NBA Power Rankings: Ranking every team heading into the 2023 conference finals

The 2023 NBA Playoffs have officially started and that means we also have an all-new set of NBA power rankings for this year’s postseason.

The 2022-2023 regular season was filled with notable storylines and saw some massive changes occur at the NBA trade deadline. Several of the organizations that made big moves in February (the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns) are in this year’s tournaments while some (the Dallas Mavericks) fell short of that goal this season.

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There are also a couple of surprise squads (the Sacramento Kings and New York Knicks) from the regular season that will look to show they are the real deal this spring.

With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at the latest NBA power rankings for the 2023 NBA Playoffs.

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16. Brooklyn Nets

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The Brooklyn Nets that enter the playoffs are far different than the team that pushed them toward the top of the Eastern Conference and helped them avoid having to compete in the NBA Play-In. However, that is what happens when two superstar talents want out at the same time at the trade deadline.

Brooklyn wasn’t expected to go far in the postseason and just reaching it was icing on the cake to a difficult season. The team was dispatched easily by the 76ers in Round 1 but have a couple of reasons to believe they are a team on the rise heading into next season.

15. Minnesota Timberwolves

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The Minnesota Timberwolves seemed doomed from the start heading into this 2023 NBA Playoffs. Karl-Anthony Towns missed most of the season, their big three of Towns, Rudy Gobert, and Anthony Edwards had little time to gel, and the Frenchman punching a teammate in the seasonal finale only made things worse.

They were able to gut things out and make it into the tournament for a tough matchup against the Denver Nuggets in Round 1. But the warts again showed and they were easily dispatched by the conference’s best in just five games. It will be interesting to see how the ‘Wolves approach roster improvements this summer.

14. Atlanta Hawks

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The Atlanta Hawks entered the Play-In tourney a team that seemed in a better place with new head coach Quinn Snyder. They needed a boost of confidence and they got it by going into Miami and punching their ticket to the playoffs with a dominant win.

They then showed some guts by scrapping out two wins against an outstanding Celtics team before being bounced from the playoffs. Will that be enough to build off of with a full summer of Snyder running the show?

13. Los Angeles Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers battled injuries all season long — as usual — and will likely be without Paul George for all of the first round. Yet, this was still a very dangerous team with a strong core of proven veteran stars. Unfortunately, their injury demons always haunt them and put another scare into their fans in their opening series with Kawhi Leonard suffering another major injury to his knee. That pretty much put a nail and their coffin and the Suns hammered it home with a dominant victory in five games.

12. Cleveland Cavaliers

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are such a talented team, especially on defense. However, the big concern for them is many of their key players are in their first go-around in the postseason. With them being the favorites against the Knicks, there is a lot of pressure on Cleveland to prove they are a serious contender in the East.

They were unable to as New York made easy work of them dominantly in five games. While major change won’t come to the roster this summer, this experience will be a key learning moment for this developing team.

11. Memphis Grizzlies

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Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies are an elite team but they are in serious trouble in the opening round of the NBA playoffs. They already had a tough matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers, but Morant’s Game 1 injury hampered them. Yet despite returning to the series, they surprisingly were unable to overcome the “King” and the Lakers in the opening round. Some major roster changes could be made to this disappointing Grizzlies roster soon.

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10. Milwaukee Bucks

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No one thought Antetokounmpo’s back injury in Game 1 of their opening series was a sign of terrible things to come, but that’s exactly what it was. Even when he returned later in the series, they could never get back into a groove and the Heat had the built-in confidence to deliver the biggest surprise of the 2023 NBA Playoffs. Major changes could be coming to Milwaukee this summer.

9. Sacramento Kings

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The Sacramento Kings have been one of the best stories in the NBA this season. They are well ahead of schedule and have one of the best offenses in the sport. However, they landed a high spot after quieting the doubts and putting an early scare into the Warriors by winning the first two games in their series.

In the end, they still fell to the Warriors in seven games, but it took a historic performance from a legend in Stephen Curry for that to happen. While it was a sad finish for the team, it was a fantastic season overall for Sacramento.

8. Golden State Warriors

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The Golden State Warriors have not been the team they were last season, but with a trio of legendary future Hall-of-Famers and a strong cast around them, they still remained dangerous in these 2023 NBA playoffs.

They entered the postseason at full strength and looking ready to defend their crown. However, they were knocked on their heels early by falling into a 2-0 hole against the Kings in their opening-round series. However, the championship beast was awakened and they were able to survive and move on after seven games.

But against a strong defensive unit in the Lakers, the Warriors were not able to overcome with their offensive might. While they are still an elite team in the NBA, they aren’t a championship right now so changes are likely in the offseason.

7. Phoenix Suns

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On paper, the Phoenix Suns had everything necessary to win a championship this season. However, what they don’t have is time and they needed more of that this season to gel as a unit after introducing superstar Kevin Durant into the mix.

In the quarterfinals, they seemed like they did because Booker and Durant were ridiculously good at times. Even in the semis, however, former two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and a less impressive roster were able to outwork and beat the star-studded sons.

The second-round ouster cost Williams his job and it will be interesting to see who replaces him and the changes to the roster. Which could include trading Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul.

6. New York Knicks

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Many NBA observers saw the New York Knicks as a possible dark horse in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Their strong finish to the season is why they landed a high spot in the inaugural playoff NBA power rankings.

New York was a popular pick to score an upset over the Cavaliers in Round 1 and did just that dominantly. However, they could not get by the eighth-seeded Miami Heat in the semis. The team has an outstanding building block in Jalen Brunson, the big question going into the offseason will be seeing if they can find a better second-star than Julius Randle, who disappeared again at times in the postseason.

5. Philadelphia 76ers

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The trio of Joel Embiid, James Harden, and head coach Doc Rivers have so much to prove this spring. Especially since they may not be together next season. What was good, is they seemed to be flying under the radar and that may be perfect for them as the pressure resides on other clubs.

Dominating the Nets in Round 1 got them off to a very strong start to proving the doubters wrong. However, despite having a 3-2 series lead and a home opportunity to eliminate the Celtics, they failed at home and played even worse in Game 7. It was another frustrating moment where Rivers, Harden, and Embiid could not deliver in a big playoff series.

4. Los Angeles Lakers

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The Los Angeles Lakers are in a better position in the playoff NBA power rankings than our regular season set due to their strong finish and impressive defense over the last few months. Defense wins championships, but having a living legend in Lebron James, and having an elite talent in Anthony Davis playing well will help a lot as well.

That impressive recipe showed in being able to force out the second-seeded Grizzlies in six games. However, they took it to another level in slowing down the defending champion Warriors and punching their ticket back to the conference finals for the second time in four years. The Lakers are a serious threat to win a championship in 2023.

3. Miami Heat

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The Miami Heat were always going to be a tough out in the NBA playoffs, however, with Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo suffering a back injury in Game 1, they took advantage and gained confidence while pulling off the biggest playoff upset in years.

They continued that outstanding play in knocking off a red-hot Knicks team in six games despite Jimmy Butler being far from healthy. Now, they are back in the conference finals for a second straight year and get a chance at revenge against Boston.

2. Denver Nuggets

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There is no doubt the Denver Nuggets were the best team out west all season. The question has always been can they be the best team in the Western Conference playoffs? They have been thus far after two rounds.

They dominated the Timberwolves in the opening round and pulled off another surprise to overcome two megastars in Devin Booker and Kevin Durant in the semis. Jokic is playing like a superstar and his supporting cast has played up to his level in these playoffs.

1. Boston Celtics

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The Boston Celtics have been the creme of the NBA crop all season and continue to show that in the NBA Playoffs. They were the 1A to the Milwaukee Bucks in the east, but with Milwaukee out, the Celtics became the clear favorite to go all the way in the East.

After solid resistance from the Hawks in Round 1, it could be argued their second-round clash with the 76ers was the true conference finals in the East. In that clash, the Celtics showed their excellence by coming back from a 3-2 deficit and punching a ticket back to the conference finals in a rematch with the always-tough Jimmy Butler and the Heat.

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