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  • Writer's pictureStone Lexington

Updated NBA power rankings: Boston Celtics clinging to top spot amid closing contenders

Updated: Jan 7

Jayson Tatum

A little more than a third of the way through the NBA regular season, several of the usual suspects reside near the top of the rankings. There are also a few unsuspecting teams that have either crashed the rankings, or are waiting for entry just outside. Below are the teams that sit atop the latest NBA power rankings.


Oklahoma City Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder (23-9) are one of those surprise teams that have crashed the rankings. The Thunder have won eight of their last nine games, a stretch that includes two victories over the defending champion Denver Nuggets, wins against the surging Los Angeles Clippers and Minnesota Timberwolves, and a win over the team with the best record in the league, the Boston Celtics. Oklahoma City point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continues to elevate his game every year, averaging 31.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.4 assists this season. With plenty of young talent surrounding him, Gilgeous-Alexander and the Thunder seem to have one of the brightest futures in the NBA.


Philadelphia 76ers

Since trading James Harden to the Los Angeles Clippers early in the season, the Philadelphia 76ers (23-10) haven’t missed his playmaking prowess. In Harden’s absence, fourth-year guard Tyrese Maxey has skyrocketed to stardom with more opportunities coming his way. Maxey has upped his scoring average by more than five points per game from last season to this season (20.3 to 25.9 ppg), and his assist totals have nearly doubled (3.5 assists per game last season to 6.4 assists per game this season). Maxey seems to be a perfect complement next to superstar center Joel Embiid, and the duo should lead the Sixers into title contention when the postseason arrives later this season.


Denver Nuggets

The season after winning an NBA title, it can be easy for champions to fall into complacency at different points throughout their attempt to repeat. It seemed like the defending champion Denver Nuggets (24-11) had fallen into a nearly month-long slump when they dropped eight of 14 games during a stretch from mid-November to early December. Since the slump, the Nuggets have won 10 of their last 12 games and now seem to be cruising toward competing for another title. However, depth will be something to keep an eye on for the team from the Mile High City this season.


Milwaukee Bucks

When the Milwaukee Bucks (24-9) acquired Damian Lillard via trade roughly a month before the 2023-24 season began, lofty expectations were immediately placed upon them. The Bucks seem to be living up to those expectations, as they have only lost back-to-back games once this season. Lillard still seems to be acclimating himself within the Bucks’ system, which can be a challenging task when trying not to stunt the production of superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. With Khris Middleton still working his way back from an injury-plagued 2022-23 season, the Bucks have plenty of time to build the chemistry needed to compete for a title.


Boston Celtics

For nearly a decade, it seems like the Boston Celtics (26-7) have been as close to winning an NBA championship as a team can get. They’ve reached at least the Eastern Conference Finals in five of the last seven seasons, including last season, and they appeared in the NBA Finals just two seasons ago. With the addition of skilled big man Kristaps Porzingis and the signing of Jaylen Brown to the richest deal in NBA history this offseason, it feels like it’s time for the Celtics to close the deal by winning the franchise’s first NBA title since 2008. If the Celtics are bounced from the playoffs without hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy again this season, it would have to be considered a failure.


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