NBA Power Rankings: Which Teams Look Like Safe Postseason Bets?
As the second half of the season begins, so does the conversation of who will make it to the postseason and who will not. There are already a few contenders who seem as if they will continue their season without a hitch and cruise safely into the postseason.
However, there are some teams who are riding the line where one game could possibly separate them from a shot at the playoffs. Still, others' postseason chances look to be nearly impossible.
No matter what teams makes it to the postseason, it is sure to be one filled with excitement due to the young talent that has surfaced in the regular season. Competition will be stiff this time around.
Here, I take a look at each team, discerning which teams will surely make it to the postseason and which teams will have to admire from afar.
The Oklahoma City Thunder
Is there any doubt that the Oklahoma City Thunder will make it to the postseason? With a 34-11 record and the dynamic duo o Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, this team is nearly unstoppable.
Unless Durant or Westbrook suffer a season-ending injury (and even then, they should still make it to the postseason), you can expect this team to make a triumphant return to the playoffs, set on not only making it to the championship game, but also on emerging as victors.
Who knows? This season may be the season for the Thunder.
The San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have yet again quietly earned themselves a top spot in not only the Western Conference, but the entire league itself. With a current eight-game winning streak, San Antonio is sitting pretty, and don't expect them to fall too far either.
The Spurs should also cruise right into the postseason without any hiccups. While the competition in the West is dense, the Spurs' remaining schedule shouldn't give them any problems.
The Miami Heat
The defending National Champions have found themselves right back at the top of the Eastern Conference and are on the road for another postseason battle.
There should be no reason as to why the Miami Heat would not make the postseason. After a loss to the Boston Celtics, Miami will be sure to bounce back quickly as they have throughout most of the season.
What will occur during the postseason, however, has yet to be determined.
The L.A. Clippers
The team that currently holds the best record in L.A. has made quite the splash this season with a current record of 33-13, just one spot behind the Oklahoma City Thunder. This young team, including the likes of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, has achieved what the L.A. Clippers have been trying to achieve for years.
The Clippers have a tough schedule ahead that will test them, but it can be assumed that the Clippers will come out of the regular season and head right into the playoffs. Considering their season so far, the Clippers are in a great position for the postseason.
The New York Knicks
Still, the Knicks are right behind the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference and are in a good position to make it to the postseason. The remaining schedule will certainly be interesting as they will face fierce competitors back-to-back. Their performance for the rest of the season will be a sign as to how they will execute in the playoffs.
The Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies have one of the hottest tickets out right now in the form of Rudy Gay. While other teams vie for his attention, Gay continues to help lead this team as the Grizzlies are now 29-15 and fourth in the Western Conference.
With big man Marc Gasol and Jerryd Bayless, this team has all the makings of a postseason team. While there may not be much hype around them, Memphis is certainly a candidate for a postseason bid. The remaining games in the schedule will be crucial for this team.
The Chicago Bulls
Though Derrick Rose is considered the man of this team, they have certainly been doing well without him. Now 27-17, the Bulls have put themselves in a position to advance to the postseason. Just imagine what this team could do with Derrick Rose healthy.
The final stretch of the season will really show whether or not this team is completely safe for a postseason bid. They will face the Miami Heat multiple times, and with many of their games on-the-road, the Chicago Bulls will have to tread softly if they want to clinch a postseason bid.
The Golden State Warriors
It has been a huge season for the Golden State Warriors as they are now 28-17 and are looking to be a competitive postseason team. With Stephen Curry, Andrew Bogut and David Lee, this team has become a force to be reckoned with.
With such a huge improvement from last season, many will be watching to see how the Warriors will perform for the rest of the season. Curry, who is currently out with a mild ankle sprain, has to remain healthy to keep this team's streak going. If he can, then you will see Golden State in the playoffs.
The Denver Nuggets
Denver is one of those teams that could either continue to succeed or begin a downward spiral. At 28-15, they are sixth in the Western Conference with a lot to lose; teams ranked below them are begging them to drop.
However, they are currently on a four-game winning streak heading into a game against the Houston Rockets. Their schedule shows very little signs of ease, and the remaining matchups will be critical for any shot at a postseason bid.
The Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets have also been a quiet team this season, but there's no doubt that they are making a case for a postseason bid. With Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, the Nets have become a real contender in the league.
At 27-18 and fourth in the Eastern Conference, the upcoming game against the Miami Heat will show this team's true colors. If the Nets can keep it up, then they will advance to the postseason.
The Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers are certainly not at the level they were at last season. After forcing the Miami Heat to six games in the postseason of last year, it seems as if the Pacers haven't quite reached their full potential this season.
While they are fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 26-19 record, this team is not quite a safe bet for the postseason. However, with the amount of time left in the regular season, Indiana's chances of returning to the playoffs are high.
The Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks are only four games ahead of the Boston Celtics and two ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern conference.
That being said, the Hawks will have to remain focused if they want to successfully advance to the postseason. It's not safe to assume that Atlanta will ultimately make the cut, but if they can make it through the rest of their season, they will see themselves back in the playoffs for the sixth straight season.
The Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz are currently seventh in the Western Conference with a 24-21 record with only one loss separating them from the Houston Rockets. With two unranked teams in the hunt to make it to the playoffs, Utah must stay on the course and push through the rest of the season.
After a brutal loss to the Rockets, the Jazz will need to bounce back and bounce back quickly. Getting to the playoffs will be no easy feat for Utah.
The Houston Rockets
With James Harden leading the Houston Rockets to an impressive win over the Utah Jazz, Houston continues to ride the line as the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
With the Portland Trail Blazers and the L.A. Lakers directly behind, Houston will also have to keep their streak alive for a postseason berth.
The Milwaukee Bucks
After a big win against the Golden State Warriors and the Detroit Pistons, the Milwaukee Bucks find themselves at 24-19 and seventh in the Eastern Conference. The big question is: are they the real deal?
The Bucks have certainly proven themselves in the East with a conference record of 18-10. With such a young team, the future is bright. They are right on the cusp of a playoff bid. If head coach John Hammond can push his team to press on, then Milwaukee will get the chance to advance into the playoffs.
The Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics continue to hang on in the Eastern Conference despite their losing record. At 21-23, Boston has a lot of business to take care of. With Rajon Rondo out for the season with a torn right ACL, Boston will have to go on without their point guard.
This makes things a lot more interesting as far as their postseason hopes are concerned. With no true point guard, veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will have to step up to make up for Rondo's absence. Boston's response to this detrimental loss will determine their postseason status. It will all come down to the very last few games for the Celtics.
The Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers are right on the fence at 23-22, just two games behind the Houston Rockets. With a tough on-the-road schedule for the month of February, Portland's chances begin to look grim.
However, Portland's previous wins against the Miami Heat and the L.A. Clippers show this team's ability to win big games. The Trail Blazers will have plenty of those to vie for a chance to play in the postseason. While they will need some help from higher-ranked teams, it's not impossible for Portland to make the cut.
The L.A. Lakers
The L.A. Lakers have not had the season they were hoping for. Despite obtaining Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, there has not been much of a beneficial change for L.A. At 20-25, L.A.'s postseason hopes appear to have been dashed.
Still, L.A. will not go down without a fight. Yes, making the playoffs will require a lot of help from other teams and will also require the Lakers to continue playing as a team. While it seems like a long-shot, stranger things have happened.
The Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks are in a similar situation. At 19-26, the Mavericks desperately need any win that they can get. With Chris Kaman out indefinitely with a concussion, Dallas will have to again fill the role of center until Kaman can return.
Dallas will also have to rely on other teams in order to have a shot at advancing to the playoffs. Dallas will have to pull together if they want to make it to the postseason. As of late, the Mavericks are certainly no safe bet for the playoffs.
The Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers are currently 18-26, just 3 games behind the Boston Celtics.
Looking forward in the schedule, it will be incredibly difficult for the 76ers to pass Boston and hold onto that eighth seed. The chances of a postseason bid are not very high for the 76ers.
The Minnesota Timberwolves
At 17-24, the Minnesota Timberwolves have a slim chance to none of making the playoffs this season.
With a current four-game losing streak, the Timberwolves may be in for a rude awakening as the season continues. Perhaps head coach Rick Adelman's return will spark something into this team as the rest of the season plays out.
The Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons, currently 17-28, have yet to reach the playoffs since the 2009-2010 season. It seems as if that trend will continue as the Pistons are too far down in the Eastern Conference to gain a postseason berth.
Their schedule does not make it any easier for them to even attempt to make it to the postseason. Detroit will have to go back to the drawing board to make necessary changes for the future.
The Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings, 17-29, haven't made the playoffs since the 2005-2006 season in which they were knocked out in the first round by the San Antonio Spurs. Since then, the Kings have been steadily trying to rebuild the franchise with each passing season.
So far, this season has shown some improvement for the franchise. Despite not reaching the playoffs, the upcoming draft may aid the Kings in the rebuilding process, hopefully propelling them back to relevancy in the Western Conference.
The Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors are certainly in no position to attain a postseason berth, but they are actively trying to turn their team around.
With all the rumors surrounding the trading of Rudy Gay from the Memphis Grizzlies, it is clear that the Raptors are looking to bring some depth and life to their team. What ever the outcome may be, the Raptors are actively making moves to improve their team.
The New Orleans Hornets
After an impressive victory against the Memphis Grizzlies, the New Orleans Hornets are now 15-30.
While a chance at a postseason berth is out of reach, this young team has a lot to build on. With rookies Austin Rivers, who will continue to mature as his career lengthens, and Anthony Davis, this team has a lot to look forward to.
The Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns sit at the bottom of the Western Conference with a record of 15-30. Likely to have a third consecutive season without making it to the playoffs, the Suns' attempt to go with a younger roster has essentially started their team from ground-zero. This would be the first time in 25 years that the Suns don't advance to the playoffs three years in a row.
While it may take longer than the Suns had planned, this team will be back into playoff conversation in years to come.
The Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic, 14-30, are in no position to advance to the postseason. What has been their biggest issue is closing out games.
While the team can certainly compete, there is no scorer that can take over when one is needed. Orlando lacks a true leader, something that will soon have to be acquired if they wish to become more competitive in the Eastern Conference.
The Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers have not been the same since Lebron James left for the Miami Heat.
With only 13 wins on the season, the Cavaliers will have to use the upcoming draft to their benefit. They will have to sign a big name to their roster if they wish to reach the postseason any time soon.
The Washington Wizards
While the Washington Wizards don't have a winning record, of their 11 wins, five of them were against opponents who had a .500-or-better win percentage.
Part of that results from John Wall's excellence after recovering from a knee injury. Wall is definitely a critical player for the Washington Wizards.
The Charlotte Bobcats
With the worst record in the NBA, the Charlotte Bobcats have shown some improvement from last season.
After winning only seven games in the 2010-2011 season, the Bobcats are currently 11-33. Charlotte will have a lot of rebuilding to do if they wish to reach the playoffs any time soon.