2014-15 NBA Power Rankings, seventh edition
This is the seventh in a series of power rankings for the 2014-15 NBA season.
The previous edition can be seen here.
The latest edition is below:
1. Golden State Warriors (57-13): The Warriors keep cruising. Steve Kerr's team has won 10 of their last 11 games, and continue to just dominate opponents at home. They're winning by over 15 points per game at home, as their depth allows them to match-up with just about anyone. The Warriors have been the league's best team throughout the season, and now look to carry that momentum into the postseason.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (46-26): After a shaky start to the season, Cleveland is clicking, and at the right time. The Cavs have been on a tear since LeBron James returned from his self-imposed 8-game sabbatical, and his cast of Cavaliers is the strong favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference at this point.
3. Memphis Grizzlies (50-21): Memphis possesses one of the three defenses in the league that allows fewer than 100 points per 100 possessions, the other two being the Warriors and the Bucks. The Grizz may not generate as much hype as some of the other contenders, but they will be a very tough out come playoff time.
4. Atlanta Hawks (53-17): It is strange to see the 53-win Hawks this low, but their recent three-game skid has dropped them out of the top three. They still have a top-10 offense and defense in terms of efficiency, but they have looked much less invincible as of late.
5. Houston Rockets (47-23): No one, arguably ever, has done a better job at getting to the foul line than James Harden has this season. Harden's ability to generate offense will serve Houston well come playoff time. The pending return of Dwight Howard should help as well, especially with Terrence Jones now sidelined with a collapsed lung.
6. San Antonio Spurs (44-25): The Spurs are 8-2 over their last ten games, and sent a message with their double-digit win over the Hawks on Sunday: The Spurs are ready for playoff basketball.
7. Portland Trail Blazers (44-24): The Blazers have lost four straight games, and continue to battle injury issues. The addition of Aaron Afflalo helped to mollify the loss of Wesley Matthews, but recent injuries to Batum and Aldridge are of concern. The playoffs will be tough for Portland.
8. Los Angeles Clippers (46-25): The Clippers have played well as of late, currently riding a four-game winning streak, but questions persist about their depth and toughness. They could win a playoff series or two, but it remains to be seen if this team is truly championship material, like Doc Rivers' '08 Celtics were.
9. Toronto Raptors (42-28): The Raptors have only won one playoff series in team history, but they're hoping that this year can change that. In order to do that, the Raptors want to stay in the East's third spot and give themselves a more favorable playoff matchup, but can they hold off the Bulls?
10. Chicago Bulls (43-29): Injury issues aside, the Bulls might be the toughest team to beat in the Eastern Conference in a series not named Cleveland. Chicago has an extremely formidable frontcourt rotation of Noah, Gasol, Gibson, and Mirotic, and with Jimmy Butler back and solid play from Rose-replacement Aaron Brooks, they still have a solid shot at a Conference Finals appearance.
11. Dallas Mavericks (44-27): It is safe to say that the Rajon Rondo experiment has not worked as well as some in Dallas had hoped. The Mavericks continue to be an inconsistent team, 5-5 over their last 10, with effort issues. Coach Carlisle is on record saying that his team doesn't play hard all of the time, and they are beginning to look like an afterthought in a crowded Western Conference.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (40-30): The Thunder really can't catch a break with all their injury issues. First Serge Ibaka goes down, and then Durant's return timetable is pushed back indefinitely. Still though, the Thunder are in possess of the West's eighth seed thanks to the other-worldly play of Russell Westbrook, who has notched ten (!) triple-doubles so far this season.
13. Washington Wizards (40-31): The Wizards are a lock to make the playoffs, but at this point, they're not expected to do much else. They were blasted by the Warriors on Monday night, losing by 31 points, for their third loss in a row. Inconsistency has been the only constant for the Wizards lately.
14. Phoenix Suns (38-33): After starting to slip after deadline day, the Suns have won seven of their last ten games, several of them without Brandon Knight. Phoenix has actually won four straight without Knight, and at this point it seems unlikely that they will be interested in bringing him back this summer.
15. New Orleans Pelicans (37-33): Considering how well he has played this season, it is unfortunate that Anthony Davis' team will be out of the playoff picture, while a team like the Celtics or Pacers will get in. Such a situation adds fuel to the fire for a new playoff system.
16. Miami Heat (32-37): It is unfortunate that we won't get an opportunity to see this team at full health for the remainder of the season, as a lineup of Dragic-Wade-Deng-Bosh-Whiteside could be pretty formidable come playoff time. As it stands, the Heat will likely suffer a first-round loss in their first season post-LeBron.
17. Milwaukee Bucks (34-36): At one point, the Bucks were 31-23. Since trading Brandon Knight and adding Michael Carter-Williams, they have gone just 3-13, struggled at times on the offensive end, and lost a lot of the feel-good juju they had built up throughout the first half of the season.
18. Boston Celtics (31-39): You know things are going your way when Evan Turner tallies a triple-double, as he did in Monday's win over the Nets. Turner has two triple-doubles in his last 16 games after recording zero in his first 4+ years. The Celtics are also currently in sole possession of the East's final playoff spot.
19. Utah Jazz (31-39): Winners of seven of their last ten, the Jazz have really played better ball post-All-Star break. They are 12-4 since then, and have looked (at times) like a legitimate playoff team. The continued emergence of Rudy Gobert has helped.
20. Charlotte Hornets (30-39): Charlotte has had an up-and-down sort of season, and at this point still remains only half a game out of playoff positioning. Kemba Walker is back putting up points in the starting lineup, but the offense seems to stand still in Monday's loss against the Bulls. Charlotte wants a playoff spot, but landing in the lottery might not be the worst thing for the new-look Hornets.
21. Indiana Pacers (30-40): After making a push toward the playoffs, the Pacers have fallen back a bit, dropping six in a row. They are still only a game out of playoff positioning, but you have to wonder if it is even worth Paul George attempting a comeback at this point in the season.
22. Brooklyn Nets (29-40): Brook Lopez has been playing well, but the Nets have not. They're still only a game and a half out of the East's eighth seed, but have some heavy competition, and certainly aren't playing the best basketball of the bunch.
23. Denver Nuggets (27-44): The Nuggets have gone 5-5 over their last 10, but the job Melvin Hunt has done since taking over for Brian Shaw should earn him consideration for the full-time head coach position.
24. Detroit Pistons (26-44): After calling the Sixers rebuilding process 'embarrassing' last year, Stan Van Gundy's Pistons dropped a game to the Sixers in Philadelphia last week, and like the Sixers, they are destined to land in the lottery. Asked afterwards if loss to the SIxers was embarrassing, Van Gundy didn't have a response.
25. Sacramento Kings (24-45): The Kings have talent (Cousins, Gay) and a new coach (Karl). They may benefit from an offseason together, as this season proved to be a forgettable one for Sacramento.
26. Orlando Magic (22-50): Orlando has had their fair share of struggles this season, but the improving play of point guard Elfrid Payton has been an extreme bright spot as of late. Last week, Payton became the seventh rookie in league history to post triple-doubles in consecutive games. Not too shabby.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (18-50): The Lakers beat the Sixers over the weekend, although it may have been a win for the Sixers in draft-pick-terms. The Lakers don't need or want to lose their lottery pick in the upcoming draft, which swings to the Sixers if it falls out of the top 5.
28. Philadelphia 76ers (17-53): The fact that the 76ers are 11th overall in the entire NBA in defensive efficiency, despite the roster turnover this season, is a testament to Brett Brown. The second-year coach gets his team to play hard no matter who is suiting up. It will be exciting to see what he can do when he has some true talent on his team.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves (16-54): Despite improving play from Nerlens Noel in Philadelphia and Elfrid Payton in Orlando, Andrew Wiggins likely still has the Rookie of the Year award locked up. His future serves as a bright spot in an otherwise forgettable season in Minnesota.
30. New York Knicks (14-57): The Knicks are just two losses away from equaling the franchise record of 59 losses, and only three away from setting it, which seems likely at this point. Ouch.
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