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NBA Power Rankings 2023-24: Mavericks surging, 76ers falling as regular season nears end

Just two weeks remain until the NBA regular season wraps up.

Yes, you read that right.

The 2024 NBA Play-In Tournament commences on Tuesday, April 16, giving teams a deadline of how long is left to make their final pushes, whether that be for seeding or draft purposes.

Some teams like the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets are surging for better playoff positioning, while others like the Toronto Raptors and Utah Jazz have made their bed and are hoping for draft luck.

So, with the regular season nearing its close, here’s the 14th and final edition of the 2023-24 NBA Power Rankings:

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30. Detroit Pistons, 13-62

The Pistons avoided last place in the previous two editions but fall back to the bottom after going 1-9 in their last 10, once again owning the worst record in the league. Of course, things could change by April 16, but it seems right for a team who was last for most of the season to finish there. (Last ranking: 29)

29. Washington Wizards, 14-61

If it wasn’t for Detroit, the Wizards would be dead last after another aimless season passed by. There was not enough youth development, Jordan Poole took a step back and Kyle Kuzma had a year of his prime wasted. (Last ranking: 30)

28. Charlotte Hornets, 18-57

Charlotte has gone 1-8 in its last nine games and, similar to Washington, endured another directionless campaign. LaMelo Ball dealt with recurring injuries again, but there’s optimism Brandon Miller and Mark Williams can keep developing into solid players in their respective positions. (Last ranking: 28)

27. Portland Trail Blazers, 19-56

Portland has lost 10 in a row, clearly signaling its intentions of a better draft pick. An important sophomore campaign looms for Scoot Henderson after a lackluster rookie season, but the conditions around him were just as similar. (Last ranking: 26)

26. San Antonio Spurs, 18-57

At least the Spurs have Victor Wembanyama, who just been a different breed as a rookie. The numbers of leaps he’s taken in just one season is absurd, but too bad he hasn’t been able to enjoy as many wins in his debut campaign. (Last ranking: 27)

25. Toronto Raptors, 23-51

The Raptors currently have the league’s best losing streak, having fallen in 13 straight contests. They made trades at the deadline but once it became apparent those moves wouldn’t push the needle forward this year, they went the opposite direction. (Last ranking: 25)

24. Memphis Grizzlies, 25-50

Memphis stays in the same spot as last time, just like Toronto. It’s been a year full of terrible injury luck to a relatively young team, so all eyes will be on retooling the roster to strengthen for an improved run in 2024-25. (Last ranking: 24)

23. Utah Jazz, 29-46

Utah has lost its last nine games to have the second-longest losing streak behind Toronto. At least the Jazz made a sensible decision instead of trying to push forward too early with an incapable roster. (Last ranking: 22)

22. Brooklyn Nets, 29-47

The Nets only jump a spot thanks to Utah’s dramatic streak. Things are not so smooth-sailing in Brooklyn either, and there will be plenty of roster decisions to make in the summer. Mikal Bridges and Ben Simmons are two of the standouts. (Last ranking: 23)

21. Chicago Bulls, 36-40

The Bulls haven’t made the right playoff-or-tank decision in almost three years running. They’re locked in for the Play-In Tournament, but they don’t pose a serious threat to upset one of the Eastern Conference contenders. (Last ranking: 20)

20. Atlanta Hawks, 35-40

Atlanta leaps Chicago for now after enjoying a tad better spell in recent weeks. A 9-10-seeded Play-In Tournament game is a highly likely scenario for both teams, and it’s one that could really go either way given each side’s inconsistencies this year. Atlanta may have the better top-end depth in a one-off game, but that’s pretty much it. (Last ranking: 21)

19. Houston Rockets, 38-36

Here’s where the ranking gets a little tricky. The Rockets were on a league-best 11-game win streak until Dallas snapped it. They’re pushing Golden State for the last Play-In Tournament spot out West, but may fall short despite deploying a top-10 defense for the entire season. Houston may have improved its record, but there’s still more to do to climb the ranking. (Last ranking: 19)

18. Golden State Warriors, 40-34

The Warriors have to be cautious with the Rockets lurking, but they’ve done well to rattle off a four-game win streak to keep a cushion. But they have to sustain the momentum for a longer period than they’ve done at any point this season to come away with anything of substance. (Last ranking: 18)

17. Philadelphia 76ers, 40-35

This is the lowest the 76ers have been at any point this season, and they’ve been on a steady decline since Joel Embiid’s injury. But with Embiid finally back, they have better hope of surviving the Play-In Tournament if such a scenario is required. (Last ranking: 14)

16. Miami Heat, 41-33

You typically know what version of the Heat you’ll get at this stage of the season. All that matters for them is getting into the playoffs. The rest usually takes care of itself. (Last ranking: 17)

15. Los Angeles Lakers, 42-33

The Lakers don’t move from the No. 15 spot in this edition, but they’re 7-3 in their last 10 and LeBron James continues to be phenomenal. Whoever they get in the Play-In Tournament, should they hold onto a spot, will be a tough matchup, but they’ve survived it before. (Last ranking: 15)

14. Sacramento Kings, 43-31

The Kings have a peculiar problem in which they regularly engage in quality battles with the elite teams but completely stumble against teams they should be beating. Maybe that could be a good thing come playoff time, but they need to ensure a good seed first. They could’ve been safe from the Play-In Tournament had they handled teams like Detroit, Charlotte and more at home. (Last ranking: 13)

13. Indiana Pacers, 43-33

Indiana has yet to make a statement run since acquiring Pascal Siakam at the deadline. Tyrese Haliburton hasn’t been the same consistent star he was in the first few months of the season, and Buddy Hield’s shooting has been missed. But the Pacers have improved their pace recently to climb out of a Play-In spot. Can they keep it? (Last ranking: 16)

12. Phoenix Suns, 44-31

Phoenix doesn’t move from the last edition. It has too much talent to be this low, but it’s been the Suns’ theme throughout the year and you have to wonder if that’s just their identity for 2023-24. (Last ranking: 12)

11. Orlando Magic, 44-31

Orlando was the biggest riser in the last edition after going on a solid winning streak against teams at the bottom of the league. It has since gone 3-3, so it falls out of the top 10 for now. (Last ranking: 10)

10. Cleveland Cavaliers, 45-30

The Cavaliers have lost five of their last seven and barely cling onto a top-10 spot in this ranking. They still hold the No. 3 seed out East, but it’s not the form they want to be in when the games start to really matter. (Last ranking: 6)

9. New Orleans Pelicans, 45-30

New Orleans has lost three of its last four to playoff-quality opposition, though that one win came at home to Milwaukee. Staying healthy for this stretch is what really matters, however, especially with Zion Williamson at the helm. (Last ranking: 8)

8. New York Knicks, 44-30

The Knicks have gone 7-3 in their last 10 and are pushing Cleveland for the No. 3 seed, but being knocked down in the ranking is because of another team’s hot form at the right time of the season. (Last ranking: 7)

7. Dallas Mavericks, 45-29

The Mavericks have fluctuated from being a top-10 team to just outside the top 10 for basically the entire season, but a seven-game win streak, including a 9-1 stretch, has them soaring in the run in. It’s the exact opposite of how they capitulated last season, so maybe lessons were learned. Let’s see if they can maintain this momentum. (Last ranking: 11)

6. Los Angeles Clippers, 47-27

The Clippers were bound for a top-10 exit in the last edition but have since turned things around, most notably with a current three-game winning streak. The key aspect is making sure guys like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can stay healthy when the playoffs begin. Everything else is a plus. (Last ranking: 9)

5. Milwaukee Bucks, 47-27

Milwaukee stays at No. 5 for another week and still have plenty of convincing to do that it can conquer Boston in a seven-game series, should the two teams meet in the playoffs. (Last ranking: 5)

4. Minnesota Timberwolves, 51-23

The race for the No. 1 seed is extremely intense with three teams vying for it. Minnesota has done well not to fall out of the race with Karl-Anthony Towns still out with an injury, but there’s little margin for error. (Last ranking: 4)

3. Oklahoma City Thunder, 52-22

Oklahoma City may be the current No. 1 seed thanks to being half a game ahead of Denver, but if the two teams meet in the playoffs, the needle might lean toward Denver given its experience and defending-champion status. Oklahoma City won the season series 3-1, but the playoff atmosphere is completely different. (Last ranking: 3)

2. Denver Nuggets, 52-23

It strangely hasn’t felt like the Nuggets are reigning champions. Such was the case last season before they won the title, with no real threat to them in the regular season until they hit a new gear in the playoffs. Maybe that’s what could transpire this year again, but they’ll need youngsters like Christian Braun, Peyton Watson and Julian Strawther to take another leap early. (Last ranking: 2)

1. Boston Celtics, 59-16

The Celtics stay first for the 10th edition running. Their starting five has the perfect balance in each position, and they’ve currently won 11 of 13 games. As long as they stay the course, this is their premier shot at Banner No. 18. (Last ranking: 1)