All Star weekend came and went very quickly, with lots of big moments and headlines from the games biggest stars. Within 24 hours of completion of Sunday's game, there were quite a few teams who endured roster changes, whether it be due to a new injury, a player returning from injury or covid restrictions, or waiver and buyout pick-ups. So with all things considered, here are my in-depth Power Rankings with 7 weeks to go!
30. Orlando Magic (13-47): The Magic have plenty of things to look forward to besides the good weather in the south, like the development of Franz Wagner, Jalen Suggs, and Cole Anthony. The only direction they can trend from where they are is up. Anthony looks dynamic enough to be an all-star; lets just hope they continue to draft well and stay the course.
29. Detroit Pistons (13-45): #1 overall draft pick Cade Cunningham already seems frustrated by how content the organization is with losing; aside from their 2 years as the 8 seed in the east, they have been wildly uncompetitive for the last 15 years. There are a few pieces that can grow into valuable depth, but Jerami Grant is the only experienced veteran in town and I’m sure he wants out too. Cunningham has shown flashes of greatness, so he and Isaiah Stewart’s growth will be their primary focus for the next few years.
28. Houston Rockets (15-43): Both trade candidates John Wall and Christian Wood were not traded at the deadline, so I’m not sure what direction this team is trying to go. They have shown flashes of great team basketball throughout the year. Kevin Porter Jr. can be a solid co-star to Jalen Green if he keeps his emotions in check. Jae’Sean Tate and Alperen Sengun have contributed on both sides of the ball. And during the teams win streak back in late November, Wood was playing at an All-NBA level. So who are the Houston Rockets and where are they going? Not a single person can answer that question. They are ahead of DET and ORL strictly because of wins and talent.
27. New York Knicks (25-34): This is the most painful part of these rankings. I am a die hard Knick fan who was all aboard the Julius Randle train after last season. But the wheels have surely fallen off that story. Kemba just agreed to sit out the remaining 23 games. Randle has drastically regressed. Even the Front Office seems to be on a different page than HC Tom Thibodeau, who traded for promising wing Cam Reddish but has yet to establish a role for him. Another team with no identity, the Knicks are still only 3.5 GB of a play-in spot. But the chances of getting to that number seem virtually impossible.
26. Sacramento Kings (22-38): Congratulations on finally acquiring a player worthy of sharing the court with stud PG De’Aaron Fox. Sabonis is a former all star that when healthy is as good as they come as a stretch 5. This team has some other sneaky talent hiding on the court in Richaun Holmes and Davion Mitchell. However, they are 5-25 against teams over .500 and are among the worst defensive teams in the league. Lets see if there's any noticeable improvement after some extended run for Fox and Sabonis together.
25. Indiana Pacers (20-40): Did the Pacers get … better by trading their best player? The short-term answer is no, with Sabonis being a proven all-star. However, Tyrese Haliburton looks to have the potential of a top 10 PG, and Buddy Hield brings them great 3PT shooting until he is traded in the offseason. Not trading Myles Turner was a huge surprise, but his role, and happiness, should increase now with Domas gone. There are still plenty of other great pieces to this team in Brogdon and Duarte. The long-term view for the Pacers has to be better than it was, even while losing plenty of games down the stretch.
24. Oklahoma City Thunder (18-40): Why is OKC higher than a team like the Knicks? One simple word: Direction. Josh Giddey, SGA, and Lu Dort form a very interesting, flexible backcourt for the Thunder. Giddey has Luka Doncic potential if he can learn to shoot, while SGA and Dort are proven 20 PPG “3 and D” players. Even guys like Bazley and Poku can be solid contributors. Sam Presti has 3 first round picks in the 2022 draft, and 38 picks total through the 2028 draft. I personally feel OKC is in the best future position out of all the current bottom-feeders.
23. Portland Trail Blazers (25-34): This even feels a little high for this team at the moment. Lillard won’t suit up the rest of this year, CJ was shipped to New Orleans for Josh Hart and a bag of potato chips, and Nurkic is out for a month with a foot injury. I don’t think a team playing CJ Elleby 30+ minutes a game should have any sort of playoff aspirations. But here they are.. sitting in the West’s final play-in spot. Anfernee Simons has been their scoring anchor this year, and Hart seems to fit well in HC Chauncey Billups’ system. I am still not a fan of the future for this team, but can they slide into the play-in? Sure.
22. San Antonio Spurs (23-36): Dejounte Murray was welcomed as a first-time All Star last week. He has had a career year with averages of 20/8/9, but outside of him and a few of the younger core guys like Devin Vassell and Lonnie Walker, this team is far from inspiring. They also traded Derrick White, who many would say was their second best player. However, HC Greg Popovich has kept them afloat and within striking distance for a play-in spot. One extreme bright spot has been Keldon Johnson (15 PPG). Can he continue to play like a co-star to Murray? With everything going on in POR, could that be enough to chase down the 10 seed?
21. New Orleans Pelicans (23-36): It’s hard to imagine how good this team could be with a healthy Zion Williamson, who has yet to suit up this year. But let's be honest: the rest of the starting 5 after the CJ McCollum trade is solid. Jonas could have been an All Star this season, Ingram is still a very above average primary scorer (23 PPG), and Graham is a serviceable PG. This is a surefire playoff team with a healthy Zion, but who knows if we will ever see that again. Even the bench here has been good enough to get by. If anyone is going to catch POR for the play-in, I definitely think it could be the Pels.
20. Washington Wizards (27-31): Kristaps Porzingis was an incredible acquisition for the Wiz. Their last dynamic center was … past his prime Dwight Howard? Imagine him playing with Bradley Beal the rest of this season. Unfortunately Beal had season ending surgery on his wrist. Obviously the unicorn’s health is an important factor, but pairing him with a resurgent Kyle Kuzma (16/8/3) could be enough to claim the 9th or 10th seed for the play-in. The Hornets are reeling, and the Knicks seem stuck being the Knicks. If Kristaps comes out of the gate strong, it’s extremely realistic to expect the Wizards to be in the play-in.
19. Charlotte Hornets (29-31): The only reason they are ahead of WAS is strictly because of talent. They are 1-9 in their last 10 games and Gordon Hayward is still out indefinitely. But this is still a deep roster. They added Montrezl Harrell to the big man mix, and still have a plethora of viable scorers in Lamelo, Bridges, Rozier, and Oubre. The talent is there to be a top 6 seed, and they were there for a large portion of the season. Can they retake form and guarantee themselves at least a spot in the play-in or better?
18. LA Clippers (30-31): PG13 hasn't played since December 22nd, but the Clips have remained afloat regardless thanks to some good play from Marcus Morris (16 PPG) and Ivica Zubac (10/8). The acquisitions of Robert Covington and Norman Powell should give them more flexibility on both sides of the ball. I expect Powell to become their leading scorer until PG13 returns. Credit to Ty Lue on coaching a somewhat depleted roster to such heights. The Clips will be in the play-in come April, but don’t expect them to go much further than the first round in at all.
17. Atlanta Hawks (28-30): Trae Young has been as good as advertised coming off an Eastern Conference Finals appearance last season, averaging 28/9 while shooting 38% from 3. This team has such good depth in Bogdanovic, Gallinari, Hunter, Capela, Huerter, and Okongwu that I can’t believe they are this low. However, they are streaky. They own multiple 6+ game winning streaks, as well as multiple 5+ game losing streaks. They are still right in the thick of the conference, and one more good stretch can get them back to the top of the play-in. If John Collins (17/8) comes back this week playing at a high level, expect Atlanta to be hosting (and winning) a play-in game come April.
16. Los Angeles Lakers (27-31): Anthony Davis is hurt .. again. Russ is playing poorly .. again. Enter reinvigorated Lebron James; this gives me all the feels from his last 2 years in Cleveland when KLove and Kyrie, among others battled injuries and he carried his team to the Finals. Will the Lakeshow get to the finals this year? Most likely not, but you can never count out LeBron. This is his best statistical season with the Lakers (29/8/6), but how much help will he get elsewhere on the court? Malik Monk and THT will need to continue their solid scoring from the last few weeks, and Dwight Howard will likely need to take on an extended role at center if DeAndre Jordan is waived. At the very worst, I expect the Lakers to be winning a play-in game. If AD comes back healthy, I can see the Lakers winning at least 1 playoff series. However, they are still this low because LeBron somehow has a lot to prove, and has to do it quickly.
15. Toronto Raptors (32-25): Credit HC Nick Nurse and the coaching staff for where this team is; Fred VanVleet was an All-Star and Siakam is an above average PF. What’s more impressive about where this team stands is how they have battled a lack of depth. Outside of Gary Trent Jr., rookie standout Scottie Barnes, and OG Anunoby, the depth is questionable at best. Boucher has regressed, and the team brought in Thad Young to help with big man minutes. Most games have seen an 8-9 man rotation, but this team is still finding ways to win. Their grit and grind style will make them a tough out come April.
14. Minnesota Timberwolves (31-28): By far the best feel-good story of the NBA season thus far. KAT (24 PPG, 10 RPG, 41% 3PT) should be in some type of MVP discussions, and Ant Edwards is on his way to being a superstar. The supporting cast here is really solid too, with D-LO, Beverley, Beasley, Naz Reid, and Vanderbilt, among others. There are lots of rotations and schemes that help this team match up with the league's better teams on both sides of the ball. The Wolves don't have the experience of all the teams around them on this list, but the talent is definitely there. This is the surprise team this year that I would like to see make a run, similarly to Dirk’s Mavs from 2011.
13. Cleveland Cavaliers (35-23): The EC feel-good story, the Cavs have been nothing short of surprising so far. Garland’s emergence (20/8 - all star) without Collin Sexton has been the headline, but let’s not forget the other facets. Jarrett Allen was also an all-star, Mobley and Love have contributed nicely, and the team acquiring Caris Levert shows they are finally all in for the first time post-LeBron. I can only imagine how great this unit would look with Sexton healthy. The only thing the Cavs lack, outside of Love, is experience. That will probably be their undoing come April, but this team is built to win in longevity, especially if Levert sticks around next year.
12. Dallas Mavericks (35-24): The Mavs deadline trade to bring in Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans in exchange for Kristaps Porzingis left the team extremely thin at PF/C and gave them a plethora of shooters and guards. This gives me flashbacks to the 2018 Houston Rockets, who outside of Clint Capela were playing PJ Tucker at Center. Dallas already seemed to live and die by the 3 (37 3PA per game). Brunson, Hardaway Jr, Luka, and now Bertans are all above average 3 point shooters. Dinwiddie gives the Mavs a primary ball handler when Luka is off the floor. Luka is still elite (27/9/9), but this team has limitations. They are most likely a first or second round exit in the playoffs.
11. Brooklyn Nets (31-28): I can't be the only person who thinks Ben Simmons makes the Nets far better than they were. Ben will be to Brooklyn what Draymond Green is to Golden State: a big man who can handle and pass at an elite level, that can cover all 5 positions successfully. This frees the floor up entirely for Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant upon his return. The Nets are also higher on my list than most I've seen because NYC, within the next week or so, will allow Kyrie to play home games. This gives the Nets at least one superstar on the court every single night. Ky is good enough to keep the Nets competitive by himself. The supporting cast of Cam Thomas, newly signed Goran Dragic, Aldridge, Griffin, Bruce Brown, Seth Curry, and Patty Mills will score in bunches. I do believe outside of Simmons, the biggest acquisition is Andre Drummond, who is a rebounding and shot blocking machine. The Nets are very well-rounded; it will be very important to see how HC Steve Nash makes all these pieces fit. If he can figure out the puzzle, The Nets will give every single team in the East an absolute run for their money.
10. Denver Nuggets (33-25): If the Nuggets were healthy, they would be several spots higher on this list I’m sure. Jamal Murray has not suited up this season, and MPJr has not played since opening week. However, Mike Malone has done a great job once again with this group. Jokic (26/14/8) has been a top 3 player in the league, and Aaron Gordon and Will Barton have done their part scoring points in bunches. To keep this short and simple, the Nuggets are good, but not great without their 2 co-stars. If they look right upon their return in April, the Nuggets can make the West much more difficult to win.
9. Boston Celtics (34-26): Boston has been close to the best team in basketball over the last few weeks. Tatum (26 PPG) and Brown (24 PPG) have been among the league's best duos. They have the depth and starpower to compete with teams like Milwaukee, Philly, and Chicago. Smart and Robert Williams are the anchors on defense, and bringing in guys like former Celtic Daniel Theis and PG Derrick White will give them plenty of playable rotations to compete with different size lineups. This team is built to win, and the last few weeks have proven that. I still think they are just one notch short of the league's top tier, but they will still be a tough playoff exit.
8. Memphis Grizzlies (41-19): This team has without a doubt overachieved from where people labeled them in the pre-season. But then I look at the roster.. and I begin to believe in what I see. Ja’s MVP-level play (27 PPG), Steven Adams leadership, and the emergence of Jaren Jackson (17 PPG) and Desmond Bane (42% 3pt FG) has Grizzlie fans dreaming of a trip to the conference and NBA finals. This lineup will only get deeper when Dillon Brooks returns. Memphis only has one starter with playoff experience (Adams), but is fearless and is among league leaders on both sides of the ball. Time will tell us if the youth catches up to the Grizzlies.
7. Miami Heat (38-21): Is Erik Spoelstra a top 10 coach of all time? I truly believe so; what he has done with this group is nothing short of special. They have leaders on both sides of the ball: Bam Adebayo (19 PPG, 10 RPG), Jimmy Butler (22/6/6), and Tyler Herro (20 PPG, 38% 3pt FG) have all done their part contributing offensively. Adebayo, and PJ Tucker have also held it down on defense. Using Kyle Lowry, Duncan Robinson, and a soon healthy Victor Oladipo as situational role players seems almost unfair, and yet I'm still not sold on the Heat. This season already solidified Spoelstra’s place as an otherworldly coach, but Miami was swept in the first round last year by Giannis and the Bucks. I have a serious feeling that based on seeding, we could be looking at a repeat of last year.
6. Utah Jazz (36-22): Utah has been one of the deepest teams in the league the last few seasons, with 11-12 players who can all contribute to the game in their own ways. Gobert (16 PPG, 15 RPG, 2.5 BPG) and Donovan Mitchell (26 PPG) have been the driving force behind this unit. Losing Joe Ingles to injury/trade hurts their hearts, but not their rotations, as Nickeil Alexander-Walker was added to the fold in his place. Bojan, Conley, and Clarkson, to name a few, have been incredible depth pieces all year, even playing through injuries at times. HC Quin Snyder has been fantastic for this group again, and if they are going to make a move up the standings, now is the time. CP3 is out for the Suns, Golden State is still awaiting the return of multiple key pieces, and Utah finally looks fully healthy. I expect to see the Jazz in at least the second round of the West playoffs come May.
5. Chicago Bulls (38-21): One of the best stories of this season has been the revitalized play of Demar DeRozan (28 PPG). His fit on this team could not have been more perfect, as he is a veteran presence alongside stud bigman Nikola Vucevic (18 PPG, 12 RPG, 1 BPG). Pair that with the young duo of All-Star Zach LaVine and rookie standout Ayo Dosunmu, and you have one of the most efficient lineups in the league. HC Billy Donovan has done a swell job managing the minutes load with Lonzo and Alex Caruso both injured for quite some time; he also brought in big Tristan Thompson off the buyout market to help Vucevic’s longevity. When healthy, this team can compete for a championship. It will be interesting to see if they can guard Giannis, Embiid, or Durant for an entire playoff series, but they have not backed down yet even through all the adversity. Oh, and don’t forget to vote Demar DeRozan for MVP, of course.
4. Philadelphia 76ers (35-23): The 76ers made the biggest move at the deadline, acquiring James Harden from the Brooklyn Nets. They instantly became title favorites, pairing arguably the best scorer of the past decade with the most talented center in the league. Harden (career 25 PPG) and Embiid (29 PPG, 11 RPG) form the scariest duo in all of basketball. The supporting cast of Harris, Maxey, Milton, Green, and Millsap allows Philly to have rotational advantages against most of the teams in the East. After failing to advance past the Hawks in the second round last year, HC Doc Rivers is out to prove that he could not have controlled much of that. This duo will be fun to watch.
3. Phoenix Suns (48-10): Losing CP3 for all of March is definitely going to hurt, but they are 6.5 games up on the 2nd place Warriors, so the timing could have been worse. DBook (25 PPG) and DeAndre Ayton (16 PPG, 10 RPG) will be holding down the fort. We should expect to see an uptick in scoring from Mikal Bridges and even Cam Payne, who both thrived at times during the 2021 playoffs when CP3 was banged up. CP3’s injury is the ONLY reason I have the Suns at #3, otherwise they would be right ahead of Golden State.
2. Golden State Warriors (42-17): Golden State slips in right ahead of Phoenix for only 1 reason: injuries. Draymond and James Wiseman are both on their way back into the lineup from injury, giving the Warriors 14 healthy players for the stretch run. Curry (26 PPG), Klay, and first time All-Star Andrew Wiggins, among others, will all begin to rest a bit and will look that much sharper during crunch time in tight games. Additionally, HC Steve Kerr’s longtime vision of pairing Wiseman with standout rookie Jonathan Kuminga is coming to fruition. Their rotations during the playoffs will look far different than their normal “death lineup”, but the fact of the matter is this: the Warriors are back.
1. Milwaukee Bucks (36-24): The Bucks being here is more-so out of respect than anything else. Giannis is once again playing at an MVP level (29 PPG, 11 RPG, 1.5 BPG), and the team has finally, for the most part, stayed healthy around him. Jrue and Khris Middleton seem to coexist successfully now, and the role players have given Coach Bud far more than he could have expected. Bobby Portis (15 PPG, 9 RPG) is having a career year and could almost be considered the MVP on this team. Giannis is virtually unguardable, and if the shooters are clicking, this is definitely the team to beat.
I am truly hoping for some interesting shake-up in both conferences. As a Knick fan I would love to see them get to the 10 seed just for a play-in game. The Nets, Sixers, Bulls, and Bucks form a 4-headed monster in the East that will probably end up as the 2nd round matchups. LeBron is in perfect position to add to his legacy by carrying the Lakers to the playoffs. There are 6-7 teams in the West that are good enough to win at least 1 playoff series. This should be the most interesting postseason in years, and I can't wait to watch it all unfold!