Final NBA Power Rankings Update: The Dust Is Still Settling
Each week, we'll be translating numberFire's NBA power rankings into words. The rankings are driven by our nERD metric, which is a predictive statistic to help define what the team's winning percentage ultimately will be.
With the end of the season comes the end of our power rankings updates. We've seen the Warriors atop of the rankings since December 2014, and they haven't looked back. They look like the most dominant team in the league, but they also have the biggest target on their back with the Clippers and Spurs looking formidable in the closing weeks. It's no surprise that each of these teams form the top three in our power rankings.
With two days left in the season, everything is still as unsettled in the playoffs as it was last week. While we did see two more teams punch their tickets to the playoffs as a 7 seed in each conference, the 8 seed is still up for grabs in both conferences. And we can't forget the seeding battles taking place in the West. We've got all the up-to-date info you need to know in our rankings below.
#30 New York Knicks (nERD: 20.3, Record: 17-64, last week: 30)
#29 Philadelphia 76ers (nERD: 22.2, Record: 18-63, last week: 28)
#28 Minnesota Timberwolves (nERD: 22.3, Record: 16-65, last week: 29)
#27 Los Angeles Lakers (nERD: 31.6, Record: 21-60, last week: 26)
#26 Orlando Magic (nERD: 32.8, Record: 25-56, last week: 27)
#25 Sacramento Kings (nERD: 37.3, Record: 28-53, last week: 25)
#24 Denver Nuggets (nERD: 40, Record: 30-51, last week: 24)
#23 Brooklyn Nets (nERD: 40.1, Record: 37-44, last week: 23)
#22 Miami Heat (nERD: 41.7, Record: 36-45, last week: 22)
The Nets are in a dangerous spot -- they have the better chance to grab the 8 seed in the East at 53.2% (compared to the Pacers at 40.4%) it is by no means a done deal. This is despite going 12-31 against teams that are finishing above the .500 mark this season. But if one game doesn't go their way, they could be sitting at home come playoff time.
The good news is that they own the tiebreaker against the Pacers if both teams finish tied at 37 or even 38 wins. But, somehow, the Heat are still in the race and own a 6.5% chance to sneak in. If they beat the 76ers (who will want to win the game to have a chance to get the Heat's draft pick this year) and then finish tied with the Pacers and Nets, the Heat will have the tiebreaker thanks to head-to-head records. That's a lot to ask of a team that just lost nine of its last 12 games.
#21 Charlotte Hornets (nERD: 44.9, Record: 33-48, last week: 20)
#20 Detroit Pistons (nERD: 46.4, Record: 31-50, last week: 21)
#19 Phoenix Suns (nERD: 47.2, Record: 39-42, last week: 16)
#18 Indiana Pacers (nERD: 49.7, Record: 37-43, last week: 17)
#17 Boston Celtics (nERD: 50, Record: 38-42, last week: 19)
#16 Milwaukee Bucks (nERD: 50.2, Record: 41-40, last week: 18)
Did you see the Bucks' new logo? Guess they needed some good news as they head into the playoffs. It looks like they'll end up facing the Bulls or Raptors. This year, they went 1-2 against Toronto and 1-3 against Chicago. According to our algorithms, they don't even have a 1% chance to win the championship ( they sit at 0.9% to be exact).
#15 Utah Jazz (nERD: 52, Record: 38-43, last week: 15)
#14 New Orleans Pelicans (nERD: 52.2, Record: 44-37, last week: 14)
#13 Oklahoma City Thunder (nERD: 53.9, Record: 44-37, last week: 13)
We're still waiting for the 8 seed to be decided, and it's down to one game for each team. This one is simple -- a win by the Thunder and a loss by the Pelicans gets Russell Westbrook and company the prize of taking on the Warriors. The Thunder take on the Timberwolves on the last day of the season while the Pelicans happen to draw the Spurs, who won't exactly be laying down.
#12 Washington Wizards (nERD: 54.6, Record: 46-34, last week: 12)
#11 Toronto Raptors (nERD: 58.2, Record: 48-32, last week: 10)
#10 Chicago Bulls (nERD: 58.3, Record: 49-32, last week: 11)
#9 Memphis Grizzlies (nERD: 58.8, Record: 54-27, last week: 8)
It's either win the division (which they're a game behind the Spurs currently) or grab the 5 seed for the Grizzlies. They won't want to face a Spurs or Clippers team for a seven-game series that would pit them on the road. They split the season series with both teams, and both teams combined for only 19 losses on their home courts.
If the Grizzlies do nab the division title, they could face a Dallas team that they finished 3-1 against. If they can't do that but do grab the 5 seed, that's even better: they swept their season series with the Blazers. The Grizzlies may still not be a team that can get out of the second round, but the 2 or 5 seed would allow an easier start to the playoffs at least.
#8 Houston Rockets (nERD: 59, Record: 55-26, last week: 9)
#7 Cleveland Cavaliers (nERD: 59.5, Record: 52-29, last week: 5)
#6 Portland Trail Blazers (nERD: 59.6, Record: 51-30, last week: 6)
#5 Dallas Mavericks (nERD: 60.1, Record: 49-32, last week: 7)
#4 Atlanta Hawks (nERD: 65, Record: 60-21, last week: 4)
#3 San Antonio Spurs (nERD: 67.5, Record: 55-26, last week: 3)
#2 Los Angeles Clippers (nERD: 72.6, Record: 55-26, last week: 2)
#1 Golden State Warriors (nERD: 81.1, Record: 66-15, last week: 1)
The top three teams are all riding hot streaks into the playoffs. The Warriors (after back-to-back losses to the Spurs and Pelicans) are back on a three-game winning streak and have won eight of their last 10. The Clippers (still the NBA's most efficient offense with a 112.3 Offensive Rating) are riding a six-game winning streak and have won nine of their last 10 games. They've put themselves in a great position for a top seed but are still at the mercy of the results of the Southwest division. Either way, they have at least an extra day of rest before the playoffs start.
And speaking of the Southwest division, the Spurs have ridden an 11-game winning streak to grab the division lead. It's not sown up yet, but with a win against the Pelicans, they will win their division and claim the 2 seed. With a loss, they could tumble to the 5 or 6 seed -- not ideal for the defending champs.