National Basketball Association
2024 NBA Power Rankings: Can the Celtics and Thunder stay on top?
National Basketball Association

2024 NBA Power Rankings: Can the Celtics and Thunder stay on top?

Updated May. 30, 2024 4:00 p.m. ET

Entering the final week of the NBA regular season, the top of the FOX Sports NBA power rankings belonged to the Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets, two teams who have spent the most time there over the last five months and remain the prohibitive favorites to finish the postseason there as well.

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Conversely, the thin air at the top once again proved to be too much for the Oklahoma City Thunder. (The absence of their top two scorers, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams, didn't help.) Entering last week at No. 1, the Thunder promptly suffered their longest losing streak of the season, falling to the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers before eking out a win over the Charlotte Hornets. While the slide bolstered Gilgeous-Alexander's bid for this season's Most Valuable Player award — SGA missed all four games with a quad injury — it slid OKC to sixth in the rankings and raised questions about their playoff readiness.

Surging past them were the Celtics, Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers. Both the Mavs and Clippers, after up-and-down seasons, appear to be finding their stride at just the right time. The Mavs have won 14 of their last 16 games and the Clippers have won six of their last seven.


The other top team stumbling to the finish is the Milwaukee Bucks, who entered last week seventh in the power rankings but fell out of the top 10 by losing four straight. They now face the possibility of starting the postseason on the road with the Orlando Magic, New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers all within 1 1/2 games of overtaking them. It doesn't help that Milwaukee has a daunting final stretch, facing the Celtics, Thunder and Magic (twice).

At the other end of the spectrum, the Celtics reclaimed the top spot with a 4-0 week, assuring them of the best overall record in the league and home-court advantage against whoever they face in the postseason.

[Related: NBA Playoffs: One question for each first-round series]

Elsewhere, any remaining suspense over who will be playing beyond the 82-game schedule ended. Five consecutive losses doused the Houston Rockets' hopes of catching the Golden State Warriors for the 10th and final play-in tournament berth and the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks locked themselves into the ninth and 10th spots in the East. If there's one last wisp of intrigue, it's the status of Joel Embiid, whose return provided a major boost to the Philadelphia 76ers on the floor and in the rankings; how close can he get to playoff form after returning from a two-month absence?

Big picture, all that is left is jockeying for playoff seeding and first-round matchups — and one last power ranking to determine who is poised to out- or under-perform their place in the final standings.

And so the litmus test of how well regular-season superiority translates to postseason success begins. The Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder enter the playoffs 1-2 in the final FOX Sports NBA power rankings for the 2023-24 season, the Celtics by virtue of being the league's only 60-plus win team and the Thunder by virtue of finishing on a 5-0 run that earned them the top spot in the Western Conference, nudging the Denver Nuggets to No. 2 in the west and third in the power rankings.

There is reason to wonder if either team can live up to the standard they've set for themselves. Concerns about the Celtics were kindled anew with their losses in the final week to both the Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks, one of which they are sure to face again in the next few weeks. For the Thunder it is simply that they are now in uncharted territory, this being the first time in four years they've escaped the draft lottery.

The final week of the season bore witness to some sizable shifts in the power paradigm. The Phoenix Suns rode a three-game winning streak to escape the play-in tournament and snare the sixth seed, while the New Orleans Pelicans lost a pivotal season-ending battle with the Los Angeles Lakers and then Zion Williamson to injury in a play-in redux with the Lakers, dropping them into the eighth playoff spot and out of the top 10 in the power rankings. The Knicks, on the other hand, copied the Thunder with a 5-0 closing run that catapulted them into the East's No. 2 slot and, combined with the Dallas Mavericks' season-ending wobble and the Los Angeles Clippers' 0-3 season-ending thud, into the rankings' top five.

[Related: NBA Playoffs predictions: Nuggets send Lakers home again, Pacers upset Bucks]

NBA Power Rankings

  1. Boston Celtics
  2. Oklahoma City Thunder
  3. Denver Nuggets
  4. Minnesota Timberwolves
  5. New York Knicks
  6. Dallas Mavericks
  7. Phoenix Suns
  8. LA Clippers
  9. Orlando Magic
  10. Cleveland Cavaliers
  11. Milwaukee Bucks
  12. New Orleans Pelicans
  13. Los Angeles Lakers
  14. Indiana Pacers
  15. Philadelphia 76ers
  16. Miami Heat
  17. Sacramento Kings
  18. Chicago Bulls
  19. Golden State Warriors
  20. Houston Rockets
  21. San Antonio Spurs
  22. Atlanta Hawks
  23. Brooklyn Nets
  24. Memphis Grizzlies
  25. Charlotte Hornets
  26. Toronto Raptors
  27. Utah Jazz
  28. Portland Trail Blazers
  29. Washington Wizards
  30. Detroit Pistons

Ric Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He previously wrote for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine and The Washington Post and has written two books, "Rebound," on NBA forward Brian Grant's battle with young onset Parkinson's, and "Yao: A Life In Two Worlds." He also has a weekly podcast, "On The Ball with Ric Bucher." Follow him on Twitter @RicBucher.

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