NBA Power Rankings: SGA leads OKC, and Beal is back for the Suns


It’s finally 2024, and teams are racing into the new year as the battles for the top spots in the Eastern and Western conferences remain tight.

Tyrese Haliburton and the Indiana Pacers have stopped a post-in-season tournament slide, defeating the Milwaukee Bucks three times this season as their budding rivalry continues.

And the Sacramento Kings have climbed back into our top 10 after an up-and-down December.

A few stars are making their way back from injuries, as Kyrie Irving returns for the Dallas Mavericks, Kawhi Leonard for the LA Clippers and Bradley Beal for the Phoenix Suns. But as the NBA trade deadline approaches in February, teams are starting to reevaluate their needs.

What are teams missing in their lineups? Who will make a blockbuster trade? And which star needs a change of scenery? Let’s check in with our first Power Rankings of 2024!

Note: Throughout the regular season, our panel (Kendra Andrews, Tim Bontemps, Jamal Collier, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin and Ohm Youngmisuk) is ranking all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which teams are playing the best basketball and which teams are looking most like title contenders.

Previous rankings: Post-Finals | Nov. 1 | Nov. 8 | Nov. 15 | Nov. 22 | Nov. 29 | Dec. 6 | Dec. 13 | Dec. 20 | Dec. 27

Jump to a team:


1. Boston Celtics
2023-24 record: 26-7

Boston dropped its first game of 2024 on Tuesday night when its furious comeback in Oklahoma City fell short. But Kristaps Porzingis had another 34 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks, as he continues to have a huge impact on the Celtics since arriving this summer via trade. It was Boston’s first loss with Porzingis in the lineup since Nov. 22, when he left a game in Orlando early because of an injury, snapping a streak of eight straight wins. — Bontemps

2. Milwaukee Bucks
2023-24 record: 24-9

  • Previous ranking: 3

  • Next games: @ IND (Jan. 3), @ SA (Jan. 4), @ HOU (Jan. 6), vs. UTA (Jan. 8)

The Bucks went 3-1 on their last road trip before seeing their 15-game winning streak in Milwaukee snapped Monday against Tyrese Haliburton and the Pacers. Giannis Antetokounmpo put up a triple-double in that game and is once again inserting himself into the early MVP discussion, averaging 30.9 points and 11.3 rebounds and shooting a career-high 60.6% (64.5% on 2-pointers). — Collier

3. Minnesota Timberwolves
2023-24 record: 24-8

  • Previous ranking: 4

  • Next games: vs. NO (Jan. 3), @ HOU (Jan. 5), @ DAL (Jan. 7), @ ORL (Jan. 9)

Despite a loss to the Knicks on Monday, the Timberwolves are still atop the Western Conference thanks to a scoring binge from Anthony Edwards. The 22-year-old guard has scored at least 31 points in three straight games, leading the Wolves to wins over the Lakers and Mavericks, to pair with the league’s top defense. The Wolves will be away from Minnesota for most of January, playing 10 of their 17 games on the road. — Collier

4. Oklahoma City Thunder
2023-24 record: 23-9

Oklahoma City went 10-3 in December, when the Thunder’s blossoming big three of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams and Chet Holmgren combined to average 68.1 points while shooting 54.5% from the floor. The Thunder won seven of their eight December home games. But the January schedule will be much more travel intensive, featuring four-, four- and three-game road trips. Oklahoma City has played a home-heavy schedule so far, but the Thunder own the NBA’s best road winning percentage (9-4, .692). — MacMahon

5. Denver Nuggets
2023-24 record: 24-11

Don’t look now, but the Nuggets have won 10 of their past 12, and Aaron Gordon returned Monday after a two-game absence following a Christmas night dog bite that required 21 stitches to his hand and face. During Gordon’s absence, Peyton Watson got minutes with the starters, scoring 20 points in a win over Memphis and 14 points in a loss to Oklahoma City. That experience should help Watson, who came into this season with expectations of being a strong contributor off the bench. Meanwhile, Jamal Murray enters 2024 looking to build his résumé for a first-time All-Star berth. In his past eight games, Murray has scored 20 or more seven times; is averaging 22.3 points, 6.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds; and is shooting 25-of-49 (51%) from behind the arc. — Youngmisuk

6. Philadelphia 76ers
2023-24 record: 23-10

Joel Embiid missed four games because of a sprained ankle but looked like he didn’t miss a beat in his return, putting up a 31-point, 15-rebound, 10-assist triple-double in a win over the Bulls on Tuesday. He has 19 more points than he has minutes played this season, as he is on pace to become the first player since Wilt Chamberlain 60 years ago to score more points than minutes played in a season. — Bontemps

7. LA Clippers
2023-24 record: 20-12

  • Previous ranking: 7

  • Next games: @ PHX (Jan. 3), @ NO (Jan. 5), @ LAL (Jan. 7), vs. PHX (Jan. 8)

The Clippers have won 12 of their past 14 games, and Kawhi Leonard is back from a four-game absence due to a left hip injury — and looks healthy. James Harden, in that same span, is averaging 19.6 points, 9.6 assists and 5.1 rebounds and shooting 44% from 3. As Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said before losing to the Clippers on Monday: “They’ve gotten their bleep together for the time being.” — Youngmisuk

8. Sacramento Kings
2023-24 record: 19-13

  • Previous ranking: 11

  • Next games: vs. ORL (Jan. 3), vs. TOR (Jan. 5), vs. NO (Jan. 7), @ DET (Jan. 9)

Despite a bad loss to the Blazers last week, the Kings are rounding into form, and Malik Monk has been a huge reason, averaging 14 points and 6.4 assists off the bench over a stretch in which Sacramento has won eight of 12. The Kings haven’t taken the leap many expected after last season’s surge, but they are being patient with their young group. That said, the trade deadline is just weeks away. — Andrews

9. Miami Heat
2023-24 record: 19-14

Bam Adebayo has rounded into form over his past five games, averaging 13.6 rebounds per night as he continues perhaps the best season of his career on the glass. Adebayo is averaging a career-best 10.4 boards and is eighth among qualified players in defensive rebounding percentage (24.5%). At the top of that list? Teammate Kevin Love, at 30.4%. They’re a big reason Miami ranks second this season in opponent second-chance points allowed per game (12.3). — Lopez

10. Dallas Mavericks
2023-24 record: 19-15

  • Previous ranking: 9

  • Next games: vs. POR (Jan. 3), vs. POR (Jan. 5), vs. MIN (Jan. 7), vs. MEM (Jan. 9)

Kyrie Irving returned in Monday’s loss to the Jazz after missing the previous 12 games because of right heel soreness. The Mavs hope getting Irving back will ease the burden on Luka Doncic, who averaged 39.5 minutes in December and has been dealing with left quad soreness. Doncic scored 37.5 points per game in December, a month in which he had four triple-doubles and a 50-point, 15-assist performance. But he opened the new year with an uncharacteristically off night, scoring 19 points on 6-of-20 shooting in a loss to Utah, just the third time this season he didn’t score at least 20. — MacMahon

11. Orlando Magic
2023-24 record: 19-14

  • Previous ranking: 12

  • Next games: @ SAC (Jan. 3), @ DEN (Jan. 5), vs. ATL (Jan. 7), vs. MIN (Jan. 9)

December was the best month of third-year forward Franz Wagner’s young career. He has seven consecutive 20-point games, the longest such streak of his career. Last month, Wagner averaged 22.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists — all career highs for any month. His points per game could jump even more if he starts hitting closer to the 35.8% he shot from deep over his first two years compared to the 28.7% mark he’s at so far this season. — Lopez

12. New Orleans Pelicans
2023-24 record: 20-14

Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum each scored 20 points twice last week in victories over the Jazz and the Lakers — just the third and fourth times they all reached the 20-point mark in the same game through 25 career games played together. New Orleans is 4-0 in those games with an average margin of victory of 15.8 points. — Lopez

13. Indiana Pacers
2023-24 record: 18-14

  • Previous ranking: 18

  • Next games: vs. MIL (Jan. 3), vs. ATL (Jan. 5), vs. BOS (Jan. 6), vs. BOS (Jan. 8)

The Pacers are on a four-game winning streak to bounce back from a skid following the in-season tournament final. Indiana beat Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks on Monday for the third time this season (3-1), and they play a fifth game Wednesday in Indiana to wrap up a contentious season series. It’s the start of a four-game homestand for the Pacers, who lead the league in offense but rank 28th in defense. — Collier

14. New York Knicks
2023-24 record: 18-15

  • Previous ranking: 10

  • Next games: vs. CHI (Jan. 3), @ PHI (Jan. 5), @ WAS (Jan. 6), vs. POR (Jan. 9)

All OG Anunoby had to do was walk onto the court to show the Knicks, and their fans, why New York pursued him for quite some time. After making do with an undersized group of wings — part of why New York is 19th in defense for the second straight season — Anunoby gives New York a prototypical 3-and-D wing in every way. To that end, he guarded Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards for 34 possessions Monday, the most of anyone on the Knicks, and hit three 3-pointers from the corners, where he is among the league’s leaders in makes this season. — Bontemps

15. Phoenix Suns
2023-24 record: 18-15

  • Previous ranking: 19

  • Next games: vs. LAC (Jan. 3), vs. MIA (Jan. 5), vs. MEM (Jan. 7), @ LAC (Jan. 8)

The clouds appear to have parted ever so slightly over the Valley of the Sun. Phoenix has won four straight and beat Portland on Monday, a night Kevin Durant rested his hamstring. Meanwhile, Bradley Beal scored 20-plus points in two of those games, while shooting 62.1% from the field. The Suns’ next three games at home should be a good litmus test: They face the surging Clippers, the rising Heat and then Ja Morant and Memphis. — McMenamin

16. Cleveland Cavaliers
2023-24 record: 18-15

Cleveland might have found something in shooting guard Sam Merrill. After a standout season with the Cavs’ G League team, followed by a solid showing in Las Vegas summer league, Merrill worked his way into coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s rotation in the past month and has produced. In his past eight games, the 6-4 shooting guard is 26-for-54 from 3 (50%). He’s primed to stay hot with the Cavs playing the Wizards twice followed by the Spurs in their next three games. Washington is 29th in team defensive rating; San Antonio is 25th. — McMenamin

17. Los Angeles Lakers
2023-24 record: 17-17

  • Previous ranking: 16

  • Next games: vs. MIA (Jan. 3), vs. MEM (Jan. 5), vs. LAC (Jan. 7), vs. TOR (Jan. 9)

Lakers forward Jarred Vanderbilt said last week that teammate Anthony Davis — who leads the NBA in rebounds with 12.3 per game and is fifth in blocks (2.6) — should be Defensive Player of the Year. Well, here’s what the potential DPOY had to say about L.A.’s defense after a loss in New Orleans on New Year’s Eve: “Communication has to be better. … Guys are trying to do the right thing, but it’s not the right thing, as far as the coverage or scheme.” We’ll see if the acoustics at Arena help — 11 of the Lakers’ next 12 games are in Los Angeles. — McMenamin

18. Houston Rockets
2023-24 record: 16-15

  • Previous ranking: 15

  • Next games: vs. BKN (Jan. 3), vs. MIN (Jan. 5), vs. MIL (Jan. 6), @ MIA (Jan. 8)

Alperen Sengun continues to make a case to be the Rockets’ first All-Star since James Harden. Sengun joins Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Scottie Barnes as the only players in the league averaging at least 21 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. The 21-year-old Sengun, considered a defensive liability entering this season, has held up well on that end of the floor for a team allowing the sixth fewest points per 100 possessions (111.3). The Rockets, firmly in the Western Conference playoff race, scheme to protect Sengun as much as possible, and coach Ime Udoka credits the young center for using his intelligence and good hands (1.1 steals per game) to contribute defensively. — MacMahon

19. Golden State Warriors
2023-24 record: 16-17

The Warriors are still in search mode, changing their starting lineup yet again to find something that works — something head coach Steve Kerr and star point guard Stephen Curry both admit is concerning 30-plus games into the season. With veterans either struggling with consistency or suspended, Golden State is relying more on young players than ever before, begging two questions: (1) How much can they continue to count on Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody and Brandin Podziemski? And (2) What moves could they make leading up to the trade deadline? — Andrews

20. Brooklyn Nets
2023-24 record: 15-19

Brooklyn had won two games in a row before losing a Dec. 27 home game against the Bucks. That has now led to a four-game losing streak, including a loss to the cellar-dwelling Wizards on Friday and a truly desultory showing Tuesday in New Orleans. It won’t get much easier with a back-to-back in Houston on Wednesday followed by the soaring Thunder coming to Brooklyn on Friday. — Bontemps

21. Chicago Bulls
2023-24 record: 15-20

The Bulls are preparing for the return of two-time All-Star Zach LaVine, who began practicing with the Windy City Bulls G League team this week. The Bulls have quietly played well without LaVine, who has been sidelined by a foot injury since Nov. 30. The Bulls have gone 10-6 in his absence, ranking seventh in the NBA in defense during that span. — Collier

22. Utah Jazz
2023-24 record: 15-19

  • Previous ranking: 25

  • Next games: vs. DET (Jan. 3), @ BOS (Jan. 5), @ PHI (Jan. 6), @ MIL (Jan. 8)

Jordan Clarkson finally ended the longest regular-season triple-double drought any NBA franchise has ever had. His 20-point, 10-rebound, 11-assist line in Monday’s win over the Mavs was the first triple-double for the Jazz since Carlos Boozer’s on Feb. 14, 2008, in Seattle. (Ricky Rubio had a playoff triple-double for the Jazz in 2021, but Utah went 1,256 regular-season games without one.) Clarkson has helped the Jazz win four of five games since returning from a hamstring strain, averaging 18.6 points and 6.8 assists in that span. — MacMahon

23. Atlanta Hawks
2023-24 record: 13-19

The Hawks’ win over the Wizards on New Year’s Eve improved the team to 6-0 against the bottom three teams in the league this season — Washington, Detroit and San Antonio — but they are just 5-14 against teams with winning records. The upcoming stretch of games will be an important one — vs. Oklahoma City, at Indiana, at Orlando, vs. Philadelphia and vs. Indiana, all teams that not only have winning records but sit in the top six of their respective conferences. — Lopez

24. Toronto Raptors
2023-24 record: 13-20

  • Previous ranking: 24

  • Next games: @ MEM (Jan. 3), @ SAC (Jan. 5), @ GS (Jan. 7), @ LAL (Jan. 9)

While Toronto native RJ Barrett was the bigger name in the OG Anunoby trade, Immanuel Quickley immediately stepped into the starting point guard job for the Raptors and likely won’t relinquish it anytime soon. A per-minute star the past couple of years and a runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year last season, Quickley will likely become Scottie Barnes’ pick-and-roll partner — a role that should perfectly suit Quickley, with his 39.5% showing from deep this season. — Bontemps

25. Memphis Grizzlies
2023-24 record: 11-22

  • Previous ranking: 23

  • Next games: vs. TOR (Jan. 3), @ LAL (Jan. 5), @ PHX (Jan. 7), @ DAL (Jan. 9)

The Grizzlies got outrebounded by a combined 63 boards in three consecutive losses entering Tuesday night’s game against the Spurs. That’s one of the risks of starting three guards now that Ja Morant has returned from suspension and Marcus Smart has recovered from a sprained foot. It’s also a problem created in large part by the absence of center Steven Adams, the Grizzlies’ leading rebounder the previous two years who will miss the entire season because of knee surgery. Memphis, 13th in the Western Conference, ranks 26th in the league in rebounding percentage (41.8). — MacMahon

26. Portland Trail Blazers
2023-24 record: 9-23

  • Previous ranking: 27

  • Next games: @ DAL (Jan. 3), @ DAL (Jan. 5), @ BKN (Jan. 7), @ NY (Jan. 9)

Scoot Henderson’s level of comfort continues to rise, which is what Portland needs to help claim a successful season. His past five games encompass the best stretch of his young career: 18.6 points and 6.8 assists in 32 minutes per game, while shooting a red-hot 46% from deep. His on-court chemistry with Anfernee Simons has been good, too, laying the foundation for Portland’s rebuild. — Andrews

27. Charlotte Hornets
2023-24 record: 8-24

The Hornets haven’t experienced winning much this season. But they got a close look at a championship ring Monday when point guard Ish Smith returned to Denver and received his 2022-23 championship ring from the Nuggets. Smith, a leader in the locker room for the Nuggets during their title run, signed with the Hornets in the offseason and scored 10 points in Monday’s loss to Denver while starting in place of Terry Rozier, who was out because of illness. To even sniff the play-in race — the Hornets are currently 13th in the East — Charlotte desperately needs to get healthy with LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward and Mark Williams all out. — Youngmisuk

28. San Antonio Spurs
2023-24 record: 5-28

As San Antonio continues to tinker with its rotation, the team has at least landed on a duo to feature in the starting lineup: Victor Wembanyama and Devin Vassell. Then the Spurs bring third-leading scorer Keldon Johnson off the bench. Prior to a blowout loss to the Celtics on New Year’s Eve, the Wembanyama-Vassell combo had a net rating of plus-4.2 in 181 minutes since Wembanyama moved into the starting center role Dec. 8. — Lopez

29. Washington Wizards
2023-24 record: 6-26

  • Previous ranking: 28

  • Next games: @ CLE (Jan. 3), @ CLE (Jan. 5), vs. NY (Jan. 6), vs. OKC (Jan. 8)

It was a tough 2023 for the Wizards, who traded Bradley Beal and began a full rebuild before this season. But Kyle Kuzma finished the year strong, scoring 26 points and grabbing eight rebounds against Brooklyn on Friday to help Washington win just its sixth game before pouring in 38 points, eight rebounds and five assists in a losing effort against Atlanta on New Year’s Eve. His greatest impact, though, came off the court. Kuzma received November’s NBA Cares Community Assist Award for providing mothers at a jail and their children with clothing and gifts in his hometown of Flint, Michigan. –Youngmisuk

30. Detroit Pistons
2023-24 record: 3-30

  • Previous ranking: 30

  • Next games: @ UTA (Jan. 3), @ GS (Jan. 5), @ DEN (Jan. 7), vs. SAC (Jan. 9)

Good news: The Pistons won a game, snapping their record-breaking 28-game losing streak. Bad news: This nightmare season is far from over, with Detroit following up its victory with a 23-point loss to the Rockets on Monday night. Detroit has the worst record by any team at this point since the 2015-16 Sixers, who finished 10-72. There’s still more history to avoid. — Collier

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