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NBA Power Rankings: Separating the contenders, pretenders and tankers as the regular season winds down

Chinmay Vaidya updates his NBA power rankings for the 2022-23 season.

Philadelphia 76ers v Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers look on in the second half at Fiserv Forum on March 04, 2023 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

We’re going to do something a little bit different for this edition of the power rankings, largely because this is the point in the regular season where teams can be broken down into three clear categories. There are the contenders, the pretenders and the tankers. Here’s a breakdown of each category, along with the teams featured in each one.


Teams in this group are bonafide title contenders with little to poke holes at. Usually, there aren’t many teams in this category by the end of the season. This year is a bit different, and there will be several more key games for teams to further cement their place in this category.

There are a handful of teams in this category that would be fringe contenders at the moment. These teams do have one or two problems to overcome, but they can feasibly get to the NBA Finals if they solve those issues and have some luck. They aren’t quite in the pretender zone, but they are a step below the best of the best.

1. Boston Celtics
2. Denver Nuggets
3. Milwaukee Bucks
4. Philadelphia 76ers
5. Phoenix Suns


6. Cleveland Cavaliers
7. Memphis Grizzlies
8. Sacramento Kings
9. New York Knicks
10. Dallas Mavericks
11. Golden State Warriors
12. Los Angeles Clippers


These are the teams that theoretically could make some noise in the playoffs but have simply been too inconsistent this season or have a major injury concern that will keep them from getting close to the Finals. This is usually the tier that has the most teams, and the play-in tournament usually helps expand this pool.

13. Miami Heat
14. Atlanta Hawks
15. Brooklyn Nets
16. New Orleans Pelicans
17. Minnesota Timberwolves
18. Toronto Raptors
19. Los Angeles Lakers
20. Washington Wizards
21. Portland Trail Blazers
22. Chicago Bulls


When there’s a talent like Victor Wembanyama available, all this play-in talk will go out the window for a number of teams who are actually very much in the playoff picture. These clubs entered the year with a clear directive to lose as many games as possible while still trying to develop younger players and build healthy habits. It’s easier said than done but the season is almost over. Some of these teams have been doing a great job tanking since the beginning, while others only recently entered the fray and might not be able to make up ground. However, the lottery system means everyone has a shot at getting that No. 1 overall pick.

23. Indiana Pacers
24. Oklahoma City Thunder
25. Utah Jazz
26. Charlotte Hornets
27. Orlando Magic
28. Detroit Pistons
29. Houston Rockets
30. San Antonio Spurs