The Phoenix Suns ended No. 1 in The Inquirer’s final regular-season NBA power rankings.
This is a regular-season ranking and not an indicator of who should be favored in the playoffs. While the Suns should be formidable as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, they are a relatively young team.
The fact that Phoenix went 3-0 this season against Utah and 2-0 against the Sixers pushed the Suns to the top.
The Sixers, who were No. 1 last week, dropped to No. 3 after road losses at Indiana and Miami.
Last week’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Phoenix (51-21) (3)
Chris Paul (16.4 ppg., 8.9 apg.) has made all the difference in the world for a franchise that was 34-39 last year and is making its first postseason appearance since 2010.
2. Utah (52-20) (2)
A key will be the status of All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell, who missed the last 16 games with a right ankle sprain. The Jazz were 10-6 in those games.
3. Sixers (49-23) (1)
The Sixers are the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time since 2000-2001, when they advanced to the NBA finals before losing to the Lakers in five games. They have the best home record in the Eastern Conference, 29-7.
4. Brooklyn (48-24) (6)
The Nets won their final five games to earn the No. 2 seed in the East. They had a franchise best .667 winning percentage. Whether the big three of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden can stay healthy will be a major story to watch.
5. Los Angeles Clippers (47-25) (7)
For the second straight year, the Clippers will face Dallas in the first round after eliminating the Mavericks in six games last year. The Clippers led the NBA in three-point shooting percentage (41.1%) and free throw percentage (83.9%), which makes them a very dangerous team.
6. Denver (47-25) (4)
The Nuggets finished 13-5 in their final 18 games after losing Jamal Murray to a season-ending ACL injury. Nikola Jokic is the likely MVP after playing all 72 games and averaging 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists.
7. Milwaukee (46-26) (5)
The Bucks couldn’t have earned a more difficult first-round opponent, having to face Miami. This season, Milwaukee was 2-1 against the Heat.
8. Los Angeles Lakers (42-30) (11)
The Lakers won their final five games, including the last two with LeBron James, who averaged 24.5 points in those games after missing the previous six when he reinjured his ankle.
9. Dallas (42-30) (8)
The Mavericks went 9-3 down the stretch. Luka Doncic averaged 27.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 8.6 assists.
10. Portland (42-30) (9)
The Trail Blazers stayed out of the play-in game by clinching the No. 6 Western Conference seed with a 132-116 home win on Sunday against Denver. Portland will face the same Nuggets in the playoffs.
11. New York (41-31) (10)
After a seven-year absence, the Knicks have returned to the postseason, in which they are the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. First-time All-Star Julius Randle averged 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 6.0 assists.
12. Miami (40-32) (12)
After last week’s 106-94 win over the Sixers, the Heat then lost, 122-108, at Milwaukee and dropped to sixth in the Eastern Conference. Last year’s defending Eastern Conference champion has to face Milwaukee in a challenging first-round series.
13. Atlanta (41-31) (13)
The Hawks turned it around when Nate McMillan replaced Lloyd Pierce as coach. McMillan guided the Hawks to a 27-11 record. They won their final four games and seven of their last eight.
14. Golden State (39-33) (14)
The Warriors ended the season with the NBA’s longest current win streak, six games. Steph Curry won the NBA scoring title (32.0 ppg.) for a Warriors team that visits the Lakers for Wednesday’s 7-8 seed play-in game.
15. Memphis (38-34) (16)
A 113-101 loss Sunday at Golden State snapped a five-game winning streak. During his second season, point guard Ja Morant averaged 19.1 and 7.4 assists but shot just 30.3% from three-point range.
16. Boston (36-36) (15)
The Celtics went 2-5 in their final seven games after Jaylen Brown went out for the season following wrist surgery.
17. Indiana (34-38) (19)
The Pacers are looking for their sixth straight playoff appearance, looking to reach the postseason via the play-in route. Former Sixer T.J. McConnell averaged 8.6 points, 6.6 assists and 1.9 steals.
18. Washington (34-38) (20)
The Wizards entered their play-in game with Boston having gone 17-6 in their final 23 games. Bradley Beal returned after missing three games with a hamstring injury and scored 25 points in Washington 115-110 win over Charlotte on Sunday.
19. San Antonio (33-39) (17)
The Spurs captured the 10th and final play-in spot in the Western Conference. They played poorly down the stretch, losing their last four games and 10 of their final 12.
20. Charlotte (33-39) (18)
The Hornets dropped their final five games. Terry Rozier led them in scoring, averaging 20.4 points per game.
21. New Orleans (31-41) (21)
The Pelicans missed the postseason for the third straight year. They were 2-9 this season in games that Zion Williamson missed.
22. Sacramento (31-41) (22)
The Kings have missed the playoffs 15 consecutive years. They finished last in defensive rating, allowing 116.5 points per 100 possessions.
23. Chicago (31-41) (23)
The Bulls missed the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year. In Billy Donovan’s first season, they finished two games behind Charlotte for the 10th and final play-in spot.
24. Toronto (27-45) (24)
The Raptors snapped a streak of seven consecutive playoff appearances. The big question is what to do with free agent point guard Kyle Lowry, who averaged 17.2 points and 7.3 assists, and still has plenty left at 35.
25. Minnesota (23-49) (25)
The Timberwolves missed the postseason for the third straight year and 16 of the past 17. First overall pick Anthony Edwards (19.3 ppg.) is a rookie of the year candidate.
26. Orlando (21-51) (26)
After two straight years of making the postseason, the Magic took a major step back in an injury-filled season. They were 6-2 when former Sixer Markelle Fultz suffered a season-ending torn ACL.
27. Detroit (20-52) (27)
Former Sixer Jerami Grant averaged a team-best 22.3 points. Rookie Saddiq Bey of Villanova had a solid season, averaging 12.2 points and shooting 38% from three-point range.
28. Cleveland (22-50) (28)
The Cavs failed to qualify for the playoffs for a third straight year and lost 13 of the final 14 games.
29. Oklahoma City (22-50) (30)
The Thunder snapped a nine-game losing streak by winning their final game, 117-112, over the Clippers. Over the next seven years, OKC has 18 first-round picks and 16 second-rounders.
30. Houston (17-55) (29)
After Russell Westbrook and James Harden were traded, the Rockets had to start almost from scratch. This will be a long rebuild for a franchise that had made eight consecutive playoff appearances until this season.