NBA Playoffs Power Rankings: Can the Celtics finally go all the way?


NBA Playoffs Power Rankings: Can the Celtics finally go all the way?

Tatum and Jokic could be on course for a Finals meeting
Tatum and Jokic could be on course for a Finals meetingProfimedia
The NBA Playoffs are here. The moment when the best teams and players step up and the cream really rises to the top. Over the next two months, the 16 best teams will battle it out to become champions, and you can be sure that there will be plenty of twists and turns from beginning to end.

Ahead of the games getting underway this evening, here is Flashscore's NBA Playoffs Power Rankings.

1. Boston Celtics

Boston forward Jayson Tatum
Boston forward Jayson TatumReuters

Simply put, the Boston Celtics have been the best team this season. They possessed the best record in the entire league during the regular season (64-18), as well as the best offensive rating in the NBA (122.2).

The Celtics have come close in the last two years, falling in the Finals in 2022 and the Eastern Conference Finals in 2023. With Jayson Tatum at the forefront of a unit packed with All-Star talent, anything less than winning the title will be regarded as failure.  

2. Denver Nuggets

Denver center Nikola Jokic
Denver center Nikola JokicProfimedia

Even though they finished second in the West and have an inferior record to Boston, I was still seriously tempted to put the Denver Nuggets in first. They have the best player in the NBA, Nikola Jokic, who is set to be handed his third MVP award in the coming weeks after averaging 26.4 PPG, 12.4 RPG and 9 APG, in addition to the general experience and know-how in playoff basketball.

They're a brilliant team and really stepped up their level after the All-Star break. You can guarantee they will get even better over the coming weeks.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Oklahoma guard Shai Gilgeous-AlexanderProfimedia

A young team led by superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander - a man averaging just over 30 PPG - the Oklahoma City Thunder surprised everyone, playing exciting basketball as they topped the Western Conference.

What is positive for them is they have a strong team all the way down to the bench. However, there are obvious question marks about their lack of experience, with the Playoffs being completely different to regular season games. But regardless, what they achieved over the course of the season means they merit a place in the top three.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves

Minnesota guard Anthony Edwards
Minnesota guard Anthony EdwardsProfimedia

The Minnesota Timberwolves have been the best defensive outfit in the NBA this season (108.4 defensive rating), which serves them well ahead of the Playoffs. Rudy Gobert looks on his way to a fourth Defensive Player of the Year award.

But offensively, they aren't the strongest, with the 17th-best offensive rating in the league (114.6). But in Anthony Edwards, Minnesota have one of the best players around. They face a tough test against the Phoenix Suns in the first round though.

5. Dallas Mavericks

Dallas guard Luka Doncic
Dallas guard Luka DoncicProfimedia

The Dallas Mavericks have a lot going for them at the moment. They have incredible momentum, winning 16 of their last 20 games, with two of those losses coming when Dallas fielded a totally rotated team once their Playoff spot was booked.

They have Luka Doncic, the most unstoppable offensive force in the NBA behind Nikola Jokic, who averaged a barely believable 33.9 PPG, 9.2 RPG and 9.8 APG in the regular season, as well as finishing as scoring champion. Kyrie Irving has been mesmeric in the second half of the season too, and alongside Luka, they have formed one of the most fearsome attacks in the league.

Their defence has been supreme too since they acquired P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford at the trade deadline. They will be a fearsome team.

6. New York Knicks

New York guard Jalen Brunson
New York guard Jalen BrunsonProfimedia

The New York Knicks finished second in the East and are led by Jalen Brunson, who is playing at an irresistible level. The point guard was named as an All-Star for the first time this season and is averaging 28.7 PPG.

They do miss Julius Randle who is out for the season, but the Knicks play like a complete, well-oiled team, which is showcased by the fact that they rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive ratings. They are more than good enough to reach the Eastern Conference Finals.

7. Los Angeles Clippers

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard
Clippers forward Kawhi LeonardProfimedia

At one point, the Los Angeles Clippers were battling for top spot in the West, but they did fall off quite a bit on their way to a fourth-place finish. Regardless, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are a phenomenal trio, and they will now need to click in the Playoffs, as questions have been lurking over Harden's consistency in the postseason of late.

Kawhi is an injury doubt for their thrilling first-round matchup with Dallas though, and no one really knows when he will be back. They will so desperately miss him, as they need someone to try to keep Luka Doncic quiet. If everyone is fit, they will be a force to be reckoned with, but it does feel like there are some unknowns around them. 

8. Philadelphia 76ers

Philadelphia center Joel Embiid
Philadelphia center Joel EmbiidReuters

The Philadelphia 76ers' chances rely on the fitness and performances of Joel Embiid. The reigning MVP was on course for a historic season, averaging over 34 PPG. However, a big injury meant he missed a large portion of the season, ruling him out of awards season.

Embiid has returned recently but has also never really found his best basketball in the Playoffs, so the upcoming weeks will be big for him. He does have the incredibly impressive Tyrese Maxey this time around though, who looks likely to win the Most Improved Player Award. 

9. Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland guard Donovan Mitchell
Cleveland guard Donovan MitchellProfimedia

The Cleveland Cavaliers ended the season poorly, losing six of their last 10, but they have proven that when all goes well, they are a really great team.

They will rely heavily on the superb backcourt of Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell, and if the latter catches fire, which he can at any given time, they are certainly a contender to go deep.

10. Phoenix Suns

Phoenix guard Devin Booker
Phoenix guard Devin BookerProfimedia

When Bradley Beal joined the Phoenix Suns during the offseason, the big three of himself, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker looked a scary proposition. However, it hasn't quite panned out that way, with injuries to Beal and a general lack of cohesion seriously hampering them as they just dodged the play-in tournament.

Their defence in particular hasn't been great, but when it comes to a team with this quality, if they find their best during the Playoffs, players like Booker and Durant can win games on their own.

11. New Orleans Pelicans

New Orleans forward Zion Williamson
New Orleans forward Zion WilliamsonProfimedia

The New Orleans Pelicans are a really good team, and they were unfortunate not secure an automatic Playoff spot after just slipping out of the top six in the West. They were even unlucky not to beat the Lakers in their first play-in game. They looked to be just about on top before star man Zion Williamson had to leave the court with an injury.

They ended up beating the Sacramento Kings without Zion, but a lot will rely on his fitness going forward. They will be pleased they are facing Oklahoma and not Denver in the first round though.

12. Los Angeles Lakers

Lakers forward LeBron James
Lakers forward LeBron JamesReuters

The Los Angeles Lakers haven't had the best season, but have looked in better form recently, including that play-in win over the Pelicans.

The Lakers have won 12 of their last 15 games, and with LeBron James and Anthony Davis together, teams will be wary. The issue is they are up against the Nuggets in the first round; the same team who swept them 4-0 in the Western Conference Finals last season...

13. Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee forward Giannis Antetokounmpo
Milwaukee forward Giannis AntetokounmpoProfimedia

Things aren't looking good for the Milwaukee Bucks. At the beginning of the season, they were one of the favourites to win the whole thing, but now no one is backing them. Coach Adrian Griffin was fired halfway through the season because the players didn't really like him, even though he was getting wins. And now under Doc Rivers, they have won just 19 of 39 games.

Damian Lillard has failed to find his best since making the move to Milwaukee, and Giannis Antetokounmpo is out injured. Against a lively, fast-paced Indiana Pacers, they could really be troubled.

14. Indiana Pacers

Indiana guard Tyrese Haliburton
Indiana guard Tyrese HaliburtonProfimedia

The Indiana Pacers are a relentless offensive force. With the second-best offensive rating (120.5) as well as tying the record for most 150-point games in a season (four), the Pacers play with such electricity that a lot of defences struggle to cope with them.

No one averaged more assists per game than Tyrese Haliburton this season (10.9), and interestingly, they beat the Bucks five times, so they won't fear their Playoffs opponents.

15. Orlando Magic

Orlando forward Paolo Banchero
Orlando forward Paolo BancheroProfimedia

The Orlando Magic are a young, exciting team with an athletic, powerful defence. They make games as difficult as possible for their opponents, and in 21-year-old Paolo Banchero, they have a new star in the NBA. He was just the third No.1 overall pick in NBA history to average 20+ PPG, 5+ RPG and 5+ APG within their first two seasons. 

The Magic will probably be pleased with a first-round matchup against the Cavaliers too, and will be looking to use their size to their advantage.

16. Miami Heat

Miami forward Jimmy Butler
Miami forward Jimmy ButlerProfimedia

It feels really tough to put last year's runners-up at the bottom, but yet again, they had a far-from-compelling regular season. They squeezed through the play-in tournament after beating the Chicago Bulls, and face the Boston Celtics in the first round. Even though they beat them in the Eastern Conference Final in 2023, it is hard to see them doing it again.

Look, Miami always seem to step up in the Playoffs and surprise everyone, and usually, Jimmy Butler is the one leading from the front. However, 'Playoff Jimmy' has picked up an injury and missed their last game, and it is not clear when he will return. They are going to have to really surprise everyone again, but who knows, they've done it before.


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