TST’s NBA Power Rankings Week 20

Are the Lakers serious title contenders, can the Clippers catch a break, and are Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets a lock to go to the West Finals?

30. Houston Rockets, 13-47 (Previous Ranking #30)

With the shorthanded Blazers beating them 131-114 on Sunday behind Damian Lillard’s 71 point game, the Rockets have now lost nine games in a row and are still without two of their most important players, Jalen Green (21.8 points per game with a TS% of 53.4) and Kevin Porter Jr. (19.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game with a TS% of 55.1). Green has been out for almost two weeks and Porter Jr. has been out for over six weeks, so there is a lot of pressure on Alperen Sengun (15 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game with a TS% of 60.5) and Jabari Smith Jr. (12 points and 7.1 rebounds per game with a TS% of 49.6) to produce on a nightly basis.

Sengun has been doing everything he can, but Smith Jr. is really having a rookie year to forget. He is only 19 years old, and can still become an NBA star if he becomes more efficient from the field, but he is shooting under 30% from 3PT range, has one of the worst eFG%’s in basketball at 45.5, and is only putting up 12 points a game despite shooting 11 times a game and playing over 30 minutes on average. Nonetheless, the Rockets are in a prime position to select at the top of next year’s NBA Draft.

29. San Antonio Spurs, 14-47 (Previous Ranking #29)

Losers of 16 straight games, the Spurs are another team in full on “tank mode” and have a good chance to select at the top of next year’s NBA Draft. Many NBA fans would be furious if the Spurs were to get the #1 pick, solidifying another top selection that could change the basketball landscape for years to come (previously, David Robinson got hurt and the Spurs tanked in the 1996-1997 season, resulting in the drafting of All-Time Great Tim Duncan, who helped lead them to five championships).

Victor Wenbanyama, the coveted top prospect in this draft, is a generational talent and is one of those few prospects that you can almost guarantee a championship with if you build the right team around him in his career. Nonetheless, there are still some positives for the team this season. As I mentioned a few weeks ago when I said that 19 year old Malaki Branham is a guy to look out for for progression with increased minutes, Branham has done just that averaging 18.1 points with a TS% of 59.1 over his last 10 games. Devin Vassell (19.4 points per game with a 3PT% of 40.4 and a TS% of 56.2) has been hurt for a lot of this season, but he and Branham should be core pieces in the future surrounding whoever they pick in next year’s draft.

28. Detroit Pistons, 15-46 (Previous Ranking #28)

The Pistons have lost seven out of their last eight games, but Jaden Ivey (15.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game with a TS% of 52.8) has taken his play to another level (for the most part) recently, and the young big men, newly acquired James Wiseman (who is coming off of an impressive 10 point, 10 rebound game), Marvin Bagley III (who is coming off of his best game of the year with 21 points and 18 rebounds), and Jalen Duren (8.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game with a TS% of 65.2) have all flourished with the team. Once they get Cade Cunningham back next year, and add another top five pick to the mix, the Pistons are in a good position to be Play-In Tournament contenders as soon as next season.

27. Charlotte Hornets, 19-43 (Previous Ranking #27)

Out of nowhere, the Hornets have won four straight games heading into this week behind multiple LaMelo Ball masterclass performances. Ball is now averaging 23.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 8.5 assists per game with a 3PT% of 36.7 and a TS% of 53.6, and has scored 28+ points in three out of the last four games. Since the trade of fan favorite Mason Plumlee, rookie big man Mark Williams has averaged 11.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game with a TS% of 66.4 over his last five games.

The team also just converted 40th overall pick Bryce McGowens‘ contract to a four year, just over $7 million NBA deal, and he is a guy to look out for in the next couple of seasons. McGowens starred on the NBA Summer League Hornets team with multiple 20+ point performances, and has that rare ability to take over games with three-level scoring. Despite the obvious disappointment this season, there is a lot to look forward to in Charlotte and another top five selection will only further bolster the young core.

26. Indiana Pacers, 27-35 (Previous Ranking #25)

Tyrese Haliburton (19.8 points, 10.2 assists, and 1.7 steals per game with a TS% of 61.3 and an impressive PSA of 124.6, ranked in the 90th percentile for Point Guards) has taken a major leap this season and has established himself as one of the best point guards in the NBA already, and Myles Turner (18.1 points, 8 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game with a 3PT% of 40.2 and a TS% of 65.5) has had the best season of his career. However, the Pacers have only won four out of their last twenty-one games and are positioning themselves to have another top 10 pick in the draft despite a hot start to this season.

25. Orlando Magic, 25-36 (Previous Ranking #26)

The Magic are further along than people think. Their over-under win total in Vegas before the season was 26.5 wins and they’ll shatter that projection. The NBA is just so competitive this year that the Magic are still the fifth-worst team in basketball, despite the obvious progression they have made as a team this season.

Paolo Banchero is the runaway favorite to win Rookie of the Year, but he has been in a serious slump recently, averaging just 15.4 points with an abysmal TS% of 42.4 over his last 10 games. In fact, Banchero’s PSA of 104.7 ranks in the 20th percentile for Forwards and is one of the worst marks in the NBA overall. He is still young, and is well on his way to being a Superstar, but Banchero must fix his efficiency and work on his jumper if he wants to take another leap next season. On the other hand, Markelle Fultz has been a revelation, averaging 16.4 points, 4.8 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game with a TS% of 57.2 in the month of February. Fultz’ continued comeback will be instrumental to the Magic next season, when they will be a full fledged Play-In Tournament contender and a possible playoff team.

24. Washington Wizards, 28-32 (Previous Ranking #24)

Kristaps Porzingis (25.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game with a TS% of 73.3 over his last 10 games) and Bradley Beal (24.1 points, 5.8 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game with a TS% of 59.7 over his last 10 games) have played great recently, but the Wizards just lost two straight games against team’s that are trying to compete for a playoff spot like them.

Delon Wright (7.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game with a TS% of 65.9 over his last 15 games) and Deni Avdija (11.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game with a TS% of 56.9 over his last 15 games) have become valuable role players for the Wizards, allowing them to consistently stay in games. They have a lot of work to do over the final stretch of the season to make the Play-In Tournament, but the goal is certainly in sight.

23. Chicago Bulls, 28-33 (Previous Ranking #23)

The Bulls are an odd basketball team. Before the All-Star break they had lost six straight games and were spiraling down the Eastern Conference standings, but they came out of the break with a vengeance with back-to-back blowout wins over the Nets and Wizards. They beat the Nets 131-87 on Friday then defeated the Wizards 102-82 on Sunday to get to 28-33 on the season and 11th in the Eastern Conference standings. With those two impressive wins, the Bulls’ defensive rating of 112.1 now ranks 5th in the NBA and Patrick Beverley has had an immediate impact on that end of the floor.

Nikola Vucevic (17.8 points and 11.5 rebounds per game with a TS% of 59.2) has been consistently great on the offensive end of the floor, and Zach LaVine (24.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game with a TS% of 59.7) has scored 26+ points in four out of his last five games. Despite the underwhelming year as a whole, I’d be shocked if the Bulls don’t at least pass the Wizards for the 10 seed and make the Play-In Tournament.

22. Oklahoma City Thunder, 28-32 (Previous Ranking #18)

The Thunder have lost four out of their last five games and are now sitting at 13th in the Western Conference standings. Superstar point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (31 points, 5.7 assists, and 1.6 steals per game with a TS% of 62.3 and a PSA of 125.8, ranked in the 95th percentile for Point Guards) has missed the last two games, and without him, the Thunder virtually have no chance at winning basketball games.

Rookie Jalen Williams (12.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game with a TS% of 58) and second-year guard Josh Giddey (16.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game with a TS% of 53.2) have been fantastic this season, and third-year guard Isaiah Joe has become one the best shooters in basketball boasting a 3PT% of 45.3. Still, the Thunder will have a tough time making the Play-In Tournament with teams like the Lakers, Warriors, and Blazers ahead of them.

21. Portland Trail Blazers, 29-31 (Previous Ranking #19)

Damian Lillard (32.3 points and 7.2 assists per game with a TS% of 65.4 and an impressive PSA of 130.2, ranked in the 98th percentile for Point Guards) willed the Trail Blazers to victory against the Rockets on Sunday with 71 points and the team needed just about every one of those points. The shorthanded Rockets (who were already the worst team in the league at full health) did not have two of their best players, Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr., yet they were able to hang in the game until the very end.

Without Anfernee Simons (21.4 points and 4.2 assists per game with a TS% of 58.7), the Blazers don’t have a secondary guard that can alleviate pressure off of Lillard and that is concerning. The Blazers have one of the best offenses in basketball (117.2 offensive rating, ranked 4th), but also have one of the worst defenses in the NBA (defensive rating of 117.4, ranked 27th). Lillard may need to score 40+ points in every single game for the Blazers to have a chance to win, but Dame continues to prove he is up for the challenge.

20. New Orleans Pelicans, 30-31 (Previous Ranking #13)

I was wrong about the Pelicans. I had them ranked 13th in my last Power Rankings because of the underrated addition of Josh Richardson (who has been fantastic on both ends of the floor by the way) and the stellar play of Brandon Ingram (26.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.8 assists with a TS% of 55.7 over his last 10 games).

Both of those guys have been fantastic, but the team got embarrassed by the Lakers before the All-Star break, then came out of the break and lost to the Raptors and Knicks. They really need their star big man Zion Williamson (26 points, 7 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game with a TS% of 65.2, and an impressive PSA of 131.34, ranked in the 79th percentile for Bigs) back as soon as possible, otherwise their season may be effectively over with a chance of not even making the Play-In Tournament.

19. Utah Jazz, 31-31 (Previous Ranking #22)

The Jazz can’t seem to go away. They are still .500 on the season and have the 8 seed in the Western Conference standings. Lauri Markkanen (25.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game with a TS% of 65.8 and a PSA of 132.7, ranked in the 97th percentile for Forwards) has been one of the most efficient high-level scorers in the NBA this season and Walker Kessler (10.3 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game with a TS% of 68.4 over his last 10 games) could finish in the top 3 of ROY voting based on his stellar campaign so far. The Jazz still boast a top 5 offensive rating (116.9, ranked 5th), but with the Lakers, Trail Blazers, Thunder, and Timberwolves all in a race to make the Play-In Tournament, it may prove difficult to withstand their position.

18. Brooklyn Nets, 34-26 (Previous Ranking #16)

The Nets are starting to spiral out of control. They have lost three out of their last four games and lost by 44 points to the 11 seed Bulls on Friday night. Head Coach Jacque Vaughn has done a fine job for the most part, but his rotations are messing with the rhythms of players. Some days, he will throw Cam Thomas out there for 35 minutes and other days he will only play Thomas for 15 minutes. A player of his caliber (he scored 40 points in three straight games before the Nets traded Kevin Durant) should be on the court at least 25+ minutes per game, especially if the team is struggling offensively (which they were in the Bulls game).

Mikal Bridges (22.4 points, 6 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game over the past 5 games) and Cam Johnson (16.2 points and 1.4 steals per game with a TS% of 56.9 over his last 5 games) have been the go-to guys for the Nets on offense and they have been stepping into their new roles very well. Bridges almost had 50 points before the break and Johnson has averaged over 16 points since joining the team. Nonetheless, the Nets don’t have the talent anymore to beat teams left and right, and they’ll have to play fundamentally sound basketball on both ends of the floor to pull out victories. With Vaughn’s constantly changing rotations and players still trying to figure out their roles, the Nets should continue to spiral down the Eastern Conference standings.

17. Toronto Raptors, 30-32 (Previous Ranking #21)

The Raptors have won three out of their last four games, but they lost a tough one against the Cavaliers on Sunday. That game showed how far away the Raptors are from the Eastern Conference’s elite. Now with the addition of Jakob Poeltl (12.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game with a TS% of 63.6), the Raptors are a certified playoff team that can beat team’s that are worse than them, but they still struggle against the top tier teams.

Pascal Siakam (25.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game with a TS% of 56.9) has been on another level this year, but he still isn’t a player that can be the #1 option on a title team. Nothing against him, but very few people can be the #1 option on a championship team. The Raptors will continue to struggle against the Milwaukee’s and Boston’s of the world and it is going to be difficult for this team to pull off an upset if they play an elite team in the playoffs.

16. Minnesota Timberwolves, 30-31 (Previous Ranking #14)

This team rides and dies on Anthony Edwards (24.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.7 steals per game with a TS% of 56.6). When he goes off, the Timberwolves can win against anyone, and when he has an off game like Sunday night against the Warriors when he had just 12 points and went 5-19 from the field, they can lose to anyone on any given night.

Rudy Gobert (13.4 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game with a TS% of 69.7) has been inconsistent and without D’Angelo Russell, they don’t have a secondary scorer who can take pressure off of Edwards and that is killing them. The Wolves also have a very bad offense (offensive rating of 113.4, 23rd in the NBA) and in a series against elite offenses such as the Kings or Nuggets, they will get destroyed. I don’t know if the Wolves can even make it out of the Play-In Tournament.

15. Golden State Warriors, 31-30 (Previous Ranking #15)

Without Stephen Curry (29.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game with a TS% of 66.5 and a PSA of 136.6, the top mark in the NBA at the Point Guard position), the Warriors are at best an average basketball team. Klay Thompson (24.8 points per game with a 3PT% of 43.8 and a TS% of 60.2 over his last 15 games) has been excellent over the last month, but Jordan Poole (18.7 points and 5.2 assists per game with a TS% of 56.4 over his last 15 games) has been so inconsistent recently and they don’t have a reliable 3 and D wing off the bench like they did last year with Otto Porter Jr.. As a result, even if Curry comes back, I don’t see this team winning more than one playoff series, though people have lost a lot of money betting against the greatest shooter ever.

14. Los Angeles Lakers, 29-32 (Previous Ranking #20)

The Lakers have gone 4-1 since the trade deadline and have proven a lot of haters wrong in the process. The Pelicans had won four out of their last five games before coming into town before the All-Star break. The Lakers absolutely pummeled them to go into the break on a high note, and then they returned from the break with a dismantling over the Stephen Curry-less Warriors last Thursday night. However, the most impressive win was their statement win in Dallas against the Mavericks on Sunday. At one point they were down 27 points and this season NBA teams were 0-138 when trailing by 27+ points in a game. Now that number is 1-138 as the Lakers dominated on both ends of the floor in the second half (especially defensively) to silence Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving.

Anthony Davis (25.7 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game with a TS% of 62.9 and a PSA of 126, ranked in the 62nd percentile for Bigs) looked like “Bubble Davis”, confident in his mid range step-back jumper and ability to dominate on both ends of the floor. As I mentioned in previous Power Rankings articles, Jared Vanderbilt was the most important addition for the Lakers at the deadline and he proved that with elite perimeter defense, 15 points, 17 rebounds, and 4 steals in Sunday’s win against the Mavs. Vanderbilt shut down Doncic in the second half, and the Lakers enter Tuesday’s tough matchup on the road against the Grizzlies after their biggest and most invigorating win of the season.

13. Atlanta Hawks, 31-30 (Previous Ranking #17)

The Hawks fired Head Coach Nate McMillan last week, and agreed to a five year deal with his replacement, former Jazz Head Coach Quinn Snyder, on Sunday following their victory over the Nets. Trae Young (27 points and 10.2 assists per game with a TS% of 57.1) and McMillan had butted heads in the past (indicative of reports of Young missing practice and getting into altercations with him in the past), and now Young should feel more loose on the court with Snyder hired.

Snyder led the Jazz to the #1 seed in the Western Conference just two years ago and orchestrated the #1 offense in basketball last season centered around Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. It has been tough to successfully implement an offense with two ball dominant guards in Young and Dejounte Murray (20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game with a TS% of 54.8) at the helm, but Snyder is the perfect guy to figure it out. At 31-30 and 8th in the Eastern Conference, the Hawks expect Snyder and Young to lead them to a playoff run this season.

12. Miami Heat, 32-29 (Previous Ranking #12)

The Heat could have been ranked higher had they beaten the Hornets on Saturday, but they didn’t. In fact, the Heat have lost four straight games and have an abysmal offense (offensive rating of 110.9, ranked 27th in the NBA). Still, they are 7th in the Eastern Conference standings, have an elite defense (defensive rating of 111.4, ranked 4th in the NBA), and the big 3 of Jimmy Butler (21.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 5 assists per game with a TS% of 62.2), Bam Adebayo (21.4 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game with a TS% of 59), and Tyler Herro (20.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game with a TS% of 56) have been great. The Heat have the same problem they have had all year long…depth. Besides Victor Oladipo and Cody Martin , the Heat struggle with depth immensely, so the addition of Kevin Love was needed. Time will tell if Love can make a serious impact, but the ceiling of the Heat right now is the second-round.

11. Dallas Mavericks, 32-30 (Previous Ranking #9)

The duo of Luka Doncic (33.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 8.1 assists per game with a TS% of 61.4 and a PSA of 124.3, ranked in the 90th percentile for Point Guards) and Kyrie Irving (27 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game with a TS% of 60.9 and a PSA of 137.1, ranked in the 99th percentile for Combo Guards) were supposed to be the best duo in basketball, but they have started just 1-3 together with the only win coming against the 14-47 Spurs.

There is still 20+ games to adjust and improve, but there is no excuse for blowing a 27 point lead with two of the best offensive players in the world on your team. The Mavericks boast the seventh-best offensive rating (116.6), but just the 22nd ranked defensive rating (115.8) in the NBA. They play the Pacers, 76ers, and the Suns (probably with Durant by that time) this week and they need to get two wins to get back on track.

10. New York Knicks, 35-27 (Previous Ranking #11)

The Knicks have won five games in a row and are tied with the Nets for the 5 seed in the Eastern Conference standings. Jalen Brunson (23.7 points and 6.2 assists per game with a TS% of 58.7) and Julius Randle (25.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game with a TS% of 58.5) have been taking over games for the Knicks, and Josh Hart (14.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1 steal per game with a TS% of 74.6) has been an excellent addition to the team. If R.J. Barrett (19.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game with a TS% of 53.4) can be more consistent on the offensive end of the floor, this team could be a sleeper to make a run in the playoffs.

9. Sacramento Kings, 35-25 (Previous Ranking #8)

The Kings are stacked offensively. Besides the two stars De’Aaron Fox (25.4 points, 6.3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game with a TS% of 60.3) and Domantas Sabonis (18.7 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 6.9 assists per game with a TS% of 67.1), Malik Monk (14 points per game with a TS% of 58.5) can put up 40+ points when they need him to, indicative of the 45 point explosion in the double-OT win against the Clips on Friday, Kevin Huerter (14.6 points, a 3PT% of 38.7, and a TS% of 60.5) is one of the best shooters in the NBA, and Keegan Murray (11.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, with a 3PT% of 41.7 and a TS% of 60.5 over his last 10 games) has taken his scoring to another level recently.

As a result, the Kings have the best offense in basketball (offensive rating of 118.8, 1st in NBA), which should be able to outweigh their atrocious defensive rating of 116.3 (ranked 25th in the NBA). They can outscore their opponent whenever they want, but because of their abysmal defense, I am not confident the Kings can even make it out of the first round, even with their stellar offense.

8. Phoenix Suns, 33-29 (Previous Ranking #7)

Kevin Durant (29.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game with a TS% of 67.3) has yet to make his Suns debut, but that could come later this week when they play his former teammate Kyrie Irving and the Mavericks. The Suns lost a tough game to the Giannis Antetokounmpo-less Bucks on Sunday, and their lack of depth was absolutely exploited by the Bucks.

Josh Okogie (18.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2 steals per game with a TS% of 67.5 over his last 6 games) and Terrence Ross (10.7 points and 4 rebounds with a TS% of 53.5 in his 3 games with the Suns) are the team’s only reliable bench players, and even when Durant returns from injury, the Suns’ second unit is arguably the worst in the NBA. Not to mention Chris Paul (13.8 points and 8.9 assists per game with a TS% of 54.6) has lost a step offensively and just can’t hit that mid-range shot like he used to. Though their upside is still an NBA title, the depth of the Suns worries me so I can’t confidently say they will come out of the Western Conference.

7. Los Angeles Clippers, 33-30 (Previous Ranking #10)

Some of you guys are probably thinking why are the Clippers ranked ahead of the Kings, who beat them and have been playing better basketball recently? Well, it is because I still think the Clippers are poised for a run in the playoffs despite two tough overtime losses in a row. Kawhi Leonard (23 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4 assists per game with a TS% of 61.6) looks surgical on offense, hitting almost every single mid-range shot, especially late in the game, and Mason Plumlee (11.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game with a TS% of 68.2) has been an immediate spark in the rotation and should play big minutes down the stretch.

Only two things will keep this team from where they want to go: One is Paul George, who has been inefficient from the floor and turning the ball over at a high rate recently, costing the Clips a lot of games, and two is Head Coach Ty Lue, who keeps Robert Covington (the team’s best defender besides Leonard) on the bench the whole game in favor of Marcus Morris (who has been undisputedly the worst player in the NBA that gets a lot of minutes over the last month and a half). Lue also favors Eric Gordon over Terance Mann late in games, and doesn’t give Bones Hyland (who could be an offensive spark for the team) and Norman Powell (the team’s most consistent offensive player) minutes in big situations at times. I get that Lue may be still figuring out his rotations, but they need to start winning some games and they keep losing close contests because of Lue’s awful rotations and lack of in game adjustments.

6. Memphis Grizzlies, 36-23 (Previous Ranking #6)

Ja Morant (27 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 8.1 assists per game with a TS% of 55.4) has been up and down recently, but the Grizzlies are so deep that they are still in a good position. Jaren Jackson Jr. (16.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks per game with a TS% of 60.2) and Desmond Bane (21.3 points, 5 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game with a TS% of 59.9) have picked up the slack on both ends of the floor and the Grizzlies now have the best defense in basketball (109.9 defensive rating, 1st in NBA). Their offensive rating has dipped to 113.8 (ranked 20th in the NBA) because of Morant’s inconsistencies recently, but they have the best defense in the NBA and that should put them in a good position to make a run in a wide-open Western Conference.

5. Philadelphia 76ers, 38-20 (Previous Ranking #4)

The 76ers have looked dominant for most of the season, and it is tough to knock them because of a last second collapse to the best team in the NBA. However, Doc Rivers is still their coach, and Joel Embiid (33.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game with a TS% of 64.1 and a PSA of 128.8, ranked in the 72nd percentile for Bigs) and James Harden (21.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 10.7 assists per game with a TS% of 62.1 and a PSA of 125.7, ranked in the 92nd percentile for Point Guards) haven’t done anything in the past few postseasons to make me confident that anything will change this year in an improved Eastern Conference.

As good as the team looks on paper with Embiid, Harden, Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, De’Anthony Melton, and a top 10 defensive rating (112.4, ranked 7th) and offensive rating (116.2, ranked 8th), I still think Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Boston will beat them in a seven game series. In fact, they’ll be on upset alert even against the Knicks, Hawks, and Raptors in a seven game series.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers, 39-25 (Previous Ranking #5)

The Cavaliers had lost three straight games before stopping the skid on Sunday with an impressive 118-93 victory over the Raptors (who had won four out of their last five games). Evan Mobley (19.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists with a TS% of 60.1 over his last 10 games) has taken his scoring up a notch recently and it has taken pressure off of Donovan Mitchell (27.2 points per game with a TS% of 61.5 and a PSA of 124, ranked in the 87th percentile for Combo Guards) and Darius Garland (21.9 points and 7.9 assists per game with a TS% of 59.9).

Jarrett Allen has also been excellent on both ends of the floor, averaging 18.4 points and 10.9 rebounds with a TS% of 74.8 over his last 10 games. As a result, the Cavaliers have the ninth-best offensive rating of 115.9 and the third-best defensive rating of 110.3 in the NBA. Though the 76ers just beat them and have a better record, I trust the Cavaliers more in a seven game series.

3. Denver Nuggets, 43-19 (Previous Ranking #3)

Nikola Jokic (24.8 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 10 assists per game with a TS% of 70.4, a PER of 32.1 , and a PSA of 142.3, ranked in the 93rd percentile for Bigs) is going to win his third straight MVP award, the first player to accomplish that feat since Larry Bird. In fact, Jokic should win unanimously and he is coming off of a 40+ point triple-double in the OT win vs. the Clippers, and the Nuggets have an offensive rating of 118.1 (ranked 3rd in the NBA). Once the playoffs begin, Jamaal Murray (19.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 6 assists per game with a TS% of 56.3) will take his game to another level so the Nuggets are going to be dangerous in the playoffs.

2. Milwaukee Bucks, 43-17 (Previous Ranking #2)

The Bucks were ranked 2nd in my last Power Rankings article, and all they did was continue to win (win streak is now at 14 games), but I just still think the Celtics are a better basketball team from top to bottom. Nonetheless, it is hard to imagine any other team than Milwaukee or Boston coming out of the Eastern Conference (since they are by far the two best teams in the NBA) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (31.3 points, 12 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game with a TS% of 59.5, and a PSA of 118.7, ranked in the 38th percentile for Bigs) has been spectacular when healthy.

Jrue Holiday (19.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per game with a TS% of 57.6 and a PSA of 114.1, ranked in the 68th percentile for Point Guards) is still one of the best two-way players in the NBA, and Brook Lopez (14.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game with a TS% of 61.4) and Bobby Portis (14.4 points and 10 rebounds per game with a TS% of 57.4) could both be going home with some hardware this season (DPOY and 6MOY respectively).

The Bucks’ bread and butter is their defense (defensive rating of 110.3, 2nd in NBA) and that is how they came up with the big win against the Suns on Sunday even without Antetokounmpo. I want to see a little more consistency from Khris Middleton (who has been injured a lot of the season and is still getting into a rhythm) before I can confidently say this team will beat the Celtics in a seven game series. Until then, they have the second best odds to win it all behind the Celtics.

1. Boston Celtics, 44-17 (Previous Ranking #1)

The Celtics are built to win the championship. Jayson Tatum (30.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game with a TS% of 60.5 and an impressive PSA of 122.5, ranked in the 80th percentile for Forwards) was 6-16 from the field with only 15 points before hitting the game-winning three against the 76ers in Saturday’s win.

The Celtics are so good because even when Tatum is having an off game, Jaylen Brown (26.5 points, 7 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game with a TS% of 58.4 and a PSA of 117.6, ranked in the 67th percentile for Wings) will step up and give the team 25+ points, Marcus Smart (11.2 points, 7 assists, and 1.4 steals per game with a TS% of 54.4) and Robert Williams III (8.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game with a TS% of 74.9) will play lockdown defense, and Malcolm Brogdon (14.7 points and 3.7 assists per game with a 3PT% of 46.5 and a TS% of 62.7), and Derrick White (20.4 points and 5.8 assists per game with a TS% of 63.4 over his last 10 games) will take over on both ends of the floor. The Celtics are the deepest team in the NBA and are easily the favorites to win the NBA title with the second-best offensive rating of 118.2 and the sixth-best defensive rating of 112.1 in basketball.

Note: Advanced Statistics used in this article are gathered from and and are updated as of Monday, February 27th

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x