NBA Power Rankings: With 2 Weeks Left, Where Do Teams Stand?

Sean Delorge@@sdelorgeCorrespondent IIIApril 12, 2012

NBA Power Rankings: With 2 Weeks Left, Where Do Teams Stand?

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    With just two weeks left in the regular season, the contenders and pretenders are beginning to take form.

    Let's take a look at the 30 NBA teams as they currently stand prior to the homestretch.

     

    Contenders 

    1. Oklahoma City Thunder

    The Thunder can score, and with the return of Thabo Sefolosha a few weeks ago, they are getting healthy. More importantly, the Thunder are playing better defense. 

     

    2. San Antonio Spurs

    Despite losing to the Jazz on Monday, the Spurs are playing excellent basketball, evident by their recent 11-game winning streak. If they are healthy going into the playoffs, they will challenge the Thunder for a spot in the NBA Finals. 

     

    3. Chicago Bulls

    The Bulls have continued to win without Derrick Rose. The extra playing time for C.J. Watson and John Lucas will pay off in the playoffs, but the Bulls won’t get to the NBA Finals unless Rose is 100 percent healthy and playing at an MVP level.

     

    4. Boston Celtics

    Kevin Garnett has continued to play well as a center and has transformed the Celtics into a playoff contender. The growth of Avery Bradley has given Doc Rivers a reliable second option and has allowed Ray Allen to become a reliable scorer coming off the bench. Like the Spurs, if the Celtics stay healthy, they will contend in the playoffs.

     

    5. Miami Heat

    LeBron James and the Heat may be the most talented team, but they don’t look mentally ready for the playoffs. Dwyane Wade still isn’t 100 percent, and Chris Bosh continues to look lost when it counts.

     

    6. Los Angeles Lakers

    Andrew Bynum will need to step it up if the Lakers want to contend. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol won’t be able to carry the Lakers to a title this year. Coach Mike Brown needs to find a way to motivate this team before time runs out.

     

    7. Memphis Grizzlies

    Gilbert Arenas has scored in double digits in three of the last four games, and Zach Randolph is regaining his form since returning almost four weeks ago, providing a scoring punch off the bench and getting back into game shape just in time for the playoffs.

     

    8. Los Angeles Clippers

    After winning eight of their last 10 games, the Clippers will face the Thunder twice in one week. These will be benchmark games for a team that has the talent, but needs to show the mental toughness needed to win in the playoffs.

In the Playoff Hunt, but Not Championship Material

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    9. Indian Pacers

    The Pacers are a young and balanced team that may surprise folks in the playoffs. They have won five of their last six games and are starting to take shape at the perfect time. With an easy schedule down the stretch, look for them to lock up home court in the first round.

     

    10. Dallas Mavericks

    The Mavericks finally cut ties with Lamar Odom, and hopefully their chemistry will improve now that the malcontent is gone. With difficult games down the stretch, the Mavericks need to find a way to hold on as the Suns are fighting to get into the playoffs. 

     

    11. Atlanta Hawks

    The Hawks have won three straight, but two of those wins were against the worst team in the NBA. Joe Johnson needs to take control of this team with two games left against the Celtics, the Hawks' potential first-round opponent.

     

    12. Philadelphia 76ers

    Doug Collins needs to shake things up as the Sixers have been in a tailspin since before the All-Star break. Fortunately, they only face a playoff team three times in their last nine games and could regain their confidence going into the playoffs.

     

    13. Houston Rockets

    Winning four in a row has allowed the Rockets to overtake the Mavericks for the sixth seed and a chance to play the Lakers in the first round. The Rockets are a balanced team that manages to have a different player step up every night. With six of their last nine games being against playoff teams, we will see how good this team really is.

     

    14. Orlando Magic

    With all of the focus on the Dwight Howard situation, the Magic have dropped to sixth place in the Eastern Conference and could be looking at a first-round exit. Unless things change, the Magic will be forced to trade Howard in the offseason.

     

    15. Utah Jazz

    After going 4-11 in February, the Jazz have gone on a 14-10 run and are fighting for the final playoff spot in the West. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are playing great together and will have a fighter’s chance down the stretch.

     

    16. New York Knicks

    The Knicks have gone 11-4 under Mike Woodson, but with a potential first-round matchup with the Bulls, their playoff run could be rather short. The Bulls play the type of defense that will handcuff the Knicks, so unless they can match the intensity, they won’t have a shot at winning the series.

     

    17. Denver Nuggets

    Danilo Gallinari returned on Monday, but injuries will hold the Nuggets back for the remainder of the season. Al Harrington has impressed by gutting through his injury. Grit and determination will keep the Nuggets in the playoffs.

     

    18. Phoenix Suns

    I have a lot of respect for the Suns’ push for a playoff spot in Steve Nash’s last year. But this is the problem with the NBA; once Nash leaves, the Suns have just enough talent to contend for the last playoff spot, but don’t have a shot at the title.

Teams Hoping to Win the Anthony Davis Lottery

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    19. Minnesota Timberwolves

    Kevin Love had a great month of March by averaging 31 PPG and looks like the type of player a team can build around. With the unfortunate loss of Ricky Rubio, the Timberwolves' playoffs hopes were over.

     

    20. Milwaukee Bucks

    Monta Ellis has fit in well beside Brandon Jennings and provided a much-needed boost to the Bucks offense. Ersan Ilyasova has improved every month this season, and the Bucks look to be a player away from being a playoff team next year.

     

    21. Portland Trail Blazers

    The Trail Blazers continue to be less than mediocre. Firing Nate McMillan may have been necessary, but it hasn’t turned this team around.

     

    22. New Jersey Nets

    MarShon Brooks has been the lone bright spot for the Nets this season. Deron Williams has all but packed his bags, and unless management can convince him to stay, the Nets could be one of the worst teams in the league next year. 

     

    23. Golden State Warriors

    The Warriors took a risk in trading for Andrew Bogut. Management basically gave up on this season, upsetting fans that had hoped they would make a run at the playoffs. With Stephen Curry hurt, fans will have to see what the Warriors can do next year.

     

    24. Detroit Pistons

    The Pistons have shown signs of hope. Greg Monroe has improved in his second year, and Rodney Stuckey continues to play well. However, the Pistons need Brandon Knight to take his game to the next level, as Stuckey isn’t good enough to be a starting point guard. 

     

    25. Cleveland Cavaliers

    With a recent nine-game losing streak and the loss of Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers' playoff chances have ended. Fortunately, they have been so terrible that they have dramatically improved their lottery odds.

     

    26. Sacramento Kings

    Tyreke Evans and Jason Thompson have regressed the last two seasons. Unless they can turn things around and provide some help for DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings won’t have a chance at the playoffs next year. 

     

    27. Toronto Raptors

    The silver lining for Raptors fans is the team has played good defense down the stretch. If they can build on that and add scoring through the draft or free agency, they can move up into playoff contention next year.

     

    28. New Orleans Hornets

    There’s no hope for the Hornets franchise, but with Eric Gordon’s return, Hornets fans will get to see a player auditioning for his next big contract.

     

    29. Washington Wizards

    Nene’s play has been up and down since joining the Wizards, and John Wall has failed to improve in his second year. Fortunately for the Wizards, their record gives them a chance at the top spot in the draft.

     

    30. Charlotte Bobcats

    The Bobcats are a mess. They may have the best chance to land the No. 1 pick, but they have holes at just about every position. Even if they draft Anthony Davis, this team needs to make several major moves before they have a chance at contending.