NBA Power Rankings: Clippers and Kawhi surge, as Knicks make run in East


We’re about a month away from the 2024 NBA trade deadline (Feb. 8, 3 p.m. ET), and things are starting to heat up around the league.

The Minnesota Timberwolves remain at the top of a competitive Western Conference, but the Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets are hot on their tails.

The Los Angeles Lakers have taken a tumble in our rankings after an in-season tournament spree, and the Golden State Warriors will look to find their rhythm with the anticipated return of Draymond Green.

As trade deadline rumblings start to get louder throughout the month, we’ll keep you up to date with what’s happening around the league. Can the Boston Celtics be dethroned? Will the Milwaukee Bucks fix their issues? And which teams will fulfill their New Year’s resolutions? Let’s take a look at this week’s Power Rankings.

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 |

Jump to a team:


1. Boston Celtics
2023-24 record: 28-8

  • Previous ranking: 1

  • Next games: vs. MIN (Jan. 10), @ MIL (Jan. 11), vs. HOU (Jan. 13), @ TOR (Jan. 15)

Even after a couple of close losses to the Thunder and Pacers in the past two weeks, Boston still ranks second in the league in offense and defense and has a healthy lead in net rating at plus-10.4 points per 100 possessions. All the while, the Celtics have had a rotating cast of characters in and out of the lineup because of injuries. The next week sees Boston host its counterparts atop the West in the Timberwolves, as well as the return of former coach Ime Udoka with the Rockets on Saturday. — Bontemps



The top Celtics plays of the week

Jaylen Brown’s high-flying jams highlight the best plays from the Celtics over the past week.

2. Denver Nuggets
2023-24 record: 26-12

  • Previous ranking: 5

  • Next games: @ UTAH (Jan. 10), vs. NO (Jan. 12), vs. IND (Jan. 14), @ PHI (Jan. 16)

When Nikola Jokic does something eye-popping, it’s typically some statistical feat that hasn’t been done since Wilt Chamberlain’s playing days. On Sunday, Jokic took just three shots and scored only four points but had 16 assists and five blocks, becoming just the third player with at least 15 assists and five blocks in a game since blocks became an official stat in 1973-74, joining Jamaal Tinsley and Jalen Rose. Denver has won 12 of its past 15 games but will play on the road in six of its next eight, including a five-game East Coast swing. The Nuggets’ record is just 11-8 away from Denver. — Youngmisuk

3. Minnesota Timberwolves
2023-24 record: 26-10

The Timberwolves remain atop the West with the second-best record in the NBA, but their lead over the Thunder and Nuggets has dwindled to one game. The Wolves dropped three of their past five games heading into a back-to-back against a pair of Eastern Conference contenders. After defeating the Magic on Tuesday night, they’ll have a showdown with the Celtics on Wednesday — a matchup between two teams with the best records in each conference. — Collier



Top plays of the week from the Timberwolves

Revisit the top plays this past week from Anthony Edwards, Rudy Gobert and the Wolves.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder
2023-24 record: 24-11

  • Previous ranking: 4

  • Next games: @ MIA (Jan. 10), vs. POR (Jan. 11), vs. ORL (Jan. 13), @ LAL (Jan. 15)

Chet Holmgren had his third 30-point performance of the season in Monday’s win over the Wizards, and he has shot better than 60% from the floor in all of them. Holmgren has surprised many scouts and coaches around the league by instantly establishing himself as an efficient and effective scoring complement to MVP candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Holmgren is averaging 17.8 points while shooting 55.1% from the floor and 40.9% from 3-point range. No rookie has ever averaged that many points with an effective field goal percentage as high as Holmgren’s (62.4). — MacMahon



The Thunder’s best plays of the week

Look back at the Oklahoma City Thunder’s best plays of this past week.

5. Milwaukee Bucks
2023-24 record: 25-12

Milwaukee has dropped four of its past five games, avoiding a losing streak with a narrow victory over San Antonio last week. The Bucks’ defense ranks 25th since the start of the month, causing two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to blast the team’s effort on that end after a loss to the Rockets over the weekend. The next three games will be a test, as the Bucks host Boston, Golden State and Sacramento. — Collier

6. LA Clippers

2023-24 record: 23-13

  • Previous ranking: 7

  • Next games: vs. TOR (Jan. 10), @ MEM (Jan. 12), @ MIN (Jan. 14), vs. OKC (Jan. 16)

The Clippers lost for only the third time since the end of November with an ugly 106-103 defeat to the Lakers. It was a rare outing in which Kawhi Leonard and James Harden struggled, shooting 10-for-30 combined. But it served as a wake-up call: Ty Lue’s team crushed the Suns on Monday, handling them for the second time in five days. Part of the Clippers’ surge has been fueled by the impressive play of center Ivica Zubac, who has benefited from Harden’s passing. In his past six games, Zubac has had two colossal performances: 22 points and 19 rebounds in the loss to the Lakers, and 15 points and 20 rebounds in a win over Memphis on Dec. 29. — Youngmisuk



The Clippers’ best plays of the week

Ivica Zubac’s poster jam is among the Clippers’ top plays of the past week.

7. Philadelphia 76ers
2023-24 record: 23-12

  • Previous ranking: 6

  • Next games: @ ATL (Jan. 10), vs. SAC (Jan. 12), vs. HOU (Jan. 15), vs. DEN (Jan. 16)

It has been an ugly week for Philadelphia, which had a pair of bad losses to New York and Utah last weekend. To make matters worse, reigning MVP Joel Embiid, after missing four games because of a sprained ankle, now is going to miss at least two more, including Wednesday’s game in Atlanta, because of knee swelling. — Bontemps

8. Dallas Mavericks
2023-24 record: 22-16

Forward Derrick Jones Jr. has provided major value on a veterans minimum deal, earning a starting role and the respect of his coaches and teammates by typically taking the most difficult defensive assignment. “If you look at his build, there’s not a lot of muscle, but he loves the competition,” coach Jason Kidd said. “He loves to compete, he loves to win. He wants to be a part of something that is about the team, and so you couldn’t ask for a better role player that plays at the highest level for us.” Jones is averaging a career-best 10.3 points, benefitting from the attention defenses pay to Luka Doncic, who has assisted on 49 of Jones’ 134 field goals. — MacMahon

9. Sacramento Kings
2023-24 record: 21-14

  • Previous ranking: 8

  • Next games: @ CHA (Jan. 10), @ PHI (Jan. 12), @ MIL (Jan. 14), @ PHX (Jan. 16)

The Kings have suffered three bad losses since Christmas: two against losing teams (the 10-25 Blazers and 8-25 Hornets), in addition to a blowout vs. the Pelicans. Not all is lost in Sacramento, but at this point, it’s clear the Kings haven’t taken as big a leap as they hoped they would after last season’s magic. What’s most concerning? Their offense ranks 14th, which is not great for a team that has always struggled with … defense (currently ranked 20th). — Andrews

10. Miami Heat
2023-24 record: 21-15

  • Previous ranking: 9

  • Next games: vs. OKC (Jan. 10), vs. ORL (Jan. 12), vs. CHA (Jan. 14), @ BKN (Jan. 15)

The Heat somehow don’t have a losing record when Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler or Tyler Herro have been out this season, despite each of them missing at least 10 games. That’s in part because of Miami’s roster depth. Miami has eight players averaging at least 10 points, and a ninth (Kyle Lowry) at 9.2 points. — Lopez

11. New Orleans Pelicans
2023-24 record: 22-15

  • Previous ranking: 12

  • Next games: @ GS (Jan. 10), @ DEN (Jan. 12), @ DAL (Jan. 13), @ DAL (Jan. 15)

After a rough start to the season, the Pelicans’ star trio of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum is starting to play some of its best basketball. Last season, in just 172 minutes on the floor together (over 10 games), the three were plus-62 with a plus-16.5 net rating. In 309 minutes (18 games) this season, the trio is only a plus-9 with a net rating at minus-1.0. However, in the past five games playing together, they have a 135.9 offensive rating and a plus-15.4 net rating in 76 minutes. As that group goes, so go the Pelicans. — Lopez

12. New York Knicks
2023-24 record: 22-15

After a blowout win over the Blazers on Tuesday night, New York is now 5-0 since the OG Anunoby trade, with the NBA’s best defense and net rating over that span and the new forward fitting perfectly in coach Tom Thibodeau’s system. But while they have already racked up impressive wins over the Timberwolves and 76ers with Anunoby in the fold, the new-look Knicks have a busy stretch ahead: at Dallas on Thursday, at Memphis on Saturday and then home vs. the Magic and Rockets next week. — Bontemps

13. Indiana Pacers
2023-24 record: 21-15

  • Previous ranking: 13

  • Next games: vs. WAS (Jan. 10), @ ATL (Jan. 12), @ DEN (Jan. 14), @ UTA (Jan. 15)

The Pacers are feeling some relief after an MRI revealed guard Tyrese Haliburton avoided a serious injury Monday night. However, he will miss at least two weeks because of a Grade 1 left hamstring strain, putting a damper on what had been an impressive start to 2024 for the Pacers. Indiana, and its historically dynamic offense, is 4-1 this month with a pair of wins over Milwaukee and a win over Boston. The Pacers are the only team with multiple wins over the Bucks and Celtics this season. — Collier

14. Orlando Magic
2023-24 record: 21-16

When teammate Franz Wagner went down against the Kings on Jan. 3, Paolo Banchero stepped up in a big way with a career-high 43 points. He followed that up with the first triple-double of his career (32 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds) in a win over the Nuggets in Denver, and he’s averaging 34.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 6.5 assists over his past five games. — Lopez

15. Cleveland Cavaliers
2023-24 record: 21-15

It was a good week on the court for Cleveland — winning three in a row and going 7-3 over its past 10 games — but also a bittersweet one. Veteran point guard Ricky Rubio, who played parts of the past two seasons with the Cavs, retired from the NBA at age 33. A favorite in the organization for his spirit and generous attitude, Rubio made a “special mention to Cleveland” in his retirement letter for the Cavs’ understanding as he stepped away from the game to focus on his mental health. — McMenamin

16. Phoenix Suns
2023-24 record: 19-18

Monday’s 27-point loss to the Clippers makes one wonder about the state of a Suns team that had championship aspirations. Granted, it was the second night of a back-to-back for Phoenix, and the Clippers were looking to bounce back from a loss to the Lakers, but the Suns were disappointing. Suns coach Frank Vogel said the Clips are a “complete team.” Right now, at 19-18 and ninth in the West, giving the Suns a grade of incomplete would be generous. — McMenamin

17. Houston Rockets
2023-24 record: 18-17

  • Previous ranking: 18

  • Next games: @ CHI (Jan. 10), @ DET (Jan. 12), @ BOS (Jan. 13), @ PHI (Jan. 15)

Injuries to Dillon Brooks (oblique) and Tari Eason (lower leg) have created an opportunity for rookie forward Cam Whitmore. The 19-year-old has scored 54 points and shot 58.3% from the floor and 53.8% on 3s in 69 minutes over the past five games, a stretch in which the Rockets went 3-2. It’s the first time that Whitmore, who played in only five of the Rockets’ first 25 games, has appeared in five straight NBA games. The No. 20 overall pick displayed his scoring ability by averaging 27.0 points with a 62.4 true shooting percentage in 13 G League games. — MacMahon

18. Los Angeles Lakers
2023-24 record: 19-19

So much for the Lakers needing a little home cooking to turn things around after a long December. They opened up a home-heavy January schedule with two alarming losses: one to the Heat, in which the Lakers shot 4-for-30 from 3 and committed 22 turnovers, and another to the Grizzlies, in which L.A. was outscored by 14 in the fourth quarter. The Lakers turned it around with a win Sunday over the Clippers and another Tuesday against the Raptors, but these next couple of weeks will be crucial in determining what kinds of moves the team should pursue at the deadline. — McMenamin

19. Golden State Warriors
2023-24 record: 17-19

  • Previous ranking: 19

  • Next games: vs. NO (Jan. 10), @ CHI (Jan. 12), @ MIL (Jan. 13), @ MEM (Jan. 15)

The Warriors welcomed Draymond Green back to their facility over the weekend, but he’s still about a week away from returning to the court. And at this point, it’s highly unlikely Green will solve all of Golden State’s problems — the team has a losing record with and without him. The Warriors have struggled all season on the defensive end (they rank 21st), and the hope is Green’s return makes an impact there. But with no lineup combinations working at all, it’s unclear what needs to change for the Warriors to find a rhythm and sustain it. — Andrews

20. Utah Jazz
2023-24 record: 18-20

  • Previous ranking: 22

  • Next games: vs. DEN (Jan. 10), vs. TOR (Jan. 12), vs. LAL (Jan. 13), vs. IND (Jan. 15)

Utah is one of the hottest teams in the league. The Jazz are 11-4 over their past 15 games, with only the Celtics, Nuggets and Clippers recording more wins in that span. Utah has won seven of nine games since 2021 Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson returned from a hamstring injury to a reserve role. The combination of Clarkson and center Walker Kessler, who is also coming off the bench, has been especially effective. The Jazz have outscored opponents by 79 points in their 155 minutes on the court together over the past nine games. — MacMahon

21. Chicago Bulls
2023-24 record: 17-21

  • Previous ranking: 21

  • Next games: vs. HOU (Jan. 10), vs. GS (Jan. 12), @ SA (Jan. 13), @ CLE (Jan. 15)

Zach LaVine has eased his way back into the lineup after missing 17 games because of a foot injury. LaVine has come off the bench in his first two games back, averaging 12.0 points, 4.5 assists, four rebounds and just 9.5 field goal attempts. After winning two straight (both against the Hornets), the Bulls have moved up to ninth in the Eastern Conference, with Lavine providing some much-needed momentum as they prepare to host the Rockets and Warriors before traveling to San Antonio and Cleveland. — Collier

22. Toronto Raptors
2023-24 record: 15-22

While there has been plenty of focus on the positive impact of OG Anunoby in New York, don’t look past how well Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett are fitting with Toronto early on. Barrett had a huge 36-point outing in a blowout win Sunday over the Warriors, and both players have instantly slotted into Toronto’s backcourt seemingly as the long-term starters alongside rising star forward Scottie Barnes. — Bontemps

23. Brooklyn Nets
2023-24 record: 16-21

It has been a disastrous stretch for the Nets since they essentially sat eight players in a loss to Milwaukee in late December. Their loss to the Trail Blazers in OT on Sunday was their sixth in seven games, leaving the Nets with a very long flight to Paris for Thursday’s game against the Cavaliers. Over that seven-game stretch, the only teams with a worse net rating are the Trail Blazers and Wizards. — Bontemps

24. Atlanta Hawks
2023-24 record: 14-21

  • Previous ranking: 23

  • Next games: vs. PHI (Jan. 10), vs. IND (Jan. 12), vs. WAS (Jan. 13), vs. SA (Jan. 15)

The Hawks will try to avoid history Friday night when they host the Pacers. In two matchups with Indiana this season, Atlanta has given up 157 points and 150 points, becoming the first team to allow an opponent to score at least 150 points twice in the same season since the 1990-91 Nuggets and Suns. Atlanta will look to avoid hitting that mark a third time in its two remaining matchups against Indiana — Friday in Atlanta and on the road in the April 14 regular-season finale. — Lopez

25. Memphis Grizzlies
2023-24 record: 14-23

Ja Morant suffering a labral tear in his right shoulder that requires season-ending surgery was a devastating blow to the Grizzlies, who rank last in the league in offense primarily because their superstar served a 25-game suspension to begin the season. Memphis has averaged just 106.2 points in the 27 games Morant has missed entering Tuesday night, winning only seven of those. The Grizzlies were 6-3 with Morant in the lineup and averaged 112.7 points in those games. — MacMahon

26. Portland Trail Blazers
2023-24 record: 10-26

After missing five games because of an adductor injury, Shaedon Sharpe is back, but he has been relegated to the bench so far. Scoot Henderson, averaging 12.8 points, 6.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds and shooting 41.2% from 3 since being reinserted into the starting lineup, has remained there since Sharpe’s return. Are the Blazers easing Sharpe back, or is this a permanent change? Either way, getting Sharpe back is a plus for Portland. — Andrews

27. Charlotte Hornets
2023-24 record: 8-26

The Hornets could finally get some much-needed good news on the injury front. LaMelo Ball, out since Nov. 26 because of an ankle injury, was a full participant in practice and did some 5-on-5 scrimmaging Sunday, according to the Charlotte Observer. The Hornets, who are also without wing Gordon Hayward and center Mark Williams, are 3-16 without Ball. — Youngmisuk

28. San Antonio Spurs
2023-24 record: 5-30

  • Previous ranking: 28

  • Next games: @ DET (Jan. 10), vs. CHA (Jan. 12), vs. CHI (Jan. 13), @ ATL (Jan. 15)

Despite being limited to 24-26 minutes per game because of the aftereffects of his right ankle sprain, rookie Victor Wembanyama is thriving for San Antonio. In his past five games, the No. 1 overall pick has 122 points in 125 minutes, or 0.98 points per minute. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only rookies to average more points per minute, with a minimum of 100 minutes played, over a five-game span are Bob Pettit (1954-55) and Calvin Murphy (1970-71). Even in the midst of a losing season, Wembanyama is showing how special he can be. — Lopez

29. Washington Wizards
2023-24 record: 6-30

Washington has dropped five straight and eight of its past nine games. And now the Wizards hit the road for three of their next four, at Indiana, Atlanta and New York. A glimmer of … something: Forward Deni Avdija has started to play better, scoring in double figures in six of his past seven outings. The 2020 No. 9 overall pick is averaging 15.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 54.6% shooting while logging three double-doubles during that span. –Youngmisuk

30. Detroit Pistons
2023-24 record: 3-34

Since snapping their historic 28-game losing streak, the Pistons have dropped five in a row. Their schedule lightens up this week with games against the Spurs and Wizards, but the Pistons will be playing without 2021 No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham, who will be sidelined at least a week because of a left knee strain. — Collier

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