2017-18: The year where anyone can beat anyone. As the topsy-turvy regular season starts to wind down we are still unsure of how the playoff bracket will take shape. The likes of Toronto, Golden State, Boston and Houston remain near the top but aside from that, it’s anyone’s guess. As we prepare for the home stretch, let’s break down the power rankings for the last time this season.
Biggest Rise: Jazz/Cavaliers (+8), Trailblazers (+7)
Biggest Fall: Heat (-9), Grizzlies/Spurs/Timberwolves (-5)
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30. Memphis Grizzlies ( 5)
THE Grizzlies have one win since my last power rankings and 17 losses. Tankapalooza is alive and well in Memphis.
29. Phoenix Suns ( 1)
FINGERS crossed (for Suns fans) this is the year that they strike gold in the draft. They have Devin Booker, who is a bonafide stud, but he needs support. With the wins drying up in the desert this offseason could be the turning point.
28. Brooklyn Nets ( 4)
FROM 6-10 to 12-20 to 18-30 in each previous ranking I was excited to be writing about the 24-40 Nets at this point of the season. Instead, an eight-game losing streak in February saw them tumble into the bottom group of the league. As D’Angelo Russell struggles (averaging 12.0 points shooting 37.7 FG% since returning from injury) there’s not much light at the end of the tunnel.
Image from theundefeated.com
27. Sacramento Kings ( 2)
FOX has looked impressive since the calendar turned to 2018 and there are pieces that offer a bright future in Sacramento. However, they are still lag at the bottom of the league and lack a transcendent star.
26. Orlando Magic ( 4)
OH Orlando. How fooled we were at the start of the season when you were hitting 95% of your three’s. We should have known that you would return to your rightful place among the cellar dwellers of the NBA.
24. Atlanta Hawks ( 3)
OUT of the bottom seven fighting it out for the No. 1 pick I have Atlanta sitting the highest on the pedestal. They don’t have a ton of talent on their roster, but Coach Bud is getting the most out of his guys with Schroder and Bazemore more than capable of causing a few upsets to close out the year.
23. New York Knicks ( 4)
SINCE a devastating ACL tear to Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks are 1-8. Losses were to be expected once they lost their rising star. The worst thing is that they accumulated too many wins in the earlier part of the season to dramatically improve their draft positioning. Ouch.
22. Chicago Bulls ( 2)
FOR a period of time it looked like the Bulls were going to string a few games together. I still like the looks of their young core with LaVine, Markkanen, Dunn and a top-10 pick joining the fray this offseason. They are 4-13 since my last write up, but things are looking up for Chicago.
Image from blogabull.com
21. Detroit Pistons ( 3)
THINGS haven’t gone according to plan since Blake Griffin landed in Motown. Going 7-10 since the start of February there is a high chance that Detroit fails to qualify for the postseason, as they are currently sitting five games behind the 8th seed. With no first-rounder this year, missing the playoffs would be a big blow.
19. Los Angeles Lakers ( 2)
SINCE returning for the Lakers, Lonzo Ball is proving a lot of haters wrong. His jump shot is still clunky, but he is canning 44% of his attempts in the last fortnight, compared to 30.8% in his other 36 games. Magic Johnson is rubbing his hands together as LA continues to put forth a good case for pending free agents.
18. Milwaukee Bucks ( 4)
JASON Kidd was to blame for some of the Bucks problems, but Milwaukee can’t pin all their issues on their former head coach. Going 2-6 in their last eight games has them slipping down to the bottom seed in the East playoffs. Jabari Parker still only has 15 games under his belt though so things can still be OK.
17. Miami Heat ( 9)
NO one has free fallen further than the Heat since the 60% rankings. Much like Milwaukee, their playoff seeding keeps falling as they struggle to find their mojo. Dwyane Wade has been fine since returning for the Heat but he is 36.
16. Denver Nuggets (even)
HAVING Paul Millsap back in the lineup couldn’t have come at a better time for the Nuggets. Denver needs to be careful they don’t ruin what has been a solid season so far though. There are some winnable games coming up but a seven-game road trip could spell doom for the Nuggets, who have a subpar road record (11-20).
15. Los Angeles Clippers ( 2)
IT turns out losing Blake Griffin wasn’t the worst thing for the Clippers. With Lou Williams and DeAndre Jordan leading the charge, the playoffs are still very much achievable in 2018. I don’t have a ton of faith, but stranger things have happened.
14. Utah Jazz ( 8)
GOING 17-3 since we last checked in with Utah has them surging into the playoffs. Rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell has averaged 20+ PPG in that stretch with the rest of his teammates galvanising around him. There’s no reason they can’t go on another winning streak to close the year.
13. Indiana Pacers ( 2)
TAKE a bow Victor Oladipo. Even though Darren Collison and Myles Turner missed a solid chunk of time and you haven’t had a ton of support, you have the Pacers on the verge of a top-4 seed out East. They may bow out in the first round, but Oladipo has helped breath some life into the Pacers future.
Image from indycornrows.com
12. Philadelphia 76ers ( 1)
BARRING anything catastrophic the 76ers are set to break their playoff drought this season. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have led from the front as the group continues to remind the league they are the future of the NBA. Trust the Process.
11. Oklahoma City Thunder ( 4)
LOSING Andre Roberson could ultimately rule out the Thunder’s chances of truly contending, but they are still dangerous. Anytime Russell Westbrook steps onto the floor OKC has a chance to win the game and the next month will tell us a lot about Oklahoma City.
10. San Antonio Spurs ( 5)
FOR the first time in recent memory, the alarm bells are ringing in San Antonio. holding onto a playoff spot by just 1.5 games, a tough set of games to close the season and no Kawhi Leonard in uniform either could we really see the Spurs miss the postseason?
Image from newsok.com
9. Minnesota Timberwolves ( 5)
MINNESOTA is going to be fine, but they need Jimmy Butler back sooner rather than later. He will likely spend another month on the bench and luckily for the Timberwolves, they face a pretty easy schedule. In Derrick Rose we trust.
8. Washington Wizards ( 1)
WITH John Wall’s return looming the Wizards are peaking at the right time. Tomas Satoransky performed admirably in his absence and Bradley Beal is a true All-Star positioning Washington 4th out East. Are they destined to break through into the conference finals or will they once again fall in the semifinals? Time will tell.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers ( 8)
WHILE the Cavaliers have rejuvenated their team, they still aren’t firing on all cylinders. Cleaning house at the deadline lead to four new guys in and six players leaving so it’s likely the next month will be spent trying to integrate them into the system. The best news for Cavs fans is that the moves seemed to have revived LeBron James, which we all know means game over for the East.
6. New Orleans Pelicans ( 4)
ANYTHING is possible with Anthony Davis playing the way he is right now. After reeling off 10 straight victories the Pelicans are 4th out West and a playoff spot seems theirs to lose. Jrue Holiday is doing his best to pick up the slack left by Boogie’s injury too, improving their postseason stock.
5. Portland Trailblazers ( 7)
I was flat out wrong about the Trailblazers. I predicted a .500 finish and instead they are storming up the standings. Damian Lillard can’t be stopped when it comes to scoring the ball and he is well supported by the likes of McCollum, Nurkic, Napier and Aminu. Watch out world, these guys should not be taken lightly.
4. Boston Celtics ( 2)
AFTER a minor offensive hiccup Boston has quietly been locking up one of the best records in the league. Currently sitting 2nd in the Eastern seeds, the Celtics are poised to have a real shot making the NBA Finals. They have tough opponents in Toronto and Cleveland to beat, but they are more than capable.
Image from festivalrdoc.org
3. Golden State Warriors ( 2)
GOLDEN State are still Golden State. They have seven straight wins before losing as Steph Curry watched on from the sidelines. After pursuing regular season wins in the past the Warriors are content with prioritising the health of their guys form the playoffs over a top seed in their conference.
2. Toronto Raptors ( 1)
TORONTO deserves this. Period. They were the first team to clinch a playoff seed this season and last night pulled out an epic win over the Houston Rockets, snapping their 17 game winning streak. DeMar DeRozan is being snubbed as an MVP candidate and with their deep bench, they are in the box seat to win the East.
1. Houston Rockets ( 1)
SEVENTEEN wins in the row had Houston firming as the team to beat and not the Warriors. With James Harden all but sewing up the MVP award and the rest of the squad bombing away from three, it may be hard to stop this juggernaut from winning it all.
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