With the first half of the season in the books, where do teams stand heading into the second half of the season?

Since my last power rankings update, many teams have shifted places. The Lakers have dropped a couple of spots due to their role players underperforming during AD’s absence. The Trailblazers have been playing surprisingly well without C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, which means that Damian Lillard should be heavily considered for the MVP award. Both the Utah Jazz and the Phoenix Suns are playing great basketball right now, which is indicative of their #1 and #2 placements at the top of the Western Conference. Both of these teams show no signs of slowing down by the way. The Nets continue to show why they are the best team in the East, even with the 76ers and Bucks playing really well behind them. The Rockets, Cavaliers, Timberwolves, Pistons, and Magic continue to plummet down the rankings as these teams are having serious trouble winning games. The Mavericks, Wizards, Heat, and Hornets are all making a jump in the rankings as these teams are playing really well as of late. However, a lot can happen during the second half of the season that shifts these rankings dramatically, but as of now here are my All-Star break power rankings.

30. Minnesota Timberwolves

This team hasn’t won a game in almost a month and they are easily playing the worst basketball in all of the NBA. Karl Anthony-Towns’ talent is being wasted right now, but at least Malik Beasley and Anthony Edwards look pretty good this year. If D’Angelo Russell comes back healthy next year and the Wolves can add a couple of solid players to their core, they could have a decent team sooner rather than later. To speed up their rebuild, they seriously need a top-three pick in the upcoming draft because Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, or Jalen Suggs would all help this organization immediately.

29. Detroit Pistons

It was hard for any team to be worse than the Pistons this year, but hats off to Minnesota for finding a way to accomplish that. This Pistons team is absolutely terrible. Jerami Grant and Delon Wright are the only two dudes who know how to play basketball on this team. Killian Hayes has been injured pretty much all season, but he isn’t any good to begin with and doesn’t project to be anything but a career bench player anyways. They had the chance to draft Tyrese Haliburton, Deni Avdija, Obi Toppin, or Tyrese Maxey but didn’t. At least Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart are playing well and may turn out to be very solid players in this league, but drafting Hayes is gonna come back to bite them. This is another year where the Pistons will finish last in the Eastern Conference, but on the bright side, they will have a chance at getting the #1 pick. Boy, do they need it to select Cade Cunningham to turn this organization around.

28. Houston Rockets

The Rockets have lost a lot of games lately. They are a completely different team without star forward/center Christian Wood and this stretch of games in his absence is indicative of that. They aren’t a playoff team with Wood either, but at least they are more competitive with him in the game. Christian Wood, Victor Oladipo, and John Wall are a good core to build around, but since they don’t own their first round pick for the 2021 draft, they should start winning gamesnow or go into panic mode and start trading everyone for draft picks. They will start to win a little bit when Wood returns from injury, but will it be enough to not regret trading their 2021 pick to OKC? We will just have to wait and see, although it’s not looking good for the Rockets right now.

27. Orlando Magic

Vucevic has been great averaging just under 25 PPG and 12 RPG. He finally was rewarded in an All-Star selection, something he should have been rewarded with last year or the year before. Vucevic is really the only bright spot on this terrible team this year. Terrance Ross is a very streaky player and inconsistent sometimes putting up 30 points and other times only scoring 5 points. Cole Anthony is also having a very respectable rookie season. Other than that, they don’t have anyone who can really play basketball right now. Once Fultz and Issac were confirmed to be out for the year, to go along with Gordon missing substantial time as well, there was no real direction for this team to go in. Luckily, they will continue to lose games and have a shot at selecting a top-tier prospect with a top 5-7 selection in this year’s draft.

26. Sacramento Kings

The Kings have a decent team led by De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, and Tyrese Haliburton, but they also have arguably the worst coach in the NBA in Luke Walton. He simply doesn’t know how to coach these guys and he’s continued to sit Hassan Whiteside on the bench, even though Whiteside averaged 3 BPG, 13.5 RPG, and 15.5 PPG last season in Portland. At least Fox, Bagley, and Haliburton – their three most promising young players – are having great seasons. They really need another top prospect to put alongside those guys to continue to improve as a team. The Kings will continue to lose a lot of games and finish in the bottom 3 of the Western Conference.

25. Cleveland Cavaliers

They started out winning a lot of games out of the gate. In fact, with Andre Drummond as their primary scoring threat besides Colin Sexton, they were winning a ton of games. Instead of trying to win more games though, they benched Drummond for Allen, which resulted in a huge loss on the offensive end. Allen is great and I get why they want to trade Drummond since he isn’t a part of their future, but they had a nice trio of Garland, Sexton, and Drummond going before benching Drummond. Now both Sexton and Garland are losing their production and this is a completely different team without Drummonds’s dominance on the boards and in the paint on the offensive end. They have won a couple of games to get back on track but I don’t see this team competing for the rest of the year.

24. Oklahoma City Thunder

This team should be the worst team in the league based on their roster. No one was expected to do anything other than their young star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has put together a spectacular season so far (23.2 PPG, 5.1 RPG, and 6.2 APG). However, Darius Bazley, Isaiah Roby, Hamidou Diallo, Al Horford, and Luguentz Dort have all exceeded expectations and are having great years. This team will win some surprising games but should continue to be one of the worst teams in the league and secure a top 10 selection in the upcoming draft.

23. Washington Wizards

Well, they are finally winning some games! After an abysmal start, the Wizards have won 8 of their last 11 games, and they look to be finally figuring things out. Bradley Beal is the best scorer in the league averaging just under 33 PPG, while Russell Westbrook(20.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 9.8 APG) has come back from his absence playing great. Davis Bertans is a huge factor for this team. The 6-10 big is one of the best 3PT shooters in the league and is a big reason why they have won a lot lately. If Bertans continues to open up the floor for Beal, Westbrook, and others with his elite 3PT shooting, I can see this team making a jump and sneaking into the playoffs. I know that may sound crazy, considering just a month ago they were arguably the worst team in the league, but this team is just starting to hit their stride. Watch out.

22. Atlanta Hawks

I think everyone is disappointed with this team. They made a huge splash in the offseason by bringing in Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo, and Bogdan Bogdanovic to play alongside Trae Young, Clint Capela, and John Collins. I predicted this team to be a 6 or 7 seed in the Eastern Conference in my preseason rankings, but after watching the first half of the season, this team will be lucky to even make the playoffs, let alone be a 6 or 7 seed. They have the talent to make a comeback and sneak into the postseason, but unless they figure out their team chemistry somewhat soon, they will fall into a purgatory of losing that they won’t get out of for the rest of the season.

21. New Orleans Pelicans

This is another team that has been very disappointing considering they have two All-Stars in Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. They also have a very solid supporting cast in Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, and J.J. Reddick. This team’s ceiling will rely on Lonzo Ball. You know Ingram and Zion will take their game to another level the rest of the year, but Lonzo has been the big question mark. Earlier in the season, he was hit or miss, some days looking like an All-Star and other days looking like a bench player. But as of late, Lonzo Ball has been fantastic as he averaged 16.5 PPG, 5.5 APG, and 1.3 SPG in the month of February and has showed no signs of slowing down through the first three games of March. If Lonzo Ball continues to play great, and Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram play like they are capable of playing, this team will be right in the middle of contention for the last couple of seeds in the Western Conference.

20. Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies have been playing surprisingly well this season, even with Jaren Jackson Jr. being out all year, and Ja Morant missing substantial time as well. Kyle Anderson and Desmond Bane have been great, while De’Anthony Melton, Dillon Brooks, and Brandon Clarke have been playing at a high level as well. They are already creeping up to Dallas for the 8th seed in the Western Conference, and there is no reason to doubt this team because they have proven the haters wrong all year. They will be even better when Jaren Jackson Jr. returns from injury. Never count this team out.

19. Chicago Bulls

Zach LaVine (28.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 5.1 APG this season) has this Bulls team contending for a playoff spot, a position they haven’t been in since 2017. LaVine was robbed of an All-Star selection the past couple of seasons, but this season he was finally rewarded as he took his game to another level. Wendell Carter Jr., Colby White, and a healthy Lauri Markkanen only increases this team’s ceiling. They also snagged one of the best coaches in the league last season in Billy Donovan. When Markkanen, Carter Jr., and LaVine are all back on the floor together, this team will be a serious threat to make the Eastern Conference playoffs as a 7 or 8 seed.

18. Indiana Pacers

They haven’t been good at all lately, but they still have Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, Malcolm Brogdon, and Caris LeVert. Once LeVert returns from his absence, this team will be one of the five best teams in the Eastern Conference. However, right now they are in 10th place in the Eastern Conference and they aren’t worthy of being considered one of the top 15 teams in the league yet. Once they are at full strength, they will likely be a top 10 team in the NBA. Let’s check back in on them in a month.

17. Toronto Raptors

The Raptors had a rough start, but have rallied behind the stellar play of Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, and Chris Boucher. Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam have been good, but not as good as last year, which is a serious problem for this team. Lowry and Siakam’s down years result in this team being substantially worse than last year. I would be surprised if this team wins more than one playoff series this season. The Raps have a great coach and a lot of depth, but if Siakam and Lowry don’t start playing like they did last year, this year will result in an abnormally early exit for this organization that has grown so accustomed to winning.

16. Charlotte Hornets

It’s crazy how one player can completely change the identity and outlook for an organization, but LaMelo Ball has done so in less than one year in the league. He is going to be an NBA superstar, and he already has this team in the 7th spot in the Eastern Conference at the All-Star Break. If he continues to play the way he is playing, this team will likely make the playoffs. Miles Bridges, P.J. Washington, Terry Rozier, Malik Monk, and Gordon Hayward have all been great as well. Devonte’ Graham needs to play close to his level of play last year for the Hornets to have any serious shot at a first-round upset, but it is definitely possible.

15. Golden State Warriors

They haven’t been playing great recently, but they still have had some stellar play from Steph Curry and Draymond Green. James Wiseman is getting back into the rhythm of things, while Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre are playing well right now too. Can they be better? Yes. Should they be better? Yes. The Dubs have lost a couple of close games recently, but they will get back on track. Dallas has been playing great lately, so I think Golden State’s best shot to get back into seeding for the playoffs is to surpass the Spurs. Don’t count this team out because they still have Steph and Draymond, plus a good supporting cast.

14. New York Knicks

The Knicks are currently 5th in the Eastern Conference, most of which is applicable to All-Star Julius Randle and the team’s stellar defense. Immanuel Quickley, R.J. Barrett, Derrick Rose, Mitchell Robinson, and Nerlens Noel are all having great years to compliment Randle’s ascension to stardom. Like everyone else, I did not expect this team to be good whatsoever. Obviously, I was wrong and after watching the Knicks play in the first half of the season, I would be surprised if they didn’t make the playoffs this year. I expect them to continue playing well and to secure a 5-8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

13. San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs finished with an 18-14 record entering the All-Star break thanks to DeMar DeRozan’s should have been All-Star season. DeRozan is the most disrespected player in the NBA. They didn’t select him to the All-Star Game the last couple of seasons because “his team wasn’t winning”, but now he has better statistics and his team is winning and he’s still not there. DeMar should have gotten in originally, but you’re telling me he didn’t get in as a replacement either? People don’t understand what DeRozan has achieved this season. He has had to completely change his game to fit the modern NBA. He has worked on his passing, rebounding, and 3PT shooting, which is why this team sits at 7th in the Western Conference at the break. Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson, Derrick White, Patty Mills, and Lonnie Walker IV have had very solid years as well. The Spurs have one of the best coaches of all time and a seriously deep team full of solid players. I wouldn’t be surprised if they hold their spot and make the playoffs.

12. Dallas Mavericks

Thanks to the dynamic duo of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis figuring out how to play together again, this team is thriving and winning a ton of games. Luka Doncic is unreal, averaging 28.6 PPG, 8.4 RPG, and 9 APG, while Porzingis has come back strong as well averaging 20.2 PPG, 8.4 RPB, and 1.6 BPG. Tim Hardaway Jr has also been fantastic as well averaging just under 17 PPG. Jalen Brunson and Dorian Finney-Smith have been fantastic as well. Josh Richardson is also figuring out his stride. If the Mavs can continue to roll like they have been over the last 10 games, they will keep climbing the Western Conference rankings and secure a top 5 seed for the playoffs.

11. Miami Heat

Although the Heat have a worse record than the Warriors, Spurs, and Mavericks, they have been winning a lot of games recently and look like a completely different team than they did at the beginning of the season. Jimmy Butler, Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic, Kendrick Nunn, Precious Achiuwa, and Andre Iguodala provide the Heat with a tremendous amount of talent and depth. Jimmy Butler is arguably a top-5 player in the NBA this season solely based on his improved elite passing skills, defense, scoring, and leadership. When Butler plays, this team has a chance to beat anyone. In fact, as the year goes on, I expect the Heat to secure at least the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference since the Celtics have been playing really badly lately. I also think that the Heat’s depth and toughness provide the best matchup for the frontrunner to come out of the conference, the Brooklyn Nets. I really want to see a Nets Vs. Heat playoff series because even though I think the Nets would win that series based on their superior talent, the Heat would give them a run for their money.

10. Portland Trailblazers

It sure is Dame-Time, especially after the crazy 3PT shooting streak Lillard had at the end of the All-Star Game to win the game for team LeBron. C.J. McCollom and Jusuf Nurkic have been sidelined for a while now, but that’s not stopping Dame Dolla from leading this team to prominence. In fact, he sometimes single handedly wills this team to victory. The Trailblazers are sitting at 21-14 at the break, and if they can continue to win some games without McCollom and Nurkic, just imagine how good they’ll be when their two other best players return. Never bet against a team led by one of the best players in the game in Damian Lillard, who is also easily the clutchest player in the NBA.

9. Boston Celtics

The Celtics have been a serious disappointment this season, even if Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have become one of the best duos in the NBA. Like many other people, I expected them to be a sleeper to win the Eastern Conference. However, they have not gotten much production from players other than their dynamic duo. They have virtually been a two-man team. Kemba Walker isn’t playing great. Tristan Thompson is playing terribly, and they don’t have enough height inside to compete for boards and play interior defense. Even with Jaylen Brown’s drastic improvement, this team still lacks serious depth. They desperately need to sign a guy like Andre Drummond, Hassan Whiteside, or DeMarcus Cousins by the deadline otherwise they can call this season quits.

8. Denver Nuggets

Nikola Jokic has averaged 27.1 PPG, 11.0 RPG, and 8.6 APG this season and has the best chance of his career to win the NBA MVP award this season. His team is playing fantastic even with a down year from Jamal Murray. Michael Porter Jr. continues to get into his rhythm, and will only get better as the season goes on. Monte Morris, Will Barton, and Paul Millsap have also been playing great this season. We really had to see how great Jerami Grant is on the Pistons to see what a big loss he was for this Nuggets team. In fact, if this year’s team had Jerami Grant on it, they would be sitting in 1st or 2nd place in the Western Conference right now. Either way, we all know what Jamal Murray can do in the playoffs, and once Murray starts to find his rhythm, I would expect this team to reach the Western Conference Finals again.

7. Los Angeles Clippers

Yes, Paul George hasn’t been playing well lately, but he is still having a fantastic season. Kawhi Leonard is playing like Kawhi Leonard, the perennial MVP candidate we all know. Serge Ibaka has been one of the best offseason additions, while Ivica Zubac and Nicolas Batum stepped up to provide a good foundation for this team. Lou Williams, Luke Kennard, and Patrick Beverly have had miserable years for their standards and this is why the team is struggling as of late (besides Paul George’s mysterious shooting woes). With two superstars and solid role players, this team has the bones of a championship contender, but their team chemistry and role-players need to improve drastically for them to have any shot at the title this season.

6. Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks have been playing some great basketball recently behind their trio of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton. The supporting cast has also been solid with Donte DiVincenzo, Brook Lopez, Pat Connaughton, and Bobby Portis providing valuable minutes. The Bucks have the reputation of being a “regular season team” as they have failed to get to the NBA Finals every year since Giannis Antetokounmpo became a superstar. However, this year the Bucks have fewer expectations, considering they are in the same conference as the dominant 76ers and Nets, which may indeed alleviate pressure off of them to do well this postseason. They match up fairly well against both the 76ers and Nets and anything can happen in a 7 game series. This Bucks team is better than last year’s Bucks team solely based on Jrue Holiday’s presence. He is one of the best defenders in the league, and he can score and create at a very high level. He should help this team have a good shot at getting to the Conference Finals and the Finals this season.

5. Los Angeles Lakers

Although I think the fully healthy Lakers are the best team in the NBA, I had to be realistic with where they are right now, while also respecting the teams playing better than them at the moment. They sit at 3rd in the Western Conference with an abysmal record of 3-7 since Anthony Davis got injured. Obviously, this is a completely different team when Anthony Davis is out on the floor, but not even LeBron, the best player in the NBA, has been able to win them many games by himself. Until Davis comes back, they should really limit LeBron’s minutes because the regular season does not matter for this team. It is all about the playoffs. As long as they can secure a spot in the playoffs, they should sit LeBron as much as possible to prepare for the real grind which is the postseason. Kentavious Caldwell Pope, Markeiff Morris, and Wesley Matthews haven’t been good at all from behind the arc lately. They need to shoot better from 3PT range otherwise this team will be in a world of hurt come playoff time. On the bright side, each of those three players are veterans and have proven track records, so they should figure out their shooting woes eventually. Kyle Kuzma has really stepped up this year, finally accepting his role for the team, and if he can continue to play well alongside Montrezl Harrell, Dennis Schroder, LeBron James, and a healthy AD, the sky’s the limit for this team.

4. Phoenix Suns

The Suns have been playing unreal this year, sitting at 2nd in the Western Conference with a 24-11 record. Chris Paul once again has completely changed the dynamic of a team, like he did last year in Oklahoma City. Last year’s Suns team was remembered for winning every single game in the bubble and missing the playoffs by one game. Insert Chris Paul on that same team and they have risen seven spots so far from 9th last season to 2nd in the Western Conference this season. Not only do they have Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton, but they have solid role players in Cameron Johnson, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Abdel Nader, and Dario Saric as well. They have a very balanced offensive and defensive attack, and they show no signs of slowing down. I would be surprised if this team doesn’t at least go to the Western Conference Semi-Finals, but if they end up with the 4 seed and have to play the 1 seed Jazz in the Conference Semis, I would pick Phoenix to win and get to the Conference Finals.

3. Philadelphia 76ers

Joel Embiid is the MVP of the league this year averaging 30.2 PPG and 11.6 RPG while leading this team to the 1st spot in the Eastern Conference with a 24-12 record. Getting shooters Seth Curry and Danny Green this offseason has really opened up the floor for the big trio of Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid. Doc Rivers has also done a great job coaching this blend of talent together to win the majority of their games so far. This team is almost unbeatable when Simmons is a scoring threat, but too many times he is passive and not assertive in going to the basket and scoring inside. The more Simmons attacks the basket and scores, the more defenders have to worry about him, opening up the floor for shooters on the outside and Embiid on the inside. The 76ers have a serious shot at getting to the Eastern Conference Finals this season, but I don’t know if they can beat the Nets or even the Bucks or Heat in a 7 game series. For whatever reason, I am still skeptical of this team, even though they continue to prove me wrong.

2. Utah Jazz

The Jazz have the best record in the NBA at 27-9 thanks to having the best team chemistry in the NBA. The ascension of Jordan Clarkson as a 6th man of the year candidate has really changed the dynamic of this team. Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, and Rudy Gobert provide a solid starting lineup, while Jordan Clarkson, Royce O’Neale, Derrick Favors, and Georges Niang provide depth off of the bench. They continue to knock down shots and play elite defense this season. I do think the Jazz will continue to ball out and finish with the 1st seed in the Western Conference, but I do not see them winning more than one playoff series this season or ever as long as they don’t have a third star to go along with Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. I know people compare them to the 2004 Detroit Pistons or the 2011 Dallas Mavericks, but first off, this team doesn’t have even close to the caliber of player Dirk Nowitski was. The 2004 Pistons are a better comparison since they didn’t have three stars either. However, 2004 didn’t have the abundance of superteams we see today such as the James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving Nets, or the Anthony Davis, LeBron James Lakers. I don’t see how the Jazz can beat the Lakers, Clippers, or Suns in a seven-game series. I don’t even think this team can beat the Nuggets or Mavericks in a seven-game series either. Maybe I am a bit too skeptical of this team which continues to prove me wrong, but they sit at 2nd overall in these power rankings because they are on a roll and simply can’t lose at the moment.

1. Brooklyn Nets

I was thinking of putting the Jazz in this spot, but then I realized that the Nets have been winning almost every game recently without their best player in Kevin Durant. Take a second to process that. Kyrie Irving(27.2 PPG, 6 APG) and James Harden(25.3 PPG, 11.1 APG) have been leading this team to victory night in and night out, while Durant has dealt with an injury. My biggest question for this team after the Harden trade was if they had much depth or defense? Joe Harris, Jeff Green, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Nicolas Claxton, Bruce Brown, Landry Shamet, and now Blake Griffin are a ton of depth if you ask me. In regards to the defense, they don’t need to play much defense if they are putting up 130-140 points per game. They will win games based on being the best offensive team in the history of the NBA. Their only competition are teams that have elite defense such as the Lakers, Heat, 76ers, Bucks, or even the Clippers. After the Griffin signing it’s going to be hard for any team to beat the Nets as they are undoubtedly the favorite to win the championship. They will surpass Philly and finish 1st in the Eastern Conference by the end of the season and I really hope by the end of the postseason we can see a Lakers vs. Nets Finals. That will be legendary if it happens.