Our weekly NBA rankings, where we start to see teams get ready for the playoffs. Or try to improve their lottery position. Either way.
1. Cavaliers (56-15) Seven game win streak, best record in the NBA, and they get Big Z back this week. The only intrigue left for the last few weeks of the season is to see what team they get to destroy in the first round.
2. Magic (49-21) Rashard Lewis gets called out for not living up to his $18.5 million, he goes out and drops 24 and 11 on the Heat. And that’s the team’s big problem?
3. Lakers (52-18) LA has to get prepared for the playoffs without Andrew Bynum (he’ll be back next month). Had to do that the last two years, and they went to the Finals.
4. Nuggets (47-23) Injury questions about along the front line (not to mention the coach), and Denver’s next five games include Boston, Orlando and Dallas. Rockies-like mountains for this team to climb.
5. Mavericks (46-23) If Rodrigue Beaubois were a rookie on a lesser team, where he got a lot of burn, his name would pop up in Rookie of the Year conversations.
6. Hawks (45-24) Monday night game against the streaking Bucks, then on Wednesday they face Orlando. Atlanta has big playoff aspirations, these are the types of teams they need to beat in the playoffs.
7. Bucks (38-30) They are 14-2 since they traded for John Salmons. How much will they pay to keep him around this summer?
8. Suns (44-26) Four wins in a row, and the last one against Portland was the kind of ground it out win the Suns will need in the playoffs.
9. Celtics (45-24) Four wins in a row and those old legs have looked fresh the last week. Can that really last into the playoffs? Boston fans gave a little extra in the church offering plate yesterday hoping to make it so.
10. Thunder (42-26) They dropped a game to the Pacers? Ugh. The mistake of a young team. Which we forget these Thunder are.
11. Jazz (45-25) The last five has seen wins against the bottom feeders — Washington, Minnesota and a CP3less New Orleans — but losses to Oklahoma City and Phoenix. They need to beat some good teams before the playoffs.
12. Spurs (41-27) Loss to Hawks Sunday, next four games are Thunder, Lakers, Cavaliers and Celtics. Tough road for a team trying to stay out of the eight seed.
13. Blazers (42-29) Go ahead and say they are only beating teams below .500 lately — I will because they are — but the fact is they are still beating them.
14. Heat (36-34) Teams at the top of the East all want to avoid Dwyane Wade in the first round — they know they can win the series, but he will make it harder than it has to be.
15. Rockets (36-32) The Aaron Brooks/Kevin Martin backcourt is already one of the most dynamic in the NBA. All they need is a powerhouse center and… oh yea. Yao.
16. Grizzlies (37-33) Heavy stretch of road games to end the season, but with this team that may be the best thing.
17. Bobcats (35-34) Don’t look at the team on the court the last week, look at that shiny new owner we’ve got.
18. Raptors (34-34) I’d say they were desperately holding on to the final playoff spot in the East, except everybody below them is crumbling.
19. Hornets (33-38) This week the Chris Paul and Darren Collison share the ball experiment begins. That should be interesting.
20. Kings (24-46) Big sigh of relief that Tyreke Evans will not miss the rest of the season. He’s the only thing making this team watchable (of course, they beat the Clippers without him).
21. Bulls (32-37) On paper, an enticing team for free agents. If said free agents watched them play this week, not so much.
22. Pacers (24-46) The Pacers with a couple of wins this week. It helps when Danny Granger drops 29. Still does not make this team watchable.
23. Sixers (24-46) Playing out the string, and having to do it against playoff teams. The next few weeks will be ugly.
24. Knicks (25-45) They are .500 in their last four games. Take the small victories, Knicks fans.
25. Clippers (26-44) I bought a cool San Diego Clippers throwback T-shirt this week. That’s about the only interesting news I have on this team.
26. Warriors (19-50) Warriors fans don’t care about these rankings, the team is for sale. That is the only ray of hope this franchise had.
27. Pistons (23-47) At least Stuckey is healthy because this team is not.
28. Wizards (21-47) Eleven losses in a row now, time to get to the end of the season and hit the reset button.
29. Timberwolves (14-56) Saw them in person against LA… they are that bad. But they are still trying for Kurt Rambis, most of the time.
30. Nets (7-62) I want to move you out of last, I really do. Just give me a win to do it with.