NBA playoff power rankings: Top seeds undeniable leaders after one week of postseason

NBA playoff power rankings: Top seeds undeniable leaders after one week of postseason


One week into the NBA playoffs and teams can be broken down into categories: impressive, disappointing, good but not enough, and teams who have been solid in some games, bad in others.

The three teams at the top of the Western Conference (Oklahoma City Thunder, Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves) are leaving no doubt that they finished 1-2-3 for a reason. The Boston Celtics rebounded from a bad home loss but still have to complete the job. The New York Knicks got a little help from officiating mistakes, but regardless, they are one victory from winning a playoff series for the second consecutive season, a feat they haven’t accomplished in 2000-2001.

The Phoenix Suns were a dud, the first team to get swept, the Milwaukee Bucks have faltered and the Los Angeles Lakers have shown that good doesn’t mean contender.

Here are the NBA playoff power rankings after one week of playoff action:

NBA playoff power rankings

1. Oklahoma City Thunder

Up 3-0 vs. New Orleans: After a close call in Game 1 victory against the Pelicans, Oklahoma City has handled business in an impressive manner, winning Game 2 124-92 and Game 3 106-85. The Thunder had three players with at least 20 points in the past two games led by MVP candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams, Chet Holmgren and Josh Giddey. Oklahoma City has clamped down on the Pelicans, who are missing injured Zion Williamson, and has not allowed more than 92 points in the first three games.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves

Eliminated Phoenix 4-0: Minnesota’s top-ranked defense wasn’t a concern coming into this series, and it’s not a concern now as it limited the Suns’ offense. The Timberwolves scored at least 120 points in three of the four games, converted from the field (48.2%) and from the free throw line (88%). Timberwolves star guard Anthony Edwards was fantastic, averaging 31 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists and shooting 51.2% from the field, 43.8% on 3-pointers and 83.9% on free throws. He had 40 points, nine rebounds and six assists in the closeout victory. It was the Timberwolves’ first series victory since 2004.

3. Boston Celtics

Up 2-1 vs. Miami: The Celtics responded to the Game 2 loss with an impressive 104-84 victory in Game 3. Now, Boston needs to finish the two-game set in Miami with a Game 4 victory and head back to Boston with a 3-1 series lead and a chance to close out the series in five games. The Celtics don’t need a Game 6 in this series.

4. Denver Nuggets

Up 3-1 vs. Los Angeles Lakers: The Nuggets didn’t get the sweep, but they remain in great position to win the series and that could happen in Game 5 in Denver. Better shooting from Jamal Murray and better production from their bench put the Nuggets in good position to finish off the Lakers for the second consecutive season.

5. New York Knicks

Up 3-1 vs. Philadelphia: Think of the all-time great Knicks players – Willis Reed, Earl Monroe, Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley, Bernard King, Patrick Ewing, Carmelo Anthony. Until Sunday, no Knicks player had ever scored more than 46 points in a playoff game. New York guard Jalen Brunson set a Knicks playoff scoring record with 47 points in the Knicks’ Game 4 victory. He also had 10 assists. At some point the Knicks will need more scoring from someone other than Brunson, but the defense is doing enough in this series.

6. Indiana Pacers

Up 3-1 vs. Milwaukee: Yes, the Pacers have caught breaks in this series as Giannis Antetokounmpo hasn’t played a game because of an injury and Damian Lillard missed Game 4. But the Pacers have also taken advantage, which includes making 22 3-pointers in Game 4. Closing out the Bucks will be the challenge for this Pacers team that has not made the playoffs since 2020 and not with this group led by Tyrese Haliburton and Pascal Siakam. The Pacers haven’t won a playoff series since 2014.

7. Los Angeles Clippers

Tied 2-2 vs. Dallas: The Clippers were without Kawhi Leonard for Game 4 and built, then squandered, a 31-point lead only to escape with a 116-111 victory. Regardless of Leonard’s status for the next game and rest of season, they need Paul George and James Harden at or near their best to win the series. They got that in Game 4 with each scoring 33 points and having a say in the outcome with the game on the line.

8. Dallas Mavericks

Tied 2-2 vs. Los Angeles Clippers: The Mavericks had a great chance to take a 3-1 series lead at home facing a Clippers team without Kawhi Leonard. But a poor start put the Mavs in a 31-point hole. They climbed out, took the lead late in the fourth quarter but couldn’t pull off the comeback victory. They need to be better offensively, starting with Luka Doncic, who is shooting 38.6% from the field and 26.5% on 3-pointers in the series.

9. Orlando Magic

Tied 2-2 vs. Cleveland:  Offensively challenged on the road (just 83 and 86 points in the first two games of the series against Cleveland), the Magic need a road victory to win the series. They were good at home with Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner each posting 30-point games. Can this young and promising team break through offensively at Cleveland?

10. Los Angeles Lakers

Down 3-1 vs. Denver: The Lakers have been close in this series but have succumbed to Denver’s offensive and defensive execution especially in the fourth quarter. The Lakers were better at stopping Denver from dominating the third and fourth quarters in Game 4. Can they repeat that on the road in Game 5 and get another dominating performance from Anthony Davis and solid production from D’Angelo Russell and the bench?

11. Philadelphia 76ers

Down 3-1 vs. New York: Joel Embiid playing with a knee that isn’t 100% and Bell’s palsy, a condition he revealed he has after scoring 50 points in the 76ers’ Game 3 victory. The Sixers have struggled when Embiid has had to spend time on the bench, and even though Embiid played 44 minutes in Game 4, the Sixers were outscored 8-2 without Embiid on the court. In the four games, Philadelphia has been outscored by 77-39 in 32 minutes with Embiid on the bench.

12. Milwaukee Bucks

Down 3-1 vs. Indiana: Forces – both avoidable and unavoidable – have put the Bucks in this position. This series doesn’t look like this if Giannis Antetokounmpo is not sidelined for the four games with an injury. Damian Lillard also missed Game 4 with an injury, Bobby Portis was ejected early in the game and this season just hasn’t unfolded the way the Bucks thought it would, including firing a coach with a 30-13 record and replacing Adrian Griffin with Doc Rivers who is 18-22, including 1-3 in the playoffs, with the Bucks.

13. Cleveland Cavaliers

Tied 2-2 vs. Orlando: The Cavaliers started well, with two wins at home, but the two road losses to the Magic were the result of bad offense, and even worse, bad defense. Orlando tied the series with 121-83 and 112-89 victories, and the Cavs shot 25.5% on 3s and allowed the Magic to shoot 53.3% from the field and 39.7% on 3-pointers. Now, the Cavs have home-court advantage so maybe all they have to do is win at home to advance. But this series – and whether they get to the next one – could have a major impact on what the Cavs decide to do in the offseason with Donovan Mitchell, who can become a free after the 2024-25 season.

14. Miami Heat

Down 2-1 vs. Boston: The Heat will try to make this series as difficult as possible for Boston. But without injured Jimmy Butler, thinking the Heat can pull off an upset like they did last year is probably unrealistic.

15. New Orleans Pelicans

Down 3-0 vs. Oklahoma City: Expectedly, the Pelicans have struggled without Zion Williamson offensively, and they’re having trouble stopping the Thunder’s offense. It’s a bad combination against the rolling Thunder. It’s hard to fault the Pelicans too much.

16. Phoenix Suns

Lost 4-0 to Minnesota: By far, the Suns are the most disappointing team in the playoffs. The roster construction centered around Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. The Suns don’t have a lot of roster options so if there are major changes, the coaching staff and front office are in new-ish owner Mat Ishbia’s crosshairs.

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