NBA Power Ranking Week 17: Postseason Predictions

Feb 13, 2020; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) drives against Los Angeles Clippers guard Kawhi Leonard (2) during the first overtime at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

With the All-Star break upon us, let’s preview where every team will end up at the end of the regular season.

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
    Record: 46-8
    Previous: 1

The Bucks were favored to win the East coming into the season, and through the All-Star break, that hasn’t changed. Putting up 30.0 PPG and 13.3 RPG with an added three-point shot, Giannis Antetokounmpo is a heavy favorite to win MVP. 

Finishes: first in the East

  1. Los Angeles Lakers
    Record: 41-12
    Previous: 2

Point guard LeBron James has proven to be an excellent move for the Lakers, as they have control of the top seed in the East. Barring a collapse, they should be able to keep that spot during the second half of the season.   

Finishes: first in the West

  1. Toronto Raptors
    Record: 40-15
    Previous: 4

The reigning champs had been the hottest team in the NBA before the Nets snapped their 15-game winning streak on Tuesday. However, their schedule gets tougher down the stretch, so I expect them to fall off a bit … down to the third seed.  

Finishes: second in the East

  1. Boston Celtics
    Record: 38-16
    Previous: 6

Jayson Tatum has broken out in year three, putting up 22.4 ppg and 6.9 rpg in his third season at age 21. The chemistry on this Celtics team has looked great all season, and they should be able to pass Toronto for the second seed in the East. 

Finishes: third in the East

  1. Los Angeles Clippers Record: 37-18 Previous: 3

Through load management and injuries, the Clippers have not had their full roster playing for much of the season. However, acquiring Marcus Morris, Sr. helps a lot with spacing, and this team should cause damage down the stretch. 

Finishes: second in the West

  1. Denver Nuggets
    Record: 38-17
    Previous: 5

After a slow start to the season, Nikola Jokic has been one of the best players in the league over the last month. Jamal Murray has been on fire as well over the previous five games after returning from injury.  

Finishes: third in the West

  1. Utah Jazz
    Record: 36-18
    Previous: 8

The Jazz have played about as well as most expected them to at the start of the season, currently positioned as the fourth seed in the West. Their only struggling player is Mike Conley, who is shooting just 39.2 percent from the field this season. 

Finishes: fourth in the West 

  1. Miami Heat
    Record: 35-19
    Previous: 7

With several breakout players in Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, and Kendrick Nunn, the Heat have been the NBA’s biggest overachiever so far. However, the Heat don’t have a favorable schedule, so I have them dropping to the fifth seed in the East.

Finishes: fourth in the East

  1. Philadelphia 76ers
    Record: 34-21
    Previous: 13

Just imagine a playoff series between Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler. That would go down as one of the most intriguing first-round matchups in recent memory, given all the storylines between the two. 20 of Philly’s 27 remaining games are against teams under .500, so expect them to rise in the standings.  

Finishes: fifth in the East

  1. Houston Rockets Record: 34-20 Previous: 11

Will small ball work? Will letting Russell Westbrook throw up 30 shots a game translate to wins?

Finishes: fourth in the West 

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder
    Record: 33-22
    Previous: 12

After a 6-11 start, the Thunder have been one of the best teams in the NBA with a 27-11 record since Thanksgiving. CP3, SGA, and Danilo Gallinari fit well, while Luguentz Dort has been a nice pickup for this team. Trading Westbrook really helped.  

Finishes: fifth in the West 

  1. Dallas Mavericks
    Record: 33-22
    Previous: 10

After a hot start to the season, the Mavericks have tailed off a bit with Luka Doncic getting hurt, but they are still a threat in the West. However, their lack of moves at the trade deadline may come back to hurt as they lack shooters. 

Finishes: sixth in the West 

  1. Indiana Pacers Record: 32-23 Previous: 9

Since getting Victor Oladipo back from injury, the Pacers are just 2-6, including a loss to the Knicks. With the East being so tight, there is so little room for error that that stretch may hurt Indiana for playoff positioning.  

Finishes: sixth in the East

  1. Memphis Grizzlies
    Record: 28-26
    Previous: 14

Despite their recent stretch and the strong play of rookie Ja Morant, I see the Grizzlies barely missing the playoffs. Still, even if they do, this team has a very bright future.  

Finishes: sixth in the West 

  1. Brooklyn Nets
    Record: 25-28
    Previous: 18

After struggling in previous weeks, the Nets have hit their stride right before the all-star break, having gone 7-3 over their last 10 games. Caris LeVert has been tremendous as of late with 37 against Toronto last Saturday and a game-high of 20 in their win over the Raptors on Wednesday.   

Finishes: seventh in the East 

  1. Portland Trail Blazers
    Record: 25-31
    Previous: 15

While having to miss the All-star game sucks for Damian Lillard, he couldn’t have picked a better time to get hurt with the break ahead of him. Lillard has played out of his mind this month, and with Jusuf Nurkic returning, the Trail Blazers should be able to move up to the eighth seed in the West. 

Finishes: sixth in the West  

  1. New Orleans Pelicans
    Record: 23-32
    Previous: 17

Despite the strong play of Zion Williamson, the Pelicans started the year in too big of a hole to make the playoffs. It would mark the first time in J.J. Redick’s 14-year career in which he misses the playoffs. 

Finishes: eighth in the East 

  1. Sacramento Kings Record: 21-33 Previous: 24

After a promising season last year, the organization has seemed frustrated with injuries to Marvin Bagley III and De’Aaron Fox this season. Sacramento had a horrendous offseason, putting them in a hole for the future. 

Finishes: seventh in the West 

  1. San Antonio Spurs
    Record: 23-31
    Previous: 16

For the first time since the 1996-97 season, the Spurs will miss the playoffs. Despite DeMar DeRozan quietly having a great season, the Spurs’ defense isn’t what it used to be. 

Finishes: eighth in the West 

  1. Orlando Magic
    Record: 24-31
    Previous: 20

The worst team in NBA history to make the playoffs were the 1985-86 Bulls (M.J.’s second year), who went 30-52. It’s going to take some work to make it at a record that bad, but the Magic are on pace to make the playoffs with 35 wins. 

Finishes: ninth in the East

  1. Washington Wizards
    Record: 20-33
    Previous: 22

Despite lots of roster change throughout this season, the Wizards have played well lately, going 6-4 in their last 10 games. That being said, they have arguably the worst defense in the NBA and aren’t making the playoffs this season.  

Finishes: 10th in the East 

  1. Phoenix Suns
    Record: 22-33
    Previous: 19

Following Damian Lillard’s injury, Devin Booker WAS named as an NBA All-Star replacement, the first for Phoenix since Steve Nash in the 2011-12 season. While the Suns aren’t entirely irrelevant anymore, they are still far from making the playoffs.  

Finishes: ninth in the West  

  1. New York Knicks
    Record: 17-38
    Previous: 26

The Knicks haven’t been as bad since firing David Fizdale, having gone 13-20 since then. However, with the team trading Marcus Morris, Sr., they aren’t going to be in a position to make the playoffs this season. 

Finishes: 11th in the East 

  1. Atlanta Hawks
    Record: 15-41
    Previous: 25

Oh, the team I had earning the sixth seed at the beginning of the season. While Trae Young has taken a big step forward, their defense and depth around him aren’t good enough to make the playoffs. 

Finishes: 12th in the East 

  1. Chicago Bulls Record: 19-36 Previous: 23

It will be interesting to see if Chicago can make a playoff run once Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter Jr. return from injury. Having been on a six-game losing streak, the Bulls likely put themselves in too big of a hole to climb out of.  

Finishes: 9th in the East 

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves Record: 16-37 Previous: 28

While acquiring D’Angelo Russell may make the fanbase happy, the Timberwolves are still far from being playoff hopefuls this season. At least they are now somewhat watchable. 

Finishes: 10th in the East 

  1. Charlotte Hornets Record: 18-36 Previous: 27

The Hornets finally got out of their rough stretch, having won their last two games. While they aren’t the worst team in the NBA like many expected coming in, they are nowhere near making the playoffs this season.  

Finishes: 11th in the East 

  1. Detroit Pistons
    Record: 19-38
    Previous: 21

The team traded their best player and got next to nothing for him = no playoffs for Detroit this season.  

Finishes: 12th in the East

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers
    Record: 14-40
    Previous: 30

Acquiring Andre Drummond really doesn’t make any sense for an already dysfunctional franchise. It will be interesting to see if Tristan Thompson gets bought out by the team.  

Finishes: 13ty in the East

  1. Golden State Warriors
    Record: 12-43
    Previous: 29

The Warriors now look even more like a G-League team, with D’Angelo Russell, Glenn Robinson III, and Alec Burks all getting traded. When Steph Curry and Klay Thompson come back next season, they’ll be back in contention to make the playoffs.

Finishes: 15th in the East

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