of talent in the East have Cleveland looking good.
3. Los Angeles Clippers (55-26, Previous: 5) – The Clippers are 13-1 over their last 14 games, with only a 110-106 loss to the Warriors as the black mark. DeAndre Jordan has had the game-high in rebounds over the last 25 games. That guy is a monster – but are the Clips deep enough for a playoff run?
4. Houston Rockets (55-26, Previous: 2) – The Rockets suddenly find themselves with the No. 5 seed with one game to play, but that might not be so bad since they’d play the banged-up Blazers, who also have a worse record than them but get the No. 4 seed due to winning their division.
5. San Antonio Spurs (55-26, Previous: 6) – It’s the most believable and unbelievable thing in the NBA thatthe Spurs always get it together in the end and become one of, it not the most dangerous team in the NBA. Eleven straight wins has this team fighting for the No. 2 seed. Look out.
6. Atlanta Hawks (60-21, Previous: 3) – Oh boy. Key reserve Thabo Sefolosha will miss the rest of the season with a broken leg suffered during an altercation outside of an NYC nightclub. That’s not the worst injury the Hawks have, as Paul Millsap has missed time with a shoulder injury. Their playoff run hinges on his return.
7. Portland Trail Blazers(51-30, Previous: 7) – Arron Afflalo has a shoulder injury that could sideline him for the beginning of the playoffs, and Nik Batum left Monday’s game with a knee injury. The Blazers are falling apart at the worst time possible.
8. Memphis Grizzlies (54-27, Previous: 8) – Two tough losses to the Clippers and Warriors have the Grizzlies looking at the No. 6 seed with one game to play. The biggest issue, though, is Marc Gasol’s sprained ankle leaving him less than 100-percent. The Griz are already missing Mike Conley (sprained right foot) and Tony Allen (strained left hamstring)
9. Dallas Mavericks (49-32, Previous: 9) – Out of the three teams Dallas may play in the first round -the Spurs, Clippers, or Rockets -they only have a losing record this season to the Clippers (1-2). That said, the Spurs are playing great and the Rockets are more talented. Getting out of the first round would be a pretty big upset.
10. Chicago Bulls (49-32, Previous: 10) – Sure, it was against the Sixers, but Derrick Rose’s 22 points over the weekend is a positive any way you look at it. He may not be 100-percent, but he’s close enough where the Bulls become a dangerous team again.
11. Toronto Raptors (48-32, Previous: 12) – The Raps all but ended the Heat’s playoff hopes over the weekend (the Heat are now officially eliminated) and also secured home-court in the first round. If the Raptors win their final two games and the Bulls lose to the Hawks, Toronto ends up with the No. 3 seed and plays the Bucks instead of the Wizards.
12. Washington Wizards (46-34, Previous: 13) – The Wizards went 0-3 against the Raptors this season and 2-2 against the Bulls. They’ll get one or the other in the first round. But don’t sleep on this Wiz team that has John Wall playing well and a playoff-tested Paul Pierce.
13. Oklahoma City Thunder (44-37, Previous: 11) – It’s pretty simple for the Thunder: They need to beat the Timberwolves on Wednesday (easy enough) and the Spurs need to beat the Pelicans. If that happens, they make the playoffs, and face the Warriors in the first round. Some prize, right?
14. New Orleans Pelicans (44-37, Previous: 14) – Got to hand it to this Pelicans team. I think a lot of people left them for dead after they fell a couple games behind the Thunder for the No. 8 seed, but here they are controlling their own destiny. Win and they’re in. Of course it won’t be easy against the Spurs.
15. Milwaukee Bucks (41-40, Previous: 15) – The Bucks did what they had to do down the stretch to hold on to that No. 6 seed, winning three games in a row with teams like the Celtics, Pacers, and Nets gaining on them for a while.
16. Boston Celtics (38-42, Previous: 16) – The improbable happened: The Celtics have clinched a playoff spot. This was by no means in Danny Ainge’s mind to start the season. Or after trading Rajon Rondo. Or Jeff Green. But thanks to Brad Stevens – and the Isaiah Thomas trade – the Celtics are one fun team to watch these days.
17. Phoenix Suns (39-42, Previous: 18) – The Suns are going to miss out on the playoffs, and continue to be a good team but not a great team. That would be fine in the East, but they’re buried out West and it’s hard to see that changing anytime soon.
18. Utah Jazz (38-43, Previous: 19) – The second half of the Jazz’s season will give fans in Utah something they haven’t had in some time: optimism. They’re a young team with talent so things are looking up.
19. Brooklyn Nets (36-41, Previous: 17) – Two straight losses has the Nets on the outside looking in after they put themselves in position to clinch last week. They need to beat the Magic, and have the Pacers lose one of their final two games against the Wizards or Grizzlies. It very well could happen.
20. Indiana Pacers (37-43, Previous: 21) – OK, Indiana. You sleep-walked through the first half of the season and turned things around, to an extent, in the second half. Two wins and you’re in. How badly do you want it?