Apr 23, 2012, 4:02 PM EST
This is it, our final power rankings of the season. Usually I’d have them ranked in the order I would rank championship contenders, but this year any of the top four could win a chip and I wouldn’t be surprised. Hard to rank teams at the end of the season with everyone coasting and resting guys — and at the bottom of the rankings outright tanking. But here is a final rundown.
1. Spurs (47-16, last week ranked number 3). If they are the top seed in the West they could get through to the finals without having to play Memphis or the Lakers — two big challenges because of their front line size. Manu Ginobili is the key for this team.
2. Heat (46-18, LW 4). They need to get the big three healthy, but to me that’s not the real heart of the matter. If they get good production from their role players — Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier — they will get a ring. But if, like last year and large parts of the second half of this season, it is the big three against the world they will fall short again.
3. Bulls (48-16, LW 1). They need to get Derrick Rose back and fully integrated, fortunately getting the struggling Sixers in the first round gives them more time to do just that.
4. Thunder (46-18, LW 2). They need to get James Harden back, but Sunday’s loss to the Lakers was the latest in a string of losses to playoff teams. They need to get right during the first round because the Lakers will not be an easy out in the second.
5. Pacers (41-23, LW 6). Everyone is sleeping on the Pacers, but with George Hill at the point they are a very good team. They win the playoff lottery and get Orlando in the first round, but watch how hard they push the Heat in the second round.
6. Celtics (37-27, LW 5). They have put a lot of confidence in their veteran core — they are resting key guys rather than going after home court. On one hand it makes sense, do you think Kevin Garnett cares where they game is? But Boston is 22-9 at home this season and 15-18 on the road, and they have not been a great road team in recent playoffs. Doc Rivers has taken a risk.
7. Grizzlies (39-25, LW 9). The Spurs and the Thunder are the two best teams in the West this season, but are the Grizzlies the third best entering the playoffs? Maybe. They are going to be a tough out for anyone they face. It looks like Grizzlies/Clippers in the first round and that is going to be the best first round series in either conference.
8. Lakers (41-24, LW 7). Maybe the hardest team to predict entering the playoffs — when focused on defense and running the offense inside out through Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol they can beat anybody. But they are just as likely to get away from what works for them, play hero ball and lose to anyone. Can Matt Barnes fill in well enough for Metta World Peace?
9. Clippers (40-24 LW 8). The Clippers have talked a lot recently about standing their ground and defending Blake Griffin. They are very likely getting Memphis in the first round. They better be ready because that is going to be a black-and-blue series.
10. Hawks (38-26, LW 10). No Al Horford for the playoffs. With him I thought they had a real chance to beat the Celtics in the first round, but without him that is a hard slog.
11. Knicks (34-30, LW 12). The Knicks play defense and have developed into a pretty good team that can defend and put points on the board. The problem is they did it so late in the season they get the Heat in the first round. Ticket prices for this series will be through the roof, but the Heat talent will overwhelm.
12. Nuggets (35-28, LW 13). JaVale McGee in the playoffs. This should be fun.
13. Mavericks (36-29, LW 11). They still have Dirk Nowitzki, they have been playing their best basketball of late, but nobody thinks they are a threat and may not even get out of the first round. Hey, didn’t people think that last year, too.
14. Jazz (34-30, LW 17). Huge game Tuesday night against the Suns. If the Jazz get into the playoffs, Tyron Corbin and Paul Millsap deserve huge kudos.
15. 76ers (33-30, LW 15). Do you think they could win even a game against the Bulls or Heat in the first round the way they are playing right now?
16. Suns (33-31, LW 16). Much like the Jazz, just being in the playoff conversation is a win for this team. Steve Nash deserves all the credit he gets, but don’t overlook Marcin Gortat’s contribution.
17. Magic (36-28, LW 18). They are 3-7 without Dwight Howard. They will be 0-4 against the Pacers in the first round.
18. Rockets (33-31, LW 14). For the third straight year they will have a better than .500 record and miss the playoffs. That stings.
19. Bucks (30-33, LW 19). They actually have a slim chance to still make the playoffs, but when you need things like the Nets to win you are hoping against hope.
20. Pistons (24-40, LW 21). Greg Monroe had a good season but he clearly was worn down in the end. There are some pieces to build on here.
21. Blazers (28-36, LW 20). Losers of five straight. They have LaMarcus Aldridge, what they need is a team president and GM to set a direction for the franchise and for the owner to stay out of the new hire’s way.
22. Raptors (22-42, LW 22). They get Jonas Valanciunas next season plus whoever they get in this draft. With DeMar DeRozan there is something to build on. Especially if Andrea Bargnani can stay healthy.
24. Hornets (20-44, LW 25). New stable ownership, now we can see what Dell Demps and Monty Williams can really do.
25. Nets (22-42, LW 24). No team may have a wilder offseason. They could enter Brooklyn with a complete rebuilding project, or they could enter with Dwight Howard and Deron Williams. I kind of think the former is more likely.
26. Cavaliers (21-42, LW 28). Kyrie Irving comes back and the Cavs get a win, no coincidence there. They have their point guard of the future, just four other positions to fill out now.
27. Wizards (17-46, LW 29). A three game win streak… don’t start printing playoff tickets, but when Nene is in the lineup this team plays pretty good defense and can compete a little. Lots of work to do to change the culture, but they made some good first steps.
28. Warriors (23-41, LW 26). If you want to talk about outright tanking… then they go and win a game on Sunday night. They are all about the ankles of Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry being right next season.
30. Bobcats (7-55, LW 30). Worst. Team. Ever. (That could be official by Thursday if they don’t win any more games.)
Nov 20, 2014, 9:15 PM EST
This one isn’t really worth punishing.
Nov 20, 2014, 8:15 PM EST
Adam Silver’s support for legalized sports betting is making him unpopular in some circles.
Nov 20, 2014, 7:30 PM EST
The virus has affected almost half of Memphis’ roster.
Nov 20, 2014, 6:45 PM EST
Love is averaging 16.7 points per game in his first year with the Cavs.
Nov 20, 2014, 6:00 PM EST
NBPA director Michele Roberts calls the suspension “excessive.”
Nov 20, 2014, 5:15 PM EST
Rose could be out longer.
Nov 20, 2014, 4:30 PM EST
17 is far too low.
Nov 20, 2014, 3:40 PM EST
Rockets star has taken plenty of verbal abuse lately from opposing players
Nov 20, 2014, 3:07 PM EST
Not pictured: Milwaukee celebrating win over Nets
Nov 20, 2014, 2:33 PM EST
Craftiness from the Lakers star
Nov 20, 2014, 1:55 PM EST
Cavaliers center gives Kawhi Leonard a hard time
Players union, after Jason Kidd’s negotiations, looking into agents representing coaches and players
Nov 20, 2014, 1:21 PM EST
Current National Basketball Players Association rule forbids agents from representing players and coaches
Nov 20, 2014, 12:33 PM EST
Both teams reportedly interested in Timberwolves small forward
Nov 20, 2014, 11:55 AM EST
Philadelphia players make Wroten spokesman for responding to Suns guard
Nov 20, 2014, 11:20 AM EST
Clippers coach: ‘He’s probably the best player in the league that nobody knows’
Alex Len, No. 5 pick in a draft full of players who looked like busts as rookies, showing he doesn’t deserve the label
Nov 20, 2014, 10:16 AM EST
Suns center impressing in second season
Nov 20, 2014, 9:30 AM EST
Lebron says it’s more difficult than even winning a championship
Nov 20, 2014, 9:00 AM EST
Corey Brewer throws pass just low enough to avoid a turnover, high enough to make Muhammad look good
Nov 20, 2014, 8:30 AM EST
And Seraphin gets called for the foul.
Nov 20, 2014, 8:00 AM EST
The two had words in the second quarter.
- PBT Extra: How would the NBA benefit from legalized sports betting? 2
- NBPA ready to appeal Jeffery Taylor’s 24-game suspension 7
- Alex Len, No. 5 pick in a draft full of players who looked like busts as rookies, showing he doesn’t deserve the label 4
- PBT’s Wednesday night NBA Winners/Losers: Video of LeBron’s fumble, other tight finishes 14
- LeBron James, with chance to beat Spurs, loses ball to end game (video) 39
- NBA suspends Hornets’ Jeff Taylor for 24 games following guilty plea for domestic violence 7
- PBT Extra: Is Dwight Howard NBA’s newest villain? 31
- Report: Bradley Beal to make season debut Wednesday for Wizards 5