NBA playoffs 2017: Warriors, Spurs lead first-round energy rankings

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A.J. Neuharth-Keusch and Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY Sports take a demeanour during a 4 postseason matchups in a East.
USA TODAY Sports

With a NBA playoffs starting Saturday, a USA TODAY Sports NBA group took a appetite rankings kick on a 16 teams that managed to make it this far. Voting was an imprecise science, with particular playoff brackets not taken into account. In essence, who’s prohibited and who’s not? And clearly, LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers — who mislaid 4 uninterrupted games during a finish of a unchanging deteriorate and thereby forsaken a No. 1 seed — are still removing a fortifying champion’s treatment.

From here on out, though, honour for all concerned will have to be warranted as a postseason unfolds.

1. Golden State Warriors (67-15) – This was about some-more than a Warriors posting a league’s best record. They did it while integrating Kevin Durant so seamlessly early on, while reinventing a Draymond Green-led invulnerability that remained among a elite, and while being though Durant for those 19 late games that enclosed a 13-game winning strain though him. Yes, a Warriors – whose league-leading net rating of plus-12.1 was even improved than a 11.6 symbol they posted during a rare 73-win debate in 2015-16 – are your restricted favorite.

2. San Antonio Spurs (61-21) – Even yet they’re No. 2, we’re guilty of unaware and underappreciating a Spurs. But their multiple of widespread invulnerability (league-leading symbol of 100.9 points authorised per 100 possessions) and high-powered offense (seventh during 108.8 points scored per 100) means they’ll be as tough an out as ever. Yet while it’s a protected gamble that core players like Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Danny Green will accommodate this playoff moment, a disappearing play of indicate ensure Tony Parker will be a Spurs doubt symbol from a start.

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3. Houston Rockets (55-27) – Rockets manager Mike D’Antoni, whose group pennyless a NBA record in three-pointers done and attempted this season, has a same doubt as everybody else about his group as these playoffs begin: will their invulnerability be good enough?

“You worry about it,” he told USA TODAY Sports this week. “Are we pointy enough? Is a invulnerability – do we have good adequate habits to overcome bad sharpened nights in a playoffs, that are inevitable?”

Houston finished a unchanging deteriorate ranked 18th in defensive rating (106.4 points authorised per 100 possessions), that is an alleviation from final deteriorate (21st) though nowhere nearby a status of their associate chosen Western Conference teams. No matter how good their ancestral offense performs with MVP claimant James Harden during a helm, they’ll need to get defensive stops when it matters most.

GALLERY: James Harden by a years

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4. Boston Celtics (53-29) – The Celtics have a low and versatile register with a good brew of veterans and immature players, though it starts with All-Star ensure Isaiah Thomas, who averaged 28.9 points (third in a NBA) and was second in a league in fourth-quarter scoring during 9.8 points per game. The Celtics have a top-10 offense (No. 8) and are usually out of a top-10 in invulnerability (No. 12). They infrequently onslaught to miscarry (27th in a NBA), though were many improved after a All-Star mangle (No. 14), generally on a defensive glass.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31) – The fortifying champion Cavaliers had an disproportionate season, highlighted by a invulnerability that finished 22nd and was even worse (28th) in a final 2½ months. But they have a good offense, scoring 110.9 points per 100 security (third in a league) and several scoring options starting with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. The Cavs are also one of a many dangerous three-point sharpened teams in a joining – with 13 creates per diversion while sharpened 38.4% from that distance, that both arrange second in a league. They’re still a favorites to come out of a East, though they have some work to do.

6. Los Angeles Clippers (51-31) – All things considered, a Clippers – who survived injuries to Blake Griffin and Chris Paul to win 60-plus percent of their games for a sixth uninterrupted deteriorate while securing homecourt advantage in a initial turn – find themselves in a flattering darned good spot, generally after winning their final 7 regular-season games.

“We don’t apologize during all for a record, for a season,” Clippers manager and boss of basketball operations Doc Rivers told USA TODAY Sports this week in a visit on a NBA A to Z podcast. “I consider in retrospect, this has been a conspicuous season.

“We’ve had good chemistry all year, even by a losses. We didn’t have good rhythm. You remove your rhythm, we know? … So for us, we’re ready, we’re healthy — comparatively — and now we have to go out and uncover (it).”

And how’s this for playoff pressure? Griffin, Paul, and sharpened ensure J.J. Redick are all giveaway agents this summer, definition Rivers has some critical decisions to make a few months from now.

“Let’s contend we don’t win (it all) this year – which, we consider we will, (but) let’s contend we don’t,” Rivers said. “Do we give adult on a 50-win group that has proven that they’re unequivocally close, or do we hang in there and keep perplexing to maybe make changes around (the core)? … we usually consider it’s so easy to (say), ‘Hey, they should mangle up,’ from a outside. And we consider that’s such an easy opinion.

“Listen, a destiny will tell us (whether they’ll keep a core together). For me, right now, we’re about to go in a playoffs. And we get where a destiny is after a playoffs, though right now we’re a unequivocally good basketball group and that’s what I’m focused on going into a playoffs. After a playoffs, we know we’ll have a conversation. But we like a team.”

7. Toronto Raptors (51-31) – The Raptors finished a deteriorate 12-2, not usually holding off Washington for a third seed but tying a Cavaliers for a second-best record in a East. Toronto, that pushed Cleveland to 6 games in final season’s discussion finals, is personification good basketball, and All-Star indicate ensure Kyle Lowry is behind in a lineup after blank 21 games following a All-Star mangle with an harmed right wrist. Toronto is a usually playoff group in a East that finished in a top-10 in defensive and descent efficiency.

8. Utah Jazz (51-31) – The Jazz, who won 11 some-more games this deteriorate than last, are one of a NBA’s most-improved units, led by career campaigns from George Hill, Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert. Despite carrying their elite starting lineup on a justice together for usually 13 games (11 of that were wins), a Jazz finished a unchanging deteriorate with a fifth-best net-rating in a NBA (plus-4.7). They also finished the season carrying won seven of their final 10 games, that should have them prepared for a challenging first-round date with a Clippers.

9. Washington Wizards (49-33) – The Wizards were a best group in a East from Dec. 1 until a finish of a unchanging season, though they slipped a bit defensively down a stretch. Coach Scott Brooks helped particular players urge and done a team, including a bench, improved in a process. Guards John Wall (23.1 points and 10.7 assists per game) and Bradley Beal (23.1 points per game, 40.4 on threes) form one of a best backcourts in a league. But Washington also gets plain play from Otto Porter Jr., Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris, Jason Smith, Kelly Oubre, Bojan Bogdanovic and Brandon Jennings.

10. Oklahoma City Thunder (47-35) – From a impulse Kevin Durant packaged his bags and Russell Westbrook took over as a face of a franchise, a Thunder could have collapsed. They didn’t. Instead, here they are 9 months later — a 47-win group gearing adult for a must-see first-round date with a high-octane Houston squad. While Westbrook’s ancillary expel has been criticized during times, it contingency be remarkable that a Thunder finished a unchanging deteriorate with a NBA’s 10th-ranked invulnerability (105.1 points authorised per 100 possessions) and led a joining in resilient (46.6 per game) and points in a paint (49.9) — numbers corroborated by a challenging frontline of Steven Adams, Enes Kanter and Taj Gibson.

GALLERY: Russell Westbrook by a years

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11. Portland Trail Blazers (41-41) – The Blazers finished a unchanging season with the second-best record in a NBA given Mar 1, boasting a 17-6 symbol that trailed only Golden State. But a doubt surrounding a health of big male Jusuf Nurkic — who was acquired from Denver at a deadline and has thrived (15.2 points, 10.4 rebounds in 20 games) in his new role, though went down with a leg damage in late March — has Portland fans on pins and needles. As for the players? Just ask Damian Lillard, who has no necessity of certainty streamer into a Blazers’ first-round strife with a strong Warriors.

“It’s about personification right during a right time, personification good during a right time, and we trust that we can kick anybody,” Lillard told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. “We’re not going into a playoffs saying, ‘Alright, we got here, we did a good job, we fought behind and let’s usually go in here and put adult a fight.’ We’re going in here and we wish to win. Ain’t no dignified victories and all that.

12. Atlanta Hawks (43-39) – The Hawks aren’t a quite intimidating matchup for a Wizards, though given their abyss and experience, they’re a likeliest group to open a first-round dissapoint in a East. You also can’t omit their large advantage on a play or a fact that they entered a postseason on a four-game winning strain before dropping a incomprehensible diversion to a Pacers in a regular-season finale.

13. Indiana Pacers (42-40) – Oh, Lance. How we’ve missed you. While traversing a joining with 5 apart teams given 2014, we always hoped you’d breeze adult behind with a Pacers. How did Paul George feel about Stephenson’s three-year deal? “He’s all energy. It usually spreads. He’s a wildfire,” George said. “It’s what this locker room lacked.”

Meanwhile, a Pacers have a conference-best five-game winning strain entering a postseason, that has them prepared to go toe-to-toe with the fortifying champion Cavaliers.

14. Milwaukee Bucks (42-40) – Had Milwaukee managed to fist into a No. 5 seed, they’d expected have a improved shot at advancing, simply from a matchup perspective. Toronto has a flexibility to chuck during Giannis Antetokounmpo and Matthew Dellavedova can usually provoke one of a Raptors’ All-Star guards during a time. That being said, a Bucks’ time is coming. It’s usually substantially not this year.

15. Memphis Grizzlies (43-39) – After an up-and-down unchanging season, a Grizzlies conduct to a playoffs carrying mislaid 9 of their final 12 games — a less-than-favorable symbol with a super San Antonio Spurs patrol on tap. What’s more, Memphis — famous for being a defensive-minded, Grit ‘n’ Grind round club, posted a 106.9 defensive rating during that span, that ranked 15th in a NBA and was a poignant step behind from the fifth-ranked defensive rating (104.1) they posted via a initial 70 games.

16. Chicago Bulls (41-41) – Somehow, some way, after a Instagram posts and a infighting, a lineup shuffling and a injuries, a Bulls find themselves in a playoffs. What’s more, they’re personification arguably their best basketball of a deteriorate during a right time. In Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler, there’s some-more starpower than a No. 8 group typically provides, and a Bulls’ pot have started to come around. Give them a 10 percent possibility during knocking off Boston.

List of voters: USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick, Jeff Zillgitt, Michael Singer and AJ Neuharth-Keusch; For The Win’s Adi Joseph.

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