Driscoll’s NBA Power Rankings: Part 9

NBA Power Rankings: Cavaliers' Caris LeVert

We’re less than two months away from the NBA playoffs and it seems as though everything is falling into place. The real contenders have emerged while the pretenders are slipping further down the standings.

NBA Stats Glossary

Offensive Rating: Points Scored Per 100 Possessions
Defensive Rating: Points Allowed Per 100 Possessions
Net Rating: Point Differential Per 100 Possessions
Simple Rating System (SRS): Combination of Strength of Schedule and Net Rating)

10. New Orleans Pelicans (No Change)

Not much has changed about the Pelicans since last time. They are 6-4 in their last 10, fifth in the West, sixth in defense, and fifth in net rating and SRS. They are four games behind the No. 4-seeded Clippers, so while there is only a slim chance they’ll get home-court advantage in a playoff series, do not be surprised if they give one of the top four teams a run for their money in the first round.


9. Orlando Magic (Not Previously Ranked)

The Magic are back on the rise. After starting off the season red hot, then falling back down to earth for the next few weeks, the Magic have been one of the hotter NBA teams since the break. They are 8-2 in their last 10, sixth in the East, fifth in defense, and 12th in defense. The main issue with the Magic? They struggle against better teams. They are 15-20 against teams above .500 and will have difficulty competing with the top teams in the East. Nevertheless, seeing Paolo Banchero in the playoffs will be fun.

8. New York Knicks (-1)

A good amount of the Knicks’ core players have been out for the past couple of weeks, and their performance has surely reflected it. They are 3-7 in their last 10, though All-Star Jalen Brunson has done a great job keeping the Knicks at a respectable level. When they get OG Anunoby and Julius Randle back in the rotation, the Knicks have the potential to go very far.


7. Cleveland Cavaliers (-3)

Speaking of teams who were hot in January and got cold at the end of February, the Cavs come in at No. 7. They have lost five out of their last nine, and it would have been six if not for Max Strus‘s miracle buzzer beater. This streak has caused them to dip from second to third in the Eastern Conference. This is a bigger deal than it seems since a team would like to have home-court advantage in the second round against Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s Bucks. There is still plenty of basketball to be played and there is no reason to count the Cavs out, but they must wake up soon.

6. Los Angeles Clippers (-3)

Here’s another team that was extremely hot for a couple of months but has slipped lately. The Clippers got blown out by the Wolves and Thunder, only beat the Grizzlies by six, lost to the Kings, and blew a massive fourth-quarter lead to the Lakers. They are 2.5 games behind the first-place Thunder and two games behind the Wolves and Nuggets. The Clippers can absolutely go on another run to finish as the No. 1 seed, but that is not what they are concerned about. As long as they finish in the top half of the West (they are currently four games ahead of the fifth seed), they think they can beat anybody in the playoffs.

5. Minnesota Timberwolves (-3)

Despite falling three spots, the Wolves are not in panic mode just yet. They have won seven of their last 10 and only lost by one point to the Clippers last night. In addition, they still have the best defense in the league. Anthony Edwards has shown he can come up big in the playoffs, so it will just come down to how everyone else plays.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder (+1)

The Thunder are debatably the most well-rounded team in the league. They have won seven of their last eight, and one of those wins was a 22-point blowout against the Clippers. As of today, the Thunder rank third in offense, fourth in defense, and second in net rating. I’ve said the same thing about the Thunder for pretty much all the rankings this year: they are a fun team to root for, but they will not get respect from everyone until the playoffs. If they hold onto the No. 1 seed, it will be interesting to watch the West run through them.


3. Milwaukee Bucks (+5)

Perhaps the quickest turnaround this year belongs to Milwaukee. The Bucks are currently second in the East, tied for fifth in the league, and rank fourth in offense. In addition, they are fourth in defense ever since Doc Rivers took over as head coach. Lastly, their starting lineup of Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, and Malik Beasley has the best net rating in the league. This is a great sign given that rotations tend to shrink in the playoffs. Even though their full resume is not on the same level as the Thunder and the Wolves, ask yourself: who do you trust in the playoffs more? Antetokounmpo and Lillard, Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns, or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Chet Holmgren? You’re probably taking Antetokounmpo and Lillard.

2. Denver Nuggets (+4)

We’re towards the end of the season now, and the two preseason conference favorites are getting hot at the right time. The Nuggets have won six in a row, are tied for second in the West, and are just half a game out of first. The Nuggets’ starting lineup of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michal Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has the third-best net rating. Nikola Jokic, of course, deserves lengthy credit. Denver’s bench is a concern, but when the starters are that dominant, it makes the bench less important.

1. Boston Celtics (No Change)

Do I even have to say anything at this point? The Celtics have won 11 in a row and are first in pretty much every major category. Oh, sorry, they’re only second in defense. A lot of people are calling this the best team since the 2017 Warriors. But, just like with the Thunder, you cannot fully give a team its flowers until the playoffs. Even though a lot of these players have had playoff success elsewhere, this is a relatively new group. It will be quite exciting to watch them on the big stage.

Main Image Credit:

Embed from Getty Images


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