The Timberwolves likely need Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns to continue excelling in order to grab a playoff spot out West (Erik Drost/Creative Commons).

After a long break for All-Star festivities and trade negotiations, NBA games are finally back, and so are our power rankings. The already jumbled landscape of the league has become even more complicated as many of the top contenders were able to strengthen their team via trade or the waiver wire for the final stretch of the regular season. At the same time, major injuries to key players, such as Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, have their teams scrambling for short-term fixes. With just over a quarter of the regular season to go, it will be interesting to see how the shifting sands begin to settle, and how teams will be able to adjust to incorporating new pieces and covering for missing ones.

Biggest Jumps: Toronto Raptors (+7), Minnesota Timberwolves (+6)

Biggest Falls: Washington Wizards (-5), four teams tied at -4 (Kings, Hornets, Blazers, Hawks)

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, Feb. 27, 2017. There were six contests on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, that are not reflected in the rankings but have been taken into account for the blurbs and team records.

  1. Golden State Warriors (50-10, Previous Rank: 1)
  2. San Antonio Spurs (45-13, Previous Rank: 2) – While the Cavaliers added Deron Williams and will soon land Andrew Bogut and the Warriors are reportedly close to signing Matt Barnes as potentially bad news looms regarding Kevin Durant’s left knee, the Spurs continue to dominate with their roster intact. However, Pau Gasol feels like a fresh face in San Antonio after returning from a 15-game absence. In two games off the bench since returning, Gasol is averaging 16.0 points and 9.0 rebounds and has drained all five of his attempted long balls. On the season, the Spaniard has converted more than half of his 48 3-point attempts, already eclipsing his career high for made treys in a season. Alas, Gasol is not the only big man thriving for the Spurs. Over the past 30 days, Dewayne Dedmon is shooting 73.6 percent from the floor. Of players logging at least 20 minutes per contest, the USC product’s percentage is second only to Clint Capela during this span. San Antonio has finished second in our rankings for four of the past five edtions in a mark of consistency that Gregg Popovich would certainly enjoy. – Joshua
  3. Houston Rockets (42-19, Previous Rank: 6) – According to Zach Harper of Fan Rag Sports, as argued in this column, an opposing team’s best bet for keeping up with Houston’s blistering offense (second in the NBA in Offensive Efficiency) might be to just hope that they miss shots, as nothing else seems to slow them down. After flipping Corey Brewer and a first-round pick for the Lakers’ Lou Williams, head coach Mike D’Antoni stated that his goal for this new, supercharged Houston offense is to average 50 3-point attempts per game for the rest of the season. If that’s true, they should break the single-season record for attempts (2,680, set by the Rockets in 2014-15) and the single-season record for 3-pointers made (1,077 by the 2016-17 Warriors) before the end of March. In the three games he’s played for the Rockets, Williams has already seemed to loosen the season-long stranglehold teammate Eric Gordon has had on the Sixth Man of the Year Award, shooting 50.0 percent on more than nine 3-point attempts per game, with a ridiculous True Shooting Percentage of 71.5. At least offensively, he’ll fit right in. – Loren
  4. Cleveland Cavaliers (41-17, Previous Rank: 3)
  5. Utah Jazz (37-23, Previous Rank: 7)
  6. Toronto Raptors (36-24, Previous Rank: 13) – The All-Star break seems like it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Raptors, as they hopefully have shaken off whatever issues were plaguing them since the new year with four straight wins. They showed a renewed determination to make it back into the Eastern Conference finals by bolstering their lineup with veterans P.J. Tucker and Serge Ibaka, both of whom they hope will provide depth and help shoulder some of the heavy burden on both sides of the court. But every rainbow has its rain, and the storm in Toronto erupted when news came this week that All-Star Kyle Lowry’s wrist injury was worse than expected; following Tuesday’s surgery, he’s expected to miss four to five weeks. Again, the new-look Raptors have fared well in recent games without him, but you have to wonder if they’ll be able to stay afloat well enough without arguably their best player for so long in order to retain home-court advantage in the first round. If there is a bright side to this, it could allow some extra rest for Lowry, who prior to this injury led the NBA in minutes per game. – Loren
  7. Boston Celtics (38-22, Previous Rank: 5)
  8. Los Angeles Clippers (36-23, Previous Rank: 10)
  9.  Washington Wizards (35-23, Previous Rank: 4)
  10. Oklahoma City Thunder (35-25, Previous Rank: 12) – Welcome back into the top 10! Over its last seven games, Oklahoma City has beaten Cleveland and Utah and gone 5-2 with a 108.3 Offensive Rating. Granted, the defense has slipped of late, but Russell Westbrook continues to occupy virtually every spot on the floor (and not in a bad way) as new Thunder acquisitions Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson acclimate themselves to the roster. During the Thunder’s active four-game winning streak, Spanish rookie Alex Abrines has been logging more minutes (in place of Victor Oladipo who should return soon), while hitting a combined 12 of 23 from deep. Tuesday night, OKC led Utah by 11 through three quarters but needed every bit of Westbrook’s late-game brilliance to emerge victorious. The superstar guard scored 12 points on 4-4 shooting in the game’s final 2:04 and comfortably came away with his 30th triple-double of the season (he recorded his 10th assist and rebound with more than eight minutes remaining in the fourth). – Aaron
  11. Memphis Grizzlies (36-25, Previous Rank: 9)
  12. Atlanta Hawks (33-26, Previous Rank: 8)
  13. Miami Heat (27-33, Previous Rank: 14)
  14. Indiana Pacers (31-29, Previous Rank: 11)
  15. Chicago Bulls (30-30, Previous Rank: 16)
  16. Dallas Mavericks (24-35, Previous Rank: 15) – After his first game with the Mavericks, a win over the Pelicans, Nerlens Noel said, “I think it’s a very fresh start.” At times earlier this season, Dallas seemed to be struggling to find an identity, wishing for new addition Harrison Barnes to take over the mantle of franchise cornerstone while surrounded by a cast of past-their-prime veterans including the since-waived Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut. Now, the metaphorical baton has been passed, and while Wes Matthews and Dirk still hold important supporting roles, the heartbeat of this team resides with its unheralded young core. Two undrafted rookies, Yogi Ferrell and Dorian Finney-Smith, both 23, provide the Mavericks with energy and intensity off the bench. Seth Curry, 26, who also went undrafted in 2013 and whose name is often preceded by “Steph’s brother,” has already put up at least 29 points in two of Dallas’s three games since returning from the break. Finally, there’s the aforementioned Barnes, 24, who has transformed into the consistent 20-point-per-game scorer the Mavericks hoped for, and the newly added Noel, 22, who is quickly becoming one of the better defenders in the league and an increasingly effective option in the pick and roll. The Mavericks sit just two games out of the eighth seed, and while they may not make the playoffs this season, Dallas fans have much to look forward to in years to come. – Loren
  17. Detroit Pistons (29-31, Previous Rank: 18)
  18. Minnesota Timberwolves (24-36, Previous Rank: 24) – The young T-Wolves have jumped six spots from our last power rankings, good for the second-highest leap on the list. Through the course of winning five of its last eight games, Minnesota’s offense has averaged 110.5 points. The duo of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins has been extremely impressive. Over his past four games, Towns has posted averages of 29.0 points, 19.0 rebounds, and a 61.3 field-goal percentage. Lest you be worried about the small sample size, Town’s February averages are 28.4 points, 13.3 rebounds and 60.3 percent in 12 games. Wiggins’ averages for the month are just as impressive: 28.8 points, 1.9 steals, and 51.4 percent from the field. Ricky Rubio has at least 11 assists in six of his past seven games and has even scored 13 or more points in eight of 12 February contests. The future looks bright for this dynamic Timberwolves core. – Joshua
  19. Denver Nuggets (27-33, Previous Rank: 19)
  20. Milwaukee Bucks (26-32, Previous Rank: 23) – For the second time in the last three seasons, the Bucks have incurred a left ACL tear to Jabari Parker. Both were devastating developments for the team; only, this time, Parker had been a much larger component of Milwaukee’s success, at least on the offensive end. Khris Middleton’s long-awaited return, which coincidentally came on the same February 8 night as Parker’s injury, has helped to a certain extent, but the Bucks are still monitoring his minutes and games played. Fellow forward Michael Beasley will be sidelined for at least the next three games with an ailing left knee. Those darn left knees! Clearly, the Greek Freak and company have their work cut out for them, but they appear to be hanging tough, at least so far. Over Milwaukee’s last five, Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging an efficient 22.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists (in line with his season averages), and second-round pick Malcolm Brogdon continues to show growth. – Aaron
  21. Portland Trail Blazers (24-35, Previous Rank: 17)
  22. New Orleans Pelicans (23-37, Previous Rank: 25) – Despite recently trading for superstar DeMarcus Cousins, as of Tuesday night, FiveThirtyEight gives the Pelicans less than a 1 percent chance of qualifying for the playoffs this season. Since the trade, New Orleans is 0-3 and will play its next game without Boogie, after the fiery big man was given another technical foul, triggering an automatic  league suspension. Brow and Boogie, collectively BnB if I may, have been serving up a mean breakfast in bed since joining forces, but it is the supporting cast that has not cut the mustard. Jrue Holiday, the team’s clear third scoring option, has shot 11 for 38 since the blockbuster trade and committed 5.3 turnovers per these three games. The team’s defense has also been weak, allowing 129 points to the Rockets and 118 to the Thunder. Regardless of whether the Pelicans will reach the postseason, it will be fascinating to watch Davis and Cousins increasingly play together as well as to monitor how the New Orleans front office forms the team around their pair of 6-11 studs. – Joshua
  23. New York Knicks (24-36, Previous Rank: 20)
  24.  Philadelphia 76ers (22-37, Previous Rank: 27) – Last season on our podcast, Michael Levin called GM Bryan Colangelo “a tremendous snake,” but things seemed to be going fairly well in the first full season of his tenure. The 76ers were fun to watch, finally winning games and had a promising young core of players with a slew of valuable picks and assets in the pipeline. In the past two weeks, however, much of that goodwill has evaporated, beginning with the news that despite continual reassurances that 2016 No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons was close to making his debut, Philadelphia was actually going to shut him down for the season. To make matters worse, the lingering knee injury to rookie sensation Joel Embiid has likely ended his season as well after just 31 games played. Before the trade deadline, the 76ers were reportedly aggressively shopping 2015’s No. 3 pick, Jahlil Okafor, but were unable to find a suitor, instead trading away Nerlens Noel, whom many believed to be both a more viable prospect overall and a better fit alongside Embiid, Saric and Simmons. Despite all of that, Philadelphia managed to go 4-4 since our last edition, largely because of the stellar play of Dario Saric, who averaged 20.4 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists during that stretch (all without Embiid), and might emerge as a new frontrunner for the Rookie of the Year award over his ailing teammate. – Loren
  25.  Charlotte Hornets (26-34, Previous Rank: 21)
  26. Sacramento Kings (25-35, Previous Rank: 22) – The Kings probably should not be ranked fifth-to-last given their overall solid play since the last edition, coupled with the considerable struggles of many of the teams placed immediately ahead of them. However, it should be noted that the five teams between No. 22 and 26 were collectively separated by just 0.67 spots (24-23.33) on our averaged rankings. In other words, this tier was extremely bunched up, as we begin to learn the identities of these teams following the All-Star break. Also, Sacramento has gotten blown out in its last two games after surprising the Nuggets in the inaugural game of its post-DeMarcus Cousins era. Impressively, the Kings find themselves a mere two games out of the final Western playoff spot. Then again, their odds of achieving a playoff berth are looking awfully slim with the team decidedly beginning its rebuilding phase. – Aaron
  27. Orlando Magic (22-38, Previous Rank: 26)
  28. Phoenix Suns (18-42, Previous Rank: 28)
  29. Los Angeles Lakers (17-36, Previous Rank: 29)
  30. Brooklyn Nets (9-49, Previous Rank: 30)

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