This week’s League Pass power rankings feature the Magic, Celtics, Warriors, Lakers, and Hornets. Check out the previous edition here.
5. Orlando Magic
The Magic aren’t really playing for anything of significance, but man are they a fun team to watch.
You’ve got Cole Anthony hitting game-winners and speaking his truth immediately after. Wendell Carter Jr, a castaway from the Chicago Bulls in only his third year in the NBA, is starting to show even more flashes of being the Al Horford-ish player many projected him to be. And then there are the random epic performances from Dwayne Bacon and Moritz Wagner!
What a strange team. The wins won’t be coming this season, but there’s a level of excitement for this youth movement that hasn’t been present since Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson were connecting on lobs. This stretch of the season is always fun because teams at the bottom unleash their kids and let them get the reps in. The Magic have nothing to fear and that makes them dangerous.
4. Boston Celtics
The see-saw continues to swing back and forth for the Celtics. The battle for that precious sixth seed and outright playoffs berth is being disputed by the Celtics and two other awesome teams: the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat.
But after putting up a cool 60 points to lead the Celtics to a 32-point comeback against San Antonio, it’s clear that Jayson Tatum is not willing to give up the seed. And that’s always been the silent criticism against Tatum by even the most ardent Celtics fans — he’s a star, but sometimes floats in and out of moments in games like a role player. But when you put together that monster performance against the Spurs, as well as their thrilling win over the Warriors, this might be the moment that Tatum is tired of waiting in the wings. And if this Tatum delivers consistently in the playoffs, Boston could be the darkhorse to come out of the East.
3. Golden State Warriors
Yes, the obvious is that the Steph Curry show is the best show in town. Curry has been on an absolute tear. His numbers in April are astounding, making the most triples in a month (96) in NBA history.
But the other reason why the Warriors are such an irresistible watch as we approach the tailend of the eliminations is to see whether the Warriors can find a way to improve their record and inch Curry forward in the MVP conversation. He’s already got the jaw dropping numbers down — he and the Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal are neck and neck in the race for this season’s scoring title. But wins solidify your case for the top individual plum. That’s what is working in favor of the leading candidates Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid with their teams near the top of their respective conferences.
Curry can make this an interesting race if the Dubs can continue to rack up wins. Can he get them there?
2. Los Angeles Lakers
It’s been a weekend of comebacks. LeBron James and LaMelo Ball, but the only difference is that one team won and the other didn’t. Surprisingly, it was the James Gang that couldn’t handle the Sacramento Kings, and they fell to their second straight loss.
As of writing, the Lakers are 36-27, just a game ahead of the surging Portland Trail Blazers. If they lose their perch and enter the Play-In Tournament, which could make for very disastrous consequences. James has yet to get his legs under him, Anthony Davis looks like a shell of himself, and Andre Drummond hasn’t been properly integrated. It’s clear that there’s a lot of challenges facing the defending champs as we approach title season.
At the end of the day, the Lakers still have James. But other teams are smelling blood in the water. Will the rest of the team be able to carry the load until the King is ready to wear his crown? This week should be a big test for the Lakers.
1. Charlotte Hornets
Buzz City should be given a lot of credit for how they’ve handled the absence of rookie guard LaMelo Ball over the past 23 games. The fact that they’re still clinging to the 8th seed is a testament to underrated performances of guys like Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier, and Miles Bridges. They’re solid players that form the core of a team that is tough to contend with on both ends of the floor.
But let’s be real here - the reason the Hornets are on this list is because of Ball. And with his return to action this week, Charlotte basketball is about to get even more exciting. He’s the total package, and just his presence on the floor should bring everyone who watches basketball so much joy. The fact that he can make the Hornets this cool as their franchise player says a ton about what he’s brought to the table.
Buckle up. If Charlotte can stay healthy, they could be a problem for any team.
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