1. Golden State Warriors (56-13, Last week: 1)
Golden State has gone 9-1 over its last 10, refusing to take its foot off the gas while the season tapers off. It's been an amazing season for the Warriors, who've built up enough power to blow up any team with a single laser beam, courtesy of SB Nation's Matt Ufford:
It's fair to compare Golden State to the Death Star when they have both the NBA's best defensive efficiency (97.7 points allowed per 100 possessions) and its best offensive efficiency (109.3 points scored per 100 possessions).
2. Atlanta Hawks (53-17, Last week: 2)
The Hawks went 1-3 against a brutal schedule last week, dropping games to the Warriors, Thunder and Spurs. But Atlanta is still comfortably leading the East, and welcoming Kyle Korver back on Sunday was a step toward breaking out of this funk.
3. Memphis Grizzlies (49-21, Last week: 3)
This is a big week for Memphis once the Knicks are out of the way on Monday. Games against the Cavaliers, Warriors and Spurs follow, which should keep the playoff-ready Grizzlies engaged for another week.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (46-26, Last week: 4)
LeBron James is proving he's one of us, biding his time until the playoffs:
5. Houston Rockets (46-23, Last week: 5)
The Rockets ran out of fuel against the Suns, but they've held down the fort while taking their time to bring Dwight Howard back into the fold. Howard's status went from "out" to "doubtful" for the Rockets' game against the Pacers on Monday, but a return isn't yet on the horizon.
6. Los Angeles Clippers (46-25, Last week: 7)
Chris Paul for Most Valuable Player? SB Nation's Tom Ziller made a convincing case. Paul seems like a dark horse candidate at best, but the numbers are hard to ignore:
My case for CP3 is brief and clear. While CP3 scores just 18 points per game on efficient shooting, he creates 23.4 points per game by assist -- some four points more than Westbrook, five points more than Curry and LeBron and six points more than Harden. If you add the points scored and points created by assist, he's right in the mix with those four. The only one much higher than CP3's 41 points created and scored per game is Westbrook, who is by far the least efficient scorer of the group.
CP3 also commits far fewer turnovers than the others -- just about two full turnovers fewer than both Westbrook and LeBron, 1.5 fewer than Harden and 0.7 fewer than Curry.
7. San Antonio Spurs (44-25, Last week: 8)
What if I told you Tim Duncan was caught dancing on the Spurs' bench? 30 for 30: Moves like Jagger:
8. Dallas Mavericks (44-27, Last week: 9)
The Mavericks have just three games this week, including a back-to-back venture against the Spurs. The seventh-seed Mavericks are on pace to match up against the Grizzlies, but there's still enough time for Dallas to make a run for home-court advantage in the final weeks of the season.
9. Portland Trail Blazers (44-24, Last week: 6)
The Trail Blazers are on a four-game losing streak, but their biggest losses continue to come in the form of injuries. Both LaMarcus Aldridge (hand) and Nicolas Batum (back) were hurt during their defeat to the Grizzlies on Saturday.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder (40-30, Last week: 10)
Russell Westbrook is on a mission to propel the Thunder into the playoffs, one triple-double at a time. He now has 10 on the season, most recently carving up the Hawks for 12 points, 17 assists and 10 rebound without Kevin Durant or Serge Ibaka. The Thunder have a 2.5-game cushion on their playoff spot, and the guy behind the mask is doing everything he can to make it happen.
11. Washington Wizards (40-30, Last week: 11)
The Wizards looked like a team taking playoff shape with a five-game winning streak before dropping back-to-back games. A 23-point loss to the Kings on Sunday led to head coach Randy Wittman saying his team isn't playing the "right way."
"We need to come out with more defensive focus or we don't have a chance. That's pretty much it," Wittman said. "We've got to start playing the right way."
If this is wrong I don't want to be right:
12. Chicago Bulls (42-29, Last week: 13)
While Andrew Wiggins has (deservedly) earned most of the Rookie of the Year hype, Nikola Mirotic has played exceptionally well for the Bulls. So well, in fact, that he might already be one of the Bulls' best players, as Chris Terzic of Blog a Bull writes:
On the year, the two-man lineup of Mirotic and Taj Gibson has produced a +6.7 net rating. The two-man combination of Mirotic and Joakim Noah has produced a +6.0 net rating. Meanwhile, the Mirotic and Pau Gasol tandem doesn't even possess a positive net rating.
This is where our open-ended questioning becomes legitimate postulation. The numbers speak for themselves and over the past few weeks it has become abundantly clear that Mirotic is currently the best offensive weapon the Bulls have. I'd even go as far as to say Mirotic is the best player the Bulls have right now, period.
13. Toronto Raptors (42-28, Last week: 12)
The Raptors won three of their four games last week, but a distinct lack of quality wins -- Pacers, Timberwolves and Knicks -- doesn't move the needle much for Toronto. Sweeping a short week with games against the Pistons, Bulls and Lakers could, though.
14. Phoenix Suns (38-33, Last week: 17)
The Suns aren't ready to throw the towel in on their playoff hopes and are still keeping the pressure on the Oklahoma City Westbrooks. A four-game winning streak, including victories over the Pelicans, Trail Blazers and Mavericks, has put the Suns in great position to make a final run. Phoenix hosting the Thunder on Sunday could decide who makes the cut.
SB Nation presents: How the Morris twins made their dreams come true
15. New Orleans Pelicans (37-33, Last week: 14)
Injury woes may push the Pelicans too far off to make a move for the playoffs this season. Anthony Davis has missed time throughout the season with dings, but it's the other injuries that have really put the nail in the coffin. The Pelicans have tried to stay competitive even when Davis isn't around, but it's hard to overcome the kind of roster replenishment New Orleans needs.
16. Miami Heat (32-37, Last week: 21)
Monster Hassan Whiteside dunk alert:
17. Utah Jazz (31-38, Last week: 19)
The Jazz split their games last week, taking a close loss against the Wizards before being targeted by the Warriors' Death Star. Utah still moves up in the power rankings because of their post-deadline play.
18. Milwaukee Bucks (34-36, Last week: 16)
The Bucks have played well all season, so now's not the time to stumble. Milwaukee is currently on a six-game losing streak and has won just four games since the trade deadline. There are just 12 games left for the Bucks to survive with a 3.5-game lead over the Celtics in the ninth slot.
19. Charlotte Hornets (30-38, Last week: 20)
The battle for the eighth seed has turned into a full-on war, but the Hornets are still holding it together. Kemba Walker's been building up his playing time gradually, finally taking back starting duties last week. It's going to be a nail-biting week for Hornets fans with the Bulls, Nets, Wizards, Hawks and Celtics as the next five teams on the schedule.
20. Boston Celtics (30-39, Last week: 18)
One of the reasons for Boston's post-deadline surge? Jae Crowder has stepped up as a two-way player for the Celtics, as Dustin Chapman of Celtics Blog gushes:
His high motor never stops running, his energy level is contagious and he is really giving the Celtics a lot of different things on both ends of the floor. In some ways, Crowder is a utility specialist that isn't particularly elite in any category, but is always making plays on both ends and his presence alone makes the Celtics a tougher squad when he is on the court.
21. Brooklyn Nets (29-39, Last week: 23)
The Nets won four of their last five games to stay relevant in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Boston, Indiana and Brooklyn are all within a game of the eighth-seeded Hornets. Brooklyn did well by beating the Pacers on Saturday, and games against the Celtics and Hornets make for a big opportunity this week.
22. Indiana Pacers (30-39, Last week: 15)
The Pacers decided that whole winning games thing was boring and dropped five in a row. There's reason to hold onto hope, though, as there's a chance Paul George makes his return this week, according to a report from Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Indiana had been reluctant to commit to a return date.
23. Denver Nuggets (27-44, Last week: 22)
Danilo Gallinari went off for 40 points to snap a three-game losing streak for Denver. That was his highest-scoring game since dropping 39 points against the Mavericks on Dec. 28, 2012. It's been a long road back for Gallinari since he tore his ACL in 2013, to say the least.
24. Detroit Pistons (26-44, Last week: 26)
The Pistons' come-from-behind victory against the Bulls was astonishing considering Tayshaun Prince and Joel Anthony played for extended stretches and Greg Monroe sat out. Detroit, down 19 in the second half, embarrassed the Bulls en route to a victory.
25. Orlando Magic (22-50, Last week: 25)
The Magic escape the bottom-five pit by virtue of beating the Trail Blazers and riding a hot week from Elfrid Payton. The first-year guard dropped back-to-back triple-doubles, becoming the first rookie to do so since Antoine Walker in 1997. Now if Elfrid starts making four-point line references ....
26. Sacramento Kings (24-45, Last week: 24)
Boogie Boogie Boogie, can't you see, sometimes your moves just hypnotize me:
27. Minnesota Timberwolves (15-54, Last week: 27)
It's concerning that the Timberwolves aren't playing better despite Kevin Martin and Ricky Rubio returning. They've won just two games in March, one of which was against the worst team in the NBA. Ticky-tack injuries have taken some personnel from Minnesota over the last month, forcing Flip Saunders to rely heavily on the youth that's been piling up on his roster.
28. Los Angeles Lakers (18-50, Last week: 29)
So long, Steve Nash. It's no surprise Nash is calling it a career after his body forced the issue over the past two seasons, but seeing one of the game's greatest point guards walk away is a reminder everything comes to an end. That's something Lakers fans need to understand as Kobe Bryant enters the final season of his contract.
SB Nation presents: Nick Young on how he went from wannabe to Swaggy P
29. Philadelphia 76ers (17-53, Last week: 28)
The 76ers' loss to the Lakers on Sunday may be Sam Hinkie's finest moment. Sure, the Lakers are still in position to keep their pick depending on a few ping pong balls, but that was a big game for both teams' odds. Hinkie perfected the tank and his team held it down.
30. New York Knicks (14-56, Last week: 30)
It was a successful week of futility for New York, as the Knicks dropped games to both the 76ers and Timberwolves. At least there's March Madness for Knicks fans to enjoy.