- Utah Jazz
Previous Ranking: 1 (Same)
The Jazz have emerged as true championship contenders, as they are currently the one seed in the West. With some tight competition at the top of the conference, Utah might not be able to secure the one seed, but should be hosting a playoff series come playoff time. With three All Stars in Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and the recently announced replacement Mike Conley, the Jazz shouldn’t be a team treated lightly in the second half.
- Brooklyn Nets
Previous Ranking: 2 (Same)
The Nets finally have some time to get healthy over the All Star break. The big three of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden have all been banged up and missed time this season, leading to the three playing only five games together so far. The break will give them time to heal, and Brooklyn should be able to keep their momentum to make a push for the one seed in the East.
- Phoenix Suns
Previous Ranking: 6 (Up 3)
The young Suns team that narrowly missed out on the playoffs last year is currently on pace to easily make it this season thanks to the addition of Chris Paul. Paul and fellow star Devin Booker got All Star selections, which is well deserved for the best players on the most improved team. Phoenix will be in contention for the one seed in the West, but should have home court advantage in the opening round regardless, as they attempt to go on a deep playoff run.
- Philadelphia 76ers
Previous Ranking: 5 (Up 1)
The 76ers are currently the one seed in the East, but only have a half game lead on the Nets. With two All Stars in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, Philly should be able to lock in a top three seed at the very least. Embiid will continue to try and make his case for winning the MVP award, while Simmons makes his case for DPOY.
- Los Angeles Lakers
Previous Ranking: 4 (Down 1)
The main thing the Lakers need to do in the second half of the season is to get healthy. Before several key injuries to players like Dennis Schroder, and more importantly Anthony Davis, the Lakers were sitting pretty at the top of the West and our power rankings. LA will need to get healthy if they want a shot at repeating as champions this year.
- Los Angeles Clippers
Previous Ranking: 3 (Down 3)
The Clippers, despite a recent skid, are still among the top four seeds in the west right now. They should be able to finish in the top four, but the main question is whether they can translate their regular season success to the postseason. Although they have the talent to be contenders, some feel they are imposters because of how they disappeared in the playoffs last season. They will need to prove that they are the real deal this season.
- Milwaukee Bucks
Previous Ranking: 7 (Same)
The Bucks are in a very similar situation to the Clippers, in which they haven’t really been able to translate their regular season success to the postseason. This time though, they aren’t the best team in the East record wise, and Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t really in conversation for the MVP award. Maybe having the spotlight off them will help Milwaukee succeed in the postseason.
- Portland Trail Blazers
Previous Ranking: 9 (Up 1)
Portland is another team that should be getting key players back after the all star break. CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, who were both injured early in the season, should be making a return at some point in the second half of the season. These additions will take a major burden off of Damian Lillard, making Portland a sleeper pick in the West, and a team that no one wants to play in the first round.
- Denver Nuggets
Previous Ranking: 10 (Up 1)
Denver should lock up a playoff spot in the second half of the season behind their duo of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. Jokic will continue to make his case for the MVP award, and would have a legitimate shot at it if the Nuggets somehow sneak into the top three seeds in the West. Regardless, Denver will be a tough out come playoff time.
- San Antonio Spurs
Previous Ranking: 11 (Up 1)
One of the biggest surprises of the season has been the success of the Spurs when many, including myself, doubted they would be in playoff contention. The Spurs have continued to be doubted, but this core of young players mixed with solid veterans should be able to find themselves in the postseason when the time comes. It will be a successful season if coach Gregg Popovich can lead this team to a playoff berth.
- Dallas Mavericks
Previous Ranking: 14 (Up 3)
Dallas has quickly emerged back in the playoff hunt, as they are currently the eight seed. They should be one of many teams fighting for the final spot, and will most likely participate in a play-in game for one of the final two spots. Dallas has had many ups and downs this year, and it would be impressive to see them clinch a playoff spot despite it all.
- Golden State Warriors
Previous Ranking: 8 (Down 4)
A recent skid has the Warriors currently out of the playoffs right now, but they should be in a tightly contested race down the stretch for one of the final spots. Although they have a chance to make some noise this season, the most important thing is to build chemistry and develop James Wiseman for next season. Next year they will finally get Klay Thompson back and will become true contenders for the title.
- Miami Heat
Previous Ranking: 13 (Same)
After one of the worst starts to a season, Miami has seemed to get their mojo back, as they are currently sitting at .500 at the All Star break. Jimmy Butler being healthy has paid dividends, as the difference he makes is very clear when he isn’t in the lineup. Miami has set themselves up to be in a similar position as last year, where they could be a team no one wants to really face.
- Boston Celtics
Previous Ranking: 15 (Up 1)
The Celtics were able to rattle off four straight wins right before the All Star break to get them back over .500. Boston will look to continue this momentum after the All Star break as they could potentially be getting reinforcements at the deadline. They are rumored to be interested in Nikola Vucevic and Jerami Grant, and both could be significant additions to the Celtics and make them true contenders out of the East.
- New York Knicks
Previous Ranking: 16 (Up 1)
New York is currently sitting at the sixth seed as they look to finally end their seven season playoff drought. Although they don’t seem like true contenders, making the playoffs would be huge for Knicks fans, as they have been the laughing stock of the NBA for the past few years. If the Knicks can stay around .500, they should have a really good shot to make the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference.
- Toronto Raptors
Previous Ranking: 12 (Down 4)
After finally getting back to a .500 record, Toronto lost its last two games to dip back to below .500. Despite that, the Raptors should be able to lock up a playoff spot in the second half of the season. The Raptors will look to improve their center rotation at the trade deadline, as that is the true weak spot, and it could help them surge back up the standings.
- Memphis Grizzlies
Previous Ranking: 18 (Up 1)
Despite a ton of injuries to key players to start the season, Memphis is sitting with a .500 record at the All Star break. With all the superstar talent in the West, Memphis has flown under the radar and quietly kept their playoff aspirations alive. They currently are in the play in tournament as they sit in the ten seed, and should have a good shot at holding on to that spot.
- Charlotte Hornets
Previous Ranking: 19 (Up 1)
The Hornets have been a pleasant surprise this season, as many key additions they made in the offseason have panned out. Gordon Hayward has revived his career, and rookie LaMelo Ball has been sensational so far. Charlotte currently sits at the seven seed and is one of several teams that will be fighting for the last two spots in the East.
- Indiana Pacers
Previous Ranking: 17 (Down 2)
The Pacers rough stretch has continued, as they are currently the ten seed in the East. This losing trend is worrisome for the Pacers, but ultimately it is tough to see the Pacers missing the playoffs with the talent on their team. They should be getting Caris LeVert back soon, so he should help get them back in the top 8 seeds.
- Chicago Bulls
Previous Ranking: 20 (Same)
Chicago is another team in the East that is in the hunt for the playoffs. They are currently sitting 2 games under .500 at the ninth seed, but a small winning streak could get them into the eight seed or even higher. At the end of the season though, the Bulls should have a shot at the playoffs with the play-in tournament regardless.
- Atlanta Hawks
Previous Ranking: 22 (Up 1)
Despite a ton of moves in the last offseason, the Hawks find themselves in a similar position to last year. They have already fired their head coach, Lloyd Pierce, and have lost De’Andre Hunter for the season, but still could force a play in game for the playoffs despite these struggles. However it seems more likely that the Hawks will be back in the lottery at the end of the season.
- New Orleans Pelicans
Previous Ranking: 21 (Down 1)
The young core in its first season under Stan Van Gundy have certainly disappointed this year. Although they aren’t completely out of the playoff race, it is certainly a long shot in the West, and the Pelicans would need an almost perfect second half to pull it off. Instead the Pelicans should use the second half of the season to see who they are going to keep and who they are going to move in the supporting cast of their two young stars, Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.
- Washington Wizards
Previous Ranking: 23 (Same)
The Wizards have bounced back from an abysmal start, and have somehow found themselves with a shot to make the playoffs. Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook have been playing really good as of late and have put them in position for a solid second half of the season. With some minor moves at the trade deadline, the Wizards could find themselves making a playoff push in the second half.
- Oklahoma City Thunder
Previous Ranking: 24
For a team many projected to be the worst in the league, OKC has done surprisingly well. They have two core guys in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort who they can build around for the future. In the second half of the season, the Thunder should be a competitive team that people can’t take lightly, but ultimately they will most likely miss out on the playoffs and get a lottery pick.
- Sacramento Kings
Previous Ranking: 25 (Same)
The Kings have fallen out of the playoff picture and will likely miss the playoffs again. Their young core should continue to develop in the second half of the season, as they seem to have found their backcourt of the future in De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. They will need to go into the offseason looking to improve their frontcourt and surround their young guards with solid players who could help get them into the playoffs come next season.
- Cleveland Cavaliers
Previous Ranking: 27 (Up 1)
For the second half of the season, the Cavs should look to develop their young players as well. Fortunately, they believe they have found their core for the future in Colin Sexton, Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro, and Jarrett Allen, but will have to look to build around them in the offseason. They will look to get some assets out of Andre Drummond at the deadline to try and kickstart that process.
- Orlando Magic
Previous Ranking: 26 (Down 1)
Injuries have played a major role in the Magic’s lack of success, and will be a major reason for them missing the playoffs. Orlando should hopefully move Nikola Vucevic, whether it’s at the deadline or in the offseason. They should prioritize developing their young players in the second half of the season, and build a solid young core for the future.
- Detroit Pistons
Previous Ranking: 29 (Up 1)
Detroit is once again one of the worst teams in the league and will be looking to improve their young core with a high draft pick. The major bright spot on the team has been forward Jerami Grant, who signed with the team in the offseason. Grant is currently the front runner for the Most Improved Player award and has played near an All Star level despite the Pistons lack of success. Expect Grant to continue his good play in the second half of the season as he looks to secure this award.
- Houston Rockets
Previous Ranking: 28 (Down 1)
After a promising stretch of games after the James Harden trade, the Rockets have fallen to the bottom of the West and are currently on a 13 game losing streak. They should consider moving some of their veteran pieces, such as Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker at the deadline to get some value for players who aren’t helping them at the moment. From there, they should fully embrace the rebuild, as they have a ton of picks to use in the upcoming drafts.
- Minnesota Timberwolves
Previous Ranking: 30 (Same)
Minnesota will once again find themselves at or near the bottom of the standings in the Western Conference by the end of this year. The front office should take the second half of the year to really assess the talent they have on the roster. They will need to make some moves in the offseason, as they can’t keep running with a bunch of young draft picks with potential and either need to move some of them to build a core around Karl Anthony-Towns and D’Angelo Russell, or go into a complete rebuild.
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