NBA Power Rankings: Are the Nets and Warriors back?

As college basketball prepares to kick off the men’s and women’s tournaments this week, the NBA is quietly entering the home stretch of the regular season. And while the Phoenix Suns have run away with the Western Conference, the Golden State Warriors trail the Memphis Grizzlies by just half a game — with Draymond Green set to return this week after a two-month absence.

The Miami Heat are on top in the East, but the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks are 2.5 games back. The Sixers have been surging lately, though they did suffer a blowout loss to the Brooklyn Nets in Ben Simmons‘ return to Philadelphia.

Can the No. 8 Nets build on that momentum with Kevin Durant back in the lineup and climb the standings in the final month of the season? Can the Los Angeles Lakers build on LeBron James‘ recent play and make a late-season push?

Our experts break down all 30 teams one month before the playoffs begin.

Note: Throughout the regular season, our panel (Tim Bontemps, Jamal Collier, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin and Ohm Youngmisuk) is ranking all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which teams are playing the best basketball now and which teams are looking most like title contenders.

1. Phoenix Suns
2021-22 record: 54-14
Previous ranking: 1

With their win Wednesday against the Heat, the Suns became the first team this season to clinch a playoff berth. At 54-14, the Suns are well on their way to clinching home court through the entire 2022 playoffs. Phoenix has a 7.5-game lead on the Western Conference’s No. 2 team (Memphis) and a 9.5-game advantage over the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed (Miami). — Lopez

2. Miami Heat
2021-22 record: 45-24
Previous ranking: 2

Miami has plenty of time to rest this week with only two games — against the Pistons and Thunder — on the schedule. The good news for the Heat is that Victor Oladipo is finally back in the lineup and has shown flashes of solid play in limited minutes. Coach Erik Spoelstra will have plenty of time to get his veteran group in position for a drive into the playoffs over the next few weeks. — Friedell

3. Memphis Grizzlies
2021-22 record: 47-22
Previous ranking: 3

Dillon Brooks had 15 points and four assists in Sunday’s win over the Thunder, his return after missing two and a half months due to an ankle injury. Coach Taylor Jenkins inserted Brooks right back into the starting lineup and will gradually ramp up his minutes. Brooks has been the Grizzlies’ second-leading scorer over Ja Morant‘s career, but his presence is more essential on the other end, as he’s by far Memphis’ best on-ball defender. — MacMahon

4. Golden State Warriors
2021-22 record: 46-22
Previous ranking: 6

Coach Steve Kerr’s group is getting back on track after winning three straight. Klay Thompson poured in 38 points in Saturday’s win over the Bucks. Jordan Poole hit several big shots in Thursday’s win over the Nuggets and “Jackie Moon” provided a comedic assist prior to Tuesday’s win over the Clippers. Golden State is also expecting Draymond Green back on Monday, and James Wiseman started his G League rehab stint in hopes of soon making his season debut. — Friedell

5. Milwaukee Bucks
2021-22 record: 42-26
Previous ranking: 4

The Bucks are getting a huge reinforcement to their lineup this week when center Brook Lopez returns to action for the first time since opening night. Lopez required back surgery in December and has been limited to just one game this season. Milwaukee has missed his presence on defense, where the Bucks have slipped to 13th in defensive rating, the lowest they have ever been under coach Mike Budenholzer. — Collier

6. Philadelphia 76ers
2021-22 record: 41-25
Previous ranking: 5

Thursday’s blowout loss to Brooklyn exposed the concerns about this roster post-James Harden trade, name it’s sometimes-porous defense. Sunday’s overtime win against Orlando again showed that it’s going to take some time to develop their chemistry. Up next? An MVP showdown between Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid in Philadelphia Monday night. — Bontemps

7. Boston Celtics
2021-22 record: 41-28
Previous ranking: 8

Even after Boston’s last-second loss to Dallas on Kevin Garnett Day Sunday, the Celtics have to feel good. They sit just 1.5 games back of second place in the East and continue to look like a completely different team from the one that teeter-tottered its way to a .500 record through the first 50 games. — Bontemps

8. Dallas Mavericks
2021-22 record: 42-26
Previous ranking: 10

The Mavs have gone from miserable to magnificent in clutch situations this season. They ranked last in the league in clutch defensive efficiency (130.1) and net rating (minus-34.5) after a Feb. 2 overtime loss to the Thunder. Since then, Dallas ranks first in those two categories (78.9 defensive efficiency, plus-48.8 net rating). Dallas has won 10 of 12 games that qualify as clutch in that span, including Sunday’s comeback in Boston, when the Mavs held the Celtics scoreless for the final 2:37. — MacMahon

9. Utah Jazz
2021-22 record: 42-25
Previous ranking: 7

The Jazz are fighting to hold home-court advantage in the first round, but finding rest for Mike Conley also must be a priority down the stretch of the regular season, as Utah needs him fresh to have real hope of making a deep playoff run. Conley, 34, has averaged only 7.7 points on 25.6% shooting since the All-Star break. He has been sitting one game of back-to-backs. — MacMahon

10. Chicago Bulls
2021-22 record: 41-26
Previous ranking: 9

Bulls guard Alex Caruso picked up right where he left off in his first game since Jan. 21, with 11 points, four assists and four steals in a win over the Cavs on Saturday. Chicago’s defense enjoyed an immediate boost with Caruso’s presence in just his third game since Dec. 20. Saturday marked the first time since Caruso’s last game against the Bucks that the Bulls have held an opponent under 100 points. — Collier

11. Denver Nuggets
2021-22 record: 40-28
Previous ranking: 11

The Nuggets won 12 of 14 games before dropping two straight to Golden State and Toronto. Coach Michael Malone’s team hasn’t lost consecutive games since a three-game slide at the start of February. Denver didn’t have Aaron Gordon in the loss to Toronto and was without Will Barton against the Warriors. Still, Denver knows it can execute, defend and rebound better than it did in those two losses. The Nuggets lead Minnesota by 1.5 games for the sixth spot. — Youngmisuk

12. Brooklyn Nets
2021-22 record: 35-33
Previous ranking: 16

The soap opera of the Nets’ season hit a high point in recent days. Kyrie Irving dropped an efficient 50 points in a win over Charlotte on Tuesday. Kevin Durant and Irving dominated Joel Embiid and the Sixers on Thursday while holding James Harden to a 3-for-17 performance as Ben Simmons watched from the bench. Durant dropped 53 on the Knicks on Sunday — and then called out NYC Mayor Eric Adams as Irving watched from his courtside seat because of the city’s vaccination mandate. — Friedell

13. Cleveland Cavaliers
2021-22 record: 38-29
Previous ranking: 12

The Cavs continue to stumble and hold just a one-game lead over No. 7 Toronto for the last automatic playoff bid. They’ve lost eight out of 11 and have had to reconfigure their lineup with Jarrett Allen going out with a broken left middle finger, adding Kevin Love to the starting group after he had carved out an efficient niche off the bench. — McMenamin

14. Toronto Raptors
2021-22 record: 37-30
Previous ranking: 15

A week ago, Toronto seemed like it had little chance of getting out of the play-in. Now, after sweeping a road back-to-back in Phoenix and Denver, coupled with Cleveland continuing to spiral down the standings, the Raptors are suddenly within striking distance of the East’s top six. — Bontemps

15. Minnesota Timberwolves
2021-22 record: 39-30
Previous ranking: 13

The Timberwolves are coming off one of their best wins of the season — a 17-point comeback to defeat the Heat on the road on Saturday night. It avenged a disappointing loss the previous night against the Magic and gave Minnesota its first win of the year when trailing by such a large margin. — Collier

16. LA Clippers
2021-22 record: 36-34
Previous ranking: 14

After a lackluster loss to the Knicks followed by a tough loss at Golden State, the Clippers pulled off another double-digit comeback to beat the Wizards. Reggie Jackson had a tough game in a loss at Atlanta but then played one of his more controlled games in a win at Detroit. With 12 games remaining in the season and the Clippers looking like they will likely be the eighth seed, coach Ty Lue admitted that the Clippers will likely find time to rest some of their vets like Jackson down the stretch. — Youngmisuk

17. Atlanta Hawks
2021-22 record: 33-34
Previous ranking: 17

Trae Young put on another spectacular performance on Sunday night in a 131-128 win against the Pacers. Young had 33 points in the first half, setting a new career high for points in a half. He finished with 47 points on just 20 shots. He was 13-of-20 from the field with seven 3s, while going 14-of-14 from the free throw line. It was Young’s seventh 40-point game this season — he trails only Joel Embiid (10) and Giannis (8) for the most in the NBA this year. — Lopez

18. Charlotte Hornets
2021-22 record: 33-35
Previous ranking: 19

Because Washington and New York have steep climbs in the race for the play-in tournament, the Hornets can feel secure that they’re going to be in it for a second straight year. But Charlotte needs to get Gordon Hayward healthy — he’s missed more than a month with an ankle injury — and has work to do avoid a 10th place finish and the tall task of winning two road games to make the playoffs –– Bontemps

19. Los Angeles Lakers
2021-22 record: 29-38
Previous ranking: 18

Anthony Davis will begin on-court workouts Monday, just shy of four weeks since he suffered a sprain in his right foot. While Davis told reporters Sunday he is “very optimistic” he’ll be able to make it back before the season ends, LeBron James said that might not be enough to fix this Lakers team. “It puts a band-aid on some things, but I mean, we just haven’t had enough chemistry, enough time with our group to be able to know exactly who we are and who we can become,” he said. “AD definitely helps, but it’s not the answer to all the questions.” — McMenamin

20. New Orleans Pelicans
2021-22 record: 28-40
Previous ranking: 20

With Brandon Ingram dealing with a right hamstring injury and CJ McCollum in health and safety protocols, the Pelicans’ offense sputtered after winning four straight out of the break. They got back on track with Sunday’s 130-105 win over Houston. Backup point guard Jose Alvarado had 16 points, 10 assists and 6 steals in the win, becoming the third player in franchise history to hit those marks in a game, joining Baron Davis and Chris Paul. — Lopez

21. Washington Wizards
2021-22 record: 29-37
Previous ranking: 21

The Wizards’ play-in hopes are slipping away. Washington lost the first three games of its western swing. They blew a double-digit lead to the Clippers again, watching them score the final 11 points of the game. Then LeBron James ruined Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s reunion with the Lakers with a 50-point night. Making matters worse, the Wizards followed that up by giving up 44 points to Josh Hart in a 127-118 loss to Portland. The Wizards trail Charlotte by three games for the 10th spot with 16 games left. — Youngmisuk

22. New York Knicks
2021-22 record: 28-40
Previous ranking: 23

New York has turned things around over the past week or so, playing much better and ripping off a few victories. While the play-in tournament seems unlikely — the Knicks are still five games out of 10th in the East — at least there’s the ability for the Knicks to create some positive momentum over the final few weeks of the regular season heading into the offseason. — Bontemps

23. San Antonio Spurs
2021-22 record: 26-42
Previous ranking: 24

When the Spurs defeated the Jazz on Friday night to make Gregg Popovich the NBA’s all-time leader in regular-season coaching victories, they did so by accomplishing something they hadn’t all season. Entering the fourth quarter, the Spurs trailed 74-64 before coming back to win. According to ESPN Stats and Information research, it’s the first time all season the Spurs trailed by 10 entering the fourth quarter and won the game. They were 0-33 prior to that in such situations this season. — Lopez

24. Portland Trail Blazers
2021-22 record: 26-40
Previous ranking: 22

Portland picked up its first victory since the All-Star break after Josh Hart tallied a career-high 44 points against Washington. It remains to be seen how many more wins the Blazers will get in the next few weeks with Anfernee Simons (knee) out for at least a couple more weeks. Justise Winslow has been sidelined and Jusuf Nurkic and Damian Lillard remain out. — Youngmisuk

25. Sacramento Kings
2021-22 record: 24-45
Previous ranking: 25

Frustration hit a boiling point for a Kings team — now losers of nine of their last 11 — when Domantas Sabonis was suspended for one game for “aggressively confronting and making contact with a game official” while they were getting beat by the Knicks on Monday. Sacramento backed up their center, issuing a statement that disagreed with the ruling that read, in part, “We stand behind Domas, and he has our full support.” — McMenamin

26. Indiana Pacers
2021-22 record: 23-46
Previous ranking: 26

Tyrese Haliburton recorded double-digit assists for the third time in his last four games on Sunday (he had nine assists during the other game). It’s the 22nd game this season Haliburton has recorded at least 10 assists, breaking a tie with Luka Doncic for the fifth-most games this season. — Collier

27. Detroit Pistons
2021-22 record: 18-50
Previous ranking: 28

Don’t call the Rookie of the Year race just yet. Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham is making a serious charge. He scored 23 points, dished out 10 assists and grabbed nine rebounds in a loss to the Clippers on Sunday, marking the seventh consecutive game Cunningham has scored at least 20 points, matching Kelly Tripucka as the only other rookies in franchise history to do so. — Collier

28. Oklahoma City Thunder
2021-22 record: 20-47
Previous ranking: 27

Injuries to Lu Dort (season-ending shoulder surgery) and Josh Giddey (hip) have given rookie guard Tre Mann an extended run in the starting lineup. Mann, the 18th overall pick in the draft, has shown potential but struggled with efficiency. Since the All-Star break, Mann is averaging 13.0 points per game but has a 45.9 true shooting percentage. — MacMahon

29. Orlando Magic
2021-22 record: 18-51
Previous ranking: 29

Orlando won two straight — over the Pelicans and Timberwolves — before dropping an overtime heartbreaker to the Sixers on Sunday night. Wendell Carter Jr.’s improvement continues: He racked up 23 points and 12 rebounds on Sunday. Carter is averaging 12 rebounds a game over five games this month. — Friedell

30. Houston Rockets
2021-22 record: 17-51
Previous ranking: 30

The Rockets opted to guarantee next season’s salaries for Garrison Mathews ($2 million) and Kenyon Martin Jr. ($1.8 million), sources told ESPN. Houston had until June 29 to make the decision, but the front office felt no need to wait, as Mathews and Martin have proven themselves as young role players who fit in the Rockets’ long-term rebuilding plan. — MacMahon

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