NBA Power Rankings: The Nuggets and Jamal Murray march on, while Ingram’s Pelicans stay steady

We’re approaching the halfway mark for the 2023-24 NBA season, and the trade deadline (Feb. 8, 3 p.m. ET) has every team in the league reevaluating its needs in the next month.

The usual Western Conference giants continue to struggle and teeter. The Golden State Warriors are still sinking despite the return of Draymond Green. And the Los Angeles Lakers are in desperate need of a boost, of something, as they’ve fallen below .500 despite a healthy LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

In the East, the Cleveland Cavaliers continue to climb the ranks and are anticipating a strong return from guard Darius Garland, who has been out since early December. And the Miami Heat are hunting for their typical second-half season surge with star forward Jimmy Butler leading the way.

We’re 23 days from the deadline. Questions abound. What’s going on with the Phoenix Suns? Will the Pistons win a fifth game? Will anyone knock down the Celtics? Let’s take a look at this week’s 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 | Jan. 10

Jump to a team:

ATL | BOS | BKN | CHA | CHI | CLE
DAL | DEN | DET | GS | HOU | IND
LAC | LAL | MEM | MIA | MIL | MIN
NO | NY | OKC | ORL | PHI | PHX
POR | SAC | SA | TOR | UTAH | WAS

1. Boston Celtics
2023-24 record: 31-9

  • Previous ranking: 1

  • Next games: vs. SA (Jan. 17), vs. DEN (Jan. 19), @ HOU (Jan. 21), @ DAL (Jan. 22)

Boston flaunts the league’s best record and net rating (9.8) so far this season. How can things get any better? Well, here’s one way: According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, Boston has the league’s second-easiest remaining schedule and the easiest of any Eastern Conference team. It’s going to take a lot for Boston to not finish the season with the league’s best record. — Bontemps


2. Minnesota Timberwolves
2023-24 record: 28-11

  • Previous ranking: 3

  • Next games: @ DET (Jan. 17), vs. MEM (Jan. 18), vs. OKC (Jan. 20), vs. CHA (Jan. 22)

The Wolves remain atop the Western Conference after a pair of tests last week that resulted in an overtime loss to Boston and a win against the surging Clippers. Minnesota, which owns the No. 1 defense in the NBA, has held teams under 100 points in 12 games, the best in the league (11-1). Its next two opponents — Detroit and Memphis — are in the bottom five in offense and should be easy matchups before they host their second-ranked Western conference foe, Oklahoma City, on Saturday. — Collier

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1:48

KAT’s thunderous jam leads Wolves’ top plays of week

Karl-Anthony Towns’ big dunk against the Magic is one of several Timberwolves poster slams this past week.


3. Denver Nuggets
2023-24 record: 28-14

While much of the attention was on the latest duel between Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic and what it could mean for the MVP race, Jokic would gladly trade in his 25-point, 19-rebound effort for a win over the Sixers. Embiid and the Sixers got the best of Denver in their first meeting of the season Tuesday. Jokic will have to get the Nuggets back on track as they head East to Boston, Washington, Indiana and New York before returning home for a rematch with the Sixers. — Youngmisuk


4. Oklahoma City Thunder
2023-24 record: 27-13

Second-year forward Jalen Williams’ progress as a playmaker serves as an example of the development of the Thunder’s young, core players while they compete for the top spot in the West standings. Williams averaged 6.0 assists in the past 10 games entering Tuesday night’s matchup with the Clippers, including a career-best 12 assists in a win over the Heat. He had dished out six or more assists only four times all season before that stretch. — MacMahon


5. Milwaukee Bucks
2023-24 record: 28-12

The Bucks have bounced back from a brief skid to start the month with three consecutive wins, including a blowout victory over the Celtics last week and a Damian Lillard buzzer beater over the Kings. Lillard now has four game-winning buzzer beaters in his career; only LeBron James has more among active players (seven). Coming up for Milwaukee: a showdown in Cleveland against the red-hot Cavs on Wednesday night before heading to Detroit for two games. — Collier

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1:46

Dame Time tops Bucks’ plays of the week

Check out the Milwaukee Bucks’ top plays, including a slick game-winning overtime shot by Damian Lillard.


6. Dallas Mavericks
2023-24 record: 24-17

Sixth Man of the Year candidate Tim Hardaway Jr. has been sizzling during his stint as a fill-in starter, helping the Mavs go 2-1 while Luka Doncic nurses a sprained right ankle. Hardaway averaged 32.3 points on .483/.500/.913 shooting splits in the three games. Hardaway and Kyrie Irving (34.3 points per game during the Mavs’ 5-2 homestand) became the second Dallas duo ever to score at least 40 points each in a game during Monday’s win over the Pelicans — a feat Doncic and Irving accomplished in March of last season. — MacMahon


7. LA Clippers
2023-24 record: 26-14

Just when the Clippers looked like they had gotten past their injury woes, Ivica Zubac was ruled out for at least a month because of a calf injury. While Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and James Harden remain healthy (knock on wood), the Clippers will miss their starting center, who was averaging a career-best 12.4 points and 9.7 rebounds. Zubac had been thriving alongside Harden in pick-and-rolls and was a confident presence in the post. Without him, the Clippers will rely on Mason Plumlee and Daniel Theis to hold it down inside. — Youngmisuk

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1:45

The top Clippers plays of the week

Take a look at the best plays from the LA Clippers over the past week, including numerous highlight plays from Kawhi Leonard.


8. Philadelphia 76ers
2023-24 record: 26-13

Joel Embiid lost his 16-game streak of 30-point, 10-rebound games Tuesday night in his showdown with Nikola Jokic, but Embiid’s dominance continued with an absurd 41-7-10 performance against his MVP rival. And, with the win over the Nuggets, Philadelphia is now 23-6 this season with Embiid on the court. — Bontemps


9. Miami Heat
2023-24 record: 24-16

Miami has gotten back its top-tier defense after uncharacteristically allowing 116.0 points per 100 possessions in December. The Heat became the third team this season to hold an opponent under 100 points in three consecutive games in Monday’s 96-95 overtime win over Brooklyn. Miami has allowed 108.8 points per 100 possessions this month, the third-best mark in the league since Jan. 1. — Lopez

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1:45

Bam slams aplenty in Heat’s top plays of the week

Relive the best plays of the week from the Heat, including Bam Adebayo showing off his full arsenal of dunks.


10. Cleveland Cavaliers
2023-24 record: 23-15

Remember when Darius Garland (jaw) joined Evan Mobley (knee) on the injured list a month ago and the temperature was rising in The Land? It turns out the Cavs haven’t just survived without Garland, they’ve thrived, going 10-3 since he was sidelined. With coach J.B. Bickerstaff saying that Garland’s return is imminent, the question becomes whether Donovan Mitchell — averaging 28.8 points and six assists over the Cavs’ current five-game winning streak — can stay hot with the All-Star guard back in the mix. — McMenamin

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1:41

Mitchell’s Eurostep in Paris highlights top Cavs plays of the week

Check out the top plays from the Cleveland Cavaliers over the past week.


11. New Orleans Pelicans
2023-24 record: 24-17

  • Previous ranking: 11

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

After seeing plenty of playing time earlier in the season because of injuries, Pelicans rookie Jordan Hawkins found himself out of the rotation once the team returned to full strength. However, after a 34-point outburst in Saturday’s win over Dallas, Hawkins forced his way back in, over guard Jose Alvarado. Hawkins, who has set a league record with a 3-pointer in each of his first 21 games, has shown he can be an offensive asset for the Pelicans’ second unit. — Lopez


12. New York Knicks
2023-24 record: 23-17

  • Previous ranking: 12

  • Next games: vs. HOU (Jan. 17), vs. WASH (Jan. 18), vs. TOR (Jan. 20), @ BKN (Jan. 23)

It was an ugly loss to Orlando on Monday for the Knicks, who were in position to win without Jalen Brunson for a second straight contest before going cold late in the fourth quarter, scoring only 16 points. On the bright side, though, it was the beginning of a stretch in which the Knicks won’t leave New York for two weeks, and will leave the Eastern time zone for one game — Feb. 12 in Houston — between now and the All-Star break. — Bontemps


13. Indiana Pacers
2023-24 record: 23-17

  • Previous ranking: 13

  • Next games: @ SAC (Jan. 18), @ POR (Jan. 19), @ PHX (Jan. 21), vs. DEN (Jan. 23)

The Pacers are still relying on their top-ranked offense — averaging 121.6 points per 100 possessions — but teams are finding success against them. The key? Slowing down their offense, even a little. Indiana is 0-9 when scoring 110 points or fewer this season. And sitting at sixth in the East, just above the surging Knicks, the Pacers are fighting to stay within playoff contention. Coming off of a two-game losing streak, the Pacers continue their West Coast swing this week: traveling to Sacramento, Portland and Phoenix to round out a six-game road trip. — Collier


14. Sacramento Kings
2023-24 record: 23-17

The highlight of the week coming out of Sacramento has to be Mike Brown’s viral computer moment — an internet meme that had all eyes turned toward the Kings. At the midway mark of the season, it’s obvious Sacramento isn’t taking the Western Conference by storm like it did last year. Still, the Kings are in a comfortable position — currently fifth in the West — and headed in a positive direction with a healthy De’Aaron Fox (27.8 points per game) and Domantas Sabonis (12.7 rebounds per game, first in the league) leading the way. — Andrews


15. Phoenix Suns
2023-24 record: 22-18

Coming into Tuesday’s game against Sacramento, the Suns’ past three wins have featured three different 30-point scorers leading the way. Grayson Allen had 31 against the Heat, Bradley Beal had 37 against the Lakers, and Devin Booker had 34 against the Blazers. Meanwhile, Phoenix is just 7-8 this season when Kevin Durant scores 30-plus points. Does that illustrate a Durant deficiency? Hardly. He leads the team in games played and hasn’t had the benefit of that firepower in the lineup around him enough. — McMenamin


16. Orlando Magic
2023-24 record: 22-18

  • Previous ranking: 14

  • Next games: @ ATL (Jan. 17), vs. PHI ( Jan. 19), vs. MIA (Jan. 21), vs. CLE (Jan. 22)

Jalen Suggs’ biggest impact has been on defense, but don’t sleep on his offense. Suggs has already made 73 3-pointers, more than he did in either of his first two seasons, and his shooting percentages have improved dramatically: from 21.4% from 3 as a rookie — the second-worst percentage by any player with 150 attempts in a season — to 38.6% this season. — Lopez


17. Utah Jazz
2023-24 record: 22-20

  • Previous ranking: 20

  • Next games: vs. GS (Jan. 17), vs, OKC (Jan. 18), @ HOU (Jan. 20), @ NO (Jan. 23 )

The Jazz have the best record in the NBA since Dec. 21, going 12-2 during that span. That includes an active six-game winning streak, the longest of second-year head coach Will Hardy’s tenure. The Jazz have scored at least 130 points in the past three games, a first in franchise history, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Lauri Markkanen (27.2 points per game), Collin Sexton (23.3) and Jordan Clarkson (20.8) are all averaging more than 20 points during the winning streak. — MacMahon


18. Houston Rockets
2023-24 record: 19-20

The Rockets’ drastically improved defense has regressed, allowing 118.9 points per 100 possessions as Houston has lost eight of its past 12 games to dip under .500. The slump started on the night that Dillon Brooks, a defensive stopper signed in free agency, suffered an oblique injury that sidelined him for the next nine games. But Brooks’ return over the weekend was far from an instant fix. The Rockets had a 131.9 defensive rating in losses to the Celtics and 76ers in his first two games back in the lineup. — MacMahon


19. Chicago Bulls
2023-24 record: 19-23

  • Previous ranking: 21

  • Next games: @ TOR (Jan. 18), vs, MEM (Jan. 20), @ PHX (Jan. 22)

Now six games into his return from a foot injury, Bulls guard Zach LaVine has blended in well with the team’s offense. In that span, the Bulls are 4-2 and LaVine is averaging 16.8 points, 5.7 assists and 6.5 rebounds on 49% shooting, adding fuel to one of the hottest names in the trade deadline landscape. — Collier


20. Los Angeles Lakers
2023-24 record: 20-21

  • Previous ranking: 18

  • Next games: vs. DAL (Jan. 17), vs. BKN (Jan. 19), vs. POR (Jan. 21), @ LAC (Jan. 23)

Opposing players are shooting just 40.8% with LeBron James as the primary defender this season, which ranks second in the league behind only Jaden McDaniels (minimum 250 possessions). While some of that effort has been used against limited offensive threats like Keita Bates-Diop and Isaiah Stewart, two of the 10 players he has guarded the most this season have been Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler, according to ESPN Stats & Information. His defense will be key to balance out L.A.’s current offense-focused starting five. — McMenamin


21. Golden State Warriors
2023-24 record: 18-22

Even with the Warriors getting Draymond Green back from his indefinite suspension, the red flags are still waving in Golden State. They added another candidate for “worst loss of the season” to their list by falling to the extremely short-handed Grizzlies, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to figure out what will solve their myriad issues. Green, for his part, said they lack pride on an individual level, and until each player finds it, they’ll continue to “suck.” But as the halfway mark of the season approaches, there seems to be no clear answer or strategy as to how they’ll do so. — Andrews


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

  • Previous ranking: 23

  • Next games: @ POR (Jan. 17), @ LAL (Jan. 19), @ LAC (Jan. 21), vs. NY (Jan. 23)

It’s ugly in Brooklyn. After losing an overtime game to the Trail Blazers before leaving for Paris, where the Nets lost to the Cavs, they lost another overtime game to the Heat upon their return, meaning Brooklyn has now lost eight of its past nine games. Still, the Nets are 10th in the East, fighting for the final play-in spot. But that’s more about the teams at the bottom of the East than anything else. — Bontemps


23. Atlanta Hawks
2023-24 record: 16-23

  • Previous ranking: 24

  • Next games: vs.ORL (Jan. 17), @ MIA (Jan. 19), vs. CLE (Jan. 20), @ SAC (Jan. 22)

Monday’s victory over the Spurs prevented the Hawks from falling even further down a dubious list. Their 109-99 victory marked the first time this season they held an opponent under 100 points. Atlanta had allowed opponents to score at least 100 points in 108 consecutive games, tied with the 1961-62 Warriors for the fourth-longest streak in NBA history behind the 1959-62 Knicks (190), 1981-82 Nuggets (136) and 1967-69 Rockets (115). The Hawks are at a crossroad: Is it time to end the Dejounte Murray-Trae Young partnership? If not, the battle remains to stay in the play-in tournament hunt. — Lopez


24. Toronto Raptors
2023-24 record: 15-25

  • Previous ranking: 22

  • Next games: vs. MIA (Jan. 17), vs. CHI (Jan. 18), @ NY (Jan. 20) , vs. MEM (Jan. 22)

Toronto has lost four games in a row, but the newly acquired tandem of Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett has quickly settled into new digs, averaging 18.9 and 19.9 points per game, respectively, and both are shooting well over 40% from 3-point land through their first eight games as Raptors. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but the new additions are fitting in alongside Scottie Barnes as well as Toronto could have hoped. — Bontemps


25. Memphis Grizzlies
2023-24 record: 15-25

Memphis’ miserable injury luck — four starters are out at least six weeks, including Steven Adams and Ja Morant for the rest of the season — has given the Grizzlies plenty of opportunities to search for silver linings. Case in point: The performance of rookie GG Jackson, a 19-year-old second-round pick on a two-way deal, in his first real NBA rotation minutes. Jackson followed up his 20-point, 6-rebound, 2-block outing in Saturday’s loss to the Knicks with a 23-point, 6-rebound, 2-block performance in Monday’s win over the Warriors. He’s the second-youngest player in NBA history with consecutive 20-point performances behind only LeBron James, according to ESPN Stats & Information. — MacMahon


26. Portland Trail Blazers
2023-24 record: 10-29

  • Previous ranking: 26

  • Next games: vs. BKN (Jan. 17), vs, IND (Jan. 19), @ LAL (Jan. 21), @ OKC (Jan. 23)

The Blazers lost their three games this past week by an average of 32 points, including a 62-point loss to the Thunder on Thursday. Every time the Blazers seem to be building some momentum, like going 3-3 in a six-game stretch in late December, they lose it all, like by going 1-7 in their next eight. The next step for Portland, at least this season, is finding some consistency. — Andrews


27. Charlotte Hornets
2023-24 record: 8-29

  • Previous ranking: 27

  • Next games: @ NO (Jan. 17 ), vs, SA (Jan. 19), vs. PHI (Jan. 20), @ MIN (Jan. 22)

LaMelo Ball is back after missing six weeks (ankle), but the franchise point guard hasn’t been able to get the Hornets back in the win column yet. To be fair, at 8-29, very few players have done so. Ball had 28 points and five steals in his return against San Antonio and then 21 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals against Miami. But Charlotte has lost five straight and 16 of its past 17 games. –Youngmisuk


28. San Antonio Spurs
2023-24 record: 7-32

  • Previous ranking: 28

  • Next games: @ BOS (Jan. 17), @ CHA (Jan. 19), @ WAS ( Jan. 20), @ PHI (Jan. 22)

The move to center for Victor Wembanyama looks like it’s paying off for the young Spurs. In 15 games played since Wembanyama moved into the starting center spot, he became just the second rookie to record 300 points, 150 rebounds, 50 blocks and 50 assists over a 15-game span since blocks became official in 1973-74. The only other rookie to do it? Spurs Hall of Fame big man Tim Duncan. — Lopez


29. Washington Wizards
2023-24 record: 7-32

Washington didn’t wait until the trade deadline to make a deal, acquiring Marvin Bagley III, Isaiah Livers and two future second-round picks from Detroit for Danilo Gallinari and Mike Muscala. While the Wizards gave up two expiring contracts and took on Bagley’s $12.5 million in guaranteed money for 2024-25, they received two more second-round assets to add to the chest. Perhaps Bagley, still just 24, can fulfill some of the potential that made him the No. 2 pick of the 2019 draft and provide some needed depth at center — Youngmisuk


30. Detroit Pistons
2023-24 record: 4-36

The Pistons beat the Wizards at home Monday, snapping a seven-game losing streak and an 18-game road skid, all without Cade Cunningham, Bojan Bogdanovic and Monte Morris. Alec Burks scored 34 points off the bench, and Jalen Duren added 20 points and 19 rebounds to give Detroit its fourth win of the season. But the celebration might be short-lived: The Pistons are set to face the Western Conference-leading Timberwolves this week before a back-to-back against the Bucks. — Collier

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