In the world of basketball, even terrible teams are able to be in the money. However, for a true NBA fan, their team’s overall worth pales in comparison to what it’s able to accomplish on the court. Fans want their teams to strive for greatness; to compete for championships on a consistent basis. Some clubs have what it takes; others do not. And that’s just the way it goes.
As we look ahead to the postseason, it’s always important to assess how each team stacks up against the rest of the league. This isn’t necessarily about overall rankings, but rather focuses on how well — or poorly — clubs play at this particular moment. Opinions on this matter are sure to vary. However, as we approach the end of the 2016–17 regular season, here’s a look at our NBA power rankings.
30. Phoenix Suns
Aside from breakout star Devin Booker’s ridiculous 70-point outburst, the Phoenix Suns haven’t had much to cheer about this season. Not only are they allowing 113.1 points per game (30th of 30), but they’re 2-8 in their last 10 contests and officially hold the worst record in the Western Conference. Expect this backcourt-heavy squad to add a top-tier wing with its presumptive top-three pick in the 2017 Draft. Finally, something to look forward to for Suns fans.
29. Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic might not have the worst record in the East, but they definitely have one of the worst offenses in the NBA. This group, which is 3-7 in its last 10 outings, average just 101.2 points per game (26th of 30) and have a lackluster 103.9 offensive rating (29th of 30). We think it’s about time the Magic pick up the phone and get the Bulls on the horn; we hear Chicago has a superstar it’s ready to deal.
28. Los Angeles Lakers
For some reason, the lowly Los Angeles Lakers decided to go on a four-game winning streak. Sure, this is probably good for the self-esteem, but considering they owe the Sixers their 2017 pick if it falls out of the top three, this minor resurgence might come back to haunt them on draft night. Unless, of course, they don’t want Lonzo Ball to take his talents to Tinseltown.
27. Brooklyn Nets
Not even a 6-4 stretch over their last 10 games is enough to get the Nets out of the Eastern Conference cellar. In fact, at 20-60, no one in the NBA can hold a candle to Brooklyn’s abysmal record. This would be great for the organization’s draft odds; except for the fact that, thanks to a gloriously stupid trade on the part of the Nets, Boston owns their first-round pick. So, yeah, sucks to be Brooklyn.
26. Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers have lost their last six games, including an embarrassing 141-118 defeat to the Nets, so it’s hard to give them much love on the NBA power rankings. However, this latest skid does help the team’s draft odds. Couple that with the emergence of rookie Dario Saric, a potential franchise-altering talent in Joel Embiid (if he’s able to play more than 31 games, that is), and the excitement surrounding a healthy Ben Simmons, and it’s clear the future is bright in Philadelphia.
25. New York Knicks
With a 30-51 record, including a 3-7 mark in their last 10 games, the New York Knicks officially pulled off their third consecutive 50-loss season. In other words, this organization is an absolute mess. It’s a good thing Knicks fans have someone like Kristaps Porzingis to cheer for. Given the way things are going with Melo, who knows, he may soon be the only hot ticket in town.
24. Sacramento Kings
No Boogie, no problems for the Sacramento Kings. Just kidding. This team has lost two consecutive contests, is 4-6 in its last 10 games, boasts a 31-49 record, and will miss the postseason for the 11th consecutive year. Viva la Vikek!
23. Detroit Pistons
Despite sporting a 37-43 record, good for 10th place in the Eastern Conference, the Detroit Pistons have been quite promising on the defensive end of the floor. Stan Van Gundy’s crew is holding opponents to 102.3 points per game (sixth of 30) and boasts a defensive rating of 107.1 (eight of 30). Unfortunately, when you only put up 101.1 points a night (27th of 30), you’ll have a difficult time collecting W’s — as evidenced by Detroit’s 2-8 mark over its last 10 games.
22. Minnesota Timberwolves
With Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins on the roster, the Minnesota Timberwolves have plenty of talent at their disposal. Sadly, it doesn’t translate to success on the court, as Tom Thibodeau’s crew is 3-7 in its last 10 games and boast an unenviable 31-49 record overall. If Minnesota figures out how to play elite defense, the rest of the league better watch out. Until then, however, the T’Wolves will continue to miss out on the NBA playoffs — something they’ve done now for the 13th consecutive season.
21. Dallas Mavericks
Harrison Barnes has found a home in Dallas and Dirk continues to do Dirk things, yet the Mavs will not head to the NBA playoffs. Such is life for a team with a 105.7 offensive rating (25th of 30) that averages just 98 points per game (30th of 30). Then again, with Nowitzki nearing the end of his illustrious career, snagging a quality lottery pick isn’t the worst thing in the world for the Mavericks.
20. Atlanta Hawks
Even with a 5-5 record in their last 10 games, the Atlanta Hawks remain fifth in the Eastern Conference standings. You can chalk this up to outstanding team defense, which sees Mike Budenholzer’s group allowing just 104.4 points per game (10th of 30) and boasting a defensive rating of 105.9 (fourth of 30). Still, with only three games separating the fifth-place team and the eighth-place team in the East, the Hawks should wisely buckle down for the rest of the regular season
19. New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans won’t be in the NBA playoffs this year, but there’s still reason for optimism. Despite the small sample size, it would seem the “Twin Tower” tandem of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins are able to coexist on the same floor. No matter what happens, we can’t to see how the rest of this ride plays out.
18. Indiana Pacers
At 40-40, the Indiana Pacers are narrowly inside the playoff picture. Which is a good thing because Paul George and company are just 4-6 in their last 10 games. If the Pacers hope to reach the postseason, then they better get on the same page. Or, if it’s easier, just get out of PG-13’s way and let him do his thing.
17. Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies earned a playoff spot with their 43-28 record. Unfortunately, with the way this team plays at the moment, losing its last three games and going 3-7 in its past 10 contests, the Grizz are practically limping — sorry about that, Marc Gasol — into the postseason. This is not how you want to perform with a postseason showdown with the Spurs looming.
16. Denver Nuggets
With a 38-42 record, the Denver Nuggets will not be in the postseason. Yet, there’s a lot to like about this squad; particularly it high-powered offense and the emergence of superstar center, Nikola Jokic. OK, we appreciate your surprising contribution as well, Jameer Nelson.
15. Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls are making moves. This group is 6-4 over its last 10 games and currently tied for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings. If Dwyane Wade — inactive since March 17 — can provide extra lift upon his return, Jimmy Butler and company could head to the postseason with an extra pep in their step.
14. Charlotte Hornets
Three consecutive losses ended Charlotte’s chances of sneaking into the NBA playoffs. That being said, the Hornets are 5-5 in their last 10 games, and Kemba Walker is always fun to watch. So, in reality, things could be a whole lot worse.
13. Miami Heat
The Miami Heat are one of the top defensive teams in the league. A big part of that: the man roaming the paint. On the year, big-time center Hassan Whiteside is averaging 16.8 points per game, pulling down 10.2 boards a night, and swatting 2.1 shots a contest. However, at 39-41, including a 5-5 record in their last 10 games, the Heat are going through a difficult stretch — outside of the playoff picture looking in. If they don’t break out of this funk, and fast, it will stay that way.
12. Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks are a ways away from being among the top clubs in the East, but that doesn’t make them any less exciting. Thanks to the breakout season of Giannis Antetokounmpo (23.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 5.4 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1.9 BPG), Milwaukee has the 13th best offensive rating (109.3) in the NBA and is limiting its opponents to a measly 104 points per game (nine of 30). Now that the Bucks have clinched a spot in the postseason, their second trip in the last three seasons, it’ll be interesting to see if they can get the job done on the big stage.
11. Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard has the Portland Trail Blazers on the up and up. This group holds a 40-40 record, is 8-2 in its last 10 contests, and officially clinched a spot in the postseason. Unfortunately, a date with the Warriors in the first round looms on the horizon. Hopefully the Blazers can keep the series close. Hey, stranger things have happened.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder
We know it’s supposed to be all about the team and, at 46-34, the Oklahoma City Thunder are heading for the NBA playoffs. However, it’s impossible not to be amazed by the greatness that is Russell Westbrook. The guy became only the second player ever to average a triple-double for the entire year. He recently passed Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles in a single season with 42. As far as individual efforts are concerned, this truly is the year of The Brodie.
9. Washington Wizards
The Washington Wizards have cooled off lately, but they still remain one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. They’re 48-32 on the year, have the seventh best offensive rating (111.3) in the league, and took home the Southeast Division title in Scott Brooks’ first season at the helm. If John Wall continues to do his thing, anything’s possible for the Wiz in the postseason.
8. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are hot at just the right time. Doc Rivers’ crew has won five straight contests, is 8-2 in its last 10 games, and are tied for the fourth spot out West with a 49-31 mark. With the way this balanced group has played lately, the Clippers are more confident than ever. That could spell trouble for their competition.
7. Utah Jazz
Like the Clippers, the Utah Jazz are rolling along with a 49-31 record. This team, led by Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert, is limiting its opponents to just 96.7 points per game(first of 30) and recently clinched its first division title since the 2007–08 season. That’s music to the fans’ ears.
6. Toronto Raptors
Few teams in the game are as hot as the Toronto Raptors. This club has won three straight games, is 8-2 in its last 10 contests, and currently holds the third spot in the Eastern Conference standings. It’s clear that DeMar DeRozan is more than earning his lofty paycheck.
5. Boston Celtics
The Celtics seem ready to challenge for Eastern Conference supremacy. Isaiah Thomas — The Answer to Boston’s prayers — is putting up 29.2 points per game while shining in the fourth quarter on a nightly basis. It’s a bit of a long shot, but with a little help, the Celtics could wind up with the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
At their best, the Cleveland Cavaliers are the top team in the East. However, we keep waiting for LeBron James and company to flip that playoff switch, but they continue to run hot and cold. Following two straight losses, Cleveland is now tied with Boston for the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs desperately need to find their footing.
3. Houston Rockets
James Harden has been an absolute stud in Mike D’Antoni’s system, leading the Rockets to a 54-26 record while averaging 29.3 points, 11.2 assists (tops in the league), and 8.1 rebounds per game. In the crowded West, Houston is definitely good enough to make a run in the postseason.
2. San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs continue to be the model of consistency. They have the top defensive rating (103.4) in the NBA, are eighth in the league with a 111.2 offensive rating, and boast the second-best record in basketball at 61-19. Don’t sleep on the Spurs. Kawhi Leonard and company are ready to show no mercy.
1. Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors are the best team in basketball. This isn’t up for debate. The Dubs are a juggernaut on offense, have won 14 consecutive games, and have the best mark in the NBA at 66-14. With Kevin Durant — now back and better than ever — and Stephen Curry leading the way, the Warriors are simply golden.