In less than a week's time, we'll be watching playoff basketball… Well, play-in basketball, with the playoffs to come shortly after.
Now that we've seen all 22 teams take the floor at least five times at the NBA restart, we're here with our final edition of NBA Power Rankings for the 2019-20 season.
At times, it's been difficult to gauge what to take away from some seeding game results. Some elite teams have prioritized rest by imposing minute restrictions while teams with more to play for have benefitted from some special performances to earn unexpected wins. Case in point: the Los Angeles Lakers (2-4), LA Clippers (3-3) and Milwaukee Bucks (2-3) enter the week with a combined record of 7-10 at the restart.
With that in mind, here are the final power rankings, weighing what we've seen at the restart so far and overall playoff readiness.
NBA Power Rankings
22. Washington Wizards
The Wizards were dealt a bad hand when Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans opted out of the restart. The focus is on the future as they were the first team to be eliminated from playoff contention.
21. Sacramento Kings
The postseason drought continues. Sacramento also had bad injury luck that was too much to overcome although the talent of De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield is enough to get excited over. The focus shifts to Bogdan Bogdanovic's free agency.
20. New Orleans Pelicans
Many thought that Zion Williamson and the Pelicans were set to make a run and make the playoffs interesting but they have now been eliminated from contention. At times, the effort wasn't there for them, and that's inexcusable. The future is still very very bright for a team with a core of Williamson, Jrue Holiday and Brandon Ingram.
19. Memphis Grizzlies
Rookie of the Year favourite Ja Morant is doing what he can but the absence of Tyus Jones and an injury to Jaren Jackson Jr. has Memphis hanging on for its playoff life after entering Orlando with a nice cushion. A 1-5 start will do that to you.
18. Orlando Magic
After an opening wins over Brooklyn and Sacramento, it appeared that Orlando would cruise to the East's seventh seed. An injury to Jonathan Isaac has seemed to be deflating for the team as its 0-4 since the young star went down.
Now, the Magic are set to face Giannis and the Milwaukee Bucks in the opening round.
17. Brooklyn Nets
With nearly half the roster made up of replacement players, the Brooklyn Nets have been one of the lesser talked about surprising stories from the restart. Caris LeVert and Joe Harris are both talented players and Brooklyn has the talent to make things happen from the perimeter.
17 Points- Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) August 10, 2020
Have a quarter, @CarisLeVert 👏 pic.twitter.com/uQ65aFJwBv
Wins over Milwaukee and the LA Clippers are huge confidence boosters ahead of their postseason date with the defending champs.
16. San Antonio Spurs
Do not count the San Antonio Spurs out. Their 22-year postseason streak is on the line but Gregg Popovich and company have continued to find ways to win and remain in the picture.
DeMar DeRozan has been the veteran leader for an interesting group that has a blend of experience and youth.
15. Phoenix Suns
You've got to give credit where it's due and the Phoenix Suns have treated every game as a must-win, beginning their time in Orlando with a 5-0 record.
Watching this on repeat forever.@DevinBook CALLED GAME! pic.twitter.com/T9b1YGwASb- Phoenix Suns (@Suns) August 4, 2020
They'll need some help but if they can earn a playoff spot, there's no doubt they deserve it.
14. Portland Trail Blazers
Portland has been a big beneficiary of health, getting Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic back in tow for the restart. With Damian Lillard leading the way and Gary Trent Jr. shooting ridiculously well, the Blazers look like a team that would've been in the middle of the West's playoff picture had they been healthy all season.
Dame Time clearly is nowhere near over.
51 points in 40 minutes.@dame_lillard is DIFFERENT pic.twitter.com/PntUMsdhcg- Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) August 10, 2020
13. Philadelphia 76ers
It's hard not to be concerned about Philadelphia. After reports surfaced of an arthroscopic scope that threatened to end All-Star Ben Simmons' season, All-Star Joel Embiid went down with an apparent ankle injury in Philly's next outing.
A lack of health could expedite a first-round exit.
12. Dallas Mavericks
Simply put, Luka Doncic is incredible, Have you seen what he's been doing during this restart?!
They don't call him Luka Magic for nothing 🎩✨#MFFL | @AcmeBrick @luka7doncic pic.twitter.com/sl7WcDa1XC- Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) August 9, 2020
He'll be making his playoff debut alongside Kristaps Porzingis, which will be fun to watch regardless of who the Mavs draw.
11. Utah Jazz
The Jazz are just a little difficult to figure out. Losing Bojan Bogdanovic for the season was a huge blow for this team, as he makes them much more well-rounded on the offensive end. As its constructed, Utah is very limited and might have a difficult time getting out of the first round.
10. Indiana Pacers
Last week: win vs. WAS, win vs. ORL, loss vs. PHX, win vs. LAL
This week: vs. MIA, vs. HOU, vs. MIA
Having the hottest player at the restart propels this Pacers team into the Top 10.
What else can be said about T.J. Warren? He's led this Indiana team to a 4-1 record through five games with averages of 34.8 points and 6.6 rebounds while shooting 60.5% from the field and 55.6% from deep, making up for the absence of All-Star Domantas Sabonis by carrying the offensive load.
3️⃣9️⃣ points from 1️⃣- Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) August 9, 2020
No answer for T.J. Warren 😤#IndianaStyle x @TonyWarrenJr pic.twitter.com/dBZ7UgNqgA
While Warren isn't showing any signs of slowing down, the Pacers also have a talented backcourt duo in Malcolm Brogdon and Victor Oladipo, who is still easing himself back in.
If Warren stays hot and the guards get more comfortable, this will be a fun team to watch in the playoffs.
9. Oklahoma City Thunder
Last week: loss vs. DEN, win vs. LAL, loss vs. MEM, win vs. WAS
This week: vs. PHX, vs. MIA, vs. LAC
In his 15th season, Chris Paul is still finding ways to dictate and dominate games.
Chris Paul busy on the court. Also busy leading from the sidelines. @CP3 | #ThunderUp pic.twitter.com/Olkw9nScVc- OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) August 6, 2020
CP3 is also in the perfect position to pass the torch to 22-year-old Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is preparing for his second year in the postseason after earning valuable experience as a Clipper last year.
Danilo Gallinari and Dennis Schroeder also have plenty of playoff experience, meaning this Thunder team will be ready for the moment.
OKC can finish anywhere between third and sixth in the West and will make for an intriguing opponent for whoever it matches up with.
8. Miami Heat
Last week: loss vs. TOR, win vs. BOS, loss vs. MIL, loss vs. PHX
This week: vs. IND, vs. OKC, vs. IND
The Heat have faced some adversity in the form of an injury to All-Star Jimmy Butler and Rookie of the Year finalist Kendrick Nunn leaving the NBA campus to tend to a personal matter.
The absence of key players has presented opportunities for Miami to showcase its depth and the "next man up" mentality.
Rookie Tyler Herro has shown great poise and confidence, Goran Dragic has looked deserving of more Sixth Man of the Year credit than he earned and, of course, All-Star Bam Adebayo is living up to the billing, also earning consideration as a Most Improved Player finalist.
There was no answer for @Bam1of1 in the paint tonight 💪 pic.twitter.com/TGSlrGFGiQ- x - Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) August 5, 2020
This team is physical and sticks to its principles; it'll be a tough postseason matchup for any team.
7. Denver Nuggets
Last week: win vs. OKC, win vs. SAS, loss vs. POR, win vs. UTA
This week: vs. LAL, vs. LAC, vs. TOR
Denver might be one of the most intriguing teams in Orlando purely from a talent perspective.
Nikola Jokic is a one-of-a-kind talent and at this point, has solidified himself as the league's best centre but the story is breakout rookie Michael Porter Jr., who is showing exactly why he was projected to be a top-three pick before sliding in the 2018 draft.
It's a tall ask for a first-year player, but if Porter can perform well enough to alternate being the second option with Jamal Murray, the Nuggets are a sneaky team to make a deep run.
Future is looking real bright. #MileHighBasketball pic.twitter.com/GPe1yPyj1x- Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) August 9, 2020
Speaking of Murray, he posted a smooth stat line of 23 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in his Orlando debut, an overtime win over the Utah Jazz.
6. Houston Rockets
Last week: loss vs. POR, win vs. LAL, win vs. SAC
This week: vs. SAS, vs. IND, vs. PHI
Houston has taken ownership of its small-ball identity and looks to be hitting its stride at the right time.
The Rockets are going to force teams to adjust in the postseason, seemingly accepting the fact that although they'll have a tough time on the boards and defending traditional bigs, their penchant for 3-point shooting is the ultimate difference-maker.
James Harden doing James Harden things. pic.twitter.com/1OsVr91XaO- Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) August 10, 2020
Of course, the MVP duo of James Harden and Russell Westbrook lead the way but PJ Tucker and Robert Covington are huge catalysts that allow this team to play the way it does. They'll get Eric Gordon back from injury just in time to re-incorporate him into the rotation, making him the final piece to their small-ball puzzle.
Houston is very capable of making a deep run.
5. Boston Celtics
Last week: loss vs. MIA, win vs. BKN, win vs. TOR, win vs. ORL
This week: vs. MEM, vs. WAS
With Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward, who seems to be finding his stride, the Celtics have just about as much talent as anyone else.
Hayward & Tatum steer the @celtics in OT!@gordonhayward: 31 PTS, 9 REB, 5 AST@jaytatum0: 29 PTS, 9 REB, 6 AST#Celtics #WholeNewGame pic.twitter.com/wEVEd4gddw- NBA (@NBA) August 10, 2020
They put that on full display with a dominant performance over the Toronto Raptors last week.
Boston has locked up the East's No. 3 seed, so it's hard to call this team a "sleeper," but a deep run is definitely in the cards if things fall into place for this squad.
4. Los Angeles Lakers
Last week: win vs. UTA, loss vs. OKC, loss vs. HOU, loss vs. IND
This week: vs. DEN, vs. SAC
After beating a shorthanded Clippers team to open the restart, the Lakers… haven't looked like themselves.
It's not time to sound the alarm, but a few of L.A.'s flaws could become a cause for concern. After LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who will the Lakers be able to consistently rely on? That is the pressing question for a team with title aspirations.
HIGHLIGHTS: @AntDavis23 was an unstoppable force tallying 42 points and going 4-for-8 from deep. pic.twitter.com/HK5kQA1cNQ- Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) August 4, 2020
While LeBron and AD will step their game up for the playoffs, will Kyle Kuzma step up to be the third guy in his first postseason? Will Danny Green find his shooting stroke consistently? Will Dion Waiters give a much-needed jolt off the bench? How will they guard the prolific wings on other teams?
The questions are piling up for the Lakers, but we've seen teams clinch the No. 1 seed and coast before. Time will tell if that's the case here.
3. Toronto Raptors
Last week: win vs. MIA, win vs. ORL, loss vs. BOS, win vs. MEM
This week: vs. MIL, vs. PHI, vs. DEN
When the inevitable bad game happens in the NBA, the true measure of a team is how it bounces back.
Toronto had an awful showing against the Boston Celtics, which was more of an aberration than anything. Outside of that loss, the defending champs have looked more than solid in Orlando, earning wins over the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic and Memphis Grizzlies.
.@pskills43 was gettin' buckets today.- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 9, 2020
26 Pts | 4 3pm pic.twitter.com/82S7YL9TQi
The Raptors do it by committee and we've already seen big games from Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby while All-Star Pascal Siakam had a solid showing against Memphis. Once they begin to click on all cylinders at the same time, the Raptors will be able to tap into another gear.
2. LA Clippers
Last week: loss vs. PHX, win vs. DAL, win vs. POR, loss vs. BKN
This week: vs. DEN, vs. OKC
If it wasn't for being on the wrong end of two game-winners, the Clippers could very well find themselves with just one loss at the restart.
Despite its 3-3 record, does any team have a scarier ceiling than LA? Especially when you consider the fact that Sixth Man of the Year finalist Montrezl Harrell has yet to suit up in Orlando. We all know what Kawhi Leonard is capable of doing once he's in playoff mode and with Paul George looking the healthiest he's been in years, the star power is impossible to ignore.
Kawhi, oh my.- LA Clippers (@LAClippers) August 10, 2020
A personal 11-0 run for @kawhileonard. pic.twitter.com/zMHBgBnBSD
The Clippers are deep and everyone knows how to excel in their roles. It's gonna be hard to beat them four times in seven games.
1. Milwaukee Bucks
Last week: loss vs. BKN, win vs MIA, loss vs. DAL
This week: vs. TOR, vs. WAS, vs. MEM
It's hard to pick and choose what to take from these seeding games because for each team, the stakes vary.
The Bucks were at their peak form this past week with a win over the Miami Heat in which Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton combined for 66 points to fuel a comeback from 23 down, closing the game on a 19-5 run to clinch the East's top seed.
Turned a 23 point deficit into a 14 point win.#FearTheDeer pic.twitter.com/d81ClhJ5x0- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) August 7, 2020
That's the Bucks team you should expect to see in the postseason.
It's hard to put much stock in their losses because ultimately, they're 40 games above-.500 for a reason, clinching the league's top record for the second straight season.
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