Been a hiatus since my last Power Rankings, however, we are only a short time away from the start of the playoffs. There have been some ups and downs and movers and shakers since I last did the rankings. So let’s not waste any more time and get into what the rankings are heading into the home stretch.
1. Utah Jazz
Nothing seems to rattle this team. Despite a close loss in overtime to the Phoenix Suns early in the week, this team keeps rolling. Donavan Mitchell puts the team on his back when he needs to. Otherwise, they are a cohesive unit that is almost unstoppable at home with a 24-2 record this year. Home court advantage is looking legit for the Jazz this postseason.
2. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets have been rolling and are tied atop the East with the Philadelphia 76ers and have dealt with injuries throughout the year. James Harden will possibly be back at the end of this upcoming week but nothing is for certain. Kevin Durant is now back and looking to get back into form. They just recently had an ugly loss to an undermanned Los Angeles Lakers squad where KyrieIrving got ejected after looking spectacular in the first half. The real question is can the Nets put it together when it matters the most?
3. Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia weathered the storm with Joel Embiid out of the lineup and now the big man is back. The 76ers issues still lie with the fact that with Embiid in it is hard for Ben Simmons to be a focal point in this offense. That being said, they have a nice shot at finishing as the best team in the East once the regular season is done. Credit must go to Doc Rivers and how he has gotten the most out of this team this year. Look forward to the playoffs for this team to see if they can figure out the Simmons/Embiid dynamic when it counts.
4. Phoenix Suns
The Suns have been impressive and CP3 has brought a steady hand to this group. Devin Booker has been hot and this team currently has the seventh best offense while playing pretty slow. Still, their efficiency is high and has a nice complement of role players that get the job done. The Suns could be the surprise contender in the West that a lot of people are just not paying enough attention to. They showed this week that they can take the Jazz to the brink and no team in the West will want to play them come playoff time.
5. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks have been without star Giannis Antetokounmpo for this past week and the results show it. They have had an up and down week, however they are doing just enough to stay in touch with the top two in the East. Giannis will need to come back obviously for them to come back to top form. However, this break for him has allowed others to step up and show what they can do (i.e. Jrue Holiday). Holiday has flourished in his new role and it will be welcomed if he can play the same way the remainder of the season.
6. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers have quietly been going about their business with wins over the Suns, Lakers, and Portland Trailblazers in April. Kawhi Leonard has been the rock of this team and the likes of Terrance Mann’s emergence has been a great help to this roster. Paul George has been good when he is on the court, although injuries are an issue. I like how Reggie Jackson and the aforementioned Mann are playing. The Clips will look for more from Luke Kennard and await Serge Ibaka’s return from injury. If this team can get healthy they can cause anyone problems.
7. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets have played their way back into the discussion in the West and you can’t fault anything that Nikola Jokic is doing right now. He is the odds-on favorite to win MVP and he is doing his best to put the Nuggets in the best position to win. Adding Aaron Gordon to this lineup will help with their defense and give them an off-the-ball cutter and scorer to get open with Jokic creating offense. I also like the way Will Barton has been playing, but unfortunately, I am still not sold on Jamal Murray. He will need to be at his best down the stretch and in the playoffs for the Nuggets to have any chance to win the West and I just don’t see the consistency.
8. Los Angeles Lakers
Lakers have remained above water while Anthony Davis and LeBron James nurse themselves back to good health. The additions of Andre Drummond and Ben McLemore are interesting and should give them just a slight bump in firepower coming down the home stretch. Fully expect them to come back with a vengeance once healthy.
9. Portland Blazers
The Blazers may be a bit high on my list to be honest as they have not been playing very well of late. That being said, it is hard to get past this roster who made a bit of sideways move acquiring Norman Powell for Gary Trent Jr. They will take time to gel as they get all their pieces back and playing together. Portland and Damian Lillard will not be a fun Round 1 opponent.
10. Atlanta Hawks
I can’t knock the Hawks who are 7-3 in their last 10 games. I don’t trust them for some reason but the fact that even without De’Andre Hunter and John Collins they continue to win games. Bogdan Bogdanovic has been absolutely sensational and exactly what they wanted when they stole him away from the Milwaukee Bucks this offseason. Danilo Gallinari has also contributed in a nice complimentary way as well. It will be interesting to see how they play against the heavyweights of the conference and what they look like in a series.
11. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs have made moves up the Western Conference standings of late with some nice wins vs the Jazz and the Bucks. They have also had some questionable losses losing to the Houston Rockets recently. Luka Doncic has regained his form but seems to be in a scoring mode much more than anything else at the moment. Kristaps Porzingis has added some much needed scoring and rebounding firepower but is it enough to get them past the first round? I am not sold as of yet and will be interested in seeing how they go down the stretch.
12. Miami Heat
The Heat find themselves in a log jam and currently in fifth in the East. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo have been playing very good basketball of late. What it comes down to is can Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro take the next step and be more reliable. Both are capable of taking that next step but one or both will be needed if the Heat is to get back to where they were last season. I feel Butler will drag this team to a top-4 finish but it will be close. The Heat need to sustain a consistent effort down the stretch.
13. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies have had a nice April so far beating the 76ers, Heat and Hawks. However, those wins over good teams have been combined with some troubling close losses as well. The Grizzlies are very savvy and I really like what they do as a team. They really need triple J (Jaron Jackson Jr) back in the lineup and that could come to fruition in the next few weeks. Ja Morant is putting this team on his back along with stellar play from Jonas Valanciunas and this team might be a bit frisky if they can make it in.
14. Boston Celtics
Are the Celtics back? Who knows for sure but Jayson Tatum is asserting himself as the man on this team. Tatum dropped 53 the other night and then backed it up with 28 in a win versus the Nuggets. The Celtics are trying to turn the corner from what has been a very middling season. Size is still a problem and the Celtics are struggling to find their identity. Hopefully, they can find it before it is too late.
15. Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets took a hit with LaMelo Ball going down to a wrist injury and shortly after that Gordon Hayward being injured as well. This team is interesting still but badly need Hayward to come back. He is a tough piece to replace and without him this team is a very unpredictable group of guys. Anything could happen from night to night with the Hornets. They could win by 15 or lose by 30 it all depends on how their guards shoot the ball. I don’t love the Hornets chances going forward.
16. New York Knicks
The Knicks have been feisty all year and doing it without a lot of star power. The youth on this team looks good and they continue to beat the teams they should and play tough against the top opponents. They are missing something to get over the hump but the current play of R.J. Barrett is a welcomed sight. I am happy for Knicks fans that they are putting a product on the court that they can be proud of. They are the new kids on the block at the moment and still a year away.
17. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs aren’t dead yet after last night’s badly needed win over the Mavs. They have a bunch of players that don’t get much love at all but they continue to execute at a high level and are not easy beats. If they make the play-in, which I believe they will, the Spurs will be tough to bet against.
18. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors got destroyed just a week ago against a hapless Toronto Raptors team then rallied this weekend to beat a worse Rockets team. I am probably too high on the Warriors at the moment but I am giving Steve Kerr and Steph Curry the benefit of the doubt here. The Warriors need to find a way quickly.
19. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls may have won the trade deadline by acquiring Nikola Vucevic but the excitement has worn off a little bit after another terrible loss yesterday losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Bulls need to figure it out soon or they will be sitting at home again come playoff time. They should make a play in-game but I am not counting on it just yet.
20. Indiana Pacers
The addition of Caris LeVert has kind of caused a mid-season crisis for the Pacers as they work out how all the pieces fit together. After last night’s offensive explosion though you would expect that something has clicked. Domantas Sabonis and Malcom Brogdon looked great and LeVert played amazing as they beat the Memphis Grizzlies. They will all need to be firing on all cylinders to catch the middle seeds of the Eastern Conference. I think they just might pull it off though.
21. Washington Wizards
I actually love the grit of this team and Russell Westbrook has played very well despite not getting a ton of respect from NBA fans. Rui Hachimura has been playing better as of late in bigger roles and they need a third guy to emerge on this team. As much as I like watching the Wizards they just aren’t quite there as someone that worries me. If everyone can get healthy and play then it might change but they need to figure it out soon as they are currently 12th in the East.
22. New Orleans Pelicans
Zion Williamson has been playing out of his mind and the Pelicans are finally doing what they should of the whole season. GIVE ZION THE BALL! Despite Brandon Ingram’s best efforts to circumvent this strategy, missing a few games has allowed Zion to be one of the most remarkable players in the NBA. The good news is the Pelicans are beating the teams they need to beat but still struggle against the better teams. They are currently in 11th place and if they can string some wins together they could find themselves in a better spot come the end of the season.
23. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors sit in 11th place and it doesn’t look good for them at the moment. There is literally no reason why the Raptors need to win or should want to win at this point in time. Their current play is sporadic and with a number of outs in their lineups every night it looks like management agrees with me. Chalk this season up to a miss and re-tool for next year.
24. Sacramento Kings
I don’t mind the pieces here it just doesn’t seem to be working. De’Aaron Fox is an amazing player and has really turned a corner this year but the rest of the team doesn’t seem to fit together well – despite having some talent. It may be time to move on from the likes of Marvin Bagley and Buddy Hield at the end of this season and try and build something around Fox as the focal point.
25. Cleveland Cavaliers
Darius Garland and Collin Sexton show love to see it but that is about it with this team. The Cavs are 3-7 in their last 10 games. They have lost back-to-back games to the Pelicans and Raptors. I like the backcourt but to be honest even with Kevin Love back this team is missing a few pieces.
26. Houston Rockets
The Rockets are 2-8 in their last 10 and the only reason I put them this high is the play of Christian Wood and Kevin Porter Jr. – both of whom I like. Whether or not this Rockets team can find a way to build around these two going forward time will tell. The current rendition of this Rockets team is a far cry from what it used to be that is for sure.
27. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder are commendable for their play but it looks like it is full on get the young guys some playing time part of the season for them. With SGA missing a few games it has been the likes of Theo Maledon and Aleksej Pokusevski that have stepped up. Whether or not they can grow and actually become real assets in the league is the question. I like the young parts of this team and with the 1,000 draft picks over the next few years the Thunder are shooting for the moon.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Wolves are finally starting to get fully healthy. Unfortunately for them, it is too little too late. Karl-Anthony Towns has been playing well and now that D’Angelo Russell is back it may help the efficiency of prized rookie Anthony Edwards. The T-Wolves took out the Bulls last night and will look to surprise some teams down the stretch. Not too much though as they have a top-4 protected first-round pick that they must conserve.
29. Detroit Pistons
I really dislike everything and anything about this team. Sure Jerami Grant is fun but even he was out last night. They did hang with the Clippers but I do not see anything from this team that I am overly excited about. Maybe one of the young guys will emerge as an asset going forward.
30. Orlando Magic
The Magic are in full-on rebuild mode after selling off its parts at the trade deadline. It will be tough for them to compete night in and night out but I don’t mind what they did as it was a necessity. Gordon, Vucevic and Evan Fournier were not going to win you any rings.
Thank you for checking out this weeks rendition of the Power Rankings. Remember to check out Unwrapped Sports store at https://teespring.com/stores/unwrapped for all your gear. Also want to talk with us 24/7 we have a discord set up through Patreon. Support the network and get all your daily sports talk, thoughts on the latest moves, signings and gambling lines all in one hit. Just five dollars a month will get you in and a chance for some cool prizes. At ten dollars even bigger prizes are available. Follow me @Cmoney52 for daily player props and my DM’s are always open.
Corey Easley is a Contributor for Unwrapped Sports Network. Follow him on on Twitter @Cmoney52