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2023-24 Vendetta NBA Power Rankings: January

NBA Rankings

NBA Rankings
The Boston Celtics top our first NBA power rankings of the new year. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

Happy New Year! We are roughly a month away from the 2023-24 NBA Trade Deadline, but with every new month comes new storylines in today’s NBA. In a weird way, it’s never boring! OK, enough chitter chatter–let’s introduce our first NBA power rankings of 2024, where we have four voters this month!

30. Detroit Pistons

(Matt Hanifan 30, Alex Chick III 30, Jack Sabin 30, Ezzie Douek 30)

Average: 30

Last month: 30

The Make-A-Wish team of the league. Wingstop thinks they suck so bad they’re giving out free food every time they win. They finally won a game this month, breaking the losing streak. It’s sad but I actually don’t think they’re THAT bad. Cade Cunningham, Jalen Duren and Jaden Ivey are all guys to build around. These other cats have got to get out though. Pistons should be sending these guys out and hope to build during the draft. Cooper Flagg 2025?? Maybe?? — Alex Chick III

29. San Antonio Spurs

(Matt 29, Chickster 29, Jack 29, Ezzie 29)

Average: 29

Last month: 29

My beloved Spurs, can we all be real for a second? Can we all just calm the hell down? The Spurs got Victor Wembanyama, and I’m ecstatic, but this team isn’t a playoff team, much less a contender. Why is everyone upset that the Spurs aren’t winning? They weren’t supposed to. Jeremy Sochan at PG … and you thought they were going to win? I understand the move too, it makes Sochan a better passer in a developmental year.

Devin Vassell can hoop; Keldon Johnson has his nights; Tre Jones doesn’t get enough looks at point guard. The Spurs are the ones being smart about this, why not try to become a better team by working on weaknesses while simultaneously tanking (bad year to tank but I digress)? There’s no point in the Spurs trying to win games by sticking to their strengths only to maybe(?) make the play in and just giving yourself a bad draft position. The Spurs are trying to see what they have, who’s playing for a spot next year, where can they be better, but what do I know? Maybe I’m the only one who sees the Spurs are still rebuilding? — Chickster

28. Charlotte Hornets

(Matt 26, Chickster 28, Jack 28, Ezzie 27)

Average: 27.3

Last month: 25

LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward, Mark Williams and Terry Rozier are all injured right now for the Hornets, who have the NBA’s second-worst defense and third-worst NET Rating at the time of this publishing. Brandon Miller, who’s averaging 14.9 points and 3.8 rebounds on 53.9 percent true shooting, has been a top-5 rookie, but even with Miles Bridges back, this team is still nowhere near any range of competitiveness.

27. Washington Wizards

(Matt 28, Chickster 27, Jack 26, Ezzie 28)

Average: 27.3

Last month: 28

After possessing just two wins over their first 23 games, the Wizards earned three wins over the Pacers, Trail Blazers and Nets over their final nine games to close 2023. Jordan Poole has been playing better of late while Daniel Gafford continues to impress as a starting center, averaging 12.7 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in December. This is an easy place to look for names ahead of the trade deadline.

26. Portland Trail Blazers

(Matt 27, Chickster 26, Jack 27, Ezzie 26)

Average: 26.5

Last month: 27

After a disastrous start to the 2023-24 season, it warms my heart to see No. 3 pick Scoot Henderson find his confidence at the NBA level. The soon-to-be 19-year-old is averaging 15.6 points and 5.5 assists over his last 10. It’s not coming on great efficiency, but the 6-foot-2 guard is shooting 38.9 percent from beyond the arc (3.6 3PA) and 86.5 percent from the free-throw line (3.7 FTA) over that stretch, suggesting some positive regression from the floor.

25. Toronto Raptors

(Matt 25, Chickster 24, Jack 25, Ezzie 25)

Average: 24.8

Last month: 23

The Toronto Raptors made moves! They completed a blockbuster five-player trade over the weekend, sending OG Anunoby to the New York Knicks for Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett. The trade has appeared to benefit both teams in different ways, but Quickley’s fit alongside Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam appeared seamless in their debut Monday against Cleveland. Barrett will also get a breath of fresh air in his hometown of Toronto. I really like this move for Toronto in the short- and long-term, where it should prioritize building around Barnes and Quickley.

24. Utah Jazz

(Matt 23, Chickster 23, Jack 24, Ezzie 24)

Average: 23.5

Last month: 22

Nobody really has any sort of clarity on whether star big Lauri Markkanen will be traded or not ahead of the trade deadline (we probably won’t before the deadline anyway). But what we do know is that there is a logjam in the backcourt … and the John Collins experiment doesn’t appear to be working. Danny Ainge has plenty of decisions to ponder for the next month because this team isn’t ready to compete for a playoff spot.

23. Atlanta Hawks

(Matt 24, Chickster 25, Jack 23, Ezzie 21)

Average: 23.3

Last month: 20

This team is in trouble, they shouldn’t be as bad as they are but it’s a star league. Trae Young is the only star on their team and even then, I don’t like how he plays. He’s another James Harden who foul baits and is very inefficient. The Hawks don’t have a winning formula. It would be better to realize that and trade away to tank. Trae Young needs other stars on his team, preferably a star big. But unfortunately, they don’t have their first-rounder since trading it to San Antonio for Dejounte Murray. This team should be selling and trying to get some picks back and construct a better team around Young, cause this ain’t it. — Chickster

22. Chicago Bulls

(Matt 20, Chickster 22, Jack 22, Ezzie 23)

Average: 21.8

Last month: 26

The emergence of Coby White was one to behold in the month of December. The soon-to-be 24-year-old is having a career year, but tallied 22.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.7 assists on 46.9/40.2/81.5 shooting splits across the month … and didn’t look like a minus defensively. White signed a three-year, $36 million contract this offseason and could be one of the Bulls’ more coveted assets–outside of DeMar DeRozan–ahead of the Feb. 8 trade deadline if the Bulls elect to sell.

21. Memphis Grizzlies

(Matt 21, Chickster 19, Jack 21, Ezzie 22)

Average: 20.8

Last month: 24

Ja Morant is back and it feels like a brand-new team. Along with Ja, the Grizzlies also got Marcus Smart back and this team is back to being the Grizzlies team that we love. Although they ended December against three playoff teams and dropped them all. The difference with Morant in the lineup is night and day. They have their work cut out for them but if this team makes the play-in, they’re making the playoffs no doubt. — Chickster

20. Golden State Warriors

(Matt 19, Chickster 20, Jack 20, Ezzie 20)

Average: 19.8

Last month: 18

The Warriors have lost three straight to the Nuggets, Heat and Mavericks after rattling off five of six since Draymond Green’s indefinite suspension. His suspension has allowed rookies Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis to blossom. Despite a poor outing Saturday, Klay Thompson looked like his old self in December, averaging 19.9 points on 44.3 percent shooting from 3-point range over his last nine games–including six straight games of 20-plus points.

19. Phoenix Suns

(Matt 22, Chickster 18, Jack 19, Ezzie 19)

Average: 19.5

Last month: 12

Maybe trading away all of their bench wasn’t a good idea? I’ve been saying this post that it’s a stars league but unless you’re playing those stars 48 minutes 82 games a year, a bench is needed. Your best player outside of your stars can’t be Eric Gordon or Jursuf Nurkic, it can’t happen. It doesn’t help that Bradley Beal has only played nine games. But the Suns took the stars league too literally and went only stars, and one isn’t healthy. I think they’ll be good when Beal is healthy, but is this team winning a championship? No. They’ll be fantastic when healthy but playoffs are where a bench is a necessity. — Chickster

18. Brooklyn Nets

(Matt 18, Chickster 21, Jack 18, Ezzie 17)

Average: 18.5

Last month: 19

The Nets don’t have THE guy. That’s what it comes down to. They have some good guys to put around THE guy, but they don’t have HIM. They actually have about 7 solid players in rotation, but it’s a stars league, we saw that with the 2015 Hawks, they didn’t have stars but were first in the East. After that, people realize that you need stars to win. It would help if Ben Simmons actually played cause that would be another guy in their rotation. But the Nets have to be all in or all out, they’re flirting with mediocrity by staying put. If you get them a star, this team might actually make some noise. They need another big other than Nic Claxton to back him up. — Chickster

17. Los Angeles Lakers

(Matt 15, Chickster 17, Jack 16, Ezzie 16)

Average: 16

Last month: 14

It’s the Lakers, that’s about it. You can love LeBron James as much as you want, but that love won’t get them to another championship. Father Time is undefeated. The Lakers’ last shot to make the championship was last year and they got steamrolled by the Denver Nuggets. Anthony Davis, as good as he is, is too inconsistent. The rest of the team is fine, but blame it on Darvin Ham all you want, I don’t think any coach gets them to a championship. They’ll make the playoffs and LeBron will do LeBron things, but they’re not winning a chip. Sorry.

16. Houston Rockets

(Matt 14, Chickster 16, Jack 15, Ezzie 18)

Average: 15.8

Last month: 21

The Rockets have won just three of their last nine games, but are still above .500 at the turn of the calendar; four of those losses are by seven points or fewer with the three victories coming over the Mavericks, Pelicans and lowly Pistons. Houston’s offense still ranks No. 18 in the NBA, but the process with Fred VanVleet and Alperen Sengun manning the ship looks 100x better than it did at any point over the last 2-3 seasons. It’s already one win away from tying its win total from 2020-21 and six away from tying last year’s mark.

15. New Orleans Pelicans

(Matt 16, Chickster 12, Jack 17, Ezzie 15)

Average: 15

Last month: 15

The Pelicans have looked like one of the best teams in the West since Trey Murphy’s return, going 8-4 in games he’s played. He’s averaging 14.8 points on 42.3 percent shooting from distance; New Orleans has also been 16.5 points better per 100 possessions in non-garbage time situations with him on the floor relative to the inverse–including 7.4 better offensively–per Cleaning The Glass.

14. Indiana Pacers

(Matt 17, Chickster 15, Jack 14, Ezzie 8)


Last month: 10

Tyrese Haliburton has come back down to earth a little bit, which for his standards, still has him averaging 24.6 points and 12.8 assists. But not as quite as good as the torrid run he went on to start the season. As a result, the Pacers as a team have started to regress a bit and sit at 17-14, this team goes through Haliburton, and when he’s on his game, the Pacers always have a shot. But if the Pacers want to make some serious noise, they are going to need some more production from these other guys.

Myles Turner has been solid along with Bennedict Mathurin, but it’s clear there just isn’t another main scoring option for this team, which is desperately needed in today’s NBA if you want to keep up with these explosive offenses. The Pacers could be looking to buy at the deadline, and if they can bring another true scorer, then the Pacers can become a very dangerous team. — Jack Sabin

13. Sacramento Kings

(Matt 12, Chickster 14, Jack 13, Ezzie 10)

Average: 12.3

Last month: 7

Maybe I’m just a hater (I am), but I never believed in this Kings team a year ago, I still don’t know. I love De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis as players. I know Fox is averaging 30 points, I know Sabonis is a solid 20-10 player night in and night out. But they don’t have a dawg. That’s the difference. That’s what doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. Do you have a dawg on your team that’s going to will you to a win, especially in the playoffs? No, the Kings don’t have that, they’ll make the playoffs and are playing well, but that’s their ceiling. — Chickster

12. Cleveland Cavaliers

(Matt 13, Chickster 9, Jack 12, Ezzie 13)

Average: 11.8

Last month: 16

As time goes on, the more people and the Cavs themselves realize they don’t have enough to be a championship contender. Donovan Mitchell can’t be the guy and the trade rumors are heating up. It’s almost a formality that he will get traded. But the Cavs are too good to just roll over if Spida gets traded. They would be looking at a 3-team trade to try to acquire an unhappy star. They’re 6th in the East but you can just tell they don’t have enough to be THAT good. — Chickster

11. Dallas Mavericks

(Matt 11, Chickster 10, Jack 10, Ezzie 14)

Average: 11.3

Last month: 13

Luka Doncic impresses, Kyrie Irving will too; Tim Hardaway Jr. will have his nights but that’s all you’re really expecting out of this Mavs team. They don’t have enough on this team. Sure, they might upset a team in the playoffs just because of Luka and Kyrie, but there’s no shot they win a championship. They’ll need to either trade pieces to set themselves up for later or push in the chips now. — Chickster

10. New York Knicks

(Matt 10, Chickster 11, Jack 11, Ezzie 12)

Average: 11

Last month: 9

The Knicks flipped Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett–two of their best young assets–into OG Anunoby Saturday, but maintained the flexibility to make a bigger trade if they want to ahead of the Feb. 8 trade deadline. Its newfound rotation got off to a great start Sunday with a six-point win over the surging Timberwolves, where the defense looked as connected as it has all season. I’m intrigued to see how Anunoby’s role evolves in this rotation the rest of the season.

9. Orlando Magic

(Matt 9, Chickster 13, Jack 8, Ezzie 11)

Average: 10.3

Last month: 8

Through one-third of the 2023-24 season, the Orlando Magic have the 10th-best NET Rating with a top-5 defense, but their offense still places among the bottom-third leaguewide. They only dropped one spot in our rankings despite going 6-8 in the month of December, but six of those eight losses came to the Celtics, Heat, Bucks, 76ers and 76ers. That’s a very tough stretch, despite losing half of those games by at least 16 points. This team is in need of an additional shooting and shot creation ahead of the deadline.

8. Miami Heat

(Matt 8, Chickster 7, Jack 9, Ezzie 9)

Average: 8.3

Last month: 11

The Miami Heat have dropped their last two games in fairly ugly fashion, but this group is still on track to win 47 games despite being one of the most injured teams in the sport; this team has had 19 different starting lineups through 33 games. That’s not good. It helps that this is the deepest roster of the Jimmy Butler era in Miami, and they have a top-3 rookie in the sport in Jaime Jaquez Jr., who’s averaged 15.4 points and 4.9 rebounds on 56.1 percent true shooting in starts this season. They’re still room to improve on both ends, but all things considered, they should happy with their start to the season.

7. Los Angeles Clippers

(Matt 7, Chickster 8, Jack 7, Ezzie 6)

Average: 7

Last month: 17

The Clippers started off rocky after the James Harden trade. In the first five games after Harden’s arrival, the team went 0-5 with a terrible net rating of minus-10.3. Everyone was ready to say Harden’s washed and the trade sucked. However, since then, the team has been looking good. After the 0-5 start the Clippers have gone 17-5 since. The team just needed to adjust and let Harden do his thing. The team is now ranked in the top 10 in offensive rating, right behind the reigning champion Denver Nuggets. Not only that, but the team also ranks in the top-10 in net rating, and if Paul George and Kawhi Leonard can stay healthy, this team is a true contender. — Ezzie Douek

6. Oklahoma City Thunder

(Matt 5, Chickster 5, Jack 6, Ezzie 7)

Average: 5.8

Last month: 4

Finally, after all the trades and development, the pieces of the puzzle are starting to fall into place for the Thunder. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Is having an MVP season averaging 31.4 points and 6.4 assists while leading the Thunder to the third-best record in the West. This young, exciting team is shooting an NBA-best 39.3 percent from 3-point range this season and is third in defense. This team feels a lot like last year’s Kings, where a star point guard is having an amazing season surrounded by great support. The only difference is that the Thunder are much younger and therefore lack experience come playoff time. This team isn’t quite a championship team yet, but after this season, the pieces they are missing will become much clearer, and with tons of young talent and draft picks, they can make trades for the pieces to put them in a position to win a championship soon. — Douek

5. Philadelphia 76ers

(Matt 6, Chickster 6, Jack 5, Ezzie 5)

Average: 5.5

Last month: 6

The Sixers find themselves playing great basketball at 23-10, good for third place in the Eastern Conference. In large part due to the great play of Joel Embiid, who is currently averaging 34.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 6.2 assists. He has been the driving force behind a top-4 offense up until this point and seems to be playing even better than he did last year in his MVP season. It hasn’t just Embiid, though, Tyrese Maxey has been great, averaging 25.9 points, forming one of the better guard/big man duos in the league with him and Embiid. Kelly Oubre is back, and once he gets back into the swing of things, he should provide this team with the scoring depth it was lacking in his absence. — Sabin

4. Minnesota Timberwolves

(Matt 2, Chickster 3, Jack 4, Ezzie 4)

Average: 3.3

Last month: 3

The identity of the Timberwolves seemed in question after last season, when Rudy Gobert got traded, but it didn’t really fix anything. The Timberwolves made some small changes over the offseason. Whatever it is they did, this team is playing fun team basketball and winning. They have the NBA’s best defensive rating by over two points per 100 possessions. They are also playing great offense and shooting the ball at a 38.3 percent clip from deep with the fifth-best NET Rating. This team will continue to play well unless a major injury to one of their stars occurs.– Douek

3. Milwaukee Bucks

(Matt 4, Chickster 2, Jack 3, Ezzie 3)

Average: 3

Last month: 5

Damian Lillard seems to be finding his footing and the Bucks are rolling as the 2nd best team in the East, only 2 games behind the Celtics. As I said last month, I would love for the Bucks to involve Khris Middleton more. He’s been very efficient and can still play. He’s a tier below Dame and Giannis, but he’s a tier above Bobby Portis and Brook Lopez. He’s only playing 24 minutes a game, they can give him more to make the Bucks a more balanced team. — Chickster

2. Denver Nuggets

(Matt 3, Chickster 4, Jack 2, Ezzie 2)

Average: 2.8

Last month: 2

The defending champions are still one of the best teams in the league, and will be for a while. The lack of a backup center will be their downfall if they don’t repeat. However, they’re still 3rd in the West and only 2 games out of first in the West. Look for the Nuggets to be buyers at the trade deadline for a backup center that’s better than DeAndre Jordan. — Chickster

1. Boston Celtics

(Matt 1, Chickster 1, Jack 1, Ezzie 1)

Average: 1

Last month: 1

Although the Celtics have been the pretty clear number-one team since the season started. They still seem to be unable to remove the thorn in their side that is the Golden State Warriors, blowing a big lead before eventually falling in overtime. They also were almost victims of ending the Pistons’ historic losing streak being down but more than 20 points going into the half before forcing overtime, where they held on for the win. But aside from all that, this Celtics team is just firing on all cylinders. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been excellent. Krisptas Porzingus has been great and just needs to stay healthy; same with Jrue Holiday, and Derrick White continues to show he is one of the most underrated players in the league. It’s championship or bust for Boston. How is it not with this roster?


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