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Knicks rise, Clippers descend in 2022-23 NBA Power Rankings

Bulls bump up in 2022-23 NBA Power Rankings originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

And just like that, the 2022-23 NBA regular season concludes in a month.

Teams have until Sunday, April 9 to solidify their spots in the standings as races for postseason and lottery positioning heat up.

Bar the Denver Nuggets out West, teams ranked No. 2 to No. 13 are neck-and-neck and any slip up could prove costly. The East still remains a top-four heavy conference, but the New York Knicks are hoping to change minds and make a deep postseason run for the first time in more than two decades.

Let’s take a look at the updated NBA Power Rankings with a month to go before the playoffs:

30. San Antonio Spurs, 16-49: Surprise: The Spurs’ lack of frontcourt depth after the Jakob Poeltl trade has worsened, and San Antonio has bumped out its fellow Texas rival from the last spot. (Last ranking: 29)

29. Houston Rockets, 15-49: Obviously, there’s hardly anything separating Houston from San Antonio, which has been the case for much of the season. The Rockets previously sat in last place for the last four editions, but the Spurs’ mess lifts Houston – just barely. (Last ranking: 30)

28. Detroit Pistons, 15-50: The engines still remain cold in the Motor City, with Detroit losing eight in a row to be the first franchise to hit 50 losses this campaign. (Last ranking: 28)

27. Charlotte Hornets, 20-46: LaMelo Ball’s continuous ankle injuries have now cost him the remainder of the season, not that him playing the rest of the way would have catapulted the Hornets to the play-in tournament for the third season running. (Last ranking: 27)

26. Indiana Pacers, 29-37: The Pacers have consistently regressed as the season has gone on, and now they’ve fallen to the lowest they’ve been in the rankings this year. They still have an optimistic future, especially if they optimize their upcoming first-round picks. (Last ranking: 24)

25. Orlando Magic, 27-38: Orlando is in a similar boat as Indiana. The future is bright with the positive signs the youth have shown, and if it can add more via the draft, look out. (Last ranking: 25)

24. Chicago Bulls, 29-36: The Bulls’ strategy at the trade deadline to stand pat never made sense, and that has shown in the aftermath. To say they have a big offseason ahead is an understatement. (Last ranking: 26)

23. Washington Wizards, 30-34: The Wizards are in the same position they’ve been all season: Their three stars aren’t enough to compete against the best, and the lack of quality depth around them remains iffy. (Last ranking: 23)

22. Utah Jazz, 31-34: Utah is currently occupying a play-in spot and could end up in the race until the very end, but it still feels like an awkward tactic considering it would benefit from falling down the pecking order to beef up its odds in the draft. (Last ranking: 21)

21. New Orleans Pelicans, 31-34: Unshockingly, New Orleans’ production has become sluggish the longer Zion Williamson remains sidelined due to injury. The Pelicans managed it well in the early months of the season, but they’ve been stuck in dire form lately and desperately need a spark. (Last ranking: 14)

20. Portland Trail Blazers, 31-34: Portland persistently oscillates between convincing and unconvincing, but it feels like it’ll end the campaign more so in the latter category. The frontcourt depth behind Jusuf Nurkic is a concern that once again did not address. (Last ranking: 20)

19. Oklahoma City Thunder, 30-34: The Thunder started rising with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander balling out, but his recent five-game absence saw the team drop four in a row without him. Will they eventually repel from the play-in race for draft positioning or will they keep pushing? (Last ranking: 18)

18. Los Angeles Lakers, 31-34: The Lakers are in for a battle to make the play-in tournament, at the minimum, without LeBron James for a tad bit longer. The depth has improved, Anthony Davis is dominating as he should and the overall play is more cohesive. That’s enough to augment a spot. (Last ranking: 19)

17. Toronto Raptors, 32-34: The Raptors are doing the thing again where they try to catch fire late in the season to climb the Eastern Conference ladder. They’ll be difficult to deal with until the end of the season, especially with how Poeltl has looked since returning to the franchise. (Last ranking: 22)

16. Atlanta Hawks, 32-33: Similar to how Poeltl bestowed a spark to Toronto, Saddiq Bey has been a fun acquisition for the Hawks, which has yet to soar as they would have liked this season amid the Nate McMillan departure. They probably should’ve traded John Collins at the deadline, though. (Last ranking: 16)

15. Los Angeles Clippers, 34-33: One Los Angeles team is rising, the other is falling. The Clippers looked lifeless after dropping five in a row, but a late comeback against Memphis plugged the drought, at least momentarily. The Russell Westbrook addition coincides with the slide, but the team as a whole has been off it lately and needs to step it up pronto. (Last ranking: 10)

14. Dallas Mavericks, 33-32: The Mavericks’ idea to pair Luka Doncic with Kyrie Irving really never made sense from the get-go. If there was a superstar to add next to Doncic, it should have been an elite forward or a big man, not a ball-dominant point guard. The short-term ceiling doesn’t look too high at the moment. (Last ranking: 13)

13. Miami Heat, 35-31: The Heat have been in a rough patch lately but consecutive home wins against Atlanta helped right the momentum. Like Dallas, the ceiling in Miami feels low, but it’ll push for the No. 6 seeds. (Last ranking: 12)

12. Minnesota Timberwolves, 34-32: Anthony Edwards continues to be immense offensively with Jaden McDaniels flying under the radar defensively. Considering they’re still missing Karl-Anthony Towns, the Timberwolves are in a great position at this stage of the calendar. (Last ranking: 15)

11. Golden State Warriors, 34-31: Golden State had strung five straight wins before falling to the Lakers, but the Warriors could peak at the right time yet again if they can just stay healthy. (Last ranking: 17)

10. Brooklyn Nets, 36-28: The Nets certainly have their flaws after the Irving and Kevin Durant trades, but they’ve stayed competitive off the stellar play from new additions Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson. They could very well avoid the play-in tournament. (Last ranking: 7)

9. Memphis Grizzlies, 38-25: Even without factoring in the Ja Morant situation, the Grizzlies have been in a skeptical spot lately. But when you consider Morant’s foreseeable absence and Brandon Clarke’s ACL tear, Memphis is looking quite susceptible. (Last ranking: 6)

8. Phoenix Suns, 36-29: No surprise – Phoenix has been on fire after Durant’s arrival. The real test will be how their depth fares come playoff time, but the Suns will challenge for the No. 2 seeds. (Last ranking: 8)

7. New York Knicks, 39-27: The hottest team in the NBA – yours New York Knicks. The Knicks have rattled off nine straight wins to boost up the rankings, and they have a pivotal game against the next team on the list. Time will tell if they’re just in a purple patch, but it’s a joyous time for the Knickerbockers. (Last ranking: 11)

6. Sacramento Kings, 38-26: Don’t look now, but the Kings are also in contention for the No. 2 seeds. They’ve won games as of late without De’Aaron Fox, some in convincing fashion, and will be a pesky team to beat the rest of the way – they just have to maintain their high-powered offense and keep lighting the beam. (Last ranking: 9)

5. Cleveland Cavaliers, 41-26: Cleveland has the best net rating in the NBA and has a little bit of everything to challenge the teams in front of it, bar some shaky wing depth. It has to be careful of the Knicks, though, who are starting to breathe down their necks lately. (Last ranking: 5)

4. Philadelphia 76ers, 42-22: The 76ers are typically a stout team in the regular season, so that doesn’t change anything here. Barring something dramatic, they should remain a top-four seed out East, but what happens afterwards is the real test. (Last ranking: 4)

3. Boston Celtics, 45-21: After three straight editions holding the throne at the top, the Celtics have been shoved out. Two straight overtime losses have hurt, and this recent stretch is probably just a blip considering how consistent they’ve been all season. But they have to right the ship sooner rather than later if they want to reclaim the top seed they’ve held for so long this year. (Last ranking: 1)

2. Denver Nuggets, 46-19: Denver is in pole position to claim home-court advantage out West. Nikola Jokic’s bid for a third straight MVP award remains intact, and the depth around him is finally adept enough to mount a run to the NBA Finals. The defense might be suspect against specific matchups, but their offense has managed to leap most hurdles thus far. (Last ranking: 3)

1. Milwaukee Bucks, 46-18: To be here amid Khris Middleton’s injury-riddled campaign is quite the statement from the Bucks. Milwaukee had won 16 in a row in recent weeks and made it 17 out of 18 after the streak broke against Philly. If Middleton can rediscover his form at the right time, good luck beating them four times in a series. (Last ranking: 2)

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