NBA Power Rankings: Defending champs are rising

Golden State
Golden State

1. Golden State Warriors (Record: 63-14; last week: 1): Coach Steve Kerr has said he wants the Warriors to have rhythm entering the playoffs, but it is essential to heed the threat of injury.


Cleveland
Cleveland

2. Cleveland Cavaliers (Record: 50-27; last week: 2): Cleveland reached 50 wins for the first time since the 2009-10 season, LeBron James’ last with the Cavs before joining the Heat.


Houston
Houston

3. Houston Rockets (Record: 53-24; last week: 3): Houston sent out a video book to voters pushing James Harden for the NBA’s MVP award. The Warriors are not promoting Stephen Curry.


San Antonio
San Antonio

4. San Antonio Spurs (Record: 51-26; last week: 5): The Spurs are the only team that has defeated the Warriors twice this season and are probably the team Golden State is most concerned about.


Los Angeles
Los Angeles

5. Los Angeles Clippers (Record: 52-26; last week: 4): Reserve guard Jamal Crawford has missed 17 straight games with a bruised right calf, but he is expected to be back in action soon.


Memphis
Memphis

6. Memphis Grizzlies (Record: 52-25; last week: 8) The Blazers, Clippers and Spurs are on the heels of Memphis for the third playoff seed in the West. It’s possible the Grizzlies could fall to the sixth seed.


Atlanta
Atlanta

7. Atlanta Hawks (Record: 57-19; last week: 6): Forward Paul Millsap has a right shoulder sprain and a contusion and will miss the next two games. Should Atlanta rest him until the playoffs?


Portland
Portland

8. Portland Trail Blazers (Record: 50-26; last week: 7): The Northwest Division title doesn't assure home-court advantage in the first round where Portland could face the Clippers or Spurs.


Dallas
Dallas

9. Dallas Mavericks (Record: 46-31; last week: 10): Good luck to the advance scouts of the expected seventh-seeded Mavericks, as their first-round opponent could be one of five West teams.


Chicago
Chicago

10. Chicago Bulls (Record: 46-31; last week: 11): Injured guard Derrick Rose is expected to return from knee surgery some time this week. The Bulls’ next game is Wednesday at Orlando.


Washington
Washington

11. Washington Wizards (Record: 44-33; last week: 13): The inconsistent but talented Wizards have the ability to advance to the East finals, or lose in the first round of the playoffs.


Toronto
Toronto

12. Toronto Raptors (Record: 45-32; last week: 12): Toronto’s hopes of landing the East’s third playoff seed is aided by a light remaining schedule against conference foes with losing records.


Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City

13. Oklahoma City Thunder (Record: 42-35; last week: 9) Regardless of whether the Thunder make the playoffs, coach Scott Brooks has done a solid job under the circumstances.


New Orleans
New Orleans

14. New Orleans Pelicans (Record: 41-35; last week: 15) Coach Monty Williams has done a good job this season with Anthony Davis in and out of the lineup.


Brooklyn
Brooklyn

15. Brooklyn Nets (Record: 35-41; last week: 19): Former Nets coach Avery Johnson had been considering the college route and is excited about being Alabama’s new coach.


Phoenix
Phoenix

16. Phoenix Suns (Record: 39-38; last week: 15): The Suns had lost five straight before defeating Utah on Saturday.


Utah
Utah

17. Utah Jazz (Record: 35-42; last week: 17): Keep an eye on rookie Rodney Hood, who can be inconsistent but has had three games of at least 20 points since March 12.


Milwaukee
Milwaukee

18. Milwaukee Bucks (Record: 38-39; last week: 18): The Bucks are still holding on to the East’s sixth playoff spot despite their struggles, but are getting a late challenge from Brooklyn.


Boston
Boston

19. Boston Celtics (Record: 35-42; last week: 20): The playoff hopeful Celtics will face a daunting opponent – the Cavaliers – twice over the next seven days.


Indiana
Indiana

20. Indiana Pacers (Record: 34-43; last week: 22): Paul George told Yahoo Sports in February he wouldn’t mind a first-round playoff rematch against the Hawks. With George back, it could happen.


Miami
Miami

21. Miami Heat (Record: 34-43; last week: 16): Miami has lost four straight, including two by more than 20 points, and will have a losing record for the first time since 2007-08.


Charlotte
Charlotte

22. Charlotte Hornets (Record: 33-43; last week: 23): The Hornets have not won a playoff game in 13 years and don’t appear poised to change that streak.


Detroit
Detroit

23. Detroit Pistons (Record: 30-47; last week: 24): Tayshaun Prince, a first-round pick by Detroit in 2002, is four points shy of reaching 10,000 in his Pistons career.


Denver
Denver

24. Denver Nuggets (Record: 28-49; last week: 21): The Nuggets have secured their first losing season since 2002-03; Denver then drafted Carmelo Anthony that summer.


Sacramento
Sacramento

25. Sacramento Kings (Record: 26-50; last week: 25): The Kings have lost three straight while Rudy Gay has been sidelined because of a concussion and are 2-7 without him this season.


Orlando
Orlando

26. Orlando Magic (Record: 24-53; last week: 29): Injury-prone rookie Aaron Gordon has recently shown some defensive versatility, guarding both guard and forward positions.


Los Angeles
Los Angeles

27. Los Angeles Lakers (Record: 20-56; last week: 27): Rookie Jordan Clarkson, a second-round pick, has averaged 16.2 points, 5.1 assists and 4.8 rebounds since the All-Star break.


Philadelphia
Philadelphia

28. Philadelphia 76ers (Record: 18-60; last week: 26) The Sixers have had a total of 33 players on their roster this season.


Minnesota
Minnesota

29. Minnesota Timberwolves (Record: 16-60; last week: 28) The Timberwolves appear set to finish with the West’s worst record; they face the Lakers on Friday.


New York
New York

30. New York Knicks (Record: 15-62; last week: 30): Andrea Bargnani, a free agent this summer, has shown a pulse of late, scoring more than 20 points in three of the past five games.

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