We are inching closer to the start of the 2021 NBA Playoffs and we are truly starting to get a feel of which teams are title contenders. The pro basketball postseason starts May 22 and will run until late July. Between now and then, our NBA Power Rankings will keep you informed on the league’s changing landscape and will provide valuable updates on where each team stands to help you place the right bets. These NBA Power Rankings look beyond records by analyzing each team’s potential to win an NBA championship.
– Nate Weitzer
NBA Power Rankings 2021 (April 12)
Here are our NBA Power Rankings as of Monday, April 12:
1. Brooklyn Nets: Even with Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and Kevin Durant taking liberal rest, the Nets are still vying for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. LaMarcus Aldridge has supplanted DeAndre Jordan in the rotation and young Nicolas Claxton can protect the rim when Brooklyn runs into more sizable foes.
2. Utah Jazz: The last time the Jazz lost two straight games, they crushed the Bucks and went on to win 20 of their next 21 games. We’ll see if Utah can use a brief skid against Dallas and Phoenix to spark another run and maintain that momentum into the playoffs.
3. Los Angeles Clippers: Rajon Rondo is only a subtle addition in terms of his on-court performance, but the veteran already seems to be reshaping the culture in the Clippers locker room. The deep and dangerous Clippers have the best offensive rating since the All-Star Break and have handled the 76ers, Bucks, and Suns during that span.
4. Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid is back and dominating with historic numbers (11.5 FTA per game) and he’s gaining steam again to potentially win his first MVP (+450 at DraftKings Sportsbook). The Sixers have the best defensive rating in the NBA when he’s active and will only get stronger on that side when George Hill joins the rotation.
5. Denver Nuggets: Nikola Jokic (-185 at DraftKings Sportsbook) is leading the MVP race by a wide margin, yet he can’t seem to get the foul calls awarded to most superstars. Denver has the most efficient offense in the NBA over the past two months and is rounding into defensive form with Aaron Gordon on board.
6. Milwaukee Bucks: When Jrue Holiday has been healthy, the Bucks have been tough to beat with a 27-13 record that doesn’t necessarily include the games they lost as he worked his way back from COVID. However, Milwaukee is still below .500 (12-15) against teams with losing records and will have a lot to prove in the postseason.
7. Phoenix Suns: A typical Chris Paul team, the Suns are second in assist to turnover ratio and third in shooting efficiency with the second-best scoring margin (+6.9) in the league. Yet even if they finish as the No. 2 seed in the West, they might not have the experience necessary to navigate a brutal bracket.
8. Los Angeles Lakers: With LeBron James (ankle) and Anthony Davis (Achilles) out, Andre Drummond has played a critical role on both ends as the Lakers look to stay afloat in the middle of the loaded West. Their defense remains off the charts and will only become stronger once those stars return.
9. Dallas Mavericks: Since their 10-day break in February, the Mavericks have been a top 10 defense in terms of limiting points in the paint, fastbreak points, and free throw attempts. That’s the trifecta in terms of what NBA coaches hope to get out of their players on that side of the ball.
10. Boston Celtics: The inconsistent Celtics turned heads with a 31-3 run down the stretch to end Denver’s 8-game win streak with a 105-87 road win on Sunday. There is enough talent on this roster for the Celtics to rise into the fourth or fifth spot in the East and make some noise in the playoffs.
11. Miami Heat: After losing six straight, the Heat have won 6 of their last 7 and are now breathing down Atlanta’s neck for the fourth seed in the East and a Southeast Division title. Regardless of their early-season struggles, nobody is going to want to face the reigning conference champs in a playoff series.
12. Portland Trail Blazers: All the pieces are back for Terry Stotts, along with new acquisition Norman Powell, but it just hasn’t clicked yet for Portland. The Blazers are 10-7 with the third-worst defensive rating since the ASB and are wasting an opportunity to pass the Lakers with LeBron out.
13. Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks are still 10-19 against teams with winning records and have been awful defensively with John Collins (ankle) and De’Andre Hunter (knee) on the shelf. They have handled the schedule that’s in front of them, but could come back to earth in matchups with the Bucks and Pacers.
14. Indiana Pacers: Malcolm Brogdon (hip) and Domantas Sabonis (ankle) returned to spark the Pacers offense last week and they’ve been playing at the fastest pace in the league while winning 3 of their last 4 contests. Bet the Over in games featuring Indiana until proven otherwise.
15. Memphis Grizzlies: Ja Morant and the Grizzlies have slowed the pace a little and are finding better results with a 4-2 record and the third-best offensive rating in the league over their last 6 games. They continue to score points in the paint at will and
16. New York Knicks: A rare offensive outburst snapped the Knicks funk with a 133-129 win over Memphis. R.J. Barrett is really starting to rise as an elite perimeter scorer and that’s exactly what this team needs to complement Julius Randle.
17. New Orleans Pelicans: After battling their way through a brutally condensed schedule in early April, the Pelicans appear to be back on track. Zion Williamson is on another tear with averages of 31.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG, and 5 APG while shooting 58.8% from the field over his last 4 appearances.
18. Charlotte Hornets: LaMelo Ball (wrist) and Gordon Hayward (foot) are out indefinitely, but Charlotte’s offense has still shown signs of life, including a 127-119 win at Milwaukee with Giannis out last Friday. They’ve beaten the Bucks twice this year and could be a feisty opponent for Milwaukee in the first round.
19. Golden State Warriors: Even with Steph Curry (tailbone) back, the Warriors rank 22nd in offensive rating over their last 7 games. They’re 9-18 on the road and 10-22 against winning teams, so there isn’t much hope for Golden State in a play-in scenario.
20. San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs snapped a 5-game skid with a win in Dallas and produced the highest total (236) in a game at American Airlines Arena since the Mavs defense underwent a reset in February. This team can still mix it up, but will likely be one-and-done if they make the play-in tournament.
21. Toronto Raptors: It appears the Raptors are throwing in the towel on their season in Tampa. They’ve been resting key players and seem to be in no rush to get Kyle Lowry (foot) or Fred VanVleet (hip) back in the lineup. Grab Malachi Flynn and other young Raptors in your fantasy leagues.
22. Chicago Bulls: Nikola Vucevic and Zach LaVine are putting up gaudy numbers, but the Bulls need to shore up mental miscues if they want to string together wins and make the playoffs. There is little time for practice, though, with 17 games on their schedule in April.
23. Sacramento Kings: After an impressive 5-game win streak, the Kings came crashing back to earth with 6 straight losses. Monte McNair might be regretting his decision to not move any big names at the trade deadline.
24. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards are finding their rhythm as a potential superstar duo of the future. And with KAT’s old friend D’Angelo Russell (knee) back, the Wolves are no longer a doormat.
25. Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal’s return to the lineup immediately snapped a 4-game skid and led to wins over the Magic and Warriors. But who knows how long the superstar guard will fight through a hip injury in a lost season.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers: Kevin Love is back and has yet to go down with another injury. If Larry Nance Jr. and Jarrett Allen can also stay healthy, the Cavs could play some spoiler down the stretch.
27. Houston Rockets: When Christian Wood and John Wall are both active, the Rockets are a solid 9-8 this season. But they’re 1-12 when Wall is out and Wood plays, and 2-17 when Wall is in street clothes.
28. Detroit Pistons: Pistons GM Troy Weaver is getting a long look at his young guards and even brought in former Pelicans PG Frank Jackson to mix it up in that crowded rotation.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Al Horford is resting, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (foot) might not return from his injury, and a host of other Thunder players have been in and out of the lineup, leading to the league’s worst net rating during the second half.
30. Orlando Magic: The Magic showed life in the immediate aftermath of their fire sale at the trade deadline, but then they lost 5 straight with Chuma Okeke (hip) and others banged up.
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: