NBA Power Rankings: New-look Lakers, Mavs and Suns could surge

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Wednesday, February 15, 2023

The NBA has a different look after last week's trade deadline, especially the Western Conference.

The blockbuster trades ofKevin Durantto the Phoenix Suns andKyrie Irvingto the Dallas Mavericks were just the headliners in a long series of league-shaking moves that are bound to affect the playoff race and playoffs themselves. The Durant and Irving trades have knocked the Brooklyn Nets down a few notches in terms of competing for a championship this year, and now the Suns and Mavericks could be on a collision course for the Western Conference finals.

The Los Angeles Lakers shook up their roster and may have bolstered their playoff hopes by tradingRussell Westbrookand bringing inD'Angelo Russellto improve the team's scoring potential.

It's still too early to judge the full impact of these deals, as some will take years to evaluate thoroughly given the draft capital that was dealt. But it's not too early to take a look at what teams are best positioned down the stretch of this season.

Note: Throughout the regular season, our panel (Kendra Andrews, Tim Bontemps, Jamal Collier, Nick Friedell, 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: Week 1| Week 2 | Week 3| Week 4| Week 5| Week 6| Week 7| Week 8| Week 9| Week 10| Week 11| Week 12| Week 13| Week 14| Week 15| Week 16| Week 17

1.Boston Celtics

2022-23 record: 41-17

Previous ranking: 1

A litany of injuries has Boston limping into the All-Star break, but the Celtics still sport the league's deepest roster -- depth that showed in victories over Philadelphia and Memphis in the past week.-- Bontemps

2.Milwaukee Bucks

2022-23 record: 40-17

Previous ranking: 2

The Bucks have won 11 consecutive games, including a 131-125 overtime win against Boston on Tuesday, to move to a half-game back of the Celtics for the best record in the NBA. During the winning streak, Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 37.2 points per game, the most points during a team's 11-game win streak in NBA history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.-- Collier

3.Denver Nuggets

2022-23 record: 40-18

Previous ranking: 3

The Nuggets have hit 40 wins before the All-Star break for the first time in franchise history. Sure, the Western Conference took on a major power balance shift after the trade deadline, but there's no reason to automatically discount the Nuggets as conference favorites. They may not run away with it as they have so far this season, but Denver should be able to keep rolling after the break.-- Andrews

4.Philadelphia 76ers

2022-23 record: 37-19

Previous ranking: 4

Philadelphia heads into the All-Star break firmly ensconced in third place in the East and with at least a chance of catching Boston and Milwaukee. One stiff challenge remains Wednesday night: a game at home against the fourth-place Cleveland Cavaliers. -- Bontemps

5.Cleveland Cavaliers

2022-23 record: 38-22

Previous ranking: 5

Donovan Mitchell's sublime first season in Cleveland continued with a 41 spot in a win over San Antonio on Monday. It was his sixth 40-plus-point game for the Cavs in his inaugural campaign, after topping 40 nine times in his five years in Utah.-- McMenamin

6. Phoenix Suns

2022-23 record: 32-27

Previous ranking: 12

How's this for a welcome wagon for Durant? The No. 4-seeded Suns pulled away from the West's No. 3 seed, Sacramento, on Tuesday with Devin Booker scoring 32 on 13-for-20 shooting, Deandre Ayton putting up 29 on 13-for-17 and Chris Paul managing the action with 17 points and 19 assists. Step right up, Mr. Durant. -- McMenamin

7.Memphis Grizzlies

2022-23 record: 34-22

Previous ranking: 6

Foul problems continue to be Defensive Player of the Year candidateJaren Jackson Jr.'s lone flaw. He fouled out in 20 minutes in Sunday's loss to the Celtics -- the third time that Jackson has fouled out this season. He is averaging 27.1 minutes per game, which is significantly fewer than any other All-Star this season.-- MacMahon

8.Sacramento Kings

2022-23 record: 32-25

Previous ranking: 8

The Kings got their second All-Star selection whenDe'Aaron Foxwas named as a substitute. Since then, he has scored at least 30 points in three straight games. The Kings' offense has been elite, while the defense has left a lot to be desired. With so much movement in the West, the defense needs to improve if the Kings hope to keep a spot among the conference's top three clubs. -- Andrews

9. Dallas Mavericks

2022-23 record: 31-28

Previous ranking: 9

Luka Doncicand Irving are the first duo in NBA history to each average 30 points in their first two games as teammates, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. However, the Mavs lost both games by a total of eight points. Irving's 26-point fourth quarter in Monday's comeback bid that fell short against the Timberwolves was the highest-scoring quarter of his career and marked the fifth time he has scored at least 20 in the fourth quarter this season. That is the most by any player in a season over the past 25 years, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Doncic is the only other player in the league who has scored at least 20 in any quarter five times this season. -- MacMahon

10.Miami Heat

2022-23 record: 32-26

Previous ranking: 10

Miami has won three of its past four contests and appears primed to make a run after the All-Star break -- especially given the numbers that All-Star big manBam Adebayocontinues to put up. The Heat center is averaging 23 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists a game so far this month. -- Friedell

11. LA Clippers

2022-23 record: 32-28

Previous ranking: 7

The Clippers retooled the supporting cast around Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, replacing Reggie Jackson, John Wall and Luke Kennard with Eric Gordon, Bones Hyland and Mason Plumlee. While the Clippers sorely needed big man depth and Gordon and Hyland give the bench a jolt, Ty Lue will have to navigate the rest of this season without a true point guard on the roster unless the Clippers find one in the buyout market. But the Clippers' new pieces showed glimpses and gave the team an offensive boost in Tuesday's win over Golden State. They'll have to work on their defense, but with a lighter scheduleafter the All-Star break, they'll have plenty of practice time to address it. -- Youngmisuk

12. New York Knicks

2022-23 record: 32-27

Previous ranking: 13

Julius Randlemight be headed to Salt Lake City, but the MVP of New York's season has unquestionably beenJalen Brunson. The free agent signing from Dallas has completely changed the direction of the franchise and has delivered above and beyond even the most optimistic projections, both on and off the court. -- Bontemps

13. Brooklyn Nets

2022-23 record: 33-24

Previous ranking: 11

After months of speculation, the rebuild button has finally been pressed in Brooklyn. Durant's trade marked the end of one of the greatest teams never to win a title in the modern era -- with Irving,James Hardenand Durant all getting moved over the past year. The Nets now have a boatload of future draft picks -- and a potential future All-Star inMikal Bridges-- but they are missing the type of superstar every team needs in order to win a title. This new group figures to play hard under Jacque Vaughn, but its days of NBA relevance are over, at least in the short term. -- Friedell

14.Minnesota Timberwolves

2022-23 record: 31-29

Previous ranking: 15

The Timberwolves got better over the trade deadline by exchanging Russell forMike Conley. It's not that Conley is a bigger name than Russell, but his style of play fits their needs and he has a preexisting relationship withRudy Gobert. He is also the kind of player who should be able to learn how to play withKarl-Anthony Townsquickly upon his return. -- Andrews

15.New Orleans Pelicans

2022-23 record: 30-28

Previous ranking: 16

DespiteZion Williamson's absence extending "multiple weeks" after the All-Star break, the Pelicans have reason to be optimistic. First, they have the easiest remaining schedule in the league based on opponents' winning percentage. Second,Brandon Ingramlooks like himself again. In the past five games, Ingram has scored at least 25 points -- the first time in his career he has done that. He has also shot at least 50% in each of those games. The only players in team history with longer streaks of 25-point, 50% games are Williamson (nine, twice) andAnthony Davis(eight). -- Lopez

16.Golden State Warriors

2022-23 record: 29-29

Previous ranking: 14

It's hard to figure out what to make of the Warriors since they've been so mediocre this season. Around the league, there is still a fear of facing them early in the playoffs because, well, they're the Warriors. Golden State still believes it can make a run, but withGary Payton IIout for at least a month andStephen Curryexpected to miss a few more weeks minimum, it's hard to tell where this run will come from. The Warriors might hover right over .500 for the rest of the season. -- Andrews

17.Atlanta Hawks

2022-23 record: 29-29

Previous ranking: 17

Atlanta has a home game Wednesday against the Knicks and then a four-game homestand immediately following the All-Star break. The long stretch at home could help the Hawks get out of the .500 zone they've been hovering around for weeks. Atlanta has been 22-22, 24-24, 25-25, 26-26, 27-27, 28-28 and 29-29 over the past month (after being .500 at 14, 15, 16 and 17 wins earlier in the season). -- Lopez

18.Portland Trail Blazers

2022-23 record: 28-30

Previous ranking: 20

Cam Reddish finally escaped New York and has new life in Portland, scoring 18 points in Tuesday night's loss to Washington. Despite Damian Lillard scoring 30 or more for the 10th time in 12 games, the Blazers were routed by the Wizards at home. Portland plays eight of its next 10 on the road. -- Youngmisuk

19. Oklahoma City Thunder

2022-23 record: 27-29

Previous ranking: 21

Shai Gilgeous-Alexanderscored 44 points against Portland on Friday night and needed only 16 shots to do so. Gilgeous-Alexander converted 13 of 16 from the field and 18 of 19 from the line. He became the first Thunder player to have 40 points on 80% shooting and joinedNikola Jokic,Antetokounmpo and Bookeras the only players to accomplish it this season. Also, he's the first guard to have a 40-point game on 80% shooting without a 3-pointer since Michael Jordan did so on Nov. 16, 1988. -- Lopez

20.Utah Jazz

2022-23 record: 29-30

Previous ranking: 18

The Jazz consider a sixth man role to be ideal forCollin Sexton, but he has an opportunity to prove himself as a starting point guard for the rest of the season. Sexton has averaged 19.3 points and 5.5 assists in four games since Conley was traded, shooting 54% from the floor and committing only 1.8 turnovers per game. Sexton has been efficient as a starter this season (17.7 PPG, 5.1 APG, .647 true shooting percentage), but the Jazz are 6-8 in those games. -- MacMahon

21.Toronto Raptors

2022-23 record: 28-31

Previous ranking: 25

After standing pat at the deadline, Toronto has now ripped off five wins in six games after Tuesday's victory over Orlando, moving the Raptors firmly inside the top 10 in the East. It has been against a soft schedule, but it's still the kind of stretch the Raptors have been waiting to put together. --Bontemps

22. Los Angeles Lakers

2022-23 record: 26-32

Previous ranking: 22

Russell gave Lakers fans a dose of reality on Monday night. Yes, L.A.'s first win after the trade deadline at Golden State was impressive, but nights like the Lakers' 127-115 loss to the Blazers are bound to happen too. "It's not going to happen right away," he said. "As much as everybody are Laker fans in the world, they want it to happen right away. Just like any other team, you got to build."-- McMenamin

23.Washington Wizards

2022-23 record: 27-30

Previous ranking: 23

Kyle Kuzma returned to the lineup after a four-game absence and exploded for 33 points and nine rebounds to help Washington win for the third time in four games. It was the fourth straight game that a Wizard scored 30 or more points. Washington's schedule, though, doesn't get easier with Minnesota, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Toronto (twice) and Milwaukee in the next seven games.-- Youngmisuk

24.Chicago Bulls

2022-23 record: 26-31

Previous ranking: 19

The Bulls have gone 20-for-103 (19.4%) on 3-pointers during their most recent four-game losing streak, making them the first team in NBA history to shoot under 20% on 3s over a four-game span, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.-- Collier

25.Orlando Magic

2022-23 record: 24-35

Previous ranking: 26

Markelle Fultz continues to round into form for Orlando. He is averaging 16.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists in February. Fultz's continued improvement after recovering from a serious knee injury last season is another reason to believe that better days are ahead for a young Magic team.-- Friedell

26.Indiana Pacers

2022-23 record: 25-34

Previous ranking: 24

The Pacers have dropped five in a row and 16 of their past 18 as their slide down the standings continues despiteTyrese Haliburton's return. Indiana was in sixth place in the East during the beginning of its slump and now trails the No. 10 spot by 2 games. -- Collier

27. Charlotte Hornets

2022-23 record: 16-43

Previous ranking: 27

Charlotte actually snapped a seven-game losing streak on Monday after putting 144 points up on the Hawks.LaMelo Ballis in the midst of a nice stretch -- he has 72 points, 37 assists and 24 rebounds over his past three games.-- Friedell

28.Detroit Pistons

2022-23 record: 15-43

Previous ranking: 28

James Wiseman-- the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NBA draft -- joined the Pistons for a practice this week after his trade from the Warriors became official. He is expected to get his first opportunity to play Wednesday against the Celtics.-- Collier

29.San Antonio Spurs

2022-23 record: 14-44

Previous ranking: 29

It was quite the debut forDevonte' Grahamwith the Spurs. In his first game, Graham had a season-high 31 points, the most ever for a Spurs player in his debut. Also in that first game against the Pistons on Friday,Zach Collinshad 29 points andMalaki Branhamhad 27 points to go with Graham's big night. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, that was the first time in NBA history that three teammates each scored 25 points or more in the same game after averaging fewer than 10 points prior to that.-- Lopez

30.Houston Rockets

2022-23 record: 13-44

Previous ranking: 30

Third-year veteran forwardsJae'Sean TateandKenyon Martin Jr. are the longest-tenured Rockets afterEric Gordon-- the last player remaining from Houston's recent playoff teams -- was traded to the Clippers. Martin, 22, has shown intriguing promise since becoming a full-time starter a month ago, averaging 14.3 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting 59.1% from the floor in that span.-- MacMahon

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