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Brian’s NBA rankings: playoff picture coming together

Published: April 8, 2011
Section: Sports


1. Bulls (57-20): This Bulls team has the likely MVP in Derrick Rose and the likely Coach of the Year in Tom Thibodeau. With a great supporting cast and bench the only thing this Bulls team lacks is playoff experience.

2. Lakers (55-22): After the Spurs lost six in a row, the Lakers had a real shot at catching them for the one seed in the west. But after losing their last two games, the Lakers have blown any chance of that and it is important to note that the Lakers have not won a playoff series on the road since 2004.

3. Spurs (59-19): The Spurs just ended a six-game losing streak, their longest since drafting Tim Duncan in 1997. However, with an aging roster, they will place health over wins and they still have the hold on the number one seed.

4. Thunder (51-26): Since acquiring Kendrick Perkins from the Celtics, the Thunder have been red hot and they still have an outside shot at catching Dallas for the second seed. Led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, look for this team to send the Lakers packing in the playoffs.

5. Celtics (54-23): The pieces are starting to come together for the Celtics. Jermaine O’Neal has played greatly in limited minutes since coming back from knee surgery and the second unit is starting to play consistently.

6. Heat (54-23): The Heat and Celtics are currently tied and the upcoming showdown is on April 10 in Miami will likely decide which team gets the second seed. The Heat needs players outside the Big Three to step up in order to beat the Celtics or the Bulls.

7. Nuggets (47-30): It certainly looks like the Nuggets got the better end of the Carmelo Anthony trade. Since the trade, the Nuggets have the most efficient offense in the league and have been giving up almost 10 fewer points per game.

8. Mavericks (53-24): Last week’s showdown against the Lakers was an important test for the Mavericks to show they couldn’t be pushed around by the top teams. They failed it by being destroyed by 28 points.

9. Grizzlies (44-34): Led by former Celtics reserve Tony Allen, the Grizzlies have one of the best defenses in the league. For a team that has never even made the playoffs before, this team has a decent chance of upsetting the Spurs in the first round if the seedings hold as they are.

10. Trail Blazers (45-33): I will never understand why Nate McMillan is never in the discussion for Coach of the Year. He has gotten a team plagued by injuries to all-stars Greg Oden and Brandon Roy in the playoffs for the third straight year.

11. Magic (49-29): The Magic are locked into a first round match-up with the Hawks. This normally wouldn’t be concerning but the Hawks have Jason Collins, one of the few centers in the league who can guard Dwight Howard with single coverage.

12. 76ers (40-38): This team already has 13 more wins than they did all of last season. However, the recent injury to Lou Williams should concern 76ers fans if he is not able to come back for the playoffs.

13. Hornets (44-33): Monty Williams has had an impressive rookie season as head coach. He has led this team to the playoffs through all the chatter about Chris Paul leaving, the team relocating and David West’s season-ending knee injury.

14. Hawks (44-34): After getting swept and destroyed by the Magic in the playoffs last year, the Hawks believe this is the year they can finally get past the pesky Magic because of their new center Jason Collins.

15. Pacers (35-43): The Pacers are pretty much backing into the playoffs behind extremely inconsistent play. Nonetheless they’ll take the playoff berth even if they’ll be first round fodder.

16. Rockets (41-37): The Rockets may want to apply to join the Eastern Conference in the off-season. They are likely to miss the playoffs in the West but would be the sixth seed in the East.

17. Knicks (39-38): Since the six-game losing streak, the Knicks have started to get things together and only trail the 76ers by a half game for the sixth seed with a showdown looming on Wednesday.

18. Suns (37-40): Steve Nash is suffering from a multitude of injuries and possibly the flu. With absolutely no chance at making the playoffs, the Suns should sit Nash down for the rest of the season and let him regain his health.

19. Bucks (31-46): With all hopes of a playoff run evaporating, the Bucks will see those hopes destroyed with the dreaded Florida swing against the Magic and the Heat.

20. Bobcats (32-45): The Bobcats can pretty much kiss any chance at the playoffs away after losing three straight. They can also blame Michael Jordan for poor management and trading away their biggest offensive threat: Gerald Wallace.

21. Jazz (37-41): The Jazz have struggled since Jerry Sloan retired and Deron Williams was traded. But in Tuesday night’s game against the Lakers, Gordon Hayward showed why the Jazz drafted him, scoring 22 off the bench and out-playing Kobe.

22. Warriors (34-44): The Warriors are the new proverbial “one piece away” team. If they can build something that looks like defense, they could easily be a playoff team.

23. Clippers (31-47): The Clippers have a young core of talent surrounding all-star Blake Griffin and would have had significantly more wins this season if not for injuries. If owner Donald Sterling doesn’t get in the way (which is a big if) the Clippers will be a playoff team in two years.

24. Kings (23-54): The Kings have been mathematically out of the playoffs for about a month now. Yet they are constantly in the news because of their relocation to Anaheim. At least they’re in the news, right?

25. Pistons (26-51): The Pistons have once again mutinied against their coach. Rodney Stuckey ignored John Kuester’s request to enter the game in their loss against the Bulls and was subsequently benched for the next game.

26. Cavaliers (16-61): In a season full of misery the Cavaliers have a few bright spots to point to. Hall of Fame announcer Joe Tait is back calling games after a battle with cancer and they finally beat Lebron James.

27. Raptors (21-56): The Raptors have two wins against the Magic, a season sweep against the Thunder as well as wins against the Mavericks and the Bulls. The Raptors may not win much, but when they do it’s shocking.

28. Wizards (21-56): The Wizards now have a couple of road wins. Even better is the recent outstanding play by bench-player Jordan Crawford and the triple doubles of John Wall, Javele McGee and Jordan Crawford.

29. Nets (24-53): Newly-acquired star point guard Deron Williams hasn’t done much to help the Nets and if they can’t lure a second superstar to the team, Deron Williams isn’t staying with the team.

30. Timberwolves (17-61): About the only positive thing this season for the T-wolves has been the breakout play of Kevin Love, but Kevin Love will now miss the rest of the season with an injury.