NBA Power Rankings

With the calendar nearing the New Year, the NBA landscape has become clearer and clearer. Surprise teams such as the Miami Heat have cemented their spot among the Eastern Conference threats, while the disappointing seasons like that of the Atlanta Hawks appear to be less and less recoverable. However, this landscape is not yet complete, with shifts in teams’ play still constantly changing. Due to this, one can not merely rely on NBA standings to adequately rank teams in a certain moment of time. For this reason, these power rankings have been created with the goal of blending overall team record, current play, and strength of schedule in order to capture true NBA rankings.

Denver Nuggets C Nikola Jokic (Left) and PG Jamal Murray (Right)
  1. Milwaukee Bucks (29-5) – The NBA’s best record, the MVP, and the way this team beats its closest competition while utterly demoralizing its weakest is more than enough to give them the one spot.
  2. Los Angeles Clippers (23-11) – Despite a tough loss to the Jazz, a bad week from the Lakers, and a win against this rival team put the Clippers at two.
  3. Los Angeles Lakers (26-7) – It’s been a tough week for Hollywood’s team, going 2-4 in their last six and losing to the rival Clippers. Nonetheless, owning the West’s best record and a tough schedule, mixed with injuries in these last five games, gives them enough of an excuse to remain in the top three.
  4. Denver Nuggets (23-9) – Don’t look now, but the Nuggets are back and better than ever. Winners of eight of their last nine, they have climbed all the way up to the West’s two seed and within striking distance of the Lakers.
  5. Boston Celtics (22-8) – Despite an ugly loss to the Raptors on Saturday, the Celtics have quietly been balling out, winning five straight before that loss, including a blowout win against Toronto themselves.
  6. Miami Heat (24-8) – The amount of clutch highlights this team has had as of late has to be some sort of record. Not counting a blowout of the Knicks, they’ve just barely scraped by in their recent wins. But hey, they’ll certainly take being the Seahawks of the NBA.
  7. Houston Rockets (22-11) – James Harden is once again on the verge of averaging forty points per game this season, yet nobody seems to care. Perhaps a win in the Mile High City on Tuesday will get fans invested into a quietly dominant stretch by Houston.
  8. Dallas Mavericks (21-11) – When the Mavericks win, expect utter destruction. Home to the league’s second-best point differential, Luka Doncic and the rest of their historic offense can and will leave you embarrassed on the basketball court.
  9. Utah Jazz (20-12) – The Utah Jazz turning things around mid-season has become such a played out narrative at this point that barely anybody has seemed to notice. 8-2 in their last ten, a win against the Clippers last Friday night has proved their worth to the rest of the NBA. 
  10. Philadelphia 76ers (23-12) – Poor closing remains the theme of the Sixers season. Losing both of their last two games by one point, Philly fans are stuck watching a convincing Christmas Day victory against Milwaukee on repeat. However, if this game is any sign for the playoffs, Philly fans have reason to be so ecstatic about this victory.
  11. Toronto Raptors (22-11) – Injuries have plagued this team all season, but they just keep on fighting. Despite being 2-3 in their last five, the difficulty of opponents that Toronto has had to play is not preferable, and the results of two of the losses have been within five.
  12. Indiana Pacers (21-12) – Things have not looked good for Indiana this week, going 1-3 in their last four and getting demolished by New Orleans. On the bright side, Victor Oladipo is slated to come back soon, giving them another huge asset.
  13. Oklahoma City Thunder (17-15) – OKC is looking like the Thunder of old, and I mean that in the best way possible. Things seem to be clicking on all cylinders for this team right now, and with recent wins against the Clippers and Raptors, Oklahoma residents should have much room for optimism.
  14. San Antonio Spurs (13-18) – After a horrid start to the season, things finally seem to be falling into place for the Alamo, which is necessary as they try to keep their playoff streak alive.
  15. Portland Trailblazers (14-19) – Arguably the biggest disappointment of the year, Portland’s defense is the main reason for their poor play, especially given multiple key losses this offseason. However, keeping games close with the Lakers and Jazz could indicate a mid-season turnaround.
  16. Brooklyn Nets (16-15) – This team has so much potential to be great, yet nothing has seemed to click this year. Possibly the offense can finally get going once star PG Kyrie Irving returns.
  17. Orlando Magic (14-18) – The Magic have quietly gone on a nice three-game stretch, beating the Bulls and Sixers and keeping within striking distance of the Sixers. Better news, Markelle Fultz seems to be coming into his own as well.
  18. Chicago Bulls (13-20) – Despite this team’s inconsistencies this year, Bulls fans can’t help but be excited about their defense which is now top three in defensive rating. 
  19. Memphis Grizzlies (13-21) – Memphis has an extremely underrated young core, which it has ridden to almost the eight seed this season. Recently especially, the team has garnered quality wins against the likes of the Thunder and Hornets.
  20. Charlotte Hornets (13-22) – Charlotte has been a pleasant surprise this year. It remains to be seen whether or not Graham, Rozier, and co. can take them all the way to the postseason in the race for a wide-open eight spot. 
  21. New Orleans Pelicans (11-23) – They have flipped the switch. The Pels just won four in a row against the Rockets, Pacers, Nuggets, and Blazers. Wow.
  22. Detroit Pistons (12-21) – Something has to change if this team wants to get out of mediocrity. A fully healthy Blake Griffin may be the difference-maker, but even in years past the team has just been cruising down the middle of the road.
  23. New York Knicks (9-24) – Ever since coach Mike Miller has taken over duties, this team has been 5-6. Call this ranking an overreaction, but the Knicks have not looked bad at all recently. 
  24. Phoenix Suns (12-20) – After a tough losing streak against tough teams, the Suns hope that their win against Sacramento on Friday finally gave them the confidence boost they need.
  25. Golden State Warriors (9-25) – I haven’t seen Warriors fans this happy all season. Highlighted by a win against Houston on Christmas Day, these past few games have proved that not all hope is lost.
  26. Cleveland Cavaliers (10-22) – After a horrible stretch, Cleveland finally seems to be recovering. Still, they can’t expect all their problems to go away when their leading passer is averaging under three assists per game.
  27. Minnesota Timberwolves (11-20) – Minnesota’s recent struggles have been very, very public. Despite being 1-12 in their last thirteen, hope remains for the postseason somehow, being only two games back of the eight seed.
  28. Sacramento Kings (12-21) – The Kings follow a very similar storyline to the Timberwolves, losing seven in a row but still being only two games back.
  29. Washington Wizards (9-22) – The Wizards can kiss their postseason hopes away if they don’t fix their league-worst defense. On the bright side though, they do have had a top-six offensive rating this season.
  30. Atlanta Hawks (6-27) – Trae Young has been putting the offense on his back for much of the year. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been enough to escape from the wrath of the thirty spot in our power rankings. But hey, a turnaround is always possible.