Welcome to Week 23 of the The Crossover’s NBA Power Rankings. We have another shakeup at the top this week, thanks to yet another crazy win streak in the West. Other familiar faces are also climbing the ladder, with the Spurs and Thunder coming on strong in recent games. Elsewhere, the Heat, Nuggets, and Bucks continue to frustrate, while the middle tier of the East is nearly impossible to separate.
The playoff races are far from settled on Each Coast, with seeding changing with seemingly every game. A win on the right night could give you homecourt, while an ill-timed loss could have you on the outside looking in. I’m finding the parity exciting because there’s meaningful basketball on every day, though it’s easy to question if any of this will matter once the postseason actually begins. Let’s move on from the existential questions, though, and see how each team stacks up headed into Week 23 of the season.
30. Phoenix Suns (19–52)
Last Week: 29
29. Atlanta Hawks (20–50)
Last Week: 26
28. Dallas Mavericks (22–48)
Last Week: 24
27. Orlando Magic (21–49)
Last Week: 27
26. Chicago Bulls (24–45)
Last Week: 22
25. New York Knicks (25–45)
Last Week: 29
24. Memphis Grizzlies (19–50)
Last Week: 30
23. Brooklyn Nets (22–48)
Last Week: 25
22. Sacramento Kings (23–48)
Last Week: 23
The Kings are 5–5 in their last 10 games, which is bad for their lottery hopes. The Grizzlies earned a much-needed win last week when they knocked off the Denver Nuggets—it was the kind of victory that shows Memphis still has pride but will continue to lose enough to ensure a solid chance at the No. 1 pick. Otherwise, things are as depressing here as usual. EnesKanter made some noise when he said the Knicks aren’t tanking. And he’s kind of right! Players are obviously not trying to lose games. The Knicks just aren’t in a position to win very much with the players they have on the court.
Of course, with the NCAA Tournament taking place last weekend, I had a chance to scout some players for the NBA’s bottom feeders. I still know absolutely nothing about the draft, I only know one of these teams needs to select K.J. Maura from UMBC.
21. Detroit Pistons (30–39)
Last Week: 20
Detroit has lost three in a row. I wrote late last week why the Blake Griffin experiment hasn’t been working out.
20. Charlotte Hornets (30–40)
Last Week: 21
The Hornets had the indignity of losing to the Knicks last week but also notched a road win in Atlanta. Charlotte got some more bad news Sunday night when NicBatum was diagnosed with tendinitis in his Achilles.
19. Los Angeles Lakers (31–38)
Last Week: 16
The Lakers are coming back down to earth a bit after their hot stretch in February and early March, with an injury to Brandon Ingram not helping matters. Last week, Andrew Sharp pondered how much of L.A.’s current success will carry over into next season.
18. Denver Nuggets (38–32)
Last Week: 12
Ugly, ugly loss for Denver against Memphis last week. The Nuggets are sliding precipitously in these rankings, thanks to defeats to the Grizzlies, Mavericks and Lakers in the last two weeks. You just can’t afford those kinds of losses during a playoff push. A knee injury to Gary Harris—expected to miss three or four games—could be the death knell of Denver’s postseason hopes.
17. Los Angeles Clippers (37–32)
Last Week: 8
As we predicted in the Week 22 rankings, the Clips’ schedule seems to be catching up to them. L.A. lost to Houston, OKC and Portland last week, and there will be few reprieves over the final few weeks of the season. Avery Bradley missing the rest of the season after sports hernia surgery certainly won’t help.
16. Miami Heat (37–33)
Last Week: 9
The Heat are perhaps the most volatile team in these rankings, thanks to their inconsistent nature throughout the season. Miami followed up its most inspiring stretch of the season with a deflating 1–2 road trip last week, which included its second loss of the season to the Kings. The Heat also just barely eked out a win over the Lakers to avoid going 0–3. I can’t imagine this team will move higher than eighth in the East.
15. Milwaukee Bucks (37–32)
Last Week: 19
Also not a lot of inspiring basketball being played by Milwaukee, who lost to the lowly Magic last week. The Bucks’ last three wins have all come against shameless tankers. The Malcolm Brogdon injury is really hurting Milwaukee, whose depth at guard is shallow.
14. Minnesota Timberwolves (40–31)
Last Week: 13
Tough losses back-to-back for the Wolves to finish last week after an impressive road win in Washington. Minny remains in good playoff standing thanks to Denver’s slide however, and the Wolves will play four of the league’s worst teams in their next six games.
On another note, I’m not sure how upset Andrew Wiggins actually is about being the third option here, but the Wolves would almost certainly be better right now with a Danny Green-type taking Wiggins’s minutes on the wing alongside Jimmy Butler and Karl Towns. I’m fascinated to see how this team deals with this situation moving forward.
13. Philadelphia 76ers (38–30)
Last Week: 11
Philly continues to lurk as a sleeping giant in the East. The 76ers are only 1 1/2 games behind the Cavs for third place, and they have the third-best net rating in the conference.
12. Cleveland Cavaliers (40–29)
Last Week: 17
The Cavs got through their six-game road trip with a 3–3 record, which is honestly a win for this team. It’s so hard to properly rank the Cavs, but this week Cleveland is No. 12 almost entirely on the strength of LeBron’s dunk on JusufNurkic.
11. New Orleans Pelicans (40–30)
Last Week: 14
Big win against the Celtics on Sunday night for the Pelicans, who had lost four of five headed into the matchup. New Orleans’s latest starting lineup of Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, EmekaOkafor and Rajon Rondo has a net rating of 12.5, which is the best of their five most-used lineups of the season. That same lineup with Boogie Cousins in place of Okafor had a negative-2.9 net rating in 408 minutes together.
10. Indiana Pacers (40–30)
Last Week: 5
The Pacers closed out last week with back-to-back losses after a nice win In Philadelphia. Indy is in a tight battle with the Wizards and Sixers for homecourt in the first round, and whoever comes out ahead there could be the difference in a first-round playoff series.
9. Washington Wizards (40–30)
Last Week: 15
The Wizards rebounded from losses to Miami and Minnesota with a bonkers double-OT win over Boston and an important victory at home against the Pacers. How John Wall—who is inching closer to his return—fits back in here is going to be an interesting subplot moving forward.
8. San Antonio Spurs (40–30)
Last Week: 18
Three straight wins for the Spurs, who need every win in the bank with an upcoming stretch of six straight games against playoff teams. Still no Kawhi Leonard here, and it’s fair to wonder if he’ll even come back this season.
7. Boston Celtics (47–23)
Last Week: 6
Injuries are decimating this team, which can now only hope to have everyone (except Gordon Hayward) healthy for the playoffs. (Oh, and Marcus Smart may not return until late in the first or early in the second round.) Former Celtics are making more news than the current ones these days, with Rajon Rondo trashing Ray Allen’s book, and Glen Davis making a bizarre video to defend himself in light of a recent arrest.
6. Utah Jazz (40–30)
Last Week: 7
Another long win streak for the Jazz, who’ve won nine in a row to vault themselves into fifth-place in the West. Utah is only two games behind the Thunder for fourth and homecourt in the first round. This is a truly remarkable story—the Jazz have a real chance of making it just as far in the playoffs as they did with Gordon Hayward last year.
5. Golden State Warriors (53–17)
Last Week: 4
Injuries have led to some pretty hilarious lineups here lately, and will also probably keep the Warriors from catching Houston for the No. 1 seed. Golden State is still the prohibitive favorite in the West, but—and it’s a huge but—on some level you have to wonder if the recent swath of injuries are connected to the Dubs’ three consecutive long playoff runs.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (43–29)
Last Week: 10
The Thunder leap six spots in the rankings this week. OKC has won six in a row, including an impressive victory over the Raptors in Toronto on Sunday. When Russell Westbrook is as committed to getting to the paint as he was in that game, the Thunder look so much better. Russ’s chemistry with Steven Adams is as good as any pick-and-roll pairing’s in the league. Meanwhile, the Corey Brewer signing may have saved this team’s season.
3. Toronto Raptors (52–18)
Last Week: 1
For all the talk about Toronto’s depth and if it will be as important come playoff time, people may be overlooking how good the Raptors’ starters have been. Toronto’s starting five of DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas and OG Anunoby has the fourth-best net rating in the league among lineups that have played at least 300 minutes.
2. Houston Rockets (56–14)
Last Week: 2
The Rockets have shrugged off their loss in Toronto two Fridays ago to win five straight, the last four of which have come against teams fighting for a playoff spot in the West. Houston is a ruthless machine at this point, and four of their next six games are against lottery squads, meaning the Rockets have the inside track at finishing first in the West.
1. Portland Trail Blazers (44–26)
Last Week: 3
The Blazers have won 13 straight, so I can’t keep them out of the top spot any longer. I’m curious what long-term effects this streak (and this season) will have on Portland, but for now PDX fans should certainly enjoy the ride. The streak will certainly be tested this week, with games against the Rockets, Celtics and Thunder on deck. Portland could make a statement to the rest of the league if it comes out of that stretch unscathed.