As the season comes to an end, some teams are fighting for a seed in the playoffs while others are counting down the days until the season is over. Eight teams have already clinched playoff spots with around nine games left in the season. Teams are moving up and down the rankings just like the playoff seedings in each conference. This week Alfonso DeFalco will do teams 1-15 and Alec Walt will do teams 16-30. Let’s take a look at each team as of today:
Alfonso DeFalco (FonzyDeFalco)
1.) Golden State Warriors (60-13): The Warriors currently on a nine game winning streak and eclipsing the 60 win mark this past weekend. They are clearly the best team in the NBA with top MVP candidate Stephen Curry running the show and Steve Kerr doing an excellent job coaching the this team. While it may be true that Curry and Thompson will lead the way, keep an eye on Draymond Green (who is my most improved award pick) who is the heart and main energy guy on this team. The rest of Golden State’s schedule is kind of tough. Out of the nine games remaining, only 2 have a losing record.
2.) Cleveland Cavaliers (47-27): Minus the one lose they had this week against Brooklyn, this team has been red hot as of late with a revitalized LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love becoming the big three that Cavs fan have waited for. The question remains is how well can these three play when the season really counts in the playoffs.
3.) Atlanta Hawks (55-18): They have been struggling slightly this past week but now that Korver is fully back and in the lineup I don’t expect that to happen. This team has no clear-cut superstar (Paul Millsap maybe?) and I think it wont affect them in their deep playoff run I think they’ll make. Keep an eye out for DeMarre Carrol, an underrated defender in my opinion who I think is there X-Factor.
4.) Houston Rockets (50-23): JAMES HARDEN! He really has been playing fantastic this season even when they did not have Dwight Howard and no size in the paint. Maybe that helped his cause for MVP? Who knows but right now this Rockets team looks great and Howard couldn’t of came at a better time, they really need his size and rebounding ability in the playoffs when they play against some top big men in the West.
5.) San Antonio Spurs (47-26): We know the drill with these Spurs, everyone’s heard it before and that is to never count out San Antonio. Coach Popovich always has a trick up his sleeve night in and night out so will see what his next plan is the rest of the season with a playoff spot locked in. Knowing him, he will rest his main players a couple of games before the season ends.
6.) Memphis Grizzlies (50-24): It has been a week that Memphis wishes they can reverse, losing to three playoff teams who have shots ate winning the title (Cleveland, Golden State, San Antonio). To make matters worse, the lost by double digits in every game (22 against CLE, 23 against GS, 14 against SA). They need to move on and forget bout what happened at this point if they want to make a title run.
7.) Los Angeles Clippers (49-25): Blake Griffin coming back from an elbow injury has been huge for them and DeAndre Jordan has been a defensive powerhouse for them, which by the way he leads the league in rebounds with 14.8 and 2.2 blocks per game. They are on an 8 game winning streak and they have been blowing out teams in most of their games. They have a history of been streaky so will see what happens to them for the remainder of the season.
8.) Portland Trail Blazers (47-25): If they had Wes Matthews right now, I would go as far as to say that they came be an NBA Finals team. Especially after they acquired Arron Afflalo from the trade deadline and was expected to be their sixth man, which they have been looking for. Now that he has been starting for them, they are lacking in the bench department for scorers that can come in night in and night out. The question remains how far can they go now without Matthews.
9.) Toronto Raptors (43-30): Still currently in a rough patch, with some days getting blown out and other nights they look unstoppable. They are also the 3rd highest scoring team with 104 points per game which I think is huge because they can score a lot but the questions is can there defense hold up especially when if comes to crunch time in the playoffs.
10.) Dallas Mavericks (45-29): The Mavericks have been playing well despite all the talks of Rondo and Coach Rick Carlisle. If this continues to be a problem, they I think it can hurt there title chances because it would be a distraction. Let’s see how this whole thing plays out when the playoffs start. Regardless about what happens, this is probably the best starting five (Rondo, Ellis, Parsons, Dirk, Tyson) in the league so this makes them a scary 7th seed.
11.) Oklahoma City Thunder (42-32): Sad news coming from the Thunder as they announced that Kevin Durant will miss the rest of the season with a lingering foot injury. This is a terrible loss because he is one of the best scorers in the NBA. However Russell Westbrook has done very during the time Durant has missed (9 triple-doubles). Even though Durant will not be a factor, I still think they can make noise in the playoffs but I do not think that they will go far.
12.) Washington Wizards (41-33): These past couple of weeks have not been a good one for Washington. They went 7-7 in March with one week going on a 5 game win streak to a week when they went 0-4. We really do not know what to expect from this team when the season comes to an end.
13.) Chicago Bulls (45-29): Despite not having Derrick Rose they still managed to clinch a playoff spot. They’ll need to services of Rose if they want to be in the conversation for winning championship. Can they compete without Rose? I believe so but they won’t go far.
14.) New Orleans Pelicans (39-34): If Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday were perfectly healthy the whole year and, then I think that they would be in the playoff race rather than from the outside. Currently they are 3 and half games behind the Thunder for the 8th spot and with the way the Thunder have been playing, looks like New Orleans will miss the playoffs for the 4th straight year. Expect Monty Williams to be on the hot seat the rest of the year.
15.) Phoenix Suns (38-36): Like the Pelicans, they had a shot at the 8th seed, but again the play of Thunder had set them back. Still if they don’t make the playoffs this has still been a successful season for them. I think the backcourt of Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe could be a force to recon with for years to come.
Alec Walt (@AlecWalt)
16.) Brooklyn Nets (32-40): The Brooklyn Nets are currently the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. They are riding on a three game win streak. Brook Lopez is on a tear as of late scoring 32, 26, 31, 34, 20, and 30 points in his last six games. The free-agent to be needs to continue this tear if they want to stay in the playoffs. Either way, the Nets and Hawks are swapping 1st round draft picks.
17.) Miami Heat (34-39): Dwayne Wade, even at the age of 33, has shown everyone he can still play. Wade scored 32 points on Sunday against the Detroit Pistons. As the season comes to an end the Heat need to give Wade rest. The anticipated first round match up is against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Miami leads the season series 2-1.
18.) Boston Celtics (32-41): The Boston Celtics were sitting in the eight spot in the East and are now 1/2 game out behind the Brooklyn Nets. This Celtics team strives off of Brad Stevens patience and confidence. The Celtics have nine games to prove they are a playoff team. Playoffs or not, this was a successful season for the Celtics. Expect them to be buyers in free agency.
19.) Milwaukee Bucks (36-37): What is going on in Milwaukee? Since the acquisition of Michael Carter-Williams, the Bucks are 4-12. The Bucks are still the six seed with a two game lead over the Miami Heat. Jason Kidd deserves to be on the coach of the year ballot for leading this team without Jabari Parker and Larry Sanders. A nice team is slowly coming together in Milwaukee.
20.) Utah Jazz (32-41): Just after being called out by Enes Kanter, the Utah Jazz pull off a five point victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Rudy Gobert has been playing like a rebounding machine. The Jazz are about to miss the playoffs for the third straight season. The Jazz are in prime position to grab another young player to a core of young players.
21.) Indiana Pacers (32-41): Paul George is hoping to return before the end of the season. George wants to play, but he is “going with the flow.” The Pacers desperately need him, but I can see why they want to rest him. There is no point in risking another injury if the team isn’t in the playoffs. The Pacers are pretenders without Paul George.
22.) Detroit Pistons (28-45): The Pistons are still in the playoff hunt but the playoffs are a bit of reach. Their main focus has shifted to Greg Monroe who is an upcoming unrestricted free-agent. Also, they have to decide between Brandon Jennings or Reggie Jackson. The Pistons are stuck in a weird position with the fact they are no where near a top pick. Not making the playoffs ruined Detroit’s long term plans.
23.) Charlotte Hornets (31-41): The Charlotte Hornets are one game out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Charlotte has been the streakiest team in the NBA and the arrow is pointing down. They have lost six of the last eight games. Al Jefferson is day-to-day and his health scares me going down the stretch. Al Jefferson’s player option should worry Hornets fans.
24.) Denver Nuggets (28-46): The Denver Nuggets season is getting uglier. They have lost five of the last seven games. Ty Lawson’s numbers have decreased significantly and there will be questions all off-season if he will be on the team next season. The only positive is the Nuggets are fifth in the NBA in rebounds per game. The mile high meltdown is almost over.
25.) Sacramento Kings (26-46): The Kings season can be described like this: DeMarcus Cousins in putting up big numbers but the Kings still lose. With George Karl as the head coach, the Kings have gone 8-12. Rudy Gay has played under the radar this season averaging over 20 points per game. The Kings have talent, new leadership with George Karl, and a nice lottery pick this summer. Could Rajon Rondo be an option this summer?
26.) Philadelphia 76ers (18-56): The Philadelphia 76ers have lost four of the last five games. Nerlens Noel has been an absolute beast as of late. His 30 point, 14 rebound outing against the Los Angeles Clippers welcomed him to NBA relevance. Noel’s emergence since the Michael Carter-WIlliams trade is a good thing for the 76ers.
27.) Orlando Magic (22-52): The Orlando Magic are playing terrible basketball. It almost looks as if the Magic are trying to lose. Elfrid Payton, Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, and Victor Oladipo have been putting up numbers all season except the win column. With Harris expected to leave, this upcoming draft is stacked at Power Forward. Orlando has been waiting for a while to stop rebuilding.
28.) Los Angeles Lakers (19-53): The Lakers are doing all they can to land in the top-5 so they don’t lose their protected 1st-round draft pick. Kobe Bryant is dying for another ring and the 2015 season coming up may be his last. The Lakers have only won three of the last ten games. Kobe deserves a final fight before he leaves the game forever.
29.) Minnesota Timberwolves (16-57): The Minnesota Timberwolves give up the most points per game in the NBA. Kevin Garnett has been a non factor other then a little bit more ticket sales since the trade was made. Andrew Wiggins and a top-5 pick this season is a sign to believe in the future of the Timberwolves. Timberwolves fans deserve a good team.
30.) New York Knicks (14-60): The New York Knicks have lost seven games in a row. Phil Jackson has been waiting for the season to end once it started. The Knicks have the second worst scoring and rebounding team in the NBA. Langston Galloway has proven a spot in the future of the Knicks. The Knicks have a lot of money and little patience going into the offseason. With the potential number one pick, the New York Knicks are on the clock.