NBA Power Rankings: Kevin Durant’s return could rock the West

The NBA’s plot twists in the last third of the 2022-2023 regular season, and this may just be the start of more unexpected twists and turns in the future.

The Boston Celtics have comfortably dominated the Eastern Conference this season but fell out of first place for the first time in 2023 after a lopsided loss to the New York Knicks on Monday. Boston is a polygame behind the Milwaukee Bucks in the standings.

Speaking of the Knicks, Tom Thibodeau’s team may be on their way to winning the heart of New York. With a streak of six wins, they have surpassed their rival from Brooklyn in the standings. Despite some impressive performances from younger players, the Nets have not escaped the expected fallout from the Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving trade, having lost seven of their last nine games and are in danger of making it to the play-in tournament.

The other side of Brooklyn’s trade postponement could soon cause unrest in the Western Conference as Durant is expected to make his debut for the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday against the Charlotte Hornets.

NoteA: During the regular season, our group (Kendra Andrews, Tim Bontemps, Jamal Collier, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim McMahon, Dave McMenamin and Om Youngmisuk) rank all 30 teams from top to bottom, determining which teams are playing. the best basketball and which teams are most likely to be title contenders.

Previous ratings: 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

1. Milwaukee Bucks

Record 2022-23: 44-17
Previous rating: 2

The Bucks have the best record in the NBA thanks to a 15-game winning streak, the fourth-longest in franchise history and the longest since winning 18 in a row in 2019. for the first time since Christmas to bypass Boston and take first place in the Eastern Conference. — Collier

2. Boston Celtics

Record 2022-23: 44-18
Previous rating: 1

After spending the last two weeks of February (including the All-Star break) away from home, the Celtics are returning to Boston for a fun home podium against Cleveland on Wednesday, Brooklyn on Friday and New York. York” on Sunday; all aired on Sportzshala before heading to Cleveland on Monday. They will try to keep up with the Milwaukee Bucks at the top of the Eastern Conference. — good time

3. Denver Nuggets

Record 2022-23: 44-19
Previous rating: 3

Even after all the trade deadline frenzy, the Nuggets remain the strongest team in the Western Conference. They are finally healthy, for the first time since Nikola Jokic’s MVP reign, they are better than they were when they reached the conference finals in the 2020 bubble and have a real shot at the title this season. — Andrews

4. Philadelphia 76ers

Record 2022-23: 39-21
Previous rating: 4

Close losses to Boston on Saturday and Miami on Monday nearly killed Philadelphia’s chances of climbing to the top two spots in the Eastern Conference standings. Barring a significant crash, the 6ers should be more or less tied to the third seed, which will set them up for another titanic second-round playoff streak with so much at stake. — good time

5. Cleveland Cavaliers

Record 2022-23: 39-25
Previous rating: 5

The Cavaliers will play the Celtics for the first time on Wednesday since beating them twice in a week in late October and early November, winning both games in overtime. This is followed by another Celtics game on March 6. Anybody preview the playoffs? — McMenamin

6. Memphis Grizzlies

Record 2022-23: 37-23
Previous rating: 7

Ja Morant scored 30 points in the paint during his 39-point triple-double on Tuesday when he defeated the Lakers. It was the fourth time in his career that he scored at least 30 points in the paint, more than any other defenseman since play-by-play was first tracked in 1996-97, according to an Sportzshala Stats & Information study. — McMahon

7. Sacramento Kings

Record 2022-23: 36-25
Previous rating: 8

The Kings offense this season has been nearly unstoppable. So unstoppable that they allowed them to comfortably sit in the top three and beat the Los Angeles Clippers in one of the highest scoring games in NBA history. On the other hand, their protection is practically non-existent. This is a problem, especially when you consider that their coach Mike Brown is considered a master of defense. But it also makes one wonder how much better they could be if they could figure out what the end of the court was. — Andrews

8. Phoenix Suns

Record 2022-23: 33-29
Previous rating: 6

Kevin Durant will make his debut for Phoenix on Wednesday against the Charlotte Hornets, three weeks after the Suns traded the former MVP. “I was having fun there before I got injured,” Durant said. “So looking forward to getting out and picking up where I left off.” — McMenamin

9. New York Knicks

Record 2022-23: 36-27
Previous rating: 12

You know Tom Thibodeau is pleased with his team when he describes his players as “a team full of leaders and a team full of sports rats” as he did after defeating the Celtics on Monday. New York is now 6-0 since acquiring Josh Hart, and one of the biggest games of the Knicks-Nets intra-city rivalry looms Wednesday night when New York can extend the distance between themselves and Brooklyn for the East’s fifth seed with a win at Madison. Square garden. — good time

10. Los Angeles Clippers

Record 2022-23: 33-31
Previous rating: 11

The Clippers are playing with more energy, and Kawhi Leonard is back playing the way he did before his ACL injury. But the Clippers’ defense struggled, and they lost three games in a row. Head coach Tai Liu has a lot of new things he’s trying to piece together. Russell Westbrook has fitted in well so far and has pretty much been what the Clippers wanted him to be – playing with Leonard and Paul George and not trying to do too much. The problem is, the Clippers are in a tough spot playing Western playoff contenders and then heading to Golden State and Sacramento. — yongmisuk

eleven. Dallas Mavericks

Record 2022-23: 32-31
Previous rating: 9

Forward/centre Maxi Kleber, who pulled out after tearing his hamstring in mid-December practice, returned Tuesday night against the Pacers. His return could be critical to Dallas’ playoff hopes, as Kleber is the Mavs’ most important defenseman. Dallas has 108.3 points per 100 possessions with Kleber on the floor this season and 116.2 without him. — McMahon

12. Miami Heat

Record 2022-23: 33-29
Previous rating: 10

Miami lost four in a row before Jimmy Butler took them to the finish line against the Sixers on Monday night. Butler ended February with three consecutive hitting games, averaging 24.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. The Heat have a chance to get back on track as they start a six-game home stance in Wednesday’s game, also against the Sixers. — Friedel

13. Golden State Warriors

Record 2022-23: 32-30
Previous rating: 16

The Warriors should be pleased that they managed to avoid a major drop without Stephen Curry (again), in addition to the absence of Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins. Now the question is, without clear timetables for the return of Curry and Wiggins, can the Warriors stay afloat or even exit the game? — Andrews

14. Brooklyn Nets

Record 2022-23: 34-27
Previous rating: 13

Brooklyn has lost seven of its last nine since Tuesday’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Nets are still adjusting to life without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but Mikal Bridges continues to be a bright spot. He averaged 23.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists in his short six-game stint with the Nets. — Friedel

15. Atlanta Hawks

2022-23 record: 31-31
Previous rating: 17

After the Hawks of the Joe Prunty era went 2-0 down, the Queen Snyder era began on Monday night. Sportzshala’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Sunday that Snyder, who agreed to a five-year contract to become Atlanta’s head coach, had a chance to start his tenure with the Hawks with a win, but the Wizards’ late spell prevented that. However, Atlanta remains in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference race and is .500 with 20 games to go. — Lopez

16. Minnesota Timberwolves

Record 2022-23: 32-32
Previous rating: 14

It’s hard to know what to do with the Timberwolves this season. After the summer deal to acquire Rudy Gobert, they initially struggled… and very hard. They have improved since the Karl-Anthony Towns injury, but it is unknown what they will look like if and when Towns returns. — Andrews

17. Utah Jazz

Record 2022-23: 31-32
Previous rating: 20

Talen Horton-Tucker will receive an extended playmaker audition for the remainder of the season after the Jazz traded Mike Conley Jr. and bought Russell Westbrook. Horton-Tucker has averaged 13.3 points and 6.0 assists in eight games since Utah made the three-way trade. He has not played in the previous four games. — McMahon

18. Toronto Raptors

Record 2022-23: 31-32
Previous rating: 21

While the Nets are in free fall, Toronto and Atlanta will have a chance to make it to the top eight in the East. The Raptors, in particular, have looked rejuvenated in recent weeks, 6-2 after the trade deadline after Tuesday’s win over Chicago and 10-5 overall in the last 15 games. — good time

19. New Orleans Pelicans

Record 2022-23: 30-32
Previous rating: 15

The Pelicans are struggling, but now they have even more injuries. Since Zion Williamson was injured on Jan. 2, the Pelicans have gone just 7-18, the fifth-worst record in the league in that period. The Pelicans will now be free of Jose Alvarado (right tibia stress fracture) for at least three weeks and Larry Nance (left ankle sprain) for at least two weeks. — Lopez

20. Los Angeles Lakers

2022-23 record: 29-33
Previous rating: 22

The Lakers lost their first Test without LeBron James, who…


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