The NBA postseason is finally here, and we have a good idea of which teams will be seriously challenging for a championship this summer. There are also teams that have already started their summer vacations, with their front offices already focused on the 2021 NBA Draft. Here in our NBA Power Rankings we look at a 30 teams in the league.
– Nate Weitzer
NBA Power Rankings 2021 (May 17)
Here are our NBA Power Rankings as of Monday, May 17.
1. Brooklyn Nets: Kevin Durant and James Harden missed extensive time throughout the season, but they didn’t appear to miss a beat when they were both active for the final few games of the season, and Brooklyn looks unstoppable on offense with their Big Three intact. Updated NBA title odds show that they are favored to win the championship.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: The Western Conference has more depth, but the top three teams in the Eastern Conference (and Miami) are all capable of winning the title this year. Joel Embiid averaged a league-high 10.7 FTA per game and is an absolute game-wrecker on both ends along with Ben Simmons. Doc Rivers should help stabilize this team in the playoffs as they look to bounce back from a couple of disappointing campaigns.
3. Utah Jazz: Even without Donovan Mitchell (ankle) for most of the second half, the Jazz went 25-11 with the best net rating (9.6) in the NBA. They’re 39-14 with Mitchell active and should have him back along with Mike Conley (hamstring) when the first round begins.
4. Los Angeles Lakers: Despite closing the season on a 5-game win streak, the Lakers were unable to avoid the play-in tournament. But with LeBron James (ankle) and Anthony Davis (calf) healthy, the defending champs are capable of making the playoffs and potentially upending the upstart Suns in the first round.
5. Phoenix Suns: The Suns got into some shootouts down the stretch with the fifth-worst defensive rating (118.1) in May. They’re 9-3 in games decided by 3 points or fewer thanks to the closing power of Chris Paul and Devin Booker.
6. Milwaukee Bucks: An opportunity for redemption presents itself right away for the Bucks, as they draw the Heat in the first round. They’ve taken 3 of the past 4 regular season meetings from Miami, but fell in the playoffs last year. Jrue Holiday offers Milwaukee a reliable third option and a perimeter threat who could soften things up for Giannis to penetrate Miami’s stingy defense.
7. Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers lapsed down the stretch and gave the No. 3 seed to the Nuggets, thus losing out on a first-round series against a Portland team they’ve beaten 6 times in a row. They should still feel comfortable containing Luka Doncic and a Mavs team that they beat in the first round last season.
8. Denver Nuggets: The results have been closer, but the Nuggets are 16-8 without Jamal Murray (ACL) this season. Thanks to the incredible play of the likely MVP, Nikola Jokic, Denver is sporting the fourth-best offensive rating in Clutch time (the final 5 minutes of games within 5 points), but their first round opponent (Portland) leads the NBA in net rating during those situations.
9. Miami Heat: The Heat won 8 of their last 10 games with the third-best offensive rating in that span and statement wins over the 76ers and Celtics (twice). They dropped a game at Milwaukee, but that could just be gamesmanship as Eric Spoelstra prepares to coach circles around Mike Budenholzer again.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard caught fire to help the Blazers post the best offensive rating in the NBA over the last month of the season, while Jusuf Nurkic became a consistent force to help their defense improve dramatically. Few teams come into the playoffs with as much momentum as Portland.
11. Dallas Mavericks: Kristaps Porzingis (knee) is ready for the playoffs and now it’s on Rick Carlisle to figure out how he’ll fit positionally alongside Dwight Powell. Dallas actually has a much better defensive rating (111.8) without Porzingis than when he plays.
12. Golden State Warriors: The Warriors have the best net rating (14.7) in basketball during a 6-game win streak and Steph Curry continues to bend defenses to his will with insane range and deft passing. This team is sure to excite in the play-in tournament and perhaps beyond.
13. New York Knicks: Julius Randle closed a spectacular campaign with averages of 30.1 PPG, 9.1 RPG, and 6.2 APG while shooting 45.3% from the 3-point range for the rejuvenated Knicks. Tom Thibodeau’s team has the best defensive rating in Clutch Time, but they’re somehow 2-9 in games decided by 3 points or fewer.
14. Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks turned their season around when Nate McMillan became interim coach and they finished strong with wins in 7 of their final 8 games. With a slower pace and better defensive approach this season, this young team appears ready for its first postseason experience.
15. Memphis Grizzlies: Jaren Jackson Jr. (knee) returned in time to gain some chemistry with his teammates and help Memphis post the eighth-best net rating in the NBA while winning 5 of their last 6 games. The Grizzlies are just 19-23 against Western Conference teams, and 14-20 when listed as underdogs, so a deep run seems unlikely.
16. Boston Celtics: Losing Jaylen Brown (wrist) for the postseason could be the final nail in Boston’s coffin. The Celtics finished 4-8 with a -1.9 net rating while backing into the playoffs and have been lifeless and inconsistent all season.
17. Washington Wizards: Russell Westbrook put together a heroic stretch of triple doubles to help the Wizards win 10 of their 15 games and get two bites at the apple by earning the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. Washington’s defense has been underrated during the second half and the Wizards are a clutch fourth quarter team with Westbrook and Bradley Beal healthy.
18. San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs dropped 10 of their last 12 games with the fifth-worst net rating (-7.9) in that span and some truly dreadful numbers on the road. Like Memphis, they haven’t fared well against the top teams in the West, so neither team should last long once they emerge from the 9-10 game in the play-in round.
19. Indiana Pacers: Indy has become a shootout team with Myles Turner (toe) out indefinitely, but they’ve had trouble scoring down the stretch of games with the third-worst offensive rating in Clutch Time and a 13-26 record against winning teams.
20. Charlotte Hornets: LaMelo Ball (wrist) is playing through his injury but Gordon Hayward (foot) is unlikely to make it back for the play-in tournament. Even with Ball directing traffic, the Hornets have the worst offensive rating (108.5) among playoff teams this month.
21. New Orleans Pelicans: The Pelicans defense improved dramatically after a horrible performance throughout the first 5 months of the season, but they lost Zion Williamson (finger) and Brandon Ingram (ankle) to injury before letting their slim playoff hopes slip away.
22. Toronto Raptors: It was a rough season for the Raptors in their adopted home base of Tampa Bay. Masai Ujiri remained conservative at the trade deadline, and could bring back team leader Kyle Lowry on a new contract with an exciting crop of young players to develop behind him.
23. Minnesota Timberwolves: When Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell were both active, Anthony Edwards was able to play freely and efficiently as a third scorer, and guys like Jarred Vanderbilt fit in as defensive stoppers. The Wolves have a promising future.
24. Chicago Bulls: The Bulls playoff push was derailed when Zach LaVine (COVID protocols) was forced to miss 2 weeks at a key period in the season. Chicago is reportedly eyeing a free agent PG this offseason with Lonzo Ball and Dennis Schroder on the list of potential acquisitions.
25. Sacramento Kings: The Kings were impressive down the stretch despite the absence of De’Aaron Fox (COVID) and Harrison Barnes (groin). Their defense was unparalleled as they tried to play the role of spoiler, and Delon Wright proved more than capable as a backup floor general.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers: Beating the listless Celtics was a nice treat for Kevin Love and the Cavs towards the end of another frustrating season. Cleveland’s defense is headed in a positive direction, but they need more firepower if they want to hang around long enough for their D to win games.
27. Houston Rockets: The Rockets have a lot of exciting young players including Kevin Porter Jr. and Kenyon Martin Jr. Kelly Olynyk has proven that he can still get buckets and he could be a good fit alongside Christian Wood and John Wall if those players enter the 2021-22 season healthy.
28. Detroit Pistons: Another perpetually rebuilding team, the Pistons appear to have found some young gems in Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey. But No. 6 overall pick Killian Hayes hasn’t really panned out and is a redundant addition to a roster flush with guards.
29. Orlando Magic: The Magic weren’t competitive at all in the wake of their trade deadline sell off, which is to be expected. Orlando has over $30 million in cap space to work with during the 2021 offseason.
30. Oklahoma City Thunder: Despite the NBA changing it’s lottery rules so that win percentage has less of an impact on actual odds to secure the first overall pick, the Thunder tanked hard throughout the final months of the season. Sam Presti has a war chest of draft picks accumulated from trades and he should have OKC contending again within a year or two.
How to use NBA Power Rankings
When placing bets on the NBA, it’s crucial to consider factors such as travel time, home court advantage, and playoff positioning versus the rest that so many stars value. By using these rankings, or creating your own criteria for a Power Rankings system, it can be possible to evaluate the prospects of a team more thoroughly based on those factors.
Oddsmakers tend to overreact in the NBA based on the status of star players, but often underreact to trends such as a teams’ performance on back-to-back sets, or at the end of a long road trip. Read our full NBA Betting Guide for more strategies on gaining an edge against sportsbooks.
If you develop a system that helps you stay a step ahead of oddsmakers, it’s certainly possible to cash on over 50 percent of NBA bets and turn a profit. Trust your data and use our Power Rankings as a guide for identifying value on a nightly basis.
Read more on beginner NBA betting strategies here: