NBA Power Rankings
by Josh Nagel - 04/07/2008
With one of more entertaining NBA regular seasons in recent memory winding down - fueled by a race from start to finish for each playoff spot in the ultra competitive Western Conference - there are some milestones that already can be acknowledged. Others, however, will still have to wait. Although only a handful of games remain, the pecking order of the Western Conference is still up for grabs. In fact, you could make an argument for switching the order of teams No. 3 through No. 8 in the power rankings below -- in almost any combination -- and have a pretty good case.
Things are a little more clear-cut in the Eastern Conference. With their win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday, the Boston Celtics completed the biggest single-season turnaround in NBA history. The Pistons have quietly put together a season reminiscent of its recent championship-contending teams. While Boston and Detroit can safely be considered the only legitimate title threats coming out of the East, it's worth giving props to a team like Philadelphia, which has clinched a playoff berth despite one of the weakest rosters, at least on paper, in the league.
Here are the NBA power rankings through April 6:
1. Boston -- 61-15. It's indicative of type of season Boston is having that it could rest the Big Three - Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce - on Saturday and still easily defeat the Grizzlies to clinch the historic turnaround. The Celtics brought home the money, too, as a one-point dog, something they have done a lot this season in going 48-26-2 ATS for their backers.
2. Detroit -- 55-21. The Pistons probably are happy to let the Celtics have the limelight while they sit back and prepare for the playoffs by finishing off their season in dominant fashion. The Pistons have won five in a row and covered in three of those, including Sunday's win over the Heat.
3. San Antonio -- 53-24. The up-and-down Spurs are up again after rebounding from their latest slide with wins in nine of their last 10 games and covers in seven of those contests. As has been their style under Gregg Poppovich, the defending NBA champs appear to be peaking just in time for the playoffs.
4. L.A. Lakers -- 53-24. Consecutive home losses to the Bobcats and Grizzlies were puzzling, but the Lakers have rebounded with three straight wins. However, they have failed to bring the money home in five straight games.
5. New Orleans -- 54-22. Anyone who somehow saw this breakout season coming could have cashed big, as the little-respected Hornets have gone 47-27-2 ATS in clinching the franchise's best season. They have won nine of 10 and covered in seven of those.
6. Phoenix -- 51-26. Sunday's loss to the desperate Mavericks didn't help, but luckily the Suns came around in time, barring a disaster, to make the playoffs. They have won four of their last six, with three covers in that span.
7. Houston - 52-25. Now the Rockets are looking more like the team we expected; solid, definitely above-average and overachieving in the absence of Yao Ming. It will still probably end in their usual first-round exit from the playoffs.
8. Utah -- 51-26. The Jazz caught a lot of people's attention with their dominating win over the Spurs on Saturday. If they can play that way in the playoffs, they have a chance to go deep. They have won and covered in five of their last six.
9. Orlando -- 48-29. There was talk during the national broadcast of the Magic's win over Cleveland on Saturday that the Magic feel under-appreciated given all the attention the Celtics have received and that they intend to do something about it by springing a big upset in the playoffs. Good luck with that.
10. Dallas -- 48-29. The Mavericks got two wins they desperately needed in beating the Warriors and the Suns this week, and they are just talented enough to be dangerous if they can get into the playoffs. They have won three of four and covered in four straight.
11. Denver -- 46-29. The Nuggets aren't playing like a team that wants the last playoff spot in the West. Blowing a double-digit lead at home to the Kings, as they did Saturday, juts won't get it done.
12. Golden State - 46-31. The Warriors picked a bad time - or the NBA picked it for them - to have their most brutal road stretch of the season as they fight for the final playoff spot in the West. Predictable losses to the Spurs, Mavericks and Hornets have the Warriors in dire straits for reaching the postseason.
13. Cleveland -- 42-35. Blowing all of a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter to the Magic is a sign that the Cavaliers haven't exactly taken the next step since stumbling into the NBA Finals last year. Six ATS losses in their last seven dropped them to 35-42 ATS for the year.
14. Philadelphia 39-37. The surprising 76ers have held steady, with wins and covers in five of their last eight. They are likely one-and-done in the playoffs, but that's secondary to the significant accomplishment of reaching the postseason for this team.
15. Washington - 39-37. There has been quite a bit of debate about whether the Wizards are better off without their sometimes self-centered superstar Gilbert Arenas, who recently returned from a season-long injury. They aren't, but it won't matter anyway after their token first-round exit.
16. Toronto - 38-39. The struggling Raptors have dropped four of five, and have covered only three times in their last 10. Consecutive losses to the Hawks, Bobcats and Nets aren't a good sign for a playoff-bound team.
17. Portland -- 38-39. The Blazers have gone from one of the surprising early-season stories, to trying to salvage their season by finishing with a winning record. With games against the Spurs, Lakers and Mavericks on the docket, don't bet on it.
18. Sacramento 35-41. The Kings have some major questions going into the offseason - namely whether to keep veterans like Brad Miller or go younger -- but they put together a surprisingly competitive squad under first-year coach Reggie Theus.
19. Atlanta -- 35-41. The Hawks are doing their best to sneak into the playoffs - and save coach Mike Woodson's job - with wins in six of their last seven. However, they have won for their bettors just three times in those games.
20. Indiana -- 34-44. The Pacers have shown a little late-season pizzazz with wins in seven of their last 10, but off-court issues have affected this team's image with its once-loyal fan base. It would be a bit of a surprise of coach Jim O'Brien is back next year.
21. New Jersey -- 31-45. It would be a bigger surprise if coach Lawrence Frank is back with the Nets, whose team's ATS record of 31-44-2 is among the league's worst. This isn't the main reason he should be fired, but it's one of them.
22. Chicago -- 30-45. Whenever the Bulls provide a rare glimpse of hope, it's followed by an all-too-familiar feeling of agony. After winning at Cleveland as a 7.5-point dog, they turn around and promptly get hammered by the Wizards at home as a 7-point chalk.
23 Charlotte -- 29-47. The Bobcats are 5-5 in their last 10, but have covered in just three of those. The first bit of off-season intrigue is whether first-year coach Sam Vincent gets to see the second year of his contract.
24. Milwaukee -- 26-51. Ditto for coach Larry Krystkowiak and the woefully underachieving Bucks, who saw a bad season turn worse when rookie Yi Jianlian went down with a season-ending injury. They have lost six of their last eight.
25. L.A. Clippers -- 23-54. A lost season for the Clippers took another downturn with losses in eight of their past 10, most of which were by double digits. The good news is more ping-pong balls in the lottery sweepstakes.
26. Minnesota 19-57. Getting to 20 wins can be seen as an accomplishment for this rebuilding team, which appeared to be on pace for NBA futility records early in the season.
27. Memphis -- 21-56. At least the city of Memphis has the NCAA title game to be excited about; a scrimmage against the Grizzlies might be a close contest and bring in some more revenue for the school.
28. New York 21-56. The over/under should be set at about 12 hours as to how long it will take new GM Donnie Walsh to fire Isaiah Thomas after the buzzer sounds on the Knicks' catastrophic joke of a season.
29. Seattle 18-59. Kevin Durant and his D-league caliber friends could only muster two wins in their last 10. But it's not their fault that ownership decided to dump everyone on the roster who had a salary above minimum wage before moving the team. Not a classy parting gift for some of the league's most loyal fans.
30. Miami -- 13-64. Michael Beasley or Derrick Rose? Pat Riley or someone else? The Heat have many more questions than answers at this point.