Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz to the top of the pack, where Bobby Portis and the Bucks also established their position. Credit ... Alex Goodlett / Images
Golden State's Steve Kerr warned in January that Utah was "where we were three or four years ago " . "Utah duly held the besttheir NBA record for more than 80 consecutive days since February 2 and is the only team to make the top five of the two offense and defensive efficiency ncy. The Jazz are optimistic that Donovan Mitchell 's recent ankle injury was not as bad as it looked, but they know also that they can't really silence the skeptics until they perform more in the playoffs like Golden State.
2. Phoenix Suns
The Suns have grown rapidly last season's darlings in the Walt Disney World bubble for a full-fledged fascination. They are rarely mentioned as championship contenders because the team, which did not made the playoffs for a decade, has virtually no playoff experience beyond Chris Paul and Jae Crowder. But after Paul lands in the backcourt alongside Devin Booker, Phoenix is a good 34-9 ranked since starting 8-8 and been in better health than any other team in our top 10.
3. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are the healthier of the two title contenders at Tinseltown - barely. Kawhi Leonard (foot) and Paul George (toe) have been in and out of the lineup, Serge Ibaka (rear) has been sidelined since mid-March, then there's the team psyche. Even during a waveat 17-3, skepticism persists as to how this group will respond to playoff adversity. The collapse of last summer’s second round against Denver in the bubble was also appalling.
As if the Nets weren't fascinating enough with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, they traded for James Harden in January to look into pursuing a championship with little respect for defense. Yet recurring Injuries to Harden and Durant mean they will also try to win it all without continuity, as these two have played in sides of Irving in just seven games. A bit of comfort for Nets fans: this team has 26-8 quand only two of his three stars play.
5. The Philadelphia 76ers
Ben Simmons' offensive battles since the All-Star break are easier to bear when Joel Embiid makes a serious effort to win the most valuable Player Award. A 2-1 record this season against the Nets, good for the tiebreaker over them in the race for the No. 1 seed in the East, doesn't hurt either. However, the Sixers 'case in being called Eastern favorites is weakened by their own health issues: Embiid missed 19 games, Simmons 12.
6. Milwaukee Bucks Image The Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo to anchor their list for a while. Credit ... Aaron Gash / Associated Press
The Committee has often said that persuading Giannis Antetokounmpo to sign a five-year, $ 228 million contract extension is equivalent to win a championship for the Little Market Bucks. They also improved their chances of winning the championship by acquiring Jrue Holiday and P.J. Tucker to flank Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. The problem: Without the No.1 seed it won the previous two seasons, Milwaukee might have to beat the Nets and Philadelphia just to reach N.B.A. finals.
7. Denver Nuggets
One of the worst aspects of ligam tearJamal Murray's previous crossover in his left knee is that it hasn't just badly damaged the Nuggets title hopes this season. Because the N.B.A. Intending to return to his usual schedule from October to June, Murray could also miss most of next season. It’s such a disheartening blow after the Nuggets, carried by Nikola Jokic’s rise to M.V.P. favorite, had just made a trade to acquire Aaron Gordon of Orlando before losing Murray.
8. Los Angeles Lakers Image Anthony Davis can't help the Lakers if he's injured. Credit ... Christian Petersen / Images
The Lakers' cap is just too high with LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the training to get them out of the top 10. It's also been so long since we've seen the two pillars of the reigning champions in good health that it's difficult, at the moment, to put them higher. It is only when Davis (who missed 30 games with Achilles tendon and calf issues) and James (absent since March 20 with a severe ankle sprain) show us that they have really healed.
9. Knicks Image Julius Randle sparked the Knicks' unlikely resurgence, and at this point in timecould probably be elected mayor. Credit ... Wendell Cruz / USA Today Sports, via Reuters
Nine straight wins led to an unexpected t op-10 spot for the Knicks, who finished in the bottom 10 of the defensive standings for four consecutive seasons before the hiring of Tom Thibodeau as coach. With the relentless Thibodeau getting maximum effort from a run-of-the-mill lineup, the Knicks are seated in the top five for defensive teams. Take into account the significant improvements brought by the new All-Star data Julius Randle and, more recently, RJ Barrett , and you have the recipe for the Knicks' fourth winning season in the 21st century.
10. Boston Celtics Image Jayson Tatum and the Celtics bounce back. Credit ... Brad Penner / USA Today Sports, via Reuters
An 8-3 push helped the Celtics lose their status as the most disappointing team of the the league and join the search for the advantage on the field in the first round of the playoffs. Jayson Tatum has rebounded strongly after having Covid-19, althoughHe said he had to use an inhaler before games for the first time in his life. Also: Jaylen Brown continues to have a breakout season, Kemba Walker looks more like himself lately after lingering knee issues and Danny Ainge, president of the Boston Fire team, has improved the roster with Evan Fournier and Jabari Parker, albeit after hitting larger targets.
11 . Atlanta Hawks Image Nate M c Millan a guided the amazing Hawks. Credit ... Derick Hingle / Associated Press
Putting Nate McMillan in the driver's seat made such a difference he could actually land a few Coach of the Year votes without coaching all season . Since McMillan replaced Lloyd Pierce on March 1, Atlanta is 19-7, with a finally healthy Bogdan Bogdanovic (21.5 points per game in April) and Clint Capela (38 double-doubles this season) emerging. as key contributors preventing the opposition from loading. up on Trae Young. Capela deserves a lot more support than he gets to be named Defensive Player of the Year.
12. Dallas Mavericks
The good news: The Mavericks have one of the easiest remaining programs in the league, according to Tankathon . The disturbing news: They seem to need some help, judging by the disturbing home losses to the Knicks and Kings just after Luka Doncic stole a game against the Grizzlies with a superb 3-point strike to the buzzer. Despite Doncic's usual dominance, Kristaps Porzingis missed 20 of 59 games and Dallas wasted repeated opportunities to capitalize on the recent Portland funk before finally sweeping the No. 6 seed from the West.
13. Miami Heat
For all the understandable attention to Lakers injuries and challenges posed by the shortest offseason in the NBA History, Miami has faced the same issues since losing to Los Angeles in last season's final. A constant flow of pertuRbations of their own roster and struggles for the cast members backing heat might have already cost them the opportunity to grab seeded # 4 now is the teams around them warming up. >
14. Golden State Warriors Image Stephen Curry returned to his MVP form at 33. Credit ... Michael Dwyer / Associated Press
It tends to resist de such compliments because he thinks there's always another piece of equipment to hit, but Stephen Curry is playing the most tacky basketball specs of his life at 33. He's averaging 38.2 points per game in April and is expected to put the Warriors on the penalty kill in the play-in tournament, even though he's regularly enveloped by the thickest of defensive swarms with Klay Thompson still on the sidelines.
15. Memphis Grizzlies
In a busy West, it wouldn't have been surprising to see the Grizzlies fail to tie for ninth last season. A challenge Ja Morant , aided by reborn Jonas Valanciunas and low-key coach Taylor Jenkins, kept Memphis in the playoff race. Jaren Jackson Jr., widely regarded as Memphis 's second first player before injuring his knee at the end of last season, he just returned to the roster last week.
16. Charlotte Hornets Image Gordon Hayward is healthy and helping the Hornets. Credit ... Doug Mcschooler / Associated Press
The Hornets are Knicks Southeast, which means they are the other Eastern Conference wellness story - with much less fanfare than is happening at Gotham. After initially fearing to miss the rest of the season, LaMelo Ball is about to come back from a broken wrist that should consolidate him as a rookie of the league year. Gordon Hayward, when in good health, lived up to his four-year, $ 120 million contract. And coach James Borrego has kept this team together through his many injuries.
17. Portland Trail Blazers
Les BlAzers survived the lengthy injury absences of Jusuf Nurkic (10 weeks) and CJ McCollum (eight weeks), thanks in large part to frequent offensive shots from Damian Lillard. But a recent slip put Portland at risk of qualifying for the playoffs - like last season - after a long stint in the Western top six. Lillard's defenses swarm with more success as the season progresses, while Portland's porous defense has dropped to a modest 29th.
18. San Antonio Spurs
Gregg Popovich, who turned 72 in January, is making the most of a team that never expected much - much to everyone's surprise. DeMar DeRozan expanded his game, as a playmaker and leader, to complement San Antonio's top 10 defense. Neither team, however, has faced a schedule ofmore unenviable second half, with Spurs set to play 40 games in 67 days after being hit by a coronavirus outbreak in February.
19. Washington Wizards
Bradley Beal 's insistence on staying with Washington and delaying potential business conversations until the offseason is growing stronger. more and more sense. The recent rebirth of Russell Westbrook (13 trebles-doubles in his last 15 games) and improved team defense have made Washington's rise to power a likely qualification for a playoff berth. None of this seemed plausible when the team left 3-8 and data subsequent coronavirus issues .
20. Raptor strand
A list of the teams most disrupted by the coronavirus must include Washington, Miami, Boston, Memphis and Dallas - and it must be completed by Toronto. The Raptors have spent this entire season in Tampa, Fla., With several players and coaches sidelined by health and safety protocols, and it seems increasingly unlikely to avoid a trip to the lottery. draft just two years away from a championship.
21. Indiana Pacers Image Myles Turner , a formidable shot blocker, is injured in the toe. Credit. .. Aj Mast / Associated Press
Few teams illustrate better than the Pacers the wacky nature of this pandemic season and an erosion of league-wide field advantage. They are ugly. 11-17 at home, but clung to a spot in the Eastern top 10 with a 17-14 road record. The challenge is now suspended for another three weeks to move on to the game turn after losing the game. 'imposing Myles Turner , who leads the league in blocked shots, with a toe injury. All-Star striker Domantas Sabonis (rear) is also ill.
22. Pelicans of the NNew Orleans
In the second year, Zion Williamson achieved his first All-Star Game, established himself as a force ridiculously effective offensive and more than met the high expectations he raised upon exiting Duke. The problem is, despite all the damage Williamson does inside his opponents overwhelming and shooting 61.8% from the field, New Orleans is falling out of the contention for last place in the game. the West. Hiring Stan Van Gundy as a coach did not have the desired impact.
23. Chicago Bulls
Bulls fans keen to see a big change from the new front-office regime led by Arturas Karnisovas finally got one at the deal deadline when Chicago acquired All-Star center Nikola Vucevicto team up with Zach LaVine. Ending fans' expectations for a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016-17, when the Bulls still had Jimmy Butler, is getting trickier. Even with the productive Vucevic, Chicago is a shaky 6-11 since the trade and facing questions about when to make a win-now trade.
24. Sacramento Kings
Two nine-game losing streaks have eclipsed Aaron Fox's productive play since signing a $ 163 million contract extension in November, setting the Kings to miss the playoffs for a 15th consecutive season hard to believe. More than half of this terrible drought will belong to Vivek Ranadive, who is in his eighth season as owner of the Kings.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder
You must return to the Thunder's first season in Oklahoma City in 2007-8 for the last time they had a losing streak as long as their current 13 players. Check back in July, after the draft, if you want to see the Thunder thrive, as they clearly (and naturally) prioritize the draft position these days. They've amassed 18 first-round picks, 17 second-round players and the right to trade four other first-round players in the next seven drafts - all part of a plan to long term like no other.
26. Detroit Pistons Image Irami Grant gives hope to long-suffering Pistons fans. Credit ... Carlos Osorio / Associated Press
Jerami Grant performed so well in his first season as Piston that the teams were trying to persuade Troy Weaver, the new general manager of Detroit, to exchange it immediately. Some of Weaver's roster choices have been called into question, but the promise of roo kies Saddiq Bey (an Eastern Conference Player of the Week award already under his belt) and Isaiah Stewart (17, 3 points and 13.3 rebounds per game in a recent three-game streak), in addition to Grant's progress, have long been feeling cautiously optimistic for Pistons fans.
27. Minnesota Timberwolves
New Timberwolves coach Chris Finch, who worked in Denver as Nikola Jokic rose to prominence, tries to develop Karl in the same way -Anthony Towns 'game. Towns and his good friend Angelo Russell are both finally healthy, Anthony Edwards is a constant presence in the highlights reels and Alex Rodriguez (yes, that A-Rod) is trying to buy the team . There's a lot going on, but unfortunately nothing makes you forget that this will be Minnesota's 16th absence in 17 seasons.
28. Orlando Magic
At this early stage, Orlando has reason to be hopeful about his decision in March to drop hisa longtime trio of Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier. More revealing ratings will depend on how Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz recover from their serious knee injuries, but Chicago-acquired Wendell Carter Jr. in the Vucevic trade is off to a good start.
29. Cleveland Cavaliers
In early February, with the Cavaliers at 10-11, Collin Sexton wrote an article for The Players 'Tribune titled From back to the map . "The team quickly lost their next 10 games and spent the past two months mired in defeat and an injury crisis. Kevin Love, one of the last remaining ties to Cleveland's glory days, has inaveraging 13.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in April, but remains a tough one to trade with two years and $ 60.2 million remaining on his contract.
30. Houston Rockets
After waiting 20 years for his first head coaching job, Stephen Silas has endured the longest of rookie seasons. The resistance of James Harden, the trade of Russell Westbrook in Washington, a six-week roller coaster as Harden's coach, Harden's trade with the Nets - and it all followed many losses, injuries and scrutiny. The indignity of it all: Houston loses its first draft pick to Oklahoma City if it doesn't make the top four in the draft.