NBA Power Rankings: Celtics Still On Top, Thunder Make Push

The season has resumed after the NBA All-Star Break with a number of teams looking to make moves as the playoffs draw closer. Most teams have fewer than 30 games left to play in the season, leaving not much room for mistakes. Let’s take a glance at the top ranked teams in both the East and the West and which teams are making the biggest strides.

  1. Boston Celtics

With an NBA’s top record of 45-12, the Boston Celtics are the clear favourite going into the playoffs. As you’d expect, they obviously have an excellent basketball team but it’s still unclear if they will be able to transform their regular season success into a championship. 

Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown have both had career years and their great supporting cast is the deepest it’s ever been. The only downside for the Celtics seems to be their play in the paint. They are in the NBA’s bottom five in shot attempts in the restricted area and are also at the bottom 10 for free throw attempts. 

They’re three point success has carried them this season at 38% but this may not be sustainable throughout the playoffs. 

  1. Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers have finally started to click, as Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, James Harden and Russel Westbrook have gotten more playing time together. They currently sit on a record of 37-18 which earns them the third place seed in the West. They have gone 7-3 in their last 10 games and have looked way better on the defensive end.

The main concern, as always, is the health of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George who have not been able to stay on the floor for extended periods. The pair score 122 points per 100 possessions while allowing just 108. The addition of another offensive threat like James Harden should put them in a great position come playoff time.

  1. Denver Nuggets

The reigning champions have not been at their best as of late but it’s hard to bet against Jokic. In fourth place and only a game behind the Clippers, they still have a shot at one of the top seeds in the West.  

Right now they are ranked 13th in offense but haven’t been able to contain teams on the defensive end. On the bright side, Jokic has been phenomenal this season once again, averaging almost a triple double with 26.1 points, 12.3 rebounds and 9.3 assists.

Expect this team to still be the team to beat in the West when it comes down to a seven-game series.

  1. OKC Thunder

The Thunder have been riding high since the All-Star break, winning 5 games in a row and 8 of their last 10. The key to their success has been the play of MVP candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander but the team has looked ordinary without him.

With Gilchrist on the court they score 122 points per 100 possessions but fall all the way down to 111 with him on the bench. While SGA is still young and will be able to take on a heavy workload during the playoffs, he will still have to sit sometimes. It will likely come down to whether the rest of the team can keep the game in hand during these times.

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers

One of the biggest surprises of the season thus far has been the Cavs success. They are currently holding on to the second spot in the East, a full game ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks. Since January 1st, they have been the hottest team in the league, winning 18 of their last 21 games.  

Donovan Mitchell has been explosive on the offensive end, averaging 28 points to go along with 6.2 assists. His ability to turn it on in the playoffs will make the Cavs a dangerous team in the postseason.

It should be noted however that the Cavs schedule has been relatively easy so far this year. Ten of those 18 wins this year came against sub-500 teams like the Wizards, Grizzlies, Pistons and Raptors. It will be interesting to see how they fare against some of the top teams as the season begins to close in on the playoffs.