As the season winds down, teams in the Eastern Conference are stuck between the playoffs and lottery.
Previous Powerless Rankings: March 16th
It’s fitting that the likes of the Charlotte Hornets, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, and Indiana Pacers continuously shift up and down the higher section of the Powerless Rankings, because over the last couple of months these teams (along with the Miami Heat, who didn’t make the list this week), have been virtually powerless in their quest of making the playoffs or playing for a lottery pick.
Consider that Charlotte and Brooklyn were both thought as lower half playoff seeds at the start of the season, but have been set back more than once thanks to injuries, bad roster fits, and even worse offensive systems. On the other hand, Boston and Indiana weren’t expected to be in playoff race (though for Indiana it was due to the absence of Paul George and the other string of injuries they had entering the season), and yet both have held a bottom playoff seed more than once since the All-Star break.
However, none of these teams are shown strong signs of making getting in the way of the Atlanta Hawks or Cleveland Cavaliers. All of them are beat up, and lack the talent needed to scare the top teams in the East. I’d be more worried about the Milwaukee Bucks recent skid if the teams below them were showing any signs of consistency, but with only 10 or so games remaining its unlikely that two of these teams get hot enough to knock Milwaukee out of it.
1. | New York Knicks | (14-60) Previous Ranking: 1 (-)
This is officially the worst team in Knicks history. A healthy Carmelo Anthony might have prevented this, or not trading away every key player on the team outside of Anthony and Jose Calderon.
2. | Minnesota Timberwolves | (16-58) Previous Ranking: 2 (-)
The Timberwolves have only two more wins than the Knicks, but when rookie Andrew Wiggins is doing this and this to Rudy Gobert (plus, he’s having a heck of a first season) the Wolves have to feel good moving forward.
3. | Philadelphia 76ers | (18-57) Previous Ranking: 3 (-)
Nerlens Noel’s numbers for March (14.3 points and 11.2 rebounds per game) are really encouraging considering Noel is supposed to be the “defensive” big man on the team. While he’s been great defensively, the added offensive at this point in his rookie season is a pleasant surprise.
4. | Orlando Magic | (22-52) Previous Ranking: 5 (-1)
The Magic extended the contract of general manager Rob Hennigan this weekend. While Magic fans considered the 2014 draft the most important for their rebuilding project, 2015 could be even more so considering the team’s unexpected step back this season.
5. | Los Angeles Lakers | (20-53) Previous Ranking: 6 (-1)
Lakers rookie Jordan Clarkson hit a game winner against the 76ers last night, and Lakers fans were not happy. Apparently, Clarkson was supposed to put his job security on the line so the Lakers could increase their chances of a top lottery pick, unless of course there was a clause in Clarkson’s contract that stated, “Tank, and you have a job” in which case, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING JORDAN YOUR JOB IS ON THE LINE.
6. | Sacramento Kings | (26-47) Previous Ranking: 7 (-1)
The Kings have not reached 30 wins since the 2007-2008 season. They have nine games left, including two against Utah, and two in a row against the Lakers to end the season. For the sake of Kings fans, lets start the #30Wins4SacTown movement and hope this team can get four wins before the end of the season.
7. | Detroit Pistons | (28-45) Previous Ranking: 4 (+3)
Detroit has regrouped slightly since that disastrous 11 game losing streak, and are 5-5 in the their last 10. Sadly, the playoffs are just about out of reach.
8. | Denver Nuggets | (28-46) Previous Ranking: 8 (-)
The Nuggets have settled in the middle part of the rankings over the past month. The team, particularly, Lawson, is playing a little better, but I’d expect a complete roster overhaul this summer.
9. | Charlotte Hornets | (31-42) Previous Ranking: 12 (-3)
Oh Charlotte. With the new name came so much hope and excitement. The shine has worn off however, and underneath it a tired, injured, and exhausted team has shown itself. Sure, they could still make the playoffs, but it will because the teams in front of them implode, not because the Hornets are playing well.
10. | Indiana Pacers |(32-41) Previous Ranking: 14 (-4)
Indiana looked primed to make the playoffs two weeks ago, but are 3-7 in their last ten. If they can win the tiebreakers over Charlotte and Boston, they’ve got a chance.
11. | Utah Jazz | (33-41) Previous Ranking: 13 (-2)
Andrew Wiggins may have posterized Gobert twice, but the frenchman got Wiggins once as well. Both teams could be on the rise over the next couple of seasons, and this matchup should be fun when both are playing meaningful basketball.
12. | Boston Celtics | (33-41) Previous Ranking: 11 (+1)
Boston wasn’t supposed to be in the playoff mix, but as the teams around them fell apart, the Celtics find themselves right in the mix. Brad Stevens has done an excellent job, it makes me wonder what he could do with a team with final legitimate starters on the roster.
13. | Brooklyn Nets | (32-40) Previous Ranking: 9 (+4)
Two weeks ago, Brooklyn was finished. Now they sit in eighth, and are playing better than any of their competition, with a 7-3 record over their last 10.
14. | Milwaukee Bucks (36-38) Previous Ranking: NR
I’m not sure the Bucks are too concerned about this recent skid; remember that this team was supposed to be playing for a lottery pick, not a playoff seed. Believe it not, the Bucks are still rebuilding, and I don’t expect them to deviate from that just because they are in the playoffs.