NBA Power Rankings: Taking a look at each team’s season as we move towards the playoffs

Previous Power Rankings:  PreseasonWeek 1Week 2Week 3Week 4Week 5Week 6Week 7Week 8Week 9Week 10Week 11Week 12Week 13Week 14Week 15Week 16Week 17Week 18Week 19, Week 20

  1. Utah Jazz

Previous Ranking: 1 (Same)

Record: 52-20

Preseason Ranking: 15 (Up 14)

Season Outcome: Above Expectations

Certainly nobody expected this right? Utah lacked cohesion and chemistry for most of last season, and didn’t really add any players that moved the needle over the offseason, but somehow turned it into the best record in the league. They reeled off a massive win streak early on in the season, and managed to piece things together in the second half of the season when injuries piled up to stay at the top of the league. If Donovan Mitchell can find his way back onto the court sometime during the first round, Utah should be set for a deep playoff run.

  1. Phoenix Suns

Previous Ranking: 2 (Same)

Record: 51-21

Preseason Ranking: 11 (Up 9)

Season Outcome: Above Expectations

The Suns big offseason move for Chris Paul paid dividends, and the Suns find themselves with the second best record in the league. They aren’t the flashiest team, and seemed to fly under the radar for long stretches of the season, but they consistently found ways to win games, which bodes well for any playoff team. With Paul and Devin Booker leading the way as their star backcourt duo, Phoenix should be set for the playoffs

  1. Philadelphia 76ers

Previous Ranking: 3 (Same)

Record: 49-23

Preseason Ranking: 13 (Up 3)

Season Outcome: Above Expectations

After a disappointing season, Philly was expected to be a middle of the pack team once again. However the coaching change from Scott Brown to Doc Rivers has done wonders for this team as they were able to clinch the 1 seed in the Eastern Conference this weekend. Joel Embiid played at an MVP level the entire season, and Tobias Harris returned to an All Star level after a major drop off last season to lead the 76ers to the top of the East.

  1. Brooklyn Nets

Previous Ranking: 6 (Up 2)

Record: 48-24

Preseason Ranking: 4 (Same)

Season Outcome: Met Expectations

The Nets have come out and been exactly what was expected of them; legitimate championship contenders. The addition of James Harden has made them that much scarier as they have the most offensive firepower out of any team in the league. The only question surrounding this team is if they will be able to come together and make a deep run, as their big three of Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving have only played a few games with each other.

  1. Milwaukee Bucks 

Previous Ranking: 4 (Down 1)

Record: 46-26

Preseason Ranking: 2 (Down 3)

Season Outcome: Met Expectations

The Bucks were once again one of the top teams out in the East and will look to have a deep playoff run after last season’s rather disappointing run. It will be no small task however, as Milwaukee will have to face the Miami Heat in the first round, and potentially Brooklyn or Philadelphia later on down the line. However they have a much better chance this year thanks to the addition of Jrue Holiday, who is known to show up in the playoffs.

  1. Denver Nuggets 

Previous Ranking: 5 (Down 1)

Record: 47-25

Preseason Ranking: 6 (Same)

Season Outcome: Met Expectations

Coming into the season, many expected the Nuggets to find themselves near the top of the Western Conference after last season’s bubble performance, and they clocked in right at the 3 seed in the Western Conference. Nikola Jokic has been a major part of that, as he looks to be a shoe-in for the MVP award. Making a deep playoff run will be much harder this year as they will be without Jamal Murray who tore his ACL and will be out for the rest of the season.

  1. Los Angeles Clippers

Previous Ranking: 7 (Same)

Record: 47-25

Preseason Ranking: 3 (Down 4)

Season Outcome: Met Expectations

For most of the regular season, the Clippers have gone somewhat under the radar despite being one of the top teams in the league. The Clippers need to have some playoff success this year if they want to get rid of the stigma associated with them being playoff chokers. If they don’t make it out of the first round at least, the front office may have to consider making some serious changes this offseason.

  1. Dallas Mavericks

Previous Ranking: 8 (Same)

Record: 42-30

Preseason Ranking: 8 (Same)

Season Outcome: Met Expectations

The Mavs finished the season off with a really strong second half, which helped propel them to the 5 seed out West. Luka Doncic will come to play in the playoffs as we have seen before, but the Mavs will need guys like Tim Hardaway Jr, Josh Richardson, and most importantly Kristaps Porzingis to show up if they want to make some noise.

  1. Portland Trail Blazers

Previous Ranking: 10 (Up 1)

Record: 42-30

Preseason Ranking: 10 (Up 1)

Season Outcome: Met Expectations

Portland finds themselves once again as another quality playoff team behind Damian Lillard and co. Portland was hit by a little injury bug, but were able to bounce back from missing both CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic for some time. However, this season’s true success will all be based on how far they go in the playoffs.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers

Previous Ranking: 12 (Up 2)

Record: 42-30

Preseason Ranking: 1 (Down 9)

Season Outcome: Below Expectations 

The Lakers were hit by the injury bug hard this year, as both of their superstar players in LeBron James and Anthony Davis missed a significant amount of time. Because of that they dropped down the standings pretty far and will have a much tougher time reaching the Finals without home court advantage and having to go through the play-in round. However, a team with LeBron James on it will always have a shot at making it to the Finals.

  1. New York Knicks

Previous Ranking: 9 (Down 2)

Record: 41-31

Preseason Ranking: 29 (Up 18)

Season Outcome: Above Expectations

The Knicks have to be the biggest surprise of the season as many, including myself, projected them to be one of the worst teams in the league at the start of the season. Instead, guys like Immanuel Quickly, Derrick Rose, RJ Barrett, and most importantly Julius Randle, have played great this year and helped the Knicks make that jump into the playoffs. 

  1. Atlanta Hawks

Previous Ranking: 11 (Down 1)

Record: 41-31

Preseason Ranking: 18 (Up 6)

Season Outcome: Above Expectations

Coming into the season, the Hawks were expected to be a lower seeded team in the East, and potentially fighting for a play-in spot in the last week of the season. Instead they have been a serious playoff team ever since they fired head coach Lloyd Pierce. Now they will look to carry this momentum into the playoffs and win a playoff series.

  1. Miami Heat

Previous Ranking: 13 (Same)

Record: 40-32

Preseason Ranking: 5 (Down 8)

Season Outcome: Slightly Below Expectations

For a lot of the regular season, many called the Heat frauds as they continued to struggle and dip below .500 on several occasions after making it all the way to the Finals last season. The Heat have been able to bounce back and find themselves in a similar situation to last year, as they are a dangerous 6 seed team that have a high upset potential for whoever they play in the playoffs.

  1. Golden State Warriors

Previous Ranking: 15 (Up 1)

Record: 39-33

Preseason Ranking: 9 (Down 5)

Season Outcome: Met Expectations

With Stephen Curry coming back, most knew that the Warriors would return to a playoff caliber team just based off his presence alone. However it took this team a while to gel as they struggled to get wins to start the season. The Warriors heated up just when they needed to though and are riding a six game winning streak going into the play-in tourney.

  1. Memphis Grizzlies

Previous Ranking: 16 (Up 1)

Record: 38-34

Preseason Ranking: 20 (Up 5)

Season Outcome: Met Expectations

Memphis was expected to be right around the middle of the pack when it came to the Western Conference, and they were just that. Ja Morant and Jonas Valanciunas have led this team to an over .500 record and were just a win off from getting the 8 seed in the West. Now they find themselves in a similar situation to last year, as they need two wins to make it into the playoffs.

  1. Boston Celtics

Previous Ranking: 14 (Down 2)

Record: 36-36

Preseason Ranking: 7 (Down 9)

Season Outcome: Below Expectations

The Celtics have been one of the most disappointing teams this season, and they seemed to never really click together. Despite all of their talent, they were constantly riddled with injuries and fell to the seven seed after being projected a top three seed all offseason. Now they limp into the play-in round without Jaylen Brown and are in serious danger of being bounced early this postseason.

  1. Washington Wizards

Previous Ranking: 17 (Same)

Record: 34-38

Preseason Ranking: 19 (Up 2)

Season Outcome: Met Expectations

It has been a tale of two halves for the Wizards this season, as they struggled right out of the gate. However, they have been playing extremely well as of late and were able to pull themselves out of the big hole they had dug themselves to start the season and made the play-in tournament. In the end, the team finds themselves exactly where they were projected to be, with a chance to make some serious noise this postseason.

  1. San Antonio Spurs

Previous Ranking: 19 (Up 1)

Record: 33-39

Preseason Ranking: 27 (Up 9)

Season Outcome: Above Expectations

Coming into the season, the Spurs had made very little changes to a roster that had missed the playoffs for the first time since 1997. However young players such as Keldon Johnson and Dejounte Murray made big jumps this year to help this team sneak into the play-in tournament. No matter how the tournament goes, this season has been a major success for the Spurs.

  1. Indiana Pacers

Previous Ranking: 20 (Up 1)

Record: 34-38

Preseason Ranking: 17 (Down 2)

Season Outcome: Below Expectations 

Indiana has been a solid playoff team for the last few years, but definitely took a step back this year. Instead of being a solid 4 or 5 seed, they are now fighting for a playoff spot in the play-in tournament. Injuries didn’t help their cause at all either as both Myles Turner and T.J. Warren missed significant time this season.

  1. Charlotte Hornets

Previous Ranking: 18 (Down 2)

Record: 33-39

Preseason Ranking: 23 (Up 3)

Season Outcome: Above Expectations

Charlotte’s season has been a major success as they have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs thanks to the play-in tournament. They could have had an even better season had Gordon Hayward and LaMelo Ball not missed significant time due to injuries this year. However the team is healthy now and will not be an easy out in a one game elimination series.

  1. New Orleans Pelicans

Previous Ranking: 21 (Same)

Record: 31-41

Preseason Ranking: 16 (Down 5)

Season Outcome: Below Expectations

Many expected the Pelicans to be a playoff lock behind Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, but that was not the case this year. New additions in Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams just never truly meshed with the rest of the roster which led to pacing issues the whole season. With a few moves in the offseason, the Pelicans could find themselves in the playoffs next season.

  1. Sacramento Kings

Previous Ranking: 22 (Same)

Record: 31-41

Preseason Ranking: 24 (Up 2)

Season Outcome: Met Expectations

The Kings were able to stay in the playoff picture for most of this season, but were unable to make any real surge into a play-in spot. De’Aaron Fox made another big jump in his development and Tyrese Haliburton looks to be a great addition alongside Fox. With another year of development and hopefully a new coach, the Kings might be able to make some noise next season.

  1. Chicago Bulls

Previous Ranking: 24 (Up 1)

Record: 31-41

Preseason Ranking: 25 (Up 2)

Season Outcome: Below Expectations

This was yet another season where many expected the Bulls to potentially make the jump into the playoffs, but that just didn’t happen. Chicago made a big win now move at the deadline to acquire Nikola Vucevic and hopefully make a playoff run, but they struggled in the second half of the season and quickly fell out of the playoff race. Now they find themselves back in the lottery with big decisions to make with this roster. 

  1. Toronto Raptors

Previous Ranking: 23 (Down 1)

Record: 27-45

Preseason Ranking: 14 (Down 10)

Season Outcome: Below Expectations

Toronto looked to be a playoff team once again this year, but came out struggling and were never able to find their footing. One major reason has to be the fact that they were unable to have a true home game, as all of their home games were played in Tampa Bay instead of Toronto. That coupled with the loss of Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol led to them missing the playoffs and having a rough season.

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves

Previous Ranking: 27 (Up 2)

Record: 23-49

Preseason Ranking: 21 (Down 4)

Season Outcome: Below Expectations

Many expected the Timberwolves to be a borderline playoff team this year, but the injury bug had other ideas for them. Both Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russel missed significant time this year which led to Minnesota falling out of the playoff picture early on. The one positive is that rookie Anthony Edwards played really well and has a good shot at winning Rookie of the Year.

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Previous Ranking: 25 (Down 1)

Record: 22-50

Preseason Ranking: 28 (Up 2)

Season Outcome: Met Expectations

This year was expected to be another rebuilding year where the Cavs looked to continue the development of Colin Sexton and Darius Garland, and they did just that. They also added a young center in Jarret Allen who fits the timeline of their two young guards. Overall this was a decent season for the Cavs as they look to add a few more pieces to try and get themselves back in the playoff picture come next season.

  1. Detroit Pistons

Previous Ranking: 28 (Up 1)

Record: 20-52

Preseason Ranking: 26 (Down 1)

Season Outcome: Met Expectations

The Pistons had one of the worst rosters in the league at the start of the season, and their record and play resembles that. They got solid play from their rookies Isaiah Stewart and Killian Hayes and will look to build upon that young core with the draft this year as they continue their rebuild.

  1. Orlando Magic

Previous Ranking: 26 (Down 2)

Record: 21-51

Preseason Ranking: 22 (Down 6)

Season Outcome: Below Expectations

Orlando got hit by the injury bug early on this season, which hurt their playoff hopes significantly. Because of this Orlando decided to flip Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, and Aaron Gordon for whatever pieces they could salvage as they realized they were bound for the lottery. The Magic will now start a rebuild that was several years in the making.

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder

Previous Ranking: 29 (Same)

Record: 22-50

Preseason Ranking: 30 (Up 1)

Season Outcome: Met Expectations

The Thunder were expected to be in heavy tank mode this season, and they did just that. After flipping Chris Paul and other assets in the offseason for picks, the Thunder had one of the youngest and most inexperienced rosters in the league. That inexperience led to many losses, as the Thunder are back in the lottery looking to build around their young core of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort.

  1. Houston Rockets

Previous Ranking: 30 (Same)

Record: 17-55

Preseason Ranking: 12 (Down 18)

Season Outcome: Below Expectations

Coming into the season, the Rockets still had James Harden and looked to be a playoff lock like they had been the past few years. Even when they flipped Harden, it seemed like they still had the pieces to remain in playoff contention while also building for the future. Instead they found themselves with the worst record in the league with a lengthy rebuild ahead of them.

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