In my April edition of monthly power rankings, the top 16 (plus one) teams are based off of the current and projected playoff picture. The eight teams in the Western Conference have been determined. As far as the East, there are still four teams fighting for three spots. Perhaps the most notable factor in the top half of these rankings: chances of beating the Warriors. The East, on the other hand, seems to be wide open. Let’s take a look at how all the teams stack up as we wrap up the regular season:
30. Knicks (15-62)
Free agency. That seems to be the topic of conversation surrounding New York after each and every lackluster season. Or maybe the ping pong balls bounce its way on May 14th. Kyrie Irving and Zion Williamson to the rescue?
29. Cavaliers (19-59)
The month of March was a memorable one for rookie Collin Sexton, another one of those shoot-first point guards. He shot 51 percent from the field including 44.7 percent from long range. The sky is the limit.
28. Bulls (21-57)
Chicago’s core, which now consists of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, Otto Porter and Wendell Carter, spent limited time on the floor together. Get this – if the season ended today, Ryan Arcidiacono would lead the team in win shares.
27. Suns (18-60)
22-year-old Devin Booker recently became the youngest player in league history to record 50 points in consecutive games. His ability to create high-percentage looks (at least for him) should not be overlooked as he’s shooting over 46 percent.
26. Grizzlies (31-46)
We didn’t learn anything new about the Grizzlies this year aside from rookie Jaren Jackson and trading away Marc Gasol. Regardless of the roster, winning games remains their number one priority. We’ll see if that changes this offseason. Keep an eye on Mike Conley.
25. Pelicans (32-46)
Not much went right for the Pels this year as franchise cornerstone Anthony Davis requested a trade out of New Orleans. The emergence of Elfrid Payton (five straight triple-doubles) late in the season also may be a reason to put out feelers for Jrue Holiday.
24. Wizards (32-46)
The Wizards have some decisions to make this summer as Tomas Satoransky, Jabari Parker, Trevor Ariza, Jeff Green, Bobby Portis and Thomas Bryant all have expiring contracts. Sato, Portis and Bryant are particularly the players with most future value.
23. Hawks (28-50)
The Hawks were largely expected to be one of the league’s bottom-feeders but Trae Young’s monstrous second half of the season changed their outlook. He averaged about 24.4 points and 9.3 assists through February and March.
22. Mavericks (31-46)
Building off my commentary on Atlanta, Luka Doncic may be the favorite to win Rookie of the Year but certainly not by much. Doncic (21.1 PTS, 7.6 REB, 5.9 AST) entered the league and utilized his generational style of play right off the bat.
21. Lakers (35-43)
Similar to that year with Steve Nash and Dwight Howard joining forces with an older Kobe Bryant, I was thinking to myself prior to the season: hmmmm, what seed will the Lakers be and do they have a chance to make the conference finals? I guess I thought too soon.
20. Wolves (34-43)
Karl-Anthony Towns (24.4 PTS, 12.5 REB) is one of the most talented young players in the league. Minnesota is searching for an identity following Jimmy Butler’s short stint there. They aren’t a surefire lottery team but they aren’t strong enough to win a playoff series either.
19. Hornets (35-42)
Look, it would have been nice to see this team make a push into the postseason. Simply put, Kemba Walker (25.2 PTS, 5.8 AST) is asked too much on a game-to-game basis. Rookie Miles Bridges recently started coming around. They need the same from Malik Monk.
18. Kings (38-40)
The Kings were a playoff team for much of the year and then reality kicked in just enough. That is by no means criticizing them as they undoubtedly took a significant step in the right direction. The De’Aaron Fox-Buddy Hield backcourt could soon become deadly.
17. Heat (38-39)
Erik Spoelstra’s teams are always tough as nails – that’s why a team like this with mediocre talent possibly sneaks into the playoffs. Miami is top three in opponent shooting percentage and shooting efficiency.
16. Magic (38-40)
The Magic has definitely performed more up to standards under Steve Clifford’s tutelage. Nikola Vucevic (20.6 PTS, 12.0 REB) and Aaron Gordon have led the way but its role players (i.e. Terrence Ross, Jonathan Isaac, etc.) have quietly fared relatively well throughout the season.
15. Nets (39-39)
Brooklyn came out with not only a new level of play but also a new level of entertainment. A venue such as the Barclays Center should entail more of this from its basketball team. First-time All-Star D’Angelo Russell (21.0 PTS, 7.0 AST) has gotten fans up off their feet.
14. Pistons (39-38)
The Pistons are an unfamiliar playoff team these days, having qualified just twice over the past 10 years (assuming they make it this year). Although they are likely not a threat to MIL, TOR, PHI or BOS, I wouldn’t consider this Blake Griffin-led group a pushover either.
13. Clippers (47-31)
L.A.C.’s 22-18 away record is good for second best in the Western Conference. The Clips don’t have a roster full of household names. Instead, it’s been a mixture of youngsters like Montrezl Harrell and veterans like Danilo Gallinari taken under Lou Williams’ (20.3 PTS, 5.3 AST) wing.
12. Blazers (49-28)
The Blazers are one of the hottest teams in the NBA, having won 17 of 22 games since defeating G.S. right before the All-Star break. It’s a shame they lost center Jusuf Nurkic for the season. He was an integral part of their success and gave Damian Lillard a beneficial post presence.
11. Pacers (46-32)
Indiana has held its head high despite missing All-Star Victor Oladipo. Through 36 games, he wasn’t producing as well as he did in the 2017-18 season. He isn’t quite an alpha-dog though. He’s just the leader and two-way player the Pacers likely needed to make a playoff run.
10. Spurs (45-33)
It seems like we talk on and on about the Tony Parker/Manu Ginobili/Tim Duncan/Kawhi Leonard era officially being in the rear-view. It’s worthwhile though, and to nobody’s surprise, the organization has still done an admirable job living up to its name.
9. Thunder (45-33)
The Thunder was starting to establish itself as a top four team in the West not too long ago. It’s 8-13 record since the All-Star break has not done OKC any favors. With exception to Andre Roberson (out for season), the team has been healthy but struggling with consistency.
8. Nuggets (51-26)
The Nuggets are 31-7 in the Mile High City. Especially without much playoff experience, they need every bit of that home court advantage. Nikola Jokic’s (20.1 PTS, 10.8 REB, 7.3 AST) wizardry has powered them through the season but the postseason is a whole different battle.
7. Jazz (47-30)
Utah isn’t the most intimidating team on paper but cannot be taken lightly. Its first round victory over OKC before falling to Houston last postseason was no fluke. Quin Snyder’s squad does most of its damage by controlling the game on defense (courtesy of Rudy Gobert).
6. Celtics (46-32)
Boston hasn’t played like the sixth best team in the league – probably not anywhere near that. However, this is the type of team I would consider matchup proof. Most of these teams in the East could be vulnerable against a team as loaded as the Celtics.
5. Rockets (50-28)
With Chris Paul sidelined to start the year, Houston didn’t look like the team it left the 2018 playoffs as. Eventually the Rockets came into form behind James Harden’s (36.4 PPG) historically phenomenal season. Will they get another shot at Golden State?
4. Sixers (49-28)
There’s no question this team has the talent to reach the finals. It does, however, present some questions: Will Jimmy Butler be able to comfortably play his role come playoff time? Will Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid use last postseason as a learning curve?
3. Bucks (58-20)
Milwaukee has almost unarguably been the most impressive team in the league this year. MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo (27.4 PTS, 12.5 REB, 5.9 AST) has instilled hope into the franchise. He’s the reason that all the pieces (Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, etc.) fit together.
2. Raptors (55-23)
Kawhi Leonard is the team’s most valuable player. However, Pascal Siakam (54.6 FG%, 16.8 PTS) has perhaps been Toronto’s most reliable player based on availability over the course of the season. He’s no LeBron – but he’s similarly unique with his ability to play any position.
1. Warriors (53-24)
Who knows what’s going to happen with the core of this team once we hit free agency? Stephen Curry is really the only constant here. The Warriors better enjoy the stardom while it lasts.