NBA Power Rankings: April 4, 2016

isaiah-thomas-celticsThere are multiple exciting storylines going on right now as the 2016 NBA season winds down:

– Golden State is still on pace to break the ’96 Bulls’ regular-season record.

– Four teams are within half a game of each other for the Eastern Conference’s third seed.

– Dallas, Utah and Houston are all within a game of each other for the West’s final two playoff seeds.

Check out our assessment of it all below, and see last week’s power rankings here.

1. Golden State Warriors (69-8); same spot – The Warriors need to win four out of their last five games to break the Bulls’ 72-10 record. It won’t be easy since they face San Antonio twice in this span.

2. San Antonio Spurs (64-12); same spot – With the West’s second seed wrapped up, San Antonio is just fine-tuning for the playoffs. It wouldn’t be surprising if they start resting players more.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (55-22); same spot – Up until last week, there were plenty of questions surrounding if Cleveland was still the team to beat in the East. Wins at Atlanta and vs. Charlotte make it seem like they’ve got a firm handle on everything.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder (53-24); same spot – Can OKC realistically challenge for the West title? They do match up well with Golden State, but will probably see San Antonio in the second round.

5. Toronto Raptors (51-25); same spot – Down 3.5 games to the Cavs with time running out, it looks like Toronto will settle in as the East’s number-two seed.

blake-griffin-clippers6. LA Clippers (48-28); up 1 spot – Blake Griffin returned to help L.A. win over the Wizards yesterday. But can this team get Griffin in playoff shape and settle their chemistry enough to be a serious contender?

7. Boston Celtics (45-32); up 3 spots – The Celtics are definitely bringing it in the battle for the East’s #3 seed, recently winning at Golden State.

8. Atlanta Hawks (45-32); down 2 spots – Atlanta lost big tests against Toronto and Cleveland. The bad news is that their ability to hold onto the #3 seed will be tested even more as they face these two again along with the Boston Celtics.

9. Miami Heat (44-32); down 1 spot – The West Coast road trip didn’t go so well for Miami, as they went 1-2, even dropping a game to the Lakers.

10. Charlotte Hornets (44-32); down 1 spot – Charlotte lost at Cleveland yesterday, and they won’t get any break as they play at Toronto tomorrow night.

11. Indiana Pacers (41-36); up 1 spot – Indiana faces a tough end to the season, with contests against Cleveland and Toronto remaining.

12. Detroit Pistons (41-36); up 2 spots – Detroit also doesn’t have an easy schedule in their battle with Indiana for the East’s #7 seed. They play the Heat twice and a decent Wizards team.

13. Portland Trail Blazers (41-37); same spot – The Trail Blazers haven’t played their best basketball to close the season. However, they find themselves just a half game behind Memphis for the West’s #5 seed.

zach-randolph14. Memphis Grizzlies (41-36); down 3 spots – Memphis is finally getting healthy again, but they’ve lost six straight games, pushing them to an afterthought in the playoff conversation.

15. Dallas Mavericks (39-38); up 4 spots – The Mavericks looked to have lost all their momentum amid a 2-8 stretch. However, they’ve since won four straight games to move into seventh place in the West.

16. Utah Jazz (39-38); same spot – The Jazz face an extremely tough 4-game schedule to close out, including San Antonio, the Clippers and Dallas.

17. Houston Rockets (38-39); same spot – Houston is a game behind Utah for the final playoff spot. However, their remaining schedule is pretty friendly, with games against Dallas, Phoenix, the Lakers and Minnesota to close.

18. Chicago Bulls (39-38); down 3 spots – Chicago’s playoff hopes are on life support since they’re 2 games behind Detroit/Indiana for the East’s last spot. This might be the most-disappointing team of 2016.

19. Washington Wizards (37-40); down 1 spot – The Wizards are still mathematically alive; however, now four games back of Detroit/Indiana, they might as well start planning summer vacations.

20. Orlando Magic (33-44); up 1 spot – This young group is closing their season the right way, with three wins in their last four games.

21. Denver Nuggets (32-46); down 1 spot – Denver closes the year with three tough games against OKC, San Antonio and a playoff-hungry Utah team.

Giannis-Antetokounmpo22. Milwaukee Bucks (32-45); same spot – Giannis Antetokounmpo recently got his fifth triple-double of the season, tying him with Rajon Rondo for third in the league.

23. Sacramento Kings (31-46); up 1 spot – Despite all their turmoil and another very disappointing season, Sacramento is at least winning some games as the year winds down.

24. New York Knicks (31-47); down 1 spot – Kristaps Porzingis’ quick adaptation to the NBA was one of the most-pleasant surprises of the season. He should lead the Knicks for years to come.

25. New Orleans Pelicans (29-47); same spot – If New Orleans did one thing well this season, it was defend their home court. They’ve gone 20-18 at the Smoothie King Center.

26. Minnesota Timberwolves (25-52); same spot – The Timberwolves have a nice young corp for the future. But they will likely need a strong veteran or two next season to be more competitive.

27. Brooklyn Nets (21-56); same spot
– The future looks extremely bleak for Brooklyn since they don’t have a draft pick until 2019.

28. Phoenix Suns (20-57); same spot – Phoenix was playing decent a couple weeks ago…now they’ve lost six straight games.

29. L.A. Lakers (16-60); same spot – It’s a shame that the D’Angel Russell-Nick Young controversy is overshadowing Kobe Bryant’s final games.

30. Philadelphia 76ers (9-68); same spot – The Sixers only have five more games left to win another contest and avoid tying the worst record of all time. Given that they’ve lost 12 straight, we wouldn’t bet on another win coming any time soon.