NBA Power Rankings: Grizzlies rising; Mavericks struggling of late

·12 min read

With less than two weeks to go in the regular season, teams around the NBA continue to fight for playoff positioning as each remaining game proves to be a battle with time winding down.

A record 26 teams are still mathematically alive for the playoffs. The play-in race in each conference has enabled several teams to continue playing meaningful basketball this late in the season after missing the playoffs altogether last year.

To make further sense of it, Rookie Wire took a look at the NBA and ranked each team from worst to first. We come back each week and provide our latest assessment of the best teams and those that are rising.

Detroit Pistons (16-59)

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Last Rank: 30 | Games Left: 7

The Pistons are just 3-20 since the start of February and have the worst record in the NBA, as a result. The season went off the rails early in the year, though, things are looking up with another high draft pick waiting in the on-deck circle.

Required Reading: Jaden Ivey joins exclusive company in Pistons history with latest effort

Houston Rockets (18-58)

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Last Rank: 29 | Games Left: 6

The Rockets, at one point this month, looked to have found some success. They were 5-4 in March after winning three straight games, but have since reverted back to the norm and have dropped six in a row. They wrap up a five-game road trip on Wednesday in Brooklyn.

For more coverage on the Rockets, visit Rockets Wire

San Antonio Spurs (19-56)

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Last Rank: 28 | Games Left: 7

Gregg Popovich said early in the year that no one should be betting on the Spurs to win the championship this year. The point of the season, Popovich said, was to develop the young players on the roster as they look to build toward the future.

The wins haven’t been there this season, but there has been real progress made with several players on the roster. That will likely be seen as the biggest victory for the organization. Getting the top draft pick would also be welcomed, too.

Portland Trail Blazers (32-43)

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 26 | Games Left: 7

The Trail Blazers have thrown in the towel this season and are now looking ahead. Now, the conversation shifts to Damian Lillard and what the future holds for their All-Star. He has long said he wants to remain in Portland but his timeline and the Trail Blazers’ timeline are going in different directions. It will be quite a summer to watch unfold.

Charlotte Hornets (25-51)

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Last Rank: 27 | Games Left: 6

The Hornets just swept their two-game season series with the Mavericks and have quietly won three out of their last four games. Their tanking efforts weren’t as blatant as the others below them, but the team will now have a high draft pick to add to its core. There is still plenty to figure out with the roster, but adding a top player in the draft will certainly help matters.

Washington Wizards (33-42)

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Last Rank: 24 | Games Left: 7

The Wizards are 4-10 in March and are three games back of 10th place in the Eastern Conference. They have a tough week upcoming (vs. Boston, vs. Orlando, at New York) and should face an uphill battle to get back into the play-in group.

Indiana Pacers (33-43)

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Last Rank: 23 | Games Left: 6

The Pacers have lost three straight and are quickly fading in the race for the play-in group. Injuries have played a major role in their recent slide as Tyrese Haliburton has missed seven out of their last nine games. Still, the season will likely be viewed as a positive after surpassing their win total from last year. They have also identified several players they can build around, like Haliburton, Myles Turner, Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard among others.

Required Reading: Pacers rookies help put Canada basketball on the map on historic night

Orlando Magic (32-43)

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Last Rank: 25 | Games Left: 7

The Magic are riding a three-game win streak after defeating the Nets on Sunday. They are among the teams still alive in the postseason hunt with two weeks left to play, just four games back of the Bulls for the last play-in spot in the Eastern Conference. They may very well fall short of the postseason, but being alive this late in the year is certainly a step in the right direction.

Required Reading: No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero steps up late to seal win over Knicks

Atlanta Hawks (37-38)

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 22 | Games Left: 7

The Hawks have been an average team throughout the year and that trend continued last week. They have been one game within .500 each time they’ve played since Jan. 21. However, they are eighth in the Eastern Conference and appear to be locked into the play-in group.

Utah Jazz (35-40)

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Last Rank: 18 | Games Left: 7

The Jazz have lost four straight and appear to be fading out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference. However, the season should be viewed largely as a success as they have several players that proved they should be part of the future.

Required Reading: Will Hardy explains the key to Ochai Agbaji’s career performance

Dallas Mavericks (37-39)

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Last Rank: 16 | Games Left: 6

The Mavericks have struggled of late and are in danger of missing the postseason. However, they snapped a four-game losing streak on Monday with a win over the Pacers and are just a half-game back of 10th place. With the playoff picture in the Western Conference changing on a nightly basis, there is still time for Dallas to get back into it.

Required Reading: ‘He was great’: Mavericks’ Jaden Hardy emerges with another 20-point effort

Chicago Bulls (36-39)

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Last Rank: 20 | Games Left: 7

The Bulls have gone 7-3 over their last 10 games and likely only need another win or two to lock up the last play-in spot in the Eastern Conference. The addition of Patrick Beverley has been a great pick-up as the veteran has energized the team on both ends of the court. They could prove to be a tougher opponent than their record may indicate in the postseason.

For more coverage on the Bulls, visit Bulls Wire

Toronto Raptors (37-38)

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Last Rank: 17 | Games Left: 7

The Raptors have won five out of their last seven games to maintain ground at ninth in the Eastern Conference. However, they will be challenged over the remainder of their schedule with five out of their final seven games on the road. They are 12-24 away from Toronto.

New Orleans Pelicans (38-37)

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 21 | Games Left: 7

The Pelicans have strung together five straight wins and look to be trending upward after struggling for much of the past month. Brandon Ingram stepped up during that time and was named the Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 31.3 points, 10 rebounds and 6.3 rebounds.

Minnesota Timberwolves (39-37)

Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 19 | Games Left: 6

The Timberwolves got Karl-Anthony Towns back in the lineup last week after nearly four months due to a calf injury. They have won four straight and, for now, occupy sixth place in the Western Conference. They would avoid the play-in tournament as it stands now.

Miami Heat (40-35)

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Last Rank: 15 | Games Left: 7

The Heat are in a battle with the Nets for sixth place and the right to avoid the play-in tournament. The two teams currently have identical 40-35 records, though, the Nets own the tiebreaker after sweeping the season series, 3-0. Miami will have five out of its final seven games on the road.

Brooklyn Nets (40-35)

Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 14 | Games Left: 7

The Nets are just 3-7 over their last 10 games but are clinging to sixth place in the Eastern Conference at the moment. They will be without Ben Simmons after the team opted to shut him down for the remainder of the season due to a nerve issue in his back.

For more coverage on the Nets, visit Nets Wire

Los Angeles Lakers (37-38)

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 12 | Games Left: 7

LeBron James is back “after seeing the LeBron James of feet” and the Lakers will be near full strength for their final seven games of the season. They have their next five games on the road as their season will likely be decided on that trek.

For more coverage on LeBron and the Lakers, visit LeBron Wire

Golden State Warriors (39-37)

Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 13 | Games Left: 6

The Warriors dropped a close one to the Timberwolves on Sunday but recently won three straight, including two on the road. They are currently in the play-in group following that loss to Minnesota and will be looking to get back on track on Tuesday versus the Pelicans.

For more coverage on the Warriors, visit Warriors Wire

Oklahoma City Thunder (37-38)

Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 11 | Games Left: 7

The Thunder are currently in 10th place in the Western Conference with seven games to play. With the Mavericks struggling of late behind them in the standings, the Thunder appear to be in a good spot to return to the postseason.

Required Reading: JJ Redick explains why Jalen Williams is making a push for Rookie of the Year

LA Clippers (40-36)

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Last Rank: 10 | Games Left: 6

The Clippers will be without Paul George for at least the next 2-3 weeks due to a knee injury. It comes as the Clippers looked to be playing perhaps as well as they have all season. They will need others to step up in the meantime with just six games left to play.

Phoenix Suns (40-35)

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 8 | Games Left: 7

The Suns are just 4-6 over their last 10 games. However, the team is set to get Kevin Durant back in the lineup on Wednesday versus the Timberwolves. He has only played three games with the Suns to this point and will have seven games to get right before the playoffs.

New York Knicks (43-33)

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 6 | Games Left: 6

The Knicks are just 4-6 since reeling off 10 straight wins but they appear to be locked into the fifth seed at the moment in the standings with six games left to play. They are the next team in line to clinch a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

Memphis Grizzlies (47-27)

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Last Rank: 9 | Games Left: 8

The Grizzlies are a season-high 20 games above .500 and have the longest win streak in the NBA at six games. They have gone 9-1 over their last 10 games and can set the franchise record on Tuesday for home wins in a single season after compiling a league-best 32-5 mark in Memphis.

Cleveland Cavaliers (48-28)

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Last Rank: 7 | Games Left: 6

The Cavaliers have surpassed last season’s win total (44) and clinched a playoff berth in the process. It is the first time since 1998 the team will be in the playoffs without LeBron James as they will likely enter as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Denver Nuggets (51-24)

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Last Rank: 5 | Games Left: 7

As the MVP conversation continues to heat up, the Nuggets have won four straight to stay atop the Western Conference. They recently went through a bit of a rough patch but have bounced back nicely and look to be playing well again ahead of the postseason.

Sacramento Kings (45-30)

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Last Rank: 4 | Games Left: 7

The Kings missed out on a clinching a playoff berth on Monday after losing to the Timberwolves. However, they can get back in for the first time since 2006 if the Warriors lose on Tuesday to the Pelicans. Regardless of when it happens, the Kings have had an incredible season under first-year head coach Mike Brown.

Required Reading: Keegan Murray is close to breaking the all-time rookie 3-point record

Philadelphia 76ers (49-26)

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Last Rank: 2 | Games Left: 7

After a hot start to March, the Sixers have lost three out of their last four games. Joel Embiid recently sat because of calf soreness and James Harden has missed four straight due to Achilles soreness. The injuries do not appear to be serious so the Sixers should have both players back at some point this week.

For more coverage on the 76ers, visit Sixers Wire

Boston Celtics (52-23)

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Last Rank: 3 | Games Left: 7

The Celtics are back on track after a three-game losing streak earlier this month and have won seven out of their last nine. Jaylen Brown was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week after posting 31.7 points and 8.3 rebounds to lead the Celtics of late.

For more coverage on the Celtics, visit Celtics Wire

Milwaukee Bucks (54-21)

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 1 | Games Left: 7

The Bucks have maintained their lead in first place after going 7-3 over their last 10 games. They still have a chance to win 60 games this season as the group has been one of the most dominant in the second half of the year. They figure to be one of the few favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference in the playoffs.

Story originally appeared on Rookie Wire