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2022-23 Vendetta NBA Power Rankings: January

Power Rankings NBA

Power Rankings NBA
The Celtics, once again, hold the crown for our January NBA Power Rankings. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

2022-23 Vendetta NBA Power Rankings: January

The New Year is here! And it got off to a roaring start with more scoring barrages from Luka Doncic, Klay Thompson and Donovan Mitchell, who had arguably the most efficient 70-point performance in the league history. Nevertheless, I got the crew together to do the January rendition of our 2022-23 NBA Power Rankings!

Let’s jump into it!

30. Detroit Pistons (10-30)

The Pistons boast the league’s worst record and have lost 11 of their last 14, which is why they come in last for these power rankings. Rookies Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren continue to flash good things in their respective roles. Alec Burks has sneakily turned into one of the league’s top sixth men and Bojan Bogdanovic is still hovering around 50-40-90 territory. And both are still likely going to be prime trade candidates for next month’s deadline as secondary creators. Detroit’s still atop the possible destinations for Victor Wembanyama, so everything they get from the young guns here on out is gravy.

29. Charlotte Hornets (10-28)

  • Last Ranking: 25
  • Average: 28.3
  • (Matt 28, Michael 29, Chickster 28, Jack 29, Anthony 27, Jackson 29)

The Charlotte Hornets are in the running for the Wembanyama sweepstakes. They sit 24th in offense ranking and dead last in three-point percentage. The decision to continue to start Mason Plumlee at center is baffling, but the major concern has been injuries for this squad. LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, P.J. Washington and Dennis Smith Jr. have all missed time. Cody Martin has played one game this season and Miles Bridges remains without a contract after his assault charges. Not a fun time for Michael Jordan. — Michael Ivanoskos

28. Houston Rockets (10-27)

  • Last Ranking: 28
  • Average: 27.8
  • (Matt 27, Michael 28, Chickster 29, Jack 26, Anthony 29, Jackson 28)

The Rockets recently put up fights against the Heat, Mavericks and Celtics, but couldn’t squeak away either of those three games. In fact, they’ve lost nine of their last 10 — with their lone win coming on the road against Chicago. They’re in contention for the worst team in the NBA and will certainly be on Wembanyama watch as next year’s draft approaches. And they haven’t really improved in any significant area … per Rockets guard Eric Gordon himself.

27. San Antonio Spurs (12-25)

  • Last Ranking: 30
  • Average: 27.7
  • (Matt 29, Michael 27, Chickster 27, Jack 28, Anthony 28, Jackson 27)

The tank for Wembanyama is a little shaky because the Spurs’ young core is one of the best despite its record. Jeremy Sochan is a man and half, and the Spurs are missing a piece like Wemby to being back in the playoffs again. They moved up the power rankings for me just because they’re not last in the NBA. At the rate they’re going, they might play themselves out of the running for Wemby. We’ll see. — Chickster

26. Orlando Magic (13-24)

  • Last Ranking: 27
  • Average: 25.3
  • (Matt 25, Michael 26, Chickster 24, Jack 25, Anthony 26, Jackson 26)

The Magic have lost each of their last three games — to the Los Angeles Lakers, Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards — after winning eight of their previous nine. They’re currently on the outside-looking-in at the play-in race as the halfway point approaches, which is where you expected them to be at this point of the season despite the highs and lows anyways. Amid the recent losing skid and the brawl against Detroit, Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner have still been as good as advertised, and Markelle Fultz has been productive in Jalen Suggs‘ absence, having averaged 12.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.7 steals in 28.2 minutes over his last 13 games!

25. Oklahoma City Thunder (15-21)

  • Last Ranking: 26
  • Average: 24.5
  • (Matt 24, Michael 24, Chickster 26, Jack 24, Anthony 24, Jackson 25)

I’m going to keep repeating this: The Oklahoma City Thunder play a really fun, blue-collar brand of basketball. No team is an easy win, and the Thunder certainly aren’t, even if their record suggests otherwise. That all starts with the play of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who’s playing at an All-NBA caliber level. He’s posting 30.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.0 blocks on 50/35/91 shooting splits. It also helps when the supporting cast — most notably Josh Giddey and Jalen Williams — are playing up to their current ceiling as well. They probably won’t make the play-in, but they’re scrappy enough to give teams trouble on any given night.

24. Washington Wizards (17-21)

  • Last Ranking: 21
  • Average: 23.8
  • (Matt 26, Michael 25, Chickster 25, Jack 27, Anthony 20, Jackson 19)

It’s safe to say that the Wizards have had a streaky start. They’ve won their last five — three without Bradley Beal — after dropping 13 of their previous 14. Their defense has climbed up to a top-12 unit sneakily, while Kristaps Porzingis, Daniel Gafford and Kyle Kuzma all continue to play good basketball. I don’t think this changes their long term plans, but only ups the value and interest around the NBA on what could be a firesale in about a month.

23. Toronto Raptors (16-21)

  • Last Ranking: 13
  • Average: 22.3
  • (Matt 21, Michael 21, Chickster 23, Jack 22, Anthony 25, Jackson 22)

I think it would be safe to say that this Raptors team has played well below expectations thus far. They sit five games under .500 and were just victims of a six-game losing streak. The biggest issue for them was their consistency on offense which seemed non-existent at time. An offensive explosion of late has helped ease some minds but Scottie Barnes‘ struggles remain a concern.

Barnes has yet to take that leap many people expected and it’s in large part due to his horrid shooting from deep. He’s made just one shot from distance in his last 11 attempts and oftentimes looks scared to take them when he has the look. I’m sure he will bounce back, but Raptors fans are likely hoping it happens soon. — Jack Sabin

22. Chicago Bulls (16-21)

  • Last Ranking: 24
  • Average: 22.3
  • (Matt 22, Michael 22, Chickster 21, Jack 23, Anthony 23, Jackson 23)

Forget last night, Chicago’s slowly digging themselves out of a hole, having won five of their last eight games after starting 11-18. They continue to beat good teams — now 5-3 against the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and the Cleveland Cavaliers — and look better defensively than they were earlier in the season. They’re not as deep into the “blow it up” sub-category that they were just a few weeks ago, but I still wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to part with Alex Caruso and Nikola Vucevic before next month’s trade deadline.

21. Los Angeles Lakers (16-21)

  • Last Ranking: 23
  • Average: 21.5
  • (Matt 23, Michael 23, Chickster 18, Jack 19, Anthony 22, Jackson 24)

LeBron James is turning 38 years old, Anthony Davis is in a suit on the bench, and Russell Westbrook is coming off the bench now, all coupled with possibly being the worst offense ever in terms of spacing. Things could not be worse for the purple and gold. The next move may be to hit the reset button and blow it up. — Ivanoskos

20. Minnesota Timberwolves (17-21)

  • Last Ranking: 22
  • Average: 20.8
  • (Matt 20, Michael 20, Chickster 22, Jack 21, Anthony 21, Jackson 21)

Is it too early to say that the Rudy Gobert experiment is a failure? I know that it probably is but my Lord, it surely hasn’t gotten off to the start Wolves fans intended. The Wolves have struggled from beyond the arc and overall, just seem to have a difficult time spacing out the floor.

Now, Towns is out and that does have an effect. But even when he was on the floor it was clear that something just wasn’t working. They are in need of scoring off the bench or on the floor in general because D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards can’t carry the load themselves.

It’s still early in the Gobert era and there is still time to right this ship, but it’s clear that whatever they are trying right now is not working. — Sabin

19. Atlanta Hawks (17-20)

  • Last Ranking: 10
  • Average: 18.8
  • (Matt 19, Michael 19, Chickster19, Jack 18, Anthony 18, Jackson 20)

There’s something odd happening in Atlanta. Not only are they struggling to string together wins, but there are rumblings that their star player and head coach don’t see eye-to-eye. That is not a recipe for success. The Trae Young/Dejounte Murray combo has its flashes, but nearly a quarter into the season they sit on the fringe of the play in. Still time to turn it around, but the clock is ticking. — Law

Are the Hawks, who are just inside the top-20 in our January NBA Power Rankings, in danger of blowing it up?

18. New York Knicks (20-18)

  • Last Ranking: 20
  • Average: 18.0
  • (Matt 16, Michael 15, Chickster 20, Jack 20, Anthony19, Jackson 18)

The Knicks won eight straight, lost five straight and now have won two straight again. The synergy between Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson has been incredible; Randle is producing identical numbers — 24.2 points and 9.9 rebounds on 59.4 percent true shooting — to his 2020-21 campaign, when he made All-NBA third team. Meanwhile, Brunson has orchestrated the offensive beautifully, helping propel a bottom-eight offense last year to a top-11 offense.

RJ Barrett is hurt with an injured finger right now but snapped out of an early-season slump before his injury. Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley and Miles McBride have built a very capable three-guard tandem (14.6 NET in 161 MIN) that has blended very well together since Thibs — who’s been stubborn in his own ways, historically — maneuvered the rotation.

The Knicks are a different team with Brunson on the floor but look even better when their ancillary pieces become two-way disruptors.

17. Utah Jazz (19-20)

  • Last Ranking: 19
  • Average: 16.5
  • (Matt 18, Michael 14, Chickster 17, Jack 17, Anthony 17, Jackson 16)

The Jazz have slowly, but surely, fallen back to earth. They were on the wrong side of the last shot of 2022 — a buzzer-beating one-legged 3-pointer from Tyler Herro. That loss game them a four-game losing streak and sunk them to one game below .500, a territory they haven’t been in all season. If you had “the Jazz’s first game below .500 would be after the 39th game of the season”, fans would be confused. But here we are.

16. Portland Trail Blazers (19-17)

  • Last Ranking: 18
  • Average: 16.0
  • (Matt 17, Michael 16, Chickster 16, Jack 16, Anthony 16, Jackson 15)

Gary Payton II made his Blazers debut Monday, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The Blazers’ defense ranks in the bottom-11 across the Association and haven’t gotten enough point-of-attack defense from its guards. I’d also like to see them use their athleticism to push the pace more, but that’s neither here nor there. If you were to take one positive thing away from the Blazers start, it’s that they still possess a complimentary unit to pair with Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons, with formidable two-way wings. That’s something they haven’t had in quite some time.

15. Golden State Warriors (20-18)

  • Last Ranking: 11
  • Average: 14.5
  • (Matt 13, Michael 17, Chickster 13, Jack 12, Anthony 15, Jackson 17)

The Golden State Warriors are currently 20-18 which is good enough for the ninth seed in the Western Conference. They suffered some bad losses in December including a 30-point loss to the Nets and a 38-point drubbing to the Knicks. However, they finished the month on a four-game win streak on their home court.

Shooting guard Jordan Poole has been carrying a lot of the load as he has dropped 28, 41, 26, 24 and 32 points in their last five games. Shooting guard Klay Thompson has also done his part to fill the hole that was left by point guard Steph Curry’s absence. This team has struggled a lot this season and they desperately need Curry back, who was having an MVP-like season.

When the Warriors return Curry and small forward Andrew Wiggins, they will need a big win streak to make their playoff push. — Miranda

14. Miami Heat (20-18)

  • Last Ranking: 15
  • Average: 14.2
  • (Matt 14, Michael 18, Chickster 12, Jack 14, Anthony 13, Jackson 14)

The Heat have won four of their last five to climb to two games above .500 for *checks notes* the first time all season. Bam Adebayo continues to look as assertive as he’s ever been while Tyler Herro has blossomed as a secondary creator, having formed an adept kindship with Adebayo. Miami’s offense has still labored, but it’s looked better of late with the recent emergence of Victor Oladipo off the bench. And they might’ve found another two-way gem in Orlando Robinson, who’s bridged the minutes behind Adebayo much better than Dewayne Dedmon as an offensive rebounder and defender.

The Heat might be finding something, or they might not be. But we know they’re going to scrap and claw for the final 44 games regardless.

13. Indiana Pacers (21-17)

  • Last Ranking: 12
  • Average: 13.2
  • (Matt 11, Michael 13, Chickster 14, Jack 15, Anthony 14, Jackson 12)

The Pacers went .500 in December, but the good thing is that they are still the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. Indiana’s big three continue to impress as they prove to be a better team than most expected. In December, they dropped bad games to teams like the Wizards and Timberwolves, but they had great wins against the Cavaliers and Celtics.

Point guard Tyrese Haliburton will hopefully get his first All-Star selection this year with his averages of 20.7 points, 10.1 assists, and 3.9 rebounds. Shooting guard Buddy Hield averages 17.9 points per game, center Myles Turner averages 16.8 points per game, and rookie shooting guard Bennedict Mathurin averages 17.3 points per game. The scoring capabilities of those three players mixed with the unselfishness of Haliburton will continue to be a recipe for success for the Pacers. — Miranda

12. Sacramento Kings (19-16)

  • Last Ranking: 9
  • Average: 12.2
  • (Matt 10, Michael 11, Chickster 15, Jack 13, Anthony 11, Jackson 13)

The Kings did not have the greatest December, finishing 8-6. They had six straight home games to end the month where they totaled six straight sell-outs. However, they could not take full advantage of the home stand as they dropped games to the inferior Hornets and Wizards.

The Kings’ duo of center Domantas Sabonis and point guard De’Aaron Fox are still getting the job done. Sabonis has been an absolute monster over his last ten games averaging 22.4 points, 14.9 rebounds and 67.4 percent shooting from the field. Fox, over his last nine games, has averaged 26.2 points, 7.0 assists and 4.1 rebounds as well be one of the best closers in the NBA.

Sacramento has improved defensively, and their offense is still one of the best in the league. If they can avoid three or four-game losing streaks for the rest of the season, then they can be a playoff team for sure. — Miranda

11. Los Angeles Clippers (21-18)

  • Last Ranking: 14
  • Average: 10.7
  • (Matt 15, Michael 8, Chickster 9, Jack 11, Anthony 12, Jackson 9)

The Clippers are scoring 117.2 points per 100 possessions with a plus-10.0 NET Rating when both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are on the floor, versus a 110.0 offensive rating and a minus-2.1 NET Rating when one or neither of them are.  In general, the Clippers have played better than their record suggests; five of their last seven losses have come by six or fewer points, with three of those losses coming to NBA’s top-eight teams. All they need to do is remain consistently healthy.

10. Dallas Mavericks (22-16)

  • Last Ranking: 17
  • Average: 10.5
  • (Matt 9, Michael 12, Chickster 11, Jack 10, Anthony 10, Jackson 11)

Is there any player in the NBA playing at a higher level than Luka Doncic right now? Over his last six games, he’s averaged 44.5 points, 11.3 rebounds, 9.8 assists and 2.2 steals. No, none of that was a typo. He’s quite literally putting the Mavs on his back during their seven-game win streak after a sluggish first 32 games. Even though they might be just the No. 4 seed in the West, he might be the frontrunner for the MVP — along with Nikola Jokic, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo — halfway through the season.

9. Phoenix Suns (20-18)

  • Last Ranking: 3
  • Average: 10.0
  • (Matt 12, Michael 10, Chickster 10, Jack 9, Anthony 9, Jackson 10)

The Phoenix Suns are a mess right now. Devin Booker has missed seven of their last eight games due to a groin injury that he re-aggravated on Christmas (when he played only 4:20). He will miss the next month, and the Suns haven’t found much success without him. They’ve lost six of their last seven, including a pair of 25-point losses to the Wizards and Mavericks capped by a 22-point loss to the Knicks on Monday. They’re just 2-7 without Booker this season and have managed to just score 110.4points per 100 when he’s not on the floor (compared to 121.2 when he’s on). So, their best bet — with increased minutes to Torrey Craig, Josh Okogie, Duane Washington Jr. and Damion Lee — is to win games with their defense, which they haven’t been able to do yet.

8. New Orleans Pelicans (23-14)

  • Last Ranking: 7
  • Average: 6.8
  • (Matt 7, Michael 5, Chickster 8, Jack 8, Anthony 7, Jackson 6)

We FINALLY get to see what a healthy Zion Williamson can do. Unfortunately, New Orleans is still without their All-Star in Brandon Ingram. While the two stars have struggled somewhat on the court together, New Orleans has the pieces to continue to improve and make a deep run. — Law

7. Cleveland Cavaliers (24-14)

  • Last Ranking: 4
  • Average: 6.5
  • (Matt 4, Michael 7, Chickster 6, Jack 6, Anthony 8, Jackson 8)

71 points. Eight rebounds. 11 assists.

Boom.

Best defense in the NBA; one of the best teams in the league; have a great young core. And oh, and Donovan Mitchell freaking rocks! I don’t think much more needs to be said at this point.

The surging Cavs come in at No. 7 in our January NBA Power Rankings.

6. Memphis Grizzlies (23-13)

  • Last Ranking: 6
  • Average: 6.3
  • (Matt 5, Michael 9, Chickster 7, Jack 7, Anthony 5, Jackson 5)

Despite a few letdowns in December, the Grizzlies have a new little win streak with impressive wins against the Pelicans and Kings. All starters are fully healthy and still remain near the top of the West. If a hurt Memphis team is a top 3 team in the West, then what is a fully healthy team? — Law

5. Philadelphia 76ers (22-14)

  • Last Ranking: 8
  • Average: 6.2
  • (Matt 8, Michael 6, Chickster 5, Jack 5, Anthony 6, Jackson 7)

The Sixers seem to be finally finding a rhythm as of late, and it’s in large part due the team finally getting healthy. Also helping has been the Sixers’ ability to close out games. They are currently 19-1 when ahead or tied after the third quarter and this was put on display on Christmas Day during the Sixers’ 38-15 run to close that game out.

They’ve been getting elite production from James Harden and Joel Embiid, plus solid minutes from guys like Shake Milton, and Georges Niang. It is still early but if this Sixers team can stay healthy and keep it together, they can be very dangerous. — Sabin

4. Milwaukee Bucks (23-13)

  • Last Ranking: 2
  • Average: 4.2
  • (Matt 4, Michael 4, Chickster 4, Jack 3, Anthony 4, Jackson 4)

The Bucks limp into January, still as one of the top teams in the league, but in need of some soul searching. Giannis is as dominant as ever, but it feels like the Bucks offense is lacking. That something is Khris Middleton, who hasn’t played since Dec. 15. The Bucks will need more from the role players if they want to stay above some surging teams in the East. — Law

3. Brooklyn Nets (25-12)

  • Last Ranking: 16
  • Average: 2.7
  • (Matt 2, Michael 3, Chickster 2, Jack 4, Anthony 3, Jackson 2)

The Brooklyn Nets are probably the hottest team in the NBA right now. They are on an 11-game win streak and only lost once in December.

Kevin Durant is continuing his MVP-caliber season by averaging 28.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists in his last 11 games. He is also playing like a top defender in the NBA. Kyrie Irving is on fire right now averaging 29.3 points on 54/46/93 shooting splits in his last ten games. The Nets’ other starters, Ben Simmons, Nic Claxton and Royce O’Neale, have been playing well recently.

Brooklyn has also been receiving a healthy amount of support from their bench during this win streak. This just goes to show that when the Nets are clicking, they are one of the most dangerous teams in the NBA and title contenders. — Miranda

Are the red-hot Brooklyn Nets pretenders?

2. Denver Nuggets (24-13)

  • Last Ranking: 5
  • Average: 2.5
  • (Matt 3, Michael 2, Chickster 3, Jack 2, Anthony 2, Jackson 3)

The Denver Nuggets are finally operating at a full bill of health. Nikola Jokic is on route to being the first player to win three MVPs in a row since Larry Bird. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are back and catching rhythm at the right time. Aaron Gordon has arguably been their second-best player being their top perimeter defender along with the capability of 15-20 points and 6-8 boards nightly. Key additions of Bruce Brown and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the emergence of Bones Hyland have made them the biggest threat to come out of the West. — Ivanoskos

1. Boston Celtics (26-11)

  • Last Ranking: 1
  • Average: 1.0
  • (Matt 1, Michael 1 Chickster 1, Jack 1, Anthony 1, Jackson 1)

The Boston Celtics still sit atop of our Power Rankings heading into the New Year. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are having one of the best seasons by a duo in the franchise’s storied history. Contributions from key cogs in the machine such as Marcus Smart, Derrick White and the recent return of Robert Williams are helping run into a form a borderline top-five defense. Matching that with being the top offense in the NBA makes for a recipe for a plausible Banner 18. — Ivanoskos

***

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