Sáb. Abr 20th, 2024



With less than two months left in the 2023-24 NBA regular season and coming out of All-Star Weekend, teams are zeroing in on their playoff aspirations. And the stakes are rising each night.

The postseason race in the Eastern Conference is heating up, with the Cleveland Cavaliers cruising to second in the standings — but still multiple games behind a dominant Boston Celtics team.

In the Western Conference, there is no such leader, as the Minnesota Timberwolves and Oklahoma City Thunder jostle for No. 1, with the Denver Nuggets and LA Clippers within striking distance.

Did the break give teams enough time and rest to make a final push? Will some succumb to the second-half slump? When will the annual race to the bottom begin? All things to keep an eye on as we take a look at this week’s NBA Power Rankings.

Note: Throughout the regular season, our panel (Kendra Andrews, Tim Bontemps, Jamal Collier, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin and Ohm Youngmisuk) is ranking all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which teams are playing the best basketball and which teams are looking most like title contenders.

Previous rankings: Post-Finals | Nov. 1 | Nov. 8 | Nov. 15 | Nov. 22 | Nov. 29 | Dec. 6 | Dec. 13 | Dec. 20 | Dec. 27 | Jan. 3 | Jan. 10 | Jan. 17 | Jan. 24 | Jan. 31 | Feb. 7 | Feb. 14

Jump to a team:


1. Boston Celtics
2023-24 record: 46-12

Boston entered Tuesday’s game against Philadelphia with a net rating of 10.5 points per 100 possessions, and the Celtics are on pace, per ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, to win 65 games — both markers of a potentially all-time great team. Still, the Celtics have both privately and publicly remained steadfast in their belief and approach that success this season will be determined on whether this group can raise banner No. 18 to the TD Garden rafters this spring. — Bontemps


Jaylen Brown’s chase-down block tops Celtics’ plays of the week

A perfectly timed block from Jaylen Brown leads the way in this week’s top plays from the Boston Celtics.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder
2023-24 record: 41-17

On Sunday, rookie Chet Holmgren became the first player in NBA history to have at least 150 blocks, 150 assists and 100 made 3s in a season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. He joins Brook Lopez (three times), Jaren Jackson Jr. (twice) and Raef LaFrentz as the only players in the 150-block, 100-trey club. Holmgren is shooting 40.3% from beyond the 3-point arc — the best clip of that group by a significant margin — for the sizzling Thunder, who rank in top five in both offense and defense. — MacMahon

3. Denver Nuggets
2023-24 record: 39-19

  • Previous ranking: 5
  • Next games: vs. SAC (Feb. 28), vs. MIA (Feb. 29), @ LAL (Mar. 2), vs. PHX (Mar. 5)

The Nuggets dropped three straight going into the All-Star break, but they have since turned a corner. They take a three-game winning streak into a tough portion of their schedule. Starting Wednesday, the Nuggets will play a five-game stretch against Sacramento and Miami, at the Lakers, then back home versus Phoenix and Boston. Nikola Jokic has been on a tear since the break, collecting three triple-doubles and averaging 27.3 points, 16.6 rebounds and 15 assists during those wins. — Youngmisuk


Flashy dimes from Nikola Jokic headline Nuggets’ plays of the week

Nikola Jokic shows off his court vision with four incredible assists in this week’s top plays from the Denver Nuggets.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves
2023-24 record: 41-17

  • Previous ranking: 2
  • Next games: vs. MEM (Feb. 28), vs. SAC (Mar. 1), vs. LAC (Mar. 3), vs. POR (Mar. 4)

Minnesota remains tied for the No.1 seed in the Western Conference behind its formidable and league-leading defense. The Wolves held Brooklyn to 86 points last week; it was the NBA-best sixth time they had allowed 90 or fewer points this season. Minnesota is in the midst of its longest home stand of the season, hosting the Grizzlies, Kings, Clippers and Blazers this week. — Collier

5. LA Clippers
2023-24 record: 37-19

  • Previous ranking: 4
  • Next games: vs. LAL (Feb. 28), vs. WAS (Mar. 1), @ MIN (Mar. 3), @ MIL (Mar. 4)

The Clippers will face the Lakers for the final time in the regular season as co-tenants at Crypto.com Arena on Wednesday. They’ll have to do so without Paul George, who will miss his second straight game with left knee soreness. While the franchise has been looking forward to moving into their new arena next season, complete with new uniforms and logos, the Clippers have been inconsistent since returning from their long Grammys road trip in early February, alternating wins and losses in their past seven games. — Youngmisuk


James Harden raining 3s headlines top plays from the Clippers

The best plays of the week from the Los Angeles Clippers features heavy doses of James Harden and Paul George.

6. Milwaukee Bucks
2023-24 record: 38-21

With back-to-back wins coming out of All-Star Weekend, the Bucks have turned things around defensively since Doc Rivers became head coach. They won in Minnesota in their first game out of the break, holding the Wolves to 13 points in the third quarter, then prevailed in Philadelphia, keeping the Sixers to 16 points in the fourth. Overall, Milwaukee is 11th in defensive efficiency with Rivers at the helm, up from 19th under Adrian Griffin. — Collier

7. Cleveland Cavaliers
2023-24 record: 38-19

  • Previous ranking: 3
  • Next games: @ CHI (Feb. 28), @ DET (Mar. 1), vs. NY (Mar. 3), vs. BOS (Mar. 5)

Jarrett Allen, offensive juggernaut? That might be a stretch, but he has led Cleveland in scoring in four out of its past six games, averaging 19.3 points on 65.4% and 11 rebounds during the stretch as the Cavs have ascended to No. 2 in the East. Come playoff time, Allen’s offense could be vital in preventing defenses from loading up on Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland every trip down the floor. — McMenamin


Evan Mobley’s two-handed jam tops Cavs’ weekly top plays

Check out the Cleveland Cavaliers’ top plays of the week, including Evan Mobley’s massive alley-oop slam.

8. New York Knicks
2023-24 record: 35-24

New York remains in a holding pattern as its entire starting frontcourt — Julius Randle (shoulder), OG Anunoby (elbow) and Mitchell Robinson (ankle) — recover from long-term injuries. And while the Knicks escaped with a win in Monday’s game against the Pistons thanks to referee James Williams missing an obvious foul by Donte DiVincenzo, the team has struggled mightily without Randle and Anunoby and needs one or both of them back soon to remain fully in the race for the second spot in the East playoff picture.— Bontemps

9. Phoenix Suns
2023-24 record: 34-24

  • Previous ranking: 10
  • Next games: vs. HOU (Feb. 29), vs. HOU (Mar. 2), vs. OKC (Mar. 3), @ DEN (Mar. 5)

After back-to-back road losses to Dallas and Houston coming out of the All-Star break, Phoenix got back on track with a win Sunday against the Lakers, thanks in large part to a 45-point explosion in the first quarter. Grayson Allen led the Suns with 24 points. With Bradley Beal sidelined again due to a left hamstring injury, Allen’s emergence in Beal’s absence has certainly been a bright spot in The Valley. Allen is averaging career highs in points per game (13.0), shooting rate (50.8%), rebounds (4.0), assists (3.2) and 3-point rate (48.6%, which leads the entire NBA). — McMenamin

10. Dallas Mavericks
2023-24 record: 33-25

  • Previous ranking: 11
  • Next games: @ TOR (Feb. 28), @ BOS (Mar. 1), vs. PHI (Mar. 3), vs. IND (Mar. 5)

Luka Doncic, the NBA’s leading scorer at 34.5 points per game, will celebrate his 25th birthday on Wednesday. LeBron James and Kevin Durant are the only players in NBA history to score more points before turning 25 than Doncic, who has 10,825 of them. Doncic also ranks sixth all time in assists before turning 25 with 3,110. Doncic’s Mavs are in a four-team battle for the West’s final two guaranteed playoff spots. How tight is that fight? When the Mavs’ seven-game winning streak was snapped Sunday in Indianapolis, Dallas slipped from fifth to eighth in the standings. — MacMahon


Kyrie Irving’s stellar week headlines Mavs’ top plays

The Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic one-two punch is showcased in an epic week of Mavericks basketball.

11. New Orleans Pelicans
2023-24 record: 35-24

Just how good has Herbert Jones’ shooting been this season? At .508/.423/.850, Jones is one of six players shooting at least 50% overall, 40% from 3 and 85% from the free throw line, along with Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jimmy Butler and Grayson Allen. For an All-Defense-caliber player, that type of offensive efficiency will be critical for a Pelicans team hoping to make significant noise in the playoffs for the first time since 2017-18. — Lopez

12. Miami Heat
2023-24 record: 33-25

Miami is starting to hit its stride, winning eight of its past 10 games, including a 121-110 decision over Sacramento on Monday night without Jimmy Butler and Nikola Jovic because of suspensions and Terry Rozier, Tyler Herro and Josh Richardson because of injuries. Rookie guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. continued his strong campaign with 26 points versus the Kings for his seventh 20-point game (fourth among rookies this season). Perhaps more important, it was Jaquez’s fourth game without Butler, giving the Heat a boost when their star has to sit. — Lopez

13. Philadelphia 76ers
2023-24 record: 33-25

It was a welcome sight to see Joel Embiid on the sidelines with his teammates for Sunday’s game against the Bucks. But until Embiid is able to get back on the court — if he can at all — it’s hard to take Philadelphia seriously as a threat in the East. The clear goal now for the 76ers, who are 4-7 without Embiid, is to simply remain out of the play-in mix. Sitting only two games in the loss column ahead of the Pacers in seventh and the Magic in eight, it won’t be an easy feat — even if Embiid is able to return sometime in March. — Bontemps

14. Sacramento Kings
2023-24 record: 33-24

The Kings find themselves bouncing in and out of the seedings for the play-in tournament — a testament both to how close the middle and bottom of the Western Conference play-in picture is and how disappointing this season has been in Sacramento. With 25 games left, the Kings are just a half-game from sixth in the standings but also only four games from 11th. — Andrews

15. Indiana Pacers
2023-24 record: 33-26

  • Previous ranking: 15
  • Next games: vs. NO (Feb. 28), @ NO (Mar. 1), @ SA (Mar. 3), @ DAL (Mar. 5)

The Pacers have won four of their past six games. They were riding a three-game winning streak before losing to the Raptors on Monday. Myles Turner has largely been the reason for their recent success, averaging 21.4 points and 8.6 rebounds since the break. The Pacers begin this week with back-to-back games against the Pelicans — at home on Wednesday then in New Orleans on Friday to begin a trip that also includes stops in San Antonio and Dallas this week. — Collier

16. Los Angeles Lakers
2023-24 record: 31-28

  • Previous ranking: 16
  • Next games: @ LAC (Feb. 28), vs. WAS (Mar. 29), vs. DEN (Mar. 2), vs. OKC (Mar. 4)

LeBron James missed L.A.’s first game out of the break after receiving treatment on his left ankle. James said «the hope» is that the treatment — for which he declined to provide details — will keep his ankle healthy enough to play the rest of the regular season and the playoffs without missing significant time. He called the care «beneficial,» and the early returns back that up: James has averaged 29 points on 61% shooting, 10.5 assists and 7 rebounds in his first two games back in the lineup for a Lakers team that has won seven out of its past 10. — McMenamin

17. Orlando Magic
2023-24 record: 33-26

Orlando forward Jonathan Isaac has been limited to just 590 minutes in 40 games this season as he returns from multiple injuries that ravaged his past three campaigns. But when he has played, the 26-year-old has shown the tantalizing defense that made him the No. 6 pick in the 2017 draft. The Magic are allowing a ridiculous 101.1 points per 100 possessions when Isaac is on the court. Isaac also leads the NBA in effective field goal percentage (eFG%) allowed as the closest defender (44.6%) among players to defend 200-plus shots, according to Second Spectrum. If Isaac can stay healthy, the floor on the Magic’s defense, which already ranks fifth in the league, is even higher. That would be quite a boost as they endeavor to qualify for their first postseason since 2020. — Lopez

18. Golden State Warriors
2023-24 record: 30-27

The Warriors have won 10 of their past 12 outings, and with Chris Paul having made his return on Tuesday, they’re healthy. The big question for Golden State now is, how will they manage their newfound depth? Klay Thompson and Paul are coming off of the bench — an extremely lethal backcourt for the second unit — but how does Steve Kerr fit everyone else in? The coach likes to play about nine players, sometimes 10. So, who is going to fall out of the rotation? — Andrews

19. Chicago Bulls
2023-24 record: 27-31

The Bulls learned last week they will be without Patrick Williams for the rest of the season due to foot surgery, depleting a rotation already leaning heavily on DeMar DeRozan and Coby White, who rank first and second, respectively, in the NBA in total minutes this season. Chicago’s next three opponents are all likely playoff teams, as it hosts Cleveland and Milwaukee before traveling to Sacramento on Monday for the start of a three-game trip. — Collier

20. Utah Jazz
2023-24 record: 27-32

Rookie forward Taylor Hendricks, the No. 9 pick, has shown progress since the Jazz’s trade-deadline moves opened up a rotation role for him. He had season highs of 12 points and nine rebounds in Thursday’s loss to the Hornets, against whom the Jazz were plus-10 in his 26 minutes. Utah, quickly falling out of the play-in race, was plus-12 in Hendricks’ 26 minutes in Sunday’s win over the Spurs. — MacMahon

21. Atlanta Hawks
2023-24 record: 26-32

With Hawks guard Trae Young out at least four weeks after he had surgery on a torn ligament in his left pinkie finger, a major burden will be placed on Dejounte Murray to lead the Hawks through the rest of the regular season. Since they became teammates last season, Murray has played in 13 games without Young and averaged 25.7 points, 8.6 assists and 5.9 rebounds (up from his 20.4 points, 5.5 assists and 5.2 rebounds with Young). But the Hawks, still fighting to remain in the play-in, are 6-7 in those games, including a 3-3 mark this season. — Lopez

22. Houston Rockets
2023-24 record: 25-33

Jabari Smith Jr., one of the Rockets’ three top-four lottery picks selected in the past three drafts, followed up a 22-point, 16-rebound performance in Friday’s win over the Suns with 20 points and 17 rebounds in Sunday’s loss to the Thunder. Smith, 20, became the youngest player in NBA history to post consecutive games with at least 20 points, 15 rebounds and three made 3s. The Rockets entered Tuesday ninth in the lottery standings but will send their own pick to Oklahoma City unless it lands in the top four. Houston owns Brooklyn’s unprotected pick, and the Nets sit at eighth in the lottery odds. — MacMahon

23. Toronto Raptors
2023-24 record: 22-36

  • Previous ranking: 24
  • Next games: vs. DAL (Feb. 28), vs. GS (Mar. 1), vs. CHA (Mar. 3), vs. NO (Mar. 5)

It looked like Toronto’s season was essentially over, with the focus about to shift solely to the development of the young core of Scottie Barnes, Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett. But three wins in a row, coupled with Hawks star Trae Young’s finger surgery, have suddenly given the Raptors life. It’s still a four-game deficit in the loss column, with a third of the season to go, making the odds long of catching Atlanta. But the postbreak bounce — in both directions — at least gives Toronto something to shoot for over the next several weeks. — Bontemps

24. Brooklyn Nets
2023-24 record: 22-36

  • Previous ranking: 23
  • Next games: vs. ATL (Feb. 29), vs. ATL (Mar. 2), vs. MEM (Mar. 4), vs. PHI (Mar. 5)

A lot has happened in Brooklyn over the past two weeks, with former coach Jacque Vaughn being fired and replaced by Kevin Ollie after an extended slide heading into the All-Star break culminated in a 50-point loss to Boston. The Nets lost Ollie’s first two games after the break and despite brief respite with a win Monday over a depleted Grizzlies team, Brooklyn is still 7-20 dating back to the infamous tank game against the Bucks on Dec. 27. This team has a lot of work to do to make it a competitive race for the final play-in spot in the East. — Bontemps

25. Memphis Grizzlies
2023-24 record: 20-38

  • Previous ranking: 25
  • Next games: @ MIN (Feb. 28), vs. POR (Mar. 1), vs. POR (Mar. 2), @ BKN (Mar. 4)

The Grizzlies are an exception to the leaguewide trend of offensive explosion, ranking last in the NBA in offense. Memphis, which has lost 11 of its past 13 games, has been held under 100 points five times during its latest rut, with the team’s offensive rating dipping to 105.6 in the 20 games since Desmond Bane went down with a sprained ankle. Bane, who is averaging 24.4 points and 5.3 assists per game, will miss at least another three weeks. — MacMahon

26. Charlotte Hornets
2023-24 record: 15-43

  • Previous ranking: 28
  • Next games: vs. MIL (Feb. 29), @ PHI (Mar. 1), @ TOR (Mar. 3), vs. ORL (Mar. 5)

Even though LaMelo Ball and Mark Williams remain out, the Hornets have still managed to play their best basketball of the season, winning five of their past seven games after a 10-game losing streak. Trade acquisitions such as Tre Mann, Grant Williams, Seth Curry and Vasilije Micic have rejuvenated the Hornets for now. Nick Richards also has been strong on the glass, averaging 10 rebounds in the past four games. — Youngmisuk

27. Portland Trail Blazers
2023-24 record: 15-42

The Trail Blazers are riding an eight-game losing streak, their third streak this season of seven losses or more this season. Their most recent loss was to the Hornets — a game in which they scored just 80 points. The one bright spot has been Deandre Ayton, who has scored 48 points over the past two games. But Portland’s primary players can’t string together enough good performances at the same time, making it hard for them to make consistent progress. — Andrews

28. San Antonio Spurs
2023-24 record: 11-48

In his first three games after the All-Star break, Victor Wembanyama had five blocks in each of them. He became the first rookie to record five blocks in three straight games since Shaquille O’Neal did it in 1993. Sunday was also Wembanyama’s sixth game with 20 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, the most of any player in the league. Only one rookie had led the league in blocks since the stat became official in 1973-74: 7-7 Manute Bol in 1984-85. At this rate, Wembanyama is well on his way to becoming the second. — Lopez

29. Detroit Pistons
2023-24 record: 9-49

Cade Cunningham has scored 30 points in 16 career games, yet the Pistons are 1-15 in those games, including a loss this past Monday against the Knicks in which an official acknowledged a missed call in the game’s closing seconds. It was salt in the wound for Detroit, which had dropped six games in a row before a win against the Bulls on Tuesday. The Pistons have a few days to regroup before hosting the Cavs in Detroit and heading south for a two-game road trip against the Magic and Heat. — Collier

30. Washington Wizards
2023-24 record: 9-49

Washington tried shaking things up out of the All-Star break by bringing Jordan Poole off the bench against Denver last week. Poole wasn’t thrilled, telling The Washington Post, «If there’s any common sense with the situation, you should know how I feel. But I’m just going to come out, do what I can do to help the team, keep it moving.» With the thinking that Poole can run the second unit, the guard did have one of his best-scoring games of the season on Sunday, scoring 31 against Cleveland. With rookie Bilal Coulibaly (pelvic injury) and Deni Avdija (heel) injured, the Wizards will lean on Poole. Before the All-Star break, Avdija was heating up, scoring 20 or more points in three straight games before a 43-point outburst against New Orleans on Feb. 14. — Youngmisuk


Facebook Comments Box