NBA Power Rankings: Guess who's back?


The Golden State Warriors bounced back from a loss to the Phoenix Suns with road wins over the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder to regain the top spot from the Milwaukee Bucks, who will now be without 2017 Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon until the playoffs.
Our panel (ESPN's Tim MacMahon and Andre' Snellings, The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears and FiveThirtyEight's Chris Herring) is ranking all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which are playing the best basketball and which are looking most like title contenders.
Previous rankings: Week 22 | 21 | 20 | 19 | 18 | 17 | 16 | 15 | 14 | 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1 | Training camp | Free agency
1. Golden State Warriors
Record: 47-21
The only thing that has stopped center DeMarcus Cousins of late is his sore right foot that will merit an MRI on Monday in San Antonio. Cousins is averaging 16.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists in March and scored a season-high 27 against the Rockets on March 13. The Warriors are bringing in some insurance at center with the return of Andrew Bogut, who is expected to join the team Monday night in San Antonio. -- Spears
2. Milwaukee Bucks
Record: 52-18
The Bucks, who thus far have had a dream season in piecing together the league's best record, got their worst news of the season over the weekend: Starter Malcolm Brogdon will miss the next six to eight weeks with a plantar fascia tear in his right foot. Aside from the second-year guard's complete skill set, which is hard to replace, his absence could throw off the team's cohesion. The Brogdon-Bledsoe-Middleton-Antetokounmpo-Lopez lineup has appeared in more games together (56) than any other five-man group in the NBA this season. -- Herring
3. Houston Rockets
Record: 44-26
James Harden would rather not discuss the soreness he's dealing with in his neck and right wrist. "I'm all right," he said, but his individual efficiency has dipped significantly in March (47.0 effective field goal percentage and 53.6 true shooting percentage, both by far his lowest in a month this season). Nevertheless, the Rockets are rolling, outscoring opponents by 10 points per 100 possessions with Harden on the floor in March, by far his best net rating in a month this season. -- MacMahon
4. Toronto Raptors
Record: 49-21
The Raptors' odds of catching the Bucks for the East's top seed are slim after a 4-4 start to March. They keep failing to take advantage of opportunities to make up ground, getting beaten by the Pistons (twice) and Cavaliers after Milwaukee losses this month. -- MacMahon
5. Denver Nuggets
Record: 46-22
The Nuggets bounced back from their blowout loss to the Warriors with three straight home wins to again close to within a game of the top seed in the West. The Nuggets are playing very balanced basketball right now, with five different leading scorers in their past five games. They embark on a four-game road trip this week, including tough games in Boston and Indiana bracketing contests against two lottery-bound squads. -- Snellings
6. Philadelphia 76ers
Record: 45-25
It definitely doesn't appear that rust has been an issue for Joel Embiid after he missed eight games due to left knee soreness, taking his time to come back as a precautionary measure. If anything, he looks refreshed. The Sixers are 4-0 since the All-Star big man's return, with Embiid's numbers during the stretch (27.8 points, 15.8 rebounds, 2.3 blocks per game) even better than usual. -- MacMahon
7. Portland Trail Blazers
Record: 42-27
Guard CJ McCollum and the Blazers breathed a sigh of relief when he was diagnosed with a popliteus strain in his left knee. With McCollum out for at least a week, Portland will need some scoring from usual reserve guard Rodney Hood. Hood is averaging 11.3 points and 1.6 made 3-pointers per game in March. The five-year NBA veteran scored a season-high 27 points against Charlotte on March 3. -- Spears
8. Boston Celtics
Record: 43-27
The Celtics have won five of their past six games, and they appear to be getting on the same page in preparation for a playoffs run. However, they lost both Al Horford and Gordon Hayward to injury in their Saturday game against the Hawks. Horford returned, but according to Brad Stevens he is slated to sit at least "three or four games" in their next 12 for rest purposes. Hayward's status is unknown, but his potential absence would open more time for Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart to pick up the slack. -- Snellings
9. San Antonio Spurs
Record: 41-29
The two players the Spurs received in the Kawhi Leonard deal have been driving forces during the NBA's longest active win streak. DeMar DeRozan's contributions during the eight-game run are obvious from scanning box scores, as he is averaging 21.0 points on 52.4 percent shooting, 6.0 rebounds and 6.4 assists. Jakob Poeltl has been a dominant defensive force, as the Spurs have allowed only 92.4 points per 100 possessions with the big man on the floor during the streak, in which he has blocked 2.4 shots in 26.5 minutes per game. -- MacMahon
10. Oklahoma City Thunder
Record: 42-28
The Thunder had an up-and-down week, starting with two straight wins before falling to the Pacers and Warriors. Paul George has struggled with his efficiency in his seven games back after a shoulder injury, making only 36.2 percent of his shots from the field, but he has averaged 30.0 PPG and 9.3 RPG in his past three to indicate that he is working the rust off. This week, the Thunder face the Heat plus a tough home-and-away set with the Raptors. -- Snellings
11. LA Clippers
Record: 41-30
The Clippers have won seven of their past eight games to open an almost insurmountable lead for the eighth and final playoff spot out West. With the postseason seemingly assured, their next goal should be to move up and out of the eighth spot and a likely first-round date with the two-time defending champion Warriors. The Clippers are still within three games of the fourth-seeded Trail Blazers, giving them something to chase down the stretch. -- Snellings
12. Utah Jazz
Record: 40-29
Derrick Favors is arguably playing as well as he ever has for the Jazz and certainly since Utah emerged as a playoff team. He's averaging 14.8 points on 60.3 percent shooting, 9.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in 25.6 minutes per game during the All-Star break. He has developed a terrific pick-and-roll rapport with Joe Ingles, who has assisted on 30 of Favors' 70 buckets in the dozen games since the break, with half of those dimes resulting in dunks. -- MacMahon
13. Indiana Pacers
Record: 44-26
The Pacers' emotional, come-from-behind home win over Paul George and the Thunder this past week perfectly exemplified this Indiana team. The club, still stinging from the loss of Victor Oladipo, struggled for long stretches to score. But the team's smothering defense allowed it to chip away at a 19-point deficit before snatching victory from the jaws of defeat on a game-winning tip by Wesley Matthews. In the past two-plus seasons, the Pacers have won an NBA-high 15 games in which they trailed by 15 points or more. -- Herring
14. Detroit Pistons
Record: 36-33
Detroit is one of the hardest teams in the NBA to peg lately. The Pistons won 12 of 14 leading into last week, then got absolutely blasted by Miami and Brooklyn on the road, by 28 and 34 points, respectively. Regaining a rhythm soon would be ideal: They begin their longest road trip of the season -- five games, with four out west -- this week. -- Herring
15. Orlando Magic
Record: 33-38
The Magic remain in a tight battle with the Heat and Hornets for the final playoff spot in the East, but thus far they haven't been able to take advantage of a relatively weak stretch in their schedule. They lost two straight games that they couldn't afford to against the Grizzlies and the Wizards, though they were able to bounce back to beat the Cavaliers and Hawks. The Magic play only twice this week, but both are home games against lottery opponents. -- Snellings
16. Brooklyn Nets
Record: 36-36
The Nets started their brutal, 14-game stretch by blowing out the Pistons at home, then losing three straight on the road to the Thunder, Jazz and Clippers. They get the closest thing to a reprieve in their schedule this week, with only two games against the currently lottery-bound Kings and Lakers, with plenty of rest days in between. These are almost must-wins in an otherwise daunting set of upcoming games. -- Snellings
17. Miami Heat
Record: 33-36
The Heat had a tough schedule last week, dropping games to the first-place Bucks and second-place Raptors but sneaking wins against the Pistons and Hornets. Things don't get any easier this week, as they start a four-game road trip that includes stops in Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Milwaukee and Washington. The Heat have moved Hassan Whiteside to a role off the bench, and in the short term it has paid off, with Whiteside delivering four double-doubles in six games while new starter Bam Adebayo has averaged 14.4 points and 7.6 boards in his past five games. -- Snellings
18. Sacramento Kings
Record: 34-35
The Kings' hopes of making the playoffs for the first time since 2006 have all but faded after they lost three of their past four games. But there is something else for the Kings to shoot for: a plus-.500 record. The last time Sacramento had a .500 record was the 2005-06 season, when it went 44-38. -- Spears
19. Washington Wizards
Record: 30-40
He'd come close to accomplishing it before, but Bradley Beal notched back-to-back 40-point performances for the first time in his career this past weekend. He was highly efficient, needing just 29 and 17 shots, respectively, to get there. He's averaging 31.2 points per game since the All-Star break, third in the NBA behind Karl-Anthony Towns and James Harden. -- Herring
20. Minnesota Timberwolves
Record: 32-38
With the playoffs an extreme long shot, the Timberwolves appear to be looking to the future, and rookie forward Keita Bates-Diop has recently seen a jump in playing time. The second-round pick is averaging 8.7 points and 3.9 rebounds in 26.4 minutes per game in March; the former Ohio State star played a total of 44 minutes in February. -- Spears
21. Charlotte Hornets
Record: 31-38
The Hornets had a doubly disappointing loss to the Heat, which pushed them two games behind Miami for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Hornets are not helping their playoff push, as they have lost seven of their past 10 games. While Charlotte is finished playing Miami this regular season, the Hornets end the campaign hosting Orlando on April 10 in a game that could have playoff implications. -- Spears
22. Los Angeles Lakers
Record: 31-39
LeBron James will face Giannis Antetokounmpo on Tuesday in Milwaukee. James has career averages of 27.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists in 18 games against Antetokounmpo, and the Greek Freak has averaged 21.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 18 games against James. LeBron scored 31 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and Antetokounmpo had 16 points and 15 rebounds when the Bucks won the first meeting this season on March 1 in Los Angeles. -- Spears
23. New Orleans Pelicans
Record: 30-42
Elfrid Payton joined an exclusive list of players who put up four straight triple-doubles. According to Basketball Reference, the only other active players who have done it are Russell Westbrook (seven times) and James Harden. The only others who did it in the past 35 years: Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. Payton is averaging 14.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 13.3 assists during the triple-double streak, but the Pelicans lost all four of those games. -- MacMahon
24. Memphis Grizzlies
Record: 28-42
Jonas Valanciunas has thrived since arriving in Memphis as part of the package the Grizzlies received for Marc Gasol. Valanciunas has averaged 17.9 points and 8.0 rebounds while shooting 58.2 percent from the floor in 12 games for the Grizzlies, who are 5-7 when the 7-footer suits up. If he continues to play this well, Valanciunas will have an interesting decision to make regarding his player option worth $17.6 million next season. -- MacMahon
25. Dallas Mavericks
Record: 28-41
Rookie guard Jalen Brunson has been a bright spot for the struggling Mavs since the All-Star break, seizing the opportunity after trades opened a starting role. He is averaging 16.3 points and 4.5 assists with a 65.0 true shooting percentage the past month. He has also proven that he fits well next to Luka Doncic, as that duo has a positive net rating during that span, despite the Mavs' 2-10 record. "He's certainly building a case that he's a big part of our core young guys going forward, for sure," coach Rick Carlisle said. -- MacMahon
26. Atlanta Hawks
Record: 24-47
With Trae Young's offensive tidal wave over the past two-and-a-half months, Atlanta's youth movement -- also involving John Collins and Kevin Huerter -- appears to be alive and well. But while this season is about the youngsters, let's make sure we don't sleep on the fact that 42-year-old Vince Carter is shooting 40.5 percent from behind the arc -- a smidge higher than Klay Thompson and Kyle Korver -- on 3.9 attempts per game. -- Herring
27. Phoenix Suns
Record: 17-54
Believe it or not, the Suns have gone from laughable to beating the Warriors on the road and winning six of their past 10 games. Winning, however, could become costly for the Suns. The teams with the three worst regular-season records will each have a 14 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick. New York has the NBA's worst record (14-56) followed by Phoenix (17-54), Cleveland (17-53) and Chicago (19-52). But if the Suns keep winning... -- Spears
28. Chicago Bulls
Record: 19-52
After enjoying an 11-game streak of scoring 20 points or more, Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen has failed to reach the 20-point mark in eight consecutive games. Perhaps more concerning than the regression to the scoring mean is Markkanen's slight dip in rebounding and unusually porous defense in that span. Efficiency will come and go at times. But he's too talented to let the scoring struggles impact other facets of his game, which are generally solid. -- Herring
29. Cleveland Cavaliers
Record: 17-53
The Cavaliers came up with perhaps their most surprising win of the season this past week, when they dominated a fully healthy Raptors club in a 25-point rout. Cleveland had six players finish in double-figures, including Brandon Knight, who's finally healthy. He shot 50 percent from the field and averaged nearly 13 points per night during a recent four-game stretch. -- Herring
30. New York Knicks
Record: 14-56
The Knicks had lost eight straight games before their late rally against the Lakers on Sunday, and they continue to "try out" players for roles next season. Emmanuel Mudiay and Damyean Dotson have been getting the recent run as the starting backcourt, and both have responded well, with averages around 20 PPG in their past three games. Meanwhile, veteran DeAndre Jordan has become a fixture in the middle after his return from injury, grabbing 13 or more rebounds in five of his past six games. -- Snellings