NBA Power Rankings: Suns still on top, Grizzlies second, Celtics climbing

Phoenix Suns v Memphis Grizzlies
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The trade deadline has passed, the buyout market is heating up, but the top of the NBA Power Rankings doesn’t change with the Suns sitting on top, although Memphis leapfrogged the Warriors into second place this week.

Suns small icon 1. Suns (47-10, Last Week No. 1). Coaches will tell you there are no statement games in February, but the Suns easily handling the Bucks last Thursday was as close to a statement as it gets. These Suns are better than the team that went to the Finals a year ago (the Bucks are about the same, and that gap was evident). Phoenix now has a 5.5-game lead over the second-best team in the West (and the NBA) in Golden State, and the Suns have a much easier schedule the rest of the way. The Suns will finish as the top seed. The road to an NBA championship will run through Phoenix this season. Chris Paul and Devin Booker can relax and enjoy All-Star weekend.

Grizzlies small icon 2. Grizzlies (41-18, LW 4). Good on the Memphis front office for standing pat at the trade deadline and not making a “we need to capitalize on this” short-sighted move. This team is winning now with this core — the Grizzlies have won 9-of-10 with a top 10 offense and defense in that stretch. Of course, the hot stretch for the Griz is longer than that, they are a league-best 22-4 since Christmas. Why mess with that? Too many teams would, but the Grizzlies played it right at the deadline.

Warriors small icon 3. Warriors (42-16, LW 2). The Warriors defense that was the best in the league and the core of this team early in the season has stumbled of late with Draymond Green sidelined — they are 23rd in the NBA over their last five games. The Clippers beat the Warriors over the weekend because a shorthanded Los Angeles team watched Reggie Jackson and others get the matchups they wanted, then beat their man at the point of attack. The Warriors keep winning because of their offense, including Klay Thompson finding his grove.

Heat small icon 4. Heat (37-21, LW 3). The Heat are 5-1 since the return of Kyle Lowry, but most of the success has been about the defense locking opponents down (103.3 defensive rating over last six games, second best in the league for that stretch). Bam Adebayo is at the heart of this winning streak. both on the defensive end and averaging 22 points on 53.6% shooting and 118 rebounds over his last five games. Miami’s one trade at the deadline opened up a roster spot, expect them to be aggressive in trying to fill it with some veteran help.

Bucks small icon 5. Bucks (36-23, LW 5). The emergence of Grayson Allen and the step forward from Pat Connaughton allowed the Bucks to trade Donte DiVincenzo to bring in Serge Ibaka for needed frontline help (with Brook Lopez still out but expected to return later this season). Unfortunately, Connaughton broke a finger on his shooting hand just after the trade, which means a lot more Jordan Nwora for a few weeks. The Bucks keep on winning most nights, and it helps to have Giannis Antetokounmpo continuing to play at an MVP level.

Jazz small icon 6. Jazz (36-21, LW 9). Everybody calmed down in Salt Lake City now? The Jazz have rattled off six wins in a row, and Donovan Mitchell sat down for an interview and said, “I’m happy right now” and came off as very chill and comfortable with the situation. The buzz I have heard around the league is it still all comes down to the playoffs: If this Jazz team makes a deep run, then they stay the course as a franchise, but an early or ugly exit and new ownership and Danny Ainge will want to change things up. Flipping Joe Ingles‘ contract at the deadline for Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Juancho Hernangomez may have felt a little cold because Ingles was part of the franchise culture, but it is a solid basketball moe.

Celtics small icon 7. Celtics (34-25, LW 10). Boston continues to play lock-down defense — a 97 defensive rating over their last 10 games — and the addition of Derrick White should only improve them on that end. Boston sacrificed some size and versatility trading out Josh Richardson to get him, but White and Marcus Smart form a serious defensive backcourt. However, Smart’s sprained ankle is a bit of a concern going forward. The Celtics’ 9-game winning streak has locked them into the sixth seed in the East, out of the play-in, and the way the team is finally clicking it’s hard to imagine them sliding back in the standings.

Sixers small icon 8. 76ers (34-23, LW 8). Daryl Morey and the 76ers got their man in James Harden. Now they will bet on the idea that superstar players can figure out how to make it work together even if their games do not perfectly mesh (Harden prefers a big man who rolls to the rim, which is not Embiid, he wants touches but Harden gets lazy off-ball). Giving up Seth Curry stings but it’s the price of doing business — Philly is fully in its championship window now. Doc Rivers will unfairly get too much credit or blame for how this pairing goes, but it’s really up to Embiid and Harden to make it work. It needs to for both of them.

Mavericks small icon 9. Mavericks (34-24, LW 7). Dallas made the right trade, it was time to move on from Kristaps Porzingis. They brought him in to be a No. 2 next to Luka Doncic, they paid him to be a No. 2, and he couldn’t stay healthy enough to fulfill that promise. Mark Cuban and company will make a bold move to find a real No. 2 to pair with Luka Doncic eventually, but they have to be patient and wait for that play to come available. For the rest of this season and playoffs, it back to Doncic against the world. We can only hope for another playoff series against the Clippers — Doncic now has seven 42+ point games against them and last Thursday set a career-high with 51 against LA.

Cavaliers small icon 10. Cavaliers (35-23, LW 6). Caris LeVert is still finding his way with the Cavaliers, averaging 13.3 points a game (down 5 from with the Pacers) on 39.7% shooting, but there have been impressive moments. Such as when he scored eight points in the final five minutes of a comeback win over his former team, the Pacers. And there have been flashes of chemistry with Darius Garland. The young Cavaliers do not strike fear in the hearts of the top teams in the East (at least compared to other teams in the top six), but their gritty and surprising play this year means they will be a tough out no matter where they land in the playoffs.

Bulls small icon 11. Bulls (37-21, LW 12). When you get mentioned in the same sentence as Wilt Chamberlain, you know you’re doing something right. As noted by Justin Kubatko of, DeMar DeRozan now has scored 35+ points for 7 straight games, shooting at least 50% in each of those games, and the only other player to do that is Wilt. DeRozan has pulled the Bulls to a 5-2 record in those last seven, he and the offense continuing to cover up for a bottom-10 defense that is lost without Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball.

Raptors small icon 12. Raptors (31-25, LW 11). Flipping Goran Dragic for Thaddeus Young was a great move by Masai Ujiri, he will fit right in with the switchable and versatile Toronto roster. We will see if there are any last-minute All-Star Game dropouts from the East (maybe Zach LaVine?) because Pascal Siakam should be the next man up. He started the season a little slow but is averaging 22 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists a game (he might have gotten the previous All-Star Game call-up, but with the game itself in Cleveland Adam Silver went with Jarrett Allen). The Raptors had won eight in a row before dropping their last two, and they come out of the All-Star break with three games on the road.

Nuggets small icon 13. Nuggets (32-25, LW 13). Part of Nikola Jokic‘s bid to repeat as MVP is his improved defense this season, which was highlighted by his game-saving block against OG Anunoby. The biggest impediment to Jokic repeating is whether Denver will get enough wins and rank high enough in the standings to please some voters — they currently sit sixth in the West. Of course, what would really boost that standing is the healthy return of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., both of which are reportedly going to be back this season but there is no timetable for either.

14. Timberwolves (31-27, LW 14). Minnesota stood firm at the deadline, deciding to keep their core together with the belief it can lead them to the playoffs (one could argue they should have kept the core of Karl-Anthony Towns, Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins together because how would that look now, but that’s for another timeline). The Timberwolves sit just 1.5 games back of the Nuggets and the No. 6 seed (avoiding the play-in games) but Minnesota has a much tougher schedule the rest of the way.

Nets small icon 15. Nets (30-27, LW 15). Brooklyn’s front office and Kevin Durant finally got the message from James Harden’s passive-aggressive ways, and traded him for Ben Simmons (although the steal of that trade could be Seth Curry). On paper, Simmons is a perfect fit next to Durant and part-timer Kyrie Irving, but he would need to accept more of a Draymond Green style role as a leader of the defense and secondary playmaker on offense. Is Simmons ready to do that, or does he still see himself as a point guard and a primary offensive option? Because in the halfcourt, Steve Nash can’t take the ball out of Durant’s or Irving’s hands.

Hawks small icon 16. Hawks (27-30 LW 16). The up-and-down nature of Atlanta this season — beating Cleveland, losing to the Spurs this week — could be chalked up to “that’s how it is” when you have the second-ranked offense and 27th ranked defense in the league. Clint Capela told The Athletic it is more than just that: “Our approach the entire season, we were already thinking we were going to the playoffs. Our approach wasn’t about the next game; it was, ‘Oh, we won this. We won that.’ That’s the problem with teams that are not used to this.” That’s concerning.

Clippers small icon17. Clippers (29-31, LW 17). It fits with the Clippers’ luck this season that they trade for Norman Powell, he looks good in a few outings, then he fractures his foot and is out indefinitely. This team lines up to be a title contender next season — if they can keep everyone healthy. I’m not sure even Steve Ballmer can afford enough bubble wrap to make that happen. As for this season’s gritty Clippers, their next five games are against the rebuilding Rockets and struggling Lakers, get on a little run through those games and they can all but secure a play-in spot.

Hornets small icon 18. Hornets (29-30, LW 19). Picking up Montrezl Harrell at the trade deadline — plus a week off at the All-Star break — hopefully can snap the Hornets out of the funk they have been in. The Hornets’ once top-10 offense this season is 29th in the league over the last nine games, dragging down an improved defense. Charlotte needs Harrell to fire up the role players around LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier, because that group seems to have hit a wall.

Lakers small icon 19. Lakers (26-31, LW 18). The Lakers stood pat at the trade deadline, and while that frustrated some of the fan base it was the right move considering the options in front of them (well, they could have dumped DeAndre Jordan or Kent Bazemore salaries to save tax money, but they chose not to). While LeBron James continues to play at an All-NBA level (and set records passing Kareem), this stat from Andy Bailey sums up the frustration with everyone else: During Anthony Davis‘ nearly 3 seasons in LA, the Lakers are -2.6 per 100 possessions when he is on the floor without LeBron.

Spurs small icon 20. Spurs (22-36, LW 22). San Antonio did what a rebuilding team should do at the trade deadline and move veterans — Thaddeus Young and Derrick White — for first-round picks. Still, it’s disappointing not to see White next to Dejounte Murray, they had the promise of a long-term backcourt, but the pairing wasn’t good enough to take the Spurs where they wanted to go. San Antonio sits 12th in the West, only two games out of the play-in, but considering both New Orleans and Sacramento went all-in to get that spot, it feels like the Spurs will be comfortable with a few more lottery balls for the draft.

Pelicans small icon 21. Pelicans (23-35, LW 21). CJ McCollum averages 26 points a game on 50.6% shooting coming to the Big Easy, both numbers that are up from his Portland numbers this season (however, his 3-point shooting percentage has fallen to 33.3%). He’s thriving with more responsibility on his plate. But the Pelicans have still lost 3-of-4 and are not gaining ground on the Trail Blazers. It looks like Zion Williamson could need another surgery, a reminder that even if New Orleans makes the play-in, he is not going to return this season. Does he still get a max contract extension this summer?

Knicks small icon 22. Knicks (25-33, LW 20). The #freeCamReddish movement fell short at the trade deadline, the former Hawk is still a member of the Knicks and still buried on the bench of Tom Thibodeau (who didn’t want him in the first place). The Knicks head into the All-Star break as the 12th seed in the East. The good news is they are just 2.5 games out of the play-in, the bad news is they have one of the toughest remaining schedules in the NBA. New York’s only real hope at the postseason is Julius Randle and RJ Barrett turn it around and have spectacular final months of the season. Not sure anyone is betting on that, however.

Blazers small icon 23. Trail Blazers (24-34, LW 24). Portland stripped down its roster at the trade deadline to retool fast around Damian Lillard in the next couple of years. There is skepticism around the league that the Blazers can land the level of players Lillard wants, which could ultimately force him to leave. The vultures are still circling. As for this season, the Trail Blazers have won three in a row, including one over the Bucks, and have a much easier remaining schedule than the Kings or Pelicans. Portland could hold on to this spot.

Wizards small icon 24. Wizards (26-30, LW 23). There were serious chemistry issues in the Washington locker room — players have talked about the fight for minutes and touches — so it was time to make a change. But is Kristaps Porzingis the answer? If healthy his shooting and interior defense are welcome, but we saw how things panned out in Dallas, and a similar scenario in our nation’s capital could have Bradley Beal thinking about moving on. Porzingis is going to get his chance, however.

Kings small icon 25. Kings (22-37, LW 26). Domantas Sabonis‘ numbers are a little off since being traded to Sacramento — 15.7 points a game on 53.8 shooting, plus 11.3 rebounds a game, all of that down from what he did in Indiana — but it feels like an upgrade for the Kings, so they will take it. The Kings made their moves to get into the play-in this season (and be a playoff team next season) and they sit 13th in the West, 2.5 games out of the 10 seed, but they come out of the All-Star break with a home game against the Nuggets then five straight on the road. Sacramento has a much tougher remaining schedule than the Portland team they are trying to catch.

Pacers small icon 26. Pacers (19-40, LW 25). It’s just three games, but Tyrese Haliburton has put up some serious numbers since coming to Indiana: 20.7 points a game with a 56.3 eFG% and 10 assists a game. Once they Pacers get Myles Turner, Malcolm Brogdon and everyone else healthy and on the court together, this should look like a modern and pretty good NBA team. But that is not going to salvage this season. The Pacers have lost seven in a row and 11-of-13, they are not making a push for the postseason this year.

Thunder small icon 27. Thunder (18-39, LW 27). There are legitimate reasons to be hopeful in Oklahoma City. For one, the Thunder have the second-best defense in the NBA over their last 10 games, an impressive if improbable stat, and their play on that end of the court is keeping them in games. The other positive of late is the play of Josh Giddey, especially since Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is out with a sprained ankle. Giddey had a triple-double in the win over the Knicks and Giddey has shown off some pinpoint passing off the dribble.

Magic small icon 28. Magic 13-46, LW 28). If there was a big surprise at the trade deadline, it was that Terrence Ross was not traded. Now all eyes are on Orlando to see if Gary Harris or anyone else gets bought out and becomes a free agent. The Magic have lost 5-of-6, but this still feels like a season with some bright spots for them because of the emergence of Cole Anthony, Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter Jr. Combine them with a healthy Markelle Fultz, R.J. Hampton and Jonathan Isaac next season and this could be an interesting, league-pass favorite team.

Rockets small icon 29. Rockets (15-41, LW 29). A little surprised Eric Gordon is still wearing red after the trade deadline, but the team traded Daniel Theis and waived Enis Freedom to create more playing time for rookie Alperen Sengun. Houston has lost 9-of-10 and they will shrug about that as they are happy to get the minutes for Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, Sengun and the rest of a young core. Looking forward to seeing what Green and all that athleticism can do in the All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest.

Pistons small icon 30. Pistons (12-45, LW 30). A little surprised Jerami Grant didn’t find himself traded at the deadline, but Detroit was not liking the offers it got. Grant heads into the summer looking for a $112 million max extension and the Pistons are looking for the team that wants to pay it. Also, not opposed to taking a run at Marvin Bagley III. Probably nothing comes of it, but not a bad roll of the dice for a rebuilding team.

Coach, front office moves update: Pistons make Williams hiring official, Borrego or Stotts to Bucks bench?


There are far from settled across the NBA in both the coaching and front office circles, with news still leaking out daily. Here’s an update on things which have come to light in recent days.

• The Detroit Pistons made the hiring of Monty Williams official.

“A week ago, I was not sure what the future would hold,” Williams said in a statement, referencing reports he had planned to take a year away from coaching. “But, after talking with Tom [Gores, team principal owner] and Troy [Weaver, Pistons GM], I was excited hearing their vision for the Pistons going forward. They had a thoughtful plan and I am so appreciative of the emphasis they placed on the personal side of this business. They showed tremendous consideration for me and my family throughout this process.

“They also showed a commitment to success and doing things the right way,” he said. “As we discussed the team and expressed our collective goals, I realized that this would be a great opportunity for me to help a talented young team and build a strong culture here in Detroit. This is obviously a special place with a deep basketball history, and my family and I are looking forward to the opportunity to be a part of this city and organization.”

Williams has a six-year, $78.5 million contract with the team and that reportedly could grow to more than eight years, $100 million if incentives are hit. He was brought in to help build a culture of defense and discipline for a franchise with some nice young players but many questions.

• Kevin Ollie, the former NBA player and UConn coach who was in the mix for the Pistons’ job before Williams was hired, will be on the bench in Brooklyn next season.

• While Adrian Griffin has not officially signed his contract as the new Bucks head coach, he is sitting in on meetings running up to the draft and has essentially started the job, reports Eric Nehm and Shams Charania at The Athletic.

More interestingly, The Athletic reports the Bucks plan to put an experienced, veteran head coach next to the rookie Griffin, and are speaking to former Hornets head coach James Borrego and former Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. Bringing in an experienced staff to put around Griffin is the smart move, with what we saw this season with Joe Mazzulla in Boston as an example of why this is the smart path.

• The Wizards have hired former Hawks head of basketball operations Travis Schlenk to be the right-hand man next to new Wizards president Michael Winger. This is a quality hire. Schlenk was rumored to have questioned Atlanta’s trade for Dejounte Murray to put next to Trae Young — a move ownership wanted — and by mid-season he was pushed out the door. Having Winger and Schlenk in the Washington front office is a lot of brain power, the question remains will they be given true freedom by owner Ted Leonsis to make moves for the long term and not prioritize just making the playoffs? The Wizards have a big offseason coming up with questions about new contracts/extensions for Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis.

• Aaron Nelson, the training staff guru hired by the Pelicans away from the Suns in 2019 to help Zion Williamson and others, appears to be out of the mix in a restructured staff, reports Christian Clark at the Times-Picayune. Zion did not have a great relationship with Nelson, but the question is was Nelson the scapegoat for players issues beyond his control? From Clark’s article:

Williamson’s relationship with Nelson became strained during his rookie season. At different points, Williamson refused to work with him…

Brandon Ingram sat out 29 consecutive games with an injury the team described as a left toe contusion. Ingram kicked the back of a Memphis Grizzlies player’s foot in November. Two days after the injury, Pelicans coach Willie Green said Ingram was “day to day.” Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. Ingram did not play again until Jan. 25 — exactly two months after hurting his toe…

Ingram has sometimes seemed unwilling to play through minor discomfort, to the point where some of his teammates have become frustrated with him over the past two years. The Pelicans thought they had solved their player care and performance problem by hiring Nelson. Four years later, Nelson’s time in charge of the department is over.

When the Pelicans have all their stars on the court, this is at the very least, a playoff team in the West and potentially a dangerous one. I’m not going to speculate on the internal dynamics of the Pelicans front office and training team, but after years of injury issues it’s fair to ask if this is a matter of the training staff, or is this on the players themselves?

Knicks’ Julius Randle undergoes ankle surgery, should return for training camp

2023 NBA Playoffs - 	New York Knicks v Miami Heat
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Knicks’ Julius Randle sprained his ankle with two weeks to go in the regular season. He returned from that in time to face the Cleveland Cavaliers and their massive front line in the playoffs, but he struggled in that series — 14.4 points a game on 33.8% shooting — and injured his ankle again in Game 5. He did make it back for the Heat series after missing Game 1 but was never fully himself.

Now, as he hinted at during the playoffs, Randle has undergone offseason arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Randle is expected to be ready for the start of training camp in the fall.

Randle had an All-NBA season, averaging 25.1 points and 10 rebounds a game, and was part of the reason, along with Jalen Brunson, the Knicks were the No. 5 seed in the East last season.

Randle’s name has come up in trade rumors, mostly with him going out if the Knicks get in the mix for a superstar who becomes available this offseason. If someone such as Karl-Anthony Towns or Bradley Beal hits the market and New York wants to be in play, sending out Randle — set to make $25.6 million this season, with two more seasons on the books after that — is the way to match salaries.

Randle should be healthy and ready for training camp for whatever team he is on come September.

Watch Victor Wembanyama highlights from French league playoffs


Give Victor Wembanyama and his handlers credit — they have got him out there playing. The management teams for a lot of future No. 1 picks would have their guy in bubble wrap by now, not doing anything but solo workouts in a gym, not wanting to risk any injury or risking his draft status.

Wembanyama — the 7’4″ prodigy on both ends of the floor — is on the court in the semi-finals of the French LNB league (the highest level of play in France). His team, Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92, is one win away from the LNB Finals. While they lost on Friday to Lyon-Villeurbanne (the best-of-five series is now 2-1 Boulogne-Levallois), Wembanyama put up some highlights worth watching.

The San Antonio Spurs will select Wembanyama with the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft (June 22). San Antonio — and possibly Wembanyama — will make their Summer League debut at the California Classic Summer League in Sacramento in early July, before heading on to Las Vegas for the larger, official Summer League. While Wembanyama is playing for his French team in the playoffs, how much the Spurs will play him in the summer leagues — if at all — remains to be seen (top players have been on the court less and less at Summer League in recent years).

Spoestra’s biggest Heat adjustment for Game 2? Play with more ‘toughness and resolve’


DENVER — The days between NBA Finals are filled with talk of adjustments. After an ugly Game 1, much of that falls on the Heat — what can Erik Spoelstra draw up to get Jimmy Butler better lanes to attack? How must the Heat adjust their defense on Nikola Jokick?

Spoelstra sees it a little differently.

“Scheme is not going to save us,” he said.

His point is straightforward, the team’s best adjustment is simply to play better. More effort, more resolve. The trio of Max Strus, Caleb Martin and Duncan Robinson must do better than 2-of-23 from 3. The Heat can’t settle for jumpers like they did in Game 1, they have to attack the rim and draw some fouls, getting to the line (the Heat had just two free throws in Game 1). Their halfcourt defensive decisions have to be sharper. Those are not scheme-related things.

The Heat saw some of that in the second half, but Spoelstra made it clear the better last 24 minutes (particularly the last 12) was more about effort than the adjustments they made (such as playing more Haywood Highsmith and putting him on Jokić for a while).

“I never point to the scheme. Scheme is not going to save us,” Spoelstra said. “It’s going to be the toughness and resolve, collective resolve. That’s us at our finest, when we rally around each other and commit to doing incredibly tough things. That’s what our group loves to do more than anything, to compete, to get out there and do things that people think can’t be done.

“The efforts made that work in the second half, but we’re proving that we can do that with our man defense, too.”

Among the things many people don’t think can be done is the Heat coming back in this series. But Spoelstra is right, proving people wrong is what the Heat have done all playoffs.