NBA Power Rankings: 76ers making a statement ahead of trade deadline, can Celtics hold them off?

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Thursday, February 9, 2023

The Boston Celtics grabbed hold of the Eastern Conference lead pretty early in the season, while the Philadelphia 76ers got off to an average start. But over the past few weeks, the 76ers have made up considerable ground, having won nine of their past 11 games. The Sixers will have a chance to tilt the balance of power in a matchup against Boston on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Speaking of a power shift, the Dallas Mavericks will unleash their newest player on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET, ESPN) against the LA Clippers. GuardKyrie Irving is expected to play his first game in a Mavericks uniform after the blockbuster trade that sent the star to Dallas from the Brooklyn Nets was first reported on Sunday.

Can Irving help Luka Doncic and the Mavs become a legit title contender in the West?

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 now 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

1.Boston Celtics

2022-23 record: 38-16

Previous ranking: 1

It's a huge week for Boston, which has four consecutive nationally televised games, including showdowns with the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks -- the two teams chasing the Celtics for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.-- Bontemps

2.Milwaukee Bucks

2022-23 record: 31-17

Previous ranking: 3

The Milwaukee Bucks have quietly started rolling again, winning eight consecutive games to pull within a game of the Celtics for the best record in the NBA. Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 37.5 points, 14.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists, and Milwaukee is outscoring opponents by 11.4 points per 100 possessions during this winning streak.-- Collier

3.Denver Nuggets

2022-23 record: 38-17

Previous ranking: 4

The Denver Nuggets are continuing to separate themselves atop an otherwise jumbled-up Western Conference, and with the trade deadline looming they're looking to make a move that will help them go all-in on their win-now mode. Even if they don't make a move, they should be OK, because as it stands, they are one of very few teams in the West that looks like a true title contender.-- Andrews

4.Philadelphia 76ers

2022-23 record: 34-18

Previous ranking: 2

Not only is Joel Embiid on pace to lead the NBA in scoring for a second consecutive season, but the All-Star center is doing so while shooting a career-high 53.1% from the field. -- Bontemps

5.Cleveland Cavaliers

2022-23 record: 34-22

Previous ranking: 7

Kevin Love has a $29 million expiring contract, hasn't played a lick in the past seven games and hasn't played more than 25 minutes in a game since Jan. 2 for Cleveland. He might be the lone holdover from the Cavs' magical run to the 2016 championship, but those factors suggest Love could be on the move before Thursday's trade deadline comes and goes.-- McMenamin

6.Memphis Grizzlies

2022-23 record: 33-21

Previous ranking: 5

It wasn't long ago that Memphis players complained about not getting enough national attention. Now, Ja Morant contends that the Grizzlies' struggles get too harsh of a spotlight. "You see it every day on social media," Morant told reporters at shootaround Tuesday before the Grizzlies' second win in a 10-game span. "Anything that got something to do with the Memphis Grizzlies, it's front line, national television, national people tweeting it, putting it out. Anything else, it don't be said."-- MacMahon

7. LA Clippers

2022-23 record: 31-26

Previous ranking: 10

After falling under .500, the Clippers have turned things around, winning eight of their past 10 games. While Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have brought stability, the Clippers still can use a couple of players (point guard, backup big) to improve their roster before Thursday's trade deadline. They dipped their toes into the Irving sweepstakes and will certainly remain busy on the phone until the deadline. -- Youngmisuk

8.Sacramento Kings

2022-23 record: 30-23

Previous ranking: 9

Could the Kings be on their way to getting a second All-Star? Probably yes, and well-deserved for point guard De'Aaron Fox, who is averaging 24.1 points and 6.2 assists so far this season. The Kings have a steady grasp of the third seed in the Western Conference, and if their defense improves there's no reason to think they'll drop off. -- Andrews

9. Dallas Mavericks

2022-23 record: 29-26

Previous ranking: 12

Josh Green and Jaden Hardy, two young players with significant trade value whom the Mavs managed to keep out of the Kyrie Irving deal, each scored a career-high 29 points Monday against the Jazz to lead Dallas to its first win without Luka Doncic this season (1-7). They're the first pair of under-23 Mavericks teammates to both score at least 25 points in a game since Jason Kidd and Jamal Mashburn in November 1995. -- MacMahon

10.Miami Heat

2022-23 record: 29-25

Previous ranking: 8

Miami has lost three of four and Kyle Lowry is now out at least three games due to knee soreness. The longer the season wears along, the clearer it becomes that Pat Riley is going to have to figure out another major move this summer in order for the Heat to get back near the top in the East. -- Friedell

11. Brooklyn Nets

2022-23 record: 31-21

Previous ranking: 6

The up-and-down 3-year Irving era finally came to an end on Monday when Brooklyn dealt the All-Star guard for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith and a collection of future draft picks. Now the Nets have to convince Kevin Durant that they can find the right pieces to build around him or else risk that he'll want to go elsewhere either before Thursday's trade deadline or later this summer. That is going to be a tough sell for Nets GM Sean Marks given that oft-injured big man Ben Simmons still has two years and almost $80 million left on his contract after this year. -- Friedell

12. Phoenix Suns

2022-23 record: 29-26

Previous ranking: 14

The Suns head into the deadline winners of nine out of 11 games. After making a play for Irving and inquiring about Durant, expect general manager James Jones to finally find a trade partner for Jae Crowder even if it doesn't involve a blockbuster move with Brooklyn.

-- McMenamin

13. New York Knicks

2022-23 record: 30-26

Previous ranking: 13

With wins in three of their past four games, the Knicks are percentage points back of the Heat for sixth in the East, and are creating separation between themselves and the Atlanta Hawks in eighth. -- Bontemps

14.Golden State Warriors

2022-23 record: 28-26

Previous ranking: 11

The Warriors survived one 11-game stretch without Stephen Curry earlier this season, going about .500 in the games without him. But can they survive another one? To make things a little scarier for the Warriors, they don't actually know how long they will have to go without Curry, but as they still struggle to become anything but a middle-of-the-pack team, any amount of time is far less than ideal. -- Andrews

15.Minnesota Timberwolves

2022-23 record: 29-28

Previous ranking: 15

Minnesota has won 13 of its past 19 games and is now right in the thick of it. The Timberwolves are far from perfect -- they have the second-worst defense in the NBA -- but they at least appear to have overcome their tumultuous start to the season. -- Andrews

16.New Orleans Pelicans

2022-23 record: 29-27

Previous ranking: 16

In Sunday night's win over the Sacramento Kings, Trey Murphy III had 30 points on 9-of-11 shooting while CJ McCollum had 24 points, also on 9-of-11 shooting. They became the second set of teammates this season to score 20-plus points on 80% shooting in the same game, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The only other instance? Zion Williamson (26 points on 8-of-9 shooting) and Larry Nance (22 points on 8-of-10 shooting). No other team has had this happen this season. -- Lopez

17.Atlanta Hawks

2022-23 record: 27-28

Previous ranking: 17

Trae Young's numbers have been consistent for Atlanta over the past four seasons. In a 132-100 win over the Phoenix Suns, Young finished with 20 points and 12 assists. It was his fifth consecutive game with at least 20 points and 10 assists. That streak is tied for the longest such streak in franchise history with ... Trae Young in February 2020 and Trae Young in December 2021. -- Lopez

18.Utah Jazz

2022-23 record: 27-28

Previous ranking: 18

All-Star forward Lauri Markkanen finished with 19 points in Monday's loss to the Mavericks, snapping a streak of 20 straight 20-point performances. It was the third-longest active 20-point streak in the league behind LeBron James and Jayson Tatum, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. -- MacMahon

19.Chicago Bulls

2022-23 record: 26-28

Previous ranking: 22

Even though Chicago is fighting for position in the play-in tournament, the team enters this Thursday's trade deadline still committed to seeing what the core of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic can do in the second half of the season, sources told ESPN. The Bulls are 15-10 since Dec. 19.-- Collier

20.Portland Trail Blazers

2022-23 record: 26-28

Previous ranking: 21

Despite a combined 68 points from Damian Lillard, the Blazers have dropped two straight. They are in the midst of a stretch in which they play seven of nine games at home before a daunting six-game road trip. With Jusuf Nurkic out until after the All-Star break, this could be a crucial point of the season for Portland.-- Youngmisuk

21. Oklahoma City Thunder

2022-23 record: 26-28

Previous ranking: 19

Oklahoma City became the first team this season to score 150 points twice when it defeated the Rockets 153-121 on Saturday night. The Thunder also scored 150 points against the Boston Celtics on Jan. 3. The 153 points were the most the franchise has scored since moving to Oklahoma City. The franchise mark is 154, done by the Seattle SuperSonics twice in 1988 and once in 1989. -- Lopez

22. Los Angeles Lakers

2022-23 record: 25-30

Previous ranking: 23

LeBron James did it. Needing 36 points to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the No. 1 scorer in league history, James hit the mark by the end of the third quarter on Tuesday, hitting a jumper on OKC's Kenrich Williams to give him 36 points on the night and 38,388 points for his illustrious career.

-- McMenamin

23.Washington Wizards

2022-23 record: 24-29

Previous ranking: 20

The six-game winning streak has now been replaced by a three-game slide. Washington had a game against Detroit postponed/rescheduled, and then came the losing streak that included a loss in which the Wizards blew a 23-point lead against an Irving-less Nets team. With Bradley Beal (left foot) and Kyle Kuzma (ankle) injured, it will be interesting to see what Washington does before Thursday's trade deadline.-- Youngmisuk

24.Indiana Pacers

2022-23 record: 25-30

Previous ranking: 24

Pacers All-Star Tyrese Haliburton is still finding his footing after missing 10 games with left elbow and knee injuries. In his first three games back in action, Haliburton is averaging 17 points and 10.7 assists on 43.5% shooting. -- Collier

25.Toronto Raptors

2022-23 record: 25-30

Previous ranking: 25

Will they? Won't they? When it comes to the Raptors and the NBA trade deadline, those are the questions that everyone will be asking between now and 3 p.m. Thursday, as Toronto arguably is the most important team in the league in terms of how much activity will take place between now and then -- and how impactful it will be. --Bontemps

26.Orlando Magic

2022-23 record: 22-33

Previous ranking: 26

Markelle Fultz has strung together some solid games as he continues to improve within the framework of this young group. Fultz is averaging 15.3 points, 5 assists and 2.5 rebounds a game over his past four contests. The Magic have a showdown with Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets on Thursday at home -- another good litmus test for a team that is trying to find a little momentum heading into the All-Star break.-- Friedell

27. Charlotte Hornets

2022-23 record: 15-40

Previous ranking: 27

Charlotte has dropped four straight. The Hornets are 15-40. Things aren't getting much better -- the only small consolation is that LaMelo Ball continues to put up some entertaining games, as evidenced by the 33 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists he racked up in Sunday's loss to the Magic.-- Friedell

28.Detroit Pistons

2022-23 record: 14-41

Previous ranking: 29

The Pistons clinched their seventh straight season finishing .500 or worse this week, tied for the second-longest drought without a winning record in franchise history (2008-15). The only longer losing streak in team history happened from 1956 to 1970 when the Fort Wayne Pistons endured a stretch of 14 straight seasons under .500.-- Collier

29.San Antonio Spurs

2022-23 record: 14-40

Previous ranking: 28

Rookie Malaki Branham had two of his best games of the season last week with 22 points against the Sacramento Kings and a career-high 26 against the 76ers just two nights later. He became the second Spurs rookie over the past 10 seasons to have back-to-back 20-point games, joining teammate Keldon Johnson, who pulled it off in 2020.-- Lopez

30.Houston Rockets

2022-23 record: 13-41

Previous ranking: 30

Coach Stephen Silas ripped the Rockets after they allowed 153 and 140 points in consecutive losses: "They're not giving the effort on the defensive end. They're not getting after it like they're supposed to! They're not getting into their man and fighting over and helping each other. They're not doing what they're supposed to do."-- MacMahon

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