NBA Power Rankings, summer edition: Warriors start on top, but Celtics, Bucks knocking on door


Usually by this point in the summer all the big offseason moves are made. Not this year — Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Donovan Mitchell all could be on new teams before the start of next season. Still, with offseason action slowing down and teams’ rosters largely filled out, it felt like time to do a Summer NBA Power Rankings. With, of course, the defending champions on top.

Warriors small icon 1. Warriors (53-29). The defending champions deservedly start the next season on top of these power rankings, but to stay there will require some of their younger stars — Moses Moody (who looked fantastic at Summer League), Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman — stepping into larger roles to fill the gap left by Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr. Plus the youngsters need to help keep the minutes under control for Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Donte DiVincenzo was a smart pickup and could have a big bounce-back season in the Bay Area.

Celtics small icon 2. Celtics (51-31). Brad Stevens nailed this offseason. The Celtics’ run to the Finals showed the need to add some depth (keeping the minutes for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown under control) and a little more shot creation. Enter Malcolm Brogdon (in a trade that cost them none of their core) and free agent Danilo Gallinari. The Celtics enter this season knowing who they are and what they want to do — something they figured out during the middle of last season — and they will be in the mix to finish the regular season on top of the East.

Bucks small icon 3. Bucks (51-31). Why is everyone seemingly sleeping on Milwaukee as a title contender? If Khris Middleton were healthy during the Celtics series, we might be talking about the back-to-back champion Bucks. No big moves this offseason, but they wisely resigned Pat Connaughton and Bobby Portis to keep them in house. Joe Ingles could get healthy the second half of the season and provide some playoff depth. The Bucks bring back basically the same team that won it all two seasons ago, and that may be good enough again.

Clippers small icon4. Clippers (42-40). Finally healthy, this team is scary good — keeping it healthy is what will keep Tyronn Lue and everyone in the Clippers organization up at night. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are two-way wings who can drive the offense and lock down opposing wings on the other end. They are surrounded by a good and versatile supporting cast with Norman Powell, Ivica Zubac, Marcus Morris, Robert Covington, Luke Kennard and the list goes on. Signing John Wall was a good move, he will split time with Reggie Jackson at the point. Losing Isaiah Hartenstein stings, but this team has the depth to cover it up.

Grizzlies small icon 5. Grizzlies (56-26). They took care of job No. 1 this offseason: Lock up franchise cornerstone Ja Morant. After that they largely kept the band together, re-signing Tyus Jones and John Konchar, and using the draft (Jake LaRivia, David Roddy, the latter of whom impressed at Summer League) to replace Kyle Anderson (the Timberwolves) and De'Anthony Melton (the 76ers will love him). Last season’s breakout team should see further player development and the rotation on this deep team should solidify, but is the team that made it to the second round of the playoffs last season ready for another step.

Sixers small icon 6. 76ers (51-31). James Harden is taking less money to win — exactly how much less is TBD — and Daryl Morey used that spending cash well to bring in P.J. Tucker, Danuel House and trade for De’Anthony Melton. With Tyrese Maxey ready to take another step forward, this team has all the role players needed to contend — it now falls on Joel Embiid and Harden to show they can be the two superstars on a title team. Not worried about Embiid being able to do that (if he can stay healthy), but Harden? The playoff pressure to perform will fall on him.

Suns small icon 7. Suns (64-18). Deandre Ayton is back and, after all the drama, is saying the right things about wanting to be there. Monty Williams will know how to make things right. The Suns extended their superstar in Devin Booker and essentially are running it back — which is the smart move for a team that won a league-best 64 games last season. If 37-year-old Chris Paul can keep playing at this level, the Suns have to be considered contenders, but will they be good enough to come out of a deeper West where the top teams are a little more versatile than them? Or will they look back and rue the missed opportunity to land Kevin Durant?

Heat small icon 8. Heat (53-29). The team with the East’s best regular-season record last go around spent the summer trying to land another star to go next to Jimmy Butler, but as of now Durant is still in Brooklyn (and not likely going anywhere for a while) and Miami currently lacks the first-round picks to match the Knicks in the Donovan Mitchell sweepstakes. Losing P.J. Tucker is going to sting, especially in the playoffs. Bringing back Victor Oladipo, Caleb Martin, and Dwayne Dedmon is nice, but this feels like a team ready to take a step back. Unless Pat Riley has another bold move we didn’t see coming.

Nuggets small icon 9. Nuggets (48-34). Finally healthy, with Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. back in the rotation next to a just-extended Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets are poised to be a contender. Their offseason put players around that core that will help in the playoffs: Bruce Brown and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Losing Monte Morris hurts a little, but Ish Smith will be solid as the backup point. If everyone can stay healthy and this team meshes, this ranking will be too low for them by the end of the season.

10. Timberwolves (46-36). No team pushed all their chips to the middle of the table this offseason like Minnesota — trading for Rudy Gobert (and giving up a lot of picks do so), extending Karl-Anthony Towns on a max contract, and bringing in quality role players such as Kyle Anderson and Bryn Forbes. With Anthony Edwards entering his third season and poised to make a leap, the Timberwolves should be a much better defensive team, win a lot of games, be a playoff team and maybe even host a round (although, in the very deep West, hosting may be asking a lot). Playoff questions abound about this roster, but it should solidly get there and that is a step forward.

Mavericks small icon 11. Mavericks (52-32). This may be too low for a team that puts the ball in the hands of Luka Doncic and surrounds him with shooters, plus played better than expected defense last season. The loss of Jalen Brunson for nothing hurts and puts a lot of pressure on Tim Hardaway Jr. to become the secondary scorer and shot creator the Mavericks need. The addition of Christian Wood is a good one. Look for Doncic to come in more focused and have an MVP-level season, but how far can he carry this roster?

Raptors small icon 12. Raptors (48-34). Toronto continues to lurk as a potential Kevin Durant trade destination (although all KD trade talks have slowed for now), but aside that the Raptors are largely running it back with their long, switchable, interchangeable and hard-to-play-against system. They signed Otto Porter Jr. as a free agent and he should fit right into this system, and the Raptors also re-signed Chris Boucher and Thaddeus Young.

Nets small icon 13. Nets (44-38). I have zero idea where to put the Nets in these rankings, so this is the spot they land. If Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving show up for training camp, and Ben Simmons is ready to play and accept a role, this is a top-five team in this ranking, maybe top three. If Durant and Irving are traded by (or during) training camp, then it depends on who comes back in return, but this spot could be too high. Maybe Durant comes back but not Irving. If either or both come back, how is their attitude and how does it impact the team? Picking up T.J. Warren, trading for Royce O’Neal, and re-signing Nic Claxton and Patty Mills are good moves for a win-now Nets team… but what kind of team are the Nets?

Pelicans small icon 14. Pelicans (36-46). New Orleans made both the right move and a big bet on health in maxing out Zion Williamson (in a smaller market, they had no choice). Just how good can this team be with a healthy Zion paired with CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram? Potentially very good. Playoff good. At the very least this team is going to be League Pass favorites and must watch, there will be highlights. Tough blow for the Pels draft pick E.J. Liddell to tear his ACL at Summer League, hopefully he can bounce back in a year.

Bulls small icon 15. Bulls (44-36). Is this ranking based too much on the final third of last season and the playoffs, after Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso got hurt and the Bulls’ defense fell apart? Maybe. The first half of the season Bulls would be higher than this. Chicago re-signed Zach LaVine on the max, which was the smart and only real move they had. Bringing back Derrick Jones Jr. and signing Goran Dragic is nice, but there were no bold moves from the Bulls this offseason. Chicago is good but still feels like a playoffs but not dangerous team in the East.

Hawks small icon 16. Hawks (43-39). Dejounte Murray is the perfect backcourt mate next to Trae Young, at least on paper. Murray provides good defense at the point of attack, secondary shot creation, and someone who can keep the offense afloat when Young sits (a long running issue in Atlanta). How far can this backcourt take the Hawks? A lot may depend on the seasons Clint Capela and De'Andre Hunter have? The Hawks now have two Holiday family members in Justin and Aaron, plus they traded for Maurice Harkless.

Cavaliers small icon 17. Cavaliers (44-38). This ranking feels too low — the Cavs could finish ahead of teams like the Bulls and Hawks. They did the right thing maxing out Darius Garland (and maybe Collin Sexton still returns, that shockingly still hangs out there), Ricky Rubio is a good pickup once he gets healthy, and Robin Lopez will provide depth beyond Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. Ochai Agbaji looked like a guy who can help from Day 1 during Summer League. All those moves are nice, but whether this ranking does prove to low will depend on what kind of steps forward Mobley and Garland take this season.

Lakers small icon 18. Lakers (33-49). Rob Pelinka learned from last year’s roster mistakes and assembled a more athletic and interesting supporting cast this season by getting Lonnie Walker IV, Thomas Bryant, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones, and Troy Brown. However, the Russell Westbrook saga hangs over this team — will he be traded before training camp opens? If he does come to camp, will he buy into the role that new coach (and great hire) Darvin Ham wants? Or will this look like last season? However the Westbrook situation shakes out, the success of the Lakers’ season will hinge on how healthy Anthony Davis is and if his jumper returns to form. L.A. needs bubble Davis to have a chance.

Kings small icon 19. Kings (30-52). Keegan Murray was one of the standouts of Summer League, winning MVP but more importantly looking like a guy who could step in and contribute for Sacramento from Day 1. Murray running some dribble handoff action with Domantas Sabonis could become a staple in new coach Mike Brown’s offense. Sacramento made moves that could help turn this into a playoff team by bringing in Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter. If De'Aaron Fox can take a step forward and Brown can coach up the defense, even if this team does not have a very high ceiling it could be a playoff team and break the streak. They will need luck and health in a deep West, but the Kings have a solid roster.

Knicks small icon 20. Knicks (37-45). While trade talks for Donovan Mitchell have stalled out a little, the Knicks remain the clear frontrunner because they have what Danny Ainge and the Jazz want: Draft picks. Mitchell with just signed Jalen Brunson in the backcourt and RJ Barrett at the three could form Portland East — an entertaining and solid playoff team, one that could have the occasional nice playoff run, but not one that’s a title threat. How many picks should the Knicks give up for that? Re-signing Mitchell Robinson was smart, and Knick fans will love Isaiah Hartenstein, a great signing.

Blazers small icon 21. Trail Blazers (27-55). Damian Lillard is going to make north of $60 million in a few years and the Trail Blazers have built an interesting roster around him with Anfernee Simons, Jusuf Nurkic, Jerami Grant and Gary Payton II. But how good is this team? To make the playoffs they will need vintage, All-NBA level Lillard. There are legitimate depth concerns with the roster. Unfortunately a shoulder injury prevented us from getting to see meaningful minutes from Shaedon Sharpe at Summer League, but No. 57 pick Jabari Walker looks like a find.

Hornets small icon 22. Hornets (43-39). Charlotte had a quiet offseason, with a nice draft of Mark Williams and re-signing of Cody Martin, but maybe the biggest news was LaMelo Ball changing to No. 1. However, the Hornets slide down these rankings because the team’s leading scorer from last season, Miles Bridges, has been charged with felony counts of domestic violence and child abuse. His status for the upcoming season is unclear (the Hornets retain his rights through a qualifying offer, but right now nobody is going near him with an offer).

Wizards small icon 23. Wizards (35-47). They re-signed Bradley Beal to a massive extension and tried to surround him and Kristaps Porzingis with solid role players such as Will Barton, Monte Morris, and Delon Wright (but they let solid role players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Thomas Bryant. Will that be enough in a deep East? The Wizards drafted Johnny Davis at No. 10, but after watching him at Summer League we’ll see how much he can contribute during the season.

Pistons small icon 24. Pistons (23-59). Jaden Ivey was injured in too early into Summer League to make much of an assessment (he was explosive but raw in his debut), however Jalen Duren was a standout — blocking shots, throwing great passes out of the post, and finishing at the rim. Him playing with Cade Cunningham could be promising. Re-signing Marvin Bagley III and rolling the dice on Kevin Knox were solid moves for a young, developing team. Detroit is not going to win a lot of games but they should be entertaining.

Thunder small icon 25. Thunder (24-58). Chet Holmgren looks better in person than on television/in highlights, and had a strong Summer League. He can impact the game with rim protection from the start of the season, and he and Josh Giddey started to show some chemistry. Add in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Thunder may not win a lot but they will be entertaining and League Pass favorites. Ousmane Dieng, Jalen Williams and Jaylin Williams have more developing to do, but showed a little promise. Good re-signing of Lugentz Dort.

Rockets small icon 26. Rockets (20-62). Jabari Smith showed real promise on defense at Summer League (as much as anyone defends in Las Vegas), although his offense is going to take a while to come along. Smith combined with the impressive Tari Eason brought something Houston needs to the court in Houston. TyTy Washington could be a steal at No. 29 (the latest in a long line of Kentucky guards to shine outside of Lexington). There’s a lot of growth to do, but with Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. driving the offense, and the just re-signed Jae'Sean Tate, there is a strong young core in Houston.

Pacers small icon 27. Pacers (25-57). The rebuild is on in Indiana, and Bennedict Mathurin stood out in Las Vegas and looked to be a key part of it, scoring 19.4 per game and almost never turning the ball over. Mathurin paired with Tyrese Haliburton is a start. The Pacers did not succeed with the bold move of landing Deandre Ayton, but expect more moves — Myles Turner and Buddy Hield are available via trade and it would be a surprise if either ends the season in a Pacers uniform.

Magic small icon 28. Magic 22-60). Paolo Banchero lived up to the hype as the No. 1 pick at Summer League, showing off a versatile offensive game and the shot creation ability the Magic need. He and Franz Wagner creating shots for Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs (who needs to take a step forward from last season), Wendell Carter Jr., Markelle Fultz and others could make for an entertaining and interesting season in Orlando. Caleb Houstan looks like a second round draft steal. The most interesting thing to watch with the Magic is the possible return of Jonathan Isaac — if he’s back and playing to form on defense, this team suddenly has a potentially dangerous core.

Jazz small icon 29. Jazz (49-33). Rudy Gobert is gone, Donovan Mitchell trade talks stalled out but will eventually get done, and the Jazz are tearing it down to the studs for a Danny Ainge rebuild. Expect more moves with every veteran on the roster — Mike Conley, Patrick Beverley and others — all available. Utah’s biggest asset in all the moves likely is its own pick for 2023, which could well be top five in a draft with several franchise players at the top of the board.

Spurs small icon 30. Spurs (34-48). The long-anticipated rebuild is on in San Antonio, and Keldon Johnson is now being paid to be at the heart of it. We didn’t get to see Jeremy Sochan at Summer League, but Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley showed flashes of promise in Las Vegas. This is the kind of teaching, developmental job that Gregg Popovich enjoys as a coach, and this team will get better (and likely not finish last in these rankings), but this team also isn’t going to win a lot of games. It’s a rebuild that will take a few years.

Bamba suspended four games, Rivers three for fight Friday night


The NBA came down hard on Mo Bamba and Austin Rivers (in a way they didn’t with Dillon Brooks).

The Magic’s Bamba was suspended four-game and the Timberwolves’ Rivers got a three-game suspension — both without pay — for their part in a fight between the teams Friday night.

In addition, Magic guard Jalen Suggs was suspended one game for “escalating the altercation by aggressively grabbing Rivers around the neck and pulling him to the floor.” The Timberwolves’ Jaden McDaniels was fined $20,000 for running into the scrum and pushing Bamba in the back.

As for why the relatively stiff penalties in this case, the NBA said: “Following the incident, Bamba attempted to continue to engage with Rivers in a hostile manner in the corridor outside the locker rooms where he also aggressively shoved a security representative. Both Bamba and Rivers continued the escalation on social media following the game.”

Friction between Bomba and Rivers started a few plays earlier when Rivers — who was in the game — missed a corner 3 in front of the Magic bench, and there was jawing from Bamba and others. Rivers came over and confronted and the fight started soon after, with Bamba coming off the bench. After an official review, five players were ejected: Rivers, McDaniels and Taurean Prince from the Timberwolves; Bamba and Suggs from the Magic.

Banba and Rivers did continue the fight on social media, which added to their time off.

The suspensions will all start on Sunday, Feb. 5.

Kyrie Irving trade request update: Clippers make offer, LeBron says “duh” Irving helps Lakers


Nets fans booed Kyrie Irving when he was put up on the jumbotron at Barclays Center before the game Friday night (Irving was out vs. the Wizards).

Irving requested a trade out of Brooklyn before the Feb. 9 trade deadline, and the Nets are talking to several teams about a potential deal, with the Lakers, Suns and Mavericks at the front of the line. This trade could come together in the next few days, allowing the teams involved to make other moves before next Thursday’s deadline.

Here are the latest Kyrie Irving trade rumors:

• The Los Angeles Clippers have thrown their hat in the ring and made an offer for Irving, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and confirmed by Law Murray of The Athletic.

There is pressure from ownership on down for the Clippers to win big this season — the team’s fourth with Kwahi Leonard and Paul George — and they need help at the point guard spot (they are interested in the Raptors’ Fred VanVleet if he becomes available as well). The Clippers have a lot of salaries between $10 million and $20 million — Norman Powell, Marcus Morris, Luke Kennard, Robert Covington, Reggie Jackson, Nicholas Batum — who can be packaged in different configurations, plus they have young talent that can be added in Terance Mann and Brandon Boston Jr.

Bringing in Irving would be a massive gamble by the Clippers — do they need another mercurial star prone to missing games? — but the Clippers want to win and will push all their chips into the middle.

LeBron James was asked after the Lakers’ loss Saturday night if Irving is the kind of player that can get the Lakers to the finish line and have them thinking championship.

“Obviously that’s, the word you use, ‘duh’ question when talking about a player like that.”

• Whatever you think of Irving the person, his trade demand is a smart business move — the Nets were not going to give him the max contract extension he wants, so he is trying to force his way to his next team, one that will pay up. And by pay up, that’s a four-year, $198.5 million contract. Wojnarowski of ESPN said this on NBA Countdown Saturday.

“Irving, who is in the final year of a deal that pays him $36.9 million, has been seeking in the neighborhood of a four-year, $198.5 million maximum extension available to him until June 30, sources said. If Irving is traded, he is eligible to sign a two-year, $78.6 million extension with his new team until June 30.”

Any team that trades for Irving will have to pay up this summer when he is a free agent — he’s too expensive to be a rental. There are reports the Lakers and Mavericks are hesitant to give Irving that kind of long-term deal.

• If Irving doesn’t get traded before the deadline, he could hold out for the rest of the season, Stephen A. Smith of ESPN reports.

LeBron James NBA all-time scoring record tracker


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has held the NBA all-time scoring record at 38,387 points since he retired in 1989. It is one of the most iconic records in sports and one thought by many that would never be broken, but LeBron James is on the verge of breaking that scoring record and doing it at age 38. How many more points does LeBron need to take over the scoring record? When is it projected to happen? Let’s break down the latest numbers (this will be updated after every Lakers game until the record is set).

How many points does LeBron James need to set the scoring record?

Abdul-Jabbar career points: 38,387
LeBron career points: 38,352

Lakers’ upcoming schedule:

Feb. 7 vs. Thunder
Feb. 9 vs. Bucks
Feb. 11 at Warriors
Feb. 13 at Trail Blazers

When is LeBron projected to break the all-time scoring record:

LeBron is averaging 30 points per game this season, at that pace he would set the record on Feb. 9 at home against the Milwaukee Bucks, although a hot game on Feb. 7 against the Thunder could make that game a possibility.

How long has Kareem held the scoring record?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar set the all-time scoring record — too less fanfare than is happening with LeBron (although Wilt Chamberlain was unhappy with all the attention KAJ was receiving) — on April 5, 1984, when he scored his 31,420th point, breaking the record which had been held by Chamberlain. This was the height of the Showtime Lakers era and the team made the Finals that season but lost in seven games to Larry Bird and the Celtics. The Lakers would win the NBA title three of the next four years and Kareem would keep adding to that point total and his legacy until he retired after the 1989 season.

News and notes on LeBron’s quest for the record:

• LeBron tuned out the Lakers’ Kyrie Irving trade speculationat least until after the game — and dropped 27 points on the New Orleans Pelicans Saturday night, shooting 10-of-22 overall but 1-of-7 beyond the arc. It wasn’t enough as the Pelicans snapped their 10-game losing streak, 131-126, behind 35 points from former Laker Brandon Ingram. This was a tough loss for a Lakers team trying to climb up in the West standings, but it puts LeBron within striking distance of the record next game.

• LeBron scored 26 points and added seven rebounds and seven assists on Thursday night. He also gave the Lakers their first lead of the game on a 3-pointer with 2:35 left, and the Lakers held on to beat the Pacers 112-111. LeBron shot 11-of-19 from the floor and 2-of-5 from 3 for the game.

• LeBron had his first triple-double of the season — and became the first player ever with one in his 20th season — scoring 28 points with 10 rebounds and 11 assists — to help lead the Lakers past the Knicks in overtime on Tuesday night. With those 11 assits LeBron moved past both Mark Jackson and Steve Nash to be fourth on the NBA’s all-time assists list.

• LeBron James did suit up to play Tuesday night against the Knicks (in Madison Square Garden on national television, that shouldn’t have been a surprise). Anthony Davis was cleared to play as well.

• After sitting out against the Nets on Monday, LeBron is officially questionable to play Tuesday in Madison Square Garden against the Knicks and will be a game-time decision. Lakers coach Darvin Ham said LeBron has “really significant soreness” in his left foot (after playing 44 minutes against Boston). LeBron and the medical staff will speak after LeBron starts to warm up Tuesday to determine if LeBron can play in Madison Square Garden, a game he hates to miss because he loves playing in that venue.

• The Lakers have officially listed LeBron (and Anthony Davis) as out for the game Monday night in Brooklyn. That is the first game of a back-to-back for the Lakers, and they have rested LeBron in half of those for most of the season. This will push back the date he breaks the record, making it likely it happens at Arena.

• LeBron scored 41 points — and felt he should have had a couple more — in the Lakers’ overtime loss to the Celtics Saturday on national television.

• Sixers Doc Rivers on what impresses him in LeBron’s run to this record: “LeBron has done it so differently to me [thank Kareem]. Because LeBron is not a natural scorer. LeBron is a playmaker. He got criticized early in his career for making the right decisions. And the fact that he’s now about to break the scoring record, it really points out his greatness.”

• LeBron scored 20 points in the Lakers’ win over the Spurs, a game in which Anthony Davis returned from injury and Rui Hachimura made his debut as a Laker after being traded from the Wizards.

• What has Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said about LeBron passing his record? There has been a bit of frostiness between the two men, but Abdul-Jabbar was gracious in comments to Marc Stein back in 2021 about the possibility of his record falling: “I’m excited to see it happen. I don’t see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements. If one person can do something that’s never been done, that means we all have a shot at doing it. It’s a source of hope and inspiration. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile back in 1954. Since then, not only have 1,400 runners beaten that time, but the new record is 17 seconds less. We all win when a record is broken and if LeBron breaks mine, I will be right there to cheer him on.”

Kings active before trade deadline, looking to add defense

Philadelphia 76ers v Sacramento Kings
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Sacramento Kings will make their first playoff appearance since a Bush was in the White House (2006).

If the 29-22, third-seeded Kings will do damage in the postseason, their bottom 10 defense has to be better. The Kings are being active at the trade deadline with the focus being on a defensive upgrade, sources told NBC Sports. As bait, they are dangling their reserve bigs — Richaun Holmes and/or Alex Len — but the problem is the backup big market is busy at the trade deadline.

The Kings have been linked to the 76ers’ Matisse Thybulle, with Marc Stein confirming those talks are still ongoing (but the Hawks are chasing Thybulle, too). Stein added a new rumor, as well.

Sources say Sacramento has inquired about the availability of Charlotte’s Mason Plumlee.

Charlotte is selling and Plumlee would be an upgrade behind All-Star Domantas Sabonis.

One way or another, expect the Kings to try and make a move at the deadline.