Updated: April 14, 2015, 8:19 PM ET
Power Rankings: Warriors finish No. 1
By Marc Stein
Monday, April 13
Year 13 in charge of ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings was a fun one for the committee (of one).
We feel blessed.
Almost as blessed as the Golden State Warriors.
The 2014-15 campaign, even with the San Antonio Spurs on a 21-3 kick since Feb. 27 and the Atlanta Hawks enjoying the first 60-win showing in franchise history, belongs to the 65-win Dubs more than anyone else. Which is why they sit atop our 30-team ladder, ahead of the scorching Spurs, for the ninth straight week and 15th time in a span of 24 regular-season Mondays.
Entering its final two games of this otherworldly regular season, Golden State is sporting a nightly average points-per-game differential of plus-10.2. That would rank eighth all-time ... with six of the seven teams that posted a higher average margin having gone on to win the championship. The only team of those seven double-digit squads that failed to go all the way: Milwaukee in 1971-72, when the Bucks had to cope with the 69-13 Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
Those are the sort of tasty tidbits we get fed every week by ESPN Stats & Info's incomparable NBA team as well as the Elias Sports Bureau. Our thanks to all our colleagues in both places for 82 games' worth of peerless assisting.
You can comment below on these rankings, rank the teams yourself here and, of course, meet us back here at the end of September for the first edition of the rankings in Year 14 for your faithful committee.
|Winning their final two games, both at home, would hike the Dubs to 39-2 at Oracle and 67 wins overall. Omen seekers should know only nine other teams have won 67 games ... and seven of them produced the league's MVP. The exceptions: 69-13 Bulls in '96-97; 69-13 Lakers in '71-72.|
|Just being as honest as a committee can. We see only two teams at the minute that can win this season's West: Golden State as team of the season and streaking San Antonio as the team of the moment, with Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard playing like an everyday MVP over the past 25-ish games.|
|Since we're always giving history lessons and searching for the omens they contain when we're talking about Steph's Warriors, why not similar treatment for LeBron's Cavs? So here goes: The only other time Cleveland entered the playoffs as a No. 2 seed, in 2007, LeBron led them to the Finals.|
|Who believes in the Clips? Not sure there's anyone backing them with more gusto than our pals at numberFire.com, who as of Monday give L.A. no less than a 12.8-percent shot to win it all ... ahead of Atlanta, San Antonio and Cleveland and second only to Golden State's 36.45 percent.|
|There are loads of numbers, be it nightly PPG margin or net efficiency, floating around to assert that the Hawks rank as one of the weakest 60-win teams ever. Fine. We're here to celebrate what they achieved during an extraordinary regular season ... and at least try to drown out all the recent bad injury news.|
|Don't try to tell me the East's foremost playoff wild card didn't miss Derrick Rose when he was sidelined. Even this version. Chicago went only 10-10 without him and, don't forget, is a tidy 17-5 when D-Rose joins Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah in the starting lineup.|
|James Harden can't do much more. He's scored or assisted on 42 percent of the Rockets' points -- nearly matching D-Rose's slice in HIS MVP season in 2010-11 -- while they were losing 392 man-games to injury. According to Elias, only the Wolves (423) and Lakers (422) have lost more.|
|It might just be that the Griz were a touch overrated at their 41-14 peak, since their point margin wasn't especially gaudy then and certainly isn't now at plus-3.2. But all that matters at the minute in Memphis is health. Mike Conley's, Tony Allen's and (most crucially) Marc Gasol's specifically.
|First division title for the Blazers since the lockout-shortened season of 1999. First division title for the Blazers in an 82-game campaign since 1991-92. Yet it won't even get them home-court advantage in Round 1, while the injuries (Arron Afflalo is the latest) just keep piling up. Cruel spring.|
|The Mavs are the proverbial Every High Seed Wants 'Em team in the first round. Just like they were in 2011. Yet that's pretty much the only parallel you can draw between the lone championship outfit in team history and the current (older, banged-up and less-than-harmonious) Mavs.|
|Given the seemingly precarious health of backcourt stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, along with the slippage that finds the Raps ranked No. 24 in defensive efficiency, it has to be a relief that both the No. 3 seed and the first 50-win season in team history remain very much in play.|
|Are things actually breaking in the Pels' favor? Maybe not after Russell Westbrook saw a tech rescinded for the second time in seven games. The numberFire guys nonetheless seem convinced, suddenly listing The Brow's team at 65.35 percent to make the playoffs compared to OKC's 34.65 percent.|
|This battle for the West's No. 8 spot is going down to the last ticks of the regular season. Have to figure Utah will be right in the heart of the same battle in 2015-16 with the way its Hayward/Favors/Gobert core has blossomed ... and with so many contributors who haven't even turned 25 yet. |
|Some signs of life from the Wiz lately. My NBA.com counterpart John Schuhmann informs that John Wall & Co. join Golden State and San Antonio as the only three teams to rank in the top five in defensive efficiency before and after the All-Star break. The heat on Randy Wittman, though, won't let up.|
|I tweeted so last Tuesday night after watching New Orleans stun Golden State that it was the first time I really started picturing a playoffs without OKC. Watching the Thunder miss 17 free throws in Indy and potentially lose Russ' services Monday night to a 16th tech only grew that vibe.|
|A stirring win in desperate circumstances despite surrendering 54 points to Russ Westbrook! A dunk from Paul George, too! Indy needed it all because it leads the league in losses by three points or fewer with 12. That's one more, even, than Phoenix after all of the Suns' dagger endings.|
|With all due respect to Wyc Grousbeck, it's a stretch to suggest Brad Stevens is going to attract free agents to Boston. Yet there's no denying that the Celts, with a free swing looming in the playoffs and all those draft assets to dangle in trades, have an enviable future under their gem of a coach.|
|The Bucks are just the third team in the history of the 16-team format introduced in 1983-84 to reach the playoffs after posting the NBA's worst record. Related news: Jason Kidd just became the first coach ever to take two different teams to the playoffs in his first two seasons on an NBA bench.|
|A league-leading (and extremely fortuitous) 10-2 record in games decided by three points or fewer, along with the surging Brook Lopez, might end up saving the Nets. If they miss out on the playoffs, though, here's a prime culprit: Brooklyn's 2-10 mark against Milwaukee, Boston and Miami.|
|Even as you digest the reality that the Heat are about to become the first team to miss the playoffs after losing in the previous season's NBA Finals since the '04-05 Lakers, I still say they have to look back fondly upon 2014-15 after acquiring Goran Dragic and unearthing Hassan Whiteside.|
|A ray of sunshine in what has been an increasingly gloomy season in the desert: Eric Bledsoe is averaging 17.1 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 6.1 APG and 1.58 SPG. At last check only two other players in the whole league can claim such numbers in all four categories ... James Harden and Russell Westbrook.|
|Too many injuries and too little offensively for MJ's Hornets to make it back-to-back playoff appearances. And not nearly enough from Lance Stephenson, whose first season in Charlotte was so disappointing and muted that you amazingly almost forgot he was there for long stretches.|
|Make that two 40-point games in Danilo Gallinari's past eight outings after a total of zero in his first 335 NBA games. The Rocky Mountain focus, though, shifts now to Melvin Hunt and the coaching box, with rumblings getting louder Denver brass indeed wants a fresh voice from the outside.|
|All the intentional fouling Josh Smith generates isn't the Pistons' problem anymore, but it seems now that exiling him didn't solve all of Detroit's issues. Not even Stan Van Gundy could prevent the seventh straight losing season in Motown, something only Sota and Sacramento can match.
|Only our Elias pals could come up with the gem about the Magic's involvement in the sorriest quarter of the 209,888 quarters in the shot-clock era to that point. Couldn't resist signing off with that one knowing we'll be writing again about Orlando (and its coaching search) soon enough.|
|So much chaos to chronicle in this lost season of three coaches, loads of front-office friction, porous D and so little to cheer beyond DeMarcus Cousins' first All-Star berth that we've been shamefully delinquent in trumpeting the progress of our beloved Omri Casspi. So please click here.
|Gained a new appreciation for Philly (and its fans) this season by watching my Buffalo Sabres play out a similar script. The highest possible pick is obviously management's focus, but credit to the Sixers for ignoring all the noise, Sabres-style, and playing their guts out. No. 13 in defensive efficiency!|
|We're probably guilty of relying too much on Kobe Content in this space, given that he played only 35 games, but don't forget Kobe was on pace to shatter the league scoring record for players in their 19th season or later (Kareem's 14.6 PPG in 1987-88 at age 41) when he was shelved.|
|After so many weeks of misery in this corner of cyberspace, it's time to remind long-suffering Knicks fans that the forthcoming draft is not only the 30th anniversary of the Patrick Ewing draft but also the first time since 1986 and Kenny "Sky" Walker that New York will be making a top-five pick.|
|It's not worry No. 1 these days -- not with Ricky Rubio following Nikola Pekovic into surgery -- but this is when you start wondering about Kevin Garnett's future. Despite the fact KG has logged just 98 minutes in his Second Sota Act, we hear he's still leaning toward playing next season.|