Now 20 weeks into the NBA season, it’s clear which teams are for real and which are looking forward to the draft in June. Here is a ranking of all thirty NBA teams.
1.Houston Rockets 47-13
*The Rockets continue to be the hottest team in the NBA as their winning streak has reached 13 games.
* MVP-candidate, James Harden, has brought his game to an even higher level in the month of February. This month, Harden averages 30.5 points per game and a plus minus of +15.6 per game.
2.Golden State Warriors 47-14
*After a minor rough stretch, which for GSW means losing three out of four, the Warriors have rebounded to win six out of their last seven.
*Ball movement is a key to their success and they are first in the NBA in assists, averaging 30.6 per game as a team.
3.Toronto Raptors 42-17
*Toronto definitely does not get the respect it deserves around the NBA. For all the attention that the Celtics and Cavaliers get, the Raptors are right up there and are arguably the hottest team in the East.
*Toronto has dominated the East, going 26-8 in conference games.
4.Boston Celtics 43-19
*The absence of Marcus Smart seems to have been the reason for Boston’s struggles. Since his return, Boston has won both of their games after going 6-5 in the previous 11 without Smart.
*The Celtics will play the Rockets next Saturday in what will be a good test for the Celtics and a potential Finals preview.
5.Cleveland Cavaliers 35-24
*After Cleveland looked like their new roster was Finals-bound, the Cavs have taken a step back since the All Star break, going 1-2.
*In their loss to San Antonio, the non-Lebron starters only contributed 12 points.
*Cleveland definitely has questions to answer but a small slump isn’t enough to count the Cavs out of the Finals.
6.Washington Wizards 35-25
*The Wizards have impressed without John Wall and are 9-3 in their last twelve, all in his absence.
*Not to say that the Wizards are better without Wall, but it should be known around the NBA that Bradley Beal is also a superstar. Beal is averaging a career-high 23.7 ppg and has 5.8 win-shares.
7.Indiana Pacers 34-26
*Indiana was on a four game win streak until a loss to Dallas on Monday night.
*Victor Oladipo is the clear favorite at this point to win Most Improved Player. He has improved his win shares to 6.4 for a 34 win team after having a win share of 4.0 last year for the 47-win Oklahoma City Thunder.
8.San Antonio Spurs 36-25
*San Antonio’s success in the playoffs will be largely based on what happens with Kawhi Leonard.
*While Leonard has been cleared to play, he remains out per his decision. Kawhi has only played 9 games this season and has sat out the last 15 games.
9.Portland Trail Blazers 34-26
*Damian Lillard led the Blazers to the win once again last Saturday as he had 40 points and the game-winner in the last second of the game.
*Lillard has had 40 or more points on three occasions this month.
10.Philadelphia 76ers 32-26
*One thing that doesn’t seem logical for the Sixers is to play Amir Johnson off the bench instead of Richaun Holmes. Johnson is averaging 4.6 ppg in 15.5 minutes per game in 54 appearances while Holmes averages 6.4 ppg in equal minutes but just 30 games played.
*Holmes is a high energy player and gives the Sixers a boost every time he comes off the bench, so he should take minutes from Johnson.
*Big-man minutes may even go elsewhere as the Sixers are expected to sign forward, Ersan Ilyasova.
11.Minnesota Timberwolves 38-26
*Jimmy Butler is a huge loss for the Timberwolves, no doubt, but they should still be regarded as a playoff team.
*They are 2-0 without Butler, although to be fair they played Chicago and Sacramento. *Minnesota has a four game lead over the nine seed, the LA Clippers, so Minnesota is still in position to snap a 13-year playoff drought.
12.Denver Nuggets 33-27
*The Nuggets have been on a roll and are 7-3 in their past ten. Every game is crucial as Denver is part of the race for a playoff spot in the bottom of the West.
*Denver plays the Clippers on Tuesday and will want to take advantage of the opportunity to get an edge on an opponent in the hunt in the West.
13.New Orleans Pelicans 34-26
*Anthony Davis has played at an MVP level over the Pelicans six game win streak. During this stretch, Davis has averaged 41.5 ppg, 15.0 rpg, and 3.2 blocks per game.
*While James Harden is the clear favorite, Davis should be in the conversation for MVP, especially since Demarcus Cousins is out for the season.
14.Milwaukee Bucks 33-26
*After having a bench role for much of the season, Jason Terry is finally finding a role for the Bucks.
*At 40, Terry is averaging a season-high 4.5 ppg in February and shot 4-5 from three last Thursday to help beat Toronto.
15.Oklahoma City Thunder 35-27
*After an eight game win streak in January, the Thunder have slumped as of late, going 5-7 in their last twelve.
*While the Thunder aren’t in any real danger of missing the playoffs, they are only two games ahead of the nine seed.
16.Utah Jazz 31-30
*The Jazz couldn’t take down the red-hot Rockets as they lost a close game last Monday.
*Donovan Mitchell has been incredible in his rookie campaign for the Jazz as he leads all rookies in scoring with 19.6 ppg.
*The Jazz are just 2.5 games out of the playoff picture and have a realistic chance to sneak into the playoffs.
17.Charlotte Hornets 27-33
*After it seemed like a lost season for Charlotte, the Hornets have brought themselves back into contention as they are just four games behind the eight seed Miami Heat. *Charlotte’s recent success is largely due to the revival of Dwight Howard. In 2018, Howard is averaging 15.8 ppg and 13.2 rpg.
18.Los Angeles Clippers 31-27
*The Clippers have stayed afloat since the Blake Griffin trade but their playoff chances will be decreased without the talent of Avery Bradley in the lineup. Bradley is expected to miss 3 weeks with a sports hernia injury.
19.Miami Heat 31-29
*The Heat have struggled recently, going 2-8 in their last 10 and dropping to eighth in the East.
*Thankfully for the Heat, Detroit hasn’t been able to take advantage of the opportunity to pass the Heat so Miami has a three game lead over the ninth seed.
20.Los Angeles Lakers 26-34
*Since the All Star break, the Lakers are 3-0 with a healthy Lonzo Ball and Isaiah Thomas coming off the bench.
*The Lakers aren’t fully out of playoff contention, but LA can only afford to lose a few more games since a 40 loss team won’t cut it in the West.
21.Detroit Pistons 28-32
*After Blake Griffin seemed to be the spark that Detroit needed to reach the playoffs, the Pistons have slumped, losing 6 of their last 7 matchups.
*Rookie Luke Kennard has gone into a slump this month as he is averaging just 4.7 ppg and after averaging 8.1 ppg in January.
Awful Bottom 9 Teams:
The gap’ between 21 and 22 right now in the NBA is pretty big. Of these bottom teams, none has any realistic playoff hopes and most seem to be tanking in hopes of high draft picks. Therefore, this ranking of the bottom nine will focus on the young talented players on their teams and whether or not an even further rebuild is bound to happen.
22.Chicago Bulls 20-40
*Despite his getting dunked on hard by Jarrett Allen last Monday, the Bulls have reason to be excited with Lauri Markkanen.
*Markkanen is second among rookies in rebounds and fourth in points per game.
*The Bulls are likely headed to an extended rebuild but the organization can plan to have a talented Markkanen there for the future.
23.Atlanta Hawks 18-43
*While John Collins and Taurean Prince are nice role players, the Hawks don’t have any players that jump out as potential superstars in the years to come.
*The Hawks are projected to have two first round draft picks in 2018, so the organization will have pieces to build around.
24.New York Knicks 24-38
*Of these nine teams, the Knicks have the best player currently on an active roster: Kristaps Porzingis.
*Porzingis is headed for a long recovery from ACL surgery, but 2019-2020 seems like a realistic goal to get back into the playoffs since Porzingis will miss time next season.
25.Sacramento Kings 18-42
*For all the attention that rookie De’Aaron Fox gets, fellow rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic is also talented.
*Bogdanovic has the potential to be a lethal shooter as he is shooting 40.1% from three and shot 7-13 from three in the Rising Stars game.
26.Dallas Mavericks 19-42
*Dennis Smith Jr. has a very high ceiling at point guard for Dallas. The problem for DSJ is the turnovers. DSJ has a turnover percentage of 15.7% per 100 possessions.
*Dirk Nowitzki won’t be there for much longer so the Mavs are likely headed for mediocrity for the near future.
27.Brooklyn Nets 20-41
*Of all the bottom nine teams, the Nets have arguably the darkest future.
*They are still waiting on Jahlil Okafor to break out but that seems unlikely and D’Angelo Russell hasn’t stayed healthy.
*The only first round draft pick for the Nets in 2018 is via Toronto so it’s unlikely Brooklyn will find a star in next year’s draft.
28.Orlando Magic 18-42
*Orlando also seemingly has a dark future. A part of their future success will be based on whether or not the 2017 sixth overall pick, Jonathan Isaac, can perform well.
*Isaac has been limited to just 15 games this season due to an ankle injury. When Isaac played, Orlando was 8-7.
29.Memphis Grizzlies 18-41
*Dillon Brooks could be the steal of the 2017 draft. The 45th pick in the draft, Brooks is averaging 9.0 ppg and 3.1 rpg.
*Marc Gasol will be gone soon, so Memphis likely won’t be in the playoffs for at least a few seasons; but Brooks has given Memphis reason to be excited.
30.Phoenix Suns 18-44
*Devin Booker has been incredible for an otherwise terrible Phoenix Suns team. Booker averages 24.7 ppg and is shooting .38% from three.
*The Suns will need more than just Booker to be able to compete in years to come.