At the beginning of February, the top of the NBA looked pretty competitive with several different teams seeming like they could be the league’s best. However, the Miami Heat have easily proven themselves to be number one since then after going on a 20-game winning streak.
This 20-game run is tied for the third best all-time behind the 2007-’08 Houston Rockets (22 games) and the 1971-’72 L.A. Lakers. The latter is arguably the greatest NBA team of all-time, while the ’08 Rockets were ousted in the first round of the NBA playoffs. We suspect that this year’s Miami Heat are more in line with the ’72 Lakers team, which featured Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Pat Riley and Gail Goodrich.
1. Miami Heat (49-14) – A few weeks ago, there was more of a debate between whether the San Antonio Spurs or Heat were the NBA’s beat team. However, as we discussed before, there’s definitely no debate now since the Heat are not only on a historical win streak, but they’ve wrestled the league’s top record away from the Spurs. Interestingly enough, LeBron James’ scoring (26.1 PPG) has dipped to 24.1 PPG over the last 10 contests while Dwayne Wade (21.8 PPG) has poured in 25.0 PPG during the same stretch.
2. San Antonio Spurs (49-16) – The Spurs aren’t on the same torrid streak they were on in January. In fact, they’ve been pretty mediocre after going 5-4 lately and losing their last game to the Minnesota Timberwolves. However, San Antonio also beat Oklahoma City by 12 during this stretch and remain in the second spot in our power rankings. Kawhi Leonard continues to make himself a bigger part of this team after scoring 14.5 PPG over the last 10 games. He’s also leading the club with 1.8 SPG and averaging 5.4 RPG.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (48-17) – Oklahoma City has done pretty well in March after going 6-2 this month. Road losses to Denver and San Antonio are the only blemishes during a stretch that also includes victories over the Clippers, Lakers, Knicks, Celtics and Jazz. Russell Westbrook seems to be asserting his role in the offense a little more lately after raising his season-long average of 23.2 PPG to 24.7 PPG over the last 10 games. Unfortunately, the rest of the team doesn’t seem to be scoring as much, but the wins keep coming nonetheless.
4. Memphis Grizzlies (44-19) – How is this even possible? The Grizzlies trade away Rudy Gay – their leading scorer – and win 14 out of 15 games. Ironically, the only team that’s beaten them is during this stretch is the Miami Heat, which is the only club that’s been hotter too. Memphis has played good defense all year and has really stepped things up over the past few weeks. Of course, you have to play strong defense when your leading scorer is only averaging 15.8 PPG (Zach Randolph).
5. L.A. Clippers (45-21) – Los Angeles has provided lots of highlight-reel dunks lately, including DeAndre Jordan’s posterizing of Brandon Knight. However, the insane dunks haven’t really led to more victories in March, and the Clippers are just 3-3 in the past six games. They’ve also dropped home games to the Grizzlies and Thunder during this stretch, which makes it hard to rank them any higher. The schedule does get slightly easier over the next two weeks though.
6. Indiana Pacers (40-24) – Indiana is still holding onto the Eastern Conference’s second seed, despite a challenge from the Knicks. This is a team that does a good job of beating who they’re supposed to – although they’ve had some difficulties with strong teams. They have lost recent games to the Clippers, Celtics and Heat over the past couple weeks. The rest of March looks pretty easy for the Pacers though, and we expect them to increase their lead over New York.
7. Denver Nuggets (44-22) – Ty Lawson is definitely taking the reigns of this team as he’s averaging 21.0 PPG over the past 10 contests. This is up from Lawson’s season average of 17.0 PPG and has really given Denver a boost. Of course, it also helps that Danilo Gallinari (16.4 PPG), Andre Iguodala (12.9 PPG), Kenneth Faried (11.8 PPG), Corey Brewer (11.7 PPG) and Wilson Chandler (11.4 PPG) are scoring in double figures too. There are also three other players who are scoring at least 8.3 PPG or more, giving the Nuggets a very good bench.
8. Brooklyn Nets (38-27) – We don’t particularly think that the Nets have done great lately. But they’ve done well enough to surpass some of the other struggling Eastern Conference playoff teams like New York and Chicago. After losing four out of the past five contests, Brooklyn has rebounded to win four out of the last five games. The next three contests are very winnable too, and the Nets could certainly use some W’s because they’ll be heading out on an eight-game road trip on March 18th.
9. New York Knicks (38-24) – The Knicks have been fading over the past two months and things haven’t gotten much better lately. They lost three out of the past four games and don’t perform well against playoff teams on the road. They were beaten at Denver last night by 23 points, and were dismantled at Golden State by 29 the game before. Carmelo Anthony is really suffering these days since his season average of 27.5 PPG has dipped to 22.1 PPG over the last 10 games.
10. Golden State Warrior (37-29) – Previously this year’s Cinderella story, Golden State had an awful month in February. They lost six straight games at one point and lost 10 out of 13 games from February 5th to March 2nd. Amazingly, the Warriors are still in the thick of the Western Conference race after all this, and they’ve won four out of the last six games. We don’t see the Warriors gaining home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but they could lock down the fifth seed with some strong play.