DAR Sports: The NBA Midseason Power Rankings

By @TrueGodImmortal

We have reached the middle of the season. Most teams are at the 40 game mark or beyond it, and with the season halfway over, I thought it was time to give a midseason power ranking for all of the teams in the league. Who is the worst team right now in the league? Who is the best? Which teams are middle of the road and need improvement? Let's take a look at our NBA Midseason Power Rankings.

30. Atlanta Hawks

-The Hawks are essentially the worst basketball team in the league, but that's by design honestly. At the moment, I can't see the Hawks making any runs or having any win streaks to help push them to a playoff push and they are fine with that. They are admittedly tanking and trying to rebuild and because of that, they aren't going to be leaving the bottom of the NBA barrel for the rest of the season.... and maybe seasons after that as well. Still, if you're a Hawks fan, you have to be somewhat happy with the fact that the team competes in every single game. They don't back down from the best teams and they even have a victory over the Cavs to show for it. Only time will tell if the Hawks have what it takes to get out of the proverbial projects and into the promised land of the NBA playoffs again.

29. Los Angeles Lakers

-The Lonzo effect works in a number of ways. After Lonzo missed a number of games to treat a minor injury, the Lakers have fallen to have the 2nd worst record in the NBA and the worst momentum in the league at the moment. They are the 2nd worst team in the league as far as the records go and the reason why is clear. They aren't focused and without Lonzo on the court, they don't seem to be as focused defensively or offensively. While Kyle Kuzma is a solid rookie, it seems as if he's even lost a bit of focus or maybe fatigue is setting in due to the demands of an 82 game season. Injuries have hurt the team and I think their biggest issue is coaching. Luke Walton has no idea what to do with this team and that becomes more obvious as the season progresses. With talk of players being let go, open criticism, and Walton's knack for horrible rotations that put the game out of reach, it seems that Walton hasn't learned from his mistakes and I can't help but think that a better coach would have this young group of guys motivated and pushing for more. What remains to be seen is if the Lakers will get a big free agent in the offseason, but that's later down the road. Can the Lakers figure it out? I doubt it.

28. Memphis Grizzlies

-Firing David Fizdale wasn't the answer. Trading Marc Gasol won't be the answer. Tyreke Evans finding his Rookie Of The Year form isn't the answer either. So, you ask, what is the answer? I have no idea. Perhaps the answer could start with Mike Conley coming back and staying healthy. Conley has missed most of the season due to injury, and that's not really a shock, as he has struggled with injuries in the past. The Grizzlies own a pair of victories over the Rockets, a win over the Warriors, and have taken top teams in the West to the limit. Their record doesn't reflect the fight within them, but regardless, the Grizzlies are in a bad spot..... depending on your perspective. For one, the Grizzlies could use some youth. If they can retain Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Tyreke Evans (who will be a free agent this off-season), and draft a top 5 pick.... perhaps that would work wonders for them going forward? Who knows. For now, the Grizzlies seem poised to miss the playoffs for the first time in years and one has to wonder if they will blow it up or just try to come back next season healthier and more focused with a brand new coach.

27. Orlando Magic

-A young team that shocked the world with upsets of playoff teams early on in the season, the Magic seem to have found their way and will be smoothly heading to the NBA Draft with a pretty good pick. That's the thing about rebuilding a team however: you have to be able to take what comes with your situation, and for the Magic, they have enough pieces in play to eventually become a playoff team. They need to keep developing Jonathan Simmons, make sure Aaron Gordon continues to improve, and also look ahead to next season.... because this season is a wrap. Can the Magic find their magic and turn it around again? Doubtful, but if they are able to, you'll see them move up in the rankings by the end of the season. Which, I'll repeat, is not likely.

26. Sacramento Kings

-There isn't much to say about the Kings. They haven't played well, but their veterans have stepped up in a way that no one expected. Zach Randolph is having a solid year and Vince Carter turned back the clock to lead the Kings to a meaningless victory over the Cavs. De'Aaron Fox hasn't been inconsistent and the rest of the roster hasn't stepped up, but the Kings have a decent young core that could be competing in a year or two. Still, the Kings can look forward to another year of missing the playoffs after an attempt at rebuilding has led them virtually nowhere.

25. Dallas Mavericks

-The Mavs are better than their record says. They have a lot of fight in them and after their slow start, they have managed to become formidable, and a lot of that has to do with their coaching. Defensively, they aren't the best, and offensively they have some struggles, but Dirk seems comfortable in his veteran role while Dennis Smith Jr. has shined for the most part as a rookie. Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews are comfortable in their roles with the team, but is that a good thing? The truth is, the Mavericks have a decent amount of depth on their roster, but it hasn't translated as the style of play changes. If they can adapt to the style of play today (and they're trying), perhaps they will be back in the playoffs again? It'll be interesting to see how this team plays once Dirk is gone. That could be a turning point for better or worse.

24. Phoenix Suns

-I feel very indifferent about this team. For one, it seems as if the Suns are a good offensive team, but on the other hand, their defensive struggles isn't lost on me at all. Still, the best part of this team remains Devin Booker, and they have some potential, but overall, I think the Suns will be regulated to draft lottery status again. They have shown poise and picked up some big wins, including one over the Thunder, but for the most part, they haven't turned a corner. Not yet at least.

23. Chicago Bulls

-I am proud of the Bulls. For all of the struggles this franchise has seen due to their bad coaching and their front office, which is worse than the coaching, this team looks like one of the most competitive teams in the NBA so far this season, which says a LOT. Many reasons for that can be attributed to the next man up mentality they have, but the breakout story this season has to be Kris Dunn. Dunn has led the charge along with good play from Mirotic, Lopez, and the rest of the squad. Will Zach Lavine make a difference? I'm sure he will, but I'm not so sure the Bulls want to contend for the playoffs this year, and they aren't THAT far off from that. Another win streak and we could see the Bulls creep into the playoff picture. Is it likely? No, but this team could be a problem in the coming years.

22. Charlotte Hornets

-Another year of mediocrity for the Hornets has to hurt for everyone who thought Batum and Dwight Howard could lead them to the promised land.... Or at least to the playoffs. Well, have no fear Charlotte..... Dwight actually isn't playing badly. Kemba Walker isn't playing badly either. The issue lies within the bench and their lack of defensive identity. Their offense can thrive, but they haven't been able to stop a solid offense. However, they have managed to push the Cavs to the limit and upset the Warriors in Oracle, but it looks like this will be another losing season for them. Can the Hornets turn it around and get back to the playoffs? That remains to be seen. 

21. Brooklyn Nets

-The Nets were the worst team in the NBA for the last two years. Right now, they seem like a team on the rise and the fact that they've made strides without Jeremy Lin and D'Angelo Russell speaks to how well they have worked as a team. If they were healthy, the Nets could possibly have been a playoff team or at least more so in contention. Right now, Spencer Dinwiddie is the MAN in Brooklyn, and if he keeps up that level of play when the other two guys are healthy, this could see the Nets become more of a threat in the following season. For now, if they could secure the 10th or 11th seed in the East and win 30 games, this season would be a success for them.

20. Utah Jazz

-The Jazz have been an interesting team for different reasons. While Rudy Gobert has been injured, it's been on Ricky Rubio to try and make something happen for this team. Okay, that is an exaggeration, but admit it, you laughed. Even if you didn't, the real power of the Jazz rests within Donovan Mitchell, as the rookie has emerged as the best player on the team. The Jazz were contending for the playoffs, but without Gobert, they seem a little vulnerable. I don't expect them to make the playoffs this season, but I do expect the development of Donovan Mitchell to become an important factor in the future of this team.

19. Los Angeles Clippers

-I think the Clippers are cursed. It's almost obvious at this point. With the Clippers having injury issues yet again, it's a wonder they are even still close to the playoff picture in the West. They are one game out of the 8th seed and that leaves questions. With no Patrick Beverly and Blake Griffin having missed almost two months, the Clippers should be the worst team in the league. Luckily for them, Austin Rivers (who is now injured) stepped up, DeAndre Jordan stepped up, and Lou Williams stepped up. Will the Clippers make the playoffs? Perhaps they can steal the 8th seed away from the Pelicans, but in the event they can't, this will surely be a season of "what if they were healthy", which has become the norm for the Clippers.

18. New York Knicks

-The Knicks aren't ever going to get back to those days of Patrick Ewing or even that one season that Melo had them in the playoffs looking like a threat briefly. However, the Knicks do have some solid pieces in Porzingis and Enes Kanter has proven to be a formidable piece for their team surprisingly. Michael Beasley has had a decent year, but the fact remains, the Knicks aren't quite ready for the playoffs. They could sneak in by the end of the year, but in the event they do, don't expect them to go too far. Porzingis is a solid player and his improvement is important, but the fact is, he needs one more piece added to the team before they can contend. The Knicks are on the cusp, but they are still missing something.

17. New Orleans Pelicans

-I have no idea how to feel about the Pelicans. If the playoffs started today, the Pelicans would be the 8th seed and face the Warriors..... just like in 2015. If I had to guess.... I would also expect the Pelicans to be swept exactly the same way as they were in 2015. That's the thing about this team. Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins are a great duo but the issue remains the rest of the team. If the Pelicans can manage to get to the 7th seed, maybe they have a better chance of advancing to the second round, but that's honestly their best bet. If the Pelicans do hold on to make the playoffs, I expect a quick first round exit. Still, it would be Demarcus Cousins' first time making the playoffs, and for that reason alone, one could consider the season a success. Both Boogie and AD have put up All Star like numbers and the Pelicans offense is a top ranked offense, but their issue has mostly been defense this season. They just don't seem engaged and that will continue to be their downfall.

16. Indiana Pacers

-The truth is clear: The Pacers could make the playoffs this year and be led by Victor Oladipo..... and I bet you that no one saw this coming. Oladipo has played like an All Star and because of that, the Pacers are right there in contention for a playoff spot. He was injured for a few games and that showcased how important he was to the team, but the Pacers are in a much better position than any of us expected them to be. Will they actually pull off the playoffs this year? I'm not 100% sure, but the Pacers have found their new star in Oladipo and one can only hope they can continue to build around him going forward.

15. Portland Trailblazers

-I don't know what to make of the Blazers sometimes. They are a good team, but don't have the tools to be a great team. Nurkic and CJ have played well in spurts, and Dame has been a solid leader, but I'm not quite sure what it would take to get the Blazers over that hump. As it stands now, the Blazers seem to be a playoff team once again, but not a true threat or contender. Their defense has improved, but with late game lapses against the Rockets and the inability to defeat the Warriors without Steph so far this year, one has to wonder how high their ceiling is. Can the Blazers make the 2nd round? Depending on which seed they secure this year, it is possible, but unlikely. This team has the playoff tools, but they seem one or two moves off from actually contending.

14. Philadelphia 76ers

-I don't know what to make of the 76ers either at this moment. They are a decent team, with potential to be a really good team, and with Joel Embiid playing more games, they could be a problem. His health is one to watch for, but if he remains healthy, Ben Simmons can stay aggressive, and Markelle Fultz can remain healthy when he gets back, the sky is the limit for this team. Who knows, in the next few years, we could see this team as the no. 1 seed in the East and as a possible future NBA Champion. That all remains to be seen, but for this season, they are right there on the cusp. Let's see if they can take it to the next level and make the playoffs. 

13. Detroit Pistons

-While the Pistons were at the top of their game early on in the season, injuries and fatigue set in quickly and slowed their momentum down. With the loss of Reggie Jackson for at least 2 months, that could put a damper to their playoff plans, but the play of Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, and Andre Drummond has managed to keep them afloat. At one point, they were no. 2 in the East before falling to the lower seeds, but they are where we expected them to be. Fighting for a playoff spot, but still not quite ready for a championship run. Still, they have wins against the Warriors, Spurs, and Rockets, which is rather impressive.

12. Denver Nuggets

-The Nuggets are a middle of the road team that have some solid wins, but they don't seem like an actual threat. Not yet at least. Paul Millsap went down for a lengthy time in the season, and the Nuggets have struggled some, but their offense remains strong. Their defense is another story, but I think they've got enough pieces in their arsenal to make a run for the second round at least. When Millsap gets back, they could end up surprising their first round opponent in the event they are facing the Thunder or even the Spurs, but that is the only way I could see them advancing. Still, Will Barton has been a highlight for the team, and despite Jokic being a bit of a letdown at various moments, he seems to be getting his form again. Are the Nuggets a true threat? No, but they are a playoff team this season, and that is an improvement over the last few years.

11. Milwaukee Bucks

-The potential for this team is sky high. They could be a true contender in the East when Jabari Parker comes back if he can stay healthy, and with a solid core of Malcolm Brogdon, Giannis, Eric Bledsoe, Thon Maker, Khris Middleton, and Jabari, the Bucks could be a great team in the East going forward. However, they still haven't positioned themselves as a real threat yet. They have wins over the Celtics and the Cavs, but their defensive identity is still a bit unknown and that could end up proving to be the issue for them come playoff time. Can the Bucks turn the corner once Jabari is back in the next month or so? That remains to be seen, but if they can work themselves back up to the 4th seed, expect those Giannis for MVP discussions to heat up again... even if briefly.

10. Miami Heat

-A shocker. The Heat, with no true star on their team have risen up to become a formidable team and are in prime position to make the playoffs. I'm not sure who will get the credit on that team, but I will say the coaching once again has turned them into a contender. Will the Heat finally get their chance at the playoffs after just missing last season? It remains to be seen. I think they've found a rhythm, and that's exactly what happened last season. Another run like they had last season, and they might strike some fear into a team or two in the playoffs. Is it likely? No, but they have the Celtics on lock this season, and have defeated some solid teams. Keep your eye on the Heat.

9. Oklahoma City Thunder

-There is no telling how the Thunder will look come playoff time. The most that we can tell is that this team is good, but how good are they? They managed to defeat an injured Warriors, the Rockets, and injury plagued Spurs, but they've also managed to lose to the Suns and other lower teams. So, is this new big 3 really as good as we think they can be? Or are they merely getting comfortable before heading to a first round or second round exit in the playoffs? Or is this team pacing themselves until the playoffs to surprise everyone and make the Conference Finals or the NBA Finals? That is a question that no one really has the answer to just yet. I think their ceiling is the 3rd seed in the West and a possible Conference Finals appearance.... but more likely, they are a 4th or 5th seed and 2nd round exit. The real question comes in the off-season.... Will PG stay? Will Melo stay? That remains to be seen.

8. Minnesota Timberwolves

-I don't buy into the hype of the team for the playoffs, but I will not deny that the Wolves look better than they have in a while. With Jimmy Butler as the man in Minnesota, they seem to be more focused and headed for a likely 48-50 win season. What is missing from this team? Besides solid defense, their coaching is questionable and they don't have  the toughness to really pull ahead in the West. Still, no one is surprised that the Wolves are a top 5 West team, but in order for them to reach the level that they need to be at, you'll need Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins to finally step up even more. However, that doesn't seem like something that will happen. If it does, the Wolves could be a second round team at best. So far this season, they have shown they could compete.... just nothing on a championship level.

7. Washington Wizards

-This is a disappointment for some reason. The Wizards are playing well, but not enough to really be considered a true contender. They can keep up with the Cavs and surprise the Celtics perhaps, but they just don't have it in them to go further. Keep in mind the fact that John Wall was hurt for an extended period of time, but the fact is, the Wizards are about one more piece away from being a serious East contender. This year, they are definitely a top playoff team and will likely secure the 4th or 5th seed, but they would need both John Wall and Bradley Beal to play their best basketball ever to become a real threat. Can that happen? Yes. Will it? Unlikely. Still, the Wizards are fun to watch when they are on fire. Perhaps the second half of the season will be more pleasant for them in terms of record and play.

6. Cleveland Cavaliers

-If you are a LeBron fan, you are probably ecstatic right now. Isaiah Thomas is back and he looks good offensively as expected. However, the Cavs still suffer from what has been their biggest issue the last two seasons: defense. While their defense will likely improve come playoff time, they have a huge liability on defense in IT and that could be their killer come playoff time when they have to face the best of the best in point guards. Sticking Dwyane Wade on a Kyrie Irving or Steph Curry isn't the smartest strategy either, but that's a larger issue that can be dealt with when we get there. For now, the Cavs have looked really good at times and pretty sluggish at other times, but in terms of talent, they have the best roster in the NBA outside of the Warriors. LeBron James is still the man in the NBA, but perhaps those days are coming to an end. Kevin Love has been playing well, Isaiah Thomas looks good on the court, Dwyane Wade has been solid as well, but their age and fatigue could become an issue after some time, especially in May and June. Regardless, the Cavs are a top 3 team in the East and they could very well end up as the top seed once the season is over, but I don't expect them to go for that record going forward. Will we see Cavs vs Warriors 4? More than likely, but there is a better chance of someone upsetting the Cavs than the Warriors. Still, the Cavs are your Eastern Conference favorites. Again.

5. San Antonio Spurs

-The Spurs have an issue that no one really has spoke on this season: their age. That, along with the injuries issue to Kawhi and Tony Parker, among others will be their downfall this season. That, along with the inconsistency that comes with Rudy Gay, Patty Mills, and others will eventually be the reason the Spurs see a surprise first round exit or second round exit. I'm not doubting Coach Pop or the Spurs, but health is always the biggest killer for any team and a fully healthy Spurs would be my choice for the closest competition to the Warriors in the West. However, Kawhi hasn't been able to get back to form and with nagging injuries, one has to wonder if he will this season. If he managed to get back to his play from last season, the Spurs have a ceiling of the Conference Finals, but I feel as though the age and health issues might slow the Spurs down this season. I won't bet against them, but I will say that the Spurs have some hurdles, just like every other team in the West.

4. Houston Rockets

-Earlier in the season, it seemed as if the Rockets had found their rhythm and would coast to the no. 1 seed.... but things can change quickly in the NBA. After sitting at 25-4 at one point with both James Harden and Chris Paul playing their best basketball, the worst of the worst happened: injuries to both Chris Paul and Harden at different times. The loss of Paul saw the Rockets drop 5 straight, while the loss of Harden has saw the Rockets lose 2 of their last 4, including a bad loss on the road to the Pistons. When Harden comes back healthy, the Rockets will have to hold onto the second seed from the Spurs, but they should be back in form soon. Still, I think the Rockets are exactly who they were last season, and that makes me wonder how far this team can go. Come playoff time, there could be injuries and fatigue, plus living and dying by the three is a method that will not carry over to winning a championship. The Rockets are the biggest contender to the Warriors in the West so far, but as the season progresses, I think that will change. Harden could come back and win MVP, or he could come back and not be exactly the same. Regardless, I see the Rockets having a ceiling of the Conference Finals, which is still pretty good. I don't want to see the Rockets win the NBA Title and unless they change the style of play they have, it is unlikely they will. 

3. Toronto Raptors

-I won't fall for the Raptors and their usual nonsense in the regular season. However, I will be honest and admit that they look better this year than previous seasons. At the moment, they are on pace for a possible 57 win season, and I can't help but wonder what the East would look like if they did manage to pull off the no. 1 seed or even the no. 2 seed and keep the Cavs out of the top 2. It would put the Cavs in a different position somewhat, but it would also allow the Raptors (in the event they could get to the 2nd round) a chance to host a playoff series against the team that has defeated them two seasons in a row. The Raptors changing their style of play has proven to be effective, but will it sustain the rest of this season? We'll see how it goes this week when they face Cleveland, but for now.... I'm not buying into the hype despite Derozan having a very good year once again. We will revisit their true potential before the playoffs start. I'm just not buying in. Yet.

2. Boston Celtics

-The biggest surprise of the year. Remember when the Celtics were like 0-2 and all of the weird LeBron stans were saying that Kyrie would suffer without him? Well..... I hate to break it to you, but..... the Celtics look pretty good this season and Kyrie is the driving force of the team. However, much like the great surprise teams of the past, the Celtics run through a system that pushes everyone on the court to excel and as a result, we've seen the best out of Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris, Al Horford, and even Marcus Smart this year. That type of depth and their smothering defense has the Celtics with the 2nd best record in the NBA and it's not even close in the East at the moment (they've also played the most games this season so far, which makes their record even more impressive). They've beat the Warriors, the Cavs, the Timberwolves, the Spurs, the Thunder, the Rockets, and Raptors, all of whom are top tier teams this season. The biggest thing here is that the Celtics have done that while battling injuries (including a great period of masked Kyrie), and without their big free agent signing Gordon Hayward. Considering the loss of Hayward, the Celtics have went 31-8 since the first two game losing stretch to kick off the year, making their run the most impressive thing in the NBA this season. Will they dethrone the Cavs for the Eastern Conference crown? It is unlikely, but stranger things have happened.

1. Golden State Warriors

-Were you expecting anyone else. In an attempt to keep the season more interesting or what have you, the Warriors struggled a little bit starting out, but one thing was clear in each of their early losses: they were clearly still the best team in the league by a wide margin. For instance, watching them on opening night showcased how easily they could score and take a big lead, but their own laziness and lack of true focus cost them that game and had them down by nearly 20 to the New Orleans Pelicans in the second game of the season. In a sluggish loss to the Grizzlies, the Warriors seemed to lack energy, and the same could be said about their struggles against the Raptors and the Wizards as well. Following a loss to the Pistons at home that made them 4-3, the Warriors have since gone 28-5 to take the best record in the NBA and they've done it under some tough conditions. The most important player to the Warriors is of course Steph Curry and he went down for 11 games with an ankle injury, and Kevin Durant has missed about 6 or 7 games this season with various small injuries. Draymond Green has missed a number of games, as well as Zaza Pachulia, and that is essentially 80% of their starting lineup. What we saw from the Warriors this season is the fact that they have immense depth, the type of depth they had in 2015 and 2016, maybe even better. With Steph out of the lineup, the Warriors became a defensive minded team that struggled offensively, but with Steph back, the Warriors look more like themselves. They've struggled at times defensively against some teams, but once Durant is back (he's missed two games recently), the Warriors should be exactly who we expect them to be. With the midseason point arriving along with the All Star break coming, the Warriors will be allowed to play hard and rest during the All Star break, which would allow for a second wind for the most dangerous team in the league. If they go into the playoffs fully healthy and well rested, this could be an ugly scene as they go for their third title in four years. Once again, the Warriors are the favorites and the reasons keep piling up. If Durant and Steph are all playing at a high level and Klay and Draymond are all playing to the best of their abilities, this Warriors team is headed for the promised land once again.... and maybe years to come.



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