30. San Antonio Spurs, 16-49 (Previous Ranking #29)
The Spurs are full in their “tank for Wenbanyama” mode, even more so than the Rockets apparently, who they just lost two games in a row too. Now the Spurs are the clear worst team in the association, but there are still some positives. Zach Collins (13.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game with a TS% of 55.3), Jeremy Sochan (15.2 points, 6 rebounds, and 3.1 assists with a TS% of 47), and Malaki Branham (14.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game with a TS% of 56) have proven themselves to be clear pieces in the rebuilding process, and Devin Vassell (19.2 points per game with a TS% of 55.8) came back last week and looked like himself. Either way, the Spurs are already preparing for next year.
29. Houston Rockets, 15-49 (Previous Ranking #30)
The Rockets just beat the Spurs twice in a row, and both Jalen Green (21.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game with a TS% of 53.3) and Kevin Porter Jr. (18.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game with a TS% of 54.8) returned last week to make an immediate impact on offense.
However, the organization will probably want to see more from Rookie Jabari Smith Jr. (11.8 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 block per game with a TS% of 49.6 and a PSA of 99, ranked in just the 3rd percentile for Bigs in the NBA) before the season ends. Smith Jr. has had a rookie season to forget, and is one of the least efficient players in basketball this season. Still, he is just 19 years old and has plenty of time to improve and solidify himself as one of the core pieces of the Rockets moving forward.
28. Detroit Pistons, 15-49 (Previous Ranking #28)
The Pistons have lost 7 games in a row and are preparing to select toward the top of this year’s NBA Draft yet again. Rookies Jaden Ivey (15.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game with a TS% of 52.7 and a PSA of 104.9, ranked in the 25th percentile for Point Guards) and Jalen Duren (8.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game with a TS% of 65.2 and a PSA of 130.8, ranked in the 78th percentile for Bigs) have had impressive years.
Marvin Bagley III (11.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game with a TS% of 58.7) and James Wiseman (7.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game with a TS% of 62.6) have established themselves as pieces to the puzzle for this franchise moving forward. They may have to move on from one of their young talented big men at some point, but another top 5 selection will further bolster this young core and accelerate the rebuild tremendously.
27. Charlotte Hornets, 20-46 (Previous Ranking #27)
The Hornets took a huge blow, losing franchise player LaMelo Ball (23.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 8.4 assists per game with a TS% of 54.1 and a PSA of 109, ranked in the 40th percentile for Point Guards) for the rest of the season with a fractured ankle. This was the third ankle injury Ball suffered this season, previously spraining both of his ankles on separate occasions over the last four months.
Nonetheless, Dennis Smith Jr. (11 points, 5.4 assists, and 3.6 rebounds per game with a TS% of 50 over his last 5 games), Mark Williams (13.4 points and 12.4 rebounds per game with a TS% of 65.7 over his last 5 games), and Terry Rozier (18.8 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds per game with a TS% of 49.6 over his last 5 games) have been the core of this team without Ball, but the Hornets are going to have trouble winning without their star player. Like the rest of the bottom teams, they are preparing for the Draft Lottery.
26. Orlando Magic, 27-38 (Previous Ranking #25)
Paolo Banchero (22.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game with a TS% of 55.4 over his last 5 games) erupted for 31 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists in the Magic’s win against the Hornets on Saturday. He was impressive again on Sunday putting up 26 points yet again in the loss vs the Blazers and now has the Rookie of The Year award locked up.
Markelle Fultz (13.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game with a TS% of 55.8) has had a great comeback season and has established himself as the team’s point guard of the future. Still, even though the Magic have vastly improved this year, they are still a year or two away from competing in a playoff series.
25. Chicago Bulls, 29-36 (Previous Ranking #23)
Zach LaVine (28.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game with a TS% of 65.8 over his last 10 games) has been virtually a one-man team on offense recently, with the exception of a couple DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic elite performances.
The Bulls have lost three out of their last four games and are sitting in 11th place in the Eastern Conference. They still have a great defense (Defensive rating of 112.9, ranked 9th in the NBA), but their 24th ranked offensive rating of 113.1 is very concerning. With the Pacers just beating them and now only a half game behind them, and the Raptors and Wizards both ahead of the Bulls, it’s going to be difficult to get into the Play-In Tournament, even for a group this talented.
24. Indiana Pacers, 29-36 (Previous Ranking #26)
The Pacers went into Chicago and faced a Bulls team that desperately needed to win and they pulled out a huge victory. Tyrese Haliburton hit the game winner in Patrick Beverley‘s face with 2.5 seconds to go and all of a sudden the Pacers are now only 1.5 games back of the 10 seed in the Eastern Conference. Haliburton is now averaging 20.3 points, 10.2 assists, and 1.7 steals per game with a 3PT% of 40.5, a TS% of 61.8, and a PSA of 124.6 (ranked in the 89th percentile for Combo Guards).
Myles Turner (18.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game with a TS% of 65.4 and a PSA of 130.7, ranked in the 77th percentile for Bigs) continues to have the best season of his career, and Buddy Hield (17.3 points per game with a 3PT% of 42.5 and a TS% of 61.4) has been lethal from beyond the arc this season. However, the team still has a lot of work to do with an offensive rating of 113.8 (ranked 20th) and a defensive rating of 116.1 (ranked 23rd in the NBA) before they can be considered a Play-In Tournament team.
23. Portland Trail Blazers, 30-34 (Previous Ranking #21)
Damian Lillard (32.5 points and 7.1 assists per game with a TS% of 65.2 and a PSA of 131.4, ranked in the 95th percentile for Point Guards) has been a man on a mission recently, putting up three 40+ point performances over his last five games, but the team just isn’t good. Even with Anfernee Simons (21.1 points and 4.1 assists per game with a TS% of 58.3 and a PSA of 117.4, ranked in the 72nd percentile for Combo Guards) back, the Trail Blazers are still struggling to close out, even against inferior teams.
They barley beat the Magic on Sunday, and before that lost three straight games by 11+ points each to the Hawks, Pelicans, and Warriors. Their defensive rating of 117.8 is ranked 28th in the NBA and with a schedule this week that includes the Celtics, 76ers, and Pelicans, one can only assume that they could be heading toward missing the Play-In Tournament and playoffs yet again this season.
22. Washington Wizards, 30-34 (Previous Ranking #24)
Delon Wright has been fantastic recently, averaging 12.2 points, 4.8 assists, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.2 steals per game with a TS% of 78.3 over his last 6 games. Wright has been a huge boost for an offense in need (offensive rating of 114.5, 17th in NBA) and the Wizards have won two out of their last four games and are sitting in the 10 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Kristaps Porzingis (24.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks with a TS% of 68.8 over his last 10 games) has been the team’s life-force as they ride and die on his production. He hasn’t been disappointing recently, but it is hard for me to see the Wizards as anything but a Play-In Tournament team at best.
21. Utah Jazz, 31-34 (Previous Ranking #19)
The Jazz are finally coming back to earth, as they have lost three straight games to the Spurs (who just lost to in a row to the Rockets) and Thunder (twice). They still have an impressive offensive rating of 116.3 (ranked 8th in the NBA) and a great young core consisting of Lauri Markkanen (25.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game with a TS% of 65.4 and a PSA of 131.9, ranked in the 97th percentile for Forwards), Walker Kessler (8.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game with a TS% of 69.9), and Colin Sexton (14.3 points and 2.9 assists per game with a TS% of 62).
However, the team is still a few pieces away from competing in the Western Conference and they know they will benefit from another lottery pick in this year’s NBA Draft. As a result, I expect the 10 seeded Jazz to continue to lose and miss the Play-In Tournament.
20. Oklahoma City Thunder, 30-34 (Previous Ranking #22)
Everyone is discussing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (31.1 points, 5.7 assists, and 1.7 steals per game with a TS% of 62.5 and a PSA of 126.1, ranked in the 91st percentile of Point Guards) and rightfully so, but prized rookie Jalen Williams (23.6 points, 5.6 assists, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.6 steals per game with a TS% of 71 over his last 5 games) should be getting more attention. He is a future Superstar in this league and is by far the most impactful rookie in basketball this season. Sure, Paolo Banchero can score at will and has helped the Magic a lot, but Williams is ten times the defender Banchero is and is ten times more efficient from the floor than Banchero.
Williams boasts an impressive PSA of 120.3, ranked in the 75th percentile for Wings, while Banchero sports an abysmal PSA of 105.3, ranked in just the 20th percentile for Forwards. Obviously Banchero is going to win the Rookie of the Year, but there should be more talk about Williams competing for the award and at least finishing second. Nonetheless, the Thunder have SGA back, and with the way Williams and Josh Giddey (18 points, 8.6 assists, and 7.4 rebounds per game with a TS% of 60.8 over his last 5 games), there is a scenario where the Thunder make the Play-In Tournament.
19. New Orleans Pelicans, 31-33 (Previous Ranking #20)
Brandon Ingram didn’t have his best game in the Pelicans‘ 108-99 loss to the Warriors on Friday night finishing going just 5-16 from the floor with 17 points. However, he has usually been the engine that makes this team go recently, averaging 28.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game with a TS% of 58.1 over his last 10 games, which included a 40 point outburst in a big-time win against the Blazers last Wednesday.
With Zion Williamson (26 points, 7 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game with a TS% of 65.2 and a PSA of 131.4, ranked in the 78th percentile for Bigs) still out for the foreseeable future, and now their other big man Jonas Valanciunas (14.2 points and 9.7 rebounds per game with a TS% of 60.8) missing time as well, the Pelicans are struggiing to stay afloat in a very competitive Western Conference. Teams like the Lakers, Thunder, and Blazers are coming for their spot, and though their defense has been great as always (113 defensive rating, 9th in NBA), their team 3PT% of 35.8 and corner 3PT% of 36.3 rank 20th and 27th in the NBA respectively. Williamson being on the floor allowed the spacing of the Pels to flourish, and with him out, there has been a lot of Ingram forcing shots and kicking it out to shooters for contested 3’s.
18. Toronto Raptors, 32-33 (Previous Ranking #17)
The Raptors have won six out of their last eight games and are sitting at 9th in the Eastern Conference standings, just a half game back of the Hawks for the 8 seed. Jakob Poeltl (17.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game with a TS% of 76.4 over his last 7 games) was one of the most underrated trade deadline acquisitions, as he’s been fantastic for the Raps on both ends of the floor, and Pascal Siakam (24.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 6 assists per game with a TS% of 56.6) continues to be the heart and soul of this team. The Raptors have won a lot of these games without Fred VanVleet playing well, as he’s averaged just 16.9 points with a TS% of 48 over his last 8 games.
Either way, the Raptors are 1st in TOV% on offense (only turning the ball over 12.2 percent of the time) and 1st in creating turnovers on defense (17.1% of opponent’s possessions ending in a turnover, a miraculous mark). At the same time, the Raptors struggle in defending 3PT shooters, ranking 22nd in the NBA in defense against the 3. Team’s also have an average eFG% of 56.8 against the Raptors, the fourth worst mark in basketball. Furthermore, for the Raptors to get where they want to be, they desperately need to improve their on ball defense and 3-point defense, otherwise they are wasting an impressive feat and being #1 in creating turnovers on defense and limiting turnovers on offense.
17. Atlanta Hawks, 32-32 (Previous Ranking #12)
Trae Young (26.7 points and 10.1 assists per game with a TS% of 56.7) continues to be the offensive superstar he’s been over the last couple of years and new Head Coach Quinn Snyder is only going to help Young unlock even more out of his game. The pick and roll game between Young and Clint Capela (12.1 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game with a TS% of 63.5) is one of the most lethal plays in basketball right now, and the Hawks have won three out of their last five games and are sitting at 8th in the Eastern Conference standings. They have some pivotal games this week against the Heat, Wizards, and Celtics and winning a few of those games will help them immensely.
16. Los Angeles Clippers, 34-33 (Previous Ranking #7)
The Clippers finally won a basketball game with Russell Westbrook, coming back from 16 points down with 1 minute to go in the third quarter against the Ja Morant-less Grizzlies. Paul George (23.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game with a TS% of 59.6) and Kawhi Leonard (23.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game with a TS% of 61.8) were both excellent in the win finishing with 42 points and 34 points respectively. However, the Clippers are just 8th now in the Western Conference standings, and their once top 5 defense is now the 18th ranked defense in basketball (defensive rating of 114.3).
Head Coach Ty Lue refuses to bench Marcus Morris Sr., who is probably the worst player in the NBA that gets minutes right now. Meanwhile, Robert Covington (who had 15 points two games ago when Morris was hurt and plays elite defense) continues to sit on the bench when he could provide valuable minutes for them. Nonetheless, despite all of the recent struggles, this is a team no one wants to play in the postseason considering how stacked their roster is.
15. Brooklyn Nets, 36-28 (Previous Ranking #18)
The Nets may have turned their season around with a 28 point comeback win over the Celtics in Boston on Friday, before an easy win over the Hornets on Sunday to end the week. This team had been blown out a few times over the last few weeks and looked to be getting blown out again in the Celtics game before Mikal Bridges (29.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 3.4 assists with a TS% of 68.2 over his last 5 games) led an epic comeback. Since joining the Nets as a part of the Kevin Durant trade, Bridges has had over 21 points seven times and over 30 points four times.
The other cornerstone player in the Durant deal, Cameron Johnson (22 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game with a TS% of 65 over his last 5 games), has also seen an uptick in scoring production as he as thrived as well in a Nets uniform. Sitting at 6th in the Eastern Conference, the Nets are in a good position, but have a ton of work to do down the stretch to avoid the Play-In Tournament.
14. Los Angeles Lakers, 31-34 (Previous Ranking #14)
Anthony Davis (26.4 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game with a TS% of 62.9 and a PSA of 126, ranked in the 61st percentile for Bigs) put together a masterful performance in the Lakers 113-105 win over the Warriors, finishing with 39 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 blocks. For the second game in row Davis scored over 38 points and the Lakers won a must win game on Sunday. LeBron James is going to be out for at least the next 2 and a half weeks with a foot tendon injury, and the Lakers are going to need more performances like this from Davis to win some pivotal games.
Austin Reaves (14.5 points and 5.5 assists per game with a TS% of 74.5 over his last 4 games) has played great recently and Jared Vanderbilt continues to play amazing defense as arguably the biggest difference-maker for this team. What is even more impressive about the Lakers being so competitive over the last week is that they have done so without James and D’Angelo Russell, who sprained his ankle over a week ago. Russell should be back this week as the Lakers face another must win game on Tuesday against the Ja Morant-less Grizzlies.
13. Dallas Mavericks, 33-32 (Previous Ranking #11)
The Mavericks notched an impressive win over the 76ers on Thursday night, before blowing a late lead to the Suns at home on Sunday. In the win against the 76ers both Luka Doncic (33.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 8.1 assists per game with a TS% of 61.6) and Kyrie Irving (27.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game with a TS% of 61.2) had 40+ points, and the Mavs offense looked as potent as it has ever been. In fact, the Mavericks’ offensive rating is now 117.2, ranked 5th in the NBA.
Nonetheless, the Suns proved to be just a better basketball team in the game on Sunday with Kevin Durant‘s 37 points as the biggest difference maker. The Mavericks defensive rating of 116.4 (ranked 25th in the NBA) is certainly a big issue as Jason Kidd needs to make better adjustments to his defensive scheme over the last couple weeks of the season. Regardless, though Doncic and Irving will continue to flourish on offense, the Mavs need big shooting performances from Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock, and Josh Green down the stretch to be able to avoid the Play-In Tournament in a competitive Western Conference.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves, 34-32 (Previous Ranking #16)
The Timberwolves have won three straight games and Mike Conley (13.6 points and 4.6 assists per game with a TS% of 62.9 over the last 5 games) has been a huge part of it. He has gotten Rudy Gobert (17 points and 12.8 rebounds per game with a TS% of 63 over his last 5 games) a multitude of easy looks inside and has helped both Anthony Edwards (24.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game with a TS% of 56.5) and Jaden McDaniels (11.6 points and 1 steal per game with a TS% of 61.4) more open looks from beyond the arc. The Wolves defense has been playing excellent recently as well, only allowing more than 109 points to the #1 ranked offense in the Kings over their last four games. Overall, the Wolves have the 10th-best defense in basketball (defensive rating of 113.5) and are putting together wins at the right time.
11. Miami Heat, 34-31 (Previous Ranking #12)
The Heat have only won two out of their last eight games, but they were important wins coming against playoff teams in the 76ers and Hawks. In fact, last Monday’s win over the 76ers showed exactly why the Heat will still be feared in a seven-game series despite underperforming this season.
They play elite defense (defensive rating of 112, ranked 4th in the NBA), and have three players that can go get a bucket late in the game when it matters in Jimmy Butler (21.9 points, 6 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game with a TS% of 62.9) Bam Adebayo (21.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game with a TS% of 59.1) and Tyler Herro (20.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 4.4 assists with a TS% of 55.5).
10. Golden State Warriors, 34-31 (Previous Ranking #15)
Stephen Curry (29.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game with an unreal TS% of 66.3 and PSA of 136.6, the best mark in the league at the Point Guard position) returned from a month-long absence against the Lakers on Sunday and finished with 27 points and 6 assists. He certainly hasn’t lost a step and even though the Warriors lost, they had won five straight entering that matchup without him.
Klay Thompson (26.7 points per game with a TS% of 63.4 over his last 12 games) has been in one of the best stretches of his career since Curry went down, and role players Jonathan Kuminga (14.4 points with a TS% of 62.5 over his last 5 games) and Donte Divincenzo (12.1 points per game with a TS% of 65.2 over his last 12 games), have been fantastic for the defending champs this season. The Warriors also have the 13th-best offensive and defensive ratings in the NBA this season, 114.9 and 114.1 respectively, and have been playing high-level defense for weeks now (just over a month ago their defensive rating was ranked 21st in the NBA). They are sitting in a good position at 5th in the Western Conference standings, and they’ll be a tough out in the playoffs once again.
9. Memphis Grizzlies, 38-25 (Previous Ranking #6)
The Grizzlies will be without Ja Morant (27.1 points, 6 rebounds, and 8.2 assists per game with a TS% of 55.5), who will be out for an indefinite amount of time after a multitude of off the court issues, for the foreseeable future and their season outlook is looking grim. Though they are 38-25 and still second in the Western Conference standings, the Grizzlies will also be without Brandon Clarke (10 points and 5.5 rebounds per game with a TS% of 68.2) for the rest of the season as he tore his achilles. Now the Grizzlies success will be contingent upon Desmond Bane (21.5 points, 5 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game with a TS% of 60.6) and Jaren Jackson Jr.‘s (16.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per game with a TS% of 59.8.
8. New York Knicks, 39-27 # (Previous Ranking #10)
The Knicks just can’t lose. Since acquiring Josh Hart at the deadline, the team has won nine straight games and are the hottest team in the NBA right now. They just came off their most impressive win of the season, defeating the Celtics in Boston without their best player, Jalen Brunson (23.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game with a TS% of 59.4 and a PSA of 120.1, ranked in the 77th percentile for point guards), who won February’s Eastern Conference Player of the Month award and has won the Knicks games’ by himself on numerous occasions this season.
Julius Randle (25.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game with a TS% of 59 and a PSA of 119.4, ranked in the 69th percentile for Forwards) got the double “BANG” call from Mike Breen following his improbable game winning three-pointer against the Heat on Friday night, and he showed out yet again against the Celtics on Sunday finishing with 31 points and 9 rebounds.
Randle has scored 43+ points in two out of his last six games and is having the best season of his career. Despite having Tom Thibodeau as thier Head Coach (a defensive genius), the team’s calling card has been their fourth-ranked offensive rating of 117.3. The Knicks are a very good basketball team that can make some noise in the playoffs with their elite duo of Randle and Brunson.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers, 40-26 (Previous Ranking #4)
The Cavaliers have won two out of their last three games and continue to boast one of the league’s best defenses (defensive rating of 110.1, 2nd in basketball). It’s never really fair when this team goes up against an opponent like the Pistons, but Donovan Mitchell (27.4 points, 4 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game with a TS% of 61.5 and a PSA of 124.8, ranked in the 91st percentile for Combo Guards) continued his hot stretch putting up 20 points in just 24 minutes since the game was a blowout.
In the Cavs previous game vs. the Celtics, Mitchell erupted for 44 points despite the 117-113 close loss on the road. The difference between last year’s team and this year’s team is that the Cavs now have a dominant 3-level scorer in Mitchell who can put the team on his back and win them games. Very few teams have a scorer of Mitchell’s caliber, and with an elite defense, the Cavs have the ability to surprise some people and make it to at least the Eastern Conference Finals.
6. Phoenix Suns, 36-29 (Previous Ranking #8)
Kevin Durant (29.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game with a TS% of 68.1 and a PSA of 137, ranked in the 88th percentile for Bigs) has fit in perfectly for the Suns and is coming off of an impressive 37 point game in the comeback win vs. the Mavs on Sunday. Devin Booker (27.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game with a TS% of 58.5 and a PSA of 118.8, ranked in the 74th percentile for Wings) is starting to get back into a groove scoring 35+ points in three straight games, all of which the suns won. Now with the fourth seed in the Western Conference (only 1.5 games back of Sacramento for 3), the Suns are in a prime position to make up ground in the rankings over the final few weeks of the season.
5. Sacramento Kings, 37-26 (Previous Ranking #9)
Alright, the Kings have convinced me they are a threat to come out of the Western Conference. They have won five out of their last six games, and have a historic offense (offensive rating of 119.3, 1st in basketball and one of the highest marks in NBA history). De’Aaron Fox (25.5 points and 6.3 assists per game with a TS% of 60.1 and a PSA of 121, ranked in the 84th percentile for Point Guards) and Domantas Sabonis (18.9 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 6.9 assists per game with a TS% of 67.4 and a PSA of 134.7, ranked in the 85th percentile for Bigs) have been one of the best duos in basketball this season and are unstoppable in the open floor.
The Kings are excellent at pushing the pace in transition and getting easy buckets from all over the court, and Kevin Huerter (15 points per game with a 3PT% of 39.7 and a TS% of 61.7), Keegan Murray (11.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game with a 3PT% of 41.3 and a TS% of 59.3 ), and Malik Monk (13.6 points per game with a 3PT% of 33.6 and a TS% of 58.1) have been knockdown shooters and tremendous role-players for the team. Though history would tell you the Kings have almost no chance at a ring because of their abysmal defensive rating of 116.8 (ranked 26th in the NBA and 15 out of the last 16 NBA champs have had a top 11 defensive rating), they have such a dominant offense it may not matter.
4. Philadelphia 76ers, 41-22 (Previous Ranking #5)
The 76ers picked up their most impressive win of the season against the Bucks on Saturday (who were coming off of a 16 game win streak) behind a superb performance from James Harden, who finished with 38 points, 10 assists, and 9 rebounds. Harden is now averaging 22.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 10.6 assists on the season with a TS% of 62.5 and a PSA of 126.6 (ranked in the 93rd percentile for Point Guards).
Joel Embiid (33 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game with a TS% of 64.1 and a PSA of 128.7, ranked in the 78th percentile for Bigs) also played fantastic per usual, finishing with 31 points and a season high 10 assists. The 76ers also boast the 7th ranked offensive rating of 116.9, and the 8th ranked defensive rating of 113 in the NBA, making them one of the most balanced teams in the league. The pick and roll game between Harden and Embiid is unstoppable and because of that, they have a chance to go deep in the playoffs despite previous blunders in recent seasons.
3. Boston Celtics, 45-20 (Previous Ranking #1)
The Celtics drop to #3 in these ranking because they have lost three out of their last four games and just lost to the Knicks (who didn’t have their best player, Jalen Brunson) at full strength. They blew two games over the weekend, a 28 point lead dissipated by the Nets on Friday, and a fourth quarter lead to the Knicks on Sunday. Jayson Tatum (30.3 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game with a TS% of 60.2) and Jaylen Brown (26.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game with a TS% of 58.2) continue to be the best duo in basketball, but key role players Derrick White and Malcolm Brogdon have been inconsistent recently.
Now Robert Williams III is expected to miss a week or two and the Celtics will be short on big men over the next five or so games. However, despite recent struggles, the Celtics still boast an offensive rating of 117.6 (ranked 3rd) and a defensive rating of 112.3 (ranked 5th in the NBA) and still have a great chance to win the whole thing.
2. Denver Nuggets, 45-19 (Previous Ranking #3)
Nikola Jokic (24.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 10 assists per game with an unreal TS% of 70.3, an even more absurd PSA of 141.9, ranked in the 92nd percentile for Bigs, and a league-leading PER of 31.8) racked up yet another extraordinary triple-double in the Nuggets 113-97 win over the Grizzlies on Saturday finishing with 18 points, 18 rebounds, and 18 assists. The Nuggets have the second-best offense in the NBA (offensive rating of 118.2) and an improving defensive rating of 113.7 (now ranked 11th in the NBA, previously was 25th earlier this season) and have to be the easy favorite to come out of the Western Conference right now.
1. Milwaukee Bucks, 46-18 (Previous Ranking #2)
The Bucks are the best team in basketball right now, as they have the best record in the NBA and have won 17 of their last 18 game. Their only loss over the last month came against the 76ers as James Harden had his best performance of the season and dominated late in the game. It was only a four point loss, and the Bucks bounced back to defeat the Wizards on Sunday.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (31.2 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game with a TS% of 59.8) has been on a roll recently and should finish second to Nikola Jokic in MVP voting, Jrue Holiday (19.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game with a TS% of 58.5) is playing like the best two-way guard in basketball, and Khris Middleton (13.2 points per game with a TS% of 52.9) hasn’t been good recently as he’s still getting acclimated back into the scheme of things. Despite the obvious talent of Boston and Philadelphia, the Bucks have to be the favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference right now with a budding superstar, great depth, and the third-best defense (defensive rating of 110.6) in basketball.
Note: Advanced Statistics used in this article are gathered from Cleaningtheglass.com and Statmuse.com and are updated as of Monday, March 6th, 2023