Jhett Folk's Weekly NBA Power Ranking
(All rankings are based on play up to March 26, 2021)
Welcome to the newest series of NBA content from Frostbite Sports, presented by Blue Collar Media Group. I will be coming up with my own personal opinion on how teams have played up to this point in their current season and will rank them according to how I see fit. You can disagree, heck you can think I'm an idiot, and that's okay. I'd love discussion over social media! So, without further adieu, let's get into the first ever go at this. 30 - Minnesota Timberwolves
Not much needs to be said on this selection. This is a dysfunctional franchise that mismanages its assets, does not have the right coaching staff in place and does not have a single player bought into a winning culture. I have a tough time seeing them climb out of this hole any time soon. 29 - Houston Rockets
I begrudgingly place the Rockets at second last in the NBA at this point. This team has gone on an egregious slide into the depths of the NBA and with the loss of Oladipo via trade I have a tough time seeing them rise. I don't enjoy seeing a famed team such as the Rockets in this position, but eventually all teams must see themselves through a rebuild. This just happens to be their time. 28 - Detroit Pistons The Pistons have not found a lot of success since the 2000's and that doesn't look to be changing. The team is loaded with big men, but this is a team in desperate need of leadership at the guard positions. I'm sure hopes are high for youngster Killian Hayes, but that is very much a wait-and-see project. Drafting well in the next few years is essential for this team. 27 - Orlando Magic
Finally a decision has been made in Orlando, and it is officially rebuild time. With the parting of players such as Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier, the Magic are surely looking to the future to build a new core for this team. There is no harm in starting over, but it does not bode well for current success. Don't be surprised if we see the Magic drop further down this list in the coming weeks. 26 - Cleveland Cavaliers I am well aware that the Cavaliers have more wins than the Washington Wizards, but that does not necessarily mean they have played better basketball. The Cavs just bought out Andre Drummond and he was one bright spot on an otherwise bleak season for Cleveland. The Cavs have some nice young pieces moving forward, but I don't think they put any sort of fear into any NBA teams as they stand at the moment. 25 - Washington Wizards
The injury bug has greatly influenced the trouble this team has faced this season. What they have that puts them over Cleveland in my eyes is a closer in Bradley Beal and a leader in Russell Westbrook. Sure, I am critical of Westbrook often, but I do not question his ability to galvanize a team and put in 100% effort. I do think the Wizards can build on this season with these two players, but it's up to them to decide what direction they wish to go. My eyes are firmly on Washington not only throughout this season, but in the coming offseason. 24 - Toronto Raptors
The Raptors became "almost sellers" at the deadline as it seemed as though they were clearing roster spots to make a potential Kyle Lowry trade. This trade obviously did not come to fruition, so perhaps the set up trades could have been in vain. Norman Powell exiting the roster cannot be good for team morale, but I do like the acquisition of Gary Trent Jr. for the future of the franchise. I think there's a chance that this experienced Raptors roster could climb their way back into a potential low playoff seed, but they'll have to fight for one another. If they become disheartened, they may just find themselves in the Cade Cunningham sweepstakes.
23 - Oklahoma City Thunder
I actually love a lot about this team. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is an absolutely electric player that has one of the brightest futures in the game. The fact that they also tote one of the most loaded draft pick pools in the NBA makes for an incredibly bright future for Oklahoma City. For now though, I just want to see a little bit more before I start pulling them up the list. A win streak, even a minor three gamer in the coming week or two would go a long way in changing my perception of their current squad. Lots of hope for them though! 22 - New Orleans Pelicans
It goes without saying that watching Zion Williamson and company can be incredibly exciting. They have one of the most impressive offenses in the entire league. The biggest issue with this Pelicans squad is that often times possessions are being taken off at the defensive end. A full game has to be established by this team before they can find themselves in the playoff picture, and losing a leader such as JJ Redick is not going to help that in the short term.
21 - Chicago Bulls
Fresh off acquiring the services of Nikola Vucevic, it is certain the Bulls are looking to make a serious push for the 2021 NBA playoffs. Chicago may be on a slight slide recently, but I hold no doubt Vucevic can move this team in the right direction. The Bulls can do themselves a favour by figuring out their turnover issues, but past that they have a lot of potential to skyrocket up this list in the coming weeks.
20 - Sacramento Kings
The scrappy Sacramento Kings have been the thorn in many sides this season. On paper this team does not jump out as a real contender, but players like De'Aaron Fox and Harrison Barnes refuse to be taken lightly. They are a tough team to place at this time because they have the pieces to keep them afloat, but nothing about them really seems to point to a potential playoff bid. The Kings need to continue developing their chemistry, but whether it's through the draft or free agency, I think this team needs one or two more pieces to become a true title threat.
19 - Golden State Warriors
Losers of three straight, the Warriors are being exposed without Steph Curry. It is blatantly clear that even with Curry in the lineup, the Warriors simply aren't the same team without their ultimate number two weapon in Klay Thompson. This team lacks size and traded some of the bit they had away with the move of Marquise Chriss. It is tough to see a team with Steph Curry on it not making the playoffs, but if he has an extended period of time away, the Warriors may just slip into the abyss of a long offseason.
18 - Memphis Grizzlies
Once again the Grizzlies are on the rise! Unlike the Warriors before them, the Grizzlies are on the opposite end of a three game streak. They play a gritty, hard-nosed style that can wear teams out. They are long and strong, but most importantly patient. Keep an eye on the Jaren Jackson Jr. health status as his return could culminate into a beautiful late season playoff push for the Grizzlies.
17 - Indiana Pacers
The Pacers have relied on the outstanding play of Domantas Sabonis for the majority of the season, but now he has the glorious company of Caris LeVert. LeVert is settling into his role nicely with the Pacers, as he just had his best game to date with the team last night. I would expect if the chemistry consistently grows between those to, as well as guard Malcolm Brogdon, it could end up making this team one to be reckoned with by the end of the season.
16 - San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have been flying down the power rankings after a difficult four game slide and they have also just released LaMarcus Aldridge from his duties. The reality is this is a team relying far too heavily on extremely young talent. Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell and Dejounte Murray are all great pieces for the future of this franchise, but a lot is on their inexperienced shoulders. All hope is not lost for the Spurs, but they need to keep growing and accept that it's going to be a while yet before they are in the thick of the top five wars.
15 - Miami Heat
On the worst current losing skid of any team in the NBA, the Heat find themselves on the wrong end of a five gamer. I think the fear of "anyone can be traded" leading up to the now expired deadline had many on the roster playing on edge. Now that trade concerns have passed and the team has added a player the caliber of Victor Oladipo, I think it is safe to assume that the Heat can right this ship.
14 - Boston Celtics
I won't lie, it almost feels gross putting a team like the Celtics at this position, but their play has warranted it unfortunately. Luckily for them the acquisition of Evan Fournier and a potential signing of Andre Drummond could greatly enhance their secondary scoring as well as their defense and rebounding (Editors note: Andre Drummond has since signed with the Lakers). We are at the point of the season now where leaders truly need to lead so keep an eye on Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to step up big time for this team. I have little doubt the Celtics can climb this list. I just want to see it first.
13 - Atlanta Hawks
One of the most snake bitten teams in regard to injuries, the Hawks are slowly piecing it all together. Rondo did not do much for this year's Hawks unfortunately, but the addition of Lou Williams could be a low key steal for them. The Hawks are rebounding the ball well, in large thanks to Clint Capela, and are finding success from the stripe. If they can manufacture cleaner looks from the field they'll be building a very nice, well-rounded offense to hang with anyone.
12 - Dallas Mavericks
Luka and the boys are starting to figure it out. I absolutely love the addition of JJ Redick to this squad. The missing shooting this team felt from the loss of Seth Curry should be nearly entirely replaced by Redick's play, and that's something all basketball fans should be excited to see. Dallas needs to manufacture more steals, but outside of that they're playing relatively sound basketball. Let's see how long that can last.
11 - New York Knicks
Here's a little clarification, I think the Heat, Celtics, Hawks and Mavericks are all better teams than the Knicks and the soon to be named Charlotte Hornets, but as it sits currently the Knicks have been able to string together wins more consistently. On the back of Julius Randle's breakout play, the Knicks have been able to walk the tight rope of .500 all season long. Credit where credit is due, the Knicks are playing incredible defence this year and they have been rewarded in the win column because of it. I will always have respect for a team that out works their opponents.
10 - Charlotte Hornets
Somehow LaMelo Ball and company have forged a respectable season and landed themselves in my top 10. That's the good news. The bad News is Ball's season has ended due to injury and now the Hornets must come together to replace the magnificent rookies contributions. I have a lot of respect for Devonte' Graham and I would like to see him flourish with this opportunity. Whether they can hang in this position is to be determined.
9 - Portland Trailblazers
Damian Lillard is playing at a pace few can match and he finally has his right hand man back in C.J. McCollum. With a potential reunion of Aldridge and the Blazers in the works, things are looking up in Portland. It has also been reported by Jusuf Nurkic, that Jusuf Nurkic will be returning shortly. With things coming down to the wire the question remains – as it does every year – Can the Trailblazers get over the hump? These next few weeks will set the tone for what's to come for the Blazers come playoff time.
8 - Denver Nuggets
Denver spent a lot of the season slept on, much to my surprise. It took a lot for basketball pundits to flip their script on this team and start giving some respect to the Nuggets. Now that they have clearly established themselves once more as not only a Western Conference but an entire NBA power I look forward to seeing what the Nuggets can do to finish off this season. Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic will always be this team's bread and butter, but Michael Porter Jr. is coming along nicely in his development. The addition of Aaron Gordon could be good, but I am hesitant to say it elevates them a whole ton past what they already were.
7 - Los Angeles Lakers
This is the lowest I have rated the Lakers all year long, but let's be real, Anthony Davis and Lebron James are out of commission. Keeping the pace they were on prior to their injuries is a ridiculous ask for the remainder of the roster, so I won't expect that, but they should still be able to maintain a .500 record if they play their cards right until the big guns come back.
6 - Phoenix Suns
Suns, you are ALMOST there. I am almost convinced you can really compete with these top five teams. I just don't want to get my hopes dashed by some freak first round upset because I got too optimistic. This is Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton's first real taste of success (outside of that nice bubble run last season), and who better to lead them to it than Chris Paul? If they keep trending the way they are, they will crack my top five, but much like a handful of teams I have assessed, I must wait and see.
5 - Los Angeles Clippers
Steady, consistent play from superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George has the Clippers once again poised for a nice playoff run in the Western Conference. Shooting just shy of 42% has been incredibly helpful for the Clippers, so I can't help but wonder if those numbers will suffer a bit with the move of Lou Williams. Nevertheless, they finally got a polished point guard to be their floor general when it matters most in Rajon Rondo, so we may be looking at a Clippers team locked and loaded to take down everyone.
4 - Brooklyn Nets
The path is set for the Brooklyn Nets. They know who they are as a team. Top-heavy, star studded lineup that will need every bit of help they can get by the scraps they have leftover down the lineup. Fatigue may be their biggest weakness come playoff time because a lot of heavy lifting is about to be done between Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving.
3- Milwaukee Bucks
Many will have the Nets above the Bucks, but I just couldn't do it this time. The Bucks are the hottest team in the NBA right now and Giannis Antetokounmpo is out for blood. I like the look of this team a lot because Jrue Holiday is one of the best defensive guards on the planet and Khris Middleton has been criminally underrated his entire career. I could use some more scoring ability from three, but outside of that there isn't much to knock about this team other than Mike Budenholzer's refusal to mix things up on the fly.
2 - Philadelphia 76ers
Joel Embiid was on an MVP pace prior to falling to an injury, but the Sixers have done well without him anyways. This team was plagued by an inability to win on the road last season, but it seems those ailments have dissipated this year. Seth Curry has been everything this team has hoped for and then some, and Ben Simmons really does it all outside of shoot that three ball. They're a matchup nightmare for most teams in the NBA, and this may be the Sixers team we have all been waiting to see.
1- Utah Jazz
Why? Because fuck you. I kid, kid. Look, the thing with the Jazz is I have been anti-them being the #1 team all year and they keep shutting my mouth. So, screw it, until someone knocks these guys off the mountain they've got my respect. Period, end of discussion.
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