After the team’s best season in nearly a decade, the Memphis Grizzlies entered the 2022-23 campaign with considerable expectations. Memphis was thrust into the contender tier with good reason, and the Grizzlies’ combination of young talent, intriguing depth, and organizational stability was the envy of the league. Memphis didn’t exactly fall flat on its face at the start of the year, but the Grizzlies were just 12-9 at the end of November and just staying afloat rather than dominating the competition.
Since the calendar flipped to December, though, Memphis is the best team in the NBA. The Grizzlies are 18-4 since Dec. 1, outscoring opponents by 10.6 points per 100 possessions. That is the best mark in the league by more than three points, and Memphis is also on the league’s longest active winning streak, picking up 10 victories in a row. The Grizzlies are bludgeoning opponents with a 119.9 offensive rating and a 106.5 defensive rating in that 10-game sample, and Memphis is now projected as the favorite to win the Western Conference by the folks at FiveThirtyEight.
Of course, that doesn’t ensure anything, but the Grizzlies are also looking the part and appearing to be quite scary at full strength. Jaren Jackson Jr. missed the start of the season, but the Grizzlies are allowing only 1.02 points per possession when he’s on the floor, and he’s a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Desmond Bane is also rounding into form, including a 59 percent three-point clip in the last five games, and Ja Morant remains the centerpiece with a superstar level of performance.
The West remains an intriguing and wide-open gauntlet right now, but it certainly wouldn’t be crazy to install the Grizzlies as the favorite to emerge at the end. Memphis just throttled Phoenix by a 30-point margin on a national stage, and the Grizzlies are laying waste to anything in their path at this stage. There is a long way to go but, after a so-so start, Memphis is now rocking and rolling at its highest possible level.
Where do the Grizzlies rank this week in our DIME power rankings? You won’t have to scroll down very far.
1. Memphis Grizzlies (30-13, Last week — 1st)
The Grizzlies host the Cavaliers on Wednesday before heading out on a five-game road trip. Memphis may not continue to win every game, but the Grizzlies are very, very good and they’ve earned this spot.
2. Boston Celtics (33-12, Last week — 2nd)
Boston has the best season-long profile in the league, leading the NBA in net rating and offensive rating. The Celtics are also on a seven-game winning streak, with five of those victories coming on the road. Honestly, there is a good argument for Boston at No. 1 this week, and they are clearly in the top two alongside Memphis.
3. Denver Nuggets (31-13, Last week — 3rd)
All the Nuggets have done is continue to win. Denver is No. 2 in offense and No. 4 in net rating with an active seven-game winning streak. It also helps to have Nikola Jokic, who just put up a 36-12-10 performance on 13-for-14 shooting in a win over Portland. He’s an alien.
4. Philadelphia 76ers (28-16, Last week — 5th)
Philadelphia was 12-12. Now, Philadelphia is 28-16. The 76ers have a +6.8 net rating in the last 20 games and even managed to go 2-1 without Joel Embiid. By the way, Embiid is averaging 35.8 points on 56 percent shooting over the last 11 games.
5. Milwaukee Bucks (29-16, Last week — 6th)
On the court, the Bucks are doing just fine. The big story is Giannis Antetokounmpo missing four straight games and, even after a back-to-back sweep without him, the reality is that Milwaukee is probably drawing dead at the highest levels without Giannis and Khris Middleton available to juice the offense.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers (28-17, Last week — 7th)
Donovan Mitchell is facing a groin issue, which is something to keep an eye on at this stage. Beyond that, Cleveland is hanging around the top tier after a trip to the west that wasn’t great but was bookended with a nice win over New Orleans.
7. Brooklyn Nets (27-16, Last week — 4th)
Out of respect for the full-season profile, Brooklyn doesn’t totally plummet. The Nets aren’t the same without Kevin Durant, though, and Brooklyn has dropped three in a row, including one without Kyrie Irving as well.
8. Sacramento Kings (24-18, Last week — 15th)
The Kings get a big bump on the strength of a winning streak and middling play all around them. Sacramento is on a four-game run, though it is worth noting that the wins came against Orlando, Houston (twice), and San Antonio. All they’re doing is taking care of business.
9. New Orleans Pelicans (26-18, Last week — 9th)
New Orleans is just trying to keep it together without both Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. The Pelicans are 15-10 without Ingram and 3-4 without Zion (so far), and that is pretty respectable, all things considered.
10. Miami Heat (24-21, Last week — 11th)
Miami dug a massive hole and lost in Atlanta on Monday. That wasn’t a great performance in a playoff rematch, but the Heat are 12-6 in the last 18 and playing much better on the whole.
11. New York Knicks (25-20, Last week — 12th)
Both losses came at home, which isn’t great, but the Knicks are 7-2 in the last nine games. The trio of Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, and Jalen Brunson really has it going, and we live in a world where New York sits in the top ten of the league in offensive rating.
12. Golden State Warriors (22-22, Last week — 18th)
The Warriors aren’t exactly in high gear when compared to last season, though the flashes are real. Stephen Curry tossed up 41 points on Monday in a road win, and Golden State gets default respect that they’ve earned in the big picture.
13. Atlanta Hawks (22-22, Last week — 19th)
The off-court vibes are horrendous in Atlanta with story after story about front office and ownership turmoil. On the court, though, the Hawks just had arguably their best three-game stretch of the season, sweeping a road back-to-back and then beating a Miami team that has flummoxed Atlanta for a while. Now, the Hawks go to Dallas for a Young vs. Doncic showdown on Wednesday, but Atlanta’s on-court performance feels different than it did a week ago.
14. Dallas Mavericks (24-21, Last week — 10th)
Dallas has dropped four of the last five, though it’s notable that Luka Doncic missed two of those games. The Mavericks have a thoroughly bizarre offensive profile that features dead-last rankings in assists, points in the paint, and fast break points while still landing in the top six or seven of the league in offensive efficiency. Luka is pretty good.
15. Oklahoma City Thunder (21-23, Last week — 24th)
The Thunder are… pretty good? Oklahoma City has outscored its opponents for the season, and the Thunder are 5-1 in the last six. While Shai Gilgeous-Alexander deserves every bit of praise, it was also a big weekend for Josh Giddey, who put up 25-10-6 on Friday and followed it with 28-9-9 on Sunday. That’ll do.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (22-23, Last week — 13th)
Minnesota got a positive bump last week and regresses a bit this time. The Wolves are 6-2 in the last eight, but just 2-2 in the last four with losses to Detroit and Utah. Another shrug emoji for Minnesota.
17. L.A. Clippers (23-23, Last week — 16th)
If anyone tells you they know what the Clippers really are at full strength, they probably don’t. Paul George returned from a five-game absence in a road loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday, which helps.
18. Utah Jazz (23-24, Last week — 21st)
Utah’s numbers over a pretty large sample are pretty ugly, but the Jazz are 3-1 in the last four. Monday’s one-point road win over Minnesota bumped the Jazz up a couple of spots in the pecking order.
19. Indiana Pacers (23-22, Last week — 8th)
I guess there might be a DIME curse. The Pacers were featured a week ago on the upswing and promptly turned around and lost four in a row. Indiana’s losing streak came against good competition and while shorthanded, but a crash in the rankings has to happen.
20. Los Angeles Lakers (20-24, Last week — 14th)
The reality of what the Lakers are and aren’t without Anthony Davis has set in if you’re paying attention. That doesn’t take away from the absurdity of LeBron James, who casually put up 48 points in a win over Houston on Monday. The man is 38 years old.
21. Portland Trail Blazers (21-23, Last week — 25th)
The Blazers haven’t beaten a team other than the Mavericks since Jan. 2. On the bright side, Portland played (and beat) Dallas twice this week to stop the bleeding of a losing streak.
22. Chicago Bulls (20-24, Last week — 20th)
Chicago is in Paris to play Detroit on Thursday, so it’s been quiet since Sunday. The Bulls did beat the Warriors on that particular day, with Nikola Vucevic posting his best game of the season with 43 points and 13 rebounds.
23. Toronto Raptors (20-25, Last week — 22nd)
Toronto’s road win in New York on MLK Day was encouraging. Unfortunately, the Raptors lost in ugly fashion at home to Atlanta and then turned around and lost to the Bucks without Giannis and Middleton on Tuesday. At the moment, the Raptors are out of the play-in tournament in the East, which is remarkable.
24. Phoenix Suns (21-24, Last week — 17th)
Devin Booker’s absence has to be noted when talking about how poorly Phoenix is playing. Still, the Suns are 2-12 in the last 14 games, and that is a staggeringly ugly run for an established contender. Obviously, the Suns are better than this when at even close to full strength, but things are going very poorly right now.
25. Washington Wizards (18-26, Last week — 26th)
Washington actually rises by a spot despite losing five of the last six games. The Wizards lost two single-digit games to quality teams and also beat the Bulls this week. That was good enough to avoid falling.
26. Orlando Magic (16-28, Last week — 23rd)
The Magic had a heck of a run in December, but the regression monster arrived. Orlando is just 3-7 in the last ten games, though a closer look may be a little bit more encouraging given the quality of competition. Also, the Magic have a very strange four-day break between games with Orlando returning to the floor on Friday.
27. Detroit Pistons (12-35, Last week — 29th)
Detroit’s been out of action since Sunday as the Pistons will face the Bulls in Paris on Thursday. The Pistons did pick up a nice win over Minnesota to jump out of the bottom three, but Detroit is still 1-5 in the last six and 4-13 in the last 17.
28. San Antonio Spurs (14-31, Last week — 27th)
The Spurs snapped a five-game losing streak with a nice home win over Brooklyn on Tuesday. That victory isn’t quite as impressive when accounting for the absence of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, though, and San Antonio’s season-long profile is gross.
29. Charlotte Hornets (11-34, Last week — 28th)
Wednesday will feature a headline-grabbing showdown between the last two teams on this list. The Hornets visit the Rockets (see below) in a battle for basement supremacy. Get your popcorn ready.
30. Houston Rockets (10-34, Last week — 30th)
It is really ugly for the Rockets. Houston is 1-16 over the last month and change, and the Rockets are on an 11-game losing streak. The league’s worst offense is the primary culprit, but the Rockets are also dire on defense and the vibes do not appear to be immaculate.