NBA Power Rankings: Knicks' streak ends, West remains crowded

ESPN logo
Thursday, March 9, 2023

The New York Knicks owned the longest active winning streak in the NBA at nine straight before losing to the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday. Now that the streak is over, the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and even the fading Boston Celtics, who lost to the Knicks twice in the past two weeks, are still seen as the main power players in the East right now.

Aside from the two wins against the Celtics, the Knicks were not tested against any of the NBA's better teams during their streak, instead cleaning up during a softer portion of their schedule.

Meanwhile in the West, the bottom half of the play-in tournament standings are up for grabs and being contested by the Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder. That race is bound to remain tight through the final two months of the NBA season, as each of those teams will look to sneak into the postseason and contend in a more-open-than-usual Western Conference.

Note: Throughout the regular season, our panel (Kendra Andrews, Tim Bontemps, Jamal Collier, Nick Friedell, 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: Week 1| Week 2 | Week 3| Week 4| Week 5| Week 6| Week 7| Week 8| Week 9| Week 10| Week 11| Week 12| Week 13| Week 14| Week 15| Week 16| Week 17| Week 18| Week 19

1.Milwaukee Bucks

2022-23 record: 47-18

Previous ranking: 1

The Bucks wasted no time getting back in the win column, winning back-to-back games after their 16-game streak was snapped last Saturday. Khris Middleton made his first start since Dec. 15 on Tuesday and finished with 24 points, 11 assists and 4 rebounds.-- Collier

2.Denver Nuggets

2022-23 record: 46-19

Previous ranking: 3

While the rest of the Western Conference battles each other for seeding and a spot in the playoffs, the Denver Nuggets find themselves sitting comfortably at the top of the pack. They've been there all season, and there's no reason to believe they'll slip anytime soon.-- Andrews

3.Boston Celtics

2022-23 record: 45-21

Previous ranking: 2

It was a rough weekend for Boston, which blew a 28-point lead to lose to Brooklyn on Friday, and then lost overtime games on back-to-back nights against New York on Sunday and Cleveland on Monday. As a result, Boston has now dug itself a three-game hole in the loss column behind Milwaukee for the top seed in the East -- which could be a huge factor a couple of months from now.-- Bontemps

4.Philadelphia 76ers

2022-23 record: 43-22

Previous ranking: 4

The post All-Star break schedule for Philadelphia has been looked at warily by the team all season. But after Tuesday's win over Minnesota, the 76ers are now 5-3 after the break and only one loss back of Boston -- with a game between the two teams in Philadelphia remaining on the schedule. -- Bontemps

5.Cleveland Cavaliers

2022-23 record: 41-26

Previous ranking: 5

Donovan Mitchell topped 40 points in each of the Cavs' games against the Boston Celtics last week, bringing his season average up to 27.59 points per game which is not only the best average of his career, but a hair above LeBron James' career average with Cleveland (27.23). Heady company. -- McMenamin

6. Phoenix Suns

2022-23 record: 36-29

Previous ranking: 8

Think Devin Booker has forgotten about how the Dallas Mavericks ended the Suns season in Game 7 last year? Phoenix's shooting guard wanted all the smoke in his team's 130-126 win over the Mavs over the weekend, getting into it with both Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic before the game was out. He and Kevin Durant combined for 73 points to Irving and Doncic's 64 in the win. -- McMenamin

7. New York Knicks

2022-23 record: 39-28

Previous ranking: 9

New York saw its nine-game winning streak come to an end Tuesday night against the Charlotte Hornets, taking away a bit of the joy from its thrilling wins over Miami and Boston over the weekend. Still, the Knicks are three losses up on the Miami Heat for a top-six spot in the East, thus avoiding the play-in morass. -- Bontemps

8.Sacramento Kings

2022-23 record: 38-26

Previous ranking: 7

The beam is lit and is strong. The Kings' offense remains tops in the league, and at this point, there's no reason to think it's going to slow down. De'Aaron Fox scored 30-plus points in eight straight games before missing Monday's contest against New Orleans. Still, the Kings need to turn up their defense.-- Andrews

9.Memphis Grizzlies

2022-23 record: 38-26

Previous ranking: 6

Brandon Clarke's torn Achilles tendon was overshadowed by the issues that have sidelined superstar Ja Morant, but the loss of Clarke is a major blow to Memphis' hopes of making a deep playoff run. Clarke has been one of the best bench players in the league during his four-year career, and he was a major factor in the Grizzlies' first-round win last season, averaging 16.5 points and 9.0 rebounds in the series against the Timberwolves.-- MacMahon

10.Golden State Warriors

2022-23 record: 34-32

Previous ranking: 13

The Warriors finally got Stephen Curry back, but it didn't seem to matter much -- at least in terms of game results. They're still struggling on the road, and until that changes it's hard to fully buy into a title defense looming. But, they're showing major signs of improvement and as their team becomes whole, they're still a feared opponent.-- Andrews

11.Miami Heat

2022-23 record: 35-21

Previous ranking: 12

Miami has won three of its past five games and appears to have found a little rhythm again. Jimmy Butler dropped 26 points in Monday's win over the Atlanta Hawks and is averaging 10 free throw attempts a game over four games in March. Butler and the Heat have two solid tests coming up against Donovan Mitchell and the Cavs this week.-- Friedell

12.Minnesota Timberwolves

2022-23 record: 34-33

Previous ranking: 16

The Timberwolves had a big week against Western Conference opponents, going 4-0 against all four California teams on the road, and sit just a half game behind the Warriors in 7th place in the standings. For how turbulent its season has been, Minnesota is in the thick of it. And if the Timberwolves can keep this up, they'll find themselves just where they want to be when Karl-Anthony Towns returns. -- Andrews

13. Brooklyn Nets

2022-23 record: 37-28

Previous ranking: 14

The Mikal Bridges Show continues in Brooklyn. The Nets' new swingman just keeps putting up big numbers each night. Bridges is averaging 30.7 points a game over four games in March and has helped lead the Nets to three straight wins, including Friday's win over the Boston Celtics when Bridges scored 38 points and helped the Nets come back from a 28-point deficit.-- Friedell

14. Dallas Mavericks

2022-23 record: 34-32

Previous ranking: 11

Kyrie Irving scored 17 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter of Tuesday's win over the short-handed Jazz as the Mavs salvaged a split of the six-game homestand coming out of the break. Irving and Luka Doncic have each scored at least 30 points in half of their eight games together, but the Mavs are only 3-5 when both of their All-Stars play.-- MacMahon

15. LA Clippers

2022-23 record: 34-33

Previous ranking: 10

The Clippers needed Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to deliver superstar clutch performances to overcome a Grizzlies team without Morant, Clarke and Dillon Brooks on Sunday. The Clippers' first win since the All-Star break helped Ty Lue's team avoid what would have been a disastrous and deflating loss. While Norman Powell suffered a shoulder injury that won't be reevaluated until later this week, the Clippers are desperately trying to mesh their new pieces while fighting for a spot in the top six and out of the play-in. -- Youngmisuk

16.Atlanta Hawks

2022-23 record: 32-33

Previous ranking: 15

Dejounte Murray had 41 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds while shooting 77.3% against the Blazers in a win on March 3. He became the first Hawks player with 40 points on at least 75% shooting since Dominique Wilkins did it for Atlanta in 1990. Also, it was Murray's second 40-point performance of the season. The other: Jan. 30 against ... the Blazers. He became the first player to have consecutive 40-point games against Portland since Trae Young did it last season for Atlanta.-- Lopez

17.Toronto Raptors

2022-23 record: 32-34

Previous ranking: 18

A tough loss in Denver on Monday night aside, Toronto continues to slowly climb out of the hole it created early in the season. Still, the Raptors find themselves only in ninth with less than five weeks to go in the regular season.--Bontemps

18. Los Angeles Lakers

2022-23 record: 32-34

Previous ranking: 20

On the night the Lakers retired Pau Gasol's No. 16 jersey, Anthony Davis -- with 30 points and 22 rebounds in a win over Memphis -- reminded Laker Nation why he could belong in the rafters some day, too. "I actually told Pau that, s---, hopefully be up there as well," Davis said. "Obviously I want to be in that category, in that group." -- McMenamin

19.Utah Jazz

2022-23 record: 31-35

Previous ranking: 17

Utah has lost four in a row to fall four games under .500 and out of a play-in spot in the West. Former lottery pick Kris Dunn has been a bright spot during the losing streak, averaging 12.5 points and 4.3 assists off the bench while shooting 54.1% from the floor.-- MacMahon

20.New Orleans Pelicans

2022-23 record: 31-34

Previous ranking: 19

A once-promising season is on the verge of disaster for the Pelicans, who fell to 31-34 on Monday night with a loss to the Sacramento Kings. It's the first time this season the Pelicans have been three games under .500. A silver lining for New Orleans: It has the second-easiest remaining schedule in the Western Conference and finishes with 10 of its final 17 games at home. The Pelicans are 20-11 at home this season and 11-23 on the road. Also, two of the road games are against the Houston Rockets, who have the worst record in the West.-- Lopez

21.Portland Trail Blazers

2022-23 record: 31-34

Previous ranking: 21

Damian Lillard continues to cook, and the Blazers have taken care of business, winning two straight on the road against Orlando and Detroit. The trip, though, gets much more difficult with games at Boston, Philadelphia and New Orleans next before returning home to face red-hot New York, Boston and the Clippers. Lillard will have to continue to dominate for Portland to keep pace for the play-in. -- Youngmisuk

22.Washington Wizards

2022-23 record: 31-34

Previous ranking: 22

The Wizards survived a scare before escaping Detroit with a two-point win. This is a big week for Washington and its play-in hopes. The Wizards have two consecutive home games against Atlanta, which is one game ahead of them in the standings. After that, Washington goes to Philadelphia before returning home to play Detroit again. Bradley Beal is heating up at the right time with 33 and 32 points in his past two games.-- Youngmisuk

23. Oklahoma City Thunder

2022-23 record: 31-34

Previous ranking: 23

Not to be outdone by a 38-point performance from the returning Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder rookie Jalen Williams had a career-best 32 points in Sunday night's win over Utah. It was the latest in a stretch of great play from Williams, who scored 20 points on 50% shooting for the fourth consecutive game. That's tops among all rookies this season. Since the All-Star break, Williams is averaging 21.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game while shooting 58.8% overall and 50.0% from 3. -- Lopez

24.Indiana Pacers

2022-23 record: 29-37

Previous ranking: 26

After hitting the game winner in Chicago on Sunday, Tyrese Haliburton finished with 40 points and 16 assists against the 76ers on Monday, becoming the first player in Pacers history with 30 points and 15 assists in a game. -- Collier

25.Chicago Bulls

2022-23 record: 29-36

Previous ranking: 24

Chicago has a lot of work to do to even make the postseason. After dropping back-to-back games, the Bulls are in 11th place in the East and 1 games out of the play-in tournament entering a matchup in Denver on Wednesday. The Nuggets are 30-4 at home this season.-- Collier

26.Orlando Magic

2022-23 record: 27-39

Previous ranking: 25

After alternating between wins and losses for a month, the Magic have now dropped two straight after Tuesday's loss to the Giannis-less Bucks. As usual, rookie Paolo Banchero continues to provide a bright spot. The Magic forward is averaging 20 points over four games in March.-- Friedell

27. Charlotte Hornets

2022-23 record: 21-46

Previous ranking: 27

Charlotte pulled off one of its best wins of the season Tuesday night, snapping the Knicks' nine-game winning streak. Without LaMelo Ball, the Hornets' offense hasn't been able to generate enough traction and the defense remains spotty at best. Kelly Oubre Jr. has picked up more of the scoring slack, averaging 24.8 points over his past four games.-- Friedell

28.Detroit Pistons

2022-23 record: 15-51

Previous ranking: 28

The Pistons have lost nine games in a row and just lost Hamidou Diallo for at least three-to-four weeks with a Grade 2 right ankle sprain.-- Collier

29.San Antonio Spurs

2022-23 record: 16-49

Previous ranking: 29

Fresh off the rodeo road trip, San Antonio had a quick two-game homestand before playing at Houston on Sunday on the second night of a back-to-back. The Spurs do get some time to rest, though, because they don't play again until Friday, with a full four days off between games. A bright spot in recent weeks for San Antonio has been the play of rookie Malaki Branham. Since being inserted into the starting lineup on Feb. 3, Branham is averaging 15.3 points -- fourth among all rookies in that stretch.-- Lopez

30.Houston Rockets

2022-23 record: 15-50

Previous ranking: 30

After losing 11 in a row, the Rockets pulled off back-to-back wins over the Spurs, tightening the race to the bottom among rebuilding teams. Alperen Sengun, the 20-year-old center who has been arguably Houston's best player this season, averaged 15.5 points, 12.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists while shooting 66.7% from the floor in the two wins.-- MacMahon

Related Video