NBA Power Rankings Week 22 | Brooklyn right the ship, Lakers lose ground, Celtics crack top 10
The Phoenix Suns have been the best team in the league all season, and this week is no different even though they have been without Chris Paul for a month.
We are a month away from the start of the NBA playoffs and there is much to be decided in the Eastern and Western Conference. The Phoenix Suns remain at the top of the league after a thumping win over the Los Angeles Lakers to wrap up the week, while the Miami Heat are hanging on in the East.
NBA Power Rankings for Week 22.
1) Phoenix Suns, 54-14 (last week 1)
3-1 last week. The Suns made a statement with their 29 point win over the Lakers on Sunday night. They are 6-4 since Chris Paul went down with a thumb injury before the break, but Sunday’s performance was the best they have looked without their point guard. They are looking like a lock for the top spot in the West.
2) Memphis Grizzlies, 47-22 (last week 2)
3-0 last week. The Grizz continue to impress as the season goes on. The next few weeks are going to tell us a lot about this young team. If they can hold off the Warriors who are sitting right behind them in the West that will give them plenty of confidence heading in to the playoffs, and would mean they most likely would only meet the Warriors or Suns in the final round of the Western Conference playoffs.
3) Golden State Warriors, 46-22 (last week 5)
3-1 last week. The Warriors started to right the ship over the last week after a dreadful restart after the All-Star Break. Klay Thompson had his best game since returning from his two year long injury spell with a 38 point performance against the defending champion Bucks. If Thompson recovers even a shade of what he was two years ago it will do nothing but help Golden State. Draymond Green is on the verge of a return and that is going to give the Warriors a nasty side that they have been missing down low for the last few months.
4) Miami Heat, 45-24 (last week 3)
2-2 last week. For the first time in a while the Heat looked a bit shaky over the last week. A bit of a let down was perhaps expected after a great return to action after the break. They beat the Bulls, the Nets, the Sixers and just barley lost to the Bucks in a week where they went up against the top teams in the East. They are in the midst of a seven game home stand and are 3-2 over that stretch. Miami’s lead is still 2.5 games ahead of the Sixers who are in second.
5) Philadelphia 76ers, 41-25 (last week 4)
1-2 last week. The Nets went into Philly and spanked the Sixers in one of the most anticipated games of the regular season. Losing to the Nets hurts enough, but when you get wiped out by 29 points that adds insult to injury. Philly was taken to overtime by the lowly Magic, but just squeaked by with a two point victory in Orlando to spare them of their blushes in back-to-back games.
6) Dallas Mavericks, 42-26 (last week 7)
3-1 last week. The Mavs have been one of the hottest teams over the month, and Luka Doncic is the reason why. He is a sure shot to come out and produce on a nightly basis. If he is getting help from his supporting cast like he did against the Celtics when Dorian Finney-Smith and Spencer Dinwiddie combined for 37 points, then the Mavs are going to be a handful in the playoffs especially if Dinwiddie shows he is capable of hitting game winning shots like he did in Boston.
7) Milwaukee Bucks, 42-26 (8 last week)
2-1 last week. The Bucks look like they are going to give the Sixers and the Heat a run for their money in the final stretch of the season. They are on the verge of getting George Hill and Brook Lopez back from injury and with their big man patrolling the paint and another versatile permitter player outside the Bucks will only get stronger as the playoffs approach.
8) Utah Jazz, 42-25 (last week 6)
2-2 last week. Utah are trying to hold on to the fourth spot in the West, but started the week with a loss against the Mavericks who are going to be a handful holding off for the four seed during the final sprint towards the playoffs. The Mavs and the Jazz look destined to lock horns in the first round, the question is who will have home court in that series?
9) Denver Nuggets, 40-28 (last week 9)
2-2 last week. Things are remaining the same in the Mile High City. They will be looking over their shoulder with a bit more caution as the Timerbwolves creep closer to their sixth seed, but as long as they have Nikola Jokic playing at an MVP level he should be able to carry the Nugs until Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray return.
10) Boston Celtics, 41-28 (last week 11)
2-1 last week. The Celtics has their five game win streak snapped on Sunday on a late three from Spencer Dinwiddie. This is a good team that is getting better that is only getting stronger. They are moving the right direction while the Bulls are headed south in a hurry. If things continue like this, it won’t be long before Boston is top 4 in the East.
11) Minnesota Timberwolves, 39-30 (last week 13)
3-1 last week. Minnesota bounced back after a disappointing lost to the Magic with a big win over the Eastern Conference leading Heat in Miami. They have won seven of their last eight to get snug to the Nuggets in the 6th spot in the West.
12) Chicago Bulls, 41-26 (last week 10)
2-1 last week. Getting Alex Caruso back will certainly lift spirits in Chicago, but he won’t be the savior for in the Windy City if the the Bulls don’t snap out of their funk soon they won’t only lose home court in the first round, but they might have to get through the Play-In just to make the first round.
13) Toronto Raptors, 37-30 (14 last week)
3-0 last week. Toronto showed just how serious they are about getting skipping the Play-In and earning a direct bid to the playoffs with a three game win streak. They won all three games on a western road swing and capped it off with wins over two teams playing great basketball at the moment, the Suns and the Nuggets.
14) Los Angeles Clippers, 36-34 (last week 12)
2-2 last week. The Clippers have cooled a bit since their five game win streak. At the moment the Top 6 looks out of reach for LA who are five games back of the Nuggets. With their spot in the Play-In looking secured, it may be time to start looking at resting some of the players that have carried the load in this injury hampered season.
15) Cleveland Cavaliers 38-29 (last week 15)
Losing Jarrett Allen is not going to help the Cavaliers, who rapidly losing their stronghold on the sixth spot in the East. They have lost eight of their last eleven games and the Raptors are sitting and waiting for their moment to pounce on a wonded team emotionally and physically.
16) Brooklyn Nets, 35-33 (last week 18)
3-0 last week. The Nets could be turning things around in Brooklyn after a troublesome period without Kevin Durant. KD’s return didn’t mean immediate results for Steve Nash’s team, but back-to-back-to-back wins have put them over .500 and this looks like the team we expected to see all season. Kyrie’s 50 point game over the Hornets started the win streak and Durant looks like he’s back to 100% after recovering from a knee sprain. All that’s missing for the Nets now is Ben Simmons who is on the verge of making his season debut.
17) Atlanta Hawks, 33-34 (last week 16)
2-2 last week. The Hawks are in post season position for the first time in too long, if you ask the fans around Atlanta. Trey Young has kicked it into overdrive, scoring 33 points in the first half against the Pacers and finishing with 47 points in the 131-128 win.
18) Charlotte Hornets, 33-35 (last week 17)
1-2 last week. It looks pretty certain that the Hornets will be making the Play-In tournament with the Raptors and the Nets rolling it looks like they will be battling the Hawks for the 9th and 10th spot in the East.
19) Los Angeles Lakers, 29-38 (last week 19)
1-3 last week. The Lakers just can’t seem to get it together. It’s obvious that Anthony Davis being out is affecting LA, and LeBron James who is having to carry way too much of the scoring burden at 37 years old. In their last two wins he has scored 50+ points, and it seems like if he doesn’t the Lakers have no chance of winning games with their terrible defensive performances. Davis is set to return within the next week or so, but the Lakers need to be careful not to burn out LeBron before their big man gets back to full strength.
20) New York Knicks, 28-40 (last week 23)
2-2 last week. The Knicks didn’t have a great week, but they were a couple wins over the Knicks and the Mavs will lift their spirits. They dropped a close contest to the Grizzlies on Friday and then lost by a basket to the resurgent Nets on Sunday.
21) Washington Wizards, 29-37 (last week 20)
0-3 last week. The Wizards have lost their last three games and made it all the more difficult to sneak into the top 10 in the Eastern Conference. They have a busy week of travel with interchanging games on the road and at home.
22) New Orleans Pelicans, 28-40 (last week 21)
1-3 last week. New Orleans is hanging on to the final Play-In spot by a thread by a thread. They put an end to a four game losing streak with a win over the Rockets on Sunday. The Pelicans need to beat those teams they should be beating, and then toss in a few surprise victories over some top teams in the league to secure their post season spot.
23) Portland Trail Blazers, 26-40 (last week 22)
1-2 last week. As long as everyone else in Play-In position continues to lose, the Blazers are going to have a chance for the post season. There is still not much word on Damian Lillard’s return from injury, but if he returns the Blazers sneak into the top 10 in the West.
24) San Antonio Spurs, 26-42 (25 last week)
2-2 last week. The Spurs are within striking distance of the Play-In spots in the Western Conference. San Antonio finally snapped their losing streak, and put Greg Popovic at the top of the NBA coaching totem pole with win number 1,336 as the Spurs beat the Jazz on Friday.
25) Sacramento Kings, 24-45 (24 last week)
0-3 last week. The Kings are technically not out of contention in the Western Conference Play-In picture, but going winless last week won’t do them any favors. They have a four game home stand and need to make the most of it to keep their post season dreams alive.
26) Indiana Pacers, 23-46 (last week 26)
1-2 last week. The Pacers have been showing a bit more fight of late. They have won just two of their last six, but three of those loses have come by five points or less. Indiana should used what’s left in the season to try and figure out how to close out tight games.
27) Oklahoma City Thunder, 20-47 (last week 27)
0-3 last week. Losing Josh Giddey was a definite blow for the Thunder, who had little to be excited about all season long, and even less to be excited about now that their rookie will miss the rest of the year.
28) Orlando Magic, 18-51 (last week 29)
2-2 last week. Of all of the bottom feeders in the NBA, the Magic are the ones making the most noise. Since the return of Markelle Fultz, this looks like a much more competitive team. Just ask the 76ers, who were taken to overtime by the Magic over the weekend.
29) Detroit Pistons, 18-50 (last week 28)
1-3 last week. Could the Piston get the top pick in the draft for the second straight year? If they continue to slide down the standings their chances in the lottery will certainly increase, but the Pistons fans want to see a sign of life as we approach the end of the season. They also wouldn’t mind getting the top pick in the draft, so six in one, half a dozen in the other.
30) Houston Rockets, 17-51 (last week 30)
1-3 last week. The Rockets sole victory of the week came in an overtime game over the Lakers in Houston. This has been a bad team all year long, but they are in one of their worst stretches of the season having won just two of their last 17 games.