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Power Rankings

NBA Power Rankings: Week 23

by Jonas Nader
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

1.) Warriors (58-14)  Previous rank: 1

 

The Warriors are riding a seven-game winning streak including wins over the Thunder, Mavericks, Kings and Grizzlies in Week 22. It sounds like they will be getting Kevin Durant back from his knee injury in the next couple weeks, but defending their 2.5 game lead over the Spurs in the West won’t be easy — they have a back-to-back set coming up on the road against the Rockets and Spurs on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

 

2.) Spurs (56-16) Previous rank: 2

 

The Spurs kept the pressure on the Warriors this week with three wins over the Wolves, Grizzlies and Knicks, meaning they trail Golden State by 2.5 games for the top overall seed. The Spurs have defeated every team in the NBA at least once this season, so they are the first team to beat every other team at least once in three consecutive seasons since Philadelphia's seven straight from 1974-81 (h/t @AirlessJordan). 

 

3.) Rockets (51-22)  Previous rank: 4

 

The Rockets took care of business in Week 22 with three wins over the Nuggets, Pelicans and Thunder, and while moving up in the standings isn’t realistic, they have all but secured the No. 3 seed in the West — they have a 7.0 game lead over the No. 4 seed (Utah). James Harden’s MVP case is rock solid, as he has produced 57.7 points per game through scoring and assists — he’s on pace to break Nate Archibald's NBA record of 56.8 (h/t @Jonathan_Feigen).

 

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4.) Celtics (48-26)  Previous rank: 5

 

The Celtics won all four of their games in Week 22 over the Wizards, Pacers, Suns and Heat, moving into a tie with the Cavaliers for first place in the East. Isaiah Thomas has become a superstar this season and now has 49 25-point games 2016-17, the most by a Boston player since Larry Bird had 57 in 1987-88 (h/t @Statmuse).

 

5.) Cavaliers (47-25) Previous rank: 3

 

The Cavaliers flopped in Week 22 and are now in a tie with the Celtics for the No. 1 seed in the East, losing two games to the Nuggets and Wizards with one win over the Hornets. Kyrie Irving has the longest active streak in the NBA with 21 straight games of 20+ points, but Cleveland’s defense is a disaster right now and they have allowed 120+ points five times in March. It’s cool though, as coach Tyronn Lue said he has a “secret” plan to fix their defensive problems before the postseason. Sureeeeee…

 

6.) Wizards (45-28)  Previous rank: 6

 

The Wizards have the third best record in the NBA since Christmas and are coming off a strong week with one loss to Boston and three wins over the Hawks, Nets and Cavaliers. They are 2.5 games behind both the Cavaliers and Celtics, and they have a 1.0 game lead over the No. 4 seed (Toronto).  John Wall showed us why he’s one of the best PGs in the NBA, racking up 37 points and 11 assists in the win over Cleveland — he is just the 7th player to reach those totals this season.

 

7.) Raptors (44-29) Previous rank: 9

 

The Raptors have won five straight games including wins over the Bulls, Heat and Mavericks in Week 22, clinching their 4th straight playoff berth (a franchise record). DeMar DeRozan is carrying Toronto with Kyle Lowry (wrist) on the shelf and has dropped two 40-point games this month, joining Vince Carter and Chris Bosh as the only other Raptors to accomplish that in the span of a month. Their defense is also ranked No. 1 in the NBA since the All-Star break, so the additions of P.J. Tucker and Serge Ibaka have been huge. 

 

8.) Thunder (41-31) Previous rank: 8

 

The Thunder beat the 76ers by 25 points for their only win of the week, dropping their other two games to the Rockets and Warriors. Russell Westbrook is up to 36 triple-doubles on the season, nearing the single-season record held by Oscar Robertson (41) with 10 games remaining. He also became the only player in the last 35 seasons to record a triple-double without missing a field goal or free throw in the win over Philly, finishing 6-of-6 from the field and 6-of-6 from the line.

 

9.) Jazz (44-29) Previous rank: 7

 

The Jazz are slumping with four losses out of their last five games. They dropped two games to the Pacers and Clippers in Week 22 with a win over the Knicks. It was quite a week for Rudy Gobert though, as he became just the 7th player in the last 30 seasons to score 35+ points and shoot at least 90 percent from the field in the win over NYK. He is also the first Jazz player with 900 points and 900 rebounds in a season since Karl Malone in 1993-94 (h/t @Statmuse).

 

10.) Clippers (44-31)  Previous rank: 10

 

The Clippers played five times in Week 22 with three wins over Knicks, Lakers and Jazz, but dropped two games to the Mavericks and Kings by a combined three points — The No. 3 seed is out of reach, but the Clippers can still claim the No. 4 seed as they only trail the Jazz by 1.0 game. DeAndre Jordan is on pace to shoot above 70 percent from the field in his third straight season, an incredible feat considering the only other player to do so even once is Wilt Chamberlain (h/t @Jkubatko).

 

11.) Blazers (35-38) Previous rank: 14

 

After opening their week with a loss to the Bucks, the Blazers responded with three straight wins over the Knicks, Wolves and Lakers, moving into a tie with the Nuggets for the No. 8 seed in the West. The Blazers are 11-3 in March which is the second best record in that span, and C.J. McCollum posted one of his best lines of the season when he dropped 32 points on 11-of-13 shooting vs. the Wolves — that’s the 3rd-most points by any NBA player this season on 13 FG attempts or fewer (Kevin Durant and George Hill each had 34).

 

12.) Bucks (37-36) Previous rank: 13

 

The Bucks are in a three-way tie with the Hawks and Pacers for the No. 5 seed in the East and grabbed three wins over the Blazers, Kings and Hawks before losing to the Bulls on Sunday. Giannis Antetokounmpo is having a season for the history books with averages of 23.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists on 52 percent shooting, numbers that only eight players in NBA history have reached. That doesn’t even include his 1.9 blocks and 1.7 steals… He’s on pace to become an all-time great in the NBA. 

 

13.) Grizzlies (40-33) Previous rank: 12

 

It was a tough week for Memphis as they dropped all three of their games to the Pelicans, Spurs and Warriors. They may have bigger problems though, as Marc Gasol wasn’t able to play on Sunday vs. the Warriors due to a left foot strain. There’s not much word on the severity, but the good news is this isn’t the same foot that sidelined Marc last season. 

 

14.) Heat (35-38)  Previous rank: 11

 

The Heat are still clinging onto the No. 8 seed in the East, but didn’t help themselves this week by losing two games to the Celtics and Raptors with one win over the Suns. They have a 0.5 game lead over the Bulls (No. 9) and a 1.0 game lead over the Pistons (No. 10), so their matchup with Detroit on Tuesday will arguably be the biggest game of their season. According to ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight, the Heat have a 62 percent chance of advancing to the playoffs.

 

15.) Nuggets (35-38) Previous rank: 16

 

The Nuggets have the highest offensive rating in the NBA since Nikola Jokic moved into the starting lineup on Dec. 15, but they are on the verge of losing the No. 8 seed — they finished 2-2 in Week 22 and are now tied with the Blazers. With both teams sitting at 35-38, Tuesday’s matchup between the Blazers and Nuggets, or Nikola Jokic vs. Jusuf Nurkic, will be the great battle of our time (Gandalf voice).

 

16.) Pacers (37-36) Previous rank: 15

 

The Pacers finished 2-2 in Week 22 with wins over the Jazz and 76ers with losses to the Celtics and Nuggets. “We’re talking about the playoffs, but we’ve got to get into the playoffs,” head coach Nate McMillan said. “We’ve got to win games and play ourselves into the playoffs. That spot is not guaranteed. We’ve got a lot of work to do.” The Pacers are tied for 5th in the East, but only 2.5 games separate them from the No. 9 seed (Bulls).

 

17.) Bulls (35-39)  Previous rank: 19

 

The Bulls split four games in Week 22 with wins over the Pistons and Bucks with losses to the Raptors and 76ers. They trail the No. 8 seed (Heat) by just 0.5 games and Jimmy Butler has been putting the team on his back — he has three games with 30+ points, 10+ assists and 5+ rebounds, the most by a Bulls player since Michael Jordan in 1995-96.

 

18.) Hawks (37-36) Previous rank: 17

 

The Hawks have lost seven games in a row and are 0-7 when Paul Millsap isn’t on the court this season — he has missed the last five games with a left knee issue, though an MRI came back clean. The bigger concern for the Hawks is that Adam Schefter is reporting that Millsap will likely opt out of his deal and test free agency this summer, meaning he could walk away for nothing just like Al Horford did the year before.

 

19.) Pelicans (31-42)  Previous rank: 21

 

The Pelicans dropped one game to the Rockets in Week 22, but did pick up two huge wins over the Grizzlies and Nuggets, keeping their playoff hopes alive in the process — they trail the Blazers and Nuggets by 4.0 games. Strangely enough, the Pelicans are 3-0 with DeMarcus Cousins out of the lineup and 5-8 with him. It’s a small sample size, though.

 

20.) Mavericks (31-41)  Previous rank: 20

 

The Mavericks dropped two games to the Warriors and Raptors in Week 22, but did keep their playoff hopes alive with an impressive win over the Clippers. They trail the Nuggets and Blazers by 3.5 games, but even if they don’t reach the postseason, at least they know they have three excellent building blocks in Seth Curry, Harrison Barnes and Nerlens Noel. Speaking of Barnes, he’s up to 36 games of 20+ points this season after posting 19 such games in his four previous seasons with Golden State.

 

21.) Hornets (33-40)  Previous rank: 23

 

The Hornets just won’t quit. After finishing 3-1 in Week 22 with wins over the Magic, Hawks and Suns, they are only 2.0 games behind the No. 8 seed in the East. Kemba Walker leads the NBA in 3-pointers made since the All-Star break with 63 treys, but Stephen Curry (62), Damian Lillard (58) and Klay Thompson (56) aren’t far behind.

 

22.) Pistons (34-39)  Previous rank: 18

 

The Pistons have quit on coach Stan Van Gundy and are flopping at the worst possible time. They dropped all three of their Week 22 games to the Nets, Bulls and Magic, losing to Orlando and Chicago by a combined 50 points. "We've hit a wall, fatigue issues," Van Gundy said. "The issues are confidence and everybody is really, really frustrated. We open games wanting to play a certain way, and when it doesn't go our way, the frustration sets in. With nine games remaining, the Pistons are 1.0 game behind the No. 8 seed (Miami).

 

23.) Wolves (28-44)  Previous rank: 22

 

The Wolves have lost seven out of their last eight games and are all but out of the playoff race barring a miracle. At least their fifth overall pick has finally shown up, as Kris Dunn is averaging 14.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 blocks, 2.5 steals and 1.0 3-pointers over his last two games.

 

24.) 76ers (27-46)  Previous rank: 24

 

The 76ers only won one of their four games in Week 22 against the Bulls, as Dario Saric went off for a career-high 32 points on 12-of-19 shooting. He’s the heavy favorite for the Rookie of the Year Award and is just one of four rookies to score 30+ points in a game this season.

 

25.) Magic (27-46)  Previous rank: 26

 

There aren’t many things to be excited about in Orlando these days, but Elfrid Payton has definitely been a bright spot. Per Elias, Payton (23) is the youngest player with four triple-doubles in one month since LeBron James had four in November 2007.

 

26.) Knicks (27-46) Previous rank: 25

 

Only the Nets, Suns and Lakers have more losses than the Knicks, but let’s focus on something positive. Willy Hernangomez had the game of his life vs. the Spurs, racking up 24 points with 13 rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block. He joins Kristaps Porzingis and Patrick Ewing as the only Knicks rookies with at least 24 and 13 in the last 30 years (h/t @TommyBeer). The Knicks aren’t a “super team,” but the future is bright thanks to Willy and KP. 

 

27.) Kings (28-45)  Previous rank: 29

 

The Kings were riding a four-game losing streak until they stole a win over the Clippers on their final possession. While the DeMarcus Cousins trade still looks lopsided in favor of the Pelicans, the Kings do have some promising building blocks in Skal Labissiere and Buddy Hield, and they will likely have two top-10 picks in this year’s loaded draft. 

 

28.) Suns (22-52) Previous rank: 27

 

The Suns have lost eight games in a row and are tied with the Lakers for the second most losses in the NBA, but Devin Booker gave Phoenix fans a taste of his potential when he dropped 70 points against the Celtics in Boston. He joins Elgin Baylor, David Robinson, Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant and David Thompson as the only other players to reach those totals.

 

29.) Lakers (21-52)  Previous rank: 28 

 

The Lakers need to be reallyyyyyyyy careful going forward, as they are in danger of losing their top-3 protected pick. If they can keep the second worst record in the NBA, that will give them a 55.7 percent shot at keeping their pick. However, if the Suns finish below them, the Lakers chances of keeping their pick goes down to 46.8 percent. The tank rolls on. 

 

30.) Nets (16-57) Previous rank: 30

 

The Nets have three more wins in March than they had in December, January, and February combined… I’ll just leave it at that.