We are nearing the halfway point of the season and the playoff race is starting to look like another fun year. We are starting to see teams distance themselves into championship contenders and playoff qualifiers. Others are starting to tank their way to the bottom of the standings, which means a firesale could be happening in the next month before the trade deadline.
The NBA power rankings are used to rank the teams from worst to best. Keep in mind that the play-in game added four more teams to the playoff picture even though the play-in game is not an official playoff game. It does mean that 10 teams on both sides will be playing games after the conclusion of the regular season, which means 20 total teams will see some form of postseason action.
The play-in tournament is a tight race that will feature many of the backend teams on the rankings. For now, the seeds for No. 7-10 in the Eastern Conference are wide open, while the No. 5 seed through No. 10 seed in the West is equally competitive. These are your power rankings as we clip the halfway point of the season.
30. Orlando Magic 7-31
After watching the Magic play the Bulls on the road, you have to appreciate how head coach Jamahl Mosley has these young kids playing. The Magic went on the road to play the best team in the East and still nearly pulled off the upset. The Magic are not a competitive team right now, which is what we all expected. They have an arsenal of young talent that needs to gain experience.
Franz Wagner is leading all rookies in scoring. Jalen Suggs is showing promise, while Wendell Carter Jr. has mightily improved his game, which includes an outside shot. The team is playing hard despite Cole Anthony not playing. The Magic could get the No. 1 overall pick and add Chet Holmgren to this. Give the Magic some time and this team could rebuild the right way.
29. Detroit Pistons 7-28
Speaking of Chet Holmgren, there is nobody more than Cade Cunningham that would love adding Holmgren to the Pistons. Detroit will be in the mix for the lottery this year with the Magic. Having Cunningham and Holmgren grow as a dynamic duo in Detroit would give the team a clear path to what the future holds.
For now, the team is just really bad. Jerami Grant’s injury hurt the team getting a major package before the deadline. There are question marks around Killian Hayes’ development. The future for Detroit is not as clear as Orlando right now with their prospects struggling. With that said, Cunningham could win Rookie of the Year.
28. Houston Rockets 10-28
The Rockets are 7-10 at home this season but an abysmal 3-18 on the road this season. They have lost eight straight games and appear to be heading towards a second major losing streak. The team is also battling issues with Kevin Porter Jr. and Christian Wood not acting like professionals either.
When you win, everyone is having fun. When you lose, it gets messy. The Rockets are a clear losing franchise on the court and inside the locker room. It would not be surprising if we start to hear rumors about changing direction from head coach Stephen Silas.
27. New Orleans Pelicans 13-25
Head coach Willie Green has the Pelicans playing better as of late. New Orleans is 5-5 in their last 10 games and hasn’t wavered from believing they could make the play-in game. If the Pelicans do make the play-in game as the No. 10 seed, that is a testament to the team’s coaching because not having Zion Williamson play once this year is a major killer.
Justifiable questions are surrounding Williamson’s progression. While he is an All-Star when he is healthy, he just can’t seem to stay healthy. He is critical to the team hovering around .500 at the bare minimum. Brandon Ingram and Williamson were supposed to be an All-Star duo. Now, questions surround the future of the franchise if they continue to lose.
26. Oklahoma City Thunder 13-23
There was nobody more excited than GM Sam Presti watching Josh Giddey become the youngest player in league history to record a triple-double. Giddey is not a great overall offensive player, but he can do just about everything, which is very impressive for a player that just turned 19 years old.
The Thunder still have about two years before we start talking about them like we did during the Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook years. With that said, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continues to impress, while Giddey has proven to be the next major foundational piece moving forward.
25. Indiana Pacers 14-24
It’s time to tear it down. The Pacers thought adding no players at the deadline wouldn’t matter if they added a veteran coach in Rick Carlisle. Instead, this team is not good enough to compete for anything. Malcolm Brogdon, Caris LeVert, Domantas Sabonis, and Myles Turner should all be on the trade block and the team should be fielding calls for everyone on the roster.
The only untouchable player should be rookie Chris Duarte, who is making a case to be on the All-Rookie First Team. He should be the one player to be part of the next young core. Outside of him, there are first-round draft picks that could be collected if they start to make moves right now.
24. Portland Trail Blazers 14-22
Speaking of identity issues, the Trail Blazers need to look at themselves in the mirror. In the Western Conference, the team is 7-18. The team is very competitive when they stay in Portland, recording a 12-9 record, but everything falls apart when they hit the road where they are 2-13.
The team has battled a career-worst season from Damian Lillard, while CJ McCollum has battled a lung issue. Even if both players were healthy, what more would it get you? The team would maybe be hovering around the No. 7 seed and be bounced in the first round of the playoffs. One of these players could net Ben Simmons. It’s time to make a move.
23. San Antonio Spurs 14-22
The Spurs are the No. 11 seed in the Western Conference. Outside of Dejounte Murray, who is shooting the ball at a successful rate, what player on this team makes you turn your head? That is why Gregg Popovich is still great at what he does. Despite all of that, the Spurs lead the league in assists per game as a team and are fifth in points per game.
Popovich needs 12 wins to overtake Don Nelson as the all-time winningest coach in NBA history. After he reaches that milestone, you would have to think he is done. This Spurs team doesn’t have what it takes to make a deep run despite hovering around the play-in spot in the standings. The team needs more to contend and that could take time. It makes you wonder how much the future 73-year old has left.
22. Sacramento Kings 16-23
The Kings fired Luke Walton when the team was 6-11. Since Alvin Gentry took over, the team has hovered around .500 with a 10-12 record since. That is not necessarily winning, but it shows that the team is responding to the move. The Kings are like the Pacers in the sense that they are struggling to find an identity now as well.
De’Aaron Fox is shooting 24% from three-point range, while his assists count has dropped two whole assists from last season. The team could contend for the play-in tournament with hopes of winning out to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006. The better move would be to find a trade partner for Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield though.
21. Atlanta Hawks 16-20
After making the Conference Finals, we didn’t expect this dropoff. Trae Young is playing like an All-NBA First Teamer right now and is second in the scoring race, but the team has battled inconsistency all year with Bogdan Bogdanovic, and De’Andre Hunter missing significant time. What gives the Hawks hope is that the team was playing subpar last year and then got hot at the end of the year.
If the Hawks turn it around, it will fall on the shoulders of Young, who is second in scoring and third in assists. If the team can turn it around, we will expect to hear his name mentioned more in the MVP race.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves 17-20
Losing D’Angelo Russell for a stretch has hurt the team. Russell hasn’t played since December 23 due to health and safety protocols. Russell was averaging 18.7 points and 6.7 assists. Outside of Russell, Minnesota is hovering around the play-in tournament conversation. It appears that the team is content with trying to make the playoffs for the second time since 2004.
Minnesota needs a direction for the franchise. Going all-in might be a risky move, but it will be a better result for the franchise in the long term. Karl-Anthony Towns continues to play like an All-Star this year, while we are seeing growth from Anthony Edwards. If the team can make the playoffs, they could look to finally start getting people to buy-in.
19. New York Knicks 18-20
The Knicks are frustrating, even to those who watch as not a fan of the team. The team was a top defensive team last year but is outside the top-5. Julius Randle regressed after getting a contract extension. The signing of Kemba Walker backfired, but then it didn’t. Now, there’s trade speculation hovering over him. It feels like the Knicks are back to being seen as the team two years ago before Thibodeau took over.
We should give Thibodeau some patience because he did win Coach of the Year last year. There’s still time to turn it around, but there were questions about the money owed to Evan Fournier and now it’s time to talk because giving $18 million annually to a player that averages 13.1 points per game looks bad.
18. Toronto Raptors 17-17
Now that Pascal Siakam is starting to find a groove, the Raptors are playing better. In 20 games, Siakam is averaging 19.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists. The team is 10-10 at home and 7-7 on the road. They are starting to sneak up on the rest of the Eastern Conference. However, we are going to need the team to prove more.
What stands out about Siakam is that he has now gone five straight games of 18 points or better. That includes a 25-point, 19-rebound game against the Clippers the other night. Keep an eye on Fred VanVleet as well, who ranks third in made three-point field goals per game (3.5). As long as the team plays defense, they can hang with anyone. As of now, the team is hovering around being a top-10 defensive team.
17. Boston Celtics 18-19
The Celtics are trending downwards these days. Jayson Tatum is averaging 25.6 points and a career-high 8.6 rebounds, but his three-point shooting is only at 32.9%, which is down six percentage points from last year. Jaylen Brown is also shooting less efficiently than last year and has missed time due to injuries, playing in only 23 games.
Ever since Marcus Smart called out both Tatum and Brown publicly, there’s this sense that not everyone is on the same page. You can blame it on first-year head coach Ime Udoka, but this feeling has been happening dating back to last year. Can Tatum and Brown lead a team together? We are going to find out.
16. Los Angeles Clippers 19-19
The Clippers are playing just as well as the Lakers and haven’t had Kawhi Leonard or Paul George on the floor in weeks. Leonard has been gone all year, while George has carried the team. Now, Eric Bledsoe has found a resurgence offensively, leading the team with 27 points against the Nets on New Year’s Day.
Unfortunately, average teams are teams that can’t find consistency. The following game from Bledsoe? That was one point in 22 minutes. The team is going to look to just hold down the fort until George gets back. Hopefully, for when Leonard gets back too.
15. Charlotte Hornets 19-19
The Hornets score 114.9 points per game, which is the second-most around the league. Offensively, LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, and potential Most Improved Player of the Year candidate Miles Bridges are a great team. Now, the team needs to go make a trade for a player like Myles Turner to clean up the defense.
Defensively, the team owns the worst points per game allowed mark, where they allow 116.7 points. If you average two and thirty, you would get 16, which is almost where the Hornets are on our rankings. The team has a chance to make the playoffs, but they need to shore up the defensive side this next month.
14. Los Angeles Lakers 20-19
A middle-of-the-pack rating is not what the Lakers were expecting when they brought in Russell Westbrook. However, that move has backfired. The numbers are also not in Westbrook’s favor either. Westbrook is holding the ball on offense at his lowest rate since 2009-2010. His 28.1% usage rate would be the first time he hasn’t reached 30% or more in over a decade. The problem is that his turnover percentage is 20.3%, which would be a career-high.
Westbrook is currently leading the league in turnovers. Questions were surrounding the fit with Westbrook and LeBron James. This was a decision that LeBron advocated for, so you can’t feel bad for anyone. Either the Lakers are going to find a way to make this work, or the team is in serious trouble of wasting a vintage-like season from LeBron.
13. Washington Wizards 19-18
The Wizards have cooled off since starting the year 10-3. Losing 15 of your next 24 games would do that to you. When the team started that hot, there was the reason for optimism, but on paper, there was no need for the team to be playing that well. With that said, the team is competitive.
Kyle Kuzma is having a career season, while Montrezl Harrell is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. Bradley Beal is shooting less and scoring less, but that is because he has proven NBA veterans around him. Either way, Beal could be a free agent this year and is due to an extension. The Wizards need to win more to keep him from leaving.
12. Dallas Mavericks 19-18
Kristaps Porzingis has found a way to score 20.6 points per night in a different way. When Porzingis played in New York, he gained the nickname “unicorn” because he was a seven-footer that could shoot from three-point range. Now, that is out the door because his 28.2% from the three-point range is the worst in his career.
With that said, he is averaging over 20 points a game with 8.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.7 blocks. His defensive efforts look his best since joining the Mavericks. Now, Luka Doncic just needs to stay healthy as he has played in only 23 games this season.
11. Denver Nuggets 18-17
The Nuggets are a winning franchise with no Jamal Murray or Michael Porter Jr. on the court. That goes back to the question of how important is Nikola Jokic? The reigning MVP is outside the MVP conversation this year because of the current record, but he is showing up on the stat sheets.
Jokic is second in the league in rebounding, third in double-doubles and third in triple-doubles. He is once again leading the league in player efficiency rating. This might be another year of waiting for Denver fans because of the injuries to Murray and MPJ, but it’s unfortunate if the Nuggets waste another year of Jokic’s prime.
10. Philadelphia 76ers 20-16
After sitting with the 12th best record in the East, the 76ers have turned it around. Joel Embiid is playing like an MVP candidate again. Embiid is ranked among the leaders in fourth-quarter points. He has also scored at least 30 points in six of his last seven games. Now, it’s time for the team to end the Ben Simmons drama.
Anything that happens with Simmons is a bonus at this point. The team has finally found a groove without him, so trading him, or even getting him back, would help the team vault further into the top of the rankings.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers 21-17
The Cavaliers remain a top defensive team in the league, ranking second in points allowed per game. The frontcourt of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley is a top duo defensively. What stands out more is that this is also Kevin Love’s best season in two years. While his 14.6 points and 7.6 rebounds aren’t flashy, Love has scored at least 20 points in his last five games. That feels vintage Kevin Love.
He has also been playing more, hovering around 30 minutes of action. The acquisition of Rajon Rondo was a huge veteran pickup, who thrives with players who are younger and inexperienced. We should expect Rondo to play a big role now that Ricky Rubio is gone for the year.
8. Miami Heat 23-15
Tyler Herro looks like the kind of player he was when the Heat made the NBA Finals in 2020. Herro is averaging 20.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game. His three-point shooting is back up to 38.8%. He is a front-runner to win Sixth Man of the Year unless the Heat keeps starting him in games.
Kyle Lowry has also transitioned better to a new role as well. With Herro scoring more, Lowry can play facilitator. His 8.3 assists would be a career-high if the season ended. He now needs to fix his three-point shooting, which is down 8% from last year. Assuming Jimmy Butler stays healthy (23 games played), as well as Bam Adebayo (18 games played), the Heat remain a championship contender.
7. Memphis Grizzlies 25-14
Ja Morant just can’t be stopped. He showed that when he led the Grizzlies to a win over the Nets with 36 points the other night. If Morant keeps playing like this, there is no telling what this franchise is capable of doing. The Grizzlies don’t do anything particularly special either. They rank eighth in the league in point differential. They just find ways to win.
Jaren Jackson Jr. is not shooting the ball very well as he does in the past, but his defense has improved. His 1.9 blocks are a career-high while adding 16.0 points and 5.3 rebounds. If he can stay healthy, that will be a reason for the team to play well in the future. Jackson and Steven Adams have been a solid duo, holding teams to the fourth-lowest rebounding total when they play against the Grizzlies.
6. Milwaukee Bucks 25-14
Remember when the Bucks were out of the playoff picture in the first 15 games of the season? Once the team got healthy, everyone was finally able to relax. Giannis is the second-most efficient player in the NBA according to the rankings. The team needs help as Khris Middleton is going through a shooting funk, while the loss of Brook Lopez hurt the overall depth.
Bobby Portis is having a season to remember though. Portis is averaging 15.4 points, shooting 43.2% from three-point range, and is adding 9.0 rebounds per game. When fans couldn’t think of ways for them to love him more, he found a way himself. With his help, the Bucks are the fourth-best scoring offense in the NBA.
5. Brooklyn Nets 23-12
For a team that plays James Harden, Blake Griffin, Patty Mills, and LaMarcus Aldridge, they are a solid defensive team. These players haven’t let their age affect their defensive effort. The Nets allow 107 points per game, which is a middle of the pack average, but own a league-best three-point shooting defense, Teams shoot a dismal 31.5% against the Nets from deep.
As for overall field-goal percentage, teams shoot 43%, which trails only the Warriors. It’s crazy to think, but the Nets are struggling more on the offensive side of the ball. Kevin Durant is chasing down a scoring title and an MVP, but the Nets don't’ break the top-10 for points per game. Harden has struggled with getting to the line, but now that Kyrie Irving is back, that could help on the nights he can play.
4. Chicago Bulls 25-10
DeMar DeRozan captivated the world when he hit back-to-back game-winning shots over the weekend. DeRozan has solidified himself in the top-5 players for MVP with his play this season. DeRozan is now fifth in the scoring race while leading the Bulls to eight straight wins and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
As a team, the Bulls are clicking on all cylinders. Nikola Vucevic looks like his All-Star self from Orlando. Zach LaVine is leading an outside shooting barrage that ranks No. 1 in three-point field goal percentage as a team (38.5%). Alex Caruso is leading the league in steals. At full strength, this team can hang with anyone.
3. Utah Jazz 27-10
The Jazz has the best scoring offense in the league. At 116 points per game, the Jazz is putting teams on notice. The more surprising stat to take away is that the Golden State Warriors, led by Steph Curry, are not making the most three-point shots in games. It’s the Jazz who rank just ahead of the Warriors with 15.1 per game.
Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley Jr., and Bojan Bogdanovic are all having another great year. The team has battled inconsistency from reigning Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson, but there is time for him to regroup. Rudy Gobert is in contention for Defensive Player of the Year, as he leads the league in rebounding (15.1) and field-goal percentage (70.6%).
2. Phoenix Suns 29-8
The Suns have the third-best scoring offense as a team while ranking fifth in points allowed. Chris Paul is leading the league in assists, which would be impressive to see if the 37-year old can finish the job. Devin Booker is shooting over 40% from the three-point range for the first time in his career, while Mikal Bridges should get more love in the DPOY voting.
The Suns have the most depth at the center position than anyone in the league. With Deandre Ayton in the lineup, you have a borderline All-Star playing. When he comes out, you have JaVale McGee averaging 10.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 65.7% shooting in 16.3 minutes of action. Behind him, you have Jalen Smith, who is putting up double-double numbers since being added to the rotation.
1. Golden State Warriors 29-7
How can you go against the team with the best record in the league, who is getting a former All-Star back soon? Klay Thompson is expected to come back on Sunday to face the Cavaliers. We have no idea what kind of player he will be since he has not played in an NBA game since the 2019 NBA Finals. With that said, anything he does is a bonus.
Steph Curry is battling Durant for the MVP trophy. Draymond Green is the clear frontrunner for DPOY. The defense has been so good this year that the Warriors hold teams to the lowest points per game average, as well as the lowest field-goal shooting percentage (42.6%). The team has assets if they want to trade too. Everything is clicking in the right direction for Golden State right now.