NBA Power Rankings: Teams Making Statements as Regular Season Winds Down

Michael DulkaContributor IApril 9, 2013

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 25:  Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat is blocked by Andrew Nicholson #44 of the Orlando Magic at Amway Center on March 25, 2013 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Gary Bogdon/Getty Images)
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At the top of the NBA power rankings, it's quite clear who is the best team in the league. After that, it gets rather complicated with teams trading rankings based on weekly or even nightly performances. 

As the regular season ends, teams are either planning for the playoffs or starting their offseason programs. While team fates have largely been decided, there are a handful of teams that have made statements, either positively or negatively. 

1. Miami Heat (60-16)

The Heat are far and away the best team in the league right now. While resting its stars, Miami is flexing its muscles with solid depth and strong performances from reserves. The question heading into the playoffs is whether or not anybody in the league can beat the Heat in a seven-game series. 

2. Oklahoma City Thunder (56-21) 

Going 6-4 over their last 10 games, the Thunder haven't been able to take advantage of San Antonio's health issues. In the crowded Western Conference, getting home court throughout the playoffs could be a huge factor in which team advances. 

3. New York Knicks (50-26)

While it's still less than half of the Heat's streak this season, the Knicks have smoothly put together 12 wins in a row. Carmelo Anthony is playing out of his mind right now, averaging 41.75 points per game over his last four contests. Over that stretch, Anthony is shooting 67-of-110 from the floor. 

The current stretch has separated the Knicks from the rest of the field in the Eastern Conference, but clearly they are still far back from the Heat. Heading into the postseason, a Knicks-Boston Celtics matchup is enticing, with the Heat likely looming should the Knicks advance. To reach or win the Finals, the Knicks will need Anthony to pour in these types of performances. 

4. San Antonio Spurs (57-20)

It's hard to discount the Spurs, but this team looks to be surging in the wrong direction at exactly the wrong time. They've gone 6-4 over their last 10 games, but have managed to hold off the Thunder for the top seed in the West. Avoiding the Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs could be big for the Spurs. 

For the Spurs to get back headed in the right direction, they desperately need Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to get healthy. Tim Duncan can't do it on his own, and the rest of the team just doesn't have the firepower to compete against the more athletic teams in the conference. 

5. Denver Nuggets (53-24)

The Nuggets are in trouble with Danilo Gallinari going down with an ACL injury. They are still capable of creating problems in the playoffs, but their title hopes seem to be a long shot at this point. The Nuggets aren't surging downward yet, but they are on watch. 

6. Memphis Grizzles (52-25) 

The Grizzles appear destined for a playoff matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers. The team's well-rounded and balanced attack makes them a threat, but they need some big-time performances to advance to the second round if they get the Thunder.

7. Los Angeles Clippers (51-26)

The Clippers got a huge win and accomplished their first goal by sweeping the Lakers and winning the Pacific Division title. They have the arsenal to compete in the playoffs, especially if Chris Paul can manufacture a solid run.

8. Indiana Pacers (48-29)

The Pacers have taken a backseat to the New York Knicks as the most likely competitor to the Heat. They are comfortably third, so they should get a shot to take down the Knicks on their way to the Eastern Conferences Finals should they advance. 

9. Houston Rockets (43-34)

For the majority of the year, the Rockets have beat up on weaker opponents and failed to beat better teams. That will help you get into the playoffs, but doesn't offer much help when you're the seventh seed and playing better teams. 

 10. Brooklyn Nets (44-32)

The Brooklyn Nets have hung around the fourth seed in the East and potentially face a challenging matchup with the Chicago Bulls. It gets even more interesting if Derrick Rose comes back from his ACL injury and makes his season debut. 

11. Golden State Warriors (44-33)

The Warriors have picked up their play after a tough stretch a few weeks ago. Depending on the matchup, they might be a team to watch for an upset in the first round of the playoffs. 

12. Chicago Bulls (42-34)

The Bulls have banded together and played well through a tough season without their leader. Should they get him back sometime in the next few weeks, this team gets a whole lot better and could compete throughout the playoffs. 

13. Utah Jazz (41-37)

The Jazz are looking to ruin everybody's fun and beat out the Los Angeles Lakers for the final spot in the Western Conference. The team is playing good basketball and two favorable matchups against the Minnesota Timberwolves give them a great shot to make the postseason.

After losing four straight in the middle to end of March, the Jazz have reeled off seven wins in their last eight games. The concern is that those wins have been mostly against weaker opponents. They did beat the Nets and the Warriors, but lost 113-96 to the Denver Nuggets.

14. Boston Celtics (40-37)

The Celtics have survived Rajon Rondo's knee injury and are heading to the postseason once again. Currently the seventh seed, the Celtics could make some noise if they can improve their seeding and avoid the Heat or Knicks. 

15. Los Angeles Lakers (40-37)

The Lakers are in serious trouble of missing out on the postseason. The Jazz are .5 games up and currently hold the tiebreaker. The Jazz also have an easier schedule. At this point in Kobe Bryant's career, it's a shame that he might miss the playoffs. 

16. Dallas Mavericks (38-39)

Just a week ago, the Mavericks looked poised to make a run for the final playoff spot in the West. Losses to the Lakers and Nuggets seemed to have sealed the fate of Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs. 

17. Washington Wizards (29-48)

Since John Wall returned, the Wizards have been a completely different team. The young point guard is playing the best basketball of his career and the team seems to have a bright future. Bradley Beal's leg injury is a downer, but the Wizards definitely have a chance to be competitive next season. 

The Wizards have a solid core with Wall and Beal. A ton of money is committed to big men Emeka Okafor and Nene, both of whom contribute. If the Wizards can get creative and add some pieces to their roster, they aren't far away from competing. 

18. Atlanta Hawks (42-36)

Despite moving Joe Johnson, the Hawks have currently hit a wall with their talent. They have been playing average basketball for much of the season, but have lost three straight. The Hawks shouldn't be viewed as a major threat. 

19. Milwaukee Bucks (37-39)

The Bucks have lost seven out of their last 10 games, including four in a row near the end of March. They haven't beat a team that's likely playoff-bound since they beat the Warriors on March 9. The biggest question is whether or not they can steal a game from the Heat. 

The Bucks have the same problem the Warriors had when Monta Ellis played for them. Brandon Jennings and Ellis don't seem to blend very well. Jennings could be heading out this summer, and it might be the best thing for both parties.

20. Philadelphia 76ers (31-45)

The 76ers took a big step back this year and took a big miss on the Andrew Bynum trade. They also won just enough games to push them back in the draft order. This will be a season the 76ers want to quickly forget. 

21. Portland Trail Blazers (33-44)

Things were going so well for the Blazers for a while. They were competitive in the West and had a chance at the final playoff spot. They've lost their last eight games and completely fallen outside the playoff race. Despite the disappointing end to the year, the Blazers have a bright future. 

22. Minnesota Timberwolves (29-47)

The Timberwolves have played well as of late, but still have plenty of work to do to improve. They have the benefit of having a majority of pieces in place, but still need to add some reinforcements and keep their players healthy. 

23. Toronto Raptors (29-48)

This team has played well since acquiring Rudy Gay, but still is far away from being competitive. The other big positive has been the play of rookie Jonas Valanciunas. He's been largely inconsistent, but he's flashed potential as a very active, all-around player.  

24. New Orleans Hornets (27-50)

The Hornets have put together some great performances as of late, outplaying more talented and overall better teams. They've knocked off the Celtics, Grizzlies and Nuggets in the last few weeks. Dumping Eric Gordon's contract and starting over should be a great chance to turn the corner. 

25. Sacramento Kings (27-50)

While the on-court product this season has been largely forgettable, the next few weeks will be huge for the franchise and its fans. The Kings aren't a very good team, and a new start either in Sacramento or Seattle should mean plenty of changes. 

26. Cleveland Cavaliers (24-52)

The Cavaliers have a ton of young talent lead by Kyrie Irving. If they are in this position a year from now, it will have to be considered a huge disappointment. 

27. Detroit Pistons (26-52)

After winning just one game in the month of March, the Pistons have already won two games in April. That may seem silly, but when your team goes 1-13 over a stretch, you have to celebrate whatever you can get. 

28. Phoenix Suns (23-54)

The Suns have lost 13 of their last 14 games on the year and close out with a tough stretch of games. Phoenix expected a rebuilding year, but it's hard to say it was expected to be this bad. Tough decisions lay ahead for the Suns. 

29. Charlotte Bobcats (18-59)

While they aren't the worst team in basketball right now, the Bobcats have the worst record. After a historically bad season last year, it would be nice to finish the year having a better record than somebody. Hard to say whether that's worth the risk of having lesser odds in the lottery. 

30. Orlando Magic (19-59)

The Magic have lost their last five games and have sunk nearly to the bottom of the NBA standings. If they are tanking, they are almost there. Either way, the Magic are still trying to rebuild following Dwight Howard's departure. 


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