News Trending Viral Worldwide

NBA Power Rankings Week 10: Can The Magic Challenge For The Play-In?

It wasn’t a surprise that the Orlando Magic sat 5-20 on the morning of Dec. 6. That isn’t to pick on Orlando by any means, but the Magic capped a nine-game losing streak with a home loss to Milwaukee and felt destined for another rough season with an eye toward Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson. Given the team’s rebuilding nature and the presence of 2022 No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero, the 5-20 record wasn’t cause for great concern. But since then, Orlando has been one of the best teams in the NBA.

The Magic are 8-2 in the last ten games and, after an ugly offensive start, Orlando is flying high. The Magic are scoring 116.5 points per 100 possessions with a 59.5 percent true shooting clip in the last ten games, bumping Orlando into a different tier from a full-season standpoint. Much of that run took place without starting center Wendell Carter Jr., who was perhaps the second-biggest bright spot behind Banchero to open the season, and he returned for the last two games to give Orlando a more complete roster.

Banchero is the clear centerpiece of Orlando’s rebuild, as he is the front-runner for Rookie of the Year in averaging 21.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game this season. Like most rookies, Banchero will need to boost his efficiency to justify star-level usage in the future, but his flashes are tremendous, and he forms an intriguing bond with fellow forward Franz Wagner. In fact, the Banchero-Wagner combination has a +8.3 net rating in the last ten games, and Orlando’s bench is also functioning well.

There are still questions about Orlando’s future backcourt, particularly with Jalen Suggs remaining sidelined with injury and a bevy of interesting yet unspectacular options like Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony, and R.J. Hampton. Banchero and Wagner help to mitigate that with on-ball chops from the forward spots, but the debate is already beginning about whether the Magic are winning so much that it will hurt their odds to get some major backcourt help via the Draft Lottery.

Yes, Orlando might be pricing itself out of the top odds and a real run at Henderson or Wembanyama. That might not be ideal for the future, but it’s not as if Orlando hasn’t been drafting near the top of the board for years and years, including the literal No. 1 pick fewer than six months ago. Don’t look now, but the Magic are just 2.5 games (!) out of the play-in as of Dec. 28. That doesn’t mean Orlando should go out and buy in the trade market with a run at the No. 10 seed as the focus, but the Magic might just be better than expected.

We’ll see if Orlando can keep this rolling but, at the very least, the Magic are jumping up the board in our DIME power rankings. Just how much did Orlando rise? Let’s find out.

1. Brooklyn Nets (22-12, Last week — 2nd)

Brooklyn is the hottest team in the league and also atop the rankings. The Nets have won nine in a row and, during that run, Brooklyn is scoring almost 1.25 points per possession. It’s not as if the Nets have the best season-long profile in the league but, after this stretch, Brooklyn is only 2.5 games behind Boston. That’s wild.

2. Boston Celtics (25-10, Last week — 6th)

The Celtics righted the ship with three straight wins this week. Boston dominated all three games, including a high-profile beatdown of the Bucks on Christmas, and there is a real argument for the Celtics at the top.

3. Denver Nuggets (22-11, Last week — 4th)

Denver is living well right now. The Nuggets are 8-1 in the last nine games, even as Denver’s net rating is “only” +5.1 in that sample. It helps to have Nikola Jokic, who continues to play at an MVP level.

4. New Orleans Pelicans (21-12, Last week — 8th)

We touched on the Pelicans’ dip last week after four straight losses. New Orleans hasn’t lost since and, in the last 14 games, the Pelicans are 10-4 and generally rolling.

5. Philadelphia 76ers (20-13, Last week — 5th)

Philly might’ve been in the top three if the rankings happened a day ago. That isn’t to say that the Sixers losing on the road to Wizards is calamitous, but Philadelphia’s eight-game winning streak came to an end. They will have to settle for a top-five ranking.

6. Milwaukee Bucks (22-11, Last week — 1st)

The Bucks had to drop after three straight losses. Stepping back, Milwaukee’s losses were all on the road against very good teams without Khris Middleton. Of course, the Bucks really need Middleton to get where they want to get, but there is no reason to panic just yet.

7. Cleveland Cavaliers (22-13, Last week — 3rd)

The Cavs actually have to leave home on Thursday. Cleveland just wrapped a two-week homestand and, even after two losses at the end, it was 4-2 and an overall success. The Cavs continue to look like a contender from a metric standpoint as well, with the No. 2 net rating in the NBA.

8. Memphis Grizzlies (20-13, Last week — 7th)

The Grizzlies are 1-4 in the last five, and three of those losses came by double figures. It was pretty embarrassing for Memphis to flop the way they did on Christmas — especially after Ja Morant’s comments about the state of the Western Conference — and a 17-point home loss to Phoenix wasn’t a great follow-up. Is there reason to worry? I’d think not, but the next two games are against the Raptors on the road and the Pelicans at home. Nothing easy there.

9. Dallas Mavericks (19-16, Last week — 15th)

It was the Luka show on Tuesday night. For one, Doncic became the first player in history to post a triple-double with at least 60 points and 20 rebounds in an overtime win over the Knicks. That is ludicrous on its own, but then Doncic also capped off the wildest comeback imaginable with a buzzer-beater in regulation that made the win and his history-making stat line possible.

10. Phoenix Suns (20-15, Last week — 9th)

Phoenix isn’t going anywhere without Devin Booker, which was already obvious but further cemented this week. The Suns did manage to beat the Grizzlies to save a larger drop.

11. L.A. Clippers (21-15, Last week — 11th)

The Clippers have overachieved when comparing point differential to record, but L.A. is also 7-2 in the last nine games after a road back-to-back sweep. Ultimately, the Clippers go as Kawhi goes from an upside standpoint, but L.A. is safely good at this point.

12. Miami Heat (17-17, Last week — 19th)

Miami gets some benefit of the doubt that other teams with the same profile wouldn’t get. I’ll admit that. The Heat also have a very instructive stretch beginning on Friday. Miami kicks off a five-game road trip that starts 2023, and given the competition, a 2-3 mark would be encouraging.

13. Orlando Magic (13-22, Last week — 20th)

The 8-2 run noted above doesn’t have to end. In fact, Orlando has three favorable matchups in a row this week against the Pistons, Wizards, and Thunder. The Magic aren’t huge favorites against anyone, at least for now, but it won’t be shocking if we look up and Orlando wins two or three of those contests.

14. Portland Trail Blazers (18-16, Last week — 13th)

Portland avoided a real dip by winning at home against Charlotte, but road games have been rough. The Blazers are 4-9 in the last 13 on the road, and Portland has four of the next five away from home.

15. Indiana Pacers (18-17, Last week — 21st)

The Pacers beat the Celtics, Heat, and Hawks in the last week. In the middle, Indiana got walloped by New Orleans, but it was a positive stretch overall. The Pacers are firmly in the mix.

16. Utah Jazz (19-17, Last week — 14th)

We’re at the point where it’s probably safe to assume the Jazz are pretty bad defensively. We’re also at the point where it’s probably safe to assume the Jazz are pretty good offensively. The end results is solid enough.

17. New York Knicks (18-17, Last week — 10th)

New York has to drop after four straight losses. We touched on Tuesday’s meltdown against Dallas above, but the Knicks became the first team in two decades to lose when leading by at least nine points with 35 seconds remaining. It was hideous. That’s all I have.

18. Sacramento Kings (17-15, Last week — 16th)

Friday’s home loss to Washington wasn’t great, but the Kings are hanging around. At the time of this post, Sacramento is in a three-way tie for the No. 7 seed, which has to be viewed as an overall success.

19. Golden State Warriors (17-18, Last week — 18th)

In a big-picture sense, the Warriors are unserious without Steph Curry, and everyone kind of knows it. Still, Golden State put together an impressive Christmas win over Memphis and followed it up by beating Charlotte at home. Holding the fort is all they can be asked to do until Curry returns.

20. Oklahoma City Thunder (15-19, Last week — 22nd)

Oklahoma just won’t fade. The Thunder have won four of five, and the only loss was in overtime to the Pelicans. Oklahoma City, like Orlando, is right on the fringe of the play-in race.

21. Toronto Raptors (15-19, Last week — 25th)

We wrote about Toronto in-depth a week ago, ad things were better at 2-1 in the last seven days. The Raptors have eight of the next nine games at home, though that run includes tilts against the Grizzlies, Suns, and Bucks.

22. Chicago Bulls (14-19, Last week — 23rd)

Chicago was going to jump considerably after three straight wins at a good time. Then, the Bulls lost at home to the Rockets by 15 points on Monday. Yikes. We’ll just call it even.

23. Atlanta Hawks (17-17, Last week — 17th)

It’s not as if the Hawks are lighting the world on fire when healthy but, when they aren’t healthy, the results are pretty bad. Atlanta lost (as a favorite) by 15 points in Indiana on Tuesday, and the Hawks now have the joy of hosting the Nets on Wednesday. If that game goes the wrong way, Atlanta will dip below .500 again.

24. Minnesota Timberwolves (16-18, Last week — 12th)

The roller coaster nature in Minnesota is wild. The Wolves have five (!) losing streaks of at least three games already this season. That is very difficult to do in a 34-game sample, but they are in a down period at this time of this post.

25. Los Angeles Lakers (14-20, Last week — 24th)

The Lakers would be even lower than this if not for a nice win over the previously scalding Magic on Tuesday. It’s clear that Los Angeles is flat-out bad without Anthony Davis, which makes sense if you even glance at the available roster. On the more encouraging side, Russell Westbrook is contributing, and LeBron has at least 28 points in eight straight games.

26. Washington Wizards (14-21, Last week — 28th)

Coming off a gross, 10-game losing streak, Washington enjoyed a positive eight-day period with three wins. It’s hard to parse what the Wizards actually are right now, largely due to a modest -2.3 net rating for the season and a roster that is better than this ranking. We’ll learn more at the end of the year, especially with the Wizards continuously trending on the trade market.

27. San Antonio Spurs (11-23, Last week — 26th)

It was an on-brand week. The Spurs beat the Jazz for a nice home win on Monday, but lost the other three games by 45 points combined. The Spurs are still in their own class of ugly net rating (-9.2), but a 5-5 mark in the last 10 games keeps Gregg Popovich’s team out of the bottom three.

28. Charlotte Hornets (9-26, Last week — 27th)

Charlotte has been a little bit better recently, winning two of the last five games. That is the more optimistic way to say that the Hornets have two wins since Dec. 2, and Charlotte ranks dead-last in offense. The Hornets do begin a four-game homestand on Thursday that might help matters.

29. Houston Rockets (10-24, Last week — 29th)

Houston is 1-6 in the last seven games, and the Rockets have the worst record in the West. The defense is the bigger issue, but Houston also has the worst turnover rate in the NBA at a whopping 17.1 percent. That is just hideous.

30. Detroit Pistons (8-28, Last week — 30th)

The Pistons led the Clippers by 14 points with three minutes to go on Tuesday and managed to lose. Detroit has one victory since Dec. 6 and it came in overtime against Charlotte. It’s gross.