Tuesday, May 21 2024
nbapowerrankings0416.png
Kim O’Reilly, CBS Sports

After a hectic final day in which the Oklahoma City Thunder came away as the Western Conference’s top team and pretty much every other seeding battle was also determined, the 2023-24 NBA season has come to a scintillating close. That means it’s time for one last set of Power Rankings, which will take each team’s entire season into consideration.

Let’s start at the top, where the Boston Celtics have lived for the entire year. Joe Mazzulla’s squad finished as a historically great regular-season team, right up there with Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls of the late 1990s and the Steph Curry-Kevin Durant Golden State Warriors. There hasn’t been a more obvious No. 1 in the final Power Rankings in a long time, finishing with a laughable 14-game lead over the second place New York Knicks in the East.

Speaking of which, how about those Knicks? They elected not to shy away from winning on the last day of the season (unlike some of their competitors), which is typical of the grit they’ve shown all season. They land in the No. 6 spot in the rankings, much higher than most would have predicted at the beginning of the year.

While teams like the Knicks, Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves were surprisingly impressive, a couple of Western Conference blue bloods didn’t fare so well. The Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors both finished in the Play-In Tournament, landing them 15th and 16th, respectively, in the final rankings. A full changing of the guard among NBA superstars is going to happen soon, and this season seemed like a strong push in that direction.

Before we begin the postseason madness, first take a look at the final NBA Power Rankings for the 2023-24 season.

Biggest Movers
 
1

Celtics

Boston’s net rating was nearly twice that of the next closest team — as clear an indication as any of how dominant this team was from start to finish. Headlined by a host of top-end depth featuring Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, every single player who took the floor for the Celtics this season finished with a positive plus-minus. Simply remarkable. 64-18
2

Thunder

It really can’t be overstated how tremendous this season was for the Thunder to earn the No. 1 seed in a brutal Western Conference despite being one of the youngest teams in the NBA. Landing in the top five in both offense and defense is no joke, so credit goes to MVP candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, head coach Mark Daigneault and the front office for putting the whole thing together. The scariest part is they’re only going to get better. 2 57-25
3

Nuggets

The Nuggets had everything in place to finish as the No. 1 seed, but let it slip through their fingers with a loss to the Spurs in the penultimate game of the season. Denver certainly flipped the proverbial switch late in the season, finishing with the West’s best record after the All-Star break. Nikola Jokic is in line to win his third MVP award and most are picking the defending champs to make it back to the Finals in a couple months. 57-25
4

Timberwolves

Last postseason’s finish gave a small hint as to what we had in store from the Timberwolves, but not many would have predicted they’d be battling for the No. 1 seed until the final day of the season. Three major reasons for the breakout year: Anthony Edwards’ leap (literally) to elite status, Karl-Anthony Towns’ ability to fit in, and Rudy Gobert’s defensive resurgence. And a special shoutout to Mike Conley for keeping the whole thing together. What a season. 2 56-26
5

Clippers

A tale of three seasons for the Clippers, who suffered through an atrocious stretch after the James Harden trade, then rose to one of the league’s best teams, only to hit a wall after the All-Star break in which they had a bottom-five defensive rating. All that makes it hard to sort out where the Clippers belong in the final pecking order, but they can hang their hats on their plus-10 net rating when Harden, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George share the floor. 1 51-31
6

Knicks

The OG Anunoby trade transformed the Knicks, and Jalen Brunson morphed into a 6-foot-2 Superman to cement his team among the Eastern Conference elite. Tom Thibodeau will receive significant Coach of the Year consideration for guiding the Knicks to a top-10 finish in both offensive and defensive efficiency despite an injury-riddled roster. 3 50-32
7

Pelicans

Zion Williamson’s emergence as a two-way threat along with the steady performance from CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram kept the Pelicans in the mix of contenders all season long despite various injuries. Late-game scenarios were sometimes an issue, but their top-10 finish in both offense and defense shows how much of a threat New Orleans was all season. 3 49-33
8

Bucks

It really is hard to describe what transpired in Milwaukee this season — between two head coaches, several defensive identities and injuries to top players, the Bucks vacillated between the conference’s best challenge to the Celtics and a legitimate “blow it up” candidate. Through all of that Giannis Antetokounmpo was as brilliant as ever and the Bucks dominated the minutes he shared with Damian Lillard, even though the former Blazers guard wasn’t quite up to his usual standard. The defense improved slightly under Doc Rivers, but was still nowhere near the usual Milwaukee standard, contributing to much of the problem. 8 49-33
9

Mavericks

The Mavericks rode chemistry from Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, along with some deft maneuvers from the front office, to collect the Western Conference’s best record following the trade deadline additions of PJ Washington and Daniel Gafford. They also had a top-five defensive rating over that span following a horrendous start to the season on that end of the floor. Dallas enters the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the NBA. 4 50-32
10

Suns

When the Suns went “all in” on the Big Three, this probably isn’t what they had in mind. Injuries were an issue, to be sure, but even when Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal were all healthy, there was just some zing lacking with this squad. The perplexing fourth-quarter struggles are well-documented, but the offense was still dominant with the three stars on the floor. 3 49-33
11

Cavaliers

It’s probably not GREAT when your best stretch of basketball comes without two of your top players. But that’s what happened to the Cavs when Darius Garland and Evan Mobley both missed extended time, allowing Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen to be flanked by copious shooting. Overall this has to be viewed as a lateral season for Cleveland, which will have plenty of offseason questions depending on how the postseason shakes out. 6 48-34
12

76ers

What a roller coaster for 76ers fans, who — after the James Harden trade drama — got to watch Joel Embiid begin arguably the best scoring season in NBA history, only to see the team struggle when the big man went down for two months. Tyrese Maxey did his best to carry them in a breakout year, and they kept their heads just enough above water to give themselves a puncher’s chance with Embiid back for the postseason. 47-35
13

Pacers

Behind Tyrese Haliburton and a whole lot of pace and space, Indiana put up the second-best offensive rating in NBA history. The defense was bad, though it did improve as the year went along, and the Pacers established themselves as a team to be reckoned with moving forward — particularly after the addition of Pascal Siakam. 1 47-35
14

Magic

Orlando had a breakout season with a bottom-10 offense, which tells you how fantastic their defense was. Paolo Banchero has emerged as a bona fide No. 1 option, with Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs supplying support. 6 47-35
15

Lakers

Things are never smooth in Laker Land and this season was no exception, but they used a strong finish to get firmly into the postseason mix. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that healthy seasons from both LeBron James and Anthony Davis didn’t translate to a top-five finish in the West given how well they ended last year. Darvin Ham finally settled on a starting lineup of James, Davis, Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell and Rui Hachimura, however, which performed well to close out the season. 4 47-35
16

Warriors

Steve Kerr said it best: If you would have told him that his team would win 25 road games this season, he would have assumed the Warriors would be looking at 55-plus wins overall. Instead, their uncharacteristically mediocre home record had them fighting for Play-In positioning until the last day of the season. Stephen Curry had another All-NBA caliber year, while Golden State turned things around defensively following Draymond Green’s return from suspension. Perhaps the biggest development, however, was the emergence of young players Jonathan Kuminga, Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis, who could help extend the organization’s rapidly closing championship window. 3 46-36
17

Kings

The Kings won 48 games last season and were the No. 3 seed. They won 46 games this season and landed in the Play-In. Doesn’t seem fair, does it? Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox were both outstanding again while Malik Monk emerged as a Sixth Man of the Year favorite prior to his late-season injury, but overall the Kings offense failed to duplicate its dominance from a season ago. There was some marginal defensive improvement that Mike Brown can build upon heading into next season. 2 46-36
18

Heat

Another Heat regular season rife with injuries and lackluster performances, only for us to throw it all out the window once the postseason begins. Just two members of the Heat — Bam Adebayo and rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. — played more than 70 games, while the likes of Haywood HIghsmith, Nikola Jovic and Duncan Robinson became essential to the team’s survival. In true Miami fashion, they were second in the NBA in defensive efficiency after the All-Star break and fifth overall. 46-36
19

Rockets

Just a huge step forward for the Rockets this season under Ime Udoka, who — along with acquisitions Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks — helped the team improve from 29th in defense last season to 10th this year. Alperen Sengun thrived as the focal point of the offense, while Jalen Green showed his potential late in the season. With youngsters Jabari Smith Jr., Amen Thompson, Cam Whitmore and Tari Eason also in the fold, the future is bright for Houston. 41-41
20

Bulls

On the verge of the bottom 10 in offense and defense, the Bulls had a disappointing campaign marked by a season-ending injury to Zach LaVine. Coby White’s emergence and DeMar DeRozan’s clutch heroics were bright spots, but it’s hard to envision a path to contention for the Bulls in the near future. 39-43
21

Hawks

Any hopes of a return to the glory of the 2021 postseason were quickly extinguished as the Trae Young-Dejounte Murray combo never yielded fruitful results. The good news is the Hawks found a real keeper in third-year forward Jalen Johnson, but ultimately it seems like one of the two ball-dominant guards is going to have to go this offseason. 36-46
22

Nets

Mikal Bridges failed to replicate the No. 1 scorer consistency he displayed to close 2022-23 as the Nets slowly drifted out of postseason consideration this year. Brooklyn has a lot of pieces to work with, but it remains to be seen whether they can fit together to form a winner. Cam Thomas proved he can carry an offense, though his destiny may be as a sixth man given his lack of efficiency. 32-50
23

Jazz

The Jazz needed to pick a direction this season, and they certainly did, finishing with one of the league’s worst records after the All-Star break. Lauri Markkanen was incredibly efficient once again with over 23 points per game on 48/40/89 shooting splits, but Will Hardy said the next step is for the 7-foot forward to improve at creating his own shot. 6 31-51
24

Grizzlies

The Grizzlies had 13 players listed as “out” for one of their final games of the season. If that doesn’t sum up 2023-24 for Memphis, I don’t know what does. Ja Morant, Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. played just nine games together while Marcus Smart suited up for just 20 games total, but the silver lining is that players like Vince Williams Jr., GG Jackson and Jake LaRavia established themselves as legitimate pieces moving forward. 1 27-55
25

Raptors

Well, the Raptors finally hit the rebuild button, sending out OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam for packages centered around RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, Bruce Brown and draft compensation. Things didn’t go great after a season-ending injury to Scottie Barnes, who was in the middle of a breakout season, but Barrett and Quickley both looked promising during their first stints in Toronto. 1 25-57
26

Spurs

It’s hard to say a season that finished with a win total in the low-20s was a rousing success, but that’s just how great Victor Wembanyama was as a rookie. Flashes of brilliance progressed into consistent dominance as the 7-foot-4 alien looks like he can truly be one of the all-time greats if he can continue to stay healthy. The Spurs will work on the pieces that surround him, but they could not have expected a more impressive season from their No. 1 overall pick. 22-60
27

Trail Blazers

Early injuries halted any thoughts of playoff contention for the Blazers, and things just got worse from there. It’s rough to say it was a lost season, as there’s always development to be made, but having Shaedon Sharpe, Deandre Ayton, Robert Williams III and Anfernee Simons off the court for significant portions of the season didn’t do much for the progression of the franchise. 2 21-61
28

Hornets

Another ugly year for the Hornets that saw LaMelo Ball injured for most of the season and little progression from other young players. Brandon Miller was a bright spot, displaying skill and basketball IQ beyond his years, but there’s not a whole lot else to build around right now in Charlotte. 1 21-61
29

Wizards

We knew it was going to be a rough year for the Wizards but it was somehow still disappointing, largely due to a poor performance from Jordan Poole (who, to be fair, got better to close the season). There were some bright spots: Kyle Kuzma did his thing and Deni Avdija made major strides, but the road toward contention will be long and arduous. 1 15-67
30

Pistons

The record is what it is, but franchise centerpiece Cade Cunningham had an excellent end to the season, putting up 24 points, eight assists and five rebounds per game on 46/40/90 shooting splits after the All-Star break. Outside of him, Ausar Thompson looks like a legitimate piece moving forward while fellow rookie Marcus Sasser profiles as a heat-check bucket getter. 14-68

Source: CBSSports.com

Previous

LOOK: Rockets' Boban Marjanovic purposefully misses free throw to earn fans free chicken sandwiches

Next

Tee Higgins anticipates remaining with Bengals for 2024 season

Check Also