1. San Antonio Spurs (48-13, 2nd in Western Conference)
San Antonio claimed the top spot in this week’s power rankings thanks to a seven-game winning streak. The Spurs also have a shot at overtaking the Warriors for the No.1 seed in the West in the wake of Kevin Durant’s injury. Kawhi Leonard has proven he is one of the best players in the league and is in the running for his third consecutive Defensive Player of the Year Award. This week will be a tough test for the Spurs as they face off against the Warriors, Rockets and Thunder.
2. Golden State Warriors (51-11, 1st in Western Conference)
Durant’s return from his MCL sprain is still three to four weeks away. The initial fear of missing the first round of playoffs is concerning, but Durant will most likely be available come playoff time. Just how effective the eight-time All-Star will be once he returns is another question. The Warriors lost back-to-back games for the first time in almost two years. With the Spurs on a winning streak now, the Warriors need to rally if they want to hold on to the No. 1 seed. Golden State will play the Hawks, Celtics, Wolves and Spurs this week.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (42-19, 1st in Eastern Conference)
The recent additions of Deron Williams, Derrick Williams and Andrew Bogut have paid off for the Cavaliers. J.R. Smith is likely to be back next week and Kevin Love is estimated to be active two weeks before the playoffs. Once the Cavaliers are fully healthy, they will be a scarier team on paper than the Warriors. Look for LeBron James’ minutes to decrease eventually as playoffs loom near. Cleveland will go on a short three-game road trip this week after playing the Heat in the second half of a home-and-home Monday.
4. Houston Rockets (44-19, 3rd in Western Conference)
The Rockets are 8-2 in their last 10 games and are creeping up behind the Spurs and the Warriors in the standings. James Harden is a lock-in for either the MVP or the MVP runner-up this year and Houston also has a couple of candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year Award in Lou Williams and Eric Gordon. The Rockets will have a tough time catching up to the Warriors and Spurs with the toughest March schedule in the league, according to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index. Houston plays San Antonio, Utah, Chicago and Cleveland this week.
5. Washington Wizards (37-24, 3rd in Eastern Conference)
John Wall is having himself a season and would be considered in the MVP race if Russell Westbrook and Harden weren’t tearing up the league. Wall is second in the league in assists and steals, the former No. 1 pick also places in the top 25 in points per game. Washington bolstered its bench with the addition of Bojan Bogdanovic over the trading deadline and the recent signing of point guard Brandon Jennings. With the Celtics’ inconsistent play of late and the Raptors still trying to implement new additions along with Kyle Lowry’s injury, the Wizards have a small window in the East to separate themselves from the rest of the conference. The Wizards will play 15 of their last 21 games on the road to close out.