The NBA All-Star break graciously provides a chance for players and fans to relax and take a break from the insanity of the regular season. Heck, some of the All-Stars even decided to relax and take a break during the All-Star Game, am I right? Putting that absurdity behind us, most teams have fewer than 30 games remaining on the schedule, which means that every team is either preparing for a playoff push or figuring out how to get the most possible ping pong balls for the upcoming Draft Lottery.
We decided this was a good time to take a departure from our usual weekly glance at the league, and use this set of NBA Power Rankings to look at the season as a whole, as well as where things might go from here. The order of teams is according to how we feel the hierarchy stands at this point in the season, while each team is accompanied by either a reason for hope, or a reason for concern, moving forward.
Whether it's something small or something crucially important to the direction of the franchise, each team has a subject that will be a major focus for the home stretch of the season. With that in mind, here are this week's NBA Power Rankings.
*These rankings take into account the entire season, not just the previous week.
|Reason for concern: The Celtics are obviously an excellent basketball team, but if the goal is a championship it's time to nitpick. Boston simply doesn't get to the rim. They're in the NBA's bottom five in shot attempts in the restricted area, and land in the bottom 10 in free throw attempts. They've obviously made up for that by taking the most 3-point shots of any NBA team while shooting a crisp 38%. In the playoffs, however, their lack of ability or desire to get to the basket could catch up with them.
|Reason for hope: The Wolves have been tremendous all season with (by far) the league's best defense, but they could be even better than we think. Minnesota has the best record in the NBA (23-11) against teams above .500, including recent wins over the Clippers, Bucks and Thunder. Their performance against the NBA's best certainly bodes well for the postseason.
|Reason for concern: This certainly isn't unique to a team with a ball-dominant MVP candidate, but OKC's offense has been downright bad without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the floor. They score a ridiculous 122 points per 100 possessions with him on the court, but that falls to 111 with him on the bench. SGA's minutes will be extended in the playoffs, but he'll have to sit some time. Will the Thunder be able to generate enough offense in those minutes to win a seven-game series?
|Reason for hope: The reason for concern is obviously the health of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, but when those two are on the floor the Clippers are virtually unstoppable. They score 122 points per 100 possessions in Leonard and George's minutes, while allowing just 108. There's no small sample size here either, as they've played over 1,100 minutes together this season. Even if James Harden pulls a disappearing act in the playoffs, the Clippers have two other superstars who have been absolutely dominant together.
|Reason for concern: The Cavs have been the league's hottest team since Jan. 1, rattling off an 18-3 record. But, if you look closely, you'll see a lot of wins over the NBA's bottom-dwellers. Ten of those 18 wins came against the Wizards, Spurs, Nets, Grizzlies, Pistons and Raptors. Of course you can only play who's on the schedule, and Cleveland also had wins over top teams like the Clippers and Bucks during that stretch, but it will be interesting to see how the Cavs play against stiffer competition heading into the playoffs.
|Reason for concern: The Nuggets are a safe bet to turn it on as the postseason approaches, but switch-flipping can be a dangerous game. They're 13th in offense after finishing fifth last season, and they're 5-5 with a minus-6 net rating since Jan. 25. It might just be pre-All-Star break malaise, but we'll see if Denver can turn it up a notch during the home stretch.
|Reason for hope: In just a brief glimpse, the Knicks' starting lineup of Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, OG Anunoby, Julius Randle and Isaiah Hartenstein has a pristine net rating of plus-17 points per 100 possessions. That should give the Knicks and their fans confidence that if everyone's healthy, they have a shot to beat anyone in a playoff series.
|Reason for hope: It seems like the discourse around the Bucks has been entirely negative this season despite being third in the East at the All-Star break. Doc Rivers' 3-7 record as Milwaukee coach speaks for itself, but their defense has improved to 12th over those 10 games, compared to 19th before he took over for Adrian Griffin. Baby steps, but definitely a reason for optimism moving forward.
|Reason for hope: It's been an up-and-down season for the Suns, but there's only one number that matters: They're plus-117 in nearly 450 minutes with Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal and Devin Booker on the floor together. In addition to their insane 126 offensive rating with those units, they also have an impressive defensive mark of 113 points per 100 possessions. Say what you want about the role players, but the Suns have proven to be a true championship contender when their three stars are healthy.
|Reason for concern: The Pelicans are right on the cusp of the top four in the West, but the starting lineup of CJ McCollum, Herb Jones, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson and Jonas Valanciunas has a net rating of minus-2.4. Willie Green staggers the stars, but it's still slightly ominous that the team is losing the minutes with their best players on the floor.
|Reason for hope: Prior to Jan. 1, the Mavericks were 23rd in the NBA with a defensive rating of 116.9. Since New Year's Day, they're 14th with a defensive rating of 115.6. When Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving are playing, we know the Mavericks are going to score. The key will be defense, so it's encouraging to see improvement in that area heading into the home stretch.
|Reason for hope: Well, there's only one answer here. The 76ers are 6-14 without Joel Embiid this season and 26-8 when he plays. Safe to say the only shot that Philly has at making a deep playoff run is if Embiid comes back healthy. Given the 6-to-8 week timeline reported surrounding his knee injury, there's certainly a chance that could happen. Fingers crossed in Philly.
|Reason for hope: We can forget about the awful defense for now, since it probably won't get better any time soon. Instead let's focus on the Pacers' big move, acquiring Pascal Siakam from the Toronto Raptors. With Siakam and All-Star Tyrese Haliburton on the floor, the Pacers have outscored opponents by nearly nine points per 100 possessions. They've only played 226 minutes together, but Haliburton hasn't been himself for most of that time, so it's encouraging that those minutes have gone well for Indiana.
|Reason for concern: The Kings have made necessary improvements on the defensive end, going from 24th last season to 18th this year. But the record-setting offense from a year ago has slipped all the way to 14th, which should set off alarm bells for the Kings and their fans. They're still not at the point where they can rely on their defense to get stops, so the offense has to be dominant -- and it simply hasn't been, despite excellent play from stars Domantas Sabonis and De'Aaron Fox.
|Reason for hope: The offense still hasn't come around but the Magic have become an elite defensive team, fifth in the league at the All-Star break. They've managed to achieve that level of efficiency while being relatively average in terms of rim protection, a credit to their long, switchable defenders who can contest shots and limit penetration. In related, hopeful news, Jonathan Isaac has played 37 games this season, and the Magic have a minuscule defensive rating of 100.7 when he's on the floor.
|Reason for hope: It's been a rough season for the Heat, yet they still sit here within striking distance of a top-four seed. There's one reason for optimism, and his name is Jimmy Butler. When he's on the floor, the Heat outscore opponents by over five points per 100 possessions, with a defensive rating that's the equivalent of the second-best in the NBA. We've all seen what Butler's capable of in the playoffs no matter which seed Miami ends up grabbing.
|Reason for hope: Steve Kerr is convinced that the Warriors have finally unlocked their full potential, and the numbers back it up. Since inserting Draymond Green as the starting center, the Warriors have gone 8-3 with a net rating of plus-8.6. He's been phenomenal on both sides of the ball, and has transformed the combination of Jonathan Kuminga and Andrew Wiggins from unplayable to dominant. With Chris Paul expected to return some time after the break, Golden State has to be excited about the momentum they've built.
|Reason for hope: Needless to say it's been a disappointing season for the Lakers thus far, but there is a beacon of hope: The new starting lineup of D'Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, LeBron James, Rui Hachimura and Anthony Davis has been excellent, with a net rating of plus-9.5 points per 100 possessions in just under 90 minutes. Small sample size, but it's helped the Lakers win eight of their last 11 games as they try to improve their playoff standing and avoid the Play-In Tournament.
|Reason for hope: Ime Udoka has taken the Rockets from the 29th-ranked defense in the NBA a season ago to sixth(!) this year. Surely the additions of Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks help in that department, but Udoka has gotten buy-in from the young guys as well, a positive sign moving forward as Houston looks to become a legitimate playoff contender.
|Reason for concern: The Bulls didn't make any major moves at the trade deadline, so where do they go from here? Before Zach LaVine was ruled out for the rest of the season, lineups with him, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic had a net rating of minus-10 in over 500 minutes. Minus-10 with your three best (or at least highest paid) players on the floor is not a recipe for success, and there doesn't seem to be a way out of it barring some drastic offseason maneuvers or perhaps a rapid return to health for Lonzo Ball.
|Reason for hope: Lauri Markkanen is still a stud. The Jazz outscore opponents by nearly 11 points per 100 possessions when he's on the floor, as he significantly bumps up the offensive production without giving it back on the other end. The 7-foot 26-year-old is averaging 23 points per game on close to 50/40/90 shooting splits. He's a great building block for Utah's rebuild, and also could be the key piece in trade package for a superstar. Either way, the Jazz are winners.
|Reason for concern: After a brief winning streak provided a ray of light, the maelstrom of mediocrity once again enveloped Atlanta heading into the break. The Hawks held onto Dejounte Murray at the trade deadline, and he simply hasn't worked alongside Trae Young -- lineups featuring both of them have a minus-six net rating on the season. Trade rumors for both players will resurface this summer, but for now it's clear that the pairing is likely coming to an end.
|Reason for concern: After Mikal Bridges joined the Nets in the Kevin Durant trade last season, he looked like a potential No. 1 option, putting up 26 points per game on 47/38/89 shooting splits. While the efficiency has remained about the same this season, his scoring has dropped to just under 22 points per game, and he's had 13 games of 15 points or fewer. It's becoming evident that Bridges is best suited as a No. 2 or No. 3 on a good team, so it leaves Brooklyn in a tough spot. Do they trade him for assets and go full rebuild, or do they keep him and hope they can once again land a big fish or two ... or three?
|Reason for hope: The team we've been watching this season isn't the Memphis Grizzlies. They can find solace in the fact that their net rating improved by nearly seven points per 100 possessions when Ja Morant was on the court, albeit in just over 300 minutes. Desmond Bane also continued his ascent, scoring three more points per game without a considerable drop-off in efficiency. When they're healthy, the Grizzlies could be right back where they were before a disastrous season.
|Reason for hope: While his 3-point shot has yet to come around, RJ Barrett is shooting 61%(!) on 2-pointers in 19 games as a member of the Raptors. Compare that to a 47% clip with the Knicks before the trade, and you've got a nice start for a promising player who's still only 23 years old. Coexisting with Scottie Barnes may be an issue given their skill sets, but the Raptors have plenty of runway to sort that out, continuing after the All-Star break.
|Reason for concern: Scoot Henderson has struggled, but that's to be expected of a rookie point guard on a losing team. Deandre Ayton's disappointing season, however, could have serious implications for Portland's future. He's averaging just under 14 points and 10 rebounds per game leads the team with 2.7 midrange attempts per game, the same number as Chris Paul and De'Aaron Fox. Ayton's decline is even more concerning considering he has two years left on his $133 million contract and will be very difficult to trade.
|Reason for hope: The Hornets' net rating improves by 38.6 points per 100 possessions when Grant Williams is on the floor! Of course he's only played 192 minutes, but he's an example of how well Charlotte's new parts are fitting in. Tre Mann and Vasilije Micic have both been great since coming over from the Thunder, and the Hornets will have a juicy draft pick waiting for them after the season ends. It's a long road, but it's off to a decent start.
|Reason for hope: Absolute no-brainer here. Victor Wembanyama has been everything he was billed to be, and then some, and his rapid improvement as the season has gone along is flat-out terrifying. Throw the record out the window and do whatever you can to maximize this guy's talent moving forward.
|Reason for concern: We thought he'd at least score a lot of points. Instead Jordan Poole has become one of the worst regular starters in the NBA, averaging 15 points on 40% field goals and 30% 3-pointers. This is a guy who averaged 20 points for the Warriors last season with much less opportunity, and he's looked lost for most of a season where the keys were there for the taking. Owed $100 million over the next three seasons after this one, Poole has arguably the worst contract in the NBA.
|Reason for hope: There's enough reason for concern with the Pistons, so let's point out something positive. Over his last 30 games, which includes 28 starts, Jaden Ivey is averaging 18 points, four assists and four rebounds on 39% 3-point shooting. That's a decent enough sample size to be excited, particularly with the 3-point shooting. Next comes cutting down the turnovers and improving his finishing at the rim, but it's been a step in the right direction for the second-year guard this season.