Monday April 13th, 2015

With several postseason berths and seeds still undecided, the NBA playoff race is giving us reason to watch the final few days of the regular season.

For a regular season that stretches almost six months, it's hard to stomach the idea of one or two games deciding a team's fate, but the next few days will do just that. Russell Westbrook's costly 16th technical foul almost doomed the Thunder before being rescinded. Boston, Brooklyn and Indiana are going down to the wire in their battle for the final two spots in the East. San Antonio is clinging to the No. 2 seed in the West, which would delay a showdown with the conference-leading Warriors. And the Knicks...just kidding. They haven't played a meaningful game since November.

While we're happy to say goodbye to the cellar-dwellers who have played out the season strictly due to obligation, it's sad to bid adieu to the Jazz, who have been one of the five best teams since the All-Star break. Utah's deficit was simply too much to overcome, but reminded us that the 16 best teams don't always make the playoffs.

With that in mind, here are the final NBA Power Rankings of the regular season.'s playoff Power Rankings will come out later this week.

(All stats and records through April 12)

NBA Power Rankings: Week 24
  • 1
    1Golden State Warriors
    last week: 1
    record: 65-15 (2-1)
    Can Golden State be considered the postseason frontrunner despite a lack of conference finals experience? Absolutely. As Jeff Van Gundy told me last week, “Great players trump experience every time.” Golden State is stocked with talented, disciplined, versatile, two-way players—the exact kind that excel in the playoffs.

  • 2
    2San Antonio Spurs
    last week: 3
    record: 55-26 (4-0)
    The Spurs have been methodically picking apart the rest of league since late March, winning 11 straight games and looking exactly like the team that steam-rolled the competition en route to an NBA title last spring. They’ve won 21 of their last 24 games and now hold a half-game lead for the No. 2 seed, potentially setting up a West finals clash with the Warriors.

  • 3
    3Cleveland Cavaliers
    last week: 2
    record: 51-29 (1-2)
    The Cavaliers sent a loud and clear message over the weekend: They want to face the Celtics in the first round. Cleveland gift-wrapped back-to-back games to Boston (the latter a 39-point traveshamockery), helping the C’s chances of locking up the No. 7 seed and a first-round date with LeBron and Co.

  • 4
    4Los Angeles Clippers
    last week: 4
    record: 54-26 (2-0)
    The return of Jamal Crawford helps the Clippers in a number of ways, but the most important one might be the reduced role of Austin Rivers. The Clippers score a whopping 13.8 points more per 100 possessions when Rivers is on the bench.

  • 5
    5Atlanta Hawks
    last week: 6
    record: 60-20 (3-1)
    Atlanta has endured off-the-court distractions before this season, but the timing of Thabo Sefolosha’s injury is also a blow to the team’s on-the-court product. Sefolosha had struggled with his shot this season, but is a proven defender with valuable postseason experience, playing in the last five playoffs with OKC.

  • 6
    6Houston Rockets
    last week: 5
    record: 54-26 (1-2)
    We’ve gone hoarse raving about James Harden this season (and you’re already plenty familiar with Dwight Howard), but Houston GM Daryl Morey deserves credit for his less heralded moves as well. The Rockets revamped their bench in the middle of the season, catching Josh Smith after he was dropped out of the sky, stealing Corey Brewer from the Wolves and landing Pablo Prigioni at the deadline. All three have been key contributors and will be memebers of Kevin McHale’s slimmed-down postseason rotation.

  • 7
    7Memphis Grizzlies
    last week: 8
    record: 54-26 (2-1)
    The Grizzlies are literally limping into the playoffs with Mike Conley out with a foot injury and Marc Gasol leaving Saturday’s game with an ankle injury. Memphis would love to end up as the No. 2 seed and secure a first-round matchup with Dallas, which it is 3-1 against this season.

  • 8
    8Portland Trail Blazers
    last week: 7
    record: 51-29 (1-3)
    C.J. McCollum might be one of the biggest X-factors entering the playoffs. Portland has a void to fill after losing its third-leading scorer (Wes Matthews) for the season, and with Arron Afflalo now sidelined as well, McCollum has stepped up for Portland. The second-year guard is averaging 17.3 points on 55.8 FG% and 44 3P% this month after being sparsely used all season. McCollum has played at least 25 minutes in six straight games after reaching that mark just three times before all year.

  • 9
    9Chicago Bulls
    last week: 9
    record: 48-32 (2-1)
    The return of Derrick Rose gives the Bulls a reason for optimism heading into the playoffs. Chicago has gone just 11-10 since March 1 and seen its offense bounce back and forth between passable and putrid. But with Rose back in the mix—and Aaron Brooks back in a more appropriate role on the bench—the Bulls can return to their elite form. Chicago is 16-5 when it has its full starting lineup.

  • 10
    10Dallas Mavericks
    last week: 11
    record: 49-31 (3-0)
    I’m hesitant to like the postseason chances of any team that features Raymond Felton, Richard Jefferson and Charlie Villanueva in their playoff rotation, but Dallas continues to get production from the veteran trio. Chandler Parsons has missed four straight games, leading to more playing time for the vets. Rick Carlisle says he's confident Parsons will be ready for the playoffs, but it appears he's confident in his second-unit if forced to turn there.

  • 11
    11New Orleans Pelicans
    last week: 12
    record: 43-37 (2-2)
    The door is wide open for Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. With two very winnable games remaining—at Minnesota and hosting San Antonio in the regular-season finale (a prime opportunity for DNP-POP)—all New Orleans has to do is remain tied with the Thunder or do better to make the postseason.

  • 12
    12Washington Wizards
    last week: 13
    record: 46-34 (2-1)
    Washington topped 45 wins for the first time since 1978-79, but it’ll have a tough time getting out of the first round. The Wizards will face either the Raptors or Bulls, both of whom present challenges, as the lower seed in the opening series. Washington is 0-3 against Toronto and split its season series with Chicago, while giving up the most points to Derrick Rose (25.3) of any Eastern Conference team.

  • 13
    13Toronto Raptors
    last week: 14
    record: 48-32 (3-0)
    DeMar DeRozan is averaging 24.3 points per game since March 1, a huge spike from the 16.7 he was averaging before the All-Star break. Toronto’s offense has been among the best in the league all season, but it’ll need second-half DeRozan in order to make noise in the playoffs and get out of the first round for the first since 2000-01.

  • 14
    14Oklahoma City Thunder
    last week: 10
    record: 43-37 (1-2)
    Oklahoma City has been run through the gauntlet this season, but it almost endured its fatal blow Sunday. The Thunder suffered their fifth loss in six games and nearly lost Russell Westbrook, whose 16th technical foul was rescinded, in the process. With their season on the line, OKC will have to win Monday against Portland. Luckily for the Thunder, it'll have Westbrook on hand. 

  • 15
    15Utah Jazz
    last week: 15
    record: 37-43 (2-1)
    A list of playoff teams that have a worse record than the Jazz since the All-Star break: Hawks, Pelicans, Grizzlies, Blazers, Bulls, Mavericks, Wizards, Raptors, Celtics, Nets and Bucks.

  • 16
    16Boston Celtics
    last week: 19
    record: 38-42 (3-0)
    Isaiah Thomas may steal the Sixth Man of the Year award. In 20 games, Thomas has averaged 19.4 points per game for the Celtics and led them to a 13-7 record. He averaged a respectable 15.2 points in 46 games with the Suns, but he’s been a transformative talent since coming to Boston.

  • 17
    17Milwaukee Bucks
    last week: 18
    record: 40-40 (2-1)
    As if shattering expectations in his first season in Milwaukee wasn’t enough, Jason Kidd seized sweet revenge against his former team Sunday. The Bucks beat the Nets to clinch the No. 6 seed, win the season series 3-1 and deal a blow to Brooklyn's playoff hopes in the process. 

  • 18
    18Indiana Pacers
    last week: 20
    record: 37-43 (3-0)
    Indiana would lose tiebreakers to Brooklyn and Boston, meaning it has to make the playoffs outright to play in the postseason. With Paul George on the court, the Pacers are likely the most feared opponent of the three and are peaking at the right time of the year, winning five straight.

  • 19
    19Brooklyn Nets
    last week: 17
    record: 37-43 (2-2)
    The decline of Deron Williams has been sudden—he’s shooting a career-low 39% this season—but Joe Johnson’s fall has been slow and steady. Johnson is averaging his fewest points (14.5) in 12 seasons and has seen his scoring average decline in each of the last four seasons (18.8 to 16.3 to 15.8 to 14.4). Did I mention these guys earned more than $40 million combined this season?

  • 20
    20Phoenix Suns
    last week: 16
    record: 39-42 (0-4)
    The Suns have set quickly this season, losing nine of their last 10 and officially being eliminated from playoff contention Wednesday. Phoenix never quite recovered from its midseason blockbusters—trading away Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas, acquiring Brandon Knight—taking a step back from its first-half start and playing for the future rather than the present.

  • 21
    21Miami Heat
    last week: 22
    record: 35-45 (1-2)
    Dwyane Wade is right when he says the Heat “ have nothing to be ashamed of” for the their efforts this season. After losing LeBron James, the Heat did their best to replace him, signing Luol Deng, re-discovering Hassan Whiteside and trading for Goran Dragic. Unfortunately, injuries crippled the team’s chances from start to finish, leaving a proud but helpless bunch to fight.

  • 22
    22Detroit Pistons
    last week: 23
    record: 31-49 (1-2)
    Andre Drummond may realize that his days alongside Greg Monroe are numbered. In an interview with last week, Drummond noted the most successful NBA teams are the one’s who space the floor. “Look at us, when Greg got hurt and we were able to try something different and put (Anthony) Tolliver in there. It spaced the floor and really freed me up and got our shooters more open looks.”

  • 23
    23Denver Nuggets
    last week: 24
    record: 30-50 (2-1)
    Injuries have robbed Danilo Gallinari of a lot of games over the last four seasons, but occasionally he shows flashes of the potential that made him the centerpiece of Denver’s Carmelo Anthony return. Gallo topped 40 points for the second time in a month with a career-high 47 against the Mavericks.

  • 24
    24Charlotte Hornets
    last week: 21
    record: 33-47 (0-4)
    It’s hard to imagine Lance Stephenson coming back to Charlotte next year after such a tumultuous season. Barring an unexpected return from a toe injury, Stephenson will end the season averaging 8.2 points on 37.6% shooting from the field and 17.1% from three-point range. The Hornets management will have its hands full finding a taker.

  • 25
    25Orlando Magic
    last week: 25
    record: 25-55 (1-2)
    It went unnoticed in the anonymity of Orlando, but Nikola Vucevic had a monster season worthy of much more praise than it's received. Vucevic is averaging 19.4 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 52.2% from the field and boasting a PER of 21.6. All of those are career highs and few NBA players can match them. DeMarcus Cousins is the only other player averaging at least 19 and 11 and trails the Magic center in FG% (46.7).

  • 26
    26Sacramento Kings
    last week: 26
    record: 27-53 (1-3)
    With Vlade Divac reportedly taking over basketball operations, your guess is as good as mine as to where the Kings are headed. Vivek Ranadive’s short tenure as team owner has been entertaining, but not successful. With DeMarcus Cousins entrenched as the franchise cornerstone, it’s time for the rest of the puzzle to start to come together in Sacramento. Divac is a strange way to start.

  • 27
    27Los Angeles Lakers
    last week: 27
    record: 21-59 (1-3)
    Tyson Chandler, after beating the Lakers on Sunday and handing them their franchise-worst 59th loss, “Uh, the Lakers aren’t having the best of seasons.” Chandler would go on to note that he thinks James Harden is growing out his beard and that LeBron James is above-average at basketball.

  • 28
    28Philadelphia 76ers
    last week: 29
    record: 18-62 (0-2)
    The 76ers can end their season on a fitting low note—an even 10-game losing streak—if they can lose to Milwaukee and Miami to wrap up the regular season. Something tells me I think they have it in them.

  • 29
    29Minnesota Timberwolves
    last week: 28
    record: 16-64 (0-4)
    Pretty much everything went wrong in Minnesota this season with the exception of Andrew Wiggins. As's Ben Golliver wrote last week, it’s up to Flip Saunders to make sure Minnesota doesn’t continue the same existence into next year and beyond.

  • 30
    30New York Knicks
    last week: 30
    record: 16-64 (1-2)
    Mercifully, this is all over on Wednesday.

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