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Top 10: NBA Power Rankings (Revised Edition)
Last month, I posted a hub of my Top 10 NBA Power Rankings as the NBA was tipping off the second half of the season. It seems like yesterday when I posted it. Now, as the regular season is winding down the regular season with only five weeks remaining, the playoff race is riding with full steam. Teams are battling for playoff position and playoff spots in the East and West. Three teams in the East are fighting for the final two playoff spots, don't be deceived by their records because they're under .500. Out West, there are three teams that are only one to three games within each other for the eighth and final playoff spot. This could lead up to some tough, testy match-ups in the 1st Round of the NBA Playoffs for the higher seeds in both conferences. What a difference a month makes because some teams are continuing to peak while some teams are peaking at the right time as the NBA regular season draws to a close and surges right into the postseason. Now, here is my new power rankings of the Top 10 NBA teams as we're heading to regular season finish line and race towards the playoffs.
1. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors keep on rolling down the stretch as the regular season comes to an end. They have the best record in the West, if not, in the NBA. With the magnificent play of guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (aka The Splash Brothers) as well as the emergence of Draymond Green to go with great bench play from David Lee, Andre Iguodala and Leandro Barbosa. Head coach Steve Kerr has done a great job in his first year. He will be very a candidate for the Coach of the Year. The Warriors have a strong possibility to come out of the West, but they may face a tough 1st Round match-up against a young and hungry New Orleans Pelicans or a dangerous and near-healthy Oklahoma City Thunder.
2. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks keep on rolling along as well with the best record in the East at 53-15. They have been playing outstanding ball thanks to Jeff Teague, Paul Milsap, Al Horford and sharpshooter Kyle Korver. Head coach Mike Budenholzer brought his mentor Gregg Popovich's Spurs style of basketball to the Hawks. They play the same aggressive, stingy defense, and they make the extra pass well on offense to get great shots. They have a great chance to represent the East in the NBA Finals in June.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs have had an interesting first half of the season to say the least. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong: losing streaks, lack of chemistry, lack of effort. But, thanks to the early January trades for Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov, LeBron James returning from early season injuries and the spectacular play of Kyrie Irving; the Cavs have been rolling since. They have had the best record in the NBA since January 15 with a 25-6 record within that span. Head coach David Blatt deserves credit for enduring endless media scrutiny and and adjusting to the midseason trade in his rookie year. The team has also improved defensively from how they where when the season started. Kevin Love is starting to get his rhythm back after his two-game hiatus. Although, he doesn't have the playoff experience, Kryie is showing that he will be ready for the playoffs for the first time in his career. King James is forcing his case for MVP this season. Cavs are another team that can represent the East in the NBA Finals come June.
4. Memphis Grizzles
The Grizzles are still the most underrated team in the NBA. They currently sit in the 2nd seed in the West with a 47-21 record and having a firm lock on that seed. The frontcourt of Marc Gasol and Zack Randolph are both having great seasons, and the guard play of Mike Conley and Tony Allen has this team in contention in the tough West. Head coach David Joerger has picked up where former head coach Lionel Hollins left off with tenacious defense and their half-court offense. They play playoff-type basketball, where they want to control the tempo for all 4 quarters. Grizzles have a great chance to come out the West and be in the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history this season.
5. San Antonio Spurs
After battling injuries to key players during the first half of the season, the Spurs have gotten healthy and they have regained their championship form. The Spurs have won 6 of their last 8 games with some hiccups along the way (i.e. the choke job against the Cavs last week and the choke job this week to the Knicks, where Pop called out his players to the press about their effort). Tim Duncan keeps on turning the clock back on Father Time with his play of late. Tony Parker has come strong since he's returned from injury, last year's Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard has been in Beast Mode (no disrespect to Marshawn Lynch) since returning from his injury and Danny Green has been lighting it up from Downtown. Also, backup guard Patty Mills has been solid since returning from the Rotator Cup injury that has plagued him most of the season. They sit 7th in the West, but wherever seed they finish with in the standings; they will give any of the top seeds in the West a battle in the 1st Round.
6. Houston Rockets
James Harden (aka The Bearded One) is making a very strong case to be this season's MVP. Houston has maintained a winning record with center Dwight Howard being out half of the season with his injury. The Rockets currently sit 4th in the West only a half-game back of the Portland TrailBlazers for the 3rd seed in the West. Role players Trevor Arizia and Patrick Beverly have stepped up their games in the absence of Howard. They can run up and down the floor and score with anybody, but if they want to make a serious run at the title, they need to bring down their opponent's field goal percentage.
7. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder started out the regular season on a bad note due to the injuries of reigning MVP Kevin Durant and superstar Russell Westbrook. But, thanks to monster trades, the Thunder are currently sitting 8th in the West and three and a half games ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans for the 8th and final playoff spot. Westbrook has taken it to another level since Durant has been absent for the second time this season. He has averaged a triple double in the 6 of 7 games. No player hadn't accomplished that feat since the great Michael Jordan. With his play, he is the reason that the Thunder sit in the 8th spot. But, now with Durant being out indefinitely due to the screw in his foot popping loose; it'll be up to Westbrook and the other players to challenge the #1 seeded Warriors in the 1st Round. It will be fight a to the finish for the 8th and final playoff spot in the West as the season winds down.
8. Boston Celtics
After trading away two key pieces of the Big Three (Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce) and the last piece of the trio left via free agency (Ray Allen) that were a huge part of the Celtics winning the NBA Championship in 2008, the Celtics were headed towards rebuilding. They recently trading the last remaining staple, Rajon Rondo, to the Dallas Mavericks. But, thanks to acquiring great young talent in Evan Turner and Isiah Thomas as well as having guard Avery Bradley; the Celtics have played great basketball in the month of March. They have fought their way to the current 8th seed in the East. Head coach Brad Stevens has done an excellent job with guiding this young core, and has them knocking on the door of their first playoff berth since 2013.
9. Portland TrailBlazers
The Blazers have a 6-2 record in the month of March, and have been playing some great basketball as well as having a good Eastern road trip with a convincing win in Toronto. They currently sit 4th in the West just a half-game in behind the Houston Rockets. The Blazers have stepped up their game since they received the news that their best defender shooting guard Wes Matthews will miss the remainder of the season with a torn Achilles injury. But, they haven't missed a beat since inserting Aaron Afflalo into the starting lineup. The trade was a big acquisition at the trade line for the Blazers. If the Blazers can maintain the 3rd seed, they still have a chance to come out of the West with Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge on the floor.
10. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers have been solid while Blake Griffin, the second half of Lob City, has been sidelined the last weeks recovering from a staph infection on his elbow. They currently sit in the 5th seed in the West, two and half games back of the Blazers for the 4th seed. Now, with Griffin back in the fold, the Clippers have re-solidified their bench. They will try to fight for the 4th seed in order to get homecourt advantage for the 1st Round. But, they have to improve defensively if they want to make a deep playoff run in the West.