The final week of 2022 and the first games of ’23 provided some exciting NBA performances. In Year 20 at age 38, LeBron James recorded two 40-plus point showings in Lakers wins. Luka Dončić averaged more than 48 points through three games last week for the Mavericks. The Cavaliers’ Donovan Mitchell exploded for 71 points and recorded the third 70-point game of the century. Klay Thompson notched 54 points, and Kevon Looney had 21 rebounds and 14 points—including a game-winning bucket in double overtime—to lift the Warriors to victory against Atlanta on Monday night.
In the standings, the Celtics maintained the league’s top spot, while the Nets increased their win streak to 12. The Nuggets sit atop the Western Conference. In the first power rankings of 2023, see where all 30 teams in the association stand.
1. Boston Celtics
Previous ranking: 1
The Celtics remain atop the Eastern Conference and hold the best record entering the first week of the new year. Following their huge win in a clash against the Bucks on Christmas Day, Boston put together a 2–1 week that included wins against the Rockets and the Clippers—a team that hammered the Celtics earlier in December and held them to under 100 points for the first time this season—before losing to Nikola Jokić and the Nuggets on Sunday. Boston still sits as the top offensive team in the league, while the C’s defense—the No. 7 defensive-rated team—will continue to improve as Robert Williams III continues to adjust in his return. The Celtics enter this week finishing a road trip against the Thunder, Mavericks and Spurs.
2. Brooklyn Nets
Previous ranking: 6
Brooklyn is the hottest team in the NBA right now, riding a 12-game winning streak, the longest active streak in the league. A big reason for the Nets’ success has been the play of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who led Brooklyn in points in all three of its games last week. Currently, Durant ranks sixth in points per game (29.7) and in the top three in total points behind the Mavericks’ Luka Dončić and Celtics’ Jayson Tatum. The Nets have a three-game road trip with contests against Chicago, New Orleans and Miami ahead.
3. Denver Nuggets
Previous ranking: 2
The Nuggets remain in first place in the Western Conference after a 3–2 mark that included wins against Sacramento, Miami and Boston. Denver also lost to the Kings and dropped a game to Minnesota on Monday, but Jokić continued his dominant play, including two more triple doubles. Denver has a couple of days off before back-to-back games against the Clippers and Cavaliers later this week.
4. Memphis Grizzlies
Previous ranking: 7
The Grizzlies, who have won three straight and six of their last 10, are rolling and sit in the top three in rebound and offensive rebound percentage. While Ja Morant & Co. get a ton of praise—as they should—credit Steven Adams, who leads the league in offensive rebounding percentage after tying his career-high 23 rebounds against Sacramento. Memphis’s next four games include two on the road against the Hornets and the Magic before coming home to play the Jazz and the Spurs.
5. Milwaukee Bucks
Previous ranking: 4
After dropping four consecutive games to Eastern Conference opponents, Milwaukee had a dominating win against the Timberwolves—backed by a historic second half and commanding performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo. Then the Bucks dropped a game against the Wizards without Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton or Jrue Holiday. While still sitting at No. 3 in the East, Milwaukee has dropped six of their last 10. But the Bucks have a chance to put some wins together this week with another matchup against Washington, then games against the Raptors, Hornets and Knicks.
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6. Cleveland Cavaliers
Previous ranking: 3
Cleveland went 2–1 in a week that consisted of battles against Central division opponents. After losing to the Pacers, the Cavaliers earned two wins against the Bulls that included Donovan Mitchell’s career-high and franchise-record 71 points—the eighth-most in a game in NBA history—in a come-from-behind victory in OT Monday. With Mitchell achieving the highest-scoring game since Kobe Bryant scored 81 against the Raptors in 2006, Cleveland continued its best start at home since the ’16–17 season, one in which LeBron James was still in a Cavs uniform. The Cavaliers have the Suns at home before starting a five-game road trip.
7. New Orleans Pelicans
Previous ranking: 5
The Pelicans earned wins against Minnesota and Philadelphia last week but ended 2022 with a loss to the Grizzlies and started ’23 with a loss to the 76ers in which Zion Williamson sustained a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter. Without Williamson, who had 26 points through three quarters against Philadelphia on Monday, New Orleans came up short. The Pelicans get the Rockets and Nets at home next before starting a five-game road trip.
8. Philadelphia 76ers
Previous ranking: 8
The 76ers are 8–2 in their last 10 games and are coming off two wins against New Orleans and Oklahoma City after losing to the Wizards and the Pelicans last week. Joel Embiid and James Harden combined for 69 points in the win against the Pelicans on Monday, further showcasing the power of what the duo can be for the franchise. Philadelphia’s slate this week includes games against Indiana, Chicago and Detroit.
9. Dallas Mavericks
Previous ranking: 10
The Mavericks earned four wins last week and extended their winning streak to seven games Monday, overcoming an 18-point, second-half deficit to defeat the Rockets. Luka Dončić, the league’s leading scorer (averaging 34.3 ppg this season), earned Western Conference Player of the Week honors after averaging 48.7 points through three of the Mavs’ games last week. While Dončić is undoubtedly having an incredible year, it is worth noting the impact of Christian Wood, who has notched 20.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game in Dallas’s last 10 games. The Mavs will face Boston, New Orleans and Oklahoma City this week.
10. Indiana Pacers
Previous ranking: 18
Indiana put together a perfect 4–0 mark with wins against the Hawks, Cavaliers, Clippers and Raptors. The undefeated week came from a team effort with big contributions from Tyrese Haliburton, who has elevated his game tremendously in Year 3, Buddy Hield, Bennedict Mathurin and Myles Turner. The Pacers have now won seven of their last 10 games and sit five games above .500 for the first time since the end of the 2019–20 season. Indiana is back in action on the road against Philadelphia on Wednesday and home against Portland and Charlotte this week.
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11. Sacramento Kings
Previous ranking: 12
The Kings ended 2022 with two home wins against the Nuggets and Jazz before losing to Memphis on New Year’s Day. Despite the loss to the Grizzlies, Sacramento bounced back strong. Domantas Sabonis, who missed the first of a back-to-back against Denver due to a right thumb avulsion fracture, delivered three huge performances for Sacramento that included a 30-point outing against the Nuggets. The Kings will start the first week of the year with a road matchup against the Jazz before kicking off a five-game home stand with three against the Hawks, Lakers and Magic.
12. Los Angeles Clippers
Previous ranking: 11
The Clippers went 1–3 last week, recording losses against Boston, Indiana and Miami on Monday night. But it was good to see Kawhi Leonard lead the team in scoring against the Celtics, despite the loss. L.A. has lost three in a row but still sits three games above .500 and has the No. 6 defensive-rated team in the league. The Clippers’ next three games include two road games against Denver and Minnesota before facing the Hawks.
13. Portland Trail Blazers
Previous ranking: 13
After picking up a win against Charlotte the day after Christmas, the Trail Blazers went 1–1 with a loss to the Warriors and a victory against the Pistons. While Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons had to deal with some difficulty in scoring in the previous week, both had at least one 30-point performance during their last two games. Jerami Grant also stepped up big, pouring in 36 in Portland’s win against Detroit. The Blazers await a three-game road trip with matchups against Minnesota, Indiana and Toronto this week.
14. Miami Heat
Previous ranking: 19
The Heat finished 3–1 last week with wins against the Lakers, Jazz and Clippers and a loss to the Nuggets. The wins were enough to move Miami up in the rankings as the franchise now sits a game behind the Pacers for No. 6 in the East. Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo played big roles to lift Miami in its recent wins. In fact, Adebayo posted back-to-back, 30-plus point performances. The Heat will finish the final two contests in a six-game West Coast road trip this week before returning home to face Brooklyn.
15. New York Knicks
Previous ranking: 14
New York recorded its longest losing streak of the season (five games) last week. But the Knicks ended 2022 with a much-needed win against Houston behind Julius Randle’s 35-point performance to end the skid, and notched their first victory in ’23 against the Suns on Monday. The Knicks get San Antonio, Toronto and Milwaukee next.
16. Phoenix Suns
Previous ranking: 9
The Suns lost for the sixth time in their last seven games when the Knicks defeated Phoenix on Monday. They are 14–5 at home and 6–13 on the road. One thing is for certain: Phoenix needs Devin Booker, who has been out with a left groin strain since the Suns’ loss to the Nuggets on Christmas Day and will not be reevaluated until the last week of this month. The Suns’ slate this week includes two games against Cleveland and one against Miami.
17. Golden State Warriors
Previous ranking: 16
The Warriors went from not winning a lot of games the week before to notching four wins in the past week against Charlotte, Utah, Portland and the double-OT squeaker against the Hawks on Monday. Without Steph Curry, who has missed nine straight games with his left shoulder injury, Klay Thompson put the NBA community on notice with a 54-point performance on 10 made three-pointers against Atlanta. In Golden State’s last three games, Thompson has averaged 38 points. Despite the wins, the Warriors are still 3–16 on the road and will need to improve.
18. Utah Jazz
Previous ranking: 15
It’s now January, and Utah sits one game below .500. The Jazz’s slate to end 2022 was a tough one that included three losses to the Warriors, Kings and Heat. While there could be some potential change within the franchise in the new year, if the postseason started this week, the Jazz would be in a play-in matchup against the Warriors. Utah’s slate this week includes the Kings followed by a three-game road trip with stops in Houston, Chicago and Memphis.
19. Atlanta Hawks
Previous ranking: 17
The Hawks were above .500 ahead of last week. After four straight losses that included a double-overtime thriller on the road against Golden State, Atlanta is three games below .500 and has lost seven of its last 10. On the bright side, Dejounte Murray is getting back in rhythm, and Trae Young’s production is solid. The Hawks sit at No. 9 in the Eastern Conference with a three-game California road trip this week against the Kings, Lakers and Clippers.
20. Washington Wizards
Previous ranking: 26
Since their loss to the Jazz three days before Christmas, the Wizards have been on a roll, ripping off five consecutive wins. Three of those victories also came without Bradley Beal, who is dealing with left hamstring soreness and has not played since the Wizards’ win against Philadelphia on Dec. 27. Kristaps Porziņģis and Rui Hachimura have stepped up in the last several games. Washington gets two road matchups this week against the Bucks and the Thunder before a home clash against the Pelicans.
21. Minnesota Timberwolves
Previous ranking: 21
The Timberwolves concluded 2022 with six consecutive losses but started off the new year right with a much-needed victory against Denver, the top-ranked team in the West. Minnesota has dealt with extended absences from players including Karl-Anthony Towns, Taurean Prince and Jordan McLaughlin, as well as D’Angelo Russell and Naz Reid missing action. Minnesota’s next three games include the Trail Blazers, Clippers and Rockets.
22. Chicago Bulls
Previous ranking: 24
The Bulls started off the week on a very high note, picking up wins against the Bucks in overtime behind DeMar DeRozan’s 40-point performance and the Pistons. But after its two-game win streak, Chicago lost to Cleveland on New Year’s Eve and had another defeat in overtime to the Cavaliers on Mitchell’s historic night. The Bulls’ upcoming slate does not get any easier. Chicago will face Brooklyn before contests against Philadelphia, Utah and Boston.
23. Los Angeles Lakers
Previous ranking: 25
The Lakers put together a 3–1 mark after going 0–4 the week before. The biggest key in the Lakers’ last two wins was the brilliance of LeBron James, who dropped two 40-point performances—a season high of 47 points on his 38th birthday and 43 against Charlotte—in Year 20 of his career. However, with Anthony Davis still out, the Lakers are still 12th in the West. They have four games—against Miami, Atlanta, Sacramento and Denver—this week.
24. Toronto Raptors
Previous ranking: 20
After securing back-to-back wins for the first time in nearly a month last week, the Raptors followed up the bright spot with two losses against the Clippers and Grizzlies. Then, following a win against a Devin Booker–less Phoenix squad, Toronto started the new year with a road loss to Indiana. Both Pascal Siakam and Gary Trent Jr. had big contributions to Toronto’s slate of games last week. The Raptors open a three-game home stand that includes the Bucks, Knicks and Trail Blazers.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder
Previous ranking: 23
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the glue to the Thunder. Despite OKC going 1–2 last week—with losses to the Hornets and the 76ers—SGA continued to showcase his rise as a star in the league. SGA is averaging 30.8 points per game this season, the highest mark of his five-year NBA career. Oklahoma City has Boston, Orlando, Washington and Dallas to kick off the first week in 2023.
26. Orlando Magic
Previous ranking: 22
Before Christmas, the Magic won eight of their last nine games. But during the final week of 2022, Orlando dropped three games to the Lakers, Pistons and Wizards. After rising in last week’s rankings, the Magic will seek to end its three-game skid. Orlando’s slate this week includes OKC and Memphis, along with road matchups against Golden State and Sacramento.
27. San Antonio Spurs
Previous ranking: 27
San Antonio went 1–3 in its slate of games, with the Spurs’ lone win coming against the Knicks, a game in which Keldon Johnson notched one of his two 30-point performances last week. Johnson also delivered 22 in San Antonio’s loss to the Nets to start 2023 on Monday. The Spurs have now lost seven of their last 10 and sit two games ahead of the Rockets for the worst team in the Western Conference. San Antonio has a matchup against New York on Wednesday and back-to-back home games against Detroit and Boston before a Southwest division clash with Memphis.
28. Houston Rockets
Previous ranking: 28
After snapping a five-game losing streak the day after Christmas, the Rockets ended 2022 with another four-game skid with two road losses to Boston and Dallas before dropping two at home to New York and the Mavs. Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. have played well despite not getting the wins to show for it. Houston has New Orleans, Utah and Minnesota on the schedule this week.
29. Charlotte Hornets
Previous ranking: 29
Charlotte reached 10 wins on the season with a victory against Oklahoma City. But the Hornets also added to their loss column, dropping three games to the Warriors, Nets and Lakers. After a home game against Memphis on Monday, the Hornets will open a four-game road trip that includes two games against the Bucks and the Pacers this week.
30. Detroit Pistons
Previous ranking: 30
Detroit avoided its second seven-game losing streak this season when it picked up a win against Orlando. However, the league’s worst team followed up the win with a loss to the Bulls. Jaden Ivey continues to play well as a bright spot. The Pistons sit a game below the Hornets in the standings with two games—Golden State and San Antonio—left in a five-game road trip before returning home to face the 76ers this week.