- No team in the NBA is hotter than the 76ers. Can they keep the streak going, even with Joel Embiid set to spend time sidelined with injury?
It’s Week 25 of the NBA season, which also happens to be the last full week of the regular season. That’s right, the playoffs are less than two weeks away, and in 10 days we’ll know which teams will be in the postseason and which teams can get an early start on their summer.
There’s not a ton of movement in the rankings this week, and it’s only getting harder to separate squads thanks to logjams in both conferences. If you need a quick snapshot: The Pelicans are in trouble, the Celtics, Sixers and Pacers are hot, and the bottom three teams in the East’s playoff bracket are driving everybody insane.
Here’s how the entire NBA stacks up headed into the actual, honest-to-god homestretch.
30. Phoenix Suns (19–59)
Last Week: 30
29. Sacramento Kings (25–53)
Last Week: 24
28. Orlando Magic (22–54)
Last Week: 23
27. Dallas Mavericks (23–54)
Last Week: 29
26. New York Knicks (27–50)
Last Week: 22
25. Memphis Grizzlies (21–56)
Last Week: 28
24. Atlanta Hawks (22–55)
Last Week: 25
23. Brooklyn Nets (25–52)
Last Week: 26
22. Chicago Bulls (26–51)
Last Week: 27
The Bulls and Grizzlies have played a little spoiler down the stretch, but otherwise not much is happening here. The Suns have lost 15 in a row. Frank Vogel kept his beard for an entire season. And the Nets would be better than the 2016 Warriors if they played the Heat every game. It is exciting to hear Dirk Nowitzki wants to return for a 21st season with the Mavericks. Maybe the organization will do him the favor of putting a competitive team on the court.
21. Charlotte Hornets (34–44)
Last Week: 19
The Hornets have struggled with Frank Kaminsky on the court this season, performing five points per 100 possessions better without the former Wisconsin star. With substantial money committed to Dwight Howard and Cody Zeller in Charlotte, I’m curious if someone will try to swoop in and steal Frank this summer and see if he can take his career to another level elsewhere. The Hornets may have to start parting with prospects to clear their loaded cap sheet.
20. Los Angeles Lakers (33–43)
Last Week: 20
The Lakers are a lot less fun to watch when both Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram are missing from action. L.A. doesn’t really have anything to play for over the season’s last 10 days, and they aren’t really sneaking up on anyone at this point. The next time this team will be interesting is late June.
19. Detroit Pistons (37–40)
Last Week: 21
The good news? The Pistons have won five in a row. The bad news? The last three of those wins have come without Blake Griffin, perhaps suggesting Detroit’s two-big experiment with Griffin and Andre Drummond isn’t quite going to work. Griffin is probably best suited to play center at this point in his career, raising some serious questions about how Detroit should move forward with its roster.
18. Los Angeles Clippers (41–36)
Last Week: 15
The Clips are just barely hanging on in the West playoff race, though their chances are dwindling. L.A. is still good for a nightly highlight, however, thanks to the pregame dance routine of Boban Maranjovic, DeAndre Jordan and Tobias Harris.
17. New Orleans Pelicans (43–34)
Last Week: 12
New Orleans has lost four in a row, and the Boogie Cousins injury may finally be catching up to the Pelicans. Anthony Davis and Co. will have a chance to make up some ground this week, though—New Orleans will face the Suns, Grizzlies and wounded Warriors over the next six days.
T-16. Washington Wizards (42–35)
Last Week: 18
T-16. Milwaukee Bucks (41–36)
Last Week: 17
T-16. Miami Heat (41–36)
Last Week: 16
I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired about these three teams. The Heat, Bucks and Wizards are basically the same at this point. Each of them trade flashes of competence—brilliance, even—with maddening losses to terrible teams. Saturday, the Heat lost to the Nets for the third time this year. The Wizards lost to the Bulls and Pistons last week. And the Bucks hilariously blew a huge lead to Denver on Sunday, somehow losing a game they led by eight with less than a minute to go.
John Wall is back in action in D.C., though it looks like it will take him a few games to get re-acclimated. The Heat are playing substantially better without Hassan Whiteside these days, but the mercurial big is now openly complaining about his minutes. Meanwhile, the Bucks still turn into a glorified G-League unit every time Giannis sits on the bench.
Only a game separates these teams in the standings, as they battle to make up the order of the last three playoff spots in the East. Don’t waste your time looking at the upcoming schedules for these squads, because they can lose to even the worst of opponents. However the Heat, Wiz and Bucks end up finishing in the standings, I’ll just be glad when it’s over.
13. Denver Nuggets (42–35)
Last Week: 14
Denver finally finished its hellish seven-game road trip last week and will play three of its last five at home. Jamal Murray practically saved the Nuggets’ season Sunday night with his amazing effort in the epic comeback win over Milwaukee. I still think the future is bright here, and Mike Malone deserves another year with this group even if they don’t make the playoffs. Denver’s last five games are going to be tough, and the Gary Harris injury will increase the degree of difficulty. At the very least, I’m sure the Nugs will find a way to keep things interesting.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves (44–34)
Last Week: 13
Here’s how March went for the Wolves: L3, W2, L2, W2, L2, W2, and then a loss to start April. Jimmy Butler has been cleared for contact, but it’s still uncertain when he will return to the lineup. Minny has clearly been streaky without its star player. With two games left against a desperate Nuggets team—who trail the Wolves by 1 1/2 games—expect a furious finish to the season here.
11. Oklahoma City Thunder (45–33)
Last Week: 7
The Thunder have looked a little shaky over the last week, but their last three losses were by a combined eight points. With a fairly soft closing schedule, OKC shouldn’t really be in panic mode. If anything, a drop to the seventh seed—and a first-round matchup with the Steph-less Warriors—could be fortuitous for the Thunder.
10. Utah Jazz (44–33)
Ricky Rubio scored 23 points (with five threes!) in a revenge game against the Wolves on Sunday. The Jazz’s defense will give any opponent trouble in the playoffs. A lottery pick would have been nice, but I’m excited to see what Donovan Mitchell can do come the postseason, and what impact that experience will have on his promising career.
9. Golden State Warriors (56–21)
Last Week: 11
The cavalry is coming. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson were both in action Sunday as the Dubs dispatched the Suns to win their second straight. Of course, all that matters for this team is winning a championship, and those hopes rest of Steph Curry’s knee. My colleagues Ben Golliver and Andrew Sharp had a really interesting discussion about that injury and its fallout on the Open Floor podcast. (Don’t worry, my editors transcribed it for you.)
8. San Antonio Spurs (45–32)
Last Week: 8
Another week, another bit of Kawhi drama overshadowing San Antonio’s surge back into the top half of the West. Gregg Popovich saying Leonard’s return depends on when Kawhi and “his group” feel he’s ready was pretty ominous. This is one of the strangest plotlines involving a superstar of Kawhi’s caliber for as long as I can remember. Will the Spurs just forget all of this if Leonard returns healthy next season? Does San Antonio still want him long-term? Whatever the case is for the future, I’m ready to bet Leonard won’t have much of an impact at all this season, be it now or in the playoffs.
7. Toronto Raptors (55–21)
Last Week: 5
Hmmm, the Raptors are looking a little creaky. Toronto has alternated wins and losses since March 16, and the inconsistent play means the Raptors have only a two-game lead for first place in the East. Toronto’s upcoming week is huge, with games against the Cavs, Celtics and Pacers on deck. It wouldn’t be the Raptors if they didn’t inject a bit of uneasiness into their feel-good ride. Losing the one seed could be a significant blow to this team’s psyche, though.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers (47–30)
Last Week: 4
The Cavs have won three in a row, but their next three will come against East playoff teams. Kevin Love has made a huge impact since his return from injury on March 19—Cleveland has an 11.3 net rating with Love on the floor in that time. In 151 minutes together after Love’s return, the Cavs have a 17.9 net rating when Love and LeBron share the floor.
5. Portland Trail Blazers (48–29)
Last Week: 6
Portland has won four of five after a brief two-game losing streak. More importantly, this Jusuf Nurkic tweet is begging to be turned into a hot meme.
4. Indiana Pacers (46–31)
Last Week: 9
Indy has won five in a row and is only one game out of the three seed in the East. And as former Cavs GM David Griffin points out, the Pacers aren’t only beating up on bad teams. Indy has the third-highest winning percentage against playoff teams since the All-Star break.
3. Boston Celtics (53–23)
Last Week: 3
The Celtics are red hot, winners of six in a row despite seemingly a new injury every night. Boston is right on the heels of Toronto for first place in the East, something that seemed wrapped up a week ago. I said it before but I think it bears repeating: Don’t tank yourself into a first-round matchup with this team. The Celtics keep finding ways to win, and they are going to be a pain in the a-- in the playoffs no matter who is on the floor.
2. Philadelphia 76ers (46–30)
Last Week: 2
Now the hottest team in the NBA. The Sixers have won 10 in a row and their last victory came without the services of Joel Embiid. If there’s a silver lining in the Embiid injury, it’s that it was a freak accident that shouldn’t have any long-term issues. If there’s another silver lining, it’s that the injury gives Ben Simmons a chance to exert control over the team and learn how to carry the roster by himself. An Embiid return will be vital for a deep playoff run, but Simmons is much better equipped now than earlier in the season to keep Philly competitive.
1. Houston Rockets (62–15)
Last Week: 1
Homecourt throughout the playoffs—that’s an accomplishment big enough to keep the Rockets at No. 1 in the Power Rankings. Now it’s just a matter of Daryl Morey convincing Mike D’Antoni to rest his key guys as much as possible.