clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NBA Power Rankings: Spurs and Rockets get hot at the right time

The Spurs' statement victory over the Warriors has them flying up our power rankings. Meanwhile, the Rockets have been rolling with Dwight Howard back.

1. Golden State Warriors (63-14, Last week: 1)

The Warriors' 12-game winning streak was snapped by the Spurs, but putting up that type of run this late in the season is just another example of their brilliance. There are just five Warriors games left until we say goodbye to an incredible year with Regular Season Stephen Curry and greet Playoff Curry.

2. Houston Rockets (53-24, Last week: 3)

Dwight Howard is still on a tight minutes restriction, but the Rockets have dropped just one game since he returned: a three-point loss to the Raptors while Howard sat out. James Harden's been an MVP candidate all season and Houston is gaining momentum heading into the postseason. The biggest question: Can Jason Terry really survive as a starting point guard in the Western Conference playoffs?

3. San Antonio Spurs (51-26, Last week: 5)

Of course the Spurs are on a seven-game winning streak and just waxed the Warriors by 15 points. It's April. San Antonio, after showing signs of mortality through the regular season, looks fully primed for another big playoff run.

Reigning NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard might just make an impact in the postseason:

4. Atlanta Hawks (57-19, Last week: 2)

Paul Millsap may miss the end of the regular season after injuring his shoulder against the Nets, but the team expects him to be ready for the playoffs. Millsap hasn't gotten the individual attention many of his teammates have, but he leads the Hawks in minutes played and is behind just Kyle Korver for the highest net rating on the team. Atlanta outscores opponents by 7.7 points per 100 possessions when Millsap is on the floor, according to's stats page.

5. Los Angeles Clippers (52-26, Last week: 7)

The Clippers have been too good to ignore, earning a spot in the top five. They've lost one game since Mar. 17 -- a four-point loss to the Warriors while Blake Griffin poured in 40 -- and have just one game against a playoff team left on their schedule.

6. Cleveland Cavaliers (50-27, Last week: 4)

The Cavaliers made their move after LeBron James returned from some time off, playing well enough to lock up the No. 2 seed in the East without much trouble. The prep work is done. It's going to be fascinating to see how LeBron's Cavaliers perform in the playoffs.

7. Memphis Grizzlies (52-25, Last week: 6)

Memphis is playing like a team that's been together for a long time and is ready for the regular season to be over already. Tony Allen's hamstring issues have sideline him over the past four games, which should worry Grizzlies fans. Hamstring injuries are notoriously tough for players and Memphis needs a 100 percent Grit n' Grind king in the wild West.

8. Portland Trail Blazers (50-26, Last week: 8(

The Blazers' wing depth will be tested through the playoffs, especially with Dorrell Wright joining Wesley Matthews on the injury list. Portland will rely heavily rely on second-year guard C.J. McCollum to play big minutes off the bench, which could ultimately be a good thing for his development.

9. Chicago Bulls (46-31, Last week: 9)

Joakim Noah has never been shy about his dislike of LeBron James, so he went all NSFW in the final regular-season meeting against the Cavaliers to remind him:

10. Dallas Mavericks (46-31, Last week: 10)

The Mavericks' regular season has been rocky, but seeing this team locked into a seven-game series is going to be a wonderful experiment to watch. Can Rajon Rondo come up big when it matters most? Will Dirk Nowitzki sting the hearts of opposing fans one fadeaway at a time? The Mavericks are like Frankenstein. It's almost time to either scream "IT'S ALIVE" or walk away disappointed.

11. Toronto Raptors (45-32, Last week: 11)

DeMar DeRozan went off for a career-high 42 points against the Rockets, giving them a much-needed quality win. The end of the season won't be easy for Toronto, though, with four of their final five games coming against playoff hopefuls in the Hornets, Heat and Celtics.

12. Washington Wizards (44-33, Last week: 13)

Sure, the Wizards were never able to build on the very good start they had to the season, but they're still on track to end the year with the ninth-best winning percentage in franchise history and best season since they were called the Bullets.

13. Oklahoma City Thunder (42-35, Last week: 12)

Russell Westbrook clocked his 11th (!!) triple-double of the season, but couldn't carry the Thunder past James Harden's 41 points on Sunday. Oklahoma City is on a three-game losing streak with the red-hot Spurs up next. The race for No. 8 in the West might come down to the last game of the season.

14. New Orleans Pelicans (41-35, Last week: 14)

The Pelicans' schedule isn't going to make it easy for them to leapfrog the Thunder. Games against the Warriors, Grizzlies, Suns and Rockets all in the same week? That's a brutal gauntlet for any team to run through, especially with a playoff spot hanging overhead. Will Anthony Davis reach up and grab it?

15. Utah Jazz (35-42, Last week: 18)

Oh my. Rudy Gobert had NO interest in adding to Andrew Wiggins' rookie highlight reel. Monster block incoming:

16. Phoenix Suns (39-38, Last week: 15)

What do the Suns have in Alex Len? Was re-signing Eric Bledsoe to a big contract, after the long standoff, really worth it? These are the questions Suns fans and analysts are asking, and they are incredibly important ones to consider following the team's decision to cut Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas out of its future plans.

17. Brooklyn Nets (35-41, Last week: 19)

The Nets' big winning streak has them in position to make the postseason. SB Nation's Paul Flannery wrote the definitive piece on the measures teams and players are taking for the final two playoff spots in the East.

That's why Al Jefferson had fluid drained from his aching knee three times in nine days and why Dwyane Wade suited up 48 hours after bruising his already balky knee in an awkward fall. It's why Lionel Hollins played Deron Williams and Brook Lopez for the entire second-half in a must-win game against the Raptors, and why Kelly Olynyk played at all after taking an elbow from a teammate that left him barely able to see out of his eye. It's why Paul George was scheduled to make his season debut on Sunday, eight months after breaking his leg.

18. Milwaukee Bucks (38-39, Last week: 16)

Giannis Antetokounmpo felt the need to scratch his writing itch. He wrote about why he ultimately sees himself as a power forward. It's very cool when players share with everyone:

I feel the need to help in defense and rebounding and also I like to create. To make things happen for my teammates, by attacking the rim, or starting from the low post with my back to the basket in order to take advantage of my size. For the moment, I realize that I can do bigger damage as a "3" or a "4". I don't think that there's a faster power forward than me in the NBA, who can defend me when I put the ball on the floor. That's the position that I believe I will settle in the future, but I don't want any position to hold me from improving all parts of my game.

19. Miami Heat (34-43, Last week: 17)

The Heat have fought the good fight all season, but injuries are piling up across the board. They're only one game out of the No. 8 seed, but with Boston holding on and Paul George making his return, it feels like a longshot for this ragged Miami squad to push back through adversity. Again.

20. Boston Celtics (35-42, Last week: 21)

Will the Celtics hold on to their playoff spot? If they do, Marcus Smart's end-game heroics against the Raptors will have a lot to do with it. He hit the game-winning layup in overtime, but draining a corner-three with 33 seconds left in the fourth quarter was an ever bigger shot for a player whose range was a big question mark heading into the draft.

21. Indiana Pacers (34-43, Last week: 20)

Paul George made his long-awaited return to basketball on Sunday, chipping in 14 points in 13 minutes off the bench in a Pacers victory. Indiana is a full game back from the eighth-seeded Celtics, though, and dropping a game to Boston on April 1 could be the difference between playoff life and death. Either way, Indiana wins because they stayed competitive and George is healthy.

22. Charlotte Hornets (33-43, Last week: 22)

Gerald Henderson's game-winning layup against the 76ers kept the Hornets' playoff hopes alive, but their schedule might be their downfall. The biggest game of the Hornets' season is in Miami on Tuesday, where two teams still desperately fighting for a playoff spot will put it all on the line.

23. Detroit Pistons (30-47, Last week: 23)

Trick shot magic with Reggie Jackson!

24. Denver Nuggets (28-49, Last week: 24)

Dikembe Mutombo was elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame, so here he is blocking an NBA-record 31 shots in a five-game series for Denver. Enjoy some finger-wagging goodness:

25. Sacramento Kings (26-40, Last week: 25)

The biggest storyline to follow as the Kings' season trails off into the sunset is whether 7'5 Sim Bhullar will become the first Indian basketball player to actually play in an NBA game. This wacky season has almost arrived at it's merciful end.

26. Orlando Magic (24-53, Last week: 26)

Orlando finding the win column this late in the season has mostly solidified how the bottom-five teams will shake out in the standings. The Magic are all but locked in with the fifth-worst record, while the Lakers look like they'll hold firmly between Orlando and Philadelphia as the fourth-worst team.

27. Los Angeles Lakers (20-56, Last week: 27)

The only positive vibes coming out of the purple and gold lately have involved Jordan Clarkson, who just became the first Lakers player in franchise history to be named Rookie of the Month. (There was no Rookie of the Month in Magic Johnson's first year, in case you're wondering).

28. Minnesota Timberwolves (16-60, Last week: 29)

Ricky Rubio's ankle injury cleared a path for Zach LaVine to handle starting duties to close the season, and what the Timberwolves have gotten in return is a mixed big. LaVine is averaging 17.4 points per game, but on 40 percent shooting from the field while turning the ball over (4.7 per game) more than he's assisting (4.5) during his nine-game stint in the starting lineup.

29. Philadelphia 76ers (18-60, Last week: 28)

Sam Hinkie deserves a round of applause for his team's tanking efforts to end the year. Since sending Michael Carter-Williams and K.J. McDaniels away at the deadline, the 76ers have lost to fellow bottom-feeders four out of five times, dropping games to the Knicks, Lakers (twice) and Magic.

30. New York Knicks (15-62, Last week: 30)

Thought the Knicks would go quietly? Psh, think again. A win over the 76ers on Sunday snapped a nine-game losing streak. It also will likely be the last game New York wins this season.