NBA Power Rankings: Could we be in for a Raptors vs. Rockets matchup in NBA Finals?
Could the NBA see a different championship matchup this season? It certainly feels possible
Fans have entered the last couple of seasons with a sense of dread that the only result to expect in the NBA Finals would be another Warriors-Cavaliers rematch. The expectation this season was no different. The Warriors entered the season as the obvious favorite and the Cavs had LeBron James. How would anybody pick against that?
A Warriors-Cavs matchup doesn't feel like a certainty anymore. The Cavs are in the midst of a roller coaster season and the Raptors have exploded behind a new offense and an incredible bench that gives hope that maybe this time they can come out of the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile in the Western Conference, the Rockets have been the league's best team and are capable of being Golden State's biggest challenger in its quest for a back-to-back title.
NBA fans could be in for a crazy scenario where neither the Cavs or Warriors reach the NBA Finals. Wouldn't that be afor the hoop fans that want something fresh and new?
|1||Raptors||Toronto is the real deal. Obviously it's all about the playoffs for Dwane Casey's bunch, but this is the best regular season run in franchise history. The bench is incredible, DeMar DeRozan looks like a legitimate MVP candidate and everything is just clicking for them. It'll be interesting to see what they can do come playoff time.||2||23-9|
|2||Rockets||The Rockets' win streak was finally broken at 17, but it came in a close loss to the best team in the Eastern Conference. There are far worse ways to lose a game and they've managed to hold on to the best record in the NBA.||1||14-14|
|3||Trail Blazers||After a win over the Warriors, Damian Lillard said that the Trail Blazers were the "real deal." With nine consecutive wins, and a hold of third place in the West, it's really starting to feel that way. The big difference between this edition of the Blazers and the previous teams in the past? This team plays great defense.||1||16-13|
|4||Warriors||It says a lot about the Warriors that Houston can win 17 games in a row and barely pull ahead of Golden State in the standings. The Warriors are right on the Rockets' heels and ready to pass them at any moment of weakness.||2||20-10|
|5||Jazz||The Jazz are soaring and they aren't cooling off anytime soon. They've won six in a row and everybody above them in the standings is struggling to maintain the same pace. Utah could start jumping teams in the standings soon.||1||14-16|
|6||Pacers||The Pacers are right in the middle of a race with the Cavaliers and Wizards for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. No one saw this coming before the season started, but their win over the Celtics is just further proof that, yes, they belong with these teams.||2||20-10|
|7||Pelicans||It's the Anthony Davis show right now. The team and fans have given him the proper amount of MVP hype, but every single scratch and bruise leaves everyone invested on pins and needles. The Pelicans can't afford to lose Davis for even a single game.||2||15-16|
|8||Celtics||Boston was able to pull itself out of its funk by beating up on the weak part of its schedule. Now the Celtics will work on wrapping up a top two seed as they get ready for the playoffs. There's a small handful of tough games left, but they should be able to cruise to the finish.||1||18-11|
|9||Clippers||The Clippers just don't go away. With the playoff race as thick as it is in the West, they should be the odd team out considering the talent level on the roster. However, they've held their own, and at this point it wouldn't be shocking to see them make a push.||2||17-12|
|10||Heat||The Dwyane Wade return tour has been such a fun part of the Miami's season. Every little moment like a big scoring run or game-winner just feels so much better when he does it in a Heat uniform. That said, he's going to have to cut back on his gunner tendencies once the playoffs arrive.||6||13-16|
|11||Nuggets||The return of Paul Millsap has led to mixed results for the Nuggets. Nikola Jokic has struggled to be as aggressive as they need him to be, but they're starting to rebuild a rapport together and that's good for a Denver team in the thick of the playoff race.||2||20-9|
|12||76ers||It's hard to see the 76ers missing the playoffs. It would be a catastrophic collapse for Philadelphia to fall outside the top eight in the East. This is quite a turnaround for a team that finished third in the lottery last season.||2||20-11|
|13||Lakers||Los Angeles is too far behind to make a serious run at the playoffs. The Lakers don't have their draft pick this season, and as a result they're in this weird basketball purgatory. They're too far out to make a run and have no real reason to tank. All they can do is develop their young guys and appreciate nights like the career-high 36 points Julius Randle scored on Sunday.||2||18-12|
|14||Thunder||The Thunder could go on a run and lock up home-court in the first round. They could just as easily fall out of the playoffs entirely and turn a fairly successful season into a complete failure. That's how ridiculously close the West is right now. That said, they're trending more towards the former than the latter.||--||18-10|
|15||Wizards||Nobody is exactly sure when John Wall is going to come back. That would have been awful news two months ago, but this recent stretch by the Bradley Beal-led Wizards proves they can survive without him. That could be a different story come playoff time.||3||12-18|
|16||Timberwolves||Minnesota is doing its best to make due without Jimmy Butler. The Wolves' win over an injured Warriors team was great for them in two areas. It not only gave them a great win late in the season, but it stopped the bleeding of a bad losing streak. Now they have to hold on to that playoff spot.||3||13-16|
|17||Cavaliers||The Cavs keep losing bad games to teams they shouldn't lose to like the Lakers. Injuries have really kept them from playing with their expected playoff units. It doesn't excuse the losses, but this is clearly not the same team that will be playing in April.||--||7-23|
|18||Bucks||The Bucks have fallen all the way to eighth place. There is only so much Giannis Antetokounmpo can do to help a team that needs the offseason to regroup and form a new system. For those fans that just want something fun to see for 10 days, Brandon Jennings is back! Bucks in six forever.||--||19-9|
|19||Spurs||Kawhi Leonard should be making his return in the near future and it couldn't be coming at a better time. The Spurs have won three of their last 13 games and are in serious danger of missing out on the playoffs for the first time since 1997. That summer they drafted some guy named Tim Duncan. Whatever happened to him?||--||15-15|
|20||Hornets||Charlotte is done for. The Hornets had so many chances to make a playoff push, but injuries and lack of talent consistently held them back. It says a lot about their guard depth that losing Michael Carter-Williams for the rest of the season is really bad for them.||--||14-15|
|21||Pistons||The Blake Griffin trade has backfired in every way possible. Now, the Pistons don't have a draft pick and are an extremely capped out roster without much room to maneuver around. Who knows what's going to happen to Stan Van Gundy this summer. Team owner, Tom Gores, didn't exactly give him a vote of confidence when he said they aren't winning enough games.||--||14-13|
|22||Kings||Over their last six games, the Kings have had three clutch-time victories. They also lost to the Nuggets by 26. That kind of volatility is rare and needs to be appreciated.||2||16-13|
|23||Bulls||The Bulls were warned by the NBA for resting Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday too much. Odd decision by the NBA to single out Chicago of all teams. The Bulls' response was to play them for a single quarter on Friday and bench them the rest of the game. Let's see how the league responds.||2||7-23|
|24||Mavericks||The difference between tankers like the Mavericks and those around them is that sleeping on them will lead to a really bad loss. The Nuggets realized that on Tuesday when Dallas shocked them at home. Even the tanking teams need to be taken seriously.||2||15-13|
|25||Magic||The Magic are just playing out the season at this point. They're finally getting some minutes for Jonathan Isaac and they're going to have to answer some questions about Mario Hezonja this offseason. What direction the new front office goes this summer could make or break the next five years.||2||14-15|
|26||Hawks||The Hawks' 10-year playoff streak officially came to an end on Sunday when they were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Atlanta may have become the poster child of what it was like to settle for complacency, but there are a handful of franchises that would have gladly taken a streak like the Hawks had.||4||6-23|
|27||Nets||The progress the Nets made this season was subtle. They haven't won many games, but they have seen players like Spencer Dinwiddie break out. D'Angelo Russell has flashes of what they really hope he can be and Caris LeVert is a legitimately good player. There are pieces in Brooklyn.||--||13-18|
|28||Knicks||The Knicks crashed to the bottom fast. They were in mid-level purgatory before Kristaps Porzingis got hurt. It's hard to watch them at times, but this has led to Frank Ntilikina finally entering the starting lineup and the surprising return of Trey Burke.||--||9-22|
|29||Suns||Phoenix has a single win since Feb. 1 and that's against the lowly Grizzlies. There is some hope for the future thanks to all the young guys on the roster. Devin Booker is looking like a star, but they need to hire the right coach to pull it all together.||--||6-24|
|30||Grizzlies||The Grizzlies have lost 17 in a row. They're painfully bad. It's hard to believe that, at the start of the season, they were the best team in the NBA.||--||16-13|
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