Sunday, June 4 2023

76ers jump from No. 5 of 2022-23 NBA Power Rankings originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

It’s hard to believe, but the 2022-23 NBA regular season is almost a wrap.

Teams have until Sunday, April 9 to solidify their spots in the standings as races for postseason and lottery positioning heat up.

Neither conference has a solidified No. 1 seed just yet, though. The Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets each have the best shot to do so, but other teams are breathing down their shoulders.

Let’s take a look at the updated NBA Power Rankings for the second-to-last time before the playoffs:

30. Detroit Pistons, 16-56: The Pistons avoided the last spot for several months thanks to the cushion of not having Cade Cunningham, but they’re 1-9 in their last 10 and now have the worst record in the league. The race for Victor Wembanyama is on. (Last ranking: 28)

29. San Antonio Spurs, 19-52: Not much has changed for San Antonio after the Jakob Poeltl trade. Improving frontcourt quality and depth this offseason is a must. (Last ranking: 30)

28. Houston Rockets, 18-54: Houston is still having problems much like its Texas counterpart. Adding quality veterans to help the youth grow will be key. (Last ranking: 29)

27. Charlotte Hornets, 23-50: The Hornets will be entering the offseason with the same goal as the last two seasons: finding help for LaMelo Ball. The Michael Jordan reports of wanting to sell a majority share of the team is also quite intriguing. (Last ranking: 27)

26. Orlando Magic, 29-43: Not much separates Orlando from the team above it in this list, but there’s still optimism for brighter years ahead with its young core. (Last ranking: 25)

25. Indiana Pacers, 32-40: Indiana peaked earlier in the season and fell off quite dramatically, but this is probably the level most people predicted the Pacers would be at the start of the season. For optimism, they know Tyrese Haliburton and Bennedict Mathurin are the backcourt of the future. Next is filling in the puzzle. (Last ranking: 26)

24. Washington Wizards, 32-39: It’s the same ol’ story for the Wizards: The roster isn’t good enough and their Beal-Porzingis-Kuzma Big 3 isn’t scary. They’ll have a lot to ponder over this summer. (Last ranking: 23)

23. Portland Trail Blazers, 31-40: Frontcourt depth behind Jusuf Nurkic was always bound to hurt Portland. Much like Beal with Washington, the Blazers must debate how to proceed in Damian Lillard’s remaining years playing at an elite level. (Last ranking: 20)

22. New Orleans Pelicans, 34-37: It’s been a shame for the Pels. They were a legitimate top-four seed with Zion Williamson healthy, but their progress has once again been stumped with the former No. 1 overall pick continuously sidelined with injuries. Can they snag a play-in spot and make some noise? (Last ranking: 21)

21. Chicago Bulls, 34-37: It’s not saying much, but the Bulls’ three-game winning streak makes them the hottest in the conference. How real is it this late in the season? We’re about to find out. (Last ranking: 24)

20. Utah Jazz, 35-36: Utah bumped up a few spots but that’s more towards other teams falling off than the Jazz’s success. The question is if they’ll want to keep fighting for a play-in spot or also drop off at the end,(Last ranking: 22)

19. Atlanta Hawks, 35-36: It seems like no matter what Atlanta does, they can’t seem to escape parity this season. Dejounte Murray didn’t elevate them in the early months, Saddiq Bey didn’t either after the deadline and Quin Snyder has plenty on his plate to sort out. (Last ranking: 16)

18. Los Angeles Lakers, 35-37: The Lakers are still hovering around a play-in spot, but they desperately need LeBron James back if they are to potentially create anything memorable from this season. Austin Reaves’ rise in Hollywood has been a fun storyline to follow. (Last ranking: 18)

17. Oklahoma City Thunder, 35-36: Say what you want about the number of OKC first-round picks, but there is something brewing with the Thunder. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey the general cohesiveness of the squad with more pieces to come is a great sign for what’s looming in Loud City. (Last ranking: 19)

16. Minnesota Timberwolves, 36-37: Missing Anthony Edwards for a few games hurt, but getting both him and Karl-Anthony Towns back for the first time since November is a massive boost at an opportune time. Can the Timberwolves eat from here? (Last ranking: 12)

15. Golden State Warriors, 37-36: Maybe the Warriors will find a new spark should they make the postseason, but so many factors are just going against them. Terrible road form has been the latest in a hangover campaign for the defending champs. (Last ranking: 11)

14. Dallas Mavericks, 36-36: The Mavericks just don’t feel as threatening as the basketball spectrum made them seem after the Kyrie Irving acquisition. Their ceiling with this roster as it is built is low, but Luka Doncic could propel them to a playoff series win against the right opponent. (Last ranking: 14)

13. Miami Heat, 39-34: The Heat are somewhat similar to the Mavs. The record isn’t moving considering the East is significantly less parity-filled than the West, and the defensive concerns are legitimate when factoring in a four-game playoff series. Not upgrading or shifting the roster this past summer could come back to haunt them more than it already has based on their drop from the No. 1 seed. (Last ranking: 13)

12. Toronto Raptors, 35-37: Toronto climbs the ladder five spots here, which is a little risky. The Raptors aren’t pushing up the standings at the same pace they did last season, but they’re becoming the team you don’t want to face in a play-in game, let alone if you’re a team without a dominant big man ala Giannis or Embiid. (Last ranking: 17)

11. Los Angeles Clippers, 38-34: The Clippers keep oscillating between making you believe, then breaking that trust. The unpredictability will literally make or break them. (Last ranking: 15)

10. Brooklyn Nets, 39-32: Brooklyn is on a three-game skid, which could make the standings interesting if it keeps sliding. But Mikal Bridges deserves plaudits for his sensational play since becoming the focal point. (Last ranking: 10)

9. Phoenix Suns, 38-33: The Suns were scorching until Kevin Durant’s pregame slip sidelined him for a few weeks. They should be safe from falling into a play-in spot, but their recent form sees them dip slightly here. (Last ranking: 8)

8. Memphis Grizzlies, 44-27: Losing Ja Morant saw Memphis struggle to keep a grip on the No. 2 seed out West, but his imminent return could help push the gap on the No. 1 seed that may still be up for grabs. (Last ranking: 9)

7. New York Knicks, 42-31: The Knicks may not be as top-heavy as the Eastern teams above them, but they won’t be easy to beat four times in a series. Their record both home and away could bode well depending on the matchup. (Last ranking: 7)

6. Sacramento Kings, 43-28: Sacramento is still lighting teams up with its No. 1 offense and had the best record out of the All-Star break at 11-2. Losing to a short Jazz squad hurt their momentum for the No. 2 seed, but their chemistry is elite. (Last ranking: 6)

5. Boston Celtics, 49-23: Considering the Celtics’ dip in form and Jaylen Brown’s recent comments about his precarious future with the organization, it hasn’t been the best few weeks for Boston. They just hold onto a top-five spot with a matchup against Sacramento next. (Last ranking: 3)

4. Denver Nuggets, 48-24: Like Boston, the Nuggets also may have peaked early and have hit a rough patch the last few weeks. They’ll need to turn it around quickly as the competition in the West can see anyone eliminate anyone when the going gets tough. (Last ranking: 2)

3. Cleveland Cavaliers, 45-28: Cleveland takes a top-three spot, as it once did the first few months of the season, following some solid performances in March. One of the teams it lost to comes next, however. (Last ranking: 5)

2. Philadelphia 76ers, 48-23: The 76ers have been in these scenarios before where they play like potential NBA champions in the regular season, but don’t actually do it when it matters. Right now, though, it’s difficult to deny what they’re achieving as Embiid continues to dominate on both ends. (Last ranking: 4)

1. Milwaukee Bucks, 51-20: Milwaukee retains the top spot as it remains the only team above 50 wins – for now – and still haven’t seen Khris Middleton be at his best for an extended stretch. That’s not good news for any title contenders. (Last ranking: 1)

Source: Yahoo Sports


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