NBA Power Rankings 2023-24: Cavaliers riding streak, Warriors sinking further

Here's how things in the NBA look as of Jan. 23

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With the trade deadline fast approaching, teams have already begun moving pieces to either improve the roster or cash in on at the draft. 

Pascal Siakam is an Indiana Pacer while the Miami Heat just dealt Kyle Lowry and a 2027 first-rounder to the Charlotte Hornets for Terry Rozier. 

But there’s been movement on the coaching front, too. The Milwaukee Bucks fired first-time head coach Adrian Griffin in quite a predictable move despite a 30-13 start. 

Let’s break it all down with the ninth edition of our 2023-24 NBA Power Rankings:

30. Detroit Pistons, 4-39

Detroit should probably answer any phone calls it gets regarding veterans like Bojan Bogdanovic or Alec Burks. They’ll be useful for playoff-hopeful or contending teams instead of floating away aimlessly in Monty Williams’ rotation. (Last ranking: 30)

29. Washington Wizards, 7-35

Kyle Kuzma on Dec. 28 posted on X, “At this point it's like ‘don't be that team’” with a laughing emoji in response to a graphic on the Pistons up 66-47 at the Boston Celtics amid their historic losing streak. Even though Detroit broke it before then, one of its four wins on the year came over Kuzma’s Wizards. Both are equally bad, but at least the Pistons’ youth has some promise. (Last ranking: 28)

28. San Antonio Spurs, 8-35

Nothing has changed for San Antonio despite Victor Wembanyama filling the stat sheet. The Spurs desperately need an upgrade at point guard to improve a few levels. (Last ranking: 29)

27. Portland Trail Blazers, 12-30

Portland is an interesting spot with the trade deadline looming. Does it cash in on Jerami Grant and/or Malcolm Brogdon while their values are solid? Matisse Thybulle is another name who could really aid a contender. (Last ranking: 26)

26. Charlotte Hornets, 10-31

Brandon Miller is quietly enjoying an impressive rookie season with LaMelo Ball back in the frame after an injury. The questions for them will be do they keep selling veterans, and will they buy out players they receive, such as Lowry? The Hornets also stung the Timberwolves on the road on Karl-Anthony Towns’ record scoring night. (Last ranking: 27)

25. Toronto Raptors, 16-28

The Raptors finally made some big sales having parted ways with Siakam and OG Anunoby. First-year head coach Darko Rajakovic will just have to see if he can lead a late play-in push, but things have not looked good – understandably – since the trades. (Last ranking: 22)

24. Memphis Grizzlies, 16-27

Memphis should just ride out the rest of the season with different youngsters and hope some prove themselves to be a part of the core next year when all the key players return from injury. GG Jackson could be one of those. (Last ranking: 25)

23. Brooklyn Nets, 17-25

The Nets may need to blow up the roster and cash in on attractive assets like Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and Dorian Finney-Smith, among other wings. Ben Simmons also just isn’t reliable. (Last ranking: 23)

22. Golden State Warriors, 18-22

The Warriors drop another two spots and are 3-7 in their last 10 games. Things would be so much worse without Steph Curry, as Draymond Green’s return hasn’t really solved much and Andrew Wiggins has regressed quite eerily. (Last ranking: 20)

21. Atlanta Hawks, 18-25

The rumored returns for Dejounte Murray don’t appear too exciting from an Atlanta perspective. It’s a shame because the season started so well, just for things to inevitably middle out once again. Jalen Johnson’s development continues to be a big plus, however. (Last ranking: 24)

20. Houston Rockets, 20-22

Maybe Houston does have a problem. The Rockets have been slipping with each passing edition despite a promising start when the defense looked sharp and the offensive production was allocated well. The defense still ranks just inside the top 10, but their lack of polished talent is showing. (Last ranking: 16)

19. Chicago Bulls, 21-24

The Bulls are 6-4 in their last 10 games and inching closer to .500, but they absolutely should not buy into any late run. The goal should be to move on from DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Co. if they want to build a better future. (Last ranking: 21)

18. Los Angeles Lakers, 22-22

If it wasn’t for other teams declining, the Lakers would likely be lower. But they stay put in what continues to be a depressing season with LeBron James and Anthony Davis relatively healthy. The front office should probably move on from Darvin Ham before it’s too late. (Last ranking: 18)

17. Utah Jazz, 22-22

Will Hardy’s Jazz embarked on one of the most impressive runs thus far this season, conquering the 76ers, Bucks, Nuggets, Raptors, Lakers and Pacers in a six-game winning streak. They’ve dropped two in a row since, but Utah deserves a raise. (Last ranking: 19)

16. Orlando Magic, 23-21

Orlando takes the biggest setback in this edition after a rough two-week spell. It has gone 2-6 to fall way down the Eastern Conference ladder, with a lack of an elevating point guard showing. The Magic should be in for Zach LaVine after giving Nikola Vucevic to Chicago a few years ago. (Last ranking: 9)

15. Sacramento Kings, 24-18

Like Orlando, the Kings were another team frequently in the top-10 conversations but have suffered yet another setback. They clearly peaked as the No. 3 seed last season but made no significant moves to retain their status atop the conference. Will they do something before the deadline? (Last ranking: 11)

14. Miami Heat, 24-19

The Heat haven’t been as scorching as seasons past, though they’re always a contender to peak later on under Erik Spoelstra. Their offense just got bolstered with Rozier replacing Lowry, so it’ll be intriguing to see how they revamp Rozier’s defensive fit. (Last ranking: 12)

13. Dallas Mavericks, 24-19

The Mavericks are another team out of the top 10 despite rising to No. 8 last time out. But they’ve been inconsistent lately and though they have a deep bench, they need to trim the fat and add more beef. (Last ranking: 8)

12. Indiana Pacers, 24-20

Indiana jumps three spots and signaled a push to contend now with Siakam joining Tyrese Haliburton and Myles Turner. Buddy Hield could be another player to make way for a frontcourt addition, which could help Rick Carlisle field a more balanced rotation. (Last ranking: 14)

11. Phoenix Suns, 25-18

Phoenix has not lost a game since the last edition, rattling off six in a row. It’s essentially a completely new roster with inconsistent reps together due to different injuries – and a new head coach with his own system – but when things are clicking like right now, they’re as solid as advertised. (Last ranking: 17)

10. New York Knicks, 26-17

After weeks of flirting, the Knicks are finally in the top 10. They’ve beaten teams they should beat and Anunoby’s two-way presence has been vital. Now it’s about sustaining it against the league’s better teams. (Last ranking: 13)

9. New Orleans Pelicans, 25-18

New Orleans is on the rise again. They’re incredibly tough to stop due to their versatility and length, but health always becomes an issue. Herb Jones potentially being available could be a major development for other contenders. (Last ranking: 10)

8. Cleveland Cavaliers, 26-15

At long last, the Cavaliers went on a winning streak their talent previously proved was imminent. They’re the hottest team in the league with eight straight wins, though it’ll be a matter of continuously finding ways to improve against the few Eastern teams above them. (Last ranking: 15)

7. Los Angeles Clippers, 27-14

The Clippers soared through the power rankings in the last few editions but will drop one spot with other teams still above them. How they manage with Ivica Zubac out for at least a month will be key. (Last ranking: 6)

6. Milwaukee Bucks, 30-13

Hiring a first-time head coach in Griffin when Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard were the planned duo really never made sense. But if Milwaukee picks Doc Rivers as the rumors suggest, that could just be worse. (Last ranking: 4)

5. Minnesota Timberwolves, 30-13

Minnesota exhibited some signs of slipping in the last ranking, and now that’s a little more evident. Losing to the Hornets at home on Towns’ record night was the icing on the cake for them to drop a few spots, though they’re good enough to be in the top five. (Last ranking: 2)

4. Philadelphia 76ers, 29-13

The 76ers are back in the top five after falling out in the last edition. Joel Embiid’s health will be Philly’s biggest factor in determining how far it can go. If it can somehow add another quality big man to relieve Embiid more often, that might be just as imperative. (Last ranking: 7)

3. Denver Nuggets, 31-14

Denver goes up a spot thanks to Minnesota’s dip, though there’s not a whole lot separating the top of the West when analyzing statistics. The key is Denver boasts Nikola Jokic and beating the group four times in a series will take a near-flawless effort. (Last ranking: 4)

2. Oklahoma City Thunder, 29-13

This is the highest Oklahoma City has been this season. That’s mostly due to Minnesota’s slip and Denver’s mini hibernation period, but nothing about the Thunder is a fluke. They’re a legitimate contender based on statistics, though playoff experience is a factor that’ll arise often in discourses. (Last ranking: 3)

1. Boston Celtics, 34-10

The Celtics stay first for the fifth edition running. Their starting five has the perfect balance in each position, but they could use some marginal upgrades on the bench if such opportunities arise. (Last ranking: 1)

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