30. Charlotte Hornets (11-41)
Charlotte has more wins than three teams in the league, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The Hornets rank dead-last in point-differential, and are approaching historic levels. Their negative-11.8 differential is nearly three points worse than the next closest team (Wizards are currently negative-9.1). Only three teams in league history have ever been worse than a negative-12.0. Friday’s 120-84 loss to the Bucks was the fifth time the Hornets have lost by 30-plus this year. They are also the only team that has not won a game by more than 10 points. On the other side, 27 of their 41 losses have been by at least 10 points.
29. San Antonio Spurs (10-43)
San Antonio’s current losing streak has stretched to seven in a row, as the Spurs are one of the few teams who are still winless in 2024. Rookie sensation Victor Wembanyama led the team in scoring in Saturday’s loss to the Nets (21 points in 29 minutes), breaking a streak of seven-straight in which Devin Vassell was the team’s scoring leader. Wemby’s scoring has dipped a bit in February — but that was to be expected. It was going to be difficult for him to keep up his torrid scoring pace from January in which Wembanyama was averaging 24.0 PPG in 26.7 MPG while shooting 50-percent from the field.
28. Detroit Pistons (8-44)
Wholesale changes for the Pistons arrived at the deadline, as the team marches forward in hopes of securing another top pick in the upcoming draft. Bojan Bogdanovic, Alec Burks, and Killian Hayes are gone. Monty Williams has essentially been forced into a youth movement. Ausar Thompson regained his starting role, and the 21-year-old defensive specialist has been solid in the role. Additionally, second-year guard Jaden Ivey has been on a tear. Over his last 12 games, Ivey is shooting 54-percent from beyond the arc while averaging 20.9 PPG, 4.2 APG, and 4.2 RPG. Ivey went a perfect 7-of-7 from three in a win over the Blazers last week.
27. Washington Wizards (9-43)
The Wizards were 9-37 two weeks ago, and to that point in the season had played one of the easiest schedules in the league. They proceeded to lose six in a row against stiff competition (Clippers, Heat, Suns, Cavaliers, Celtics and 76ers). They go on the road this month against five of the best teams out West — Mavericks, Pelicans, Nuggets, Thunder, and Lakers. Their only two remaining home games in February are against arguably the two hottest teams in the league — Cavaliers and Warriors. We could be looking at a team that is 9-51 by the end of the month.
26. Portland Trail Blazers (15-37)
It’s unclear how aggressive the Blazers were during the trade deadline. A team clearly headed towards the Draft Lottery, it was a bit surprising to see Portland hang onto their bundle of veterans. Of course, there’s a high probability that injuries played a part in the Blazers deciding to avoid any major moves. The one move they did make was acquire Celtics jumbo guard Dalano Banton. Banton scored 12 points in his Blazers debut on 5-of-14 shot attempts. The Blazers lost to the Grizzlies in the second lowest scoring game of the season, 93-84.
25. Memphis Grizzlies (18-35)
The Grizzlies have lost eight in a row following a three-game winning streak to end January. Injuries have completely ravaged this team. Jaren Jackson Jr. is the only starter from Opening Night who appeared in Memphis’ recent loss to the new-look Hornets. And, that Game 1 lineup didn’t even feature Ja Morant. Memphis did add a couple of intriguing role players at the deadline. Yuta Watanabe, Lamar Stevens and Jordan Goodwin should get a chance to showcase their skills for the injury-plagued Grizzlies.
24. Toronto Raptors (19-34)
It will be intriguing to see how the Raptors’ deadline decisions will play out. Instead of embracing a total rebuild, the Raptors seemingly targeted players who can help them now. By trading away Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby for proven players rather than draft assets, the Raptors are signaling they believe their current roster is good enough to make some noise in the Eastern Conference. At 19-34, obviously that belief hasn’t materialized just yet. Though, their star Scottie Barnes was recognized for his strong campaign by being named an All-Star (alternate) last week.
23. Brooklyn Nets (21-31)
The Nets are in the NBA’s purgatory. They have enough good offensive players who can fill it up on any given night. However, they currently find themselves just outside of a play-in spot. And, it seems like they’ve gotten worse as the season has gone on. The Nets are 5-11 over their last 16, and it’s not looking good for their next two matchups with a back-to-back versus the first-place Celtics on the docket. On the court, Cam Thomas’ improved playmaking has been a good sign. Thomas set a new career-high with 8 assists Tuesday versus the Mavericks.
22. Chicago Bulls (25-28)
Brooklyn’s next door neighbor in the NBA’s purgatory are the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls made one of the most puzzling decisions of any team at the deadline, opting to stand pat and not make any major moves. Of course, Zach LaVine was off the table following the news that he was undergoing season-ending surgery. However, the team failed to get anything for DeMar DeRozan’s expiring contract, and held onto defensive-specialist Alex Caruso despite reportedly receiving some lucrative offers. The Bulls currently hold a play-in spot in the Eastern Conference, but this is a team headed nowhere, and fast.
21. Houston Rockets (23-29)
The Rockets have been on a skid ever since Fred VanVleet went down with an injury. While the former Raptor has been up-and-down individually in his first year in Houston, there’s no denying his calmness and impact for a young team. The Rockets have lost four in a row since VanVleet was injured, though former No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green has shined as of late. The 22-year-old guard posted his first career triple double in Saturday’s loss to the Hawks. Green has also poured in 30-plus points in four of his last nine outings.
20. Utah Jazz (26-27)
Utah is just 4-7 over their last 11 games, but they did pick up a pair of wins over the Bucks and Thunder last week. Lauri Markkanen was unstoppable against OKC, converting on 12-of-18 shot attempts for 33 points and 11 rebounds. However, Utah’s defense was once again a no-show in their most recent outing versus the Suns. Phoenix scored 129 in the win, and shot a blistering 59-percent from the field. The Jazz’s next five games will be at home, with their next three coming against teams directly above them in the Western Conference standings.
19. Atlanta Hawks (24-29)
The Hawks have played better as of late, and that may have played into their decision in holding onto Dejounte Murray through the trade deadline. The Hawks are winners of six of their last eight, with the two losses being single-digit defeats to two of the best teams in the league (Clippers and Celtics). Murray carried the way Saturday, pouring in 34 points in a win over the Rockets. Two nights prior, recently-named All-Star Trae Young looked unstoppable versus the 76ers — finishing with 37 points and 12 assists in the road victory.
18. Orlando Magic (29-24)
Magic fans hoping for a big trade deadline acquisition were left a bit disappointed. However, rolling with their current core might have been the best course of action, for now. Franz Wagner missed most of January, but has returned and is playing at an All-Star level. Wagner has scored 30-plus in three of his last four games (all Magic wins), and is shooting 56-percent from the field this month. When Wagner and Paolo Banchero are playing, this Magic team is tough to beat. Especially when they’re rolling out lineups that feature their two stars next to a pair of elite defensive players in Jalen Suggs and Jonathan Issac.
17. Philadelphia 76ers (31-21)
The 76ers are spiraling. We knew the team wasn’t going to perform at an elite level with Joel Embiid out. However, this current skid is becoming increasingly concerning. Philly had lost eight of nine before finally picking up a win over the lowly Wizards on Saturday. Their next few opponents won’t be nearly as much of a cakewalk. Philly will play the top-4 teams in the Eastern Conference over the next six games (Celtics, Cavs twice, Bucks, and Knicks), plus the defending Eastern Conference champion Heat.
16. Miami Heat (28-25)
After defeating the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, Miami can’t seem to find the winning formula against Boston this year. The Celtics have taken each of the first three meetings over the Heat this season. Of course, the most recent matchup between the two teams Sunday did not feature Heat star Jimmy Butler. Though, the C’s thrashed the Heat (with Butler) just a few weeks ago by 30 on Miami’s home floor. Miami’s loss to Boston marks the last home game for the Heat this month. Their next six games — sandwiched around the All-Star break — will all come on the road before returning home on March 2nd against the Jazz.
15. Golden State Warriors (25-25)
The Warriors have officially arrived in 2024. Golden State got off to a horrible start to the season, but have turned the corner ever since Draymond Green returned to the lineup. The Warriors are 7-3 over their last 10. The three losses included two overtime defeats plus a one-point loss to the Kings. They’ve been top-10 in both offense and defense over that stretch. Saturday’s win over the Suns was arguably the team’s biggest win of the season. Steph Curry knocked down a cold-blooded three-pointer with less than a second to go, and Green locked down Kevin Durant on Phoenix’s final possession to seal the win.
14. Los Angeles Lakers (28-26)
There seems to be some stability revealing itself within the Lakers. After an up-and-down start to the year, the Lakers posted a strong road trip which featured wins over the Warriors, Celtics, and Knicks. The Boston win was especially impressive with both LeBron James and Anthony Davis sitting out. Thursday saw the team unveiling the new Kobe Bryant statue. Later that night, the Lakers dropped their sixth straight to the Nuggets (dating back to last year’s postseason). LA is hoping Spencer Dinwiddie — signed from the buyout market — will help make up for some of the injuries they’ve sustained as of late.
13. Indiana Pacers (30-24)
It was an all-out team effort for the Pacers in their recent win in Madison Square Garden. While the hosting Knicks are a bit short-handed, they stood no chance for Indiana’s fast-paced, up-tempo attack. The Pacers shot 61-percent from the field and 48-percent from three in the impressive victory. Myles Turner shot 9-of-9 from the field, while Tyrese Haliburton poured in 22 points and 12 assists with just one turnover.
12. New Orleans Pelicans (31-22)
New Orleans is 5-1 over their last six, and are now the sixth-seed in the Western Conference. The lone loss during this recent stretch did sting a bit. The Pels were blitzed by the Lakers for a second time this season (the first being a 40-point blowout during the In-Season Tournament). The Lakers scored a team record 87 points in the first half, 51 of which were scored in the second quarter. New Orleans’ defense bounced back the next night, allowing just 84 points in a win over the Blazers. Zion Williamson has looked dominant in February, averaging 25.0 PPG, 6.0 APG, and 5.8 RPG over four games.
11. Sacramento Kings (30-22)
Domantas Sabonis was one of the biggest snubs from the All-Star game, but that hasn’t slowed him down one bit. The 27-year-old big man has turned in triple doubles in each of his last two outings. He out-played two-time MVP Nikola Jokic in their most recent meeting. Sabonis registered 17 points (on only nine shot attempts), 17 rebounds and 10 assists in a 29-point blowout victory over the defending champions. The Kings couldn’t contain the Thunder on Sunday, but will get two more opportunities to prove themselves on the road before the break. Sacramento’s last matchups before the All-Star break are road dates with the Suns and Nuggets.
10. Dallas Mavericks (30-23)
Dubbed as “winners” following the trade deadline, the Mavericks looked excellent in their first outing since the acquisitions. Hosting a well-rounded Thunder group, the Mavs put a beatdown on their conference rivals. Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving combined for 57 points, 17 assists and 14 rebounds. Perhaps even more importantly, Dallas’ two trade deadline adds both looked great. Daniel Gafford scored 19 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in just 17 minutes of action. P.J. Washington logged 24 minutes, and added 14 points plus 5 rebounds. It’s unclear if both will continue to come off the bench, but the Mavs added considerable depth, rim protection, and athleticism at the deadline.
9. Milwaukee Bucks (34-19)
Is the sky falling in Milwaukee? Not quite yet, but Chicken Little is certainly feeling something in loins. The Bucks needed a home date with the Hornets to end a three-game skid. Khris Middleton is out until at least the All-Star break with an ankle injury. Perhaps the break is what the team and Doc Rivers need to regroup. After joining the team from the broadcast booth, Rivers has struggled to get acclimated. The Bucks have three more games prior to the break with the next two coming against the Finals participants from last year (Nuggets and Heat).
8. Phoenix Suns (31-22)
One thing about the Suns is abundantly clear: when their three stars play, they are tough to beat. That’s what makes Golden State’s win over them on Saturday that much more impressive. For Phoenix’s purposes, it’s nothing to be concerned about. Heading into that game, the Suns had won 17-6 over their previous 23. Bradley Beal has fit in nicely next to the Suns’ two stars. Grayson Allen is shooting considerably worse this month than he was last month… and he’s still shooting 40-percent from three in February (it was 56-percent in January). Allen also poured in a career-high 14 assists in Phoenix’s win over the Jazz on Thursday.
7. New York Knicks (33-20)
This next week will be all about staying afloat and getting healthy for the Knicks. The All-Star break could not have come at a better time with Julius Randle and OG Anunoby both nursing injuries. When they return to the lineup, they’ll be greeted by two new faces who made their Knicks debut this past Saturday. In the loss to Indiana, former Pacer Bojan Bogdanovic scored 10 points and 3 rebounds while Alec Burks poured in 22 points. Both should help provide some offense for one of the league’s top defensive groups. First-time All-Star Jalen Brunson has continued his brilliance. Since the start of January, Brunson is averaging 30.3 PPG and 7.3 APG on 50-percent shooting.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder (36-17)
The Thunder have nights where they look absolutely unstoppable. Then, some nights they reveal themselves as a bunch of 20-somethings who are still trying to find their footing. And, that’s okay for the second-youngest team in the league who are currently just a half-game out of first-place in the Western Conference. OKC got demolished in Dallas, surrendering a season-high 146 points to the new-look Mavs. The very next night, the young Thunder responded with a strong win over the visiting Kings. The Thunder have not lost more than two games in a row all year, and boast the league’s second-best point-differential at plus-7.1.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves (36-16)
Currently alone atop the Western Conference, the last couple of weeks have been up-and-down for the Wolves who are 6-5 over their last 11 games. The losses over that stretch have included some puzzling defeats — Minnesota has recently lost to Charlotte, San Antonio and Chicago. However, they’ve also stacked up some impressive wins over the likes of Oklahoma City, Dallas and Milwaukee. The Wolves’ offense was clicking in the Fiserv Forum, knocking down 21 threes in a 24-point blowout victory over the hosting Bucks.
4. Denver Nuggets (36-17)
The Nuggets simply have the Lakers’ number. It seems like every time these two teams matchup, it always goes down the same way. Both sides play mostly even for the first 90-percent of the game, and then the Nuggets make all the right plays down the stretch and cruise to victory. That was the formula in Thursday’s win as the defending champions spoiled the Kobe Bryant statue unveiling. Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. combined for 80 points as the Nuggets defeated the Lakers for the sixth consecutive time.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (35-16)
The hottest team in the NBA currently, Cleveland has won 17 of their last 18 games. The Cavs won their ninth in a row Saturday in a dominant victory over the Raptors. They’ve held their last two opponents under 100 points. Donovan Mitchell is playing at an All-NBA level. Perhaps most impressive about their current run is the Cavaliers have been short-handed. Darius Garland and Evan Mobley have missed a combined 47 games this year, and both are now back in the lineup. The rotation will require some tinkering, but the Cavs look as good as any team in the league right now.
2. Los Angeles Clippers (35-16)
Speaking of teams currently streaking, the Clippers have not slowed down at all. After starting the season 8-10, the Clippers are 27-6 over their last 33 and have looked like the team to beat in the Western Conference. James Harden has been the perfect fit as he’s been extremely efficient as the team’s lead guard. Paul George seemed to break out of a funk in a recent win over the Pistons, eclipsing 30 points for the first time in several weeks. LA is one of only two teams to rank in the top-10 in PPG and opponents PPG.
1. Boston Celtics (41-12)
The Celtics’ are still the team to beat. Barring health, they boast the league’s most complete starting lineup. Boston is 8-2 over their last 10 with the lone blemishes coming against the two LA teams. Kristaps Porzingis has not slowed down despite picking up a couple of minor injuries. In February, Porzingis is averaging 26.6 PPG, 7.6 RPG and 2.4 BPG while shooting 56-percent from the field. When he plays well, this team is nearly impossible to stop.