NBA Power Rankings: The Warriors hold on to play-in hopes as the Magic ascend in the East


With less than a month remaining in the regular season, teams are beginning to punch their tickets to the postseason while simultaneously fighting fatigue to prepare for a potential deep playoff run.

The dominant Boston Celtics became the first team to clinch a playoff spot last week. Meanwhile, the race behind them in the Eastern Conference is full of questions. The Milwaukee Bucks, led by the dangerous duo of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard, currently have the edge. And the Philadelphia 76ers, who have been without reigning MVP Joel Embiid since Jan. 30, are in danger of dropping into the play-in tournament.

There is no clear-cut favorite in the West, and seed Nos. 4 to 8 are continuously shuffling, fighting to stay out of the play-in. After a couple of losses this month, the LA Clippers’ lead for the 4-seed has shrunk to one game ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans. And despite a rocky season, the Houston Rockets are on a late-season charge, riding a six-game winning streak to potentially throw a wrench into the race.

With fewer than 20 games left in the regular season, it’s crunch time for everyone. Let’s take a look at this week’s Power Rankings to see where all 30 teams stand as we enter this stretch.

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 | Feb. 28 | Mar. 6 | Mar. 13

Jump to a team:

ATL | BOS | BKN | CHA | CHI | CLE
DAL | DEN | DET | GS | HOU | IND
LAC | LAL | MEM | MIA | MIL | MIN
NO | NY | OKC | ORL | PHI | PHX
POR | SAC | SA | TOR | UTA | WAS

greyline

bos

1. Boston Celtics
2023-24 record: 54-14

  • Previous ranking: 1sw ye 40

  • Next games: vs. MIL (Mar. 20), @ DET (Mar. 22), @ CHI (Mar. 23), @ ATL (Mar. 25)

How Sam Hauser would fare as a key reserve in the Celtics’ rotation was one of their biggest questions heading into the season. He has slotted into that role seamlessly, shooting 43% on 3s while taking 5.5 of them per game. On Sunday against the Wizards, Hauser hit 10 treys before exiting with an ankle injury. — Bontemps


den

2. Denver Nuggets
2023-24 record: 48-21

The Nuggets didn’t have much time to let Kyrie Irving’s incredible left-handed hook shot on Sunday linger. They had Tuesday night’s showdown at Minnesota to worry about, and Denver finished a four-game road swing with another quality win, even if the Wolves were short-handed. Denver has now won 12 of 14 games since the All-Star break, with their only losses coming in overtime against Phoenix and on the buzzer-beater by Kyrie. The Nuggets return home to face New York before hitting the road again, to Portland, on Saturday. — Youngmisuk


okc

3. Oklahoma City Thunder
2023-24 record: 47-20

  • Previous ranking: 3sw ye 40

  • Next games: vs. UTA (Mar. 20), @ TOR (Mar. 22), @ MIL (Mar. 24), @ NO (Mar. 26)

There are indications that Gordon Hayward, who was sidelined for seven weeks due to a calf injury before making his Thunder debut, is finding his rhythm as an Oklahoma City reserve. He is 12-of-19 from the floor, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range, with 17 assists in the past six games. That’s a drastic improvement from Hayward’s first seven outings in a Thunder uniform when he went 7-of-28 from the floor, missing his lone 3-point attempt, and registered only seven assists. Oklahoma City has scored 125.4 points per 100 possessions in Hayward’s minutes while winning five of the past six games. — MacMahon


min

4. Minnesota Timberwolves
2023-24 record: 47-22

What an amazing few weeks for Anthony Edwards’ highlight reel. After hitting his head on the backboard for a game-saving block earlier this month, he followed it with one of the best dunks of the season, posterizing John Collins on Monday with another jaw-dropping leap. Edwards also scored 25 points in the second half to lead the Wolves to their third win in a row. The Wolves then lost an important matchup with Denver on Tuesday, dropping them one game behind the reigning champions as the two try to keep pace in the race for the top seed in the West. — Collier


mil

5. Milwaukee Bucks
2023-24 record: 44-24

  • Previous ranking: 4rd arrow

  • Next games: @ BOS (Mar. 20), vs. BKN (Mar. 21), vs. OKC (Mar. 24), vs. LAL (Mar. 26)

With Khris Middleton back in the lineup, the Bucks picked up back-to-back wins at home after a tough West Coast trip, during which they went 1-3. The Bucks have 14 games remaining in the regular season with a pair of matchups to use as measuring sticks this week: on the road against the NBA-best Celtics and at home versus the West-best Thunder. — Collier


cle

6. Cleveland Cavaliers
2023-24 record: 43-25

  • Previous ranking: 8gn arrow

  • Next games: vs. MIA (Mar. 20), @ MIN (Mar. 22), @ MIA (Mar. 24), vs. CHA (Mar. 25)

After being sidelined nearly two weeks with a bone bruise in his left knee, Donovan Mitchell returned for just two games before going out with an injury again. Mitchell underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair a nasal fracture, and he is expected to miss at least another week, the team announced. Cleveland is 10-9 without Mitchell this season and 33-16 with him. The question now is whether the Cavs, currently a game behind Milwaukee for second place in the East, can keep pace with two games against Miami and a matchup with Minnesota this week. — McMenamin


no

7. New Orleans Pelicans
2023-24 record: 42-26

  • Previous ranking: 7sw ye 40

  • Next games: @ ORL (Mar. 21), @ MIA (Mar. 22), @ DET (Mar. 24), vs. OKC (Mar. 26)

After a meniscus tear delayed his season debut until December, Trey Murphy III shot 42.3% from deep before taking three games off around New Year’s Day because of knee soreness. Over the next two months, Murphy struggled, shooting 39.8% overall and 32.0% from 3. This month, Murphy’s shot has come back. He is averaging 20.7 points and shooting 47.8% from deep on 9.9 attempts per game. The Pelicans are 12-0 this season when Murphy scores at least 16 points. — Lopez


lac

8. LA Clippers
2023-24 record: 42-25

  • Previous ranking: 5rd arrow

  • Next games: @ POR (Mar. 20), @ POR (Mar. 22), vs. PHI (Mar. 24), vs. IND (Mar 25)

The Clippers embarked on a two-game trip in Portland this week showing little worry about losing four of their past five games. Even though Kawhi Leonard said the Clippers’ lack of urgency in Sunday’s home loss to Atlanta was mental and Paul George said the Clips lacked an identity, coach Ty Lue reiterated his confidence in this team. Terance Mann also said before Tuesday’s practice that the squad’s late-season assuredness remains high because of the experience Leonard, George, James Harden and Russell Westbrook have. “Playoffs is a whole different ballgame,” Mann said. “Everybody’s worried about what the hell is happening in regular season right now? I mean, cool. We’re not worried — that doesn’t waver our confidence going into the playoffs at all.” — Youngmisuk


ny

9. New York Knicks
2023-24 record: 41-27

OG Anunoby is now sidelined indefinitely with more issues in his right elbow, but his impact on the court has been obvious since debuting with the Knicks at the start of the year. Including the three games he played last week before his latest elbow flare-up, New York is 15-2 when Anunoby is in uniform this season. And in the 598 minutes he has been on the court, the Knicks are outscoring their opponents by 24 points per 100 possessions. — Bontemps


orl

10. Orlando Magic
2023-24 record: 41-28

Tuesday’s win against the Hornets marked 41 victories for the Magic, putting the franchise on track for just its second winning campaign since 2018-19. Coach Jamahl Mosley’s squad is well positioned to earn a top-six seed in the playoffs, as they are 3.5 games ahead of Philadelphia in the East. ESPN Analytics gives them a 91% chance of doing so. — Lopez


dal

11. Dallas Mavericks
2023-24 record: 40-29

Kyrie Irving’s 20-foot, buzzer-beating lefty hook to clinch Sunday’s win over the Nuggets was a continuation of the Mavericks’ clutch excellence this season — a stark contrast to their struggles in close games last season. The Mavs are 20-8 in games that are within five points in the final five minutes, giving them the league’s best winning percentage (71.4%) in such contests. In clutch situations, Dallas ranks second in offensive rating (128 points per 100 possessions) and fifth in net rating (plus-20.3). Dallas has especially excelled with Irving on the court in the clutch, outscoring opponents by 62 points in 56 minutes. — MacMahon


sac

12. Sacramento Kings
2023-24 record: 39-28

  • Previous ranking: 12sw ye 40

  • Next games: @ TOR (Mar. 20), @ WAS (Mar. 21), @ ORL (Mar. 23), vs. PHI (Mar. 25)

The Kings strung together huge back-to-back wins against the Bucks and Lakers before dropping a game to the Knicks then beating the Grizzlies in overtime. For the Kings (sixth place in the West) to avoid the play-in tournament, they need to put together a more cohesive defensive game — their defense is 19th — and avoid fourth-quarter scrambles, as they are tied for 10th in clutch games played this season (33-19). — Andrews


13. Phoenix Suns
2023-24 record: 39-29

  • Previous ranking: 9rd arrow

  • Next games: vs. PHI (Mar. 20), vs. ATL (Mar. 21), @ SA (Mar. 23), @ SA (Mar. 25)

How tough is the West this campaign? Last season, Phoenix finished eight games above .500 and was the No. 4 seed. This season, they are 10 games above .500 and currently No. 8 in the conference. Kevin Durant’s mini shooting slump is something to monitor, as he has averaged just 12 points on 36% shooting and 22.2% from 3 in the Suns’ past two games. — McMenamin


ind

14. Indiana Pacers
2023-24 record: 38-31

  • Previous ranking: 16gn arrow

  • Next games: @ DET (Mar. 20), @ GS (Mar. 22), @ LAL (Mar. 24), @ LAC (Mar. 25)

The Pacers are just 7-6 since the All-Star break, and guard Tyrese Haliburton is mired in a shooting slump. In those 13 tilts, Haliburton has shot 20-of-94 (21.3%) from 3; and in March, he is shooting just 16.9% from deep. He is still averaging 15.8 points and 9.8 assists since the break, but the Pacers need more from their star as they try to stay out of the East’s play-in. A loss to Cleveland on Monday dropped Indiana to No. 7. — Collier


mia

15. Miami Heat
2023-24 record: 37-31

  • Previous ranking: 14rd arrow

  • Next games: @ CLE (Mar. 20), vs. NO (Mar. 22), vs. CLE (Mar. 24), vs. GS (Mar. 26)

Heat center Bam Adebayo has made at least one 3-pointer in four consecutive games and has gone 5-of-5 from deep in that stretch, including a game-winning shot against the Pistons on Sunday. Prior to that, Adebayo had made just nine 3-pointers in his first 472 career games. Miami’s offense needs anything it can get to start rolling. The Heat have scored 100 or fewer points 16 times this season, fourth most in the NBA. Miami is 2-14 in those contests, including losses to Denver and Philadelphia last week. — Lopez


lal

16. Los Angeles Lakers
2023-24 record: 37-32

As difficult as it was to lose Anthony Davis in a costly defeat to the Warriors on Saturday after he was poked in the eye, it could have been much worse. “The corneal abrasion was actually right in the middle of my eye,” Davis explained Monday. “Anytime I looked, it was blurry. My eye was swollen. I thought my eye was, like, [torn] open.” Davis returned to put up 22 points on 10-for-14 shooting and 15 rebounds in Monday’s win over the Hawks, and he sounded confident the injury wouldn’t prevent him from attacking the 13 games left in the regular season. — McMenamin


phi

17. Philadelphia 76ers
2023-24 record: 38-30

  • Previous ranking: 17sw ye 40

  • Next games: @ PHX (Mar. 20), @ LAL (Mar. 22), @ LAC (Mar. 24), @ SAC (Mar. 25)

Kyle Lowry has stepped into the lineup for his hometown team after arriving last month as a buyout signing and is averaging 8.6 points and 4.8 assists and shooting 37.5% from 3. But even while Lowry has moved into the starting lineup alongside Tyrese Maxey in Philadelphia’s backcourt, the 76ers are still missing, as Lowry put it, a “7-foot-2 guy,” referring to reigning MVP Joel Embiid, who continues to recover from meniscus surgery. — Bontemps


gs

18. Golden State Warriors
2023-24 record: 35-32

  • Previous ranking: 18sw ye 40

  • Next games: vs. MEM (Mar. 20), vs. IND (Mar. 22), @ MIN (Mar. 24), @ MIA (Mar. 26)

The Warriors have the easiest remaining schedule among Western Conference teams in the play-in race. Still, they are almost a lock for the 9- or 10-seed, as they don’t hold tiebreakers over the Kings, Suns or Mavericks, who are all ahead of Golden State in the standings. The Dubs’ win over the Lakers gives them an opportunity to secure home court for the first play-in game. But it might be advantageous to go on the road; the Warriors have lost four of their past five games inside Chase Center. — Andrews


chi

19. Chicago Bulls
2023-24 record: 34-35

The Bulls are one win from reaching .500 for the first time since Oct. 30. They were at that mark twice this season (1-1 and 2-2), but they haven’t spent a day over it. A big reason for Chicago’s resurgence has been DeMar DeRozan’s continued fourth-quarter excellence. He has scored 166 clutch points, just shy of Stephen Curry’s league-leading 167 entering Wednesday, and DeRozan ranks second behind Giannis Antetokounmpo in fourth-quarter scoring. — Collier


hou

20. Houston Rockets
2023-24 record: 33-35

The Rockets are 8-1 in March to reignite their hopes of qualifying for the play-in. Jalen Green, the former No. 2 pick who will be eligible for an extension of his rookie contract this summer, has been playing the best ball of his career. Green, the West’s reigning player of the week, averaged 26.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. — MacMahon


atl

21. Atlanta Hawks
2023-24 record: 30-38

Atlanta has a chance to steal one more victory — at the Suns on Thursday — to round out their five-game trip. They’ve dropped three of four on this West Coast excursion, with the triumph coming against the Clippers. Thanks to the Nets’ four-game losing streak, Atlanta appears to have a hold on the No. 10 spot in the play-in race. The Hawks have gone 6-6 without Trae Young (finger surgery) and have stayed competitive due to Dejounte Murray, who has averaged 25.0 points, 8.5 assists and 5.1 rebounds over his past dozen games. — Lopez


utah

22. Utah Jazz
2023-24 record: 29-39

  • Previous ranking: 23gn arrow

  • Next games: @ OKC (Mar. 20), @ DAL (Mar. 21), @ HOU (Mar. 23), vs. DAL (Mar. 25)

Rookie guard Keyonte George’s development might be the Jazz’s top priority down the stretch. “Keyonte has the opportunity to be a real star in this league,” coach Will Hardy said recently. George, the No. 17 pick who has transitioned to point guard after playing primarily off the ball in high school and college, has averaged 22.6 points on .469/.400/.885 shooting splits and 5.4 assists over the past five games. — MacMahon


bkn

23. Brooklyn Nets
2023-24 record: 26-43

Going from Jacque Vaughn to Kevin Ollie on the sideline has done little to reverse the downturn for the Nets ever since the infamous tanking game against the Bucks on Dec. 27. Since then, Brooklyn is 11-28 — and 5-10 under Ollie after losing to New Orleans on Tuesday night. The Nets have fallen completely out of the play-in race in the East, sitting four games behind a Trae Young-less Hawks. — Bontemps


mem

24. Memphis Grizzlies
2023-24 record: 23-46

Considering how injury-ravaged the Grizzlies are, nobody would have blinked if Desmond Bane sat out the rest of the season after recovering from a sprained ankle that sidelined him for two months. Bane, however, was determined to return and did so this week in a loss against the Thunder on Saturday. “I’m here for my team. Regardless, I’m here,” Bane said after he had 22 points and seven assists in his first game back. He followed that with 24 points and four assists in Monday’s overtime loss to the Kings. — MacMahon


tor

25. Toronto Raptors
2023-24 record: 23-45

  • Previous ranking: 24rd arrow

  • Next games: vs. SAC (Mar. 20), vs. OKC (Mar. 22), @ WAS (Mar. 23), vs. BKN (Mar. 25)

After a slow start, Raptors rookie Gradey Dick has made significant strides after the All-Star break. His minutes per game have nearly doubled, from 15.3 to 26.6, and he has increased his field goal percentage (40.3 to 44.4) and 3-point percentage (35.7 to 37.5) at the same time. In what’s been a difficult season for Toronto, including Scottie Barnes missing the rest of the season after undergoing surgery, Dick’s steady progress has been a recent highlight. — Bontemps


por

26. Portland Trail Blazers
2023-24 record: 19-49

  • Previous ranking: 26sw ye 40

  • Next games: vs. LAC (Mar. 20), vs. LAC (Mar. 22), vs. DEN (Mar. 23), @ HOU (Mar. 25)

Perhaps the most disappointing part of the Trail Blazers’ season has been how Scoot Henderson has struggled to adjust. After missing 10 of Portland’s past 12 games, Henderson has remained inconsistent from the perimeter, shooting 18.2% from beyond the arc. On the flip side, the addition of Deandre Ayton has been a small boost for Portland’s offense, as the sixth-year center is having his best month since joining the Trail Blazers, averaging 26.8 points per game shooting 63.5% in March. — Andrews


CHA

27. Charlotte Hornets
2023-24 record: 17-52

With LaMelo Ball on the sideline, Vasilije Micic is making the most out of his opportunity with the Hornets. After playing in just 30 games with Oklahoma City earlier this season, Micic was traded to Charlotte as part of a multiteam deal in February. He started his ninth consecutive game and entered Tuesday’s game against the Magic averaging 15.6 points, 5.8 assists and 49.5% shooting in March. — Youngmisuk


sa

28. San Antonio Spurs
2023-24 record: 15-54

Victor Wembanyama is the 13th rookie to have 200 blocks in a season (since blocks became official in 1973-74). With 207, he has the second most for a rookie in Spurs history, surpassing Tim Duncan’s 206 in 1997-98. David Robinson holds the record with 319 in 1989-90. In Sunday’s performance against the Nets, Wembanyama put up 33 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists and 7 blocks. It was his fifth game this season with at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 rebounds. All other rookies prior to Wembanyama accomplished that just six times. — Lopez


det

29. Detroit Pistons
2023-24 record: 12-56

  • Previous ranking: 29sw ye 40

  • Next games: vs. IND (Mar. 20), vs. BOS (Mar. 22), vs. NO (Mar. 24), @ NY (Mar. 25)

The Pistons have dropped three in a row as they try to hold off Washington in the race to avoid the worst record in the NBA. Detroit is about to enter a stretch of five straight games against postseason-bound teams, hosting the Pacers, Celtics and Pelicans this week. The team has also been sitting Cade Cunningham to avoid him playing in both games of a back-to-back. — Collier


was

30. Washington Wizards
2023-24 record: 11-58

Not many knew what to expect this season when Washington drafted 19-year-old Bilal Coulibaly with the seventh pick last summer. The 6-foot-8 French swingman has shown that he’s not just a long-term project. While he posted 10 games this season of two or more blocks and had seven games with three or more blocks, Coulibaly also displayed some flashes of offensive potential. Three times this season he made four 3-pointers in a game and had scored in double figures in five straight games before a season-ending right wrist fracture on Monday. The rookie, who won’t need surgery, finishes the season averaging 8.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 34.6% shooting from 3. He is a solid pick so far for Washington’s new regime led by Michael Winger and Will Dawkins. — Youngmisuk



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