Analyzing and ranking the top sixteen teams in the NBA right now.
1. Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers are the team to beat in the NBA. Lebron James and Anthony Davis are the best one two punch in the league. The Lakers offense has been there all year, but since the All Star Game, their defense has stepped up big time as well. They are winning games on that side of the court. Their scoring depth is still a bit worrying behind the big two, but those big two can win games by themselves.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks lost their last three games before the season was suspended, their first real losing streak of the season. That pretty much ends their quest for a seventy win season, and drops them down to number two in the power rankings. Giannis Antetokounmpo is the MVP, but beyond Khris Middleton, there are still doubts about how their depth will perform in the postseason.
3. LA Clippers: I had the Clippers winning the title going into the year, and I am sticking by it. It's honestly very impressive what they've done this year considering that their two best players were both new acquisitions. They have fit perfectly though. It's not just them though. Fifteen players on the Clippers have started at least one game, and they can pretty much play with any lineup. In a seven game series, it's hard to bet against this team.
4. Toronto Raptors: I hate to keep talking about Kawhi Leonard with the Raptors, but it really is remarkable how they have completely moved on without him. They have the league's best defense, and have replaced Leonard's scoring by committee. While saying that though, a few players in particular have stepped up in a major way — I'm looking at you, Pascal Siakam. The Raptors will be a tough team to beat in the postseason because of their depth.
5. Boston Celtics: The Celtics have one of the league's best defenses, and their offense keeps up as well. Kemba Walker has been an absolutely perfect fit in Boston. He, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown are all averaging over 20 points. Tatum and Brown are just getting better as well. Before the season people worried about their center position, but they just don't need a star there, and it hasn't been a problem. The Celtics are going to be a very tough out in the playoffs because of their defense, and very balanced starting five.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder: You can talk all you want about how much Chris Paul has meant to the Thunder this year, and it has been a lot, but this has been a complete team effort. Guys like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Galinari, and Denis Schroder have stepped up in a major way. Gilgsous-Alexander in particular has had such great chemistry with Paul, and is looking like OKC's next young star.
7. Denver Nuggets: Standings wise, the Nuggets look good, but they certainly will have some things to work on when the NBA resumes. They have had the 29th worst defense in the league since the All Star break. Their offense has been good, but not great. Nikola Jokic leads the team in points, assists, and rebounds.
8. Miami Heat: At 9-3, the Heat have the best record in games played between the top six teams in the East. That should give Miami a lot of confidence going into the playoffs. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, both All Stars, have been excellent so far. The Heat have a shocking eight players averaging at least 11 points as well. The deeper Miami gets into a playoff series the better their chances are going to get.
9. Utah Jazz: When the Jazz starters started struggling, their bench stepped up before the break. The Jazz have had an incredibly tough time beating other Western Conference teams as of late, only making it up in games against the East. Personally, I'm not very high on this team.
10. Houston Rockets: The Rockets are easily the streakiest team in the NBA. James Harden is scoring at an insane rate, but that doesn't mean that his shooting percentages are up, he is just taking tons of shots. When he misses those shots, Houston doesn't win. Russell Westbrook has played really well, but his lack of three point shooting still hurts. In addition, without a legitimate center anymore, the Rockets are getting bullied on the boards. You just really don't know what you're going to get with Houston on any given night.
11. Indiana Pacers: The Pacers might just be the league's most resilient team. Victor Oladipo has missed most of the year, and when he has played, has not been himself. Despite this, Indiana just finds ways to win games. They don't win by much, but a win is a win. Their defense is incredibly clutch, shutting down most teams in the final five minutes. Whether they can keep squeaking out wins in the playoffs is another story though.
12. Dallas Mavericks: The Mavs have the third best offense in the entire NBA, and the third best plus minus in the Western Conference. Despite this, they sit at seventh in the West. Pretty much the sole reason for this is their absolute inability to make clutch shots. They are losing a ton of close games that could be going their way. According to NBA.com, "Luka Doncic is 0-for-9 on shots to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime." They are a dangerous low seed, but have got to solve those problems.
13. Philadelphia 76ers: Just before the break, without Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the Sixers were playing their best offense of the season. They were also playing their worst defense during that time. One of the things that makes Philly such an interesting team is that at 29-2, they have the best home record in the NBA, but their road record of 10-24 is the seventh worst. Al Horford has been a bitter disappointment (one they should've seen coming), leaving the 76ers simply with not enough shooters as well.
14. Brooklyn Nets: The firing of head coach Kenny Atkinson with 20 games to go in the season was a pretty shocking one considering what he has been able to do these past few seasons. This year the Nets leading scorer is Spencer Dinwiddie, yet they are still seventh in the Eastern Conference. It will be interesting to see how that move affects both the current team, but also the Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant team of next season.
15. Orlando Magic: Before the All Star break, the Magic were dominant defensively, and poor offensively. It has since completely flipped. They haven't changed their shot selection much, but are just flat out shooting better. Nikola Vucevic and Markelle Fultz in particular have been on fire. Despite still being five games below five hundred, the Magic have a bit of a cushion as the eighth seed in the East.
16. Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant has been excellent, and 100% deserves the Rookie of the Year. He leads the team with 17.6 points per game. Despite no elite scorers around him, the Magic still managa to average over 112 pppg. Since the All Star break it has been their defense that has set them apart.