NBA

NBA Power Poll: Where do the Kings stand in the rankings?

Jan 9, 2024, 3:00 PM | Updated: 8:35 pm

De'Aaron Fox #5 of the Sacramento Kings high fives Malik Monk #0 during the second half of the NBA ...

Kelsey Grant/Getty Images

It’s already January if you can believe it, basketball fans! That means the NBA is approaching the halfway point of the regular season.

With most teams already playing 35 games, now seems like a good time to take a pulse around the country. Where the contenders, pretenders and downright awful franchises currently sit as the trade deadline approaches. And of course, where the Sacramento Kings lie at the current moment.

Here’s how the NBA landscape currently looks.

1. Boston Celtics

Record: 28-8

Last 10 Games: 8-2

Probably the most complete team in the NBA today, the Boston Celtics are full steam ahead this season.

The Celtics offense has been revolutionized by the acquisition of Kristaps Porzingis, using him a variety of ways to complement Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Additionally, the combo of Derrick White and Jrue Holiday at the guard spots is lethal, providing both offense and defense in spades. 

Sure, the latter isn’t at the same peak athletically as he was when the Milwaukee Bucks won the title. But getting slightly-diminished version of Holiday is enough to transform Boston.

If this starting lineup can stay healthy, they should be the favorites to make the NBA Finals.

Their only weakness is depth, probably needing another guard/wing and a big man to solidify the rotation. And we know Brad Stevens loves to stay active at the trade deadline.

2. Milwaukee Bucks

Record: 25-12

Last 10 Games: 5-5

Milwaukee took a big risk trading for 33-year-old Damian Lillard in the offseason. But after some early hiccups, they’ve figured it out to an extent.

The Bucks are the third-best offensive in the NBA (122.6 offensive rating), which is no surprise when you have Lillard and Giannis Antetokoumpo on the same team. Both men are averaging more than 55 points per game combined, forming a lethal 1-2 punch. Khris Middleton has also started to come around in recent weeks, scoring 23 points in a Monday night loss to the Utah Jazz. 

Milwaukee’s problems lie on defense however, ranked 22nd in the league.

That’s why I’d expect them to be buyers at the trade deadline, looking to add perimeter defense opposite of Lillard. If they don’t, this team could be capped in the postseason. 

But then again, it’s Dame and Giannis. If there are two superstars that could propel a franchise to success, it’d be this combo.

3. Philadelphia 76ers

Record: 23-12

Last 10 Games: 5-5

Philly has been a great story to watch all season, somehow adding by subtracting. 

By trading James Harden to LA, the 76ers allowed rising star Tyrese Maxey to flourish, having a career year. The Kentucky alum is averaging almost 26 PPG, and 6.6 APG this season, on the cusp of his first All-Star selection.

But everything depends on MVP Joel Embiid, and 2023-24 might be the peak of his powers. 

Embiid is averaging 34.6 PPG, 11.8 RPG and 6.0 APG. The 76ers, as a team, have the fifth-best offense and third-best defense in basketball. New coach Nick Nurse is a part of that equation, but Embiid is the catalyst.

Philly is built to make some noise in the postseason, and could be a major player at the deadline for the final pieces to the puzzle. Whether president of basketball operations Daryl Morey makes a big swing or little swing is still TBD.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves

Record: 25-10

Last 10 Games: 5-5

Oh how much a few months can change the outlook of a franchise.

During the offseason, Timberwolves fans and the national media were ready to send Rudy Gobert adrift, calling that trade the worst in years. And it may still have been an overpay, but it’s working nonetheless.

Minnesota is the best defense in the NBA (108.7), with Gobert returning to his All-NBA defensive form. Additionally, Karl-Anthony Towns has bought into his role, filling in the gaps on both sides of the court. Jaden McDaniels has also been a important part of the cog, especially defensively.

But this franchise’s fortunes turned around when they drafted Anthony Edwards in 2020. 

The 22-year-old has taken control of this squad, emerging as the superstar many expected him to be. He’s having a career year, with 26.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG and 5.0 APG. He’s figuring out how to be “the guy” in Year 4 of the NBA, very impressive.

What’s more important however, is his ability to lead, getting everyone to buy-in to their roles on the team.

Is it perfect? No. Their offense still needs work, ranked 22nd at the moment.

But for now, the Timberwolves are thrilled about the position of their franchise, hoping to make it to the Western Conference Finals in a few months.

5. Denver Nuggets

Record: 26-12

Last 10 Games: 8-2

The defending champs are having a bit of a hangover from last season, sleepwalking their way through the first part of the regular season. But when they turn it on, Denver is as good as anybody. 

And that’s primarily because of Nikola Jokic. 

But it’s also because of other factors, like coaching with Michael Malone, or the supporting cast with Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. The Nuggets are currently ranked seventh on offense and ninth on defense, about where you want to be after 38 games. 

They’ll likely turn on the accelerators as the spring comes, firmly focused on going back-to-back this summer.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder

Record: 24-11

Last 10 Games: 7-3

The new darlings of the NBA, the youthful Oklahoma City Thunder.

Sam Presti has done it again, building a roster of young, talented players that play hard every single second of the game. Jalen Williams has taken a big second-year leap, Josh Giddey has shown improvement with his shooting and rookie Cason Wallace is a great backup PG in Year 1. Oh, and Chet Holmgren is a few years away from being the star big-man they need.

This team is propelled by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander though, firmly planted in MVP conversations this season. SGA is averaging 31.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 6.4 APG on almost 55% shooting. Unreal numbers, especially for a player not near his peak yet (only 25 years old).

Currently the second-best team in the West, OKC is playing with house money this postseason, working to gain experience in high-pressure moments.

And who knows, they could add another big talent to expedite the process, they have all the draft picks in the world to make it happen. Watch for the Thunder at the trade deadline.

7. Los Angeles Clippers

Record: 23-13

Last 10 Games: 7-3

After starting the year 3-7, the Clippers have clawed their way back up power rankings by going 20-6 since. And that’s largely due to James Harden playing his part. 

The Harden trade was a big risk, but it has had big rewards, helping them to the eighth-best offense in the NBA. Harden is conducting the offense to a tee, picking his spots to play iso ball in a more complementary fashion.

Paul George has also been good this year (healthy too). But a star-studded roster comes down to the best player, and that would be Kawhi Leonard.

Leonard has available this season, playing in 32 contests. When he is on, he looks like old Kawhi from the 2019 Toronto Raptors team that won the chip.

But still, how long is this aging core going to stay healthy? That’s the real key to everything.

But for now, they are healthy and playing, hoping to be saying that in the playoffs.

8. Miami Heat

Record: 21-15

Last 10 Games: 6-4

The same ole’ Miami Heat, win enough games in the regular season to have home court in Round 1 of the playoffs. 

Miami sits at 21-15 right now, fifth in the East. And that’s without Jimmy Butler for 16 contests, and Tyler Herro for 18. Miami just finds a way to grind out enough wins to be in the contender mix by April. This season has been the revolution of rookie Jamie Jaquez Jr., serving as the incumbent sixth man at the moment.

Miami will be around by the end of the year, even if they sleepwalk until March.

9. Orlando Magic

Record: 21-15

Last 10 Games: 5-5

The Eastern Conference darlings of the NBA. Dare I say, the Magic are good at basketball again.

Orlando is currently fourth in the East, using a variety of youth to play hard and physical on both ends of the court. Second-year coach Jamahl Moseley has revitalized the franchise, getting buy-in from every single player on the roster. The Magic are fourth on defense, but 21st on offense. So there’s still more work to be done.

But considering the roster of zero All-Stars (so far), isn’t this a blessing for this franchise?

There real potential lies in the development of Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero, especially with the former. In the month of January, the second-year forward has scored 34.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG and 6.5 APG. He’s also doing it on 58.3% true shooting. Banchero’s last three games finished with 43, 32 and 35 points. 

He’s figuring it out at 21 years old.

Wagner has also been a key cog, becoming the connector on offense. While his ceiling isn’t at the level of his counterpart, an All-Star berth is in the cards for the German down the line.

Oh, and Jalen Suggs is a menace on defense.

What makes this season even more impressive is that they’ve done it without Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Issac and Wendell Carter Jr. for various parts of the season.

Look for Orlando to be buyers at the trade deadline, maybe feeling a significant piece or two away from becoming a contender in the East for years to come.

10. New York Knicks

Record: 21-15

Last 10 Games: 6-4

The Knicks are back! Maybe. At least for now.

After trading away R.J. Barrett and Immanuel Quickley for O.G. Anunoby, New York has gone on a four-game win streak. Not only that, they’ve scored 110 or more points in each contest, and held opponents to 106 or less. That would be best in the NBA defensively. 

The biggest story has been Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle, combining for 55-plus points in each of the last 10 games. The former is also distributing the rock well, while the latter is getting rebounds and hustling. If those two can keep that pace, watch out.

Expect the Knicks to be buyers at the deadline, feeling another offensive spark-plug away from being a real threat.

11. Dallas Mavericks

Record: 22-15

Last 10 Games: 6-4

12. Sacramento Kings

Record: 21-14

Last 10 Games: 5-5

This might seem low for the Kings, considering they are fifth in the West. But let’s be honest: What about Sunday’s 33-point loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, at home, inspires confidence that this team can win a playoff series?

And, that was without Zion Williamson on the court. 

Sacramento is actually on pace for their 45-win season a year ago, having their best start since the 2004-05 season at 16-9. They’ve gone 5-5 since, with losses to New Orleans, Charlotte and Portland on the books. It’s not that Sacramento is losing games, it’s that they are losing games by such large amounts.

The Kings are 14th in offensive rating and 20th in defensive rating this season, despite bringing back the same team that led the NBA in offense a year ago. 

Clearly, something isn’t working, which is a shame. De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis and Malik Monk have been the only pillars of consistency in 2023-24. The rest have been up and down, reflective of the team’s record. 

Monte McNair knows this roster isn’t getting it done come playoff time; A move is necessary. How big of a swing remains to be seen, but we know he likes to wheel and deal at the right price.

13. Cleveland Cavaliers

Record: 21-15

Last 10 Games: 7-3

14. New Orleans Pelicans

Record: 22-15

Last 10 Games: 6-4

15. Phoenix Suns 

Record: 19-18

Last 10 Games: 5-5

16. Los Angeles Lakers 

Record: 18-19

Last 10 Games: 3-7

The cycle is likely to repeat itself in Tinseltown. 

Lakers get out to poor start, coaching frustrations, they fire said coach, make a big swing at the deadline to help LeBron James and Anthony Davis. It’s a story as old as time, especially with LBJ. 

Look for the Lakers to make a big swing by February, hoping to gain some momentum for another deep postseason run. 

17. Golden State Warriors

Record: 17-19

Last 10 Games: 5-5

Draymond Green is coming back, but they have bigger problems than that.

If things don’t improve quickly, look for the Warriors to face some tough decisions at the deadline, and in the summer.

18. Indiana Pacers

Record: 21-15

Last 10 Games: 6-4

No Tyrese Haliburton, no chance for Indiana. 

19. Houston Rockets 

Record: 18-17

Last 10 Games: 5-5

20. Utah Jazz

Record: 18-20

Last 10 Games: 8-2

What are they trying to achieve? Danny Ainge should probably figure that out.

They have some young players they like (Keyonte George, Walker Kessler, Talen Horton-Tucker) and they have some contracts they can move for real draft assets (Lauri Markkanen, Jordan Clarkson). But the question remains: What are they trying to accomplish?

It should be the hard reset route, but who knows with Ainge.

21. Chicago Bulls 

Record: 17-21

Last 10 Games: 6-4

Copy and paste from Utah, except with less optimism. 

Please, for my boss Joe Jarosz’s sake, cut your losses and hit reset Chicago. It’s been time.

22. Brooklyn Nets

Record: 16-21

Last 10 Games: 3-7

23. Toronto Raptors 

Record: 15-21

Last 10 Games: 4-6

The championship grace period is over Masai Ujiri, time to make some moves.

24. Atlanta Hawks 

Record: 14-21

Last 10 Games: 4-6

25. Memphis Grizzles 

Record: 13-23

Last 10 Games: 6-4

Just like the Pacers. No Ja Morant, no chance at contention.

26. Portland Trail Blazers 

Record: 10-25

Last 10 Games: 4-6

27. Charlotte Hornets 

Record: 8-26

Last 10 Games: 1-9

28. Washington Wizards 

Record: 6-30

Last 10 Games: 2-8

It’s always great when one of the worst teams in the league is clowning the actual worst team in the league.

But guess what Washington: You’re not that much better! In fact, you’re only three wins better.

Jordan Poole is a shell of himself, the young players haven’t done much (except Bilal Coulibaly) and Kyle Kuzma is the leading scorer, like everyone predicted when he re-signed. 

The future is bleak in The Capitol.

29. San Antonio Spurs

Record: 5-30

Last 10 Games: 1-9

Wemby’s rookie season wasted. Can you find a good point guard to feed this man at the rim?

30. Detroit Pistons 

Record: 3-33

Last 10 Games: 1-9

Wingstop are the real MVPs (IYKYK). 

The Pistons being bad was expected, but this bad, no chance. And yet, here we are. 

Monte Williams doesn’t have control of his team, despite being in Year 1 of a six-year mega-deal. Jaden Ivey isn’t making the leap, Bojan Bogdanovic is a year older (and for some reason they want to keep him), and Cade Cunningham is banged up again. 

It’s sad in Detroit for the basketball scene. But hey, at least the Lions are good. 

Upcoming Sacramento Kings Schedule

  • Wednesday, January 10th – Sacramento Kings @ Charlotte Hornets – 4:00 PM PST
  • Friday, January 12th – Sacramento Kings @ Philadelphia 76ers – 4:30 PM PST
  • Sunday, January 14th – Sacramento Kings @ Milwaukee Bucks – 4:00 PM PST
  • Tuesday, January 16th – Sacramento Kings @ Phoenix Suns – 4:00 PM PST

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