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NBA Power Rankings: Timberwolves and Hawks make summer-time push

Vincent Frank

NBA power rankings: Now that the 2021-22 season has ended, it’s time to look at where all 30 teams stand heading following the initial wave of free agency.

The Golden State Warriors are coming off their fourth championship in eight years. Back east, the Boston Celtics look like legit contenders moving forward after falling to Golden State. There’s also a ton of other intriguing teams in each conference.

Without further ado, here are our updated NBA power rankings following the 2022 NBA Draft and after some major blockbuster trades.

30. Orlando Magic

nba power rankings: orlando magic
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Despite finishing with 60 losses, the Magic have some hope moving forward. That comes in the form of youngsters Cole Anthony, Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs. With No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero in the mix, things could be looking up in Orlando. He looked tremendous in limited Summer League action.

29. San Antonio Spurs

nba power rankings; san antonio spurs
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

After missing out on the postseason the previous two seasons (a first in franchise history), San Antonio fell to New Orleans in the play-in tournament. That was enough for the Spurs. They are now headed to a full-scale rebuild following the trade of All-Star guard Dejounte Murray. The question is now whether Keldon Johnson and others will be moved.

28. Houston Rockets

nba power rankings: houston rockets
Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Another lost season in Houston just came to an end. However, there’s some positivity for this organization moving forward. The No. 2 pick last summer, Jalen Green is coming off a 27-game span to end the season that saw him average north of 21 points on 40% shooting from distance.

General manager Rafael Stone then aced the draft by adding our No. 1 prospect Jabari Smith at three as well as two other solid first-round picks in Tari Eason and TyTy Washington. Despite having traded Christian Wood earlier in the young offseason, Houston’s future looks bright.

27. Oklahoma City Thunder

nba power rankings: oklahoma city thunder
BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and stud 2021 lottery pick Josh Giddey look like a potentially awesome tandem moving forward. Unfortunately, it did not lead to team-wide success to close up the 2021-22 season with both SGA and Giddey sidelined. OKC did make sure to add a ton of talent in the draft, starting with No. 2 pick Chet Holmgren. SGA, Giddey and Holmgren seem to be a nice trio moving forward. Holmgren’s perfomance during the Summer League adds another layer to this.

26. Indiana Pacers

nba power rankings: indiana pacers
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Reason for optimism in Indiana with Tyrese Haliburton now part of a backcourt that includes stud youngster Chris Duarte. Nothing really happened in regards to seeing what these two can offer together with Duarte finding himself injury plagued through the final first half of his rookie season. These are the two cornerstones following the Malcolm Brogdon trade and with Myles Turner on the block.

25. Sacramento Kings

nba power rankings: sacramento kings
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was foolish. Sacramento’s decision to trade stud young point guard Tyrese Haliburton as a way to compete for a play-in spot did not end too swimmingly with the team posting an 9-17 record. The end result? Sacramento missed out on the postseason for the 16th consecutive season.

The Kings then overthought it and selected Keegan Murray with the fourth pick, creating a questionable roster dynamic for first-year head coach Mike Brown. Ouch! The good news? Sacto added the likes of Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk to its backcourt. Those were two solid moves.

24. Detroit Pistons

nba power rankings: detroit pistons
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Pistons remained a bottom-four team in our NBA power rankings throughout the 2021-22 season. That’s no longer the case due to the struggles of teams behind it to close up the regular season. Still having lost 59 games, the Pistons are not near contention. The good news? Cade Cunningham looks like a franchise cornerstone.

General manager Troy Weaver also did a good job in trading Jerami Grant while adding potential studs in that of first-round picks Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren. The Pistons are building for now and the future. Their roster dynamic is really nice.

23. Portland Trail Blazers

NBA power rankings: Portland Trail blazers
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For Portland, the 2021-22 season was defined by Damian Lillard’s injury issues and general manager Joe Cronin righting the wrongs of the previous brass. It concluded with Portland losing 11 consecutive games by a total of 245 points. Cronin did begin the offseason by adding stud forward Jerami Grant in a trade on the cheap. Is this enough to satisfy Dame? Well, his recent record-breaking extension seems to suggest so.

22. Charlotte Hornets

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Milwaukee Bucks
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The inconsistent Hornets have moves to make this offseason if they want to be seen as legit conference title contenders moving forward. Losing in the play-in tournament adds another layer to this. A team that’s going to build around LaMelo Ball moving forward needs to find the right pieces behind him this summer. Thus far, things have been quiet on this front outside of Miles Bridges’ arrest. That could obviously have an on-court impact for Charlotte.

21. New York Knicks

nba power rankings: new york knicks
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One season after earning a surprise playoff appearance, the Knicks are coming off a brutal performance. Could that change in 2022-23 after they picked up star guard Jalen Brunson to team up with R.J. Barrett and Julius Randle? We’re not so sure. What we do know is that New York might not be done there with Donovan Mitchell on its radar.

20. Utah Jazz

NBA: Playoffs-Dallas Mavericks at Utah Jazz
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The Jazz are now in transition following the resignation of head coach Quin Snyder and the blockbuster Rudy Gobert trade. Even with Donovan Mitchell still in the mix (for now), this doesn’t have the feel of a playoff team out west. If Mitchell is dealt, the Jazz were take further steps back in our NBA power rankings.

NBA power rankings: The playoff contenders

19. Washington Wizards

NBA: Washington Wizards at Brooklyn Nets
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With Bradley Beal lost for the season, things did not go swimmingly down the stretch. Washington opened up with a 13-7 mark, only to finish 12 games under .500. Now that Beal has re-signed and the Wizards added a starter-caliber point guard to team up with him, they’re ascending our NBA power rankings in this most-recent iteration.

18. Brooklyn Nets

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at New York Knicks
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Talk about a complete and utter disaster. It’s now time to work under the assumption that neither Kevin Durant nor Kyrie Irving will be a member of the Nets next season. KD has requested a trade. Irving has been the topic of discussions, including a deal that would bring Russell Westbrook to Brooklyn. While things have calmed down on these fronts, it’s hard to discuount a potential shake up in Brooklyn moving forward this summer. That’s taken into account in our most-recent NBA power rankings.

17. Cleveland Cavaliers

nba power rankings: cleveland cavaliers
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries and inconsistency plagued Cleveland big time towards the end of an otherwise surprising season. That included two consecutive losses in the play-in tournament. With that said, the future is bright with the recently extended Darius Garland as well as Jarrett Allen and young big man big man Evan Mobley.

16. Los Angeles Lakers

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Memphis Grizzlies
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Just pathetic. Absolutely brutal. A clown show. However way we want to explain this past season’s iteration of the Lakers, it’s just not working. The Lakers lost 30 of their final 42 after starting the season 21-19. After some under the radar additions this summer, the Lakers are being linked to Kyrie Irving in trade talks. An addition of that ilk would change the narrative big time. As of right now, it seems highly unlikely.

15. New Orleans Pelicans

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at San Antonio Spurs
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New Orleans was over .500 after posting a 1-12 record to open the season. All of this came with C.J. McCollum having played well after his trade from Portland. After earning a spot in the play-in tournament, New Orleans shockingly took the Phoenix Suns to six games in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Brandon Ingram’s star grew big time. If Zion Williamson is able to stay 100% healthy, this team could be a force in 2022-23.

14. Toronto Raptors

nba power rankings: toronto raptors
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Is there any question Nick Nurse is one of the best coaches in the NBA? Toronto opened the season with a pedestrian 23-23 record, only to find itself boasting an 25-11 record in its final 36 regular season games. After falling down 3-0 to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round, Toronto made that a series by winning two consecutive before falling in Game 6. The trio of Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes is legit.

13. Chicago Bulls

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Chicago Bulls
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The injury to Lonzo Ball impacted Chicago this past season. It posted a 23-12 record with him in action, only to 23-24 once he went down with a knee injury. All of this culminated in a first-round playoff series loss to the Milwaukee Bucks that wasn’t all-too competitive. The core group is in place for this team to succeed.

12. Dallas Mavericks

nba power rankings: dallas mavericks
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The loss of Jalen Brunson to the New York Knicks in free agency hurts the defending Western Conference runner-ups. Sure Dallas added Christian Wood and JaVale McGee to the mix. But short of general manager Nico Harrrison picking up another star, this team will take a step back in 2022-23.

11. Atlanta Hawks

nba power rankings: atlanta hawks
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A surprise trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2020-21 gave in to reality for the inconsistent Hawks this past season. That included an ugly five-game series loss to the Miami Heat in the first round in which Trae Young was bottled up to the tune of 15.4 points per game on 32% shooting. General manager Travis Schlenk used that as a precursor to add All-Star guard Dejounte Murray to the mix to team up with Young. This duo will have Atlanta as a force in 2022-23.

NBA power rankings: The top 10

10. Philadelphia 76ers

Feb 27, 2022; New York, New York, USA;  Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden (1) and center Joel Embiid (21) check back into the game in the second quarter against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

These 76ers looked like world beaters in the first three games of the Raptors series, only to lose two consecutive before a blowout Game 6 win. They then fell to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals. It’s now led to speculation that front office head Daryl Morey will look to pull off a blockbuster trade to find another star with Joel Embiid and James Harden. Perhaps, that could include either Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving. Even then, the pick up of P.J. Tucker is big time.

9. Memphis Grizzlies

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The injury to Ja Morant impacted these Grizzlies in their playoff loss to the Warriors. In no way should that be seen as a bad thing. Memphis won the second-most regular-season games. Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. represent a tremendous yung duo. Unfortunately, Jackson Jr. could be out up to six months due to injury. That impacts Memphis in our most-recent NBA power rankings.

8. Denver Nuggets

nba power rankngs: denver nuggets
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

It’s actually pretty insane what Nikola Jokic did to propel Denver without both Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. in the mix. He played at an absolutely elite clip en route to leading Denver to 48 regular-season wins. Even after losing to the Golden State Warriors in the first round, these Nuggets are set up to succeed moving forward as long as Murray and Porter Jr. return healthy. We also like what Kentavious Caldwell-Pope can bring to the table as a three-and-D wing.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves

nba power rankings: minnesota timberwolves
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Minnesota gave the Memphis Grizzlies a mighty scare in the first round. That included holding a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter of Game 6. With new front office head Tim Connelly in the mix, Minnsota then overpaid for star center Rudy Gobert. Despite said overpay, a core four of Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell has Minnesota looking like a legit NBA title contender.

6. Los Angeles Clippers

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers
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The Clippers’ season came to a conclusion in the play-in tournament with a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. Said game was defined by Paul George being out to COVID-19. This was the culmination of a season that saw Kawhi Leonard sit out due to a torn ACL and included George himself missing substantial time to injury. At 100%, the Clippers are title contenders. The addition of multi-time All-Star John Wall lends more credence to this belief.

NBA power rankings: The elite five

5. Miami Heat

nba power rankings: miami heat
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When fully healthy and clicking on all cylinders, these Heat will continue to be legit conference title contenders. Jimmy Butler remains one of the best all-around players in the game. Miami simply needs to find more help behind Butler after its loss to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. Will Pat Riley and Co. provide that during the summer with the team being linked to the likes of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Donovan Mitchell?

4. Phoenix Suns

nba power rankings; phoenix suns
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Phoenix was actually put to the brink by New Orleans in the first round. No one had that series going six games. It was a precursor to this team struggling in its conference semifinals loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Despite winning the most games in the regular season, there’s certainly some questions here. Phoenix is now pretty much out on Kevin Durant. But that comes with the team surprisingly matching a huge contract offer to Deandre Ayton, leading to his return to the desert.

3. Milwaukee Bucks

nba power rankings: giannis antetokounmpo
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Despite some inconsistencies this past season, Milwaukee finished up the regular year with 51 wins and as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. It then dominated the Chicago Bulls in Round 1 before falling to the Boston Celtics in the conference semifinals. Giannis Antetokounmpo just couldn’t do it all with fellow All-Star Khris Middleton sidelined to injury. Regardless, a healthy iteration of these Bucks is among the best teams in the NBA. Picking up Joe Ingles while retaining Bobby Portis adds another layer to this belief.

2. Boston Celtics

nba power rankings: boston celtics
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Defense. Defense. More defense. Since an ugly 19-21 start to the season, Boston won 35 of 41. First-year head coach Ime Udoka then led the Celtics through a tough Eastern Conference before falling to the Warriors in the NBA Finals. Despite struggles in said series, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown proved they can be top players on a contending team. Two wins from the title last season, Boston found a way to add Malcolm Brogdon to the mix this summer. That’s insane.

1. Golden State Warriors

nba power rankings: golden state warriors
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Four NBA championships in eight years. Stephen Curry playing elite basketball at the age of 34. A great mix of proven championship players and youngsters. There’s a reason why the Warriors are defending champs. While losing Gary Payton and Otto Porter in free agency hurts, the addition of Donte DiVincenzo was big. Golden State is also expecting to see second-year jumps from Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody while former No. 2 pick James Wiseman returns from injury.