Power Rankings: Heat finish No. 1
Monday, April 15
The NBA's Eastern Conference hasn't produced a repeat champion since Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls in the late 1990s.
LeBron James' Miami Heat bring the 11th season of power rankings for your humble committee (of one) to a close as heavy favorites to end that drought.
Oklahoma City and San Antonio can still join the Heat on this season's short list of 60-win teams, depending on what happens in this week's games, but the rising health concerns in Denver and San Antonio and the lack of depth in an East that might produce only two other teams with 50 wins (New York and possibly Indiana) would appear to give Miami every chance to win it all again. The Spurs' April struggles and health woes, in particular, have dropped them to an uncharacteristic sixth in the season's final edition of ESPN.com's weekly rankings. This is after we long had the Spurs pegged as the team out West built best to the beat the Heat, given the ongoing questions that hang over the James Harden-less Oklahoma City Thunder.
The steep drop in pedigree from the No. 8 slot to the teams in the Nos. 9-17 range has been a constant in the rankings all season, allowing the Lakers -- even after Kobe Bryant's catastrophic Achilles tear Friday night -- to jump from No. 15 to No. 11 just by virtue of the fact that L.A. has regained control of its destiny when it comes to making the playoffs. Brooklyn's rise to No. 10, in spite of the Nets' well-chronicled struggles this season to beat teams with winning records, was also made possible by the fact that the league's top eight teams have clearly separated themselves.
The rankings will return in late September, not quite six months from now, but here's one more batch for your Monday lunch, compiled as always with the peerless assistance from ESPN Stats & Information and the Elias Sports Bureau. Click here to rank the teams yourself ... and click here in case you missed our latest Weekend Dime.
Also, check out John Hollinger's daily Power Rankings.