As faculty basketball prepares to kick off the lads’s and girls’s tournaments this week, the NBA is quietly getting into the house stretch of the common season. And whereas the Phoenix Suns have run away with the Western Convention, the Golden State Warriors path the Memphis Grizzlies by simply half a recreation — with Draymond Inexperienced set to return this week after a two-month absence.

The Miami Warmth are on high within the East, however the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks are 2.5 video games again. The Sixers have been surging these days, although they did endure a blowout loss to the Brooklyn Nets in Ben Simmons’ return to Philadelphia.

Can the No. 8 Nets construct on that momentum with Kevin Durant again within the lineup and climb the standings within the closing month of the season? Can the Los Angeles Lakers construct on LeBron James’ current play and make a late-season push?

Our consultants break down all 30 groups one month earlier than the playoffs start.

Word: All through the common season, our panel (Tim Bontemps, Jamal Collier, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin and Ohm Youngmisuk) is rating all 30 groups from high to backside, taking inventory of which groups are taking part in one of the best basketball now and which groups are wanting most like title contenders.

1. Phoenix Suns
2021-22 file: 54-14
Earlier rating: 1

With their win Wednesday towards the Warmth, the Suns turned the primary group this season to clinch a playoff berth. At 54-14, the Suns are nicely on their technique to clinching dwelling courtroom by the whole 2022 playoffs. Phoenix has a 7.5-game lead on the Western Convention’s No. 2 group (Memphis) and a 9.5-game benefit over the Japanese Convention’s No. 1 seed (Miami). — Lopez


2. Miami Warmth
2021-22 file: 45-24
Earlier rating: 2

Miami has loads of time to relaxation this week with solely two video games — towards the Pistons and Thunder — on the schedule. The excellent news for the Warmth is that Victor Oladipo is lastly again within the lineup and has proven flashes of stable play in restricted minutes. Coach Erik Spoelstra can have loads of time to get his veteran group in place for a drive into the playoffs over the subsequent few weeks. — Friedell


3. Memphis Grizzlies
2021-22 file: 47-22
Earlier rating: 3

Dillon Brooks had 15 factors and 4 assists in Sunday’s win over the Thunder, his return after lacking two and a half months attributable to an ankle harm. Coach Taylor Jenkins inserted Brooks proper again into the beginning lineup and can regularly ramp up his minutes. Brooks has been the Grizzlies’ second-leading scorer over Ja Morant’s profession, however his presence is extra important on the opposite finish, as he is by far Memphis’ greatest on-ball defender. — MacMahon


4. Golden State Warriors
2021-22 file: 46-22
Earlier rating: 6

Coach Steve Kerr’s group is getting again on observe after successful three straight. Klay Thompson poured in 38 factors in Saturday’s win over the Bucks. Jordan Poole hit a number of massive photographs in Thursday’s win over the Nuggets and “Jackie Moon” offered a comedic help previous to Tuesday’s win over the Clippers. Golden State can also be anticipating Draymond Inexperienced again on Monday, and James Wiseman began his G League rehab stint in hopes of quickly making his season debut. — Friedell


5. Milwaukee Bucks
2021-22 file: 42-26
Earlier rating: 4

The Bucks are getting an enormous reinforcement to their lineup this week when middle Brook Lopez returns to motion for the primary time since opening night time. Lopez required again surgical procedure in December and has been restricted to only one recreation this season. Milwaukee has missed his presence on protection, the place the Bucks have slipped to thirteenth in defensive score, the bottom they’ve ever been below coach Mike Budenholzer. — Collier


6. Philadelphia 76ers
2021-22 file: 41-25
Earlier rating: 5

Thursday’s blowout loss to Brooklyn uncovered the issues about this roster post-James Harden commerce, title it is sometimes-porous protection. Sunday’s time beyond regulation win towards Orlando once more confirmed that it should take a while to develop their chemistry. Up subsequent? An MVP showdown between Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid in Philadelphia Monday night time. — Bontemps


7. Boston Celtics
2021-22 file: 41-28
Earlier rating: 8

Even after Boston’s last-second loss to Dallas on Kevin Garnett Day Sunday, the Celtics must really feel good. They sit simply 1.5 video games again of second place within the East and proceed to seem like a very totally different group from the one which teeter-tottered its technique to a .500 file by the primary 50 video games. — Bontemps


8. Dallas Mavericks
2021-22 file: 42-26
Earlier rating: 10

The Mavs have gone from depressing to magnificent in clutch conditions this season. They ranked final within the league in clutch defensive effectivity (130.1) and web score (minus-34.5) after a Feb. 2 time beyond regulation loss to the Thunder. Since then, Dallas ranks first in these two classes (78.9 defensive effectivity, plus-48.8 web score). Dallas has received 10 of 12 video games that qualify as clutch in that span, together with Sunday’s comeback in Boston, when the Mavs held the Celtics scoreless for the ultimate 2:37. — MacMahon


9. Utah Jazz
2021-22 file: 42-25
Earlier rating: 7

The Jazz are preventing to carry home-court benefit within the first spherical, however discovering relaxation for Mike Conley additionally have to be a precedence down the stretch of the common season, as Utah wants him contemporary to have actual hope of constructing a deep playoff run. Conley, 34, has averaged solely 7.7 factors on 25.6% taking pictures for the reason that All-Star break. He has been sitting one recreation of back-to-backs. — MacMahon


10. Chicago Bulls
2021-22 file: 41-26
Earlier rating: 9

Bulls guard Alex Caruso picked up proper the place he left off in his first recreation since Jan. 21, with 11 factors, 4 assists and 4 steals in a win over the Cavs on Saturday. Chicago’s protection loved a direct enhance with Caruso’s presence in simply his third recreation since Dec. 20. Saturday marked the primary time since Caruso’s final recreation towards the Bucks that the Bulls have held an opponent below 100 factors. — Collier


11. Denver Nuggets
2021-22 file: 40-28
Earlier rating: 11

The Nuggets received 12 of 14 video games earlier than dropping two straight to Golden State and Toronto. Coach Michael Malone’s group hasn’t misplaced consecutive video games since a three-game slide at first of February. Denver did not have Aaron Gordon within the loss to Toronto and was with out Will Barton towards the Warriors. Nonetheless, Denver is aware of it might execute, defend and rebound higher than it did in these two losses. The Nuggets lead Minnesota by 1.5 video games for the sixth spot. — Youngmisuk


12. Brooklyn Nets
2021-22 file: 35-33
Earlier rating: 16

The cleaning soap opera of the Nets’ season hit a excessive level in current days. Kyrie Irving dropped an environment friendly 50 factors in a win over Charlotte on Tuesday. Kevin Durant and Irving dominated Joel Embiid and the Sixers on Thursday whereas holding James Harden to a 3-for-17 efficiency as Ben Simmons watched from the bench. Durant dropped 53 on the Knicks on Sunday — after which referred to as out NYC Mayor Eric Adams as Irving watched from his courtside seat due to the town’s vaccination mandate. — Friedell


13. Cleveland Cavaliers
2021-22 file: 38-29
Earlier rating: 12

The Cavs proceed to stumble and maintain only a one-game lead over No. 7 Toronto for the final automated playoff bid. They’ve misplaced eight out of 11 and have needed to reconfigure their lineup with Jarrett Allen going out with a damaged left center finger, including Kevin Like to the beginning group after he had carved out an environment friendly area of interest off the bench. — McMenamin


14. Toronto Raptors
2021-22 file: 37-30
Earlier rating: 15

Every week in the past, Toronto appeared prefer it had little likelihood of getting out of the play-in. Now, after sweeping a highway back-to-back in Phoenix and Denver, coupled with Cleveland persevering with to spiral down the standings, the Raptors are instantly inside putting distance of the East’s high six. — Bontemps


15. Minnesota Timberwolves
2021-22 file: 39-30
Earlier rating: 13

The Timberwolves are coming off certainly one of their greatest wins of the season — a 17-point comeback to defeat the Warmth on the highway on Saturday night time. It avenged a disappointing loss the earlier night time towards the Magic and gave Minnesota its first win of the 12 months when trailing by such a big margin. — Collier


16. LA Clippers
2021-22 file: 36-34
Earlier rating: 14

After a lackluster loss to the Knicks adopted by a troublesome loss at Golden State, the Clippers pulled off one other double-digit comeback to beat the Wizards. Reggie Jackson had a troublesome recreation in a loss at Atlanta however then performed certainly one of his extra managed video games in a win at Detroit. With 12 video games remaining within the season and the Clippers wanting like they may seemingly be the eighth seed, coach Ty Lue admitted that the Clippers will seemingly discover time to relaxation a few of their vets like Jackson down the stretch. — Youngmisuk


17. Atlanta Hawks
2021-22 file: 33-34
Earlier rating: 17

Trae Younger placed on one other spectacular efficiency on Sunday night time in a 131-128 win towards the Pacers. Younger had 33 factors within the first half, setting a brand new profession excessive for factors in a half. He completed with 47 factors on simply 20 photographs. He was 13-of-20 from the sphere with seven 3s, whereas going 14-of-14 from the free throw line. It was Younger’s seventh 40-point recreation this season — he trails solely Joel Embiid (10) and Giannis (8) for probably the most within the NBA this 12 months. — Lopez


18. Charlotte Hornets
2021-22 file: 33-35
Earlier rating: 19

As a result of Washington and New York have steep climbs within the race for the play-in event, the Hornets can really feel safe that they will be in it for a second straight 12 months. However Charlotte must get Gordon Hayward wholesome — he is missed greater than a month with an ankle harm — and has work to do keep away from a tenth place end and the tall process of successful two highway video games to make the playoffs –– Bontemps


19. Los Angeles Lakers
2021-22 file: 29-38
Earlier rating: 18

Anthony Davis will start on-court exercises Monday, simply shy of 4 weeks since he suffered a sprain in his proper foot. Whereas Davis advised reporters Sunday he’s “very optimistic” he’ll be capable to make it again earlier than the season ends, LeBron James stated that may not be sufficient to repair this Lakers group. “It places a band-aid on some issues, however I imply, we simply have not had sufficient chemistry, sufficient time with our group to have the ability to know precisely who we’re and who we are able to turn into,” he stated. “AD undoubtedly helps, nevertheless it’s not the reply to all of the questions.” — McMenamin


20. New Orleans Pelicans
2021-22 file: 28-40
Earlier rating: 20

With Brandon Ingram coping with a proper hamstring harm and CJ McCollum in well being and security protocols, the Pelicans’ offense sputtered after successful 4 straight out of the break. They bought again on observe with Sunday’s 130-105 win over Houston. Backup level guard Jose Alvarado had 16 factors, 10 assists and 6 steals within the win, turning into the third participant in franchise historical past to hit these marks in a recreation, becoming a member of Baron Davis and Chris Paul. — Lopez


21. Washington Wizards
2021-22 file: 29-37
Earlier rating: 21

The Wizards’ play-in hopes are slipping away. Washington misplaced the primary three video games of its western swing. They blew a double-digit result in the Clippers once more, watching them rating the ultimate 11 factors of the sport. Then LeBron James ruined Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s reunion with the Lakers with a 50-point night time. Making issues worse, the Wizards adopted that up by giving up 44 factors to Josh Hart in a 127-118 loss to Portland. The Wizards path Charlotte by three video games for the tenth spot with 16 video games left. — Youngmisuk


22. New York Knicks
2021-22 file: 28-40
Earlier rating: 23

New York has turned issues round over the previous week or so, taking part in a lot better and ripping off a number of victories. Whereas the play-in event appears unlikely — the Knicks are nonetheless 5 video games out of tenth within the East — a minimum of there’s the power for the Knicks to create some optimistic momentum over the ultimate few weeks of the common season heading into the offseason. — Bontemps


23. San Antonio Spurs
2021-22 file: 26-42
Earlier rating: 24

When the Spurs defeated the Jazz on Friday night time to make Gregg Popovich the NBA’s all-time chief in regular-season teaching victories, they did so by undertaking one thing they hadn’t all season. Getting into the fourth quarter, the Spurs trailed 74-64 earlier than coming again to win. Based on ESPN Stats and Info analysis, it is the primary time all season the Spurs trailed by 10 getting into the fourth quarter and received the sport. They had been 0-33 previous to that in such conditions this season. — Lopez


24. Portland Path Blazers
2021-22 file: 26-40
Earlier rating: 22

Portland picked up its first victory for the reason that All-Star break after Josh Hart tallied a career-high 44 factors towards Washington. It stays to be seen what number of extra wins the Blazers will get within the subsequent few weeks with Anfernee Simons (knee) out for a minimum of a pair extra weeks. Justise Winslow has been sidelined and Jusuf Nurkic and Damian Lillard stay out. — Youngmisuk


25. Sacramento Kings
2021-22 file: 24-45
Earlier rating: 25

Frustration hit a boiling level for a Kings group — now losers of 9 of their final 11 — when Domantas Sabonis was suspended for one recreation for “aggressively confronting and making contact with a recreation official” whereas they had been getting beat by the Knicks on Monday. Sacramento backed up their middle, issuing a press release that disagreed with the ruling that learn, partially, “We stand behind Domas, and he has our full assist.” — McMenamin


26. Indiana Pacers
2021-22 file: 23-46
Earlier rating: 26

Tyrese Haliburton recorded double-digit assists for the third time in his final 4 video games on Sunday (he had 9 assists through the different recreation). It is the twenty second recreation this season Haliburton has recorded a minimum of 10 assists, breaking a tie with Luka Doncic for the fifth-most video games this season. — Collier


27. Detroit Pistons
2021-22 file: 18-50
Earlier rating: 28

Do not name the Rookie of the 12 months race simply but. Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham is making a critical cost. He scored 23 factors, dished out 10 assists and grabbed 9 rebounds in a loss to the Clippers on Sunday, marking the seventh consecutive recreation Cunningham has scored a minimum of 20 factors, matching Kelly Tripucka as the one different rookies in franchise historical past to take action. — Collier


28. Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder
2021-22 file: 20-47
Earlier rating: 27

Accidents to Lu Dort (season-ending shoulder surgical procedure) and Josh Giddey (hip) have given rookie guard Tre Mann an prolonged run within the beginning lineup. Mann, the 18th total choose within the draft, has proven potential however struggled with effectivity. Because the All-Star break, Mann is averaging 13.0 factors per recreation however has a forty five.9 true taking pictures share. — MacMahon


29. Orlando Magic
2021-22 file: 18-51
Earlier rating: 29

Orlando received two straight — over the Pelicans and Timberwolves — earlier than dropping an time beyond regulation heartbreaker to the Sixers on Sunday night time. Wendell Carter Jr.’s enchancment continues: He racked up 23 factors and 12 rebounds on Sunday. Carter is averaging 12 rebounds a recreation over 5 video games this month. — Friedell


30. Houston Rockets
2021-22 file: 17-51
Earlier rating: 30

The Rockets opted to ensure subsequent season’s salaries for Garrison Mathews ($2 million) and Kenyon Martin Jr. ($1.8 million), sources advised ESPN. Houston had till June 29 to make the choice, however the entrance workplace felt no want to attend, as Mathews and Martin have confirmed themselves as younger position gamers who match within the Rockets’ long-term rebuilding plan. — MacMahon

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