NBA Power Rankings 2018: Raptors & Thunder Make Moves As Cavs & Celtics Drop

Mary AltafferAP Images

The latest NBA power rankings of 2018 reflect the interesting paths of several teams considered contenders ahead of the NBA season. Three of the four teams that made moves in the latest edition of the list come from the Eastern Conference, where LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were projected to run away with the conference easily. As the season got underway, it appeared as if a new team had taken over, with Kyrie Irving’s Boston Celtics holding the top spot. However, a team north of the border now holds onto that spot as the playoffs inch closer.

For the Week 23 edition of NBA power rankings, ESPN notes that the Toronto Raptors have moved up to the No. 2 spot overall, sitting just behind the league’s best team, the Houston Rockets. Houston continues to be the best of the best this season, but Toronto may have surprised some people. On Wednesday night, Toronto headed into Cleveland for a battle with last season’s Eastern Conference champions. Ahead of the game, Toronto had won nine of their last 10 games overall, and nine-straight road games.

In addition, they’ve clinched a playoff spot and are looking like the No. 1 overall seed. That’s huge as they head into a postseason where the Celtics and Cavs no longer seem unbeatable. Due to their recent surge, it means the Raptors are considered one of the two best teams in the league, along with Houston, and just above the champions.

demar derozan and raptors rolling move up to no 2
All-Star DeMar DeRozan and the Toronto Raptors moved into the No. 2 spot on this week's power rankings.Featured image credit: Pablo Martinez MonsivaisAP Images

NBA Power Rankings Top 10 (March 19, 2018)

  1. Houston Rockets
  2. Toronto Raptors
  3. Golden State Warriors
  4. Portland Trail Blazers
  5. Oklahoma City Thunder
  6. Utah Jazz
  7. Boston Celtics
  8. Cleveland Cavaliers
  9. Washington Wizards
  10. Philadelphia 76ers

With their offseason acquisitions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, the OKC Thunder looked like they made major moves. As the season moved forth, they looked like a team that some people felt might not work out, with too many stars in need of the basketball. One of the biggest knocks against them was that Russell Westbrook still wanted to handle most of the scoring and that might have irritated his two All-Star teammates. An injury to the team’s top defenders, Andre Roberson, also caused concerns.

Westbrook recently made some more history with another triple-double, which could draw the ire of his critics of him trying to do everything rather than counting on teammates. However, things seem to be working at the moment as this team has moved into the top half of the 10 best teams in the league. OKC was previously in the No. 8 spot last week and moved up five spots for Week 23 thanks to a 4-0 record over the past week. They also hold a 5-2 record against the top three teams in the league: Houston, Toronto, and Golden State, something that Cleveland and Boston can’t boast of.

Speaking of Cleveland and Boston, how the mighty have fallen. Both teams dropped in the latest top 10 list by two places each. The Cavs have been trying to figure things out as they’ve dealt with injuries and roster changes. Kevin Love is finally back, but they have lost head coach Tyronn Lue as he deals with health issues. Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics have also had their share of injury concerns with All-Star Kyrie Irving leading the list. With Irving sidelined for three straight games, the team went 1-2 and fell to the No. 7 spot on the latest power rankings.

There’s still about a dozen games left in the regular season for some teams before the NBA Playoffs officially begin. All of the teams mentioned are also considered contenders. Right now, one has to think that the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors may have replaced Cleveland and Golden State, at least until the postseason gets closer to another NBA Finals.