NBA Power Rankings: East-leading Celtics stay No. 1; midseason grades for each team


We’ve reached roughly the halfway mark of the 2023-24 season for just about every team. Last week, we checked in on their over/unders and how on track they were to meet or fall short of expectations. At this point of the season , let’s take it a step further. 

We’ll update the grades we gave to each squad after the first quarter of the season and analyze how I’m feeling about every team. Then, it’s time to check in on our undoubtedly flawless preseason predictions. Not only that, but we’ll perfectly rank the teams without any complaints possible.

And then, as always, we’ll flawlessly rank all 30 teams.

Reminder: The Power Rankings don’t just rank the 30 teams. We divide these teams into tiers, which teams can move in and out of. We currently have the tiers broken into seven new categories:

  • Incomprehensibly bad – These guys are historically inept right now.
  • Not tanking but maybe someday — They haven’t started tanking yet, but it’s on the table this season.
  • Looking to make the Play-In — They’ve been rebuilding/retooling and think they can crack the top 10 in their respective conference.
  • Play-In Tournament teams or better — They should be in the mix unless something disastrous happens.
  • Playoff teams — Probably don’t have to worry about dropping down to the Play-In Tournament.
  • On the brink of contention — A piece away from us believing they can win the title.
  • Contenders — They are contending for the championship, barring a massive injury.

As always, I am sure we will all agree on the placement of all 30 teams, especially your favorite team.

Here’s how the Power Rankings work:

  • It’s up to my discretion how the rankings shake out. For some teams, they’ll be hit in the short term. Others will be given the benefit for the long term. Yes, it is entirely subjective.
  • If I have a team ahead of another team, there’s no reason to ask why they’re ranked above the team you like. The answer is pretty simple: I think that team is set up better for success.
  • Yes, I watch the games. And yes, I watch your favorite team.
  • This is supposed to be fun, so let’s have fun.

With all that said, let’s dive into Week 14 of The Athletic’s NBA Power Rankings. Stats and records are through Monday’s action.


Loading

Try changing or resetting your filters to see more.

Tier 1 – The Contenders

First-quarter grade: A | Ranked second

Second-quarter grade: A+

If we’re going to nitpick things, I still have some concerns about Boston’s health, depth and style of play when it comes to the postseason. But the Celtics are the most dominant team in the league this season and barely have a single loss at home. The top six players on this team are nearly impossible to deal with on a random night in the regular season.

Preseason prediction update: Jayson Tatum wins MVP.

Best record in the league and Tatum has been spectacular, but he doesn’t seem to currently be in the top three.

Offensive Rating

120.1 (3rd)

Defensive Rating

110.3 (2nd)

Eastern

Tier 1 – The Contenders

loading

First-quarter grade: A | Ranked fifth

Second-quarter grade: A+

Not sure how much better the Thunder’s first half of the season could’ve gone. They’ve jumped from a 40-win team that couldn’t make the playoffs to one of the most dominant teams in the league. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is playing like the MVP. Chet Holmgren has been nearly perfect in his role as a rookie. Jalen Williams should be an All-Star. And the Thunder have been good against good and bad teams.

Preseason prediction update: Josh Giddey has a dozen triple-doubles.

He has one through half the season. This will not happen.

Offensive Rating

119.8 (4th tied)

Defensive Rating

111.7 (5th tied)

Western

Tier 1 – The Contenders

loading

First-quarter grade: B | Ranked fourth

Second-quarter grade: A-

It still feels like this team is sleepwalking through the regular season, and look at how good they are. Nikola Jokić is as good as he’s ever been, which is saying something. Jamal Murray has been excellent, and we still see the Nuggets bringing the young guys along with extended minutes and responsibilities to prepare them for the postseason. At some point, the Nuggets will decide to reach a higher gear, after which we’ll see if the league has a counter to that. It didn’t a season ago.

Preseason prediction update: Denver leads the league in offensive rating.

They are firmly in the top seven in offensive rating, but they’re unlikely to surpass Indiana for the top spot.

Offensive Rating

118.7 (7th)

Defensive Rating

113.4 (11th tied)

Western

Tier 1 – The Contenders

loading

First-quarter grade: C+ | Ranked 16th

Second-quarter grade: A

What an incredible turnaround by the Clippers. They went from being completely untrustworthy to making most people around the league raise an eyebrow or two in curiosity at what they could be. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have been as good as one could hope. James Harden is playing great basketball. The Clippers have depth. They play both ends of the floor and have a good coach. But they’re the Clippers, so most people don’t feel comfortable buying in.

Preseason prediction update: They don’t land James Harden before the trade deadline.

It basically happened a week into the season.

Offensive Rating

119.6 (6th)

Defensive Rating

113.9 (13th tied)

Western

Tier 1 – The Contenders

loading

First-quarter grade: A- | Ranked sixth

Second-quarter grade: A

I think a lot of people want to believe in this Sixers team because we historically love giants dominating toward a title run or at least in title contention. Joel Embiid has been the most dominant player in the league this season. He’s playing in maybe half of the fourth quarters, if that. Tyrese Maxey is a legitimate lead guard, and this team has solid role players up and down the roster. But the Sixers have fallen short with good teams in the playoffs, so we’re just kind of waiting to see if this time is different.

Preseason prediction update: Harden is traded before 2024 hits.

This one ended up being correct almost immediately, but for a funny example of how much I missed that situation, scroll to the Clippers prediction.

Offensive Rating

119.8 (4th tied)

Defensive Rating

111.4 (4th)

Eastern

Tier 1 – The Contenders

loading

First-quarter grade: A+ | Ranked first

Second-quarter grade: A

The Wolves need to figure out a more consistent attack on offense, especially when it comes to playoff basketball. Turning the ball over must stop. They have to get more consistency and force from Karl-Anthony Towns on offense, even though he’s trying to just fit in on offense. There has to be a 1-2 balance for him and Anthony Edwards. But this team is legitimately good with the opportunity to really go deep in the playoffs.

Preseason prediction update: Anthony Edwards wins All-Star MVP.

We’ll find out in less than a month. Edwards should be a lock for the All-Star reserves, though.

Offensive Rating

114.3 (19th)

Defensive Rating

109.0 (1st)

Western

Tier 1 – The Contenders

loading

First-quarter grade: B+ | Ranked third

Second-quarter grade: A-

It’s so weird that nobody seems sold on this team. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard are two of the biggest stars in the league and complement each other extremely well. This team’s offense is ridiculous most nights, but it’s undermined by questionable depth and horrendous defense. The odd part about how good this team has looked at times? I’m not sure you get a lot of pushback on doubts with this team from people in Milwaukee. There’s been kind of a wait-and-see approach.

Preseason prediction update: The Bucks don’t finish top 15 in defensive rating.

The Bucks rank 22nd in defensive rating, and they would need a complete defensive overhaul in order to get to the top 15.

Offensive Rating

120.6 (2nd)

Defensive Rating

116.8 (22nd)

Eastern

Tier 1 – The Contenders

loading

Tier 2 – Brink of Contention

First-quarter grade: B+ | Ranked 11th

Second-quarter grade: A-

I think the OG Anunoby deal was so massive for them because things just fit a lot better. We’ll never know if we can rely on Julius Randle to be great, productive and efficient in the postseason. However, Jalen Brunson is the real deal, and the Knicks just have a lot of high IQ players on the court most of the game. This team could be set up to surprise some teams in the playoffs.

Preseason prediction update: Jalen Brunson makes the All-Star Game.

We’re not official with it yet, but I would be shocked if the coaches don’t put him in as a reserve. He’s unlikely to be named a starter on Thursday.

Offensive Rating

117.3 (8th tied)

Defensive Rating

112.5 (7th tied)

Eastern

Tier 2 – Brink of Contention

loading

First-quarter grade: C+ | Ranked 12th

Second-quarter grade: B+

I’m very impressed by the way the Cavs have responded to their injuries and shortcomings over the last couple weeks. Darius Garland and Evan Mobley have been out, and yet the Cavs are thriving. Donovan Mitchell has been incredible. We’re seeing their role players step up. But I’m still a little concerned about their playoff prospects after the way they crumbled against the Knicks last season.

Preseason prediction update: Cleveland finishes top-three in the East.

Their play as of late has them up to fourth in the East, and they’re 2.5 games behind Philadelphia for third. It’s very possible.

Offensive Rating

115.2 (15th)

Defensive Rating

110.7 (3rd)

Eastern

Tier 2 – Brink of Contention

loading

First-quarter grade: B | Ranked ninth

Second-quarter grade: B

The Suns might be in the process of turning this into what they expected it to be. They’ve played great basketball recently, and we’re seeing the trio of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal look unstoppable on offense. I still believe in the potential of this team, but they really don’t have role players capable of helping on both ends of the floor. The Suns have to pretty much decide to go all-in on offense.

Preseason prediction update: Devin Booker makes First-Team All-NBA.

We won’t know this until the season is over, but it’ll be really difficult for him to surpass Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Tyrese Haliburton and Luka Dončić as the leaders in the First-Team clubhouse.

Offensive Rating

117.2 (10th tied)

Defensive Rating

115.2 (16th)

Western

Tier 2 – Brink of Contention

loading

First-quarter grade: B | Ranked 14th

Second-quarter grade: B+

There are times this team looks like it could legitimately win the West. There are also times where you see the Hornets are not ready. They’re good on both ends of the floor, have depth and rely on two stars most people can believe in. But they need consistency from Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram in order to keep moving forward. The talent is there. Is the focus?

Preseason prediction update: Pelicans finish top 10 in both offense and defense.

This is currently happening with the Pelicans ranking 10th in offense and ninth in defense. But I don’t feel confident in this one yet.

Offensive Rating

117.2 (10th tied)

Defensive Rating

112.6 (9th)

Western

Tier 2 – Brink of Contention

loading

Tier 3 – Playoff Teams

First-quarter grade: A- | Ranked 13th

Second-quarter grade: B

We saw the Pacers take a big dip following their In-Season Tournament run, but they’ve rebounded since then. The encouraging part of that bounceback is much of it happened when Haliburton was out with a hamstring injury. Now, they’ve added Pascal Siakam into the mix and should be pushed up a level or two. We just haven’t had a chance to see it develop yet.

Preseason prediction update: Tyrese Haliburton averages at least 25 points and 10 assists.

This looked like a lock for a while, and now it’s less obvious. Haliburton is averaging 23.6 points and 12.6 assists. With Siakam in the mix, that scoring might stay below 25.

Offensive Rating

121.2 (1st)

Defensive Rating

119.5 (27th)

Eastern

Tier 3 – Playoff Teams

loading

First-quarter grade: B | Ranked 17th

Second-quarter grade: B-

We haven’t seen enough Jimmy Butler for the Heat this season, as he’s only played in 28 games. We know the Heat are a completely different team when he’s on the court consistently. Potential diamonds in the rough haven’t truly emerged, but Duncan Robinson has improved a lot, and Jaime Jaquez Jr. is already a must-have rotation guy. If they get this version of Bam Adebayo in the playoffs, they’ll be in good shape. He’s been unbelievable.

Preseason prediction update: The Heat make the Eastern Conference finals.

I still believe, but their recent play hasn’t exactly inspired confidence. Adding Terry Rozier brings in a needed scoring punch for this.

Offensive Rating

113.4 (20th)

Defensive Rating

113.0 (10th)

Eastern

Tier 3 – Playoff Teams

loading

Tier 4 – Play-In Tournament Teams Or Better

First-quarter grade: B | Ranked 15th

Second-quarter grade: B-

The defense is still really mediocre-to-bad for the Kings, and it keeps them from some more consistency. However, they are still an excellent offensive team with the room for even more growth there. De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis have been fantastic. Malik Monk and Keegan Murray have been really good. Sacramento just hasn’t dominated bad teams like they did a season ago.

Preseason prediction update: Kings finish top-six in the West.

The Kings are currently seventh in the West standings, but they’re just a half game behind being fifth in the West. This feels very doable.

Offensive Rating

116.5 (12th tied)

Defensive Rating

115.8 (17th)

Western

Tier 4 – Play-In Tournament Teams Or Better

loading

First-quarter grade: B+ | Ranked 10th

Second-quarter grade: B

The Mavs have regressed a little bit, but they’ve also had plenty of games without either Kyrie Irving or Luka Dončić, so it’s understandable we’d see a bit of a dip. This is still a very dangerous squad with two legitimate closers. Their role players have found a great groove, and Tim Hardaway Jr. seems unstoppable off the bench. They could really use a defensive stopper on the perimeter.

Preseason prediction update: Kyrie plays at least 70 games for the first time since 2016-17.

Kyrie has played in 27 of their 43 games so far, so he’s going to have to play 43 times in their remaining 39 games to reach this prediction. Looks unlikely.

Offensive Rating

117.3 (8th tied)

Defensive Rating

116.5 (18th tied)

Western

Tier 4 – Play-In Tournament Teams Or Better

loading

First-quarter grade: D- | Ranked 27th

Second-quarter grade: B-

A jump of two full grades since last quarter because this Jazz team has played entirely different despite being the exact same team. Will Hardy found the lineup combinations that not only work a lot better, but give them a steady attack throughout the entire 48 minutes. Collin Sexton is back to being the guy we saw in Cleveland. Lauri Markkanen should be an All-Star again. And the Jazz look like a legitimate playoff team.

Preseason prediction update: Lauri Markkanen, Jordan Clarkson and John Collins combine for 70 points per game.

This trio is averaging 56.1 points per game, so I don’t think we’re going to get to 70. That’s pretty far off.

Offensive Rating

114.9 (17th)

Defensive Rating

116.7 (21st)

Western

Tier 4 – Play-In Tournament Teams Or Better

loading

First-quarter grade: A+ | Ranked seventh

Second-quarter grade: B

We’ve seen the Magic fall off a bit from the first quarter of the season, but this is still a really good campaign from Orlando. We’ve seen great seasons from Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony. Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner are handling more attention from scouting reports. This team really needs a steady point guard who can shoot from the outside. The Magic just isn’t very good on offense, but their defense remains great.

Preseason prediction update: Paolo Bachero averages 25 points per game.

Banchero is up to 22.5 points per game, and he’s putting up 25.4 per game over his last 17 games. It will take a big second half, but this seems doable.

Offensive Rating

112.1 (24th)

Defensive Rating

111.7 (5th tied)

Eastern

Tier 4 – Play-In Tournament Teams Or Better

loading

Tier 5 – Looking to make the Play-In

First-quarter grade: C- | Ranked 23rd

Second-quarter grade: B-

The Bulls have done a complete in-season turnaround. It would be highlighted even more if the Jazz hadn’t done a more extreme version of it in the same season. This Bulls team is winning games and has been highly competitive most nights. It has to change the idea that this team should or will be broken up via the trade deadline. Oddly enough, they still can’t score, but their defense is solid.

Preseason prediction update: DeRozan gets traded before the deadline.

We still haven’t hit the deadline, and there are plenty of DeRozan trade possibilities. However, the Bulls’ recent success makes me feel like sure about this.

Offensive Rating

112.6 (23rd)

Defensive Rating

114.3 (15th)

Eastern

Tier 5 – Looking to make the Play-In

loading

First-quarter grade: A- | Ranked 18th

Second-quarter grade: B

We’ve seen some slippage and regression to the mean with the Rockets, and their offense is still pretty rough outside of what Alperen Şengün does. However, this Rockets team still shows incredible progress under Ime Udoka. This is a legitimately good defensive club, even with all that youth. That means more to me than seeing a young team that can score. The Rockets still have a great shot at a .500 season and a Play-In berth.

Preseason prediction update: Dillon Brooks reaches 20 technical fouls.

He’s currently at 11 technical fouls, but remember you start getting suspended at 16. I’m still believing he won’t mind losing the money to reach 20.

Offensive Rating

112.8 (22nd)

Defensive Rating

112.5 (7th tied)

Western

Tier 5 – Looking to make the Play-In

loading

First-quarter grade: B | Ranked eighth

Second-quarter grade: C

Ultimately, this team just isn’t very good and very deep for the type of role players it needs. And they might end up doing a two-for-one swap, making their depth even thinner than it currently is. The Lakers are solid defensively and challenged offensively, even with LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the mix. They need outside shooting, depth and a better constructed roster, but we’ve seen them fight through these issues before for playoff success.

Preseason prediction update: LeBron James plays 70 regular-season games, his most as a Laker.

LeBron has missed just four games this season, so I feel pretty good about this working out.

Offensive Rating

113.0 (21st)

Defensive Rating

113.9 (13th tied)

Western

Tier 5 – Looking to make the Play-In

loading

First-quarter grade: C+ | Ranked 21st

Second-quarter grade: C

After he couldn’t help morph the Hawks into a more consistent winner, we’re waiting to see if Dejounte Murray gets traded. Trae Young is pretty special, but we’re not seeing consistent results out of this squad. Jalen Johnson and Onyeka Okongwu are promising. They have talent. It just hasn’t translated to a winning production, and the Hawks need to figure out a new plan around Young.

Preseason prediction update: Trae Young becomes the fourth player to average at least 30 points and 10 assists.

Trae is currently averaging 26.9 points and 10.8 assists. To get to 30-10, he’d need to average around 33.3 points over the second half of the season. Doable.

Offensive Rating

116.4 (14th)

Defensive Rating

119.0 (26th)

Eastern

Tier 5 – Looking to make the Play-In

loading

First-quarter grade: D+ | Ranked 20th

Second-quarter grade: D

The Warriors have had a nightmare season on the court, and obviously they’re going through even more now with the tragic and sudden passing of Dejan Milojević. Golden State hasn’t helped Steph Curry out on the court much at all. We’re still seeing Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins struggle. Draymond Green is back and can tighten some things up. But Steph’s most reliable teammate so far has been rookie Brandin Podziemski. That’s not good.

Preseason prediction update: Curry plays at least 70 games and knocks down 350 3-pointers.

He’s only missed three games this season, so he’s on pace for 70-plus. However, he’s “only” on pace for 315 made 3-pointers. That’s how absurd his shooting ability is.

Offensive Rating

116.5 (12th tied)

Defensive Rating

117.7 (24th)

Western

Tier 5 – Looking to make the Play-In

loading

First-quarter grade: B+ | Ranked 19th

Second-quarter grade: C+

The Nets are trending in the wrong direction, which maybe shouldn’t be too surprising. They played a little above what should have been expected and were regressing to the mean. I still mostly like their season and their approach so far. Ideally, we’d see them invest in a point guard of the future — no offense to Spencer Dinwiddie. I’d love to see them go get someone like Tyus Jones, but maybe they still believe Ben Simmons will eventually play consistently for them.

Preseason prediction update: Ben Simmons hits 10 3-pointers for the season.

He has played six games. He has attempted zero 3-pointers. I feel good about this one.

Offensive Rating

115.0 (16th)

Defensive Rating

116.5 (18th tied)

Eastern

Tier 5 – Looking to make the Play-In

loading

Tier 6 – Not tanking yet but maybe someday

First-quarter grade: D | Ranked 24th

Second-quarter grade: D+

We saw a brief reminder of what this team is supposed to be in the nine games Ja Morant played before his season-ending shoulder surgery. The Grizzlies looked good and went 6-3 in those games. But injuries and Morant’s 25-game suspension have cut their season out from under them. It goes well beyond the Ja injury now, but this is just a throwaway season in which hopefully they can develop the young guys like Vince Williams and GG Jackson.

Preseason prediction update: Ja Morant shoots league average or better from 3-point range upon returning.

In nine games, he shot 27.5 percent from deep. League average is 36.6 percent — just missed it.

Offensive Rating

107.8 (29th)

Defensive Rating

113.4 (11th tied)

Western

Tier 6 – Not tanking yet but maybe someday

loading

First-quarter grade: C- | Ranked 22nd

Second-quarter grade: C-

I know the record isn’t there for them, but they still have a great shot at the Play-In Tournament, and I love the move they made for RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley. I like that the Raptors have picked a new direction and are shaping the roster around Scottie Barnes. There’s a lot of good here, but the wins just aren’t coming yet. Toronto’s 7-20 record against non-losing teams has been brutal.

Preseason prediction update: Pascal Siakam is traded before the deadline.

Hey, this turned out to be correct! I would not have guessed Indiana as the destination, but we got this one!

Offensive Rating

114.7 (18th)

Defensive Rating

116.5 (18th tied)

Eastern

Tier 6 – Not tanking yet but maybe someday

loading

Tier 7 – Incomprehensibly bad

First-quarter grade: C- | Ranked 26th

Second-quarter grade: D+

I actually like this Blazers squad quite a bit. Anfernee Simons is taking a leap, I believe in Scoot Henderson as a franchise point guard down the road (I am undeterred by his slow start), and I think Shaedon Sharpe has the opportunity to be overwhelming on offense. I don’t think Deandre Ayton is as much of a lost cause as some feel. And the veterans are all good to keep or moveable. They just need health to see how this team gains chemistry and continuity.

Preseason prediction update: Scoot Henderson leads all rookies in scoring.

Scoot is currently fifth in rookie scoring average and seventh in points scored, so I don’t think he’s leaping up to challenge Wemby here.

Offensive Rating

107.6 (30th)

Defensive Rating

117.2 (23rd)

Western

Tier 7 – Incomprehensibly bad

loading

First-quarter grade: D+ | Ranked 25th

Second-quarter grade: D-

Did you know the Pistons have three wins by at least 10 points this season? That’s right. Three of their four wins have come by double digits. The Hornets don’t have a single double-digit victory. They’re 0-21 in games decided by double digits. Yes, LaMelo Ball missed time, and so did Miles Bridges. But this team isn’t competitive most nights and has almost no direction. At least Mark Williams and Brandon Miller look solid.

Preseason prediction update: LaMelo Ball will knock down 250 3-pointers.

He’s only played in 20 games so far, so it tanked this prediction. If he had played 70 games this season, he was on pace for 243, so it would’ve been close.

Offensive Rating

109.6 (27th)

Defensive Rating

120.8 (30th)

Eastern

Tier 7 – Incomprehensibly bad

loading

First-quarter grade: F– | Ranked 29th

Second-quarter grade: F-

There is a slight uptick in the Spurs for the second quarter of the season (compared to the first), but that’s mostly because they beat the Hornets, Pistons and Wizards during this time. Gregg Popovich has turned himself into the substitute teacher just playing a video for the class. But in the process, Victor Wembanyama has been more than worthy of the hype.

Preseason prediction update: Wembanyama finishes top three in DPOY voting.

There’s not a chance this happens because of how bad the Spurs are, but he is leading the league in blocks. Manute Bol (1985-86) is the only rookie to do so.

Offensive Rating

109.3 (28th)

Defensive Rating

118.2 (25th)

Western

Tier 7 – Incomprehensibly bad

loading

First-quarter grade: F- | Ranked 28th

Second-quarter grade: F

I never thought the Wizards would be a good team this season, but I definitely thought they’d be competitive and fun. They are neither. The Wizards are 1-23 against teams that are .500 or better. They are tied with Detroit for the third-most double-digit losses. I’m begging the Wizards to find new homes for Tyus Jones and Kyle Kuzma.

Preseason prediction update: Jordan Poole leads the league in scoring.

Currently 65th in points per game and not even averaging half of what the scoring leader is. Not going to happen.

Offensive Rating

111.8 (25th)

Defensive Rating

120.7 (28th tied)

Eastern

Tier 7 – Incomprehensibly bad

loading

First-quarter grade: F– | Ranked 30th

Second-quarter grade: F-

The Pistons set the record for most consecutive losses in a season. They’ve won six basketball games since last year’s trade deadline. It took Monty Williams half the season to figure out Jaden Ivey should have the ball in his hands, Killian Hayes. And he didn’t even figure that out. He was told to do it. I maintain this Pistons squad is the worst team ever.

Preseason prediction update: Cunningham averages 20-7-7 on the season.

Unless he becomes Dennis Rodman in the second half of the season, he’s going to fall way short on the rebounds. He’s currently averaging 22.8 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.1 rebounds.

Offensive Rating

110.4 (26th)

Defensive Rating

120.7 (28th tied)

Eastern

Tier 7 – Incomprehensibly bad

loading

(Top photo: Alex Bierens de Haan / Getty Images)





Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top