NBA basketball is almost too good to be true at the moment.
There are more than a handful of great teams with a legitimate chance to contend, while the lower-seeded playoff teams are forced to compete thanks to the threat of a play-in scenario.
Even tanking isn’t an issue, given that the young talent on present bottom-feeder teams is exciting compared to tanks of old with veteran retreads and G-League caliber youth.
If you haven’t had a chance to watch anyone but your favorite team, take some time in the next few days and tune into some of the other stellar games occurring throughout the league.
This is Kev Mahserejian filling in for Garrett Chorpenning, lead NBA editor, to rank NBA teams from 1-30 for March.
All NBA odds and statistics are current as of Friday, March 10, at 10 a.m. ET and courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.
NBA Power Rankings
1. Milwaukee Bucks (48-18) ↔️
Milwaukee is looking primed for another title run as they hold the league’s best record despite three-time All-Star Khris Middleton missing half of the season and playing much less than usual.
While the Bucks may not possess the best net rating or point differential, we can attribute that to Giannis Antetokounmpo playing just 52 of 66 games.
When the playoffs come around, expect Milwaukee to regain juggernaut form as Giannis no longer rests and Middleton’s restrictions are removed, allowing him to play more than his current 22.2 minutes per game.
2. Boston Celtics (46-21) ⬆️ 1
The Celtics are once again amongst the NBA’s elite with a great chance at reaching the Finals without making an off-season or in-season move for All-Star help.
Peripheral moves for Derrick White and Malcolm Brogdon over the past year gelled the roster together, as they have the necessary centerpieces in Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart.
As this core enters its prime, the window for contention is wide open. They made the Finals last year only for Golden State, the most recent NBA dynasty, to snuff them out in six.
Whether Boston is next is unknown, but they surely have the pieces to do it.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (42-26) ⬆️ 3
Cleveland and Boston are almost mirrors of each other. Both teams are tied for the best point differential and net rating in the league.
Also, neither team made a significant deadline move unless you are big on Mike Muscala.
The Cavaliers have a solid starting squad with All-Star caliber players in all but one slot (Isaac Okoro).
They possess the best defensive rating in the league, likely due to the insane length between frontcourt mates Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen.
Attacking the rim is not an option against this team, while Mobley also presents an equivalent defensive presence along the perimeter.
They may not have the playoff experience but should make noise come May.
4. Philadelphia 76ers (43-22) ⬆️ 1
Another year of “The Process," and it’s still to be determined whether a championship will come to fruition.
Joel Embiid plays like a league MVP nightly, and the Ben Simmons trade is a huge win regardless of how well James Harden’s been playing (exceptionally well).
The biggest issue for Philadelphia seems to be finding the proper rotation. They have the players but are often over-reliant on star-studded lineups that are not adequately staggered, leaving them vulnerable when too much of the bench is mixed in.
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An interesting wrinkle they can add is utilizing Tobias Harris as a sixth man and starting Jalen McDaniels, a better defender with lower usage on offense.
This would allow Harris, who is quite efficient, to see more shots in lineups without Embiid and Harden.
This maximizes him and the bench lineups that need a better scorer on the floor while consolidating the starting rotation between Harden, Tyrese Maxey, and Embiid.
5. Denver Nuggets (46-20) ⬇️ 3
Unfortunately, the No. 1 team in the West is fifth on this list, but that is the grim state of the conference at the moment.
Nikola Jokić is a virtual lock for his third MVP in a row, and while it is deserved, he cannot win playoff games on his own, nor can any MVP candidate.
Jamal Murray is playing well in his first season back from a torn ACL, Aaron Gordon is having a career season, and Michael Porter Jr. is shooting at a high clip while providing next to nothing on defense.
Then there is a mishmash of role players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Bruce Brown, Reggie Jackson, and Jeff Green, who do their job and play efficient basketball in their own respects.
The Nuggets can be considered excellent but certainly flawed as they are pretty mediocre on defense, ranking 11th in D Rating with a score closer to 18th than 9th.
6. Phoenix Suns (37-29) ⬇️ 1
The Suns would be higher if not for Kevin Durant’s recent ankle sprain that will have to sideline him for at least 2-3 weeks.
If not for that, this post could have had the Suns second with justification for first. Durant’s transition into the Suns’ rotation was flawless.
Not only did he not miss a beat, but his presence elevated the play of those around him. Phoenix won all three games with Durant in the lineup while shooting no worse than 47% from the field as a team.
Assuming Durant’s injury heals in full by the playoffs, the Suns should be the favorite to represent the West, but at the moment, that is an unknown.
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Giving up Mikal Bridges, who is playing like a star in Brooklyn, along with Cam Johnson, sapped their depth. Relying on just Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, and an aging Chris Paul for a playoff run will not be enough.
7. Los Angeles Clippers (35-33) ⬆️ 3
If the Clippers didn’t rest their starters regularly, they would likely be first in the West this season and, possibly, the favorites for the Championship.
Unfortunately, they continue to stagger between Paul George and Kawhi Leonard while also resting rotation pieces. Worst of all, they added Russell Westbrook at the deadline (along with Mason Plumlee) for whatever reason.
Yes, they did not have a “true” point guard on the roster before Westbrook, but in the modern NBA, those are pretty outdated as long as you have savvy wings or bigs that can play point and create offensively.
LAC has that in Leonard and George while also possessing a good combo guard in Norman Powell off the bench (Powell suffered a shoulder injury since but could return before the playoffs).
The Clippers are 2-4 since acquiring Westbrook, but on the positive side, those two wins are their most recent two games.
8. New York Knicks (39-29) ⬆️ 4
Are the Knicks back?
A 9-1 record over their past 10 games and a league-best net rating since a mid-January rotation may confirm their return as valid. This roster lacks transcendent talent, but with a plethora of good players and good coaching, wins will come.
Tom Thibodeau has a proven track record for squeezing the most out of talented, veteran rosters, and he is doing just that in New York this season.
Also, plenty of folks owe Jalen Brunson an apology after the blowback from his contract announcement last off-season.
9. Sacramento Kings (39-26) ↔️
Light up the beam because the Kings are also good again! While it is still fair to wonder whether moving on from Tyrese Haliburton for Domantas Sabonis was the right decision, we have the necessary results to justify some of the thought process behind it.
Sacramento was a hopeless, mediocre franchise for the past 15 years in need of a spark while also in a PG logjam between De’Aaron Fox and Haliburton.
Winning now at the cost of a bright, young talent would be much more damning if the scenario were any different. Fox’s value was also much lower at the time, and moving on from him would have provided a lesser return.
Trade aside, the Kings are certainly a contender for the Western Conference crown, given the state of it as a whole and the fact that they currently have the league’s top offense.
10. Los Angeles Lakers (32-34) ⬆️ 7
All hope was lost after LeBron James’ recent foot injury.
The Lakers had just made a significant move in hopes of a playoff run by trading for D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Malik Beasley while shipping out the locker room and on-court distraction Russell Westbrook.
The assumption was that those three players, along with the addition by subtraction of Westbrook, could push the Lakers from fringe playoff team to contender, then the unfortunately timed LeBron injury happened.
Since then, a miracle has occurred. The Los Angeles Lakers learned how to play without James on the floor.
Led by a revamped Anthony Davis, the Lakers are 3-2 over the past five games without James and playing sound basketball.
Throughout the season, there was nearly a 10-point differential between LeBron’s presence on the court vs off. Still, the deadline trade may have alleviated that issue by gelling a once clunky roster together.
While this recent stretch is promising, there is no doubt the Lakers will need LeBron back for any hope of a playoff run.
11. Memphis Grizzlies (39-26) ⬇️ 4
12. Golden State Warriors (34-33) ⬆️ 2
13. Toronto Raptors (32-35) ⬆️ 9
14. Atlanta Hawks (33-33) ⬇️ 1
15. Miami Heat (35-32) ⬇️ 4<
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (34-33) ⬆️ 2
17. Brooklyn Nets (37-29) ⬇️ 2
18. Washington Wizards (31-35) ⬆️ 5
19. Chicago Bulls (30-36) ⬆️ 5
20. Portland Trail Blazers (31-35) ⬆️ 1
The most notable “good” team here not to be ranked top 10 is Memphis, but it should be understandable due to their current volatile state.
Ja Morant’s legal troubles may be cleared for now, but how the team views and trusts him moving forward is huge and could throttle their chemistry. Also, they lost a key contributor, Brandon Clarke, for the season due to an Achilles tear.
The Toronto Raptors look much better since trading for Jakob Poeltl. However, two losses in a row does not help a team stuck in the play-in.
The talent on this roster is as good as most top-10 teams, but the season is too mediocre to rank any higher. They should make for an annoying playoff matchup but likely nothing more.
The Portland Trail Blazers could surely jump their way out of the top 15, but their injury luck has been horrible.
Jusuf Nurkic just returned from a calf strain that kept him out for the past month, and Anfernee Simons re-injured his ankle in his first game back just last week. At full-strength, they are a solid play-in team, but we need to see them play together healthy again first.
21. New Orleans Pelicans (32-34) ⬇️ 5
22. Oklahoma City Thunder (31-35) ⬇️ 2
23. Dallas Mavericks (34-33) ⬇️ 15
24. Utah Jazz (32-35) ⬇️ 5
25. Indiana Pacers (30-37) ⬆️ 1
26. Orlando Magic (27-40) ⬇️ 1
27. Charlotte Hornets (22-46) ↔️
28. Houston Rockets (15-51) ⬆️ 1
29. Detroit Pistons (15-52) ↔️
30. San Antonio Spurs (16-49) ⬇️ 2
The Mavericks’ downfall cannot be overstated. They have not just lost all semblance of winning basketball since trading for Kyrie Irving, but now, they are potentially without superstar Luka Dončić until the pain in his thigh subsides.
If Dončić is out for an extended period of time, expect the Mavericks’ fall to become a crater.
Other teams toward the high end of this range could have been play-in contenders, such as the Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz, and Indiana Pacers. Still, they are in either shutdown/tank mode or in the process of trying different rotations for the sake of future decision-making.
The Pelicans may wind up in the shutdown/tank category soon. They are 9-22 over their past 31 games and will likely be without Zion Williamson until next season.
Despite possessing the one-seed earlier this year, New Orleans’ current record has it on the fringe of the play-in tournament. The future may be bright, but the present is quite dim.