League Pass Power rankings: Heat gaining ground in playoff race

Published March 21, 2023, 7:00 PMLei Macaranas
Lei Macaranas

The stellar performances of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo have allowed Miami to gain some ground in the heated race to the postseason.

5. Toronto Raptors  

The Toronto Raptors (35-37) had a good week, beating the Nuggets, Thunder, and Wolves before running into the league-leading Bucks. A seven-point loss to the Bucks shouldn’t dampen their spirit though, especially if they have big chances to emerge above the frail Pacers and Pistons this week.

One of the reasons why the Raptors can take control of their play-in spot is Pascal Siakam. He would have to keep filling the stat sheet the way he has all season and chase down the remaining teams they’re going to face. 

Well-below-average scoring efficiency is the department they’re weak at but Siakam’s raw production has been keeping them at bay as the team’s effective field-goal percentage is obviously better when he’s on the floor. Other than the big guy, they also have Fred VanVleet, who appears to have caught fire from long range – averaging 26.5 points and 7.8 assists for the week on 49 percent 3-point shooting. 

4. New York Knicks 

The New York Knicks have been extremely fun to watch recently, with Immanuel Quickley showing everyone he has immense potential. Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle have rightfully gotten most of the credit for the Knicks’ success but we have guys like Quickley who can also put up the needed points every night. 

Every time Quickley is on the floor without Brunson, he’s given the keys to the ignition and averages 20.5 points, 5.7 assists, and 2.6 threes per 75 possessions. 

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

Last week, the Oklahoma City Thunder took the No. 1 spot in our League Power Rankings as they appear to be in tip-top shape as the games get tougher and the calendar gets shorter. We’re putting them back on the list just because of how well these Thunder kids are getting so good in a short amount of time. 

The Thunder closed out their week with a loss to the Raptors, but they’re 6-2 in their last eight matches, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander isn’t the only one performing like a superstar on the court. 

Other than Josh Giddey, who has been tremendous and has been meeting expectations for the last two years, rookie Jalen Williams is also making headlines with his game-changing playmaking during the past month. Based on his last 15 games, Williams has been averaging 19.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 4.4 assists. 

2. Memphis Grizzlies

Ja Morant is officially eligible to return from his eight-game suspension but he won’t be back in action just yet as he is projected to return in time for the game against Houston. 

All things considered, his teammates have done a pretty good job of holding down the fort in his absence – and Dillon Brooks is all over it. 

He may be a villain right now in everyone’s eyes with his unnecessary technical fouls and his exchanges with Draymond Green but he sure helped the Grizzlies win five of their last six games. His scoring output has given them some cushion as the Phoenix Suns are inches away from getting their top-three spot. 

With the Denver Nuggets suddenly falling apart lately while Ja is suspended, somehow, there is still a little light of hope for Memphiz to snag the West’s top seed.

1. Miami Heat

If we’re talking about the teams that seem to be making the most strides coming into the postseason, the Miami Heat are the top squad for the conversation.

The Heat had a rough run from mid-February to early March but they finally got back on track just in time for the last stretch of regular games. After taking down the Grizzlies last Wednesday, Miami is up 5-2 in its last seven matches. 

All season long, they’ve been pretty inconsistent on the winning side but their two stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo have been nothing but stellar in the past week. Butler is averaging 26.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, while Adebayo is at 19.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.4 assists with shooting of 61.6 percent from the field. 

This was definitely a strong week for the Heat, who continue to catch up to the Brooklyn Nets for the coveted No. 6 spot in the East, which would allow them to keep out of the play-in. If they continue this streak, they’re gonna find themselves secured for that playoff ticket.