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NBA Power Rankings after All-Star Break | Celtics on top, Clippers coming together, Thunder roaring

The NBA All-Star break wrapped up from Indy, and now it’s time to focus on the playoff race as teams battle for position in the final stretch of the season.

The NBA All-Star break wrapped up from Indy, and now it’s time to focus on the playoff race as teams battle for position in the final stretch of the season.

The NBA All-Star break has come to an end which means we will take a few days of respite from basketball before gearing up for the final stretch of the regular season. Many of you are basketball freaks who have kept a close eye on the league since the season tipped off in late October. There are also those of you who were more concerned with the end of the NFL season before diving into the NBA action. Whatever the case maybe, here is a bit of a synopsis of what’s been going on in the league this year as we publish our first NBA Power Rankings heading into the final two months of the season.

1) Boston Celtics, 43-12

They have been, and most likely will be, the top team in the NBA at the end of the regular season, but this team will be shrouded in doubt until they prove they can not just reach the NBA Finals but win the NBA Finals. The trade they made in the offseason to bring Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday has turned this contender to the favorite in the East. They have a six game lead on the rest of the pack, and might extend that even more considering the Bucks struggles and the Sixers injury problems.

2) LA Clippers, 36-17

It took a little while for the Clippers to start clicking after their early season trade that brought in James Harden from Philadelphia. There are a lot of stars and a lot of egos on that team, but just one ball on the court. In order for things to work out at the Crypto.com Arena there had to be sacrifices made, and none more than Russell Westbrook who has selflessly agreed to take a bench role in order for the offense to flow more fluidly. Kawhi Leonard is back to looking like his best version of himself, leading the Big Three of him, Paul George and James Harden. Since the turn of the new year, the Clips have lost just five games, and if they stay healthy from here out, the road to the Finals might go through LA.

3) Minnesota Timberwolves, 39-16

Can this team keep winning, and stay as the pace setters in the stacked Western Conference? I’m not sure anyone expected Minnesota to be leading the West and have the second best record in the league at this point of the season, but Anthony Edwards is playing at an MVP level and Karl-Anthony Towns is one of the most versatile big men in the league. They have a former defensive player of the year in the paint in Rudy Gobert, and Naz Reid is the X factor coming off the bench. Head Coach Chris Finch has guided this young team, and molded them into an actual contender in the West. The only question is, how long will this last?

4) OKC Thunder, 37-17

The Thunder have been building a base of a potential championship team since they lost KD, Westbrook and James Harden. They invested in their future and made sound, solid draft picks that would turn this team from a laughing stock to one of the most promising sides in the league. The glow up has been meteoric, and most of that falls on the shoulders of their All-Star shooting guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who is third in the league in scoring with 31.1 points a game. It’s not just SGA who has put this team back in the national spotlight, second year stud Jalen Williams has proven to be the perfect second scoring option to SGA meanwhile Chet Holmgren’s freakish attributes and Josh Giddey’s ability to push the ball on the break has turned this team into not just one of the best teams in the West, but one of the most entertaining.

5) Milwaukee Bucks, 35-21

We know this team has talent. They may not have been playing like it before the All-Star break, but despite their midseason slump we should still expect the Bucks to make a run deep in the playoffs. Their offseason transaction that brought Damian Lillard to Milwaukee turned an already potent offensive team into the second top scoring team in the league, but the departure of Jrue Holiday meant there would be a big hole to fill on the defensive side of the ball. The Bucks were sitting second in the East before they fired first year coach Adrian Griffin and since then they are 3-7 in the 10 games that Doc Rivers has been in command on the Bucks sideline. It’s safe to assume that the ship will turn around, but not without Giannis and company figuring things out on defense.

6) Denver Nuggets, 36-19

The defending champions may not be the dominant force that they were at this point last season. Last year they basically led the West from wire-to-wire. This year they are dealing with a handful of different variants. First of all, the title hangover is a real thing. This is a team that believes they have a foundation to build a dynasty in Denver, but it’s hard to come in with the same sort of motivation as you did when after winning the franchises first title. Secondly, Jamal Murray has missed some time with an ankle injury, and that never bodes well for a team that finally won a championship once everyone got healthy. Denver know that when they are firing on all cylinders there aren’t many teams that can beat them. For them, staying healthy is going to be more important that finishing with a top seed in the West, especially if there are some younger, less experienced teams occupying the top spots in the conference.

7) Phoenix Suns, 33-22

The Suns were one of the biggest movers and shakers in the offseason, brining in Bradley Beal to join forces with Devin Booker and Kevin Durant. There were some injuries that the Phoenix had to deal with in the early part of the season and that kept the chemistry from building until the new Big Three in the desert could get some on court time together. Over the last month, the Suns have been rising up the standings as KD, Booker and Beal continue to get more familiar with each other. The key to the final stretch of the season is this team finding it’s identity. Devin Booker needs to step forward and pronounce himself as the leader of this team, and the anchor of the offense. KD is a great player, one of the best offensive talents the game has ever seen, but this is Book’s team. Durant and Beal will have their best chance at success if they concede control to the face of the franchise.

8) New York Knicks, 33-22

Finally. The Knicks are relevant again in the Eastern Conference. They were already a playoff team coming into this season, but the move to bring in Jalen Brunson has revolutionized Tom Thibodeau’s team. Brunson went from playing in the shadows of Luka Doncic to taking center stage in the Big Apple. All he’s done since then is get named to his first All-Star Game, average a career high 27.6 points and 6.5 assists not to mention he’s got Julius Randle who is recovering from a shoulder injury and should have the green light for the end of the regular season stretch.

9) Cleveland Cavaliers, 36-17

The Cavs have been another one of those surprising young teams that are exceeding expectations this season. They are coming out of the All-Star Game as the second seeded team in the East, and are the hottest team in the league having won nine of their last ten. Donovan Mitchell is going to get most of the accolades, posting 28.4 points a game, but what makes this team so tough to stop is they have a handful of players who all give productive minutes either in the starting five or off the bench. Darius Garland flourished as the secondary ball handler on the team, while Jarrett Allen and and Evan Mobley pack a punch in the paint, with both averaging 15+ points and 10+ rebounds a game. With everyone in the East looking shaky aside from the Celtics, the Cavs might be stake claim to one of the top three spots in the Conference heading into the playoffs.

10) Dallas Mavericks, 32-23

If we said the Mavericks experiment with Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic playing on the same team is working better than it did last year, we’d be lying. The two have now had a full year to try to figure things out, but each players wants to play his style of basketball, and trying to merge those is like trying to mix oil and water. Luka likes to play slow, in the half court and create off the dribble. Irving likes to push the pace and play in transition as the defense is still trying to organize. On top of the contrast in styles, they can’t stop anyone and they can’t rebound the basketball. Luka led the Mavs to the Western Conference Finals two seasons ago, but they seem to be digressing. Once the season ends, which will more than likely end in disappointment for the Mavs, they are going to have to decide which one of their stars they are going to hitch their wagon to.

11) New Orleans Pelicans, 33-22

Is this the year we see the Pelicans put their talent to use and make a run in the playoffs? We have been waiting for that moment for a while, but it always depends on how Zion Williamson and his health status. He barely played over the last two years, but he is back on the floor and has a crew around him that knows what it is to get to the playoffs. Brandon Ingram is a hidden gem, and CJ McCollum is one of the leagues best shooters although he’s had to take a diminished role with the Zion’s return to full fitness. This is a balanced team that is going to get better over the final stretch of the regular season. Don’t sleep on this team, cause they are certain to make some noise once the playoffs come around.

12) Indiana Pacers, 31-25

The Pacers are coming off of a weekend in which their young crop of players were in the national spotlight for the first time all season. This is an Indiana team that doesn’t draw national TV broadcasts, but they have one of the faces of the future. Tyrese Haliburton showed us what a star he could be in the All-Star Game, just losing out on the MVP award to Damian Lillard but lighting it up from downtown in Indy. That’s not even what he does best. He’s a pass first point guard that is liable to post a triple double every time he steps on the court. Getting Pascal Siakam in the trade deadline tells you this team is ready to make moves in the East now, and Benedict Mathurin continues to grow in his second year in the league. It’s been a while since the Pacers have been relevant but they are going to ride their All-Star to the postseason, and if they continue to claw up the standings having home court in Indy for a couple rounds could be trouble for the rest of the conference.

13) Philadelphia 76ers, 32-22

The Sixers made some changes from their under achieving team of last season, shipping James Harden off to LA and letting go of Doc Rivers which gave full control of the team to the reigning MVP Joel Embiid. Embiid was more than carrying his weight, in prime position to win the scoring title and in line to win his second straight MVP, but a knee injury might keep him out for the rest of the season. Philly is hopefully their big man can avoid having surgery, but if that’s the case just how healthy will he be going into the post season? Philly was 2nd in the East for a long time, but since Embiid went down, they have dropped to 5th, which is 10.5 games behind the Celtics, and just 2.5 games above the Play-In Tournament.

14) Miami Heat, 30-25

After getting to the NBA Finals last season as the 8 seed in the East, the Heat had hopes of returning to the promise land. They were the first 8 seed to reach that point of the playoffs, and know that lightening most likely won’t strike twice if they are the 8 seed this year. They went into the All-Star break in 7th in the East with essentially the same base they had last year. Jaime Jaquez Jr. has been a welcomed addition in Dade County, but it wasn’t enough to keep Miami out of the trade market. They brought in Terry Rozier who should give this team that can sometimes struggle on the offensive end another dynamic that could propel them up the Eastern Conference.

15) Los Angeles Lakers, 30-26

Are we expecting too much from LeBron and the Lakers? It’s hard to think a team with LeBron and Anthony Davis can struggle to win regular season games, but with an aging star and an all too often fragile big man, regular season games aren’t as much of a priority as they may be for teams like OKC or Minnesota. We saw just how dangerous the Lakers can be once they get into the playoffs, making a run to the Conference Finals after finishing as the 7th seed following the Play-In Tournament last season. This year they will want to avoid the Play-In but this conference is much more stacked than it was last year, which means LeBron and Davis are going to have to be legendary, but they are going to need guys like D’Angelo Russell and and newest Laker Spencer Dinwiddie to step up when it matters most.

16) Golden State Warriors, 27-26

It’s been a turbulent season for the Warriors who are trying desperately to hold off Father Time, and no one is doing a better job of that then Steph Curry (other than LeBron James, maybe). This is an aging team that is trying to incorporate fresh blood into a squad that has been together for over a decade. Klay Thompson is trying to adjust to his new gig as a role player instead of being a protagonist, having started games and finished games on the bench over the last month. Rookie Brandon Podziemski has been a revelation, but the break out star of 2024 has been Johnathan Kuminga who took advantage of his opportunities and has been playing the best basketball of his young career.

17) Sacramento Kings, 31-23

For as much excitement as there was following the Kings return to the playoffs last year, they have followed that up with an underwhelming first half of the season. Domantas Sabonis got robbed of the All-Star game considering he has more triple-doubles this year than Nikola Jokic has, and De’Aaron Fox is having his best scoring season ever, but that hasn’t necessarily translated to a fantastic season. They are are eight games above .500 but they are still 8th in the West which would land them in the Play-In Tournament. Mike Brown has two months to get this team to climb out of Play-In standings and set up a first round matchup with a team that they can beat to reach the Conference Semis of the playoffs for the first time since 2003.

18) Orlando Magic, 30-25

Paolo Banchero has repaid Orlando’s first overall pick in last year’s draft by not only rising over the rest of that draft class, but leading his team back into the playoff picture after way too long. The Magic are currently 8th in the East thanks to Franz Wagner who had been fantastic from downtown since returning from injury. Just three games separate them from the Knicks who are in 4th place, and only a half game separates them from the Pacers from an automatic playoff birth with the sixth placed spot in the East.

19) Chicago Bulls, 26-29

The Bulls have been without Lonzo Ball since the beginning of the year and lost Zach LaVine after their third leading scorer had to have ankle surgery which will keep him out until next year. DeMar DeRozan is going to have to lead the short handed Chicago side in what most likely be a Play-In run to end the season. Nikola Vucevic can play a big role in the final two months of the season. He’s averaging 17.5 and 10 rebounds, but the Bulls need an outside threat to keep defenders from zeroing in on DeRozan and Colby White.

20) Utah Jazz, 26-30

The Utah Jazz went into the break with one problem. They don’t have a super star, and that can cost them in games, or stretches of the season where they need someone to put the team on the shoulders and carry them to victories. Lauri Markkanen is a good player, but he’s not a super star. Collin Sexton is showing that the he can not just run the offense, but he can also be a leader no this team and rookie Keyonte George set a rookie record with nine threes in the game against the Warriors right before the All-Star break.

21) Atlanta Hawks, 24-31

The Atlanta Hawks have been on a steady decline for the last few years. Trae Young and company were in the Eastern Conference Finals just a three years ago but since then they have been knocked out of the playoffs in the first round twice and this year they are in jeopardy of missing the postseason all together. Bringing Dejuonte Murray was supposed to sure things up on the defensive side of the ball, but the real problem has come with Atlanta’s style of play. They are one of the slowest offensive teams in the league, which takes away from what Trae Young does best. It seems like the Hawks are getting worse as the years go on, which shouldn’t be happening as the face of your franchise gets older.

22) Houston Rockets, 24-30

It’s been a while since the Rockets have been in contention for postseason basketball but it looks like all of the lottery picks over the last few years are starting to pay up. They are far from a lock for a spot in the playoffs or even the Play-In Tournament but Alperen Sengun is having a break out season. He’s going to need some more production from Fred Van Vleet and Jabari Smith Jr. if Houston are going to get climb into the Top-10 in the West.

23) Brooklyn Nets, 21-33

The Nets are still looking to recover from their All In bid for a title that saw KD, James Harden and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn at the same time. All of them have parted ways since then, and the Nets have been worse for wear because of it. They have Ben Simmons to build the team around, although he hasn’t showed the ability to carry a team on his shoulders. He has barley been able to stay on the court in recent years, and with instability at an all-time high management just sacked head coach Jacque Vaughn just months after giving him a multi-year extension.

24) Memphis Grizzlies, 20-36

It’s been a disastrous season for the Memphis Grizzlies who will be counting down the minutes until the end of the season so they can’t put this year in the rear view and look towards what lies ahead. The Grizzlies have been a team that has been on the rise for the last few years, but they were without Ja Morant for the start of the season as he served a suspension that kept him out the first month and a half. He would suffer a season ending shoulder injury that sealed the fate of the Grizzlies. Since then the rest of the team has followed suit, and the squad has been constantly banged up. Despite that fact, they are closer to the Play-In than the bottom of the West, which might end up costing them spots on the draft board.

25) Toronto Raptors, 19-36

I’m not sure if the Raptors were trying to make their team immediately better by bringing in Ochain Agbaji and Kelly Olynyk who had fallen out of favor in in Utah. The Raptors sent a first round pick to the Jazz, which gives you an indication that they aren’t looking towards the future. They lost three straight going into the break, and they’ve got a long way to go to get back in the Play-In Picture.

26) Charlotte Hornets, 13-41

The Hornets won their last three games before the All-Star pause, which was a welcomed sight after dropping 10 in a row to sink all the way down to the bottom three of the Eastern Conference standings. This franchise came into the season relying on LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier to carry them back to relevance, instead Ball has only played 22 games this season and Rozier has been shipped off to Miami as the Hornets looked to be waving the white flag on this season.

27) Portland Trail Blazers, 15-39

Things were starting to look up for the Trail Blazers who got two big wins over the Sixers and the Bucks before dropping six straight heading into the All-Star Break. This was a team that was already struggling with one of the best scorers in the league last year. They finally parted ways with Damian Lillard and Scoot Henderson is taking a while to adjust in the league. Anfernee Simmons and Jeremy Grant are the leaders of the team, but like a lot of the Trail Blazers, they have had trouble staying healthy. Only two of Portland’s players have played more than 50+ games before the All-Star break, but those are the ninth and tenth leading scorers on the team.

28) San Antonio Spurs, 11-44

Wemby, Wemby, Wemby. That’s about the only thing that Spurs fans can hang their hats on in San Antonio. It’s an awfully tough ask to expect a rookie to come in and turn things around immediately on a team that has been bad for the last few years. Gregg Popovic is crafting the frenchman to be one of the world’s best players, like he did with Tim Duncan decades ago, but the team is struggling. They lost eight of nine before the All-Star Break, and one of their main problems is they down have a point guard to orchestrate this team.

29) Washington Wizards, 9-45

The decision to send Bradley Beal to the Suns and bring in Jordan Poole to be the leader of the revolution in the nation’s capital is not looking like a very fruitful transaction. The Wizards went to a team fighting to make the post season to a team scraping the bottom of the barrel in the Eastern Conference. Right now they are a laughing stock, and it’s not like they are in the same position as the Pistons or Spurs where they have a lot of young talent to hope to develop over the next few years. This looks like a situation that could be sticky for a very long time.

30) Detroit Pistions, 8-46

The Pistons did some dealing in during the trade deadline that may have made them take one step back to take two steps forward. They traded two of their top scorers to NY, which may have been a sign of waving the white flag, but since then have been playing some good basketball. They went on the road and won their first two to start the road trip and then almost took down the LA Clippers at the Crypto.com Arena. The Pistons should be most concerned with their inefficiency with their former No. 1 Draft pick Cade Cunningham on the floor as opposed to on the bench.