NBA Power Rankings: Spurs close out season riding high

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This is it, our final power rankings of the season. Usually I’d have them ranked in the order I would rank championship contenders, but this year any of the top four could win a chip and I wouldn’t be surprised. Hard to rank teams at the end of the season with everyone coasting and resting guys — and at the bottom of the rankings outright tanking. But here is a final rundown.

1. Spurs (47-16, last week ranked number 3). If they are the top seed in the West they could get through to the finals without having to play Memphis or the Lakers — two big challenges because of their front line size. Manu Ginobili is the key for this team.

2. Heat (46-18, LW 4). They need to get the big three healthy, but to me that’s not the real heart of the matter. If they get good production from their role players — Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier — they will get a ring. But if, like last year and large parts of the second half of this season, it is the big three against the world they will fall short again.

3. Bulls (48-16, LW 1). They need to get Derrick Rose back and fully integrated, fortunately getting the struggling Sixers in the first round gives them more time to do just that.

4. Thunder (46-18, LW 2). They need to get James Harden back, but Sunday’s loss to the Lakers was the latest in a string of losses to playoff teams. They need to get right during the first round because the Lakers will not be an easy out in the second.

5. Pacers (41-23, LW 6). Everyone is sleeping on the Pacers, but with George Hill at the point they are a very good team. They win the playoff lottery and get Orlando in the first round, but watch how hard they push the Heat in the second round.

6. Celtics (37-27, LW 5). They have put a lot of confidence in their veteran core — they are resting key guys rather than going after home court. On one hand it makes sense, do you think Kevin Garnett cares where they game is? But Boston is 22-9 at home this season and 15-18 on the road, and they have not been a great road team in recent playoffs. Doc Rivers has taken a risk.

7. Grizzlies (39-25, LW 9). The Spurs and the Thunder are the two best teams in the West this season, but are the Grizzlies the third best entering the playoffs? Maybe. They are going to be a tough out for anyone they face. It looks like Grizzlies/Clippers in the first round and that is going to be the best first round series in either conference.

8. Lakers (41-24, LW 7). Maybe the hardest team to predict entering the playoffs — when focused on defense and running the offense inside out through Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol they can beat anybody. But they are just as likely to get away from what works for them, play hero ball and lose to anyone. Can Matt Barnes fill in well enough for Metta World Peace?

9. Clippers (40-24 LW 8). The Clippers have talked a lot recently about standing their ground and defending Blake Griffin. They are very likely getting Memphis in the first round. They better be ready because that is going to be a black-and-blue series.

10. Hawks (38-26, LW 10). No Al Horford for the playoffs. With him I thought they had a real chance to beat the Celtics in the first round, but without him that is a hard slog.

11. Knicks (34-30, LW 12). The Knicks play defense and have developed into a pretty good team that can defend and put points on the board. The problem is they did it so late in the season they get the Heat in the first round. Ticket prices for this series will be through the roof, but the Heat talent will overwhelm.

12. Nuggets (35-28, LW 13). JaVale McGee in the playoffs. This should be fun.

13. Mavericks (36-29, LW 11). They still have Dirk Nowitzki, they have been playing their best basketball of late, but nobody thinks they are a threat and may not even get out of the first round. Hey, didn’t people think that last year, too.

14. Jazz (34-30, LW 17). Huge game Tuesday night against the Suns. If the Jazz get into the playoffs, Tyron Corbin and Paul Millsap deserve huge kudos.

15. 76ers (33-30, LW 15). Do you think they could win even a game against the Bulls or Heat in the first round the way they are playing right now?

16. Suns (33-31, LW 16). Much like the Jazz, just being in the playoff conversation is a win for this team. Steve Nash deserves all the credit he gets, but don’t overlook Marcin Gortat’s contribution.

17. Magic (36-28, LW 18). They are 3-7 without Dwight Howard. They will be 0-4 against the Pacers in the first round.

18. Rockets (33-31, LW 14). For the third straight year they will have a better than .500 record and miss the playoffs. That stings.

19. Bucks (30-33, LW 19). They actually have a slim chance to still make the playoffs, but when you need things like the Nets to win you are hoping against hope.

20. Pistons (24-40, LW 21). Greg Monroe had a good season but he clearly was worn down in the end. There are some pieces to build on here.

21. Blazers (28-36, LW 20). Losers of five straight. They have LaMarcus Aldridge, what they need is a team president and GM to set a direction for the franchise and for the owner to stay out of the new hire’s way.

22. Raptors (22-42, LW 22). They get Jonas Valanciunas next season plus whoever they get in this draft. With DeMar DeRozan there is something to build on. Especially if Andrea Bargnani can stay healthy.

23. Timberwolves (26-39, LW 23). Of all the teams in the bottom 10, with Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Rick Adelman at the helm, none has a brighter future.

24. Hornets (20-44, LW 25). New stable ownership, now we can see what Dell Demps and Monty Williams can really do.

25. Nets (22-42, LW 24). No team may have a wilder offseason. They could enter Brooklyn with a complete rebuilding project, or they could enter with Dwight Howard and Deron Williams. I kind of think the former is more likely.

26. Cavaliers (21-42, LW 28). Kyrie Irving comes back and the Cavs get a win, no coincidence there. They have their point guard of the future, just four other positions to fill out now.

27. Wizards (17-46, LW 29). A three game win streak… don’t start printing playoff tickets, but when Nene is in the lineup this team plays pretty good defense and can compete a little. Lots of work to do to change the culture, but they made some good first steps.

28. Warriors (23-41, LW 26). If you want to talk about outright tanking… then they go and win a game on Sunday night. They are all about the ankles of Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry being right next season.

29. Kings (21-43, LW 27). DeMarcus Cousins is key to the future of this team. Is Tyreke Evans anymore?

30. Bobcats (7-55, LW 30). Worst. Team. Ever. (That could be official by Thursday if they don’t win any more games.)

Report: Warriors project at least $100 million revenue increase with new arena next season

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
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The Warriors’ player costs this season are in line to be about $195 million (about $145 million in salary, about $50 million in luxury tax).

If they re-sign Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson to max salaries, keep everyone under contract, sign their own draft picks and fill the rest of their roster with minimum-salary free agents, the Warriors’ spending on players next season would project to hit about $355 million (about $173 million in salary, about $182 million in luxury tax).

But maybe Golden State can afford it.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

Internally, the Warriors project a nine-figure increase in revenue when they move into the Chase Center next season, sources said.

The Warriors already make so much money on their home games. That’s a whopping increase – one that could alone increase the league-wide salary cap a couple million dollars.

But this figure doesn’t say how much more money will reach Golden State ownership. Revenue differs from profit. The Warriors could have greater expenses, including revenue-sharing obligations, in their new arena.

Still, it’s hard to imagine this won’t be a windfall for the Golden State, one that could go a long way not just in affording stars but also keeping complementary players like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.

The salary cap promotes competitive balance. But big-spending teams still have an advantage.

2019 NBA All-Star jersey leaks

AP Photo/Chris Pizzello
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NBA All-Stars wore black and white uniforms last season, and it appears this year’s All-Star game will feature a similar look.

Josman Suri:

I love All-Star jerseys integrating a player’s NBA team, which comes more naturally now that All-Star teams are selected by captains rather than East vs. West.

But these are pretty bad. They look cheap and generic.

Perhaps, the red-white-and-blue borders are a nod to All-Star jerseys from 1991, when the game was last held in Charlotte:

AP_910210042

(AP Photo/Susan Regan)

If so, I appreciate the attempt to connect historically. But the link is pretty weak.

The Hornets have iconic colors in teal and purple. I’d rather see those integrated into the All-Star uniforms.

And I fear the white versions could look even worse. A black-and-white version of the Lakers’ looks too plain in the above photo. That version of a team’s logo could look even blander against white.

Dennis Schroder on trade from Hawks to Thunder: ‘I wanted to be in a winning-mentality organization. You just can’t go out there and try to lose’

AP Photo/John Amis
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Dennis Schroder expressed his dismay last offseason with the Hawks’ losing.

Safe to say, the point guard was happy to be traded to the Thunder.

Schroder, via Erik Horne of The Oklahoman:

“I wanted to be in a winning mentality organization,” Schroder said bluntly, not the first time he’s brought up the different direction he had from the new Hawks, who are 13-30 entering Tuesday’s game. “You just can’t go out there and try to lose.

“I’m a competitor and I try to give everything out there. I want the organization to feel the same way. Right now with our organization, all the players in the locker room, all of the coaches, they’ve got a winning mentality. That’s what makes it fun, when you go out there and go to war with your brothers. There’s nothing better than that.”

Atlanta beat Oklahoma City by 16 last night, turning Schroder’s comments on their head. But that was only one game. Obviously, the Thunder are far better than the Hawks.

Atlanta is doing right by itself by rebuilding. But aggravating veterans should be a consequence of tanking. It’s a natural check on the practice.

Though Hawks players aren’t trying to lose when on the court, management built a team less-equipped to win now with the clear intent of landing a higher draft pick. It’s a miserable situations for veterans who are capable of contributing to a winner – which tends to make those veterans lose interest, which makes the team lose even more, which furthers management’s goals.

Schroder escaped that in Atlanta, maybe in part by complaining about his situation. I don’t blame him for continuing to call attention to the stark differences in philosophy between the Hawks and Thunder right now.

Bulls cost Lakers fans free tacos

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The Bulls have lost eight straight, but they showed late fight against the Lakers last night.

Or maybe more accurately, Lakers fans.

Fans at Lakers games receive free tacos if the Lakers hold the opponent under 100 points. With five minutes left, the Lakers led Chicago 92-76. Tacos appeared imminent.

Then, the Bulls went on a run. It was probably initially about trying to win the game. Chicago even cut its deficit to just five points with 35 seconds left.

But, by the end, it appeared to be about taco-blocking.

While coming the back, the Bulls kept fouling the Lakers, increasing the number of possessions – and therefore points – in the game. The taco race became tight.

Chicago had 98 points when Jabari Parker stepped to the line for two free throws with 21 seconds left. He missed the first then intentionally missed the second, allowing Lakers fans a sigh of relief.

Down eight with 19 seconds left, the Bulls intentionally fouled. After the Los Angeles free throws, Chicago essentially had one more chance to prevent tacos.

The Lakers’ defense tightened, obviously aware of the stakes. Shaquille Harrison missed a 3-pointer, but after an offensive rebound, got the ball back and drew a foul on a 3-pointer. He made his first two free throws to send Los Angeles fans home without free tacos, though at least their team won, 107-100.

What a wild run, especially by a team without much scoring punch.

Here are the Bulls’ points per 48 minutes by segment:

  • Season: 100
  • Under Jim Boylen: 97
  • First 43 minutes against Lakers: 85
  • Final five minutes against Lakers: 230