An NBA blog from Newsday's Bobby Bonett
NBA playoff power rankings
At the start of each playoff round, you can find updated power rankings in the Double Dribble. The rankings are formulated based on what team still playing is most likely to win the NBA championship. So, for example, you'd expect the No. 4 team to beat the No. 5 team in a playoff series, but the No. 4 team would likely lose to the No. 3 team.
1. SAN ANTONIO SPURS
The red-hot Spurs enter the postseason with 21 wins in their past 23 games. That includes a current 10-game winning streak, two of those wins by more than 20 points against the Lakers. Don't bet on another early exit for San Antonio; this year's team is playing the league's best basketball.
2. MIAMI HEAT
As was clear in the final several games of the season, the Heat have no depth. At the same time, though, the Heat have LeBron James. A determined LeBron paired with Dwyane Wade makes Miami the East's team to beat.
3. CHICAGO BULLS
Still not sold on Derrick Rose being at full speed. But even a Rose-less Bulls team would probably have little trouble in the first round with the Sixers. The key for Chicago is getting their MVP back to full strength by the second round.
4. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
Memphis is this high based on potential. Their depth will make them a difficult out, but at the same time, they haven't been playing very good basketball lately. If Zach Randolph can put together a postseason like he did a year ago, though, Memphis could make a deep run. Of course, that would have to include a second round match-up with San Antonio.
5. BOSTON CELTICS
This postseason figures to be the last stand for the current incarnation of the Celtics. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are both free agents in the offseason, and you have to wonder if Boston can afford both, or if both even want back. KG, Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Paul Pierce have looked very solid, though, and Boston could give Chicago a run for its money in the second round.
6. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Isn't this low for Oklahoma City? Not necessarily. The Thunder rely very, very heavily on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook; the two take just about every shot for OKC in the clutch. To make a run, James Harden needs to get more involved, and a fourth option needs to develop.
Conversely, isn't this a little high for the Knicks? Don't expect New York to test the Heat much in the first round. Should they, though, between the depth, the newfound interior defense, and the play of Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks could turn back the clocks to 1999 and make a run.
8. DENVER NUGGETS
No, the Nuggets don't play any defense. But they are deep, and they do have a team full of guys subscribing to George Karl's system. Al Harrington and Andre Miller have been dynamite off the bench, Arron Afflalo is in a groove, and Kenneth Faried looks like the league's best rookie. If Danilo Gallinari shows up, watch out.
9. LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Depth is an issue, Pau Gasol's playoff performance last season is an issue, and Kobe Bryant's numerous ailments are an issue. The Lakers need Andrew Bynum to take over games -- as he has at times this year -- to get out of the first round.
10. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
For the Clippers to make any noise, Chris Paul is going to have to play like an MVP. The injury to Chauncey Billups left L.A. very thin late in games; I'd hesitate to call Caron Butler, Mo Williams or Randy Foye intimidating closers. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan can't shoot, and Nick Young has been a major bust. A first round match-up with Memphis might be too much.
11. INDIANA PACERS
Indiana against non-playoff teams this year: 28-5. Against playoff teams? 14-19. The Magic, for all intents and purposes, fall into the former category. The Heat, Indiana's likely second round match-up, don't.
12. ATLANTA HAWKS
Like Indiana, Atlanta couldn't beat quality opponents this year. One of the main reasons? Al Horford's absence. He won't be back for at least the first round, meaning the Hawks will struggle to match up with the Celts.
13. DALLAS MAVERICKS
The lockout seemed to hit Dallas harder than any other team. And it seemed to hit Dirk Nowitzki harder than any other player. Nowitzki's season started with conditioning woes, and ended with his lowest scoring average in over a decade. This isn't your champion Mavericks from a year ago.
14. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
Here's a guarantee: Any playoff game the Sixers win, they'll win ugly. While the 76ers play very stingy defense, they're arguably the worst offensive team in the playoffs. Factor in their top scorer, Lou Williams, had a down April, and it'll be a short postseason for Philly.
15. UTAH JAZZ
Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are a great start. But that's about all they are. The Jazz weren't even expected to sniff .500 basketball, let alone make the playoffs in the loaded West. This team is built for the future, not the present.
16. ORLANDO MAGIC
Had Orlando played the entire season without Dwight Howard, they might have won 20 games.
Tags: NBA playoffs , San Antonio Spurs , Utah Jazz , Memphis Grizzlies , Los Angeles Clippers , Oklahoma City Thunder , Dallas Mavericks , Los Angeles Lakers , Denver Nuggets , Chicago Bulls , Philadelphia 76ers , Boston Celtics , Atlanta Hawks , Miami Heat , Knicks , Indiana Pacers , Orlando Magic , predictions