NBA Power Rankings: Mavs climb the ranks, while OKC and Wolves assert themselves in top 10

The 2023-24 NBA season is just weeks old, but the competition already is red-hot.

The Denver Nuggets and the Dallas Mavericks have made themselves early front-runners in the West, while the Minnesota Timberwolves, after making a surprising leap in the rankings last week, have won seven in a row and employ the league’s stingiest defense.

Meanwhile, the ascending duo of Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey are leading the Philadelphia 76ers to Eastern Conference dominance, but the Sixers lost Tuesday to an upstart Indiana Pacers squad, fueled by an absurd performance from All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton – 33 points, 15 assists … zero turnovers.

Note: Throughout the regular season, our panel (Kendra Andrews, Tim Bontemps, Jamal Collier, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin and Ohm Youngmisuk) is ranking all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which teams are playing the best basketball now and which teams are looking most like title contenders.

Previous rankings: Post-Finals | Nov. 1 | Nov. 8 |

Jump to a team:

1. Denver Nuggets
2023-24 record: 9-2

After winning eight of their first nine games, the Nuggets picked up their second loss of the season in Houston on Sunday. But Jamal Murray‘s hamstring injury hasn’t slowed down Nikola Jokic, who picked up his fourth triple-double of the season with a dominant 36 points, 21 rebounds and 11 assists in that Houston loss. And in their win against the Clippers on Tuesday, Jokic just missed another triple-double by one assist. Besides getting Murray back healthy, the biggest issue for the newly extended Michael Malone is getting more production from his second unit. With Jeff Green and Bruce Brown gone, Malone is searching for consistent bench play so he doesn’t have to keep playing his starters such heavy minutes. — Ohm Youngmisuk

2. Philadelphia 76ers
2023-24 record: 8-2

  • Previous ranking: 3

  • Next games: vs. BOS (Nov. 15), @ ATL (Nov. 17), @ BK (Nov. 19), vs. CLE (Nov. 21)

Yes, Philadelphia’s eight-game winning streak ended at the hands of the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday, but that doesn’t diminish the rise of Tyrese Maxey. The 76ers have, finally, found themselves a bonafide star to pair alongside Joel Embiid — and one who, in his fourth year in the NBA, still has a lot of potential ahead of him even as he’s averaging 28.4 points and 7.0 assists per game. And he’s quietly fueling a stylistic change with his speed: Last season, the Sixers ranked a plodding 27th in pace. This season? Fourteenth. — Tim Bontemps

3. Boston Celtics
2023-24 record: 8-2

  • Previous ranking: 2

  • Next games: @ PHI (Nov. 15), @ TOR (Nov. 17), @ MEM (Nov. 19), @ CHA (Nov. 20)

Coming into the season, one of the big questions surrounding the Celtics was their depth outside of their top six guys. So far, it’s been a mixed bag. On one end, Sam Hauser is shooting 47.9% from 3-point range on nearly six attempts per game. On the other hand, Payton Pritchard is shooting 32% from the field and 22% from 3. Still, the team ranks fourth in offense, third in defense and first in net rating. The Celtics are rolling. — Bontemps

4. Dallas Mavericks
2023-24 record: 8-3

Tim Hardaway Jr. has established himself as an early Sixth Man of the Year candidate, helping the Mavs to their No. 2-ranked offense. Hardaway is averaging 17.5 points per game, the most by any player who has come off the bench in at least half of his team’s games. And he’s doing it on both ends, ranking second in the league in charges drawn with eight, one fewer than former teammate Jalen Brunson. The Mavs wrap up their road trip against the Wizards on Wednesday night and the Bucks on Saturday. — Tim MacMahon

5. Minnesota Timberwolves
2023-24 record: 8-2

The Timberwolves begin the week with the NBA’s top-ranked defense, leading the league in defensive rating, opponent field goal percentage and 3-point percentage, led by center Rudy Gobert, who looks like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate once again. All-star center Karl-Anthony Towns is emerging from an early-season fog, averaging 21 points, 9 rebounds and 43% from 3, over his past five games. Minnesota is in the midst of a five-game road trip, finishing up the week with matchups against the Suns and Pelicans before returning home to host the Knicks next week. — Jamal Collier

6. Milwaukee Bucks
2023-24 record: 6-4

  • Previous ranking: 7

  • Next games: @ TOR (Nov. 15), @ CHA (Nov. 17), vs. DAL (Nov. 18), @ WAS (Nov. 20)

Damian Lillard returned to action Monday after sitting out a pair of games with a calf injury, but he is still struggling to find his shot, going 3-of-17 (1-of-9 from 3) against the Bulls. Lillard is averaging 22.8 points on 37% shooting and 27% from 3 in the first eight games of his Bucks career, but he insists it’s too early to panic. He has a chance to bounce back this week with matchups against the Raptors, Hornets and Wizards on the road — and a big home test against the Mavericks. Perhaps even more pressing? The Bucks’ 25th-ranked defense has shown little improvement over the first few weeks of the season. — Collier

7. Indiana Pacers
2023-24 record: 7-4

The Pacers’ offense is rolling, with Tyrese Haliburton leading the NBA in assists at 12.2 per game. Indiana has scored at least 120 points in six consecutive games, the longest such streak in franchise history, while Haliburton became the first player in Pacers history to record 25 points and 15 assists without a turnover over the weekend against the Sixers. Their defense, however, tells a different tale. The Pacers rank 27th, turning their games into shootouts. This week will be telling: Can the Pacers’ defense solve even some of the NBA’s worst offenses? — Collier

8. Golden State Warriors
2023-24 record: 6-6

Even with the Warriors desperately needing more scoring and playmaking from Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins, Golden State still ranks No. 7 in offense. That’s how good Stephen Curry has been so far. Sources inside the organization remain optimistic that this offensive lull is just a phase, and we’ll find out quickly if they’re right: Their next four opponents — OKC, Houston and Phoenix — all rank in the top 15 in defense. — Kendra Andrews

9. Miami Heat
2023-24 record: 7-4

Bam Adebayo had 21 points and 11 rebounds in Tuesday’s win against the Charlotte Hornets, the fifth consecutive game he’s had a 20-point, 10-rebound performance and the longest such streak of his career. Miami, decimated by injuries early, has already started 11 different players and will need to lean even more on Adebayo’s consistency as it navigates an up-and-down start. — Andrew Lopez

10. Oklahoma City Thunder
2023-24 record: 7-4

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has five straight games with at least 25 points on 55% shooting from the floor, the longest such streak in franchise history, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. He has averaged 33.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.6 steals while the Thunder won four of the five games. Up next, the Thunder will go on the road to face the Warriors back-to-back and finish their trip at Portland. — MacMahon

11. Houston Rockets
2023-24 record: 6-3

The Rockets? On a six-game winning streak? The No. 4 seed in the West? Fred VanVleet has led this shocking charge, averaging 18.2 points, 8.3 assists and only 1.5 turnovers during this stretch. Over the previous four decades, the only Houston players to amass that many points and assists with that few turnovers over a six-game span are Chris Paul and Tracy McGrady. VanVleet also has been essential to the Rockets’ drastically improved defense, which ranks fifth in the league (108.6 rating) after being in the bottom four each of the past three seasons. — MacMahon

12. Sacramento Kings
2023-24 record: 5-4

  • Previous ranking: 20

  • Next games: @ LAL (Nov. 15), @ SA (Nov. 17), @ DAL (Nov .19), @ NO (Nov. 20)

The Kings have some hope now that De’Aaron Fox is back after a moderate sprain in his right ankle kept him out for two weeks. Without him, the Kings didn’t have the same pizzazz they did a season ago, especially on offense, where they ranked first (119.4). As Mike Brown tries to up their defensive prowess — they rank 18th so far this season after ending last season 25th — it’s costing them some of their speed that ran opponents out of the building. They sit 26th in pace through the first few weeks of the season, after racing to 12th last year. They begin a six-game road trip Wednesday night against the Lakers. — Andrews

13. New York Knicks
2023-24 record: 5-5

  • Previous ranking: 14

  • Next games: @ ATL (Nov. 15), @ WAS (Nov. 17), @ CHA (Nov. 18), @ MIN (Nov. 20)

The bellwether for Knicks success so far this season has been R.J. Barrett. In the seven games he’s played, the Knicks are 5-2, and they are plus-18.8 points per 100 possessions in the 218 minutes he’s been on the court. New York has lost the three games Barrett hasn’t played, and it has been outscored by 6.7 points per 100 possessions in the 262 minutes he’s sat. He’ll look to lead the Knicks on a stretch in which they could start a nice run — on the road against the Hawks, Wizards and Hornets. — Bontemps

14. Atlanta Hawks
2023-24 record: 6-4

The Hawks were 3-6 in games Trae Young missed last season, but Dejounte Murray is doing his part to make sure Atlanta doesn’t struggle without their point guard this year. Young missed Tuesday’s game for personal reasons, and Murray had 32 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and three steals to lead the Hawks to victory. It was his first 30-point, 10-assist game with Atlanta, a promising sign that the Hawks’ offense won’t crater if Young misses more time. — Lopez

15. Los Angeles Lakers
2023-24 record: 6-5

  • Previous ranking: 16

  • Next games: vs. SAC (Nov. 15), @ POR (Nov. 17), vs. HOU (Nov. 19), vs. UTAH (Nov. 21)

Darvin Ham made his first non-injury change to the starting lineup last week, putting Cam Reddish in with the first five and bringing Austin Reaves off the bench. The decision helped snap a three-game slide for L.A. and fueled back-to-back wins over Phoenix and Portland with Reddish averaging 17.5 points on 60% shooting and Reaves averaging 16.5 points on 52.1% since the swap. The Lakers will look to push this new lineup, as they currently rank 26th in offense. — Dave McMenamin

16. Phoenix Suns
2023-24 record: 4-6

  • Previous ranking: 12

  • Next games: vs. MIN (Nov. 15), @ UTAH (Nov. 17), @ UTAH (Nov. 19), vs. POR (Nov. 21)

All signs point to Devin Booker returning from his calf strain Wednesday against the Timberwolves, finally giving Suns fans a glimpse of their complete Big Three with Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal. Having dropped five of their past seven games, Booker’s return couldn’t come soon enough for the Suns, as they’re also set to play Utah back-to-back over the weekend. — McMenamin

17. Orlando Magic
2023-24 record: 5-5

  • Previous ranking: 17

  • Next games: @ CHI (Nov. 15), @ CHI (Nov. 17), @ IND (Nov. 19), vs. TOR (Nov. 21)

The Magic snapped a 14-game losing streak that dates back to 2019 with their win against the Bucks on Saturday night. A key to their victory? Second-chance points. They had 22 against Milwaukee and are second in the league this season, averaging 18.3 second-chance points per game. Even without Wendell Carter Jr., Orlando can find success crashing the offensive glass. — Lopez

18. Cleveland Cavaliers
2023-24 record: 4-6

  • Previous ranking: 13

  • Next games:@ POR (Nov. 15), vs. DET (Nov. 17), vs. DEN (Nov. 19), @ PHI (Nov. 21)

Cleveland won its first game of the season over Brooklyn but hasn’t been above .500 since, losing to both Oklahoma City and Indiana twice since the start of the season. Ranked 19th and 20th in defensive and offensive efficiency, respectively, the Cavs have two games to reset — at Portland on Wednesday and home against Detroit on Friday before facing two of the toughest teams in the league next week: home against Denver and at Philadelphia. — McMenamin

19. LA Clippers
2023-24 record: 3-7

Ty Lue remains confident that the Clippers will turn things around after losing their first five games with James Harden, including Tuesday night’s loss in Denver. Lue continues to tinker, pushing every button, telling Harden at practice he has “free rein” to play his way, trying numerous lineups. But with Mason Plumlee out six to eight weeks, the Clippers are too small inside, and rebounding has been a chore. The defense continues to struggle, and Kawhi Leonard and Russell Westbrook still haven’t looked comfortable, but Tuesday’s competitive loss to the champs was a step in the right direction. — Youngmisuk

20. Brooklyn Nets
2023-24 record: 6-5

Even without Ben Simmons and Cam Thomas, the Nets managed to improve to 2-1 in in-season tournament play with a home win over the Magic on Tuesday night. Now, if Brooklyn can win its final group stage game Nov. 28 against Toronto, the Nets will have a great chance of qualifying for the IST quarterfinals the first week of December. They play six of their next eight games at home, giving the young team a chance to improve their 12th-ranked offense and 17th-ranked defense. — Bontemps

21. Toronto Raptors
2023-24 record: 5-5

  • Previous ranking: 23

  • Next games: vs. MIL (Nov. 15), vs. BOS (Nov. 17), vs. DET (Nov. 19), @ ORL (Nov. 21)

After finishing 13th in offensive rating and 11th in defensive rating last season, the Raptors currently sit at 27th in offense and 8th in defense. A big part of that drop? Their points off turnovers. Last year, Toronto was first in the league in its percentage of points scored off turnovers. So far this season, it has dropped to 20th. — Bontemps

22. New Orleans Pelicans
2023-24 record: 5-6

New Orleans had a team-record 46 fast-break points against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night, the most by any team in a game since March 8, 2019. Part of that effort was led by rookie Jordan Hawkins, who poured in 25 points off the bench. Hawkins joined Victor Wembanyama as the only rookies with multiple 25+ point games this season. With injuries to CJ McCollum, Trey Murphy and Jose Alvarado, the Pelicans will need Hawkins’ dynamic offense to keep pace in the crowded West. — Lopez

23. Chicago Bulls
2023-24 record: 4-7

  • Previous ranking: 24

  • Next games: Vs. ORL (Nov. 15), vs. ORL (Nov. 17), vs. MIA (Nov. 18), vs. MIA (Nov. 20)

The Bulls insist their poor shooting to begin the year — they are 27th in the NBA in field goal percentage compared to fourth in the NBA last season — is to blame for their uninspired start. DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine are both shooting well below their career percentages. While the Bulls should get a boost with guard Alex Caruso likely returning this week after missing the past two games with a toe injury, the offense still ranks 19th and the defense 22nd, suggesting deeper problems. — Collier

24. San Antonio Spurs
2023-24 record: 3-8

When things turn for San Antonio, they … really turn. Tuesday night’s 123-87 loss to the Thunder was the third time this season the Spurs have lost by 30 points or more. The rest of the NBA has just four such losses this season. Part of the reason: turnovers. San Antonio is 26th in the league in turnovers per game and tied a season high with 25 against the Thunder. In order for the team to grow and win more consistently, taking care of the ball must be a top priority. — Lopez

25. Utah Jazz
2023-24 record: 4-7

Rookie Keyonte George’s first three starts have fueled optimism that he could be the Jazz’s long-term solution at lead guard. George has 27 assists and only four turnovers while helping Utah win two of the three games and average 120 points during the stretch. George, the No. 16 overall pick, leads all rookies with 4.8 assists per game. — MacMahon

26. Portland Trail Blazers
2023-24 record: 3-7

  • Previous ranking: 25

  • Next games: vs. CLE (Nov. 15), vs. LAL (Nov. 17), vs. OKC (Nov. 19), @ PHX (Nov. 21)

Anfernee Simons (thumb), Scoot Henderson (ankle), Robert Williams III (knee) and Malcolm Brogdon (hamstring) are all sidelined. The Trail Blazers offense ranks last in the league. Fourth-year guard Skylar Mays, on a two-way contract just two days ago, is now leading it. It’s a race back to the bottom for the rebuilding Blazers. — Andrews

27. Charlotte Hornets
2023-24 record: 3-7

The Hornets continued their early-season trend of following up a win with a losing streak, dropping two straight after their win over the Wizards — to the Knicks on Sunday night and the Heat on Tuesday night. Wing Miles Bridges is eligible to play Friday against Milwaukee after serving his 10-game suspension to start the season, and Steve Clifford said this week he expects Bridges to play a significant role. — Youngmisuk

28. Memphis Grizzlies
2023-24 record: 2-9

The Grizzlies’ only healthy and available point guard is 5-foot-8 Jacob Gilyard, who is on a two-way contract. Marcus Smart exited Tuesday’s loss to the Lakers after injuring his left ankle; Derrick Rose has not played in November due to a knee problem; and Ja Morant is less than halfway into his 25-game suspension. Gilyard and the Grizzlies are set to face the Spurs on Saturday but will confront a more challenging opponent on Sunday against the Celtics. — MacMahon

29. Detroit Pistons
2023-24 record: 2-10

Detroit has dropped eight straight games as its young team continues to struggle to find its footing. Now in the fifth year of its rebuild, the team has been ravaged by injuries early — Bojan Bogdanovic, Monte Morris, Jalen Duren, Jaden Ivey and Alec Burks have all missed time. Still, there’s reason for optimism. 2021 No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham — averaging 22.5 points, 3.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists, is finally healthy and justifying that selection, while 2023 No. 7 pick Ausar Thompson is posting a double-double in 32 minutes per game. Also worth monitoring? The surprising play of rookie guard Marcus Sasser, averaging close to 30 mpg over the Pistons’ last five games. — Collier

30. Washington Wizards
2023-24 record: 2-8

It’s one thing to lose seven of eight games. It’s quite another to struggle from the first whistle to the last. Against Toronto on Monday night, they blew a 16- point lead in the final seven-plus minutes of the game, an astonishing stretch in which they were outscored 21-1. Jordan Poole hasn’t gotten off to the offensive start many thought he would, instead producing an early-season mixtape of head-scratching viral moments. With veteran Delon Wright now injured (knee), Washington’s three-game slide could get much longer with games against the Mavs, Knicks and Bucks twice coming up in the next five games. — Youngmisuk

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