With brilliant play since the All-Star break and a little help from his friends, Damian Lillard has led the Trail Blazers into sole possession of the Western Conference’s eighth seed (James Schumacher/Flickr).

With fewer than 10 games remaining on each team’s regular-season schedule, valuable playoff seeding is still up for grabs all over the NBA standings. Some teams, like the Celtics, Blazers and Raptors, look like they’re hitting their stride at just the right moment, building momentum that they hope will continue through the playoffs. Others, like the Hawks and Cavaliers, are just hoping that they can stop the bleeding before it’s too late. As always, the result is much debate and movement in the penultimate regular-season edition of our power rankings.

Biggest Jumps: Portland Trail Blazers (+8), Toronto Raptors (+5), Denver Nuggets (+5), New Orleans Pelicans (+5)

Biggest Falls: Minnesota Timberwolves (-14), Detroit Pistons (-9), Atlanta Hawks (-7)

Our three panelists, Loren Lee Chen, Aaron Fischman and Joshua Jonah Fischman, independently ranked the league’s 30 teams from top to bottom. Their averaged rankings produced this 1-30 list and took into account all NBA regular-season games up until and including Monday, March 27, 2017. There were eight contests on Tuesday, March 28, that are not reflected in the rankings but have been taken into account for the blurbs and team records.

  1. Golden State Warriors (60-14, Previous Rank: 3) – Beginning with the February 28 game in Washington, D.C., in which Kevin Durant hyperextended his knee, the wheels were falling off in Oakland or at least starting to. Of course, I’m being overdramatic, but that was the prevailing storyline. In order to acquire Durant, the Warriors significantly sacrificed the quality of their bench the previous offseason. Now that Durant was injured, it followed that they’d really start paying the price for that sacrifice. This coincided with a difficult shooting stretch for Mr. 3-Point himself, Stephen Curry. In losses to the Wizards, Bulls, Celtics and Timberwolves, all within an 11-day span, Curry missed a combined 31 of 38 long-range attempts, which does not include his 0-11 output in a win against the 76ers the night before the Durant injury. Curry refused to call it a “slump” and publicly expressed confidence in his shot. Naturally, one of the game’s all-time best shooters has rediscovered his stroke en route to eight straight Golden State victories. Most recently, his squad overcame a poor shooting night by holding the 3-happy Rockets to 5-31 from deep. – Aaron
  2. San Antonio Spurs (57-16, Previous Rank: 1)
  3. Houston Rockets (51-23, Previous Rank: 2)
  4. Boston Celtics (48-26, Previous Rank: 6)
  5. Toronto Raptors (45-29, Previous Rank: 10) – Winners of seven of their last eight, the Raptors are roaring, jumping five spots in our rankings. While team leader and starting point guard Kyle Lowry continues to miss time with a wrist injury, Cory Joseph and DeMar DeRozan have helped fill the playmaking void. DeRozan is averaging 4.3 assists in March, while Joseph has posted 5.0 dimes per game, amassing a career-high 13 in the team’s last game. Although none of the Raptors’ past seven wins came against a team that currently holds a winning record, it is certainly impressive that the Raptors sported the second-best Defensive Rating and Net Rating during this span. And the scheduling gods and goddesses continue to shine their love on Toronto, as Cleveland is the only winning team on its remaining schedule (Toronto faces the .500 Pacers twice more). Serge Ibaka’s natural fit with the Raptors has rightfully received considerable attention, but P.J. Tucker has been equally as valuable to the team’s recent success. The mid-season trade acquisition has been a steals machine for T-Dot, while also securing 7.4 rebounds over his last five games and stroking the occasional trey. – Joshua
  6. Washington Wizards (46-28, Previous Rank: 5)
  7. Cleveland Cavaliers (47-26, Previous Rank: 7) – For the first time since November of last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers have fallen out of the top seed in the Eastern Conference after a 29-point drubbing on Monday at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, their fourth double-digit loss in the last six games. That in itself shouldn’t be too alarming—LeBron James has only secured the No. 1 seed for his teams twice in his illustrious career and has still made the Finals six straight years—but solving this season’s issues appears more difficult than just flipping a switch. These Cavaliers rank 23rd in the NBA in Defensive Rating and 28th since January 1. Though they are still easing him back from injury, with Kevin Love in the lineup since his return, they’ve been even worse, giving up 122.2 points per 100 possessions. With multiple teams in the Eastern Conference who look like they could present a challenge, the road to the Finals could be the most treacherous that LeBron James has seen for a while. – Loren
  8. Los Angeles Clippers (44-31, Previous Rank: 8)
  9. Utah Jazz (45-29, Previous Rank: 4) – As Utah clings to a Top-10 spot in these rankings, its fans should be relieved the task of writing this blurb was not outsourced to Rudy Gobert, who drew considerable league-wide attention after he angrily told reporters following Saturday’s loss to the Clippers, “We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is.” From the outside looking in, given Utah’s scoring balance and its paucity of ball hogs or ego, a statement like Gobert’s caught many off-guard. In fairness, it also came shortly after the Jazz wasted a prime opportunity to put some distance between them and the Clippers in the standings. Perhaps, emotion got the better of him. Fortunately for Utah, the very next day, the Clippers blew a late 18-point lead, ultimately falling to the Kings. While the Jazz do have a tougher remaining schedule than the Clippers, they are once again in the driver’s seat with regard to obtaining that coveted No. 4 seed. Either way, it’s more likely than not that the Clippers and Jazz will face off in what figures to be a competitive opening-round series. – Aaron   
  10. Oklahoma City Thunder (42-31, Previous Rank: 9)
  11. Portland Trail Blazers (36-38, Previous Rank: 19) – After rattling off four straight and eight of its past 10, Rip City now owns sole custody of the eighth spot in the West. In Tuesday night’s game against fellow playoff pursuer Denver, Portland earned the home victory, receiving a combined 72 points on 69.2 percent shooting from Jusuf Nurkic and C.J. McCollum. Nurk dropped 33 points and 16 rebounds against the team who traded him last month, while Mason Plumlee, Nurkic’s counterpart in the trade, played just 16 minutes for Denver and went 0-4 from the floor with two turnovers. Since the last edition, Portland ranks second in Net Rating with +12.3 and fourth in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency. The defensive success is especially rewarding for Terry Stotts to witness, as the team has often been criticized for building around two guards who are widely considered to be defensively inept. Speaking of those guards, Damian Lillard is averaging an efficient 29.6 points this month, and C.J. McCollum, the self-proclaimed best midrange player in the world right now, may not be exaggerating. In March, the talented shooting guard is converting from all over, including 48.3 percent of his deep attempts. If Portland can continue to keep it weird/play strong defense, its guards can score with the best of them, and yes, that does include those splashy, flashy brothers in northern California. – Joshua
  12. Denver Nuggets (35-39, Previous Rank: 17)
  13. Milwaukee Bucks (38-36, Previous Rank: 14)
  14. Memphis Grizzlies (40-34, Previous Rank: 16)
  15. Miami Heat (36-38, Previous Rank: 11)
  16. Indiana Pacers (37-37, Previous Rank: 18)
  17. Chicago Bulls (35-39, Previous Rank: 21)
  18. New Orleans Pelicans (31-43, Previous Rank: 23) – While a playoff berth is almost certainly not in the cards this season, the Pelicans are starting to get it together with wins in six of their last nine affairs. All-Star break acquisition DeMarcus Cousins electrified the home crowd with his best game in a Pelicans uniform last Tuesday when he totaled 41 points, 16 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two steals in a win over the Grizzlies. After the win, coach Alvin Gentry said, “It’s the best we’ve played for a stretch really since I’ve been here.” Gentry’s only been head coach of the Pelicans for two years and the team finished with 30 wins last season, but hey, they’ll take the praise at this point. Even when its fiery center hasn’t played, New Orleans has been able to come away with double-digit victories over the Rockets and Nuggets. Over the last two weeks, its balanced approach has yielded a No. 10 rank in Offensive Efficiency (109.6) to go with a ninth-place position when it comes to Defensive Efficiency (104.5). – Aaron
  19. Atlanta Hawks (38-36, Previous Rank: 12) – The Atlanta Hawks have held the title all season as the streakiest team in the league. That continued into these rankings when, after looking possibly like they could challenge the Toronto Raptors for home court in the first round, they suddenly lost seven straight games before barely holding on against the tanking Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. This most recent losing stretch was precipitated by an injury to their leader Paul Millsap, without whom the Hawks are just 1-8 this season. His knee synovitis is expected to keep him out of the lineup for at least another three games and could have drastic consequences for the Hawks’ playoff seeding if the losing continues, with the fifth and ninth seeds in the East now only separated by three games. – Loren
  20. Charlotte Hornets (33-41, Previous Rank: 22)
  21. Dallas Mavericks (31-42, Previous Rank: 20)
  22. Sacramento Kings (29-45, Previous Rank: 24)
  23. Philadelphia 76ers (28-46, Previous Rank: 27)
  24. Detroit Pistons (34-41, Previous Rank: 15) – Your honorable panelists submitted their previous rankings after the league’s games concluded on Monday, March 13. Then, Detroit stood at .500 (33-33) and one game behind the sixth-place Indiana Pacers. The Pistons have since fallen into the funkiest of funks, dropping eight of their last nine games, including brutal buzzer-beating losses in consecutive Tuesdays at the literals hands of Brook Lopez and Hassan Whiteside. With the latest loss, the Whiteside-induced one, Stan Van Gundy’s crew looks increasingly likely to miss out on a playoff return, as they find themselves 2.5 games behind Miami, the team that just beat them, while also having to leapfrog another team in the Chicago Bulls. In their last eight defeats, not once did the Pistons reach 100 points. In fact, other than the two aforementioned nail-biters, they lost each of those other six games by 12 points or more. – Aaron  
  25. Orlando Magic (27-47, Previous Rank: 28)
  26. Brooklyn Nets (16-58, Previous Rank: 29) – With the season coming to a close, the Brooklyn Nets sit five games behind any other team and will almost definitely finish with the worst record in the NBA. It shouldn’t be overlooked, however, that in the last month, they’ve actually fielded a decent basketball team. In March, they’ve posted a better record (7-9) than the Cavaliers (6-9), Hawks (5-10) and Grizzlies (4-9). Their +0.6 Net Rating this month is just below that of the Wizards (+0.8) and better than the Pacers’ (+0.4) and Jazz’s (-0.2) marks. Hopefully, the Nets and head coach Kenny Atkinson can build off of this momentum and show continued progress going into next season. – Loren
  27. Minnesota Timberwolves (29-44, Previous Rank: 13) – Prior to Tuesday night’s thrilling road victory in Indianapolis, Minnesota had lost six straight, even allowing 130 points to the lowly Lakers. During this six-game stretch, the Wolves’ Defensive Efficiency ranked dead last in the NBA and their Net Rating placed 26th. Despite the team’s losing run, rookie Kris Dunn has collected eleven consecutive games with at least one steal. With the team realistically out of playoff contention, the Timberwolves’ last four games have seen Dunn play an average of 28.5 minutes. The Providence product has been playing a great deal of shooting guard alongside Ricky Rubio and Tyus Jones and has been entrusted to close out tight games, finishing both Minnesota’s narrow defeat to the Spurs and its close victory over the Pacers. Dunn’s shooting has also been impressive in these four games, as he has shot 58.1 percent from the floor, even hitting a 3-pointer in all three of the contests in which he attempted one. Can you imagine a starting lineup featuring Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Gorgui Dieng with a confident and productive Kris Dunn playing the two? Tom Thibodeau can, and if he’s half as excited as I am, suffice to say he is going hoarse. With Minnesota slated to play some of the best teams in the Western Conference the rest of the season, it is a prudent idea for him to continue throwing Dunn into the fire. – Joshua
  28. New York Knicks (28-46, Previous Rank: 25)
  29. Phoenix Suns (22-53, Previous Rank: 26)
  30. Los Angeles Lakers (21-53, Previous Rank: 30)

We hope you enjoyed the list. Links to the previous editions of our power rankings can be found here.