NBA Power Rankings: James Harden has entered the chat, and the Wolves make a big leap


A lot has happened in the first three weeks of the 2023-24 NBA season.

The Denver Nuggets and the Boston Celtics remain at their respective first and second spots in the rankings, dominating on both ends of the court — and that includes Nikola Jokic, who notched his 108th triple-double in Denver’s win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday.

The Celtics and Nuggets are among the four teams left in the league with only one loss. The others are the Dallas Mavericks and the Philadelphia 76ers, both of whom made significant jumps in the rank this week, with the Sixers doing so despite the drama surrounding their recent blockbuster trade of James Harden.

Speaking of Harden, the 10-time All-Star made his long-awaited season debut with the LA Clippers on Monday. Although they didn’t move in the rankings this week, the Clips will be a team to watch as they work to mesh together their stars.

The Minnesota Timberwolves made a surprising climb in this week’s ranking, topping off a three-game winning streak by felling the Celtics in overtime on Monday. But the Western Conference remains in flux, as both the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers dropped considerably in the latest 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 now and which teams are looking most like title contenders.

Previous rankings: Post-Finals | Nov. 1 |

Jump to a team:

1. Denver Nuggets
2023-24 record: 7-1

The defending champs are off to a dominant 7-1 start, but the Nuggets now face an extended period of time without Jamal Murray, who is out due to a right hamstring strain. Without Murray on Monday, Nikola Jokic continued his early MVP start with a 35-point, 14-rebound, 12-assist triple-double in Denver’s 18-point win over New Orleans. Other Nuggets stepped up in Murray’s absence. Michael Porter Jr. posted 22 points and nine rebounds, while rookie Julian Strawther, who had an impressive camp, hit five 3s and scored 21 points off the bench. — Ohm Youngmisuk

2. Boston Celtics
2023-24 record: 5-1

  • Previous ranking: 2

  • Next games: @ PHI (Nov. 8), vs. BK (Nov. 10), vs. TOR (Nov. 11), vs. NY (Nov. 13)

The Celtics’ overtime loss to Minnesota on Monday was their first defeat of the season. Derrick White missed a second straight game for personal reasons. But the C’s continue to lead the league in net rating, and they have the second-best offense and fourth-best defense while still figuring out how to play together after the trade for Jrue Holiday. There’s a lot to be excited about in Boston. — Tim Bontemps

3. Philadelphia 76ers
2023-24 record: 5-1

  • Previous ranking: 6

  • Next games: vs. BOS (Nov. 8), @ DET (Nov. 10), vs. IND (Nov. 12), vs. IND (Nov. 14)

Arguably no team has been more impressive than Philadelphia to begin the campaign, particularly considering the context of everything swirling around the franchise. The 76ers are second in the NBA in net rating and are one of two teams (along with Boston) in the top five in both offense and defense so far. We’ll get a much better sense of where Philly sits, however, after they face Boston twice in the next eight days. — Bontemps

4. Golden State Warriors
2023-24 record: 6-2

  • Previous ranking: 5

  • Next games: @ DEN (Nov. 8), vs. CLE (Nov. 11), vs. MIN (Nov. 12), vs. MIN (Nov. 14)

The Warriors on Sunday were handed their first loss since opening night against the Cavaliers. But unlike in the past, when their biggest issue was turnovers, their challenge now is finishing in the paint, where they rank 10th with 47.8 points per game. Whether that’s because of their lack of size — center Kevon Looney is playing 22.9 minutes per game — they have made clear they’re not changing their strategy anytime soon. And it’s not getting any easier — or smaller — for the Dubs: They play Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets on Wednesday; Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen and the Cavs on Saturday; and Rudy Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns and the Wolves on Sunday and Tuesday. — Kendra Andrews

5. Dallas Mavericks
2023-24 record: 6-1

  • Previous ranking: 7

  • Next games: vs. TOR (Nov. 8), vs. LAC (Nov. 10), @ NO (Nov. 12), @ NO (Nov. 14)

Grant Williams is thriving in his first opportunity to be a full-time starter after arriving in Dallas in a sign-and-trade deal. Luka Doncic has credited Williams’ defensive commitment and communication for being key to the Mavs’ outstanding start. Williams also is averaging a career-best 15.1 points per game and shooting 54.3% from 3-point range, capitalizing on open looks created by Doncic and Kyrie Irving. The Mavs are 6-1, but they’ve also played the sixth-easiest schedule so far. That changes this week, as the team faces staunch defenses in its next two matchups: the Raptors (No. 5) and Clippers (No. 8). — Tim MacMahon

6. Minnesota Timberwolves
2023-24 record: 4-2

  • Previous ranking: 20

  • Next games: vs. NO (Nov. 8), @ SA (Nov. 10), @ GS (Nov. 12), @ GS (Nov. 14)

Anthony Edwards put up 38 points, including eight in overtime, as the Timberwolves handed the Celtics their first loss. Minnesota has won three straight, owns the league’s best defense and is 4-0 at home for the first time since 2002-03. Edwards is playing like a star, averaging 28.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists on 52% shooting. Owners of the NBA’s toughest schedule so far, the Wolves round out this road trip against the Pelicans on Wednesday. — Jamal Collier

7. Milwaukee Bucks
2023-24 record: 4-2

  • Previous ranking: 3

  • Next games: vs. DET (Nov. 8), @ IND (Nov. 9), @ ORL (Nov. 11), vs. CHI (Nov. 13)

The Bucks knew their defense would take a hit after they traded away Jrue Holiday, but they could not have imagined the drop-off would be this steep. Milwaukee ranks 24th in defense, giving up individual 40-point games to New York’s Jalen Brunson and Brooklyn’s Cam Thomas over the past few days, even though the Bucks won both contests. They will need drastic improvement on that end for a successful pursuit of a championship. There’s time, and the next week provides ample opportunity, as just one of their four opponents — the Pacers (No. 2) — rank in the top half of the NBA in offense. — Collier

8. LA Clippers
2023-24 record: 3-3

  • Previous ranking: 8

  • Next games:@ BK (Nov. 8), @ DAL (Nov. 10), vs. MEM (Nov. 12), @ Den (Nov. 14)

The Clippers’ James Harden era got off to an understandably sloppy start on Monday night, with 22 turnovers, 18 offensive rebounds surrendered and poor second-half defense in a 14-point loss to the Knicks. Despite all that, Ty Lue & Co. came away encouraged by Harden’s first game after he started with Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Lue experimented with different lineups, including using Harden to run the second unit. But center Mason Plumlee was carried off the floor due to a left MCL sprain, and with the big man likely to miss time, Lue will need a replacement, one who preferably can stretch the floor. Still, Harden sees “unlimited possibilities” with his new team. LA will have its next chance Wednesday night in Brooklyn. — Youngmisuk

9. Atlanta Hawks
2023-24 record: 4-3

The Hawks are third in the NBA in scoring at 122.0 points per game and have done so with a balanced effort throughout their roster. As a result, Atlanta sports the league’s No. 5-ranked offense behind eight players averaging double figures. But it will be tested in the next week, with the Hawks battling the Magic’s No. 3-ranked defense and the Knicks’ second-ranked unit. — Andrew Lopez

10. Oklahoma City Thunder
2023-24 record: 4-3

  • Previous ranking: 10

  • Next games: vs. CLE (Nov. 8), @ SAC (Nov. 10), @ PHX (Nov. 12), vs. SA (Nov.14)

Defensive stopper Luguentz Dort will always be the Thunder’s fifth offensive option, but his development as a 3-point threat is critical to the Thunder’s spacing on that end of the floor. That makes his start especially encouraging — and especially important to OKC’s 11th-ranked offense. Dort, a 33.2% career 3-point shooter entering the season, is 18-of-35 (51.4%) from long range through seven games, which has been key to the Thunder to staying above .500 so far. — MacMahon

11. New Orleans Pelicans
2023-24 record: 4-3

  • Previous ranking: 12

  • Next games: @ MIN (Nov. 8), @ HOU (Nov. 10), vs. DAL (Nov. 12), vs. DAL (Nov. 14)

Even though they’ve dealt with injuries early on, the Pelicans have been historically bad when it matters most. Through seven games, the team has been outscored by a total of 95 points after halftime, including by at least 25 points in three games, something that only happened to them once a season ago. According to ESPN Stats and Information research, that minus-95 mark is the worst second-half differential in NBA history through a team’s first seven games. With CJ McCollum (collapse in right lung) out indefinitely, the Pelicans will look toward Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson to step up — and particularly so during those second frames. — Lopez

12. Phoenix Suns
2023-24 record: 3-4

It’s hard to read into anything the Suns are doing so far in regard to Devin Booker (foot) and Bradley Beal (back) barely being on the court. But at 35 years old, All-Star Kevin Durant is barely missing a beat, averaging 29.9 points on 52.1% shooting despite teams constantly sending double-teams his way. The Suns will look to get to .500 as they complete their road trip against the Bulls. — Dave McMenamin

13. Cleveland Cavaliers
2023-24 record: 3-4

It was a very good week for the Cavaliers, taking out the last two teams to oust them from the playoffs in the Knicks on Wednesday and the Warriors on Sunday. Back to full strength after hamstring injuries sidelined Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell in the early going, the Cavs will play Oklahoma City, Golden State, Sacramento and Portland over the next week, giving their 26th-ranked offense a chance to jell. — McMenamin

14. New York Knicks
2023-24 record: 3-4

Julius Randle’s rough start has shown no signs of improving. Even after an improved performance (27 points on 9-for-21 shooting) in Monday’s win over the Clippers, he is shooting a staggering 29.7% on more than 16 shots per game. That alone is a big reason New York enters Wednesday’s action against San Antonio sitting 28th in the NBA in offense. The Knicks face the Spurs (No. 28-ranked defense) and Hornets (No. 26) next, before heading out on a five-game trip later this month. — Bontemps

15. Indiana Pacers
2023-24 record: 4-3

  • Previous ranking: 14

  • Next games: vs. UTAH (Nov. 8), vs. MIL (Nov. 9), @ PHI (Nov. 12), @ PHI (Nov. 14)

Fifth-year guard Tyrese Haliburton continues to lead the offense. The Pacers are second in the league in offense and first in assists (31.9) and points (124.9) per game while also ranking in the top five in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage. They put up 152 points in a win Monday night against San Antonio, matching their highest point total in franchise history. They’ll look to continue their offensive dominance, as they next face off against the Jazz and Bucks, both of whom land in the bottom half of the league in defensive efficiency. — Collier

16. Los Angeles Lakers
2023-24 record: 3-4

  • Previous ranking: 11

  • Next games: @ HOU (Nov. 8), @ PHX (Nov. 10), vs. POR (Nov. 12), vs. MEM (Nov. 14)

The latest injuries plaguing the Lakers’ roster early on — to Jaxson Hayes (ankle) and Anthony Davis (hip) — added to an injury pile that already has claimed 23 games combined between Jarred Vanderbilt, Jalen Hood-Schifino, Gabe Vincent, Rui Hachimura and Taurean Prince. L.A. is relying heavily on LeBron James once again and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, as the Lakers are plus-53 with James on the court and minus-77 when he’s off it. — McMenamin

17. Orlando Magic
2023-24 record: 4-3

After a slow start by his standards, 2022 No. 1 overall draft pick Paolo Banchero has improved his performance over the past three outings. Banchero, who had 20 points or more in his first six career games a season ago, didn’t crack that mark for the first four games this campaign; he responded by averaging 25.7 points against the Jazz, Lakers and Mavs, a 2-1 stretch for the Magic. Going forward, however, Orlando will need more frontcourt production after losing Wendell Carter Jr. to a broken finger on his left hand. — Lopez

18. Miami Heat
2023-24 record: 3-4

  • Previous ranking: 18

  • Next games: @ MEM (Nov. 8), @ ATL (Nov. 11), @ SA (Nov. 12), @ CHA (Nov. 14)

In Monday’s win over the Lakers, Heat center Bam Adebayo finished with 22 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists. It was the first 20-20-10 game in Heat history and the sixth triple-double of Adebayo’s career. The Heat, off to a rickety start at 3-4, are on a two-game winning streak and have a stretch of home games to look forward to, against Memphis, Atlanta, San Antonio and Charlotte. — Lopez

19. Brooklyn Nets
2023-24 record: 3-4

  • Previous ranking: 22

  • Next games: vs. LAC (Nov. 8), @ BOS (Nov. 10), vs. WAS (Nov. 12), vs. ORL (Nov. 14)

The Nets have played only one game with starting center Nic Claxton against a very difficult schedule so far and are sitting at 3-4. With Claxton on the court, this group has a chance to be a contender for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. One reason this team has been able to stay afloat is the scoring prowess of Cam Thomas, who threw in 45 against Milwaukee Monday night and is averaging over 28 points on 48% shooting. — Bontemps

20. Sacramento Kings
2023-24 record: 2-4

Don’t panic, Kings fans. It might feel like a gut punch to start the season with a 2-3 record and lose your best player in De’Aaron Fox (ankle), but it’s still early. Significant work remains, however. The team ranks 20th in offense and 22nd in defense, and it is 23rd in net rating (minus-5.1) after ending last season at No. 8. The Kings will look to get back on track with their next three games at home, before embarking on a grueling trip through the West with six games in 10 nights. — Andrews

21. San Antonio Spurs
2023-24 record: 3-4

  • Previous ranking: 24

  • Next games: @ NY (Nov. 8), vs. MIN (Nov. 10), vs. MIA (Nov. 12), @ OKC (Nov. 14)

Though Victor Wembanyama is redefining the term “prospect” on an almost nightly basis, the Spurs are not yet seeing it translate to consistent wins. A good sign, though? After a rough start with 19 turnovers in his first four games, Wembanyama is protecting the ball more, with just six turnovers in his past three outings. After facing the Knicks in New York on Wednesday, the Spurs will return to the comfort of the Frost Bank Center for six of their next seven contests. — Lopez

22. Houston Rockets
2023-24 record: 3-3

Dillon Brooks’ hot shooting for Canada during the World Cup has carried over to his start with the Rockets. Brooks, whose jumper and shot selection were considered liabilities in Memphis, is averaging 16.3 points per game on 59.3% shooting (56.5% from 3-point range). He has been a major factor in the starting lineup’s net rating of plus-16.8 — and Houston’s surprising 3-3 record. The Rockets will look to build on their three-game winning streak and push above .500, but their next matchups — against the Lakers, Pelicans, and Nuggets — might prove to be difficult ones. — MacMahon

23. Toronto Raptors
2023-24 record: 3-4

After an up-and-down sophomore year in the league, to put it mildly, Scottie Barnes has been tremendous over the opening weeks of this season, including registering a stellar 30-point, 11-rebound, six-assist performance on Sunday in an overtime win versus Victor Wembanyama and the Spurs. There are a lot of questions to be answered about where the Raptors are headed, but if Barnes continues to play like this, the future looks a lot clearer. — Bontemps

24. Chicago Bulls
2023-24 record: 3-5

The Bulls snapped a three-game losing streak on Monday night against Utah with one of their best shooting performances so far, including a 51% field goal rate and going 52.9% (18-of-34) from 3. It was a step in the right direction. The Bulls, with their No. 17 offense, rank near the bottom of the league in 3-pointers attempted (25th) and made (26th), giving them an uphill battle to outscore opponents on a nightly basis. — Collier

25. Portland Trail Blazers
2023-24 record: 3-4

The Trail Blazers nearly found themselves on a four-game winning streak, as they stayed with the Grizzlies until very late in a 112-100 loss on Sunday. As Portland, owners of the NBA’s worst offense, prepares to head out on a three-game trip, its injuries are stacking up, with Scoot Henderson missing two games due to an ankle sprain and Robert Williams III needing a knee operation, sidelining him indefinitely. The Blazers hope, as of right now, is to continue to build on their young core, starting Wednesday night in Sacramento. — Andrews

26. Utah Jazz
2023-24 record: 2-6

Jordan Clarkson, who averaged a career-high 20.8 points per game last season, perhaps personifies Utah’s 2-6 start this campaign. He is averaging just 13.3 points while shooting only 34.5% from the floor. His qualified shot quality of 46.6 ranks sixth lowest in the league among players with at least 100 attempts, according to Second Spectrum data. Still, the Jazz’s average offense — ranked 15th — doesn’t match their defense, which ranks 29th. They’ll look to get on track Wednesday in Indianapolis, before flying to Memphis to play Friday night. — MacMahon

27. Charlotte Hornets
2023-24 record: 2-4

  • Previous ranking: 26

  • Next games: vs. WAS (Nov. 8), @ WAS (Nov. 10), @ NY (Nov. 12), vs. MIA (Nov. 14)

The Hornets have lost four of five games, and Terry Rozier is now out for at least the next two games with a groin injury. Fortunately for the Hornets, those next two are against Washington, which has decided to treat defense as optional this season. LaMelo Ball has struggled with his shot, but he had his best game of the season with 30 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds in Sunday’s loss to Dallas. Without Rozier, Charlotte’s leading scorer, the Hornets will need more from P.J. Washington and Gordon Hayward, who is off to a solid start by averaging 17.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists. And after those Wizards games? Knicks, Heat, Bucks, Knicks, Celtics. — Youngmisuk

28. Detroit Pistons
2023-24 record: 2-6

  • Previous ranking: 19

  • Next games: @ MIL (Nov. 8), vs. PHI (Nov. 10), @ CHI (Nov. 12), vs. ATL (Nov. 14)

Rookie Ausar Thompson is off to a promising start, flashing considerable two-way potential. He has racked up eight steals in his past two outings. In his first eight games, he is averaging 12.0 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.5 steals. Still, Detroit is on a five-game losing streak, with tough matchups coming up against the Bucks and 76ers. — Collier

29. Memphis Grizzlies
2023-24 record: 1-6

  • Previous ranking: 27

  • Next games: vs. MIA (Nov. 8), vs. UTAH (Nov. 10), @ LAC (Nov. 12), @ LAL (Nov. 14)

The Grizzlies finally claimed their first win Sunday night in Portland, closing out the game with a 17-0 run. Memphis outscored the Blazers by 30 in the 32 minutes played by Luke Kennard, who was 4-of-6 from 3-point range after entering the night 2-of-17 from deep on the season. Since Kennard’s arrival midway through last season, the Grizzlies have a 126.9 offensive rating in 386 minutes with him and Desmond Bane on the floor together, including 284 minutes without Ja Morant. But the schedule won’t get any easier, with the Grizzlies facing the Heat, Jazz, Clippers and Lakers over the next week. — MacMahon

30. Washington Wizards
2023-24 record: 1-5

  • Previous ranking: 29

  • Next games :@ CHA (Nov. 8), vs. CHA (Nov. 10), @ BK (Nov. 12), @ TOR (Nov. 13)

It was no secret that Washington was entering a rebuild. But even so, the start of this season has been rough. Washington is 1-5, surrendering a league-worst 128.7 points per game. It has allowed 143 points or more in two games already. And Jordan Poole, a popular candidate for Most Improved Player, is averaging an inefficient 18.5 points per game. The better news? The Wizards’ next two games are against the struggling Hornets. — Youngmisuk

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