Final NBA Power Rankings
1. San Antonio Spurs: Coach Popovich did it again. A mix of veteran leadership and Pop’s ability to rest his players at just the right moment gave the Spurs the best record in the NBA for the second time in three years.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: A healthy Russell Westbrook will be key for OKC in the playoffs. The Thunder were forced out of the playoffs in the second round last year while playing without their All-Star point guard, who was recovering from a torn meniscus. He’s just got to stop with those dead ball blocked shots – it’s not funny.
3. Los Angeles Clippers: Doc Rivers did a fantastic job with this Clippers’ team, guiding them to the most wins (57) in franchise history.
4. Miami Heat: This is LeBron’s show, but if the Heat are to contend this year, they’ll need Chris Bosh and a healthy-ish Dwyane Wade to show up. The East got better as the year went on and teams like Chicago and Brooklyn have shown they can beat them on any given night.
5. Portland Trail Blazers: All the talk is about the Suns’ 23-game improvement, but the Blazers “quietly” won 21 more games than they did last season. Defeating the Rockets in the opening series will put them in the second round of the NBA Playoffs for the first time since the ’99-00 season.
6. Indiana Pacers: There was a lot of turmoil in Indy during the final month of the season, a run in which the team lost eight of their final 13 games. They finished the season winning three of four, though, and should open the playoffs strong as the Eastern Conference’s top seed. Getting Roy Hibbert (5.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.2 blocks in April) back on track is the key to success for them.
7. Houston Rockets: Patrick Beverley aggravating his knee injury in Game 1 is huge for the Rockets. He is their defensive stalwart in the backcourt and they’ll need him to put the clamps on Damian Lillard if they have any hopes of making past the first round for the first time since ’08-09.
8. Memphis Grizzlies: After going 13-17 to start the year, the Grizzlies used an impressive 37-15 run from January on to make the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
9. Toronto Raptors: It took some guts for GM Masai Ujiri to hold on to impending free agent Kyle Lowry (and to cuss out the entire Borough of Brooklyn), but it paid off in the end. From March 1 on, Lowry averaged 20.8 points, 6.6 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 2.6 three-pointers, while leading the Raptors to a 16-8 record in that span and their first trip to the postseason since the ’07-08 season.
10. Dallas Mavericks: The superlatives are endless for Dirk Nowitzki. The 35-year-old passed the likes of Jerry West, George Gervin, Alex English, and Dominique Wilkins to become the 12th leading scorer in NBA history.