This is it. It's the final Power Rankings of the 2013-14 season. And though it's been fun, we'll be happy to put the regular season to bed Wednesday night.
There's still some business to take care of. The Grizzlies need a win or a Suns' loss to clinch the final spot in the West. Only one of the eight first-round matchups (Houston-Portland) is set, and we still don't know who'll have home-court advantage in that one yet.
But we're almost there. We can't wait to wake up Saturday morning with four playoff games on the schedule and another four on Sunday.
Let the postseason begin!
* * *
• Last week: So many questions remain as season winds down
• This time last year: Heat the clear No. 1 and pick to repeat -- Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles, the Kings didn't know if they were playing their last games in Sacramento, the Pacers were in a slump, the Blazers ended their season on a 13-game losing streak, and the Bucks made the playoffs despite losing 12 of their last 16.
• Plus-minus Stud: Marc Gasol (MEM) was a plus-47 in three games last week.
• Plus-minus Dud: Jordan Hill (LAL) was a minus-51 in three games last week.
• Hero Team of the Week: New York (2-0) -- The Knicks didn't get the help they needed, but did beat two of the hottest teams in the East (Toronto and Chicago), who were fighting each other for the 3 seed.
• Zero Team of the Week: Detroit (1-3) -- The Pistons' week began with a win over a playoff team (Atlanta), but continued with a 22-point loss to the Cavs, who then lost to the Bucks and Celtics.
• High jumps of the week: Dallas (+3), Memphis (+3), Portland (+3)
• Free falls of the week: Phoenix (-4), Brooklyn (-2), Golden State (-2), L.A. Lakers (-2)
• East vs. West: The West is 283-166 (.630) against the East in inter-conference games and was 2-2 last week. The only East-West game remaining is Detroit at Oklahoma City on Wednesday.
• Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. Sacramento, 2. Utah, 3. L.A. Lakers
• Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Chicago, 2. Indiana, 3. Brooklyn
Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
* * *
Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank) - Click here
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank) - Click here
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank) - Click here
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank) - Click here
The league is averaging 96.3 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 104.0 points scored per 100 possessions.
* * *
NBA.com's Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man's opinion. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via twitter.
97.0 (12), OffRtg:
108.4 (5), DefRtg:
99.8 (4), NetRtg:
The Thunder matchup remains a concern, but Gregg Popovich should feel pretty good about how well his team has been defending overall. The Spurs have had the West's best defense since the All-Star break
, 6.7 points per 100 possessions fewer than the league average. That's much better than they were before the break (2.8) and after the break last season (3.4). This week:
@ HOU, vs. LAL
Oklahoma City (58-22)
Pace: 98.0 (9), OffRtg: 108.1 (7), DefRtg: 100.7 (5), NetRtg: +7.4 (3)
Unless the Heat buckle down defensively in their final two games, the Thunder will be the only team to finish in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency each of the last three seasons. That doesn't mean anything if they can't win a championship, but why can't they? They're 33-12 with Russell Westbrook, they've owned the Spurs recently, and as noted, they get it done on both ends.
This week: @ NOP, vs. DET
98.3 (6), OffRtg:
109.4 (1), DefRtg:
101.9 (7), NetRtg:
The Clippers rank seventh defensively overall, but 21st in games against teams with winning records, at 106.8 points per 100 possessions in 42 games. And the Mavs and Warriors - two potential first-round opponents - have been two of the teams they've had the toughest time stopping
. Stephen Curry shot a ridiculous 17-for-29 from 3-point range in four games against the Clips
. This week:
vs. DEN, @ POR
99.0 (5), OffRtg:
108.6 (4), DefRtg:
102.9 (12), NetRtg:
James Harden will enjoy facing the Blazers' defense for 4-7 games. He averaged 30.3 points with an effective field-goal percentage of 58 percent in four regular season meetings
. The Rockets need a win or a Portland loss to the Clippers to secure home-court advantage. They've won 14 of their last 15 games at the Toyota Center, with the only loss coming against the Clips without Dwight Howard. This week:
vs. SAS, @ NOP
Pace: 93.2 (27), OffRtg: 109.4 (2), DefRtg: 102.7 (11), NetRtg: +6.7 (4)
Dwyane Wade looked good (24 points, 10-for-14 shooting) in his return in Atlanta on Saturday, but as a team, the Heat are still limping into the postseason, having lost four of their last six games, and eight of their last 11 on the road. The good news is that their slump has put them on the safer side of the East bracket, avoiding Brooklyn, Indiana and (likely) Chicago until the conference finals.
This week: @ WAS, vs. PHI
97.5 (10), OffRtg:
108.2 (6), DefRtg:
104.7 (18), NetRtg:
The Blazers scored at least 110 points in three of their four meetings with the Rockets, but won only one of them, because their defense isn't very good. They are 8-1 since LaMarcus Aldridge's return and got some high-scoring playoff prep with Sunday's wild OT win over the Warriors
. But that was just their second win (in 15 tries) over a top-nine Western Conference team since Jan. 18. This week:
92.3 (30), OffRtg:
103.2 (17), DefRtg:
102.0 (8), NetRtg:
The Grizz still need to beat a good team (either Phoenix or Dallas) to clinch their fourth straight playoff berth, but are in great shape, especially when you remember that they were once 10-15 with Marc Gasol on the shelf. Gasol has yet to play against the Suns, but against no other team has the Grizzlies' offense been more efficient
. Ed Davis and Kosta Koufos came up big in the first three meetings. This week:
@ PHX, vs. DAL
Golden State (49-31)
Pace: 98.3 (7), OffRtg: 105.0 (12), DefRtg: 99.7 (3), NetRtg: +5.4 (6)
The Warriors are always dangerous and Stephen Curry is sometimes ridiculous. But they've been really inconsistent offensively of late, lost Andrew Bogut to another injury in Sunday's loss in Portland, and are 0-6 on the road against their three potential first-round opponents, having allowed 109.0 points per 100 possessions in the six games. Surely though, they'd prefer to stay in sixth and face the Clips.
This week: vs. MIN, @ DEN
92.8 (28), OffRtg:
99.7 (27), DefRtg:
97.8 (2), NetRtg:
The Bulls and Nets have the East's two best records since the All-Star break
and, by far, the most postseason experience among East seeds 3-8. Separately, they'd each be good picks to get to the conference semis and maybe even further. But thanks to Chicago's loss in New York on Sunday, they'll likely be facing each other in a first-round rematch from last season. It should be quite an ornery series. This week:
vs. ORL, @ CHA
95.9 (16), OffRtg:
108.9 (3), DefRtg:
105.9 (22), NetRtg:
Monta Ellis is in the playoffs for the third time in his nine-year career. And he's there because he carried the Mavs in the second half of Saturday's huge win over the Suns
. The Mavs remain the worst defensive team among those heading to the postseason, but Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki will scare the heck out of whatever defense they face in the first round. This week:
Pace: 98.2 (8), OffRtg: 107.2 (8), DefRtg: 103.9 (14), NetRtg: +3.3 (10)
Gerald Green is a candidate for the Most Improved Player award, but not for the Most Consistent Player award. And Saturday's game in Dallas was not a good time for him to shoot 2-for-9 (or for Goran Dragic to be suffering from a sprained ankle). To make the playoffs, the Suns need more than a win against the Grizzlies on Monday. They need that and help from the Mavs on Wednesday.
This week: vs. MEM, @ SAC
Pace: 94.4 (23), OffRtg: 105.9 (9), DefRtg: 102.3 (9), NetRtg: +3.5 (8)
The Raptors have three starters with no playoff experience, but so do their two most likely first-round opponents (Washington and Charlotte). They remain the only East team that ranks in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. We're going to find out soon if that's a true measure of a team's ability to contend for a title. Casual fans are also going to find out soon who Kyle Lowry is.
This week: vs. MIL, @ NYK
93.6 (25), OffRtg:
104.6 (13), DefRtg:
104.6 (16), NetRtg:
What do we make of the Nets as they enter the postseason? They were the first team to ever sweep a LeBron James team in four regular-season games, but all four were narrow wins, and they went 7-14 against the other East playoff teams. They have the East's second best record since the All-Star break
, but just the fifth best point differential
. No matter who they face, they'll be fascinating to watch. This week:
vs. NYK, @ CLE
94.9 (21), OffRtg:
101.3 (23), DefRtg:
101.3 (6), NetRtg:
The biggest improvement in the Bobcats' offense has come from 3-point range, where they've gone from 29 percent through their first 24 games
to 38 percent since
. The additions of Chris Douglas-Roberts and Gary Neal have helped in that department, but so has increased chemistry. This is a team that really shares the ball and their ball movement has been crisper
as they've grown together. This week:
@ ATL, vs. CHI
95.4 (19), OffRtg:
102.9 (19), DefRtg:
102.4 (10), NetRtg:
The Wizards could still be the 6 or 7 seed and could still face the Heat, Pacers, Bulls or Raptors in the first round. For a team that depends on 3-point shooting as much as they do (they're 32-12 when they shoot better than 36 percent on threes
), they might prefer to avoid Indy or Chicago, but they did beat the Bulls in the two meetings in which Nene played. They've had some ugly shooting games of late
. This week:
vs. MIA, @ BOS
99.7 (4), OffRtg:
105.5 (10), DefRtg:
103.7 (13), NetRtg:
Prior to March 1, the Wolves had won just two games that were within three points in the final minute. Since March 1, they've won five, with Gorgui Dieng continuing his late-season tear by hitting the game-winner
against Houston on Friday. This sudden clutchness comes too little, too late, of course. But Dieng's play is a positive development, especially for a team that lacked depth all season. This week:
@ GSW, vs. UTA
96.9 (13), OffRtg:
103.3 (16), DefRtg:
104.0 (15), NetRtg:
The East's longest playoff streak lives on. And though the Hawks will finish at least four games under .500, they've won three straight against playoff teams, have held their opponents under a point per possession over their last eight games
, and went 2-2 against both Indiana and Miami. Jeff Teague is playing like he was before Al Horford got hurt, averaging 21.0 points on 52 percent shooting in April
. This week:
vs. CHA, @ MIL
95.0 (20), OffRtg:
101.4 (22), DefRtg:
96.8 (1), NetRtg:
It's amazing that, given how bad they've played over the last two months, the Pacers just need to beat the Magic on Wednesday to hold on to the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage through the conference finals. Sunday's win over the Thunder
was critical for their psyche as much as their seeding. Despite their 23 turnovers, it was an efficient offensive game against a top-five defense. This week:
New York (35-45)
Pace: 92.5 (29), OffRtg: 105.3 (11), DefRtg: 106.8 (24), NetRtg: -1.4 (19)
The Knicks didn't get any help from the Nets or Heat as they tried to catch Atlanta down the stretch, but they can't blame anybody but themselves (and whoever signed off on the Andrea Bargnani trade) for missing the playoffs. Now we wait to see what Phil Jackson can do with what limited flexibility he has this summer. The good news is that you don't need a real point guard to run the Triangle.
This week: @ BKN, vs. TOR
Pace: 100.5 (3), OffRtg: 103.3 (15), DefRtg: 105.3 (21), NetRtg: -2.0 (20)
Other teams have had more disappointing seasons, but the Nuggets are the only team that has dropped at least 10 spots in both offensive (from 5 to 15) and defensive (from 11 to 21) efficiency rankings from last season. Though their core is under contract for two more years, they have a big summer ahead, with key guys needing to get healthy and with Kenneth Faried eligible for an extension.
This week: @ LAC, vs. GSW
New Orleans (32-48)
Pace: 94.6 (22), OffRtg: 104.5 (14), DefRtg: 107.4 (26), NetRtg: -2.9 (21)
The Pelicans will be better with Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday healthy and with Anthony Davis (who's only 21 years old) just getting better next season. Austin Rivers' play of late has also been encouraging. But it would be nice if they could make better use of the money ($62.6 million over the next three years) they owe Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans. Neither contract will be easy to unload.
This week: vs. OKC, vs. HOU
95.7 (18), OffRtg:
101.1 (24), DefRtg:
105.0 (20), NetRtg:
Further complicating the Cavs' decision on whether or not to pay Luol Deng big bucks to stay is that he failed to make a defensive impact. The Cavs have been a bottom-10 defensive team
since trading for one of the best wing defenders of the last few years. If they're going to get better defensively, it will have to start on the inside, which means that they probably shouldn't bring Spencer Hawes back. This week:
Pace: 96.7 (14), OffRtg: 103.0 (18), DefRtg: 106.3 (23), NetRtg: -3.3 (22)
The Wolves have gone longer without making the playoffs and have had a worse record since the Kings were last there (2006). But the Wolves also have some hope that they can get back to the postseason next year. The Kings' defense did improve (2.3 points per 100 possessions) under Mike Malone, but not nearly as much as the Bobcats' D improved under Steve Clifford (7.6).
This week: vs. PHX
Pace: 96.0 (15), OffRtg: 99.4 (29), DefRtg: 104.6 (17), NetRtg: -5.2 (25)
The Knicks and Nuggets are just the 11th and 12th teams in the last 30 years to miss the playoffs a year after winning at least 54 games, and the Magic are benefiting from the failure of both, because they get the worse of the New York and Denver lottery picks (Denver gets the other). And unless they can beat the Bulls or Pacers, the Magic will have no worse than pick No. 6 for themselves.
This week: @ CHI, vs. IND
Pace: 95.7 (17), OffRtg: 99.6 (28), DefRtg: 105.0 (19), NetRtg: -5.4 (26)
Is Danny Ainge going to take a big or small step forward this summer? The answer may determine the future of Rajon Rondo, who hasn't exactly made this young team better since returning in mid-January. They've gone just 6-23 in games he's played since then, with better numbers on both ends of the floor in games (against lesser competition, it should be noted) that he's missed.
This week: @ PHI, vs. WAS
97.4 (11), OffRtg:
102.8 (20), DefRtg:
107.2 (25), NetRtg:
The Pistons' new general manager will need to quickly hire a new coach, because together they have to figure out (before Greg Monroe hits restricted free agency on July 1) if they're going to give the Smith-Monroe-Drummond frontline another try. The Pistons have been outscored by 8.0 points per 100 possessions in 1,361 minutes with the trio on the floor together
. This week:
L.A. Lakers (25-55)
Pace: 101.0 (2), OffRtg: 101.6 (21), DefRtg: 108.1 (28), NetRtg: -6.5 (27)
With only four guys under contract for next season, no team has more to do this summer than the Lakers. But getting them back to being a playoff team (let alone a title contender) will be easier said than done, because two of the guys under contract played a total of 21 games this season and the other two are Kendall Marshall and Robert Sacre. They have needs everywhere.
This week: @ UTA, @ SAS
93.4 (26), OffRtg:
100.3 (25), DefRtg:
108.9 (30), NetRtg:
Will Gordon Hayward get big money (as a restricted free agent) this summer? Potential suitors should be aware that, as his usage has increased every season, his shooting and efficiency have gone down
. He had to carry a heavy burden with the Jazz this season and had some ugly stretches. Teams will have to decide if he can play a secondary role with a good team or if he's more of an off-the-ball scorer. This week:
vs. LAL, @ MIN
94.3 (24), OffRtg:
100.0 (26), DefRtg:
108.7 (29), NetRtg:
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only two teams in NBA history (the 1986-87 Clippers and 2004-05 Hawks) have gone a full, 82-game season without winning two in a row. The Bucks will become the third if they don't beat the Raptors and Hawks this week. The closest they've come was back in December, when Khris Middleton hit his his infamous toes-on-the-line shot
in overtime in Charlotte. This week:
@ TOR, vs. ATL
101.7 (1), OffRtg:
96.5 (30), DefRtg:
107.7 (27), NetRtg:
The pressure is on Sam Hinkie to hit on his two lottery picks in June. (He gets the Pelicans' pick unless it lands in the top three.) The season wasn't a total loss, because Michael Carter-Williams gained 70 games of NBA experience and the Sixers may have found a keeper in Henry Sims, who has averaged 15.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per 36 minutes
since arriving in the Spencer Hawes trade. This week:
vs. BOS, @ MIA