Skip to main content

NBA Power Rankings: Where Each Team Stands Heading Into the Season's Midway Point

The season is close to its halfway point after a whirlwind start to the year. Which teams are at the top? Which teams continue to fall?

It was another whirlwind week in the NBA, full of high-profile returns to the court (Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving), lengthy winning streaks (Memphis, Philadelphia, Toronto, Dallas and, until Sunday, Chicago), and questions about roster fits (Boston). But in the end, who fell where in our latest power rankings?

Here’s our latest rundown on all the clubs as they officially reach the halfway point of the regular season.

(Note: SI’s NBA staff is ranking every team from best to worst all season long, taking into account how each squad is currently playing.)

1. Golden State Warriors

Current record: 30-9

Previous ranking: 1

Klay Thompson was aggressively hunting his shot in his long-awaited return to the court Sunday night. But in him looking to shoot nearly every time—and the Cleveland defense having to account for him—it was a good reminder of just how conflicted opposing clubs are going to be in trying to account for all the Warriors’ shooters—and passers—again.

It might have been mere coincidence that Stephen Curry, in the midst of a shooting skid, found an early rhythm to start Sunday’s game 4-for-4 while sharing the court with a threat like Thompson again. But it probably wasn’t a coincidence. Curry and Thompson play well off each other, and always have. That will likely hold true, even if Thompson takes some time to round back into form.

2. Phoenix Suns

Current record: 30-9

Previous ranking: 2

One of the more interesting storylines coming into this season was the quiet standoff between Phoenix and rapidly improving center Deandre Ayton, who couldn’t reach an agreement on a rookie extension. Ayton, the former No. 1 overall pick, reportedly wanted a max extension after being a major contributor to the team’s run to the Finals; Phoenix presumably didn’t agree.

Fast-forward to this season, and Ayton’s been fantastic again, with the Suns being tied for the best record in basketball. Yet during the six games Ayton just missed—a stretch the Suns went 4-2 in—second-year big man Jalen Smith averaged an Ayton-like 15.8 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 25.5 minutes of work. Between Smith, JaVale McGee and even the injured Frank Kaminsky, Phoenix has shown to get solid production out of anyone and everyone who plays that spot this season. All of which could impact the team’s perception of Ayton’s contract value. The 23-year-old will be a restricted free agent this summer.

3. Chicago Bulls

Current record: 26-11

Previous ranking: 3

No one’s overlooking the impact of DeMar DeRozan on first-place Chicago, which saw its nine-game win streak snapped Sunday night. But perhaps one of the other big offseason acquisitions, Lonzo Ball, has flown under the radar some. Aside from his solid perimeter defense and uptempo style—which were on display here against Dallas yesterday—his shooting from deep also deserves attention. He’s one of just four players in the NBA hitting better than 40% from the arc while making four or more threes per contest (Patty Mills, Zach LaVine and Fred VanVleet being the others).

SI Recommends

4. Memphis Grizzlies

Current record: 28-14

Previous ranking: 7

Memphis, which has won a league-best eight straight and is the surprise team in the West this season, will be without Dillon Brooks for anywhere from three to five weeks after a bad ankle sprain he suffered during Saturday’s victory over the Clippers.

That’s not to say that Brooks’s absence will derail the Grizz. Hell, they just went 10-2 during Ja Morant’s time on the mend a bit earlier in the season. But it is frustrating for a club that’s already seen Brooks—one of the best players on the team—miss considerable time, between injuries and health and safety protocols. He’s logging a career-best 18.4 points per game this year, the second highest on the team. (Separately: we couldn’t pass up a chance to talk about this block from Morant Sunday, which simply wasn’t human.)

5. Utah Jazz

Current record: 28-12

Previous ranking: 4

Things came full circle in the NBA this past week when Rudy Gobert was pulled from the lineup due to health and safety protocols. Where Gobert’s positive test brought about the league’s pause back in March 2020, the league—and the nation as a whole—has been flooded with positive cases over the past month.

The Jazz were actually the last team in the sport this season to have to put someone in protocols (Joe Ingles came before Gobert). But now with Gobert out, don’t be shocked if the team’s defense struggles. That happened on Saturday, when Domantas Sabonis scored a career-best 42 points on 18-for-22 shooting as the Jazz lost in Indiana.

6. Brooklyn Nets

Current record: 25-13

Previous ranking: 6

Thanks to a game-winner from rookie Cam Thomas, Brooklyn escaped with a narrow overtime victory over San Antonio Sunday, snapping the Nets’ five-game losing streak at home—their longest since 2018.

The struggles at home are noteworthy, of course, because the team—11-10 at home, and 14-3 on the road—now has Kyrie Irving back in the fold, but only part-time; for road games. The Nets struggled to produce offense down the stretch against the Spurs, going more than five minutes without scoring between the end of the fourth quarter and the opening minute of overtime as MVP candidate Kevin Durant struggled to find his shot before assisting Thomas to win the game.

7. Miami Heat

Current record: 25-15

Previous ranking: 8

Miami notched perhaps its most impressive win of the campaign Saturday by absolutely steamrolling the defending Western Conference champion Suns despite being shorthanded, without Bam Adebayo or Jimmy Butler. Tyler Herro had a season-best 33 points, and the Heat knocked down 22 triples on the night. Eight of those came from Duncan Robinson, who, after a frigid start, has connected on 20-for-38 from beyond the arc over his past three contests.

8. Milwaukee Bucks

Current record: 26-16

Previous ranking: 5

Since winning six games in a row and putting themselves on the doorstep of first place in the Eastern Conference, the Bucks have lost three out of four, including a puzzling home defeat—at full strength—to the tanking Pistons earlier in the week. Milwaukee did manage to knock off the Brooklyn Nets for the second time, but now will see Jrue Holiday and coach Mike Budenholzer miss at least a few days due to health and safety protocols.

9. Philadelphia 76ers

Current record: 22-16

Previous ranking: 11

Don’t look now, but reigning Player of the Month Joel Embiid and the Sixers are on a six-game winning streak, and have pushed themselves all the way up to the fifth spot in the East, now trailing Miami and Milwaukee by just two games in the standings.

That potential reality—that underneath all the craziness that’s been this season, last year’s No. 1 seed in the East is still a contender—could prompt Philly to become more aggressive on one of two fronts. Either trying to tap the trade market once more to see who, if anyone, will bite on Ben Simmons. Or to try and engage Simmons once more on rejoining the team, which could become more capable of a run with a committed version of the forward in the fold.

10. Dallas Mavericks

Current record: 22-18

Previous ranking: 18

You can’t help but be impressed with Dallas, which has won its last six games, despite being without Kristaps Porzingis for five of those outings, and without Luka Dončić for one of them. The victories haven’t necessarily come against bad competition, either.

While there were wins over Oklahoma City and Houston, the Mavs also took down reigning MVP Nikola Jokić, the streaking Golden State Warriors and the first-place Chicago Bulls on Sunday night. And while we think of Dallas as an offensive club, given that it broke the record for efficiency before, this team is doing it with D, and ranks as a top-five unit on that end.

11. Cleveland Cavaliers

Current record: 22-18

Previous ranking: 9

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Darius Garland (10) brings the ball up court in the third quarter against the Toronto Raptors.

The streak came to an end in Sunday night’s defeat, but guard Darius Garland had tallied 20 points or more in six consecutive games, and shot 50% or better in five of those six outings.

The fact that he’s been able to pick up much of the scoring slack left behind by Collin Sexton, all while being a fantastic prober and passer within the Cavs’ supersized lineup, is the best All-Star case one can make for Garland. He’d be deserving, but figures to face a bit of an uphill battle while up against players like Jrue Holiday, Fred VanVleet, Zach LaVine, Kyle Lowry and other more established veterans. Even if it doesn’t happen this time—which would be special, given the game is in Cleveland—watch out for Garland, because there’s a good chance he’ll be making such a trip in the near future.

12. Toronto Raptors

Current record: 20-17

Previous ranking: 15

Is anyone playing better basketball than Fred VanVleet right now? The guard, deserving of what would be his first All-Star appearance, has notched 30 or more in six of his last eight outings; a total he’d reached just twice in his first 26 contests of the campaign. And oh, by the way: Toronto has hit its stride, winning six ballgames in a row as it tries to break into the East’s top six. The dinosaurs are on the loose.

13. Denver Nuggets

Current record: 20-18

Previous ranking: 10

Now that the calendar has flipped to 2022, the question that will start being asked more and more is: when should we expect Jamal Murray back?

The full-time return of Will Barton this season has certainly been a welcome one in Denver. And Aaron Gordon has been quite efficient all season. Every now and then, the club will unexpectedly get a nice scoring night from Bones Hyland or Austin Rivers (as was the case Sunday). But with Michael Porter out for likely the rest of the season, the biggest boost that’s left—with Jokić fully extended most nights—is Murray whenever he can make it back. It looks unlikely that the Nuggs can finish seeded as high as last year. But if Murray is healthy and ready to go by playoff time, no one would look forward to having to play them, regardless of seed.

14. Charlotte Hornets

Current record: 21-19

Previous ranking: 12

Charlotte closed out the week by winning two straight; one in which Kelly Oubre tied an NBA record with eight triples in the fourth quarter against Detroit, and the other being a solid victory over the defending champion Bucks Saturday. Terry Rozier has been an enormous spark for the Hornets as of late, hitting 36 three-pointers over his last eight contests, a span in which he’s hit a blistering 49.3% of his tries.

15. Los Angeles Lakers

Current record: 21-20

Previous ranking: 16

The good news? The Lakers had the NBA’s most efficient offense during their four-game win streak this past week; one that came against four teams that each had sub-.500 marks. The bad news? They looked terrible Sunday night against Memphis—arguably the league’s hottest team—a showing in which LeBron was the only starter who played well. He shot 14-for-19 with 35 points, nine boards and seven assists, while the rest of the starting five shot 8-for-39, with just 22 points.

That’s part of the challenge with the LeBron-at-center strategy. It can work—and has generally held up so far—but you have to wonder whether it further burdens the body of the 37-year-old, even as it unlocks his efficiency even more. Malik Monk had a hot start to the calendar year, but it was never realistic for him to keep averaging 20-plus. The team desperately needs Anthony Davis back—and to be considering a number of potential trades and buyouts—to see if it can make a run at the postseason without overextending James.

16. Minnesota Timberwolves

Current record: 20-20

Previous ranking: 19

Karl-Anthony Towns flirted with a 40-point triple-double Sunday night in a breezy win over the lowly Rockets; Minnesota’s fourth consecutive victory. The big man should be a lock for the All-Star Game. Only Jokić and Embiid can clearly claim to be having better seasons at the position. (Gobert might have an argument, but Towns could hold his own in that conversation.) There’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to lead the Wolves to a playoff berth this season, given where they are right now.

17. Los Angeles Clippers

Current record: 20-21

Previous ranking: 13

Since the new year began, there’s been one pretty clear takeaway, albeit with a small-ish sample size: when Eric Bledsoe plays well, the Clips are a much, much better team.

It was the case on New Year’s Day, when he ignited for 27 points on 8-for-12 shooting to help beat the Nets. And it was the case again on Sunday, when he shot 6-for-9, logged 12 points and had seven assists against just one turnover in a victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

The common denominator: Los Angeles won both those games. They dropped the other three games this calendar year, in which Bledsoe shot 0-for-3, 4-for-12 and 0-for-4, respectively. It’s all hands on deck for the Clips, who await the return of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. But Bledsoe’s hands seem to carry extra weight in shifting the balance.

18. Boston Celtics

Current record: 19-21

Previous ranking: 14

With much being made in the media over the fit—or lack of fit—between Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in Boston, the star players each made a point Saturday to suggest they can coexist despite the challenging season the club’s had.

Brown, moments after logging his first career triple-double, told reporters he feels they can play together. And after ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins made a point of tweeting that Brown shined most in the victory, Tatum responded by saying, “Normalizing uplifting one man without bringing another one down… JB played great, it's alright to leave it at that”. The players, who’ve spoken privately about their desire to make things work, will be interesting to keep an eye on, particularly if Boston struggles the remainder of this campaign.

19. Washington Wizards

Current record: 20-20

Previous ranking: 17

He won’t get the same amount of attention he once did in Los Angeles, but Kyle Kuzma has been fantastic as of late, playing perhaps the best ball of his career. Through Dec. 26, he was averaging just 12.8 points per night. But since then, he’s logged games of 22, 25, 29, 36, 24 and 21 points. On Sunday, in a two-point win over Orlando, he had 27 points and 22 rebounds, including an offensive one in the closing moments. He also made a block on the final defensive play to seal the victory.

20. New York Knicks

Current record: 19-21

Previous ranking: 20

New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) makes a game-winning three point basket during the fourth quarter as Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum.

After an emotional, buzzer-beating win that saw them come back from 25 down, there was—for perhaps a fleeting moment—a thought that the Knicks could use their stirring victory over the Celtics Thursday as a springboard to get back on track. Instead, New York scored a season-low 75 points in Boston during a loss Saturday.

The team’s game-to-game inconsistency—from Evan Fournier (who averages 35 points per game against the Celtics, but 11.7 points against everyone else) to R.J. Barrett to Julius Randle—is maddening. It’s hard to imagine the Knicks being a factor in any conversation without the elite defense they showcased last season (fourth in 2021, but 20th this year), or more consistency from the starters.

21. Atlanta Hawks

Current record: 17-22

Previous ranking: 21

This past week, Atlanta welcomed back second-year center Onyeka Okongwu, who’d missed the vast majority of the season after having surgery on his right shoulder. Just one problem, or perhaps two. Starting center Clint Capela—critical to the team’s defense—was forced to sit out Sunday with an ankle injury. And Cam Reddish was forced to leave the Sunday defeat at the Clippers midway through, after suffering an ankle sprain. (The club hopes to get De’Andre Hunter back from wrist surgery soon.) At just 17-22 following their trip to the conference finals, the Hawks face an uphill battle on the path back to contention; much like they did last season, before Nate McMillan took over as coach.

22. San Antonio Spurs

Current record: 15-24

Previous ranking: 24

It likely won’t make Spurs fans feel much better about the fact that the team has lost six of seven, including Sunday’s overtime defeat. But it’s becoming clearer and clearer that San Antonio appears to have something in second-year forward Devin Vassell.

While his counting statistics don’t jump off the page, he’s doubled his rookie scoring average, and seen a meaningful increase in his shooting percentage from his rookie year—now up around 45%. Last week, he pieced together games of 19, 15 and 17 points; the second time he’s had at least 15 three games in a row. His assist-to-turnover ratio is up nicely from a year ago. And he shows occasional flashes, like this one, that signal the vast potential he may have as a go-to-scorer at some point.

His next step, beyond getting out of health and safety protocols, is to get to the line more, to provide a buffer for nights where his shot isn’t falling as much.

23. Indiana Pacers

Current record: 15-25

Previous ranking: 23

The underachieving Pacers may be overdue for a big overhaul, but this was certainly an interesting week for the franchise.

Beyond signing Keifer Sykes, who has one of the more compelling underdog stories in recent memory (and watching him have an impressive stretch in his first full week of NBA action), Lance Stephenson re-joined the club after more than three years away, and promptly scored 30 points in his first home game back in Indiana, the most he’s ever scored as a Pacer. Then Sabonis, making a late All-Star push, dropped a career-best scoring effort in a win over Utah Saturday.

24. Sacramento Kings

Current record: 16-26

Previous ranking: 22

Let’s go through a quick exercise to see how De’Aaron Fox is doing by month this season.

October: 18.5 points per game, 43.5% true shooting percentage

November: 20.7 points per game, 53.7% true shooting percentage

December: 20.5 points per game, 54.6% true shooting percentage

January: 25.6 points per game, 57.9% true shooting percentage

Fox’s numbers, after a slow, brutal start, are progressively getting back where they should be. The challenge, of course, is that the Kings appear to be struggling just as much now as they were when coach Luke Walton got the ax. Sacramento—with its horrendous defense—has lost five times in six games, even as Fox puts up stellar performances.

25. New Orleans Pelicans

Current record: 14-26

Previous ranking: 25

New Orleans couldn’t pull out a win over the streaking Raptors Sunday. But the Pels have plenty to feel good about generally speaking, given that they’ve gone a more-than-respectable 13-14 since beginning the campaign 1-12.

To essentially be .500 for that long a period with the team’s current predicament is highly impressive; especially since the predicament—how much longer will Zion Williamson be out?—keeps getting more and more cloudy by the day, seemingly. The team announced this past week that the young star will continue rehab on his right foot, but do so away from the Pels, out in Portland.

26. Portland Trail Blazers

Current record: 15-24

Previous ranking: 26

Just days after saying that franchise player Damian Lillard could sit out for an extended period of time if his nagging abdominal injury doesn’t show signs of improvement soon, Blazers coach Chauncey Billups told reporters Sunday that Lillard wouldn’t be traveling for the club’s upcoming seven-game road trip. Instead, the All-NBA guard will meet with a specialist to determine what he should do next. Lillard is in the midst of a career-worst shooting season as Portland stands tied for 10th place in the West, meaning the Blazers are alive in the race for one of last few play-in spots.

27. Oklahoma City Thunder

Current record: 13-26

Previous ranking: 27

Even if he doesn’t make it, which he may not, due to his team’s immense struggles, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a deserving All-Star this year. His mere presence keeps Oklahoma City competitive generally. In his absence, the team may sometimes lose by 73.

When OKC fell just shy Sunday night, it did so after Gilgeous-Alexander had one of the roughest games of his Thunder tenure, scoring just eight points—snapping a streak of 64 consecutive contests where he’d scored in double-digits.

28. Houston Rockets

Current record: 11-30

Previous ranking: 29

It’d be difficult to find a player with a stranger week than Kevin Porter Jr., who left the arena during the second half of a recent game after allegedly throwing an object and needing to be separated from one of his coaches, got suspended for the next contest, but then returned and hit the deciding basket in his first game back. (His name also came up as part of one of the stranger stories you’ll see, but that’s neither here nor there.)

29. Detroit Pistons

Current record: 8-30

Previous ranking: 30

Among the most interesting things to watch in this rough rebuilding season—one where leading scorer Jerami Grant is out for at least six weeks—is how No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham deals with the abundance of defensive attention thrown his way when it matters most. In clutch scenarios, with five minutes or less to play, and the score separated by five or less, he’s shot a solid 50% (11-for-22) from the floor, despite Grant being out much of that time.

His assist-to-turnover ratio in defining moments leaves something to be desired, but watch games like Saturday’s narrow win over Orlando—where he threw a picture-perfect lob that a teammate managed to rim out while dunking—and you’ll see that Cunningham is often making the right reads, but that players around him aren’t always making them count. Yet even after the one dunk was missed, Cunningham set up another that helped seal the game.

30. Orlando Magic

Current record: 7-34

Previous ranking: 28

Back before he was sidelined with one injury after another, and then seemed to lose his shooting stroke, there was a time when swingman Gary Harris looked like he might be on the fringes of NBA stardom.

He could defend star wing players with the best of them. He could shoot from outside. He was beginning to develop into more of a scorer, as opposed to being just a spot-up shooter. Then things went off the rails, and he ended up in Orlando, where he was sent as bait for Aaron Gordon, who’d land with the Nuggets. But Harris has shown signs of life in the past month or so, averaging 18.1 points on 46.5% shooting and 42.5% from three—a welcome resurgence. Harris is still just 27 years old.

More NBA Coverage:

Inside the Year of the NBA's Replacement Players
Kyrie Irving Is Back, But Where Does That Leave the Nets?
The Blockbuster Trade Proposal for Hawks and Celtics
NBA Rookie Rankings: Jalen Green's Shows Growth