Power Rankings: Bucks look to bounce back for postseason clinch

We’re coming down to the wire of the 2023-24 NBA regular season, and the race to stay out of the play-in tournament is only getting tighter in the Eastern and Western Conferences.

In the East, the Philadelphia 76ers have tumbled down the ranks since Joel Embiid’s knee injury. Having once staked their claim behind the league-leading Boston Celtics, the injury-stricken 76ers are now fighting to stay out of the play-in picture. Meanwhile, the third-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers should be on high alert as the New York Knicks continue to get healthy and the Orlando Magic surge.

But as teams fall, others rise.

The Houston Rockets are riding a nine-game win streak and are hot on the tails of the Golden State Warriors, who could get knocked out of the playoff picture completely.

There seems to be a different type of March Madness happening in the NBA with less than three weeks to go. Here’s where all 30 teams stack up this week.

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 | Mar. 20

Jump to a team:




1. Boston Celtics
2023-24 record: 57-15

While Boston’s loss to Atlanta was noteworthy because the Celtics blew a 30-point lead, it didn’t impact perhaps the most remarkable stat from what’s been a remarkable Boston season: that the Celtics are a staggering 49-3 when hitting more than one-third of their 3-pointers this season. That is the third-best mark in NBA history, behind the 1987-88 Lakers (27-0) and the 2016-17 Warriors (54-2). And while the Celtics have already run away with the East’s best record, they are still playing for the No. 1 overall seed in the postseason — Boston’s magic number is five — and home court in any potential Finals matchup.— Bontemps


2. Denver Nuggets
2023-24 record: 51-21

  • Previous ranking: 2sw ye 40

  • Next games: vs. PHX (Mar. 27), vs. MIN (Mar. 29), vs. CLE (Mar. 31), vs. SA (Apr. 2)

Jamal Murray has not played in two straight games due to an ankle injury, and Nikola Jokic was held out for a game against Portland with a lower back and left hip issue, as the Nuggets try to keep their stars healthy for the postseason. Still, Denver continues to roll, having won 15 of 17 games since the All-Star break. On Wednesday, the Nuggets host Phoenix and get a chance to avenge one of those losses, an overtime setback to the Suns back on March 5. After that, they face Minnesota for the second time in 10 days, a chance for Denver to put more space between itself and the Wolves in the standings with just over a couple of weeks left in the regular season. — Youngmisuk


3. Milwaukee Bucks
2023-24 record: 46-26

After one of their best wins of the season against the Thunder on Sunday, the Bucks had one of their most disappointing losses, blowing a 19-point fourth-quarter lead to the LeBron-less Lakers on Tuesday. The silver lining? The Bucks maintain their No. 2 spot in the Eastern standings, and with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Damian Lillard on the floor Milwaukee is plus-16.8 per 100 possessions, the best mark among three-man lineups in the NBA this season. — Collier


4. Oklahoma City Thunder
2023-24 record: 50-21

  • Previous ranking: 3rd arrow

  • Next games: vs. HOU (Mar. 27), vs. PHX (Mar. 29), @ NY (Mar. 31), @ PHI (Apr. 2)

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was held to 12 points in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Bucks, only the fourth time this season he failed to score at least 20. The Thunder are 1-3 in those games. It was an even tougher outing for Chet Holmgren, who was held to six points on 1-of-10 shooting, the worst shooting performance of his rookie season. Oklahoma City is 8-11 when Holmgren shoots less than 50% from the floor and 42-10 when he shoots at least 50%. — MacMahon


5. Minnesota Timberwolves
2023-24 record: 49-22

  • Previous ranking: 4rd arrow

  • Next games: vs. DET (Mar. 27), @ DEN (Mar. 29), vs. CHI (Mar. 31), vs. HOU (Apr. 2)

The Wolves have fallen to third in the West but will have a chance to make up some ground in a key matchup at Denver on Friday night. One big turnaround for Minnesota since the All-Star break: its fourth-quarter offense has surged. According to research by ESPN Stats & Information, the Wolves have flipped from 26th in fourth-quarter offensive efficiency before the break to No. 1 since the start of the second half. — Collier


6. New Orleans Pelicans
2023-24 record: 44-28

The Pelicans began a crucial six-game homestand on Tuesday night against the Thunder. In a fight with the Clippers over the fourth seed and home-court advantage in the first round, New Orleans will continue to need big games from Zion Williamson, who has averaged 26 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists in the Pelicans’ past 10 games (7 wins) — especially with Brandon Ingram dealing with a bone contusion in his left knee. — Lopez


7. New York Knicks
2023-24 record: 43-28

  • Previous ranking: 9gn arrow

  • Next games: @ TOR (Mar. 27), @ SA (Mar. 29), vs. OKC (Mar. 31), @ MIA (Apr. 2)

The Knicks continue to rack up wins while their injured starting frontcourt of Julius Randle, OG Anunoby and Mitchell Robinson remains sidelined. Coach Tom Thibodeau said before Monday’s win over the Pistons that Robinson’s return is imminent, and he likely will be back on the court before his injured teammates. Robinson, who has been out since Dec. 8, would give New York 48 minutes of high-level center play, as Isaiah Hartenstein has been outstanding in his place as the team’s starting center for the past three months, averaging 9.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game . — Bontemps


8. Dallas Mavericks
2023-24 record: 43-29

Center Daniel Gafford has thrived alongside Luka Doncic since arriving in Dallas at the trade deadline. Gafford was shooting 77.6% from the floor for the Mavericks entering Tuesday night’s game in Sacramento, with Doncic assisting on 42 of his 97 field goals. That’s more assists than any of Gafford’s Wizards teammates delivered to him during his 45 games for Washington this season. Dallas, now No. 7 in the West, is 11-1 in games Gafford has started. — MacMahon


9. Sacramento Kings
2023-24 record: 42-30

The Kings’ offense isn’t as dominant as it was a season ago — it ranks 13th now, compared to No. 1 last season — but their defense has ticked up nicely, ranking 14th after a dismal 25th last season. If they can maintain this, they’ll hit their stride at precisely the right time. — Andrews


10. LA Clippers
2023-24 record: 44-27

  • Previous ranking: 8rd arrow

  • Next games: @ PHI (Mar. 27), @ ORL (Mar. 29), @ CHA (Mar. 31), @ SAC (Apr. 2)

The Clippers’ surprising slide continues in the West. Once in first place in early February, the Clippers fell to fifth on Monday night after losing for the sixth time in nine games with New Orleans owning the season tiebreaker over them. They’ve looked disinterested at times, and both James Harden and Paul George say the Clippers lack an identity. Head coach Ty Lue said the team’s identity right now is “soft” and he challenged his leaders and team to be more invested. The Clippers’ standing in the West could get worse. They hit the road for Harden’s return to Philadelphia on Wednesday and then fly to Orlando, Charlotte and cross-country to Sacramento before returning home to face the Nuggets. — Youngmisuk


11. Orlando Magic
2023-24 record: 42-29

  • Previous ranking: 10rd arrow

  • Next games: vs. GS (Mar. 27), vs. LAC (Mar. 29), vs. MEM (Mar. 30), vs. POR (Apr. 1)

Jonathan Isaac’s 23 minutes in Saturday’s loss to the Kings was the third most he has played this season, a potentially critical development as the Magic surge up the East. He also tied a career high with 25 points — his first 20-point game since Dec. 15, 2019. Isaac has already proved his value on defense this season. According to Second Spectrum, Isaac has held opponents to a 41.4% effective field goal percentage as the contesting defender, the best in the NBA among players to contest 200-plus shots. — Lopez


12. Cleveland Cavaliers
2023-24 record: 44-28

  • Previous ranking: 6rd arrow

  • Next games: vs. IND (Mar. 27), @ BKN (Mar. 29), @ MIN (Mar. 31), vs. ATL (Apr. 1)

Midway through March, Cleveland was the No. 2-seeded team in the East. Now, with 10 games to go, the Cavs have a real concern about falling to fifth with New York and Orlando surging. They’re 5-7 this month without Donovan Mitchell, who has missed time because of his left knee and a nasal fracture, with no return date known. — McMenamin

13. Phoenix Suns
2023-24 record: 42-30

The 10 games remaining on the Suns’ schedule are against opponents with a combined .647 winning percentage, making it the toughest final stretch out of any team in the league. Monday’s game against the Victor Wembanyama-less Spurs was supposed to be a gimme before Phoenix faced that gauntlet, but the Suns lost 104-102. “We definitely laid an egg,” Bradley Beal told reporters afterward. Phoenix is hanging on to the No. 8 spot in the West, with the Lakers — who own the tiebreaker — looming. — McMenamin


14. Indiana Pacers
2023-24 record: 41-32

Indiana’s prolific offense has been the key to its success this season, and the Pacers are looking to become just the second team in NBA history to score at least 100 points in every game during the regular season. They have already eclipsed the 100 mark in their first 73 games, joining the 1981-82 Nuggets as the only teams in league history to do so. The Pacers are currently holding on to the No. 6 slot in the East with a one-game advantage over the Heat to avoid the play-in tournament. — Collier


15. Miami Heat
2023-24 record: 39-33

Tuesday’s loss to the Warriors brings the Heat into a tie with the 76ers at the top of the play-in tournament race. Miami is up 2-1 in the season series over the Sixers, so their April 4 game will hold extra importance. On Sunday, the Heat bounced back from an 88-point performance in a loss to the Pelicans to score 121 points, only the third time they’ve hit the 120-point mark since the All-Star break. Miami is 11-3 this season when it hits that mark. — Lopez


16. Los Angeles Lakers
2023-24 record: 40-32

  • Previous ranking: 16sw ye 40

  • Next games: @ MEM (Mar. 27), @ IND (Mar. 29), @ BKN (Mar. 31), @ TOR (Apr. 2)

Anthony Davis played 52 minutes and 51 seconds in Tuesday’s double-overtime thriller in Milwaukee — the most playing time of his career and the most by a Lakers player since Kobe Bryant in 2012. Their reward for the win? A game in Memphis against the Grizzlies for the second night of a back-to-back. “It was fun,” Davis said. “Let’s line up and do it all over again tomorrow.” — McMenamin


17. Houston Rockets
2023-24 record: 36-35

  • Previous ranking: 20gn arrow

  • Next games: @ OKC (Mar. 27), @ UTA (Mar. 29), vs. DAL (Mar. 31), @ MIN (Apr. 2)

Who would have imagined that the Rockets would have the NBA’s longest active winning streak right now? Jalen Green, who has averaged an efficient 29 points per game during the nine-game run, has been the headliner as the Rockets fight for a play-in spot. An unsung hero? Backup center Jock Landale, who has averaged 11.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in the seven games since Alperen Sengun went down with a sprained ankle. The Rockets have outscored opponents by 92 points in Landale’s 166 minutes, and he ranks second on the team in plus-minus during that span behind only Green (plus-131). — MacMahon


18. Philadelphia 76ers
2023-24 record: 39-33

  • Previous ranking: 17rd arrow

  • Next games: vs. LAC (Mar. 27), @ CLE (Mar. 29), @ TOR (Mar. 31), vs. OKC (Apr. 2)

As Philadelphia gears up for the return of James Harden Wednesday, the 76ers continue to be ravaged by injury. Buddy Hield left Monday’s loss in Sacramento with an ankle sprain, Kelly Oubre Jr. missed that game with a shoulder injury he suffered in Sunday’s win over the Clippers, and Joel Embiid continues to be sidelined without any timetable for a return. Meanwhile, the 76ers are fighting with both Indiana and Miami to avoid the play-in tournament — and a likely first-round series with either the Celtics or Bucks. — Bontemps


19. Golden State Warriors
2023-24 record: 37-34

  • Previous ranking: 18rd arrow

  • Next games: @ ORL (Mar. 27), vs. CHA (Mar. 29), @ SA (Mar. 31), vs. DAL (Apr. 2)

The Warriors are hanging on to the No.10 seed, only one game ahead of the Rockets, who are riding a nine-game winning streak. After their disappointing loss to the conference-leading Timberwolves on Sunday, the Dubs bounced back with a win against the Heat, led by Klay Thompson’s 28 points. With 11 games left in the regular season the Warriors have the easiest schedule among the teams in the Western Conference play-in race. This will be a crucial stretch if they want to avoid falling out of the playoffs altogether, and their matchup against the Rockets on April 4 will be the game to watch. — Andrews


20. Atlanta Hawks
2023-24 record: 32-39

  • Previous ranking: 21gn arrow

  • Next games: vs. POR (Mar. 27), vs. BOS (Mar. 28), vs. MIL (Mar. 30), @ CHI (Apr. 1)

Barring an epic collapse over their final 11 games, the Hawks are destined for the 9-10 play-in game. Up 5.5 games on the Nets, Atlanta got an unlikely victory on Monday night when the team overcame a 30-point deficit against the Celtics. It was tied for the fourth-largest comeback in the NBA in the past 25 seasons and the first 30-point comeback in the past two seasons. In fact, entering Monday, per ESPN Stats & Information research, teams were 5-2,606 (.002) over the past 25 years in games they trailed by 30-plus points. — Lopez


21. Chicago Bulls
2023-24 record: 34-38

  • Previous ranking: 19rd arrow

  • Next games: vs. IND (Mar. 27), @ BKN (Mar. 29), @ MIN (Mar. 31), vs. ATL (Apr. 1)

With a chance to get back to .500 last week, the Bulls dropped three in a row, including a loss to the short-handed Wizards at home on Monday night — a new leading contender for most disappointing loss of the season, a category that already includes two losses to the Pistons. Chicago’s success against the teams at the top of the conference isn’t much better — 3-13 against the top five teams in the East. The Bulls have almost reached their ceiling: yet another 9-10 play-in berth. — Collier


22. Brooklyn Nets
2023-24 record: 27-45

  • Previous ranking: 23gn arrow

  • Next games: @ WAS (Mar. 27), vs. CHI (Mar. 29), vs. LAL (Mar. 31), @ IND (Apr. 1)

Brooklyn, now 12-30 since the infamous tank game on Dec. 27, is all but playing out the string over the final few weeks of the regular season. While the Nets could technically still pass the Hawks for the 10th and final spot in the Eastern Conference’s play-in mix, they are 5.5 games back with 10 games to play — requiring either a truly massive change in fortune or a complete collapse by Atlanta. — Bontemps


23. Utah Jazz
2023-24 record: 29-43

  • Previous ranking: 22rd arrow

  • Next games: vs. SA (Mar. 27), vs. HOU (Mar. 29), @ SAC (Mar. 31), vs. CLE (Apr. 2)

Since the trade deadline, the Jazz have the NBA’s worst record (3-16), worst defensive rating (123.2) and worst net rating (minus-10.2). Lauri Markkanen has missed eight of those 19 games while being listed on the injury report with a right quadriceps contusion as Utah, which owes a top-10-protected pick to Oklahoma City, has lost its way comfortably into the top 10 of the draft lottery odds. Markkanen has shot only 40% from the floor in the 11 games he has played during that span, compared to 50.1% before the deadline. — MacMahon


24. Memphis Grizzlies
2023-24 record: 24-48

Center/forward Brandon Clarke is on the verge of making his season debut after a grueling rehabilitation process from a ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered on March 3, 2023. Clarke has been critical off the Memphis bench throughout his career, averaging 10.7 points on 60.4% shooting in 21.3 minutes per game over his first four seasons. He is in the first season of a four-year, $50 million contract extension. Now, after being eliminated from postseason contention, the Grizzlies will look to June’s draft, where, with their lottery pick, they’ll try to reset after their lost season. — MacMahon


25. San Antonio Spurs
2023-24 record: 16-56

  • Previous ranking: 28gn arrow

  • Next games: @ UTA (Mar. 27), vs. NY (Mar. 29), vs. GS (Mar. 31), @ DEN (Apr. 2)

After losing their first seven games without Victor Wembanyama this season, the Spurs have now won the past two games without their star rookie, including Monday night’s 104-102 win over the Suns. In fact, three of San Antonio’s 16 wins this season have come against Phoenix. The most recent victory was sealed by a late 3-pointer from Jeremy Sochan, who was 0-for-14 on his 3s over the previous three games. — Lopez


26. Toronto Raptors
2023-24 record: 23-49

With 10 games to go in the regular season, the biggest basketball question surrounding Toronto is whether the Raptors will hang on to their top-6-protected lottery pick. Toronto, which sent the pick to San Antonio last year in a deadline deal for center Jakob Poeltl, currently sits in the sixth spot in the lottery, with Memphis sitting one win ahead in seventh. — Bontemps


27. Portland Trail Blazers
2023-24 record: 19-53

The victories are moral at this point in the season for Portland. Despite putting up a competitive show against the Nuggets, Clippers and Bulls last week, the Trail Blazers came away with zero wins to show for it. The silver lining? While they are still missing Deandre Ayton and Jerami Grant, they showed flashes of potential with their young lineup. They made NBA history last Saturday, starting five rookies against the NBA’s reigning champions — losing 114-111, one of their more competitive games this season. Rookie Scoot Henderson averaged 20 points and six assists on 40% 3-point shooting in their past four games. These are the signs of encouragement Portland is looking for as it closes out the season. — Andrews


28. Charlotte Hornets
2023-24 record: 17-54

  • Previous ranking: 27rd arrow

  • Next games: vs. CLE (Mar. 27), vs. GS (Mar. 29), vs. LAC (Mar. 31), vs. BOS (Apr. 1)

Despite the already eliminated Hornets riding an unfortunate five-game losing streak, rookie Brandon Miller continues his torrid play. He has scored in double figures in 26 of his past 27 games, the lone exception being a six-point outing against Philadelphia on March 16 when he was ejected for a flagrant 2 foul. In the three games since that, Miller has hit nine 3-pointers and is third on the team in 3-pointers made per game. — Youngmisuk


29. Washington Wizards
2023-24 record: 14-58

  • Previous ranking: 30gn arrow

  • Next games: vs. BKN (Mar. 27), vs. DET (Mar. 29), vs. MIA (Mar. 31), vs. MIL (Apr. 2)

The Wizards have won three straight games against Sacramento, Toronto and Chicago — their longest winning streak of the season. And they’ve done so without injured point guard Tyus Jones (back) and rookie Bilal Coulibaly, who is out for the season with a right wrist injury. During the winning streak, Richaun Holmes has dominated the glass, grabbing 14 or more rebounds in each win. In their race to the bottom with the Pistons for the league’s worst record this season, the Wizards’ most important date once again comes in June. — Youngmisuk


30. Detroit Pistons
2023-24 record: 12-60

Detroit has dropped seven consecutive games, including the past five games by double digits. It is the Pistons’ fourth streak of six or more consecutive losses this season. They now own a two-game lead over the Wizards for the worst record in the NBA, a dubious honor they’re on pace to win for the second straight season. Of their final 10 games, only two of them are at home. — Collier

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top